South Korean pension fund will deplete faster than expected: report

City skyline in downtown Seoul. (Photo: CFP)South Koreas huge national pension fund is set to see its pool of money depleted by 2055, earlier than expected, because of a shrinking population amid low economic growth, an official estimate showed on Friday.A government panel commissioned for the estimate, made every five years, said in a report that the National Pension Service (NPS) would see its fund depleted two years earlier than predicted in 2018.The NPS had 915 trillion Korean won ($743.13 billion) of funds as of the end of October 2022, the third-largest in the world and equivalent to 42 percent of that years estimated annual gross domestic product, official data shows.The fund will grow until at least 2040 as the relatively young pension system, launched in 1988, still has more contributions than payments. After that, it will shrink, the panel said.President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May 2022, has promised sweeping reforms of the national pension system with the aim of making it more sustainable, and the panels findings will be the basis for the reform plans.South Koreas population has started shrinking since reaching its peak in 2020 at 51.84 million, and the speed of decline will likely quicken because of low birth rates, official data and estimates show.

State of emergency declared in Auckland due to severe flooding

A general view of a flooded Victoria Street in Auckland, New Zealand, January 27, 2023. (Photo: CFP)A state of emergency has been declared in Auckland over severe flooding on Friday, local media RNZ reported.Auckland Airport has closed its international terminal check-in due to flooding inside the building, said the report. So far, one person has been reported killed by the floodwater.

Japan to drop mask guidance, relax COVID strategy

People visit Sensoji Temple, a popular tourist location, in Tokyo on October 12, 2022. (Photo: AFP)Japans government will drop its recommendation to wear masks indoors and downgrade its medical classification for COVID-19, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday.The changes, effective from early May, will classify the disease on the same level as the flu, down from its current status on par with tuberculosis and SARS."As for masking, regardless of indoors and outdoors, the decision will be left up to individuals," Kishida told a televised government meeting."We will take further steps towards life with corona and make steady progress on returning to normality in homes, schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods and all facets of life."Masks are ubiquitous in public places and are commonly worn outdoors as well, despite the government having already said they are not necessary outside in uncrowded settings.Even before the pandemic erupted in 2020, many people in Japan used masks when they had a cold or hayfever or to ward off illness in the winter.Polls by major media outlets have indicated that most people will continue wearing masks for public health purposes even if the government lifts its request.The change means that from May 8 -- after Japans "Golden Week" holiday period -- COVID-19 patients and their close contacts will no longer have to isolate.

Development must be priority in UN peacebuilding: Chinese envoy

Development must be a priority in UN peacebuilding, whose importance is becoming more pronounced under the current circumstances, said Chinas permanent representative to the United Nations on Thursday.Peacebuilding is an important part of the efforts to realize lasting peace and development must be a priority in it, Zhang Jun told an open debate of the Security Council on investment in people to enhance resilience against complex challenges.Chinas permanent representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun. (File photo: CGTN)"Indeed, for many developing countries, development is the ultimate solution to their myriad challenges. The lack of development is an important root cause of many long-lasting, unresolved hot-spot issues on the agenda of the Security Council," he said.Development must be prioritized in peacebuilding and resources be mobilized in favor of poverty elimination, peoples livelihoods, education, and public health, among others. Developed countries should honor their commitments regarding official development assistance and climate financing. International financial institutions should fulfill their due responsibilities and be deeply involved in peacebuilding so as to form synergy, he said.Zhang called for a people-centered approach to peacebuilding.UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding should remain committed to the original vision of the UN Charter, uphold a people-centered philosophy, and strive to safeguard peoples interests, advance their well-being, and support their pursuit of a better life, he said.UN peacebuilding should fully support the sovereignty and leadership of the countries concerned and support their exploration of development paths suited to their national conditions. In particular, UN peacebuilding should create enabling conditions and a favorable international environment for those countries development, he added.Zhang stressed the importance of capacity-building.Post-conflict countries have a lot on th...

Tropical storm Cheneso, ensuing rain kill 16 in Madagascar

A general view of the Ambinany river in strong flood following the passage of the tropical storm Cheneso near Antalaha, Madagascar, January 20, 2023. (Photo: CFP)Heavy rainfall that followed the landfall of the tropical storm Cheneso in Madagascar has killed 16 people and left 17 missing, the governments Office for Risk and Disaster Management said.The storm, which reached land on January 19, is the first for 2023 of an annual series that typically forms in the Indian Ocean off the island nations coast.Three people had died as the storm battered Madagascar and another 13 in the heavy rain that followed its departure, the office said in a statement late on Thursday. The rain was persisting, it said.

Israeli fighter jets strike Gaza in response to rockets firing: witnesses

GAZA, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Israeli fighter jets on Friday carried out a series of airstrikes on facilities belonging to militant groups in the Gaza Strip in response to rockets fired from the coastal enclave, eyewitnesses said.Fire and smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza Strip, Friday, Jan. 27, 2023. (Photo: AP)Israeli army drones and fighter jets were heard buzzing in the air, and several explosions were heard in central Gaza Strip, the witnesses told Xinhua, adding that more than 14 missiles were fired at a military post that belongs to Gaza militant groups.Palestinian medical sources said that no injuries were reported during the strikes that mainly targeted posts and facilities that belong to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).The airstrikes were an Israeli response to the earlier firing of two rockets at southern Israel, said an Israeli army spokesman. No group has claimed responsibility for firing the rockets, which was a response to the killing of 10 Palestinians by Israeli soldiers on Thursday during an Israeli raid on the northern West Bank city of Jenin.During Israeli airstrikes on Friday, militants in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave also fired at least five rockets at southern Israeli communities close to the borders with the Gaza Strip and anti-craft missiles were fired at Israeli fighter jets by Hamas militants, sources close to Hamas security told Xinhua.Media outlets in Gaza quoted an Egyptian source as saying that Egyptian intelligence is in intensive contact with the Palestinian factions to prevent an escalation in Gaza.Since early January, tension between Israel and the Palestinians has been flaring, with around 29 Palestinians killed and dozens injured by Israeli soldiers, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.Palestinian officials had warned of an escalated Israeli killing of Palestinians mainly after the formation of the new Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benj...

Phew! Truck-sized asteroid misses Earth

A truck-sized asteroid that suddenly loomed out of the darkness a few days ago -- with the Earth in its sights -- sailed harmlessly past us on Thursday, space scientists said.Graphic: AFPDespite what weve seen in movies like "Armageddon," no global mission to blow it up or knock it off course with nuclear weapons was required.Instead, Asteroid 2023 BU whizzed past without incident and back out into the blackness of space.Phew.The rock, which was spotted for the first time on Saturday by an amateur stargazer in Crimea, came closest to the southern tip of South America at around 0029 GMT Friday, according to scientists who were tracking it.At its nearest point, the asteroid was just 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) from Earths surface -- just a quarter of the height of many of the geostationary satellites that make our telephones and car navigation systems work.Amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov, who had already spotted an interstellar comet in 2019, raised the alarm over the weekend, alerting fellow space-watchers to the previously unknown celestial body.Scientists around the world raced to calculate where it was headed -- and whether we needed to start making last-minute evacuation plans.But experts using NASAs Scout impact hazard assessment system rapidly determined the alien visitor was coming in peace."Scout quickly ruled out 2023 BU as an impactor, but despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth," said NASAs Davide Farnocchia, who helped develop Scout."In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded."If the math had been off, however, humanity would still probably have been alright, scientists say.At between just 3.5 to 8.5 meters (11 to 28 feet) across, Asteroid 2023 BU is a bit small to cause too much damage, and would have largely burned up as it hurtled through the atmos...

US says operation in Somalia kills key ISIS leader

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. military operation killed a number of Islamic State (ISIS) members in Somalia on Wednesday, including a key leader of the extremist group, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday.File photo: XinhuaAmong those killed was Bilal-al-Sudani, "an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISISs global network," said Austin in a statement."Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the groups operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan," he said.Authorized by President Joe Biden, the operation was carried out in northern Somalia and caused no civilian deaths, the statement added.

Past US presidents, VPs asked to recheck for classified docs

The National Archives has asked former U.S. presidents and vice presidents to recheck their personal records for any classified documents following the news that President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence had such documents in their possession.A man walks past boxes that were moved out of the Eisenhower Executive Office building, just outside the West Wing, inside the White House complex, Jan. 14, 2021, in Washington. (Photo: AP)The Archives sent a letter Thursday to representatives of former presidents and vice presidents extending back to Ronald Reagan to ensure compliance with the Presidential Records Act, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press. The act states that any records created or received by the president are the property of the U.S. government and will be managed by the Archives at the end of an administration.The Archives sent the letter to representatives of former Presidents Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and former Vice Presidents Pence, Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore and Dan Quayle.Responsibility to comply with the Presidential Records Act "does not diminish after the end of an administration,” the Archives wrote in the letter. “Therefore, we request that you conduct an assessment of any materials held outside of (the Archives) that relate to the administration for which you serve as a designated representative under the PRA, to determine whether bodies of materials previously assumed to be personal in nature might inadvertently contain Presidential or Vice Presidential records subject to the PRA, whether classified or unclassified.”Spokespeople for former Presidents Trump, Obama, Clinton and former Vice Presidents Pence, Dick Cheney, Al Gore and Dan Quayle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Freddy Ford, chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, suggested in his response to the Archives that Bushs office did not believe a searc...

Palestine ends security coordination with Israel after deadly raid in West Bank

RAMALLAH, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) announced on Thursday the end of security coordination with Israel in response to the killing of nine Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin.People run to take cover during clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Jenin, on Jan. 26, 2023. (Photo: Xinhua)"In the light of the repeated aggression against our people and the undermining of signed agreements, we consider that security coordination with the Israeli occupation government no longer exists as of now," Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman of the Palestinian presidency, said in a press statement.The decision came after an emergency meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, the Fatah Central Committee, and the Palestinian government. The meeting was chaired by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.Earlier in the day, the Israeli army force stormed the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank and killed nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman, and wounded 16, four of them in serious condition.Abu Rudeineh called on the Palestinian factions for more peaceful popular resistance "to protect the Palestinians and their capabilities in the face of settler terrorism and the Israeli occupation forces."The Palestinian leadership has decided to immediately turn to the UN Security Council for international protection for the Palestinian people under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to stop unilateral measures, he said.The Palestinian leadership will also go urgently to the International Criminal Court to add "the file of the massacre committed by Israeli forces in Jenin today to the files previously submitted to the court," the spokesman added.Security coordination between Israel and the PA was brought on by the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PLO in the 1990s. The establishment of the PA itself was also an outcome of the Oslo Accords.More than 170 Palestinians were kille...

New Chinese ambassador presents letter of credence to Norwegian king

Stockholm (Peoples Daily) - Hou Yue, the newly appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Kingdom of Norway, presented a letter of credence to King Harald V at the Royal Palace of Norway on Thursday.Photo provided by Chinese embassy in NorwayAmbassador Hou conveyed cordial greetings from President Xi Jinping to King Harald V.The king is a long-term friend of China who cares about and has supported the development of China-Norway relations over the years, said Hou.Two countries have achieved consolidated political mutual trust, fruitful cooperation in various fields and enhanced friendship. China and Norway share broad common interests and are complementary in various fields. Therefore, it is in accord with the fundamental interest and common expectation of the two peoples that China and Norway continue to develop a practical and friendly relationship, said Hou.Hou also said as the new Chinese ambassador to Norway, she was ready to actively implement the consensus reached by the two heads of state and push for continued healthy and steady development of China-Norway relations in the new era.King Harald V asked Ambassador Hou to convey his sincere greetings to President Xi Jinping, and welcomed Ambassador Hou to assume her new post.King Harald V recalled fond memories of his previous visits to China and shared his impression of Chinas development achievements, and said that Norway is willing to work with China to continuously enhance exchanges and expand bilateral friendly cooperation to bring more benefits to the two countries and peoples.Ambassador Hou arrived in Norway on January 19 and presented a copy of her letter of credence to the Department for Cultural Relations and Protocol of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 23.

Türkiye says NATO dialogue with Sweden, Finland 'meaningless' after protests in Stockholm

ANKARA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- It is "meaningless" to hold a trilateral meeting with Sweden and Finland to discuss their NATO accession process after recent protests in Stockholm, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday.Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a joint press conference in Bucharest, Romania, on April 23, 2021. (File photo: Xinhua)"In this environment, a trilateral meeting is meaningless. It has been postponed because the current environment will overshadow this," Cavusoglu explained at a joint press conference with visiting Serbias First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic."Sweden has to decide. Does it want to join NATO or not? One of the aims of these incidents is to prevent Sweden from joining NATO," the Turkish minister said, referring to recent protests in the Nordic country, which involves burning of Quran and demonstrations by the supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) outlawed by Türkiye.He warned the incident was a "racist attack that has nothing to do with freedom of thought."Türkiye has postponed a trilateral meeting with Sweden and Finland on their NATO bids slated for February following the burning of a copy of the Quran in Stockholm.Sweden and Finland submitted their formal requests to join NATO in May 2022, which were initially objected by Türkiye, a NATO member, citing their support for anti-Turkish Kurdish organizations and political dissidents.A month later, Türkiye, Sweden and Finland reached a memorandum of understanding (MoU) ahead of the NATO summit held in Madrid.Under the MoU, Ankara agreed to lift its veto on the NATO bids by Finland and Sweden, which in return pledged to support Türkiyes fight against terrorism and address its "pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly."The Turkish parliament has not ratified the Nordic countries NATO bids so far, citing ...

Five US police officers charged with beating Black man to death

US authorities on Thursday charged five former police officers with murder over the fatal beating of a Black man in Memphis, as the southern city braced for possible civil unrest and President Joe Biden urged demonstrators to protest peacefully.Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy speaks during a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, after five fired Memphis Police Officers were charged in the murder of Black motorist Tyre Nichols. (Photo: AP)Tyre Nichols, 29, was stopped on January 7 for what the Memphis Police Department said was reckless driving.After a chase ensued, "police brutalized him to the point of being unrecognizable," family attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement.The five officers, who are also Black, were fired after an internal investigation found them to have deployed excessive use of force and to have failed to render aid, police said.Nichols was taken to hospital in critical condition, according to police, where he died on January 10.Officials said police video of the arrest would be released after 6:00 pm Central time Friday (0000 GMT Saturday).Nicholss death at the hands of police immediately recalled the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, another Black man whose suffocation by a white police officer in Minneapolis was caught on film.Video of Floyds death spread rapidly, sparking a massive wave of protests nationwide, sometimes violent, and leading to scrutiny of race relations and police brutality in the United States.In addition to second-degree murder charges, the officers in Memphis are also facing indictments of aggravated assault and aggravated kidnapping."After everyone sees the video, I dont think theyll have any questions about those charges," District Attorney Steve Mulroy told CNN.Memphis is the second-largest city in Tennessee and is 65 percent African-American.Family lawyers who watched the clip said they had seen "the disgusting way in which he lost hi...

Analysis: Sweden's latest tensions with Türkiye could compromise its NATO bid

ANKARA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- The latest tensions between Türkiye and Sweden over recent protests in Stockholm, including the burning of a copy of the Quran, could compromise Swedens NATO bid, analysts said.Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson speaks at a press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on Jan. 24, 2023. (File photo: Xinhua)Sweden should not expect Türkiyes support for its NATO membership, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Monday, two days after a copy of the Muslim holy book was burned by far-right demonstrators in Stockholm, an act that has angered Ankara."Those who allow such blasphemy in front of our embassy can no longer expect our support for their NATO membership," Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting.Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the military alliance in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Their accession to NATO needs the approval of all member states of the military alliance.Türkiye, a NATO member, obstructed their bid and urged Sweden in particular to take a clear stance against groups it views as terrorists, mainly Kurdish militants whom Türkiye claims have found a safe haven in Sweden.Many Turkish observers believe that Türkiye, a majority Muslim country, has shut the door to ratify the Nordic bid for a foreseeable future, at least not until the next general elections in Türkiye planned for June.Serkan Demirtas, a foreign policy analyst and Ankara bureau chief of Hurriyet Daily News, said that the ratification document of the Nordic states would be processed by the new Turkish government after the elections, and not before."As far as we can see, the ratification process will not be dealt with by the current government. There are question marks on when and how it will be presented in front of lawmakers after the elections," he told Xinhua.He said that Ankara was favorable to Finlands bid, but "there are major problems regarding Swedens membership," and that the Tu...

Canada to send 4 tanks to Ukraine: media

OTTAWA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand is set to announce Thursday that Canada will be sending four battle tanks to Ukraine, CTV News reported.A woman walks past tank wreckage in Mariupol, March 25, 2022. (File photo: Xinhua)In addition to the initial four Leopard 2 tanks, Canada is considering sending more tanks at a later date, the report said, quoting government sources.The Canadian Armed Forces currently has 82 German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks, but they are in various states of serviceability, according to the report.On Wednesday, Germany and the United States announced they would be organizing the shipment of dozens of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Pompeo's allegations against Türkiye 'exaggeration, false information': Turkish FM

ANKARA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeos allegations against Türkiye in his new book contain "false information, exaggeration, and double standards," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday.Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Photo: CGTN)"It is a pity that the book said the Turkish army does not have the capacity to defeat Daesh (the Islamic State)," Cavusoglu told a press conference that was also attended by visiting Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai."The only army fighting close combat against Daesh was the Turkish army. While we were clearing the north of Syria from Daesh, the U.S. sent the YPG and Daesh members to Afghanistan by planes and buses during Pompeos tenure. They are responsible for the attacks in Afghanistan," Cavusoglu said.The Turkish minister said he believed Pompeos purpose to write the book was to propel him to the U.S. presidency.Ankara considers the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the United States and the European Union and has rebelled against the Turkish government for over three decades.Pompeo, who served as U.S. secretary of state between 2018 and 2021, said in his book "Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love" that he was worried that Ankaras plan to fight against the IS could lead to ethnic cleansing of the Kurds in Syria.Ties between the two NATO member states have long been strained due to U.S. military support to the YPG, which cooperated with Washington in carrying out operations against the IS.The Turkish army launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016, Operation Olive Branch in 2018, Operation Peace Spring in 2019, and Operation Spring Shield in 2020 in northern Syria targeting both the IS and the YPG groups.

Natural disaster costs hit 23-year high in France: insurers

File photo Natural disasters cost French insurers 10 billion euros ($10.9 billion) last year, a two-decade high as such events become more frequent and intense, the head of the sectors federation said Thursday."It was an annus horribilis," France Assureurs president Florence Lustman told Europe 1 radio, citing the hailstorms, floods and droughts that hit the country last year.Natural disasters cost the industry 3.5 billion euros on average per year between 2017-2021.The 2022 figure is the highest since storms pummelled France in 1999.The insurance federation said the bill from natural disasters will exceed 140 billion euros over the next 30 years, double the amount for the previous three decades.Reinsurance giant Swiss Re said in December that natural and man-made catastrophes caused $268 billion of economic losses worldwide in 2022.

Black boxes from Nepal plane crash to be sent to Singapore

Rescuers scour the crash site of a passenger plane in Pokhara, Nepal, January 16, 2023. (Photo:AP)The black boxes recovered from the January 15 plane crash in Nepal are being sent to Singapore for analysis to identify the cause of the crash that killed all 72 people on board, officials said Thursday.Both the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder would be examined by experts at Singapores Transportation Safety Investigation Bureau."The Nepal investigating team is leaving on Friday with the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder where the data will be downloaded and analyzed," said Civil Aviation Authority spokesperson Rajendra Kumar K.C.It was initially suggested the black boxes be taken to France where the aircraft was manufactured, but Nepalese authorities now plan to send the recorders to Singapore.A committee formed by the government is still looking into the cause of the Yeti Airlines flight crash.Rescuers are combing the hillside for the remains of two people still missing since the crash January 15 at the resort town of Pokhara, 200 kilometers west of the capital, Kathmandu.The twin-engine ATR 72-500 aircraft was approaching Pokhara International Airport in the Himalayan foothills when it plummeted into a gorge about 1.6 kilometers from the runway at an elevation of about 820 meters.While its still not clear what caused the crash, some aviation experts said video taken from the ground of the planes last moments indicated it went into a stall, although its unclear why.It was carrying 68 passengers, including 15 foreign nationals, as well as four crew members. The foreigners included five Indians, four Russians, two South Koreans, and one each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina and France.Nepals Civil Aviation Authority also said the airports instrument landing system will not be working until February 26 – eight weeks after the airport began operations on January 1. Aviation safety experts said the abs...

EU wants to send more people back to Africa, Middle East, Asia

Swedens Minister for Migration, Maria Malmer Stenergard, Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs and Gunnar Strommer, Swedens Minister for Justice, at the first informal ministerial meeting during the Swedish EU Presidency. The agenda includes EU migration policy, Stockholm, Sweden, January 26, 2023. (Photo:Reuters)European Union migration ministers meet on Thursday to discuss visa restrictions and better coordination inside the bloc to be able to send more people with no right to asylum in Europe back to their home countries including Iraq.Three years after the 27-nation EU agreed to restrict visas for countries deemed failing to cooperate on taking their people back, only Gambia has been formally punished.The EUs executive European Commission proposed similar steps vis-a-vis Iraq, Senegal and Bangladesh, though two EU officials said cooperation with Dhaka on returning people has since improved.Still, the EUs overall rate of effective returns stood at 21 percent in 2021, according to Eurostat data, the latest available."That is a level that member states consider unacceptably low," said one of the EU officials.Immigration is a highly politically sensitive topic in the bloc where member countries would much rather discuss stepping up returns, as well as reducing irregular immigration in the first place, than revive their bitter feuds over how to share out the task of caring for those who make it to Europe and win the right to stay."Establishing an effective and common EU system for returns is a central pillar of well-functioning and credible migration and asylum systems," the Commission said in a discussion paper for the ministers, which was seen by Reuters.Some 160,000 people made it across the Mediterranean in 2022, according to U.N. data, the main route to Europe for people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. On top of that, nearly 8 million Ukrainian refugees were also register...

Japan to downgrade COVID-19 category on May 8: Kyodo

File photoJapan will downgrade its COVID-19 category on May 8, reported Kyodo news agency, citing government source on Thursday.

Thousands join Australia Day protests

Protesters on Australia Day demand that the countrys national day be changed, as the date marks the arrival of Britains first fleet and subsequent colonization of indigenous Australians, at a march in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday. (Photo: Reuters)CANBERRA, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Tens of thousands of Australians have joined protests across the country, calling for the government to change the date of Australia Day.Protesters joined rallies in every major city on Thursday, calling for the date of the contentious public holiday to be shifted out of respect for Indigenous Australians.Australia Day has been celebrated as a national public holiday since 1994 on Jan. 26 to mark the anniversary of the British First Fleet landing in Sydney in 1788.However, among Indigenous communities, the date is considered one of mourning and known as "Invasion Day" in recognition of the massacres of First Nations people carried out by British settlers.According to a poll published by the Guardian, 26 percent of Australians are supportive of creating a new date to replace Australia Day -- up from 15 percent in 2019 -- and another 33 percent are in favor of picking a new date to recognize Indigenous Australians while keeping the Jan. 26 holiday.Support for changing the date was strongest among those aged 18-34, who were almost four times more likely to be in favor than those aged 55 and over.Despite growing support for the initiative, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government has no plans to change the date.Instead, he urged support for his plan for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.A referendum to establish the voice, which would advise the parliament on issues relating to the Indigenous population, will be held later in 2023.Albanese said it was an opportunity to advance national reconciliation."This is an opportunity for Australia. It is one that I sincerely hope that Australia doesnt miss," he said at a citizenship ceremony in Canberra on Thu...

6 Chinese-national crew members dead after ship sinks off Japan: Chinese Consulate-General in Fukuoka

Photo:AFPTOKYO, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Eight crew members of a cargo ship that sank off southwestern Japan have been confirmed dead, including six Chinese nationals, said the Chinese Consulate-General in Fukuoka on Thursday.Five crew members, including four Chinese nationals and a Myanmarese national, have survived, with nine others still missing.The Hong Kong-registered cargo ship named Jintian capsized and sank off Nagasaki prefecture in southwestern Japan on Wednesday, with 22 crew members onboard, including 14 Chinese nationals and eight Myanmarese nationals.A group of staff members with the consulate-generals in Fukuoka and Nagasaki, commissioned by Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou, on Thursday visited the rescued at Nagasaki Coast Guard Office and sent daily necessities to the Chinese crew members.A working group tasked with the matter will spare no effort to help the rescued Chinese crew members return home safely, and it has asked the Japanese side to continue searching for the missing sailors and handle the aftermath, said Cheng Yan, Chinese deputy consul-general in Fukuoka.

Victims in Half Moon Bay mass shooting identified

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The seven farmworkers killed in the Monday mass shootings in Half Moon Bay, Northern California, have been identified, the authorities said on Wednesday.A sheriffs deputy talks with a man at the scene of a deadly shooting where several fatalities occurred off state Highway 92 in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. (Photo: AP)They are Jose Perez; Martinez Jimenez, 50; Qizhong Cheng, 66, of Half Moon Bay; Jingzhi Lu, 64, of Half Moon Bay; Zhishen Liu, 73, of San Francisco; Aixiang Zhang, 74, of San Francisco; and Yetao Bing, 43.Perezs age was not yet known. An eighth person injured was Pedro Romero Perez, the brother of Jose Perez. Both are Mexican nationals.The victims are primarily Mexican and Chinese immigrants, some of whom had worked at local mushroom farms for years.Authorities previously said all of them had worked at one of the two mushroom farms where the shootings took place.The suspect appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday at the Hall of Justice in Redwood City. His arraignment hearing, set for Wednesday, was pushed to Feb. 16. He will remain in jail without bail.Residents of Half Moon Bay have set up memorials to the victims around town, lighting candles and leaving flowers and notes at the two locations where they were killed.

UN chief calls for dialogue to address crisis in Peru

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for meaningful and inclusive dialogue to address the current crisis in Peru.Anti-government protesters clash with police in Lima, Peru, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. (Photo: AP)As demonstrations continue in Peru, the secretary-general urged restraint to avoid a further escalation of violence and reiterated his call on the authorities to comply with international human rights law, said Stephane Dujarric, Guterres spokesman, in a statement on Wednesday.Guterres also underscored that "protests must take place in a peaceful manner, respecting life and property," added the statement."He is concerned about the number of deaths reported in the context of the protests and urges the authorities to conduct prompt, effective and impartial investigations into these deaths, and to avoid the stigmatization of victims," the statement said.

Europe prepares for 'battlefield' competition in space

Europes space industry is narrowing its focus as Earths increasingly crowded ionosphere, where the atmosphere meets space, becomes a key battleground for nations and private companies alike.Key players met at the European Space Conference on Tuesday for a two-day summit geared towards securing the future of Europe in space.The EUs chief foreign policy advisor described space as a battlefield at the conference. (Photo: CGTN Europe)The EUs top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said that "space will become a kind of battlefield: at least, a place where competition and confrontation will take place," in the conferences opening remarks.While Europe has had flagship extraterrestrial success with projects like the Galileo navigation satellite systems and the Copernicus monitoring program, recent projects, like the failed launch of the Vega-C rocket in December 2022, embody the challenges faced by the industry.The European Space Agencys Director General, Josef Aschbacher, told the Associated Press that reestablishing European access to space was his top priority."Having three failures in two years is not good and this is something where we really need to look into, how we need to change some of the practices or quality management processes that we have in place, to make sure Vega-C gets back on the launchpad," said Aschbacher.In the meantime, the European Space Agency (ESA) will be forced to turn to competitors like Elon Musks Space X for its launches."We may need an interim solution in the next one, or maybe maximum two years," added Aschbacher.A few days prior to the conference, Aschbacher had also said that the ESA would continue to send astronauts to the International Space Station but could not crew launches to Chinas Tiangong station.But small European companies have provided a glimmer of hope for the continents space efforts.NanoXplore, a French start-up specializing in carbon and graphite product deve...

Fighting intensifies in E Ukraine, Kiev seeks more weapons amid protests

Ukrainian soldiers are seen on their ways to the frontlines with their armored military vehicles, in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, January 26, 2023. (Photo: CFP)Russia has stepped up attempts to break through Ukraines defenses with heavy fighting in the north and east of the country, underlining Kievs need for more Western weapons, Ukrainian officials was quoted as saying by Reuters on Friday.The Ukrainian military said fierce battles were under way. A day after Ukraine said Moscow fired more than 50 missiles aimed at energy facilities and killed at least 11 people, hours after Germany and the U.S. announced their plans to provide modern tanks to the country.Russia does not respond to the latest claim.After weeks of wrangling, Germany and the United States have promised Ukraine dozens of modern tanks to help the latter in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, opening the way for Canada, Poland, Finland, Norway and others to follow suit.Ukraine hailed Germany and U.S. move as a potential turning point in its fight in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, while Russia see by it as "direct involvement" in the conflict from the West.Russia chided U.S. President Joe Biden, saying he held the key to ending the conflict in Ukraine, which Moscow says does Washingtons bidding, but had not used it.Local officials on Friday reported heavy shelling in the north, northeast and east of Ukraine, scene of some of the heaviest combat since the conflict began on February 24 last year.Protests and worries as West pledges tanks to KyivThe latest promise by Western countries to send high-tech battle tanks to Ukraine has aroused not only protests and condemnation, but also worries that more advanced weaponry could be next.On Thursday night, a protest against supplies of German tanks and weapons was held in the German city Munich.Hundreds of people carrying flags and banners with calls for peace and criticism of weapons supplies to Kiev gathered in the citys central Marienplat...

India to get 12 cheetahs from South Africa next month

India will receive 12 cheetahs from South Africa next month that will join eight others it received from Namibia in September as part of an ambitious plan to reintroduce the cats in the country after 70 years. A cheetah jumps inside a quarantine section before being relocated to India, at a reserve near Bella Bella, South Africa on Sept. 4, 2022. (Photo: AP)India plans to transport an additional 12 annually for the next eight to 10 years as part of an agreement signed by the two African countries, Indias Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said Friday.Cheetah populations in most countries are declining. South Africa, where the cats are running out of space, is an exception.South Africas National Biodiversity Institute, National Parks, the Cheetah Range Expansion Project and the Endangered Wildlife Trust will collaborate with their Indian counterparts, the ministry said in a statement.The eight cheetahs flown from Namibia in September were released in sprawling Kuno National Park in central India.Cheetahs were once widespread in India but disappeared by 1952 because of hunting and loss of habitat.India hopes that importing African cheetahs will aid efforts to conserve the countrys threatened and largely neglected grasslands.There are fewer than 7,000 adult cheetahs in the wild globally, and they now inhabit less than 9% of their original range. Shrinking habitat, due to the increasing human population and climate change, is a huge threat.

Ukraine's central bank downgrades 2023 GDP forecast

This photograph shows a general view of the Maidan square and the skyline of the Ukrainian capital Kiev on January 4, 2023. (Photo: AFP)KIEV, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Ukraines National Bank (NBU) on Thursday downgraded the gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for 2023 from 4 percent to 0.3 percent, citing security risks."The deterioration of the forecast compared to the October estimates was primarily caused by consequences of energy terror and the revision of the main assumption of the duration of security risks," the NBU said in a statement.Among the risks to the Ukrainian economy this year, the bank listed a weaker grain harvest, destruction of energy infrastructure and a partial port blockade.In 2024, the Ukrainian economy has the potential of increasing by 4.1 percent driven by a decline in security risks, along with a resumption of proper operation of ports, an increase in harvests, and a gradual recovery in production.According to preliminary estimates, Ukraines GDP declined by a record 30.4 percent last year due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Bill Gates says 'China's rise' is a 'huge win for the world'

A file photo of Bill Gates. (Photo: CFP)Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, said on Wednesday that Chinas rise is a "huge win for the world" during an interview with the Lowy Institute, a think tank based in Australia, according to Fox Business."I tend to see Chinas rise as a huge win for the world," Gates said, adding that the portion of the Chinese people in the global population today matches their portion of the global economy.When asked about how "bullish" he was on China, he said he does think that "the current mentality of the U.S. to China and which is reciprocated is kind of a lose-lose mentality."He said it takes the whole world to work together for the global economy, for the discovery of cancer drugs and for the solution to climate change.During the interview, Gates also said that the U.S. is politically in a weak state, adding that countries like China need to play a bigger role in world governance, according to Fox Business."The current world system is designed around U.S. leadership," he said, adding that as other countries have gotten richer, some middle-income countries including China and India need to play a stronger role in world governance.

Toll from Madagascar storm rises to 16

The death toll from a tropical storm that lashed parts of northeastern Madagascar last week has climbed to 16, the governments risk and disaster management office announced Friday.Residents of the Belle Souvenir neighborhood try to resume their daily life in their house submerged by water in Sambava on January 21, 2023, following the passage of cyclone Cheneso on January 19, 2023. (Photo: AFP)Another 19 people are missing after the storm flooded several districts and cut roads linking them to the capital Antananarivo.In a statement, the office said more than 55,400 people had been affected, more than half of whom were displaced from their homes.Storm Cheneso made landfall on January 19, packing winds of up to 110 kilometres (68 miles) per hour and triggering downpours.It is the first tropical storm of the current cyclone season in southern Africa, which typically runs from November to April.

Lebanon's public prosecutor sues Beirut blasts investigator

Lebanese Prosecutor-General Ghassan Oueidat on Wednesday filed charges against the judge leading the Beirut port blasts investigation and released all the 17 suspects in connection with the blasts, the National News Agency (NNA) reported.Photo taken on July 28, 2022 shows the grain silos damaged in the 2020 Beirut Port explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. (File photo: Xinhua)The prosecutor accused Tarek Bitar of "abusing power" by resuming his work despite the several complaints filed against him, said the NNA.The investigation into the Beirut port blasts was suspended in December, 2021 after a series of complaints were filed against Bitar, forcing him to halt his probe. Bitar resumed his work on Monday after a 13-month suspension.In response to Oueidats accusation, Bitar said he wont step down and will continue with his "responsibilities as investigative judge," according to the NNA.Upon returning to the office on Monday, Bitar ordered the release of five detained suspects and announced his plan to press charges against others.On Tuesday, Bitar charged former prime minister Hassan Diab and two former ministers with homicide with probable intent. He also charged chief of Lebanese General Security Abbas Ibrahim, State Security Director Tony Saliba, and former Lebanese army commander Jean Kahwaji in connection to the two blasts on August 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 people and injured more than 6,000 others.Meanwhile, families of the blast victims and many Lebanese were angered by Oueidats decision to release all the suspects and staged protests in Baabda, the capital of Mount Lebanon Governorate, the NNA reported.

Families of Boeing MAX crash victims set to face company in US court

Relatives of passengers who died in the twin Boeing 737 MAX crashes are scheduled to confront the airplane maker Thursday in a US court, some four years after the tragedies in Ethiopia and Indonesia.The proceeding in Fort Worth, Texas, long sought by the families and resisted by the aerospace giant, is expected to include Boeings entry of either a guilty or not guilty plea in a US criminal settlement over the calamities that claimed 346 lives.Photo taken on March 11, 2019 shows the crash site of an Ethiopian Airlines plane near Bishoftu town, about 45 km from the capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (File photo: Xinhua)The families have already chalked up some victories from US District Judge Reed OConnor, who last week ordered a Boeing representative to appear at Thursdays arraignment after ruling in October that the Department of Justices deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with Boeing was negotiated in violation of the families rights.But those were stepping stones to the families ultimate ambition in the case: Undoing key elements of the DPA, which required Boeing to pay $2.5 billion in fines and restitution in exchange for immunity from criminal prosecution for charges Boeing defrauded the government during the certification of the MAX.Boeing and its top executives deserve no such relief, argue attorneys for the families, who also plan to ask the court to establish an independent monitor because "the Justice Department cannot be trusted to monitor Boeing," they say in a brief."This is a case that involved 346 people dying," attorney Paul Cassell told AFP. "Why you wouldnt want an independent set of eyes looking in and making sure the criminal conduct isnt still going on is beyond me."Boeing has avoided commenting on the case outside of legal briefs, but Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told CNBC on Wednesday that he felt "nothing but heartbreak" for the families and supported their right to ...

Spain: 1 dead in church machete attacks, terror link probed

A machete-wielding man killed a sexton and injured a priest in attacks at two churches in the city of Algeciras on Wednesday before being arrested, Spain’s interior ministry said, in what authorities are investigating as a possible act of terrorism.Police work next to the body of a man killed in Algeciras, southern Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. (Photo: Xinhua)The suspect was arrested in the southern city and is in the custody of Spain’s National Police. The ministry did not identify him.The attack started around 7 p.m. when the armed man went into the San Isidro church and assaulted a priest, who was seriously injured, the ministry said.The assailant then went to a second church, the Nuestra Señora de La Palma — a five-minute walk away — where he entered and continued his rampage, assaulting the sexton. The sexton, whose job it is to take care of the church and its maintenance, fled outside where the attacker dealt him the mortal wounds in a public square, the ministry said.The Algeciras town hall said the sexton was named Diego Valencia and identified the wounded priest as Antonio Rodríguez. The town hall said he was hospitalized and in stable condition.Local media reported that at least three other people were injured.Spain’s National Court said a judge has opened an investigation into a possible act of terrorism.Police are investigating the incident, the interior ministry said, to determine the “nature of the attack.” It offered no further detail on the attackers possible motive.Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez joined the outpouring of condolences.“I want to express my sincerest condolences for the families of the sexton slain in the terrible attack in Algeciras,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter. “I desire the injured a swift recovery.”The secretary general of Spain’s Episcopal Conference, Francisco García, wrote on Twitter that “I have received the news of the incident in Algeciras with great pain."“These are sad moments of suffering, we are united by ...

At least 20 injured in bomb attack in DR Congo

KINSHASA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- At least 20 people were injured late Wednesday during a bomb attack at a small market in the city of Beni of the North Kivu province in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), an army spokesman told Xinhua.Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (File photo: AFP)Captain Anthony Mwalushayi, spokesman for the Congolese army in the Beni region, said an improvised explosive device was placed in a bag containing cassava near a flour milling machine at the market.The majority of the injured are women who were selling at the market when the device exploded. At least seven people have been seriously injured, according to the spokesman contacted by Xinhua."For the moment we do not have enough details but the security forces and specialized services sealed off the place of the explosion for investigations," said Mwalushayi, blaming this tragedy on the rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)."We know, however, that this is the work of the ADF terrorists," he noted.Earlier this month, at least 14 people were killed and about 60 others injuried when a bomb exploded at a local church in Kasindi of the North Kivu province. Kinshasa also blamed the attack on the ADF rebels.The eastern part of the DRC has been troubled for decades by multiple militia groups, in particular rebels of the ADF and those of the March 23 Movement (M23), a common nightmare for countries in the region.

Meta to restore Donald Trump's Facebook, Instagram accounts

Meta Platforms Inc. said on Wednesday that it will restore former U.S. President Donald Trumps Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks, following a two-year suspension after the deadly January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.The social media company said in a blog post it has "put new guardrails in place to deter repeat offenses.""In the event that Mr. Trump posts further violating content, the content will be removed and he will be suspended for between one month and two years, depending on the severity of the violation," wrote Nick Clegg, Metas president of global affairs, in the blog post.Former U.S. President Donald Trump walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington, D.C., U.S. January 12, 2021. (Photo: CFP)The decision to ban Trump was a polarizing one for Meta, which prior to the Trump suspension had never blocked the account of a sitting head of state for violating its content rules.Trump announced in November he will make another run for the White House in 2024. Trump has 34 million followers on Facebook and 23 million on Instagram, platforms that are key vehicles for political outreach and fundraising.The company indefinitely revoked Trumps access to his Facebook and Instagram accounts after removing two of his posts during the Capitol Hill violence, including a video in which he reiterated his false claim of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.It then referred the case to its independent oversight board, which ruled that the suspension was justified but its indeterminate nature was not. In response, Meta said it would revisit the suspension two years after it began.Metas blog post Wednesday suggested it may reactivate other suspended accounts, including those penalized for their involvement in civil unrest. The company said those reinstated accounts would be subject to more stringent review and penalties for violations.Whether, and how, Trump will sei...

Iran imposes 'tit-for-tat' sanctions on EU, UK individuals, entities

TEHRAN, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday imposed new sanctions on a number of individuals and entities of the European Union (EU) and Britain for "supporting terrorism and inciting violence and unrest" in Iran.The Iranian flag flies in front of the UN nuclear watchdog (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2021. (File photo: via China Daily)The move came as a "tit-for-tat" action, the ministry said in a statement published on its website, citing their interference in Irans internal affairs, dissemination of false information about Iran and participation in cruel sanctions against Iranians as further reasons for imposing the sanctions.The sanctions, covering three EU entities and 22 individuals, one British entity, and eight incumbent and former officials, will prohibit the targeted individuals from obtaining visas and entering Iran and will freeze their assets and bank accounts inside Iran, according to the statement.French Minister Delegate for Cities and Housing Olivier Klein, Member of the European Parliament Dietmar Koster, Attorney General for England Victoria Mary Prentis and the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service Richard Billing Dearlove are among the sanctioned individuals.On Monday, the EU imposed sanctions on more than 30 Iranian officials and organizations, including units of Irans Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, for their response to the recent protests in the country. Britain and the United States also announced new sanctions on Iran on the same day.Protests erupted in Iran after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in a Tehran hospital on Sept. 16, 2022, a few days after her collapse at a police station. Iran has accused the United States and some other Western countries of "inciting riots and supporting terrorists" in the country.

Biden announces equipping Ukraine with US-made tanks

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that his administration will provide Ukraine with 31 U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks, which Russia has said will be its target if they were to be used in the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev.Photo taken on Feb. 27, 2022 shows smoke rising in the sky in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo: Xinhua)"Today Im announcing that the United States will be sending 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, the equivalent of one Ukrainian battalion," Biden said, addressing the nation in televised remarks from the White House.Biden said the decision was recommended by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who, together with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, flanked Biden as he spoke. "Because itll enhance Ukraines capacity to defend its territory and achieve the strategic objectives," Biden said.Biden said the United States is also sending Ukraine parts and equipment necessary to sustain the sophisticated tanks, adding that Washington will soon begin to train Ukrainian soldiers on how to operate and maintain the tanks, the delivery of which, he noted, will take time.The U.S. delivery of M1 Abrams tanks, among the most powerful and capable of the kind in the world, is considered yet another major development in the Ukraine crisis, potentially further escalating the situation as other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also intended to aid Ukraine with tanks.Before the formal announcement by Biden, reports of U.S. provision of the M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine had already infuriated Russia.Moscows ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, said Tuesday that "if a decision to transfer to Kiev M1 Abrams is made, American tanks without any doubt will be destroyed as all other samples of NATO military equipment.""If the United States decides to supply tanks, it will be impossible to justify such step using arguments about defensive weapons," the envoy ...

Philippines welcomes tourists for 2023 Chinese New Year

Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina Garcia Frasco (center) and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian (right) welcome children arriving in Manila. (Photo provided by Philippine Department of Tourism)Bangkok ( Peoples Daily) -- Philippine tourism authorities and Chinese Embassy officials staged a warm Chinese New Year welcome for passengers arriving from China at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on Tuesday.The 190 visitors were greeted with floral garlands and gifts by officials from both countries as a bamboo orchestra performed live music."The arrival of Chinese tourists to the Philippines signals a very auspicious start to the New Year and indicates a positive result of President Bongbong Marcos Jr.s state visit to China to further the relations between our countries," Philippine Department of Tourism Secretary Maria Esperanza Christina Garcia Frasco was quoted as saying in a press release.Filipino bamboo orchestra musicians welcome Chinese tourists on Tuesday at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. (Photo provided by Philippine Department of Tourism)Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said, “We believe that with the development of our tourism cooperation that there will be a growing number of Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines to enjoy the beauty of this country.”The Philippines was among 20 countries identified by Chinas Ministry of Culture and Tourism to pilot the arrival of Chinese tour groups following the nationwide easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions last December. "The Philippines is a country blessed with many islands, a wealth of cultural offerings, wonderful food and the warmth of the Filipino people," Frasco said. "And we are open and ready to welcome our friends from China as we continue to improve the relationship between our two nations which spans millennia."

Global economy likely to beat forecasts as China rebounds: Nordea Bank

HELSINKI, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- The global economy may outperform expectations this year despite its current slow growth, the European financial services group Nordea Bank said in a press release on Wednesday.High inflation is eroding households purchasing power, and in the Nordic countries the housing markets face a sharp slowdown.However, according to the Helsinki-based bank, the recent economic developments have been surprisingly positive and "there are signs that the year 2023 could also cause positive surprises."The mild winter has cushioned the harmful effects of the energy crisis in the eurozone, and Chinas rapid reopening after the COVID-19 lockdowns is returning the country to as a strong driver of the global economy, Tuuli Koivu, chief economist at Nordea Bank, said.A shopping mall in Zhengzhou City, central Chinas Henan Province, January 24, 2023. (Photo: CFP)But risks remain. The tight labor market and rising inflation in the United States and the eurozone may result in a return to tighter monetary policy and an economic slowdown.For Finland, Nordea Bank, the largest financial services group in the Nordic region and one of the biggest banks in Europe, projects zero gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year and 1 percent growth in 2024.The growth of Finlands economy slowed down at the end of 2022, when the strong rise in energy prices and interest rates reduced private consumption and export demand. As a result, the economic outlook for this year is very mixed with bleak consumer and corporate confidence.However, inflation in the country is expected to ease along with an anticipated wage growth, which would relieve household finances towards the end of the year, the bank said.At the same time, economic growth in the Nordic states will shrink by 0.5 percent this year and will grow by 0.9 percent next year, while the global economy will grow by 3.2 percent in 2023 and by 2.7 percent in 2024, the bank said.

Fabrizia Lapecorella named OECD deputy secretary-general

Italys Fabrizia Lapecorella has been appointed as a new deputy secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Reuters reported on Wednesday.

German economy to avoid recession in 2023, says Berlin

In this Monday, March 29, 2021 file photo, lights burn in some offices of the buildings of the banking district in Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo: AP)Germany is set to narrowly escape a recession this year, the government said Wednesday, as Europes biggest economy weathers the fallout from the Ukraine crisis better than expected.Industrial powerhouse Germany is forecast to eke out growth of 0.2 percent in 2023, the economy ministry said in the countrys latest projections.In October, when fears were running high about soaring energy costs in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Berlin was bracing for a contraction of 0.4 percent in 2023.The more optimistic outlook comes as massive government intervention has helped keep the lid on energy costs for households and businesses after Russia cut deliveries of natural gas last year.As well as crisscrossing the globe to find alternative suppliers, the German government has unveiled a 200-billion-euro ($212 billion) support package to cushion the energy crisis, including a cap on electricity and gas prices.Mild winter weather and falling wholesale gas prices recently have further bolstered confidence that the expected downturn will not be as painful as initially thought."The German economy as a whole has proved resilient," the ministry said in an annual report. "Consumers have also done their part by making major energy savings."

Iran imposes new sanctions on EU, UK

Iran imposed new sanctions on European and British personalities and entities for supporting terrorism and inciting violence in Iran, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Thousands displaced as floods hit Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Flooding in parts of Malaysia has resulted in the displacement of more than 5,000 people in three states as of Wednesday evening, according to government data.The worst-hit area is Johor state, which accounts for the greatest number of those being evacuated at over 4,700 followed by the northern Borneo state of Sabah and Pahang state with 179 and 138 victims respectively, according to data provided by the Department of Social Welfare Malaysia.The situation in Johor continues to be difficult with four rivers breaching the danger level with an upward trend, according to the Department of Irrigation and Drainage.Malaysia is still facing the northeast monsoon, which typically lasts from November to March, and had seen intermittent flooding over the last year.

Bird flu outbreak detected on Bulgarian quail farm

Photo: CGTNSOFIA, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Bulgarias Food Safety Agency reported on Wednesday an outbreak of a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza on an industrial farm.The virus was detected on a farm with 25,000 laying quails near the Bulgarian town of Etropole, some 80 km northeast of its capital Sofia, after reports of high mortality among the birds, the agency said in a statement.All measures have been taken immediately to stop the outbreak, it said.This is the first bird flu outbreak in Bulgaria this year, according to the agency.

1 dead, 9 missing after cargo ship capsizes off southwestern Japan

This handout photo taken and released on January 25, 2023 by the 7th Regional Coast Guard headquarters of the Japan Coast Guard shows Coast Guard personnel (centre L) checking on a lifeboat (centre R-in orange) from the Jin Tian cargo ship floating at sea, after the Hong Kong registered vessel sank between South Koreas southern island of Jeju and Japans southwestern Nagasaki prefecture. (Photo: AFP)TOKYO, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- One person was confirmed dead and nine others still missing after a cargo ship capsized off Nagasaki prefecture in southwestern Japan, the Chinese Consulate-General in Nagasaki confirmed Wednesday.According to the consulate-general, 14 Chinese and eight crew members from Myanmar were on the Hong Kong-registered cargo ship.There were 22 people aboard the 6,651-ton ship named Jintian.Japans coast guard said it received a distress call made around 11:15 p.m. (1415 GMT) on Tuesday from about 110 km west of the Danjo Islands.Patrol boats and aircraft are searching for those who remain missing and are hoping they may be adrift in lifeboats.The coast guard, however, has said the search and rescue efforts are being hampered by powerful winds in the vicinity of the sunken cargo ship.When the distress call was issued from the cargo ship, a gale warning was also issued, according to local reports.Of those rescued, five of the crew members, four Chinese and one from Myanmar, survived after being discovered and picked up by a vessel from China, according to the consulate-general.One crew member from Myanmar was confirmed dead, and seven others were reported in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest.

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