World will hear “positive voices” against rising protectionism at Modi-Xi summit: China

World will hear “positive voices” against rising protectionism at Modi-Xi summit: China

Beijing: China today said President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will discuss the threat of rising protectionism and the “unprecedented” changes in the world in the past 100 years at their informal summit at Wuhan this week and the world will hear “very positive voices”.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi yesterday announced that Modi and Xi will meet in the central Chinese city of Wuhan on April 27-28 to improve bilateral relations and discuss global issues.

During the meeting, the two leaders will discuss the changes that have taken place and which are unprecedented in the past 100 years to exchange views on the strategic over- arching long term issues concerning over bilateral ties. relationship, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

This will bring positive influence to regional and world peace, stability and development and bring more benefits to the people of both countries, Lu said.

As to the background against which this meeting will be held, Lu said, “I believe you are also clear that the world is now faced with rampant unilateralism as well as the rising protectionism in the process of globalisation. All these new trends in the world have to be closely followed and debated.

“Against such back drop China and India have a lot to discuss. We are newly emerging markets as well as developing countries with big population. So we believe the two countries will continue to uphold the globalisation so that it is more inclusive. So we have a lot of shared interests, concerns and positions,” the spokesman said.

At Wuhan, the two leaders will “exchange views on overarching long-term strategic issues as well as the latest trends of the world so that the world will develop in a more stable way,” Lu said.
All these new trends in the world have been closely followed and debated, Lu said in apparent reference to a host of measures initiated by US President Donald Trump in his ‘America First’ policy leading to a lot of protectionist measures including the current trade spate between the China and US.

Lu was responding to question whether there will be a joint message related to trade and protectionism specially against US unilateral protectionism after the meeting between Modi and Xi.

To a specific question whether there would be a joint message related to trade and protectionism especially against US unilateral protectionism, he said while he cannot make any prejudgement ahead of the meeting, “it is sure that the two leaders will exchange views on these issues but I believe you will see and hear very positive voices”.

At the recently-held Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) India and China displayed wider convergence on threats to globalisation and rising protectionism.

NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar had said in his address to the fifth India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) here on April 14 that the world economy is staging a synchronised recovery after a long time.

But the “recovery is marred and disrupted by unseemingly protectionist noises that are coming out from the Atlantic basin from north and America and Europe,” he said in a thinly veiled attack on US and Western countries’ protectionist policies.

He also made a strong case for China to open its import market for India for soybean and sugar after Beijing imposed 25 per cent tariff on a host of products, including the two, following the trade spat with US.

“I was noticing that there are some tariffs you imposed on farmers’ from Iowa and Ohio (in US). May be India can be a substitute for soybean and sugar, if we could access those exports with all the due quality considerations to our farmers. That is very useful,” he told chairman of China’s National Development Reforms Commission (NDRC) He Lifeng at the meeting.

Kumar’s pitch for soybean and sugar exports to China came amid the ongoing trade spat between the US and China following which Beijing had slapped 25 per cent tariffs on American soybean imports in a tit-for-tat retaliation to US President Donald Trump imposing tariffs on a range of Chinese products.

Trump is pressuring China to reduce America’s whopping USD 375 billion trade deficit with China to USD 100 billion.

China had hit back with tariffs on a wide variety of agricultural products such as soybean, corn, beef, orange juice and tobacco which are expected to hit American farmers.

Soybean is regarded as most important for US farmers as China is their largest importer.

US customs fined $500 to woman over apple

US customs fined $500 to woman over apple

Washington: A woman said on Monday that she was facing a $500 fine from the US customs agency after a free apple that she was given as a snack on a plane was found in her bag. Crystal Tadlock, travelling to the US from Paris, said she was saving the fruit for her onward flight to Denver, Colorado, reports the BBC.

But the apple was revealed in a random search by US border agents after her first flight landed in Minneapolis. US Customs and Border Patrol would not comment on the case, but said all agricultural items should be declared.

The apple was handed out in a plastic Delta Air Lines bag.  When the apple was found, Tadlock told the agent that she had just received it from the airline and asked whether she should throw it out or eat it, the BBC reported. Instead the agent handed her a $500 fine.

Tadlock now has the choice of paying the fine or fighting the penalty in court. She told the Denver-based broadcaster KDVR she wanted to take the case to court. Delta Air Lines has issued a statement saying that “we encourage our customers to follow US Customs and Border Protection protocols”.

Gaza Palestinian dies of Israeli gunfire wounds, says ministry health Gaza City

Gaza Palestinian dies of Israeli gunfire wounds, says ministry health Gaza City

Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian wounded by Israeli gunfire in the Gaza Strip has died, the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry said today. Abdullah Shamali, 20, died overnight of “bullet wounds to his belly” sustained on Friday in Rafah, near the enclave’s border with Israel, a ministry spokesman said.

Shamali was one of five Palestinian demonstrators, including a 15-year-old, killed or fatally wounded in Gaza on Friday. His death brings to 39 the toll from Israeli fire since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel. Some protestors have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers.Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed.

The Israeli army says its fores only open fire in self-defence or to stop protestors attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel. More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said.

Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union. Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Islamist movement Hamas since 2008.

Scientists find way to bend, stretch diamond Boston

Scientists find way to bend, stretch diamond Boston

In a first, scientists have found that diamond can bend and stretch much like rubber, and snap back to its original form when grown in extremely tiny, needle-like shapes. Diamond is well-known as the strongest of all natural materials, and with that strength comes another tightly linked property: brittleness. The finding by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US could open the door to a variety of diamond-based devices for applications such as sensing, data storage, actuation, biocompatible in vivo imaging, optoelectronics, and drug delivery. For example, diamond has been explored as a possible biocompatible carrier for delivering drugs into cancer cells. Published in the journal Science, the research shows that the narrow diamond needles, similar in shape to the rubber tips on the end of some toothbrushes but just a few hundred nanometers across, could flex and stretch by as much as nine per cent without breaking, then return to their original configuration.

Ordinary diamond in bulk form, and has a limit of well below one per cent stretch, said MIT postdoc Daniel Bernoulli. “It was very surprising to see the amount of elastic deformation the nanoscale diamond could sustain,” he said. “We developed a unique nanomechanical approach to precisely control and quantify the ultralarge elastic strain distributed in the nanodiamond samples,” said Yang Lu,  associate professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). Putting crystalline materials such as diamond under ultralarge elastic strains can change their mechanical properties as well as thermal, optical, magnetic, electrical, electronic, and chemical reaction properties in significant way, researchers said.

This could be used to design materials for specific applications through “elastic strain engineering,” they said. The team measured the bending of the diamond needles, which were grown through a chemical vapour deposition process and then etched to their final shape, by observing them in a scanning electron microscope while pressing down on the needles with a standard nanoindenter diamond tip (essentially the corner of a cube). Following the experimental tests using this system, the team did many detailed simulations to interpret the results and was able to determine precisely how much stress and strain the diamond needles could accommodate without breaking.

US Senate narrowly confirms Donald Trump’s new NASA chief

US Senate narrowly confirms Donald Trump’s new NASA chief

Washington: The US Senate has narrowly confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick to head the space agency NASA, over objections from Democrats who warned he lacked a technical background. Jim Bridenstine, a congressman from Oklahoma, US Navy veteran and former pilot, was confirmed on a 50-49 vote, and will become the 13th administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration seven months after Trump named him to lead the agency.

Bridenstine, 42, has expressed an interest in returning humans back to the moon, spoken of closer ties between NASA and the commercial space industry, and has voiced skepticism about human-caused climate change. He was a strong supporter of Trump during the 2016 presidential race.Senate Democrat Bill Nelson, a former astronaut from Florida, was unenthusiastic in his welcome for Bridenstine.

“The @NASA administrator should be a consummate space professional — not a politician,” Nelson tweeted. “He or she must also be a leader who has the ability to bring us together on a shared vision for future space exploration.” NASA’s previous full-time administrator, former astronaut Charles Bolden, resigned in January 2017.

The confirmation came as Trump complained in a tweet that Democrats are “‘slow walking’ all of my nominations.” His pick for Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is expected to be voted on next week.

James Comey memos on Trump released to Congress

James Comey memos on Trump released to Congress

Washington: A series of explosive memos prepared by former FBI director James Comey detailing US President Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to influence the bureau’s expanding investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections have been submitted to Congress.

Trump claimed vindication after the release of memos and said they “‘show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION.” “WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” he asked. The redacted and declassified memos – running 15 pages in total — had previously been provided to Justice special counsel Robert Mueller to assist his investigation into Trump’s possible attempts to obstruct the probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections.

They give details of the telephonic conversations and meetings that Comey has had with Trump before he was fired by the president last May. They detail the president’s alleged demands for loyalty from the former director and his requests for Comey to shut down its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his pre-inaugural contacts with Russia ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn is now cooperating with Mueller’s investigators. Among the disclosures in the memos is a February 8, 2017, encounter in which Trump confronted Comey about the contents of a dossier prepared by a former British intelligence agent purportedly describing Trump’s involvement with prostitutes during a 2013 visit in Moscow.

Trump, according to the memos, repeatedly denied the allegations and prodded Comey to help disprove them, while also recalling being told by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia has the most beautiful prostitutes, it said.

According to The Hill, the memos detail Comey’s account of several now-famous incidents: one in which Trump allegedly demanded his personal loyalty; one in which he asked him to investigate allegations in the dossier that he had paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed once slept in by former President Obama; and the request that Comey “let go” of the Flynn probe.

Expressing frustration over the leaks, in one of the memos Trump is suggesting jailing reporters to find out what they know. Comey, told Trump that he was “eager to find leakers and would like to nail one to the door as a message,” but explained that prosecuting reporters was “tricky”.

“I said something about the value of putting a head on a pike as a message,” Comey wrote. “(Trump) replied by saying it may involve putting reporters in jail. ‘They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, and they are ready to talk.’ I laughed as I walked to the door Reince Priebus had opened,” Comey wrote. “I was a fan of pursuing leaks aggressively but that going after reporters was tricky, for legal reasons and because (the Justice Department) tends to approach it conservatively.

He replied by telling me to talk to (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions and see what we can do about being more aggressive,” Comey wrote. In a joint statement, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said these memos are significant for both what is in them and what is not.

“Former Director Comey’s memos show the President made clear he wanted allegations of collusion, coordination, and conspiracy between his campaign and Russia fully investigated. “The memos also made clear the ‘cloud’ President Trump wanted lifted was not the Russian interference in the 2016 election cloud, rather it was the salacious, unsubstantiated allegations related to personal conduct leveled in the dossier,” the three Republican lawmakers said. The memos also show former Director Comey never wrote that he felt obstructed or threatened.