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Hong Kong Police Recover Weapons Ahead of Rally

On December 8, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

Hong Kong police have conducted raids ahead of Sunday afternoon’s protest rally, uncovering several weapons, including a pistol with more than 100 bullets.

Eleven people were arrested during the raids.

Daggers, swords, batons and pepper spray were also recovered in the raids at several locations.

The city’s organized crime bureau said it believed protesters planned to use the weapons during the demonstration “to  incite chaos” and “impugn the police.”

The territory is bracing for a large turnout for Sunday’s protest.  Hong Kong has given its approval for the rally called by the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that has organized some of the city’s biggest demonstrations.

Monday marks the sixth month anniversary of the rallies that were initially mounted to rally against a now-withdrawn government proposal that would have allowed Hong Kong criminal suspects to be spent to mainland China’s Communist-controlled courts to stand trial.

The demonstrations have transformed into a push for democratic elections for the city’s leader and legislature and an investigation into what protesters say has been excessive force used against them.   


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Myanmar Leader Suu Kyi Departs for Genocide Hearings Amid Fanfare at Home

On December 8, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

Myanmar leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi  departed on Sunday for the U.N.’s top court in The Hague to defend the country against charges of genocide of its Rohingya Muslim minority.

Suu Kyi was pictured smiling as she walked through the airport in the nation’s capital, Naypyitaw, flanked by officials, a day after thousands rallied in the city to support her and a prayer ceremony was held in her name.

Crowds are expected to gather again in the afternoon to send off several dozen supporters who will travel to The Hague in the Netherlands and demonstrations are planned throughout the coming week, with hearings set for Dec. 10 to 12.

Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African country, filed a lawsuit in November accusing Buddhist-majority Myanmar of genocide, the most serious international crime, against its Rohingya Muslim minority.

During three days of hearings, it will ask the 16-member panel of U.N judges at the International Criminal Court of Justice to impose “provisional measures” to protect the Rohingya before the case can be heard in full.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in 2017 after a brutal military-led crackdown the U.N has said was executed with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings and rape.

Despite international condemnation over the campaign, Suu Kyi, whose government has defended the campaign as a legitimate response to attacks by Rohingya militants, remains overwhelmingly popular at home.

On Saturday, thousands rallied in Naypyitaw while senior officials held a prayer ceremony at St Mary’s Cathedral in the former capital of Yangon.

Among them was religion minister Thura Aung Ko, who was been vocal in his disdain for the minority and last year said refugees in the camps in Bangladesh were being “brainwashed” into “marching” on Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Suu Kyi spent the eve of her departure meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, with both countries pledging stronger ties, according to Zhao Lijian, deputy director general of the information department at China’s foreign ministry.

“Aung San Suu Kyi thanked China for its strong support and help in safeguarding national sovereignty, opposing foreign interference, and promoting economic and social development,” he said on Twitter on Sunday.

Pro-Suu Kyi demonstrations have been held in major towns and cities since the news was announced that she would attend the hearings in person.

Billboards with her picture and the words”stand with Suu Kyi” have also been erected around the country, including in historic former capital Bagan, the country’s major attraction for tourists who come to see the centuries-old temples.



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Saudi National Officially Identified as US Naval Base Shooter

On December 8, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

The FBI has officially identified the shooter at the U.S. naval base in Pensacola, Florida who shot and killed three people Friday.

The shooter was Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force who was a student naval flight officer at the Naval Aviation Schools Command at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  The FBI has not determined a motive for Alshamrani’s rampage.  

The victims were also students at the flight school.  They have been identified as Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, from Coffee, Alabama; Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, 19, from St. Petersburg, Florida; and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, from Richmond Hill, Georgia.

“The sorrow from the tragic event on NAS Pensacola will have a lasting impact on our installation and community,” Captain Tim Kinsella, the commanding officer of the naval base said in a statement.

Eight people were wounded in the shooting naval base, officials say.

The shooter, who was also killed in the incident, is reported to have hosted a dinner party earlier in the week where he showed videos of mass U.S. shootings to his guests, according to media reports. At least one of his guests is reported to have videotaped Friday’s massacre.  Several Saudi students are being held for questioning.  

Before the pilot opened fire at the base, he tweeted a will and quoted Osama bin Laden in justifying his actions, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which translates jihadist threats and communications.

In the Twitter post, he said America “has turned into a nation of evil.”  He condemned the U.S. for its support of Israel and its invasion of Muslim countries and many other countries.  Using a bin Laden quote, he also said that the security of the U.S. and Muslims is a “shared destiny.”  He added, “You will  not be safe until we live it as reality in pleastain [sic], and American troops get our of lands.”

Guns are not permitted at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, but Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said the shooter managed to get a handgun onto the base before targeting individuals at one of the buildings. Officials said the rampage ended when a sheriff’s deputy cornered and shot the suspect in a classroom.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the nature of the investigation would be different due to the involvement of the Saudi air force pilot.
“There is obviously going to be a lot of questions about this individual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi air force,” he told reporters.
“The government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for these victims,” he added. “They are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.”
U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that he had been in contact with Saudi King Salman, who offered condolences.
“The King said that the Saudi people are greatly angered by the barbaric actions of the shooter,” Trump said.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia just called to express his sincere condolences and give his sympathies to the families and friends of the warriors who were killed and wounded in the attack that took place in Pensacola, Florida….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2019

Later, Trump told reporters at the White House, “It’s a horrible thing that took place and we’re getting to the bottom of it.”

“It’s a horrible thing that took place and we’re getting to the bottom of it,” @POTUS tells reporters.

— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) December 6, 2019

In a statement, Salman called the shooting a “heinous crime” and said he expressed his sorrow over the attack in his phone call with Trump. The king said he has directed Saudi security services to cooperate with American agencies to uncover information that will help determine the cause of the “horrific attack.”
Hours after the shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, a bomb threat at Patrick Air Force Base, also in Florida, forced authorities to evacuate parts of the base. Authorities later determined there was “no credible threat” and normal base operation resumed.
The shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station is the second deadly shooting at a U.S. naval facility in the week.
A U.S. sailor shot three civilians at a base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Wednesday, killing two of them before committing suicide.
In a response to both shootings, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement Friday, “The Department of Defense continues to monitor the situation in Pensacola and gather all the facts of each attack.”
He said he is “considering several steps to ensure the security of our military installations and the safety of our service members and their families.”
“These acts are crimes against all of us,” Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said in a statement.  

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Trump Calls for World Bank to Stop Loaning to China

On December 7, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday called for the World Bank to stop loaning money to China, one day after the institution adopted a lending plan to Beijing over Washington’s objections.

The World Bank on Thursday adopted a plan to aid China with $1 billion to $1.5 billion in low-interest loans annually through June 2025. The plan calls for lending to “gradually decline” from the previous five-year average of $1.8 billion.

“Why is the World Bank loaning money to China? Can this be possible? China has plenty of money, and if they don’t, they create it. STOP!” Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

“World Bank lending to China has fallen sharply and will continue to reduce as part of our agreement with all our shareholders including the United States,” the World Bank said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
“We eliminate lending as countries get richer.”

Spokespeople for the White House declined to comment on the record.

The World Bank loaned China $1.3 billion in the fiscal 2019 year, which ended on June 30, a decrease from around $2.4 billion in fiscal 2017.

But the fall in the World Bank’s loans to China is not swift enough for the Trump administration, which has argued that Beijing is too wealthy for international aid.


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Australian Firefighters Confront ‘Mega Blaze’ Near Sydney

On December 7, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

One hundred forty bushfires continue to burn across eastern Australia.  A huge blaze near Sydney is bigger in size than the city itself and could take weeks to put out.  Conditions have eased Saturday but the dangers persist.  

Sydney is again shrouded in a toxic, smoky haze.  Health warnings have been issued and many weekend sporting activities have been cancelled.  Several blazes have combined to create a “mega fire” north of Australia’s biggest city. The fire’s front is 60 kilometers long and officials warn it is simply too big to put out.

Lauren McGowan works in a bar in the nearby city of Cessnock.

“Everyone is a bit on edge, getting a little bit too close to home for around here.  Like, even with people we have working here the fires are practically on their doors,” she said.

There are 95 bushfires here in the drought-hit state of New South Wales.  Half are burning out of control.  More than 2,000 firefighters are on the ground.  Their task is unrelenting, but reinforcements have arrived from overseas, including Canada, New Zealand and the United States.  

Morgan Kehr, a senior firefighter from Edmonton, has flown in to join his Australian counterparts, who have in previous years battled blazes in Canada.

“First time away from Christmas, as it is with all of these guys.  Certainly a tough conversation but we’re happy,” said Kehr. “We’ve been assisted four times out of the last five years.”
There are hazardous conditions in Queensland, to the north.  Parts of that state are blanketed in smoke, and dozens of blazes still rage.  The World Health Quality index, a nonprofit environmental project based in China that measures global pollution, has shown unhealthy levels of air quality in many areas.

Authorities say that only heavy rain will put some of the fires out, but, ominously, the forecast is for more hot and dry conditions over the Australian summer.

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Trump and Moon Discuss Maintaining Talks With North: Seoul

On December 7, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump agreed during a phone conversation to maintain dialogue with the nuclear-armed North, Seoul said Saturday, with the two allies noting the situation had become “grave”.

Denuclearisation negotiations have been at a standstill since a summit in Hanoi broke up in February and pressure is rising as an end-of-year deadline to offer concessions, set by Pyongyang for Washington, approaches.

The 30-minute talk was the first conversation between the US President and the South Korean leader since they met at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

“The two leaders shared an assessment that the current situation on the Korean peninsula is grave,” said Ko Min-jung, the spokeswoman of the South’s presidential office.

“They agreed momentum for dialogue to achieve prompt results from denuclearisation negotiations should be continued,” she went on to say, adding that Trump had requested the call.

The discussion came after a week in which exchanges between Trump and North Korea raised the prospect of a return to a war of words, culminating in Pyongyang’s threats to resume referring to the US president as a “dotard” and to take military action if the US military moves against it.

The South Korean leader was instrumental in brokering the landmark summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore last year which produced only a vaguely worded pledge about denuclearisation.

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Learning Environments

On December 6, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

VOA Connect Episode 99 – We look at different educational settings, from Native American studies to training veterans about beekeeping to kids learning how to code.  

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Native American Arts School

On December 6, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

The Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico is a school designed for Native Americans.  We talk to students and professors about a learning environment that specifically addresses tribal cultures and values.  

Reporter:  Julie Taboh, Camera: Adam Greenbaum, Adapted by: Zdenko Novacki

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Veterans Beekeeping

On December 6, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

We go to an apiary in New Hampshire where US veterans have turned to beekeeping for post-traumatic stress relief.  Find out how taking care of bees is helping these former fighters use stay grounded and lessen their trauma.  

Reporter/Camera: Deborah Block; Adapted by: Martin Secrest

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Saudi Aramco Plans $25.6B Share Sale in Biggest IPO Ever

On December 6, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company, on Thursday set a share price for its initial public stock offering — expected to be the biggest ever — that puts the value of the company at $1.7 trillion, more than Apple or Microsoft. 
The company said it would sell its shares at 32 riyals ($8.53) each, putting the overall value of the stake being sold at $25.6 billion. 
Aramco is floating a 1.5% stake in the company, or 3 billion shares. Trading is expected to happen on the Saudi Tadawul stock exchange as early as December 11. 
The company is selling 0.5% to individuals who are Saudi citizens and residents  and 1% to institutional investors, which can be sovereign wealth funds, asset managers or government-run pension programs. 
The pricing of the shares was at the top of the range Aramco had sought. The company had priced its shares ranging from 30 to 32 riyals each, or $8 to $8.53 a share. 
In the announcement Thursday, Aramco said the offering drew heavy demand.

Most orders from Saudis

The company’s financial advisers had said earlier that most orders came from Saudi funds or companies, with foreign investors, including from neighboring Persian Gulf Arab states, accounting for 10.5% of the bids. It was not immediately known what the final figures released Thursday represented and how much of that was generated by foreign investment. 
The highly anticipated sale of a sliver of the company had generated global buzz since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans for it more than two years ago. That’s in part because it would clock in as the world’s biggest IPO, surpassing record holder Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., the Chinese conglomerate and e-commerce company, which raised about $25 billion in 2014. 
The kingdom’s plan to sell part of the company is part of a wider economic overhaul aimed at raising new streams of revenue for the oil-dependent country. It came as oil prices have struggled to reach the $75-$80-per-barrel range that analysts say is needed to balance Saudi Arabia’s budget. Brent crude is trading at just over $63 a barrel. 
Prince Mohammed has said listing Aramco is one way for the kingdom to raise capital for the country’s sovereign wealth fund, which would then use that money to develop new cities and lucrative projects across Saudi Arabia. 
Despite the mammoth figures involved in the IPO, they are not quite what the prince had envisioned based on his remarks over the past two years. He’d previously talked about a valuation for Aramco of $2 trillion and a flotation of 5% of the company involving a listing on a foreign stock exchange. There are no immediate plans for an international listing. 

Another sale?
Aramco said Thursday that it would retain the option of an even bigger offering of a 3.45 billion-share sale, representing $29.4 billion. 
Despite Aramco’s profitability, the state’s control of the company carries risks for investors. Two key Aramco processing sites were targeted by drones and missiles in September, an attack that was claimed by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen but that the U.S. blamed on Iran. Iran denies the allegation. 
The Saudi government also stipulates oil production levels, which directly affects Aramco’s output. 
On Thursday, the countries that make up the OPEC oil-producing cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, were meeting in Vienna to decide whether to cut production and push up prices of fuel and energy around the world. 

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Tiny Analyzer Promises Boost for Coffee Growers, Their Soil

On December 6, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

A piece of paper no bigger than a business card could enrich struggling coffee farmers and their soil, a growing challenge as temperatures rise and prices fluctuate. 
Enveritas, a U.S. nonprofit, signed an agreement with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) on Thursday to pilot the AgroPad, which analyzes soil samples remotely and quickly. 
Powered by artificial intelligence, the AgroPad can perform a chemical analysis in 10 seconds, reading nitrate or chloride levels from a drop of water or small soil sample, said IBM. 
Enveritas plans to provide the devices for free to farmers in coffee-growing regions of Latin America and Africa, and IBM said it aims to make them affordable for everyone. Its target production cost: less than 25 cents. 
The nonprofit, which works with 100,000 farms, mills and estates in Latin America and Africa, did not say how many would be in the pilot but, if successful, “the plan is to scale it out,” CEO David Browning told Reuters. 
Coffee farmers have been struggling with a slump in global prices while climate change is threatening vast swaths of land in Latin America, Asia and Africa. 
Enveritas, which verifies the sustainability of coffee farmers, said most of its growers live on less than $2 a day. 
Chemical analysis of soil is vital to improve yields but is complicated, expensive and time-consuming because it requires laboratory equipment, said Mathias Steiner from IBM Research-Brazil. 
AgroPad costs less and could reduce the use of fertilizers, which would save money and help the environment, said Steiner, one of its inventors. 
Last week, engineers from Britain’s Brunel University also unveiled an AI device for farming: small red pods, costing £92 ($118) each, that could be planted into the soil. The pods collect data hourly and would show farmers what the soil needs. 

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Trump Threatens Trade Action to Spur NATO Contributions

On December 6, 2019, Posted by , in Економіка, Новини, With No Comments

President Donald Trump said on Thursday the United States may take action on trade with countries that are not contributing enough to NATO.

Trump, fresh from a trip to London for a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has been pushing member countries to contribute more to the organization.

The U.S. president said a lot of countries were getting close to the goal of 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product for NATO contributions.

“A lot of countries are close and getting closer. And some are really not close, and we may do things having to do with trade. It’s not fair that they get U.S. protection and they’re not putting up their money,” he said.

Trump and French leader Emmanuel Macron clashed over the future of NATO on Tuesday before a summit intended to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Western military alliance.

In sharp exchanges underlining discord in a transatlantic bloc hailed by many as the most successful military pact in history, Trump demanded that Europe pay more for its collective defense and make concessions to U.S. interests on trade.

He also was upbeat about the alliance on Thursday, saying his meetings went well and that “NATO is in very, very good shape and the relationships with other countries are really extraordinary.”

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