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Chinese ambassador to UK barred from Parliament

Chinese ambassador to UK barred from Parliament

China’s ambassador to Britain has been barred from Parliament and told he could not enter the building for a talk he was scheduled to giveByThe Associated PressSeptember 15, 2021, 12:50 AM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLONDON — China’s ambassador to Britain has been barred from Parliament and told he could not enter the building for a talk he was scheduled to give on Wednesday.Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Tuesday it was not “appropriate” for the Chinese ambassador, Zheng Zeguang, to enter Parliament because China imposed sanctions against seven British parliamentarians over their criticism of Beijing’s human rights record.Zheng was due to attend a reception in the House of Commons organized by a cross-party parliamentary group on China.John McFall, Hoyle’s counterpart in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, agreed that the scheduled meeting “should take place elsewhere, considering the current sanctions against members.”China imposed sanctions on seven British politicians in March, including senior Conservative lawmakers Iain Duncan Smith and Tom Tugendhat, who have spoken out against China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority in the far-west Xinjiang region.The move came shortly after Britain, the U.S., Canada and the European Union sanctioned Chinese officials over Xinjiang.The sanctioned parliamentarians welcomed the ban, saying allowing Zheng in the Parliament building would have been “an insult.”The Chinese Embassy in the U.K. condemned the move and said it will harm the interests of both countries.“The despicable and cowardly action of certain individuals of the U.K. Parliament to obstruct normal exchanges and co-operation between China and the U.K. for personal political gains is against the wishes and harmful to the interests of the peoples of both countries,” the embassy said in a statement.

Egypt team identifies fossil of land-roaming whale species

Egypt team identifies fossil of land-roaming whale species

Egyptian scientists say the fossil of a four-legged prehistoric whale found in 2008 is that of a previously unknown speciesBy NOHA ELHENNAWY Associated PressSeptember 14, 2021, 11:29 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleCAIRO — Egyptian scientists say the fossil of a four-legged prehistoric whale, unearthed over a decade ago in the country’s Western Desert, is that of a previously unknown species. The creature, an ancestor of the modern-day whale, is believed to have lived 43 million years ago.The prehistoric whale, known as semi-aquatic because it lived both on land and sea, sported features of an accomplished hunter, the team’s leading paleontologist, Hesham Sallam, told The Associated Press — features that make it stand out among other whale fossils.The fossil was first found by a team of Egyptian environmentalists in 2008 in an area that was covered by seas in prehistoric times, but researchers only published their findings confirming a new species last month.Sallam said that his team did not start examining the fossil until 2017 because he wanted to assemble the best and the most talented Egyptian paleontologists for the study.“This is the first time in the history of Egyptian vertebrate paleontology to have an Egyptian team leading a documentation of a new genus and species of four-legged whale,” said Sallam.The fossil sheds light on the evolution of whales from herbivore land mammals into carnivorous species that today live exclusively in water. The transition took place over roughly 10 million years, according to an article published on the discovery in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.Egypt’s Western Desert region is already known for the so-called Whale Valley, or Wadi Al-Hitan, a tourist attraction and the country’s only natural World Heritage site that contains fossil remains of another type of prehistoric whales.The newly discovered creature belongs to the family of Protecetids, extinct semi-aquatic whales that lived from 59 to 34 million years ago, Sallam said. It would have walked on land but also hunted in the water.“This is yet another new species of early whales from the time when they retained four functional limbs,” said Jonathan Geisler, an expert on the evolutionary history of mammals with New York Institute of Technology.He said that the location of the discovery in Egypt is also a clue as to when and how they spread around the globe. Geisler was not involved in the find.The oldest fossil whales are about 50 million years old and are believed to have originated in modern-day Pakistan and India. However, scientists have not been able to reach a conclusive answer as to when whales moved out of their point of origin to all the world’s oceans.“This new species by itself cannot answer that question, but when viewed in the context of other fossil discoveries, suggests that this dispersal occurred 43 million years ago,” said Geisler, adding the new find could possibly serve as a link between Indo-Pakistan and North American regions.The fossil whale has been been named Phiomicetus Anubis, after the god of death in ancient Egypt.“We chose the name Anubis because it had a strong and deadly bite,” said Sallam, professor of paleontology at Mansoura University in Egypt. “It could kill any creature it crossed paths with.”The new species stands out for its elongated skull and snout that suggest it was an efficient carnivore capable of grasping and chewing its prey, he said. It was about 3 meters (9 feet long) and weighed around 600 kilograms, according to researchers. It is also believed to have had sharp hearing and sense of smell.The discovery followed a four-year collaboration between Egyptian paleontologists and U.S-based scientists, Sallam added.His team has previously made headlines worldwide with their 2018 discovery of Mansourasaurus, a new species of long-necked herbivorous dinosaurs that lived in the Nile Delta province of Mansoura.

Problems continue to plague El Savador's bitcoin rollout

Problems continue to plague El Savador's bitcoin rollout

One week after El Salvador became the first country to make bitcoin legal tender, problems continue to plague the systemBy MARCOS ALEMÁN Associated PressSeptember 14, 2021, 8:14 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — One week after El Salvador became the first country to make bitcoin legal tender, problems continued to plague the system Tuesday.El Salvador rolled out a digital wallet known as the “Chivo” on Sept. 8, but the system has often been down for maintenance. It may have been overloaded by the sheer number of Salvadorans looking to take advantage of the $30 bonus that the government put in each account to incentivize adoption.Even users like street vendor César Estrada, who were able to download the wallet, have been unable to access the bitcoins.“After several attempts I managed to download the Chivo wallet, but I haven’t been able to use the $30,” said Estrada.The problems aren’t limited to technical glitches. One of the young workers at the Chivo automatic teller machines set up to handle transactions acknowledged as much.“The problems continue, but there has also been a lot of false information,” said the worker, who would identify himself only as Steven,“People are saying that if someone downloads the app, the government can spy on them, or even empty their bank accounts,” he said in disbelief. “So many things have been said that it gets into people’s heads, and added to that is that first, the system collapsed and the errors have continued.”President Nayib Bukele, the main promotor of using the cryptocurrency, acknowledged the government’s three-month rollout may have been too ambitious. He said technical glitches had prevented the app from working some kinds of phones.“We set ourselves a goal that was too ambitious and we made mistakes,” Bukele wrote in his Twitter account. “But we correcting things, and hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans can now use their @chivowallet with no problem. Soon, everyone who wants to can also enjoy the benefits.”There has been skepticism about the government’s enthusiastic adoption of bitcoin since Bukele announced it in a video recorded in English and played at a bitcoin conference in Miami in June. Bitcoin is subject to wild swings in value in a matter of minutes.Last week, bitcoin joined the U.S. dollar as legal tender in El Salvador. Any business with the technological capacity to do so is required to accept payment in bitcoin, but no private citizen is required to use it. Recent public opinion surveys in El Salvador have said a majority of Salvadorans oppose making it an official currency.Still Bukele claims there are now a half million users of the digital payment system in this Central American nation. And visits to several fast food chains and shopping malls in San Salvador showed that a majority of such businesses are accepting bitcoin.“So, everybody go out and use their @chivowallet!” Bukele wrote, “everyone who can. Those who can’t, they’ll have to wait, but it will be worth it! We are working so that the user experience is better and better.”

Lebanon's ex-PM leaves to US despite subpoena for port blast

Lebanon's ex-PM leaves to US despite subpoena for port blast

An advisor says Lebanon’s former prime minister has left the country for the United States despite a subpoena from the judge investigating last year’s devastating explosion at Beirut portByThe Associated PressSeptember 14, 2021, 8:10 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBEIRUT — Lebanon’s former prime minister left the country for the United States on Tuesday, his advisor said, despite a subpoena from the judge investigating last year’s devastating explosion at Beirut port.Hassan Diab was the country’s prime minister when the explosion happened on Aug. 4, 2020. He resigned after the blast that killed over 200 people and injured over 6,000, leaving the large parts of the city devastated.Diab was caretaker prime minister until last week, when Najib Mikati successfully formed a new government, ending months of political haggling.As caretaker prime minister, Diab was summoned by investigative judge Tarek Bitar on accusations of intentional killing and negligence. Diab declined to be interrogated as a defendant, saying he had given his testimony in the case. Diab holds that the judges investigating the case have violated Lebanese laws that require that as a senior government official he can only be summoned after the parliament approves.When Diab failed to show up last month for investigation, Bitar issued a subpoena and the new date for questioning was set for next Monday.On Tuesday, Bitar issued a new subpoena to include his home address after he stepped down from the premiership.“He has nothing new to say,” said Laila Hatoum, Diab’s advisor. “He considers that he has nothing to do with all that until the parliament decides the course of action.”Hatoum said Diab left for a pre-planned trip to visit his children who are studying in the United States. He has not seen them since he took office, she said.Hundreds of tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on Aug. 4, 2020. The probe shows that most government officials knew of the dangerous material stored at the port.Diab told The Associated Press in an interview last year that he was being singled out and charged while others knew more.

Afghan sniper who helped British Army ‘hunted down and executed by Taliban’

An Afghan sniper who worked alongside British special forces in the war-torn country was hunted down by the Taliban on Monday and executed in front of his family, according to a former UK army colonel.The victim, a father of five only identified as “N” to protect his surviving kin, reportedly was murdered after being one of the hundreds of Western allies left behind during a disastrous evacuation effort.AFGHANISTAN’S COMING WEEKS, MONTHS COULD BE ‘VERY DETRIMENTAL’ AS AID PROBLEMS MOUNTING UNDER TALIBAN RULE”He [had] been in hiding because of the threat he faced,” British former Col. Ash Alexander-Cooper, who was once a senior adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs, told the Times of London.”But they found him, and he was shot multiple times, executed in front of his family,” said Alexander-Cooper, who served eight tours in Afghanistan, including at least one alongside “N.”
Taliban soldiers stand guard in Panjshir province northeastern of Afghanistan, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan)
(AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan)The murdered sniper had been in a “very effective” elite Afghan squad — known as CF333 — that was “mentored by the British,” the former army officer said.”N” tried to be evacuated from his homeland once the Taliban took power, fearing he would be targeted as a “collaborator,” but he was one of the hundreds left behind when US and UK troops left, the outlet said.”It was entirely predictable this would happen for all of those left behind who were given no guidance,” Alexander-Cooper told the UK Times.FORMER UK COMMANDER IN AFGHANISTAN SAYS BIDEN SHOULDN’T BE IMPEACHED: ‘HE SHOULD BE COURT-MARTIALED’He said the murder proves that the Taliban’s declarations of an amnesty for those who worked against the Islamic fundamentalist group are merely a “fantasy.”The UK paper said an interpreter who also failed to be evacuated after helping the British military was kidnapped by a 25-man squad of Taliban troops and badly beaten.The man, identified as Sharif Karimi, a 31-year-old married father of four, said he was then held for four days in a tiny cell with barely any oxygen.He was eventually released because local elders intervened and his family managed to pay a $21,500 ransom, the report said.The UK’s Ministry of Defense told the UK paper that the nation’s armed forces “were able to evacuate over 15,000 people from Kabul.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”Regrettably, we were not able to evacuate everyone in the limited time we had available,” the department said, insisting that its “commitment to Afghanistan and those who supported our mission there endures.”We will continue to work with international partners to ensure they have safe passage out of Afghanistan,” the MoD added.

Bystanders harass Chinese woman going public in #MeToo case

Bystanders harass Chinese woman going public in #MeToo case

BEIJING — A Beijing court ruled against a Chinese woman on Tuesday in a #MeToo case that wound through the courts for three years, in a blow to the tamped-down movement whose legacy remains uncertain.The Haidian People’s Court said in a judgment released late Tuesday night that Zhou Xiaoxuan, who had become the face of the country’s #MeToo movement, did not meet the burden of proof in claiming that Zhu Jun, her superior at her place of work, sexually harassed her.Zhou was a former intern at Chinese state broadcaster CCTV and went public with accusations against Zhu, a prominent CCTV host, in 2018 as dozens of women began to speak out about their past experiences of being harassed or assaulted. Since then, the movement has been largely shut down by authorities as activists found their online posts censored and faced pressure from authorities when trying to hold protests, but Zhou has continued to speak out.“I’m very thankful for everyone, whether we win or lose, I’m very honored to have experienced these last three years,” Zhou said to reporters outside the court Tuesday afternoon, as unidentified men and women came up and tried to push her along.One woman yelled “pandemic safety,” trying to prevent Zhou from speaking, while a man questioned whether it was appropriate for her to speak alone.A woman who tried to hold up a sign saying “Standing Together” was quickly surrounded by police and had the sign ripped out of her hand. She said later that police then asked for her national identification number.Zhou brought the suit against Zhu to counter a suit he had already lodged against her. She accused him of groping and forcibly kissing her in 2014., and asked for a public apology as well as 50,000 yuan ($7,600) in damages. Zhu has denied the claims.While the movement no longer has protests or lawyers and others helping victims take legal action, some people are still pushing to get justice for victims of sexual violence, even if they do not cite the #MeToo label.A series of sexual assault and rape accusations in recent weeks has drawn national attention. The most prominent was an accusation of sexual assault made by an Alibaba employee against two men. Chinese-Canadian singer Kris Wu was also arrested in Beijing on suspicion of rape over accusations made online.In August, accusations posted online by victims led separately to the detention of a math teacher on charges of forcible molestation and the firing of a popular TV host at Hunan Television. Shanghai police, who initially declined to press charges in the latter case, have said they have reopened the investigation.“These incidents are a part of #MeToo, without a doubt,” said Lu Pin, the founder of Feminist Voices, an online publication that was shut down by censors in 2018. “Without #MeToo, it’s impossible to imagine these types of things coming out.”After the #MeToo movement swept China, authorities responded with legal changes that activists and legal experts say have not yet led to real change on the ground. They defined sexual harassment in the country’s civil code, a massive effort approved in 2020 that organized civil laws and promised certain rights to citizens.Still, victims of sexual violence face legal and social obstacles to seeking justice.“The messaging is quite strong … and it’s saying to people that this is going to change things,” Darius Longarino, a research scholar at Yale Law School, said of the legal reforms. “But on the ground, in the actual system, there’s still many pitfalls.”In a recent report, Longarino and colleagues found only 83 civil cases in public databases that related to sexual harassment or molestation between 2018 and 2020. Of the 83 cases, 77 were brought by the alleged harasser against companies or the victim. Just six cases were brought by victims against a harasser.Zhou’s case lingered in the dockets for two years before a Beijing court agreed to hear it last December. The second part of the hearing, originally scheduled for May, was canceled on the day by the court.A few dozen supporters came on Tuesday to support Zhou, though many kept their distance because of the large number of police. Many police were in plainclothes and stood on the street filming.“I think having one more person is a form of support, and form of power,” said Sophie Zhou, who said she kept her distance from the court as she saw police asking for ID numbers.Throughout, Zhou has pushed to make the court hearing a matter of public record and requested the court order Zhu Jun to appear, citing basic legal procedures.When she filed the suit in 2018, such complaints were treated as labor disputes or under other laws that didn’t relate directly to sexual harassment. Zhou’s was termed a “personality rights dispute.”The court rejected a request by her lawyers to have her case heard under a legal provision enacted after she filed the suit that explicitly cites sexual harassment.“I believe that justice in these basic procedures is a necessary path to take to get a fair result, and all the efforts we made before the hearing are not just for victory, but for a fundamental fairness,” Zhou wrote on her WeChat social media account on Monday.———Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press news assistant Caroline Chen contributed to this report.———This story corrects the description of a supporter to woman instead of man.

Children a big part of migration through perilous Darien Gap

Children a big part of migration through perilous Darien Gap

NECOCLI, Colombia — Every day, at least 500 migrants from around the world sail out of Necocli, a small town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, across the Gulf of Uraba to the village of Acandi, to start a week-long trek through the jungle that takes them into Panama — the next stop on the long road to the United States.About one quarter of them are children, according to Panamanian officials, and often still in arms.While trekking through the lawless jungle known as the Darien Gap, migrants face the risks of being swept away by rivers, assaulted by armed groups or getting lost in the rainforest. Yet thousands of families are making the journey, hoping for a new life.“We we want God to help us prosper” said Jackie Charles, a Haitian who was boarding a boat in Necocli. “Our country is in crisis and we need to support our family.”The Darien Gap has long been used by migrants from Cuba and Haiti, who find it almost impossible to fly to Mexico or the U.S. due to visa restrictions. Migrants from African and Asian countries, facing similar problems, have also made the trek after first reaching South America.Most of those passing through the Darien now are Haitians who had been living in Brazil and Chile and left when the pandemic left them with little or no work.Necocli has became a major bottleneck on the route north. Boat companies struggle to keep up with demand even as governments have limited the numbers. The Pan-American Highway ends here, only to resurface in Yaviza, on the Panamanian side of the Darien.Colombia’s Institute for Family Welfare has set up a tent in Necocli to help families arriving with children. Kids are weighed and measured to check for malnutrition. Diapers and baby formula are provided. But in the jungle none of that help is available.According to Panama’s National Immigration Service, 45,000 migrants crossed the Darien Gap in the first seven months of this year and registered with authorities, including 12,000 children.Doctors Without Borders, which runs a small clinic in the Panamanian village of Bajo Chiquito, says that children who make it through the jungle often suffer from diarrhea and respiratory infections.Ronald, a Haitian migrant in Necocli, said that his wife, who is six months pregnant and had been to the town’s hospital for help with back pains. “We realize it’s dangerous” Ronald said blending Spanish and Portuguese, which he had learned in Brazil. “But we are going because we want a better life.”He refused to provide his last name because he feared deportation from Colombia, which he entered illegally at the Ecuador border.Jorge Tobon, Necocli’s mayor, said that respiratory and gastrointestinal problems are the most common reasons that pregnant migrants seek help at the local hospital.In August, Panama and Colombia agreed to limit the number of migrants crossing through the Darien. Only 500 migrants are allowed to leave Necocli each day on the boats. But many more are arriving each day in the small town, where approximately 14,000 migrants are currently stranded, according to the municipal government.Tickets on boats leaving Necocli are sold out through the last week of September. ;Migrants wander around the port daily, hoping they can get a ticket, or a spot on a boat that is reserved for tourists, who also travel to beach hotels in Acandi and the nearby village of Capurgana.“We came from Chile. We have been waiting here for two months and still haven’t been able to get a ticket” said Mali, a Haitian who was at the port. Mali, who also refused to provide her last name, said her family had budgeted $1,600 for the journey to the United States, but had already spent more than $2,000 due to the costs of being stranded in Necocli.Relatives in the United States could send her money, but because she is undocumented in Colombia, there are few ways to withdraw cash from banks or money transfer companies.“Because we don’t have any papers, we need Colombian residents to do that for us” Mali explained. “And they ask for commissions that range from 20 to 50%.”