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Ties with Venezuela remain normal


2019-02-15 浏览

China has reiterated its normal state-to-state relations with Venezuela.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the comments at a news briefing yesterday when asked about recent remarks by the US special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams that China may stop supplying loans to Venezuela considering its repayment ability.

“The pragmatic cooperation between China and Venezuela is based on principles of equality, mutual benefit, common development and commercial rules, and is legitimate and beneficial to both peoples,” Hua said. “China will continue to adhere to such principles in carrying out exchanges and cooperation with Venezuela in various areas.”

On Wednesday, Hua said China hoped the media would report news objectively and fairly.

The Wall Street Journal had reported that Chinese diplomats had contact with Venezuelan opposition representatives in Washington.

“Recently, some media have been cooking up fake news,” Hua said. “I don’t know what the purpose is.”
来源: Shanghai Daily  

Trump to sign bill to avert gov't shutdown, declare emergency to fund border wall


2019-02-15 浏览

US President Donald Trump is prepared to sign a bipartisan bill on spending and border security to avert another government shutdown, but also declare a national emergency to obtain funds for his long-promised border wall, the White House said Thursday.

"President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action — including a national emergency — to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

"The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country," she said.

Minutes earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell broke the news of Trump's plan. He made the announcement on the Senate floor and said the Senate will soon vote on the bill that's needed to avoid a partial federal shutdown Friday.

Shortly after the announcement, the Senate voted 82-16 to pass the spending and border security bill, which was expected to be voted on Thursday night by the House of Representatives.

The bill, once approved by the Congress and Trump, will keep the government open past a midnight Friday deadline. It would include US$1.375 billion for physical barriers along the US-Mexico border.

Trump had previously demanded US$5.7 billion in funding for the border wall, his signature campaign promise. The fight over the funding of the border wall between the White House and congressional Democrats led to the record-breaking 35-day federal government shutdown which ended late January.

A national emergency declaration, which would allow the president to bypass Congress and use the military to build the wall, is widely expected to spark lawsuits challenging the president's authority.

In opting to declare a national emergency, Trump would seek to access funds for the wall that Congress had not explicitly authorized for the purpose, said a New York Times report, calling it a provocative move that would test the bounds of US presidential authority in a time of divided government.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, said her party is "reviewing our options" in responding to the anticipated emergency declaration.

"The president is doing an end run around Congress," she said.

"You want to talk about a national emergency, let's talk about today," Pelosi said, referring to the first anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Just before Wednesday midnight, House and Senate negotiators unveiled the 1,159-page bill allowing the federal government to open through the end of September, leaving little time for lawmakers to actually digest its contents.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

US Senate confirms William Barr as attorney general


2019-02-15 浏览

The US Senate on Thursday confirmed William Barr, President Donald Trump's nominee, to become the next attorney general.

The vote was 54-45, which fell largely along party lines with most Republicans backing and most Democrats opposed.

Once sworn in later in the day at the White House, Barr will head the Justice Department, overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the alleged Russia meddling in the 2016 elections and the possible collusion with Trump's campaign.

Barr is a Justice Department veteran who has served as attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

Swiss assisted suicide group helps over 1,200 people end lives in 2018


2019-02-14 浏览

The Swiss assisted suicide organization EXIT said Wednesday it helped a total of 1,207 people end their lives in 2018, a jump compared with the 1,031 cases in 2017.

Swiss law tolerates assisted suicide when patients commit the act themselves and helpers have no vested interest in their death.

Assisted suicide has been legal in the Alpine nation since the 1940s.

The average age of people using assisted suicide in 2018 was 78, with 57 percent of them women.

Terminal cancer tops the reasons for people who sought the assisted suicide with 344 cases, followed by age-related health problems and chronic pain disorders.

The number of new members of the group rose by 2,681 to 28,762 at the end of last year.

According to the Swiss News agency Keystone SDA report, Switzerland has two main groups that cater to people who seek an assisted suicide: EXIT and Dignitas.

Dignitas assists people from abroad, while EXIT, Switzerland's most prominent organization, only supports a Swiss citizen or permanent resident in taking their own life.

Members must fulfill specific criteria to use the services when they decide to end their life.

The two groups will only provide their services to people with a terminal illness, those living with extreme pain or "unbearable" symptoms, or with an unendurable disability, said Keystone SDA.

A person who wishes to die must know what they are doing, not be acting on impulse, have a persistent wish to die, not be under the influence of any third party, and commit suicide by their hand.

Death is usually induced through a lethal dose of barbiturates prescribed by a doctor. Ingestion of the poison, whether by drinking it or by using intravenous drips or stomach tubes, must be carried out by the person wanting to die.

In 2006 the Swiss Federal Court ruled that all people of sound judgment, irrespective of whether they have a mental illness, have the right to decide the manner of their death.

The government examined various options to regulate assisted suicide practices, and in June 2011 decided not to seek changes in the law but to boost suicide prevention and palliative care.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

China playing a leading role in greening planet


2019-02-14 浏览

Data from NASA satellites has shown that China and India led the way in greening land, thanks to ambitious tree-planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries.

The study published in the latest edition of Nature Sustainability revealed that at least 25 percent of foliage expansion since the early 2000s globally came in China.

The researchers from Boston University found that global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent in the new century, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforest.

“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9 percent of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation,” said lead author Chen Chi of Boston University.

“That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from over-exploitation.”

Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and a co-author of the study, said: “When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” But with data from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites, scientists realized that humans are also contributing.

“Humans are incredibly resilient, that’s what we see in the satellite data,” said Nemani.

China’s contribution to global greening efforts comes in large part from its vigorous programs to conserve and expand forests.

China aims to increase forest cover to 23.04 percent by 2020, and to 26 percent by 2035.

To achieve the ambitious goals, the country has taken a slew of measures ranging from reforesting hillsides to creating protected grassland and nature reserves.

Another 32 percent of the greening change in China, and 82 percent in India, resulted from intensive cultivation of food crops.

However, the researchers sounded alarms as well.

They said that the gain in global greenness did not necessarily offset the loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions like Brazil and Indonesia.

The loss of sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems cannot be offset by the simple greenness of the landscape, according to the study.

China has already realized its rapid economic growth has damaged the environment and begun to pursue a greener path.

Reiterating that “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets,” the Chinese leadership has stressed that the country must embrace eco-friendly models for growth and ways of life.

The notion of an eco-friendly way of life has resonated with the general public, with many participating in greening campaigns.

One of the most popular programs is Ant Forest, which was launched in September 2017 by Ant Financial Services Group, an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group.

Users can claim carbon points for environmentally friendly things such as walking, using public transportation, going paperless in the office and more.

These points can then be used to water and grow their own virtual saplings.

After the virtual saplings have grown to become virtual trees with the constant watering of carbon points, Ant Financial and their charity partners will plant real trees.

By the end of May, the number of Ant Forest subscribers had exceeded 350 million, reducing exhaust equivalent to 3 million tons of carbon dioxide. More than 55 million trees had been planted.

“Such programs are quite appealing to me,” said Zhang Jing, a 28-year-old salesman. “I feel satisfied to see a real tree planted just by doing some simple things such as riding bicycles and buying tickets online.”

Improved biodiversity

China’s reforestation efforts are paying off, with improved biodiversity and a healthier economic growth model.

Last year, researchers from the Beijing Normal University documented the presence of several rare animal species in the Ziwuling Forest Area in Yan’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

Sightings of animals, including leopards, the golden pheasant and roe deer, which once disappeared from the region, have been recorded.

Dense forests have also become a great source of revenue for locals. Saihanba, a vast man-made forest covering about 93,000 hectares in north China’s Hebei Province, 400 kilometers north of Beijing, is a case in point.

Over the years, Saihanba Forest Farm has developed in a sustainable way, with economic growth relying on tourism, tree planting, wind power generation and logging.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

Hearing loss caution for smartphone users


2019-02-14 浏览

More than 1 billion young people risk damaging their hearing through excessive use of smartphones and other audio devices, the UN has warned.

In a bid to safeguard hearing, the World Health Organization and International Telecommunications Union issued a non-binding international standard for the manufacture and use of audio devices.

Young people are particularly prone to risky listening habits.

Around half of those between the ages of 12 and 35, or 1.1 billion people, are at risk due to “prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices,” the UN health agency said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed out that the world already has “the technological know-how to prevent hearing loss.”

“It should not be the case that so many young people continue to damage their hearing while listening to music,” he said.

Young people, he said, “must understand that once they lose their hearing, it won’t come back.”

Currently, about 5 percent of the global population, or some 466 million people, including 34 million children, suffer from disabling hearing loss.

WHO said it remained unclear how many of them had damaged their hearing through dangerous use of audio devices.

It insisted though that the new standard developed with ITU would go a long way to “safeguard these young consumers as they go about doing something they enjoy.” WHO considers a volume above 85 decibels for eight hours or 100 decibels for 15 minutes as unsafe.

The safe listening devices and systems standard calls for a “sound allowance” software to be included in all audio devices, to track the volume level and duration of a user’s exposure to sound, and to evaluate the risk posed to hearing.

This system could alert a user if they have dangerous listening habits.

WHO is also calling for parental as well as automatic volume controls on audio devices to prevent dangerous use.

While some smartphones and other audio devices already offer some of these features, the UN would like to see a uniform standard used to help protect against disabling hearing loss.

“Think of it like driving on a highway, but without a speed limit,” Shelly Chadha of the WHO said.

“What we’ve proposed is that your smartphones come fitted with a speedometer which tells you if you are going over the limit.”
来源: Shanghai Daily  

Contaminated food a hidden health hazard


2019-02-13 浏览

Food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxic chemicals is a mounting health hazard and crippling economic burden, a global conference on food safety has been told.

The two-day forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is bringing together health bosses and experts from 125 countries and regions to combat the peril of unsafe food, a hazard that kills more than 400,000 people each year, according to UN estimates.

“Today, the world produces enough food for everyone,” Jose Graziano Da Silva, director general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, said at the opening of the conference on Monday. But much of this food “is not safe.”

Kazuaki Miyagishima, who heads the World Health Organization food security department said: “We estimate that each year, nearly one person in 10 falls sick after eating contaminated food.”

Of the 600 million who fall sick from unsafe food, around 420,000 die, according to the UN’s estimate. Children under 5 suffer most, comprising 40 percent of those who fall ill.

According to the WHO, contaminated food is to blame for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

The economic impact is huge but often overlooked. The FAO estimates the cost for low and middle-income countries to be in the range of US$95 billion per year.

The conference, attended by ministers and deputy ministers from some 20 countries, is expected to issue a call for better coordination and support.

“Africa has a major interest in this,” said Miyagishima, adding that the continent, followed by Southeast Asia, is the worst affected by contaminated food.

Miyagishima said a multi-pronged approach was needed.

This includes stronger laws, better training and equipment and beefing up health systems to detect potential risks as well as swapping information between countries, he said.

The risks are very diverse, ranging from bacteria such as salmonella or listeria, to chemicals such as cancer-causing heavy metals and organic pollutants.

For countries facing drought or famine, the challenge is preventing the population from using water contaminated by cholera, or eating food unsuitable for consumption.

For countries trying to better respect international norms, Miyagishima warned of a “situation where exported food is of a better quality than products destined for the local market.”

The conference comes at a time of controversy over the use of chemicals in agriculture, including the weed-killer Roundup.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

'China threat' rhetoric a US fabrication


2019-02-13 浏览

China has criticized US efforts to stop some countries using Chinese made equipment, saying the moves are unfair and unethical.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly cautioned allies on Monday against deploying equipment from Chinese telecoms giant Huawei on their soil, saying it would make it more difficult for Washington to “partner alongside them.”

“For a period of time, the US side has worked tirelessly to fabricate various unwarranted reasons and ‘China threat’ rhetoric,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.

“It has even flagrantly threatened and driven a wedge between China and other countries, as well as slandered and suppressed the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises in pursuing development and cooperation.”

The Chinese side hopes all parties abandon ideological bias as well as Cold War and zero-sum mentality, to create a fair, inclusive, transparent and standardized environment for mutually beneficial cooperation, said Hua.

She said China believes most countries are clear about the true intention and bullying substance of the United States.

Hua also appreciated the “independent, fair and objective” comments by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who reportedly brushed off US concerns.

Hua said friendliness and cooperation will always remain the central theme of the development of China-Hungary ties.

Hua also expressed the belief that China-Hungary ties will not be damaged or interrupted by other countries.

Meanwhile, China urged relevant countries to stop using the excuse of so-called cyber spying and Internet hacking to tarnish its image, and to stop actions and words that harm China’s interests and bilateral ties.

There have been allegations that hackers working for China’s state security department breached the network of a Norwegian software firm, as part of a global operation aimed at stealing intellectual property and corporate secrets.

“This is nothing but one of those series of actions by a few countries to tarnish China’s image,” said Hua.

China always believes that cyber security is a global issue related to the common interests of all countries and must be safeguarded by the joint efforts of the international community, she said.

“Those who really care about cyber security issues should never forget the ‘PRISM Program,’ the ‘Equation Group’ and the worldwide WannaCry ransomware attack, which was caused by a certain country’s development of offensive cyber tools,” Hua said.

She added that these events have sounded an alarm for global cyber security. She stressed that cyber space is highly virtual, difficult to trace and made up of a diverse community.

“You must investigate and have sufficient evidence to define the nature of a cyber security event,” she said.

“One cannot smear others with groundless guesses.”

China is a firm supporter of cyber security and resolutely opposes and fights against cyber attacks of any form, Hua said.

She added that China advocates that the international community should jointly handle cyber security threats through dialogue and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.

“Irresponsible accusations, pressure and sanctions will only increase the tension and confrontation in the cyber space, and poison the atmosphere of cooperation,” Hua said.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

Positive policies and opening-up fire trade growth


2019-02-13 浏览

China has confidence in its ability to maintain stable trade growth in 2019 thanks to a raft of positive factors, a senior commerce official said on Tuesday.

“Looking ahead, despite the complex environment, we still see many favorable factors for the stable development of foreign trade in 2019,” Chu Shijia, head of the comprehensive department of the Ministry of Commerce, told a conference.

The gradual recovery of the global economy, China’s opening-up efforts and pro-trade policies, accelerating industrial upgrading and improving corporate vitality will lend strong steam to the country’s trade growth this year, Chu said.

The ministry’s data showed China’s foreign trade in goods surged faster than expected to a record high last year.

The country’s goods trade totaled US$4.6 trillion last year, up 12.6 percent year on year, faster than that of major trading nations. It made China the world’s largest trader in goods.

The country also saw improving trade structure last year, with growing trade with Belt and Road countries, more high-end exports and accelerating imports growth.

Trade with the countries along the Belt and Road rose to 27.4 percent of the total.

The proportion of imports and exports in the central and western regions increased to 15.8 percent. The proportion of exports of mechanical and electrical products rose to 58.7 percent.

The private sector accounted for 48 percent of total exports, making it the largest single source of exports, the ministry said.

And China has continued to push foreign trade growth and improve the business environment to encourage the development of new businesses.

The world’s second-largest economy set up 22 new comprehensive pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce and launched six trial projects for market procurement last year.

According to World Trade Organization statistics, China’s share of global imports increased by 0.7 percentage points to 10.9 percent in the first three quarters of 2018, and the country’s contribution to global import growth was 16.8 percent.

In particular, last year’s inaugural China International Import Expo provided new opportunities for countries and regions around the world to expand exports to China and injected new impetus into world economic growth.

Chu also revealed that goods trade continued the upward growth momentum in January.

In terms of transnational direct investment, global transnational direct investment fell 19 percent in 2018 from a year earlier — the third consecutive annual decline and hitting the lowest level since the global financial crisis, according to a recent report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

China’s actual use of foreign capital last year was US$134.97 billion, an increase of 3 percent from 2017, achieving the goal of stabilizing foreign investment in line with the government’s efforts to promote the optimization of the investment environment, said Tang Wenhong, director of the ministry’s department of foreign investment administration.

“In 2019, the Ministry of Commerce will continue to relax market access and will constantly strengthen the protection of the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors to create a world-class environment for foreign investment,” Tang said.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

Anti-poverty drive focuses on the 5 essential needs


2019-02-12 浏览

China will lift 10 million people out of poverty this year, to lay a solid foundation for winning the battle against poverty, the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided Monday.

The year 2018 saw China launch its three-year battle against poverty.

Li has vowed to reduce the numbers of poor by 10 million each year in all his government work reports over the past five years.

He gave specific instructions on ways to push forward this work and to better manage the poverty alleviation funds.

According to the progress update at yesterday’s meeting, 13.86 million people were lifted out of poverty in 2018.

This is thanks to the dedicated efforts of local authorities and competent departments in implementing the decisions made by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.

Figures from the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development show that the new approach of poverty relief by developing emerging industries in poor areas such as e-commerce, photovoltaics and country tourism has paid off.

Infrastructure development in poor areas has been accelerated.

Some 208,000 kilometers of rural roads were built or renovated in 2018. New progress was made in upgrading the power grid in poor areas. And 94 percent of the poor villages are now covered by broadband Internet services.

“We must strive to meet the poverty alleviation target for this year,” Li said.

“Making poverty history by 2020 is the solemn commitment our Party and government have made to the people. We must fulfill this commitment by ensuring full delivery of all related policies and consolidating the progress we have made.”

It was decided at the meeting that efforts will be intensified this year to help deeply poor areas.

Increases in the poverty alleviation fund under the central government budget will be mainly channeled to these areas. Projects under the 13th Five-Year (2016-2020) Plan that help enhance the weak links of poor areas will be prioritized.

The difficulties poor people face in meeting the five essential needs of food, clothing, compulsory education, basic health care and a place to live will be tackled down to every household.

Counties that have emerged from poverty and their populations will remain eligible for related policy incentives till 2020.

Records of areas that fall back into poverty and the newly discovered poor will be promptly established to provide support.

“We must strictly enforce the poverty criteria involving the five essential needs of food, clothing, compulsory education, basic health care and a place to live,” Li said.

“Every penny of the poverty alleviation funds must be used effectively and transparently.”

Meanwhile, China will further shorten the time required for the registration and approval of new cancer drugs as well as cutting prices, the meeting decided.

Experts will be gathered to select overseas new drugs to meet urgent clinical needs, while import policies will be improved.

The country will step up efforts to ensure more early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and offer preferential value-added tax policies for drugs for the treatment of rare diseases.
来源: Shanghai Daily  

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