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Relief teams rescue 22,000 in Kerala as rains ease

About 22,000 people were rescued from the flood-hit Indian state of Kerala on Sunday, officials say, after monsoon rains finally eased.

Military teams, as well as disaster response forces and local fishermen, reached some of the worst hit areas.

Helicopters also brought much-needed supplies to communities cut-off by two weeks of incessant rain.

More than 350 people have been killed, most of them in landslides, since the monsoon started in June.

Kerala's chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the number of people taking refuge in the 5,645 relief camps now stood at 725,000.

But he vowed on Sunday "to save even the last person stranded".

Meanwhile, the head of the state's disaster management team, Anil Vasudevan, said he was preparing to deal with a possible outbreak of waterborne and airborne diseases in temporary relief camps.

Source : BBC

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Chinese defense ministry opposes China-related contents in U.S. defense act

The Chinese Defense Ministry on Tuesday expressed opposition to the China-related contents in a new act adopted by the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 into law. The act includes clauses such as directing a whole-of-government strategy on China and submitting the assessment and plan on strengthening Taiwan's force readiness.

"The China-related contents in that act are filled with a cold-war mentality, advocating confrontations between the two countries and interfering with China's internal affairs," said Wu Qian, spokesperson with the Ministry of National Defense.

Wu identified the related contents as violations to the one-China principle and the stipulations in the three joint communiques between China and the United States. He highlighted their damage to the bilateral relations, military ties, mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries.
"Chinese armed forces firmly oppose the contents and have lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side," said Wu.

Taiwan is a part of China and the Taiwan issue, concerning China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, is the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations, according to Wu.

Wu reiterated the resolute opposition to any form of official or military contact between any country and Taiwan, and stressed that "We will never allow anyone, at any time or in any form, to separate Taiwan from China."

Wu called on the United States to adhere to the one-China principle and the stipulations in the three joint communiques between China and the United States, and handle Taiwan-related issues prudent, so as to avoid damaging China-U.S. relations, the military ties or the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Source : Xinhua

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Lombok earthquake: Strong tremor shakes Indonesian island

The Indonesian island of Lombok has been shaken by another strong earthquake, after weeks of tremors that have killed more than 476 people.

Sunday's quake measured magnitude 6.3 and was at a depth of 7.9km (4.9 miles). It caused landslides but it is not known if there are any casualties.

Residents said the tremor was felt strongly to the east of the island, and sent people fleeing into the streets. The island has been rocked by hundreds of quakes and tremors since 29 July.

Source : BBC

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Kerala's Kochi Airport Closed Till Saturday, Runway Flooded

Kerala's Kochi airport extended its suspension of all flight operations till Saturday afternoon following flooding of its runways and the parking area. Flights are being diverted to other airports. Train services are also affected with many trains delayed and cancelled. 

The torrential rainfall, which has forced the state's reservoirs to release excess water causing flooding and landslides, was expected to stop today. But the Met office has said it is likely to continue till Saturday. A red alert has been issued for several districts today and tomorrow. Forty-two people have died since August 8 in incidents related to what has turned out to be the state's worst monsoon in almost a century.

Meanwhile, in view of the worst devastation in nearly a century suffered by Kerala due to rains and floods, the government on Tuesday cancelled this year's Onam celebrations, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced.

The harvest festival is celebrated across the state.

The Kerala government, which had earmarked Rs. 30 crore for the cultural events to be held all across the state, decided to divert that amount to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund.

The week-long festivities were to take place in August -- with the Thiru Onam falling on August 25.

"What has occurred in our state has been the worst ever (disaster). A total of 444 villages have been affected.

"The money set aside for Onam will be used for relief. We seek everyone's help in our efforts," Mr Vijayan told the media after a cabinet meeting.

Source : NDTV

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Kofi Annan, former UN chief, dies at 80

Kofi Annan, the only black African to become UN secretary-general, has died. The 80-year-old "passed away peacefully on Saturday after a short illness", the foundation named after him said.

His home country, Ghana, has declared a week of national mourning. Annan served two terms as UN chief from 1997 to 2006, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his humanitarian work.

He later served as the UN special envoy for Syria, leading efforts to find a solution to the conflict.

In a statement announcing his death, the Kofi Annan Foundation described him as a "global statesman and deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world".

"Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy."

The career diplomat died in hospital in the Swiss city of Bern. He had been living near Geneva for several years.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for helping to revitalise the international body, during a period that coincided with the Iraq War and the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Source : BBC

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Nobel Prize-winning author VS Naipaul dies aged 85

Novelist Sir VS Naipaul, who won the Nobel Prize in literature, has died aged 85, his family have said.

Sir Vidia, who was born in rural Trinidad in 1932, wrote more than 30 books including A Bend in the River and his masterpiece, A House for Mr Biswas.

His wife Lady Naipaul called him a "giant in all that he achieved".

She said he died at his home in London "surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavour".

Geordie Greig, editor of the Mail on Sunday and a close friend, said his death leaves a "gaping hole in Britain's literary heritage" but there is "no doubt" that his "books live on".

Source : BBC

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Imran Khan sworn in as Pakistan prime minister

Former cricketer Imran Khan has been sworn-in as the new prime minister of Pakistan, more than two decades after he entered politics.

He was elected prime minister in a vote at the country's National Assembly on Friday.

His PTI party won the most seats in July's elections and Mr Khan has become PM with the help of small parties.

Correspondents say his priority will be to address a financial crisis, with the economy in need of a huge bailout.

On Saturday morning, Mr Khan was tearful and smiled as he stumbled over some of the words of his oath, led by the country's President Mamnoon Hussain.

Members of the 1992 cricket World Cup winning team that Mr Khan captained to victory watched the ceremony alongside senior PTI figures and military officials.

Source : BBC

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China Uighurs: One million held in political camps, UN told

China Uighurs: One million held in political camps, UN toldChina Uighurs: One million held in political camps, UN toldA UN human rights committee has heard there are credible reports that China is holding a million Uighurs in "counter-extremism centres".

Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, raised the claims at a two-day UN meeting on China.

She said she was concerned by reports that Beijing had "turned the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp".

China did not immediately respond. Its 50-strong delegation said it would address questions on Monday, when the session in Geneva continues. Beijing has previously denied the existence of such camps.

The Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority mostly based in China's Xinjiang province. They make up around 45% of the population there.
Xinjiang is officially designated as an autonomous region within China, like Tibet to its south.

Source : BBC

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Corona beer owner to pour $4 billion into weed 

Corona beer owner Constellation Brands is set to pour some $4bn (£3.15bn) into Canada's top cannabis producer, Canopy Growth, in a deal marking the largest investment in the industry to date.

Last year, Constellation injected $200m into Canopy in a deal to produce a non-alcoholic cannabis-based beverage.

The alcohol firm wants to capitalise on the growing legalisation of the drug.

On news of the deal, Canopy's Toronto-listed stock surged 30%, while on Wall Street, Constellation's fell 6%.

The two firms said the investment would allow Canopy to expand its business reach "in the nearly 30 countries pursuing a federally permissible medical cannabis programme".

Canopy, which has the largest legal cannabis production footprint in the world, currently produces cannabis-based oils and soft gel caps, among other products. 

With Constellation's latest injection of cash, Canopy plans to expand its suite of products to include edible bars, inhalers and pre-rolled items.

It also wants to develop cannabinoid-based medicines that provide a safer alternative to some mainstream treatments for pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and psoriasis.

"This [deal] marks the end of the warm-up in our sector... it's fully go-time," said Canopy's chief executive Bruce Linton on an investment call. 

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There are nearly 30 countries pursuing a federally permissible medical cannabis programme/Getty Images

'Tremendous growth opportunity'Constellation, which makes and markets beer, wine and spirits in the US, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand and Italy, noted that governments around the world had already signalled a significant change in attitudes towards cannabis and cannabis-based products.

"Over the past year, we've come to better understand the cannabis market, the tremendous growth opportunity it presents, and Canopy's market-leading capabilities in this space," said Rob Sands, chief executive of Constellation Brands.

In June, the Canadian government passed a bill which will effectively legalise the recreational cannabis market in the country. The bill is set to be rolled out in October.

Constellation's latest investment in Canopy takes its ownership in the firm to 38%.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to be closed no earlier than the end of October.


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North Korea lashes out at US diplomats over sanctions

North Korea has lashed out again at the US for not lifting sanctions against the country. The foreign ministry said it had made various goodwill gestures, and yet the US was still following an "outdated acting script" and jeopardising any moves towards denuclearisation.

North Korea remains under a range of international and US sanctions over its nuclear programme and missile tests. The US wants full nuclear disarmament before sanctions can be lifted.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed in June to work towards de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

But the details of that process remain vague - North Korea did not commit to unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons. Last week, a leaked UN report said the country had not stopped building weapons - which prompted the US to call on the international community to keep enforcing sanctions.
Source : BBC

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Provisional death toll in Italy's Genoa bridge collapse rises to 26

The provisional toll of a bridge collapse in Italy's northwest city of Genoa rose to 26, local authorities said late on Tuesday.

"Official victims rise to 26, including 23 on the spot (of collapse), 1 person under surgery, and 2 pulled out from rubble," the region of Liguria (of which Genoa is capital city) said on Twitter.

Some 15 people were also registered, of which nine were considered as "red codes", meaning they were in critical health conditions, the government added.

All of the bodies were sent to the San Martino hospital, and at least 19 of them were identified, according to the regional authorities.

The region would officially call a state of emergency due to the major incident on Wednesday, and mayor of Genoa Marco Bucci said two days of mourning would be declared on Aug. 15-16.

Meanwhile, rescuers were expected to continue their search activities all through the night, according to civil protection agency and firefighters.

The incident concerned a major motorway viaduct called "Morandi Bridge" connecting the western part of Genoa to the east.

The collapse involved some 100 of the bridge, and occurred shortly before noon on Tuesday, while some 30 cars and 5 heavy trucks were passing through it. Several people were feared to be still trapped in their vehicles crashed under the concrete rubble of the huge structure.

The bridge was built between 1963 and 1967, and was 1,182 meters long. The portion that caved in was about 50 meters high.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met with local authorities and rescuers at Genoa's prefecture on Tuesday evening, while ministers of Interior and Infrastructures were expected to visit the city on Wednesday.

Source : Xinhua

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Malaysia ex-PM Najib charged with money laundering

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been charged with three counts of money laundering linked to a multi-million dollar corruption scandal. He is accused of having received 42m ringgit ($10m; £8m) from state fund 1MDB in his personal bank account.

Najib was arrested in July and has already been charged with breach of trust and abusing his position. The new investigation into 1MDB began after his shock election loss in May. He has always denied any guilt and had been cleared by Malaysian authorities while in power.
Najib, members of his family and several allies are accused of embezzling huge sums allegedly used to buy everything from artwork to high-end real estate around the globe. The allegations played a central role in his defeat to a reformist alliance led by 93-year old political veteran Mahathir Mohamad.
Raids have been carried out in recent weeks at properties linked to Najib and his wife. Police say the seizure of valuables - including designer handbags, jewellery and cash - was the biggest in Malaysian history.

1MDB, set up by Najib in 2009, was meant to turn the capital, Kuala Lumpur, into a financial hub and boost the economy through strategic investments.It started to attract negative attention in early 2015 after it missed payments for some of the $11bn it owed to banks and bondholders. Then the Wall Street Journal reported it had seen a paper trail that allegedly traced close to $700m from the fund to Najib's personal bank accounts. Billions of dollars are still unaccounted for.

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