US rolls out red carpet to Pacific Islands amid China inroads

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, asked about Biden’s summit, said that Pacific Island nations are sovereign and had the right to build relations with any country.

“Growing relations with the Pacific Island countries is not about seeking a sphere of influence and does not target any third party,” he told reporters.

A US official who briefed journalists acknowledged that Washington had not paid the Pacific enough attention over the years and had been working with allied and partner countries “to add more resources, more capacity, more diplomatic engagement”.

“We will have big dollar numbers,” he said, adding that some new initiatives would be announced on Wednesday and others on Thursday.


Biden will meet the leaders on Thursday, a personal touch that US officials hope will help re-establish Washington’s preeminence after long taking for granted a region the United States had dominated since the end of World War II.

As part of a new strategy, the United States will appoint its first-ever envoy to focus on the Pacific Islands and is adding three more diplomatic missions in the region, bringing the total from six to nine, officials said.

Following up on an initiative last week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Blinken promised US$4.8 million to strengthen “blue economies” – cleaner oceans with more sustainable fishing.

He also promised an assertive stance on climate change by the United States, which under Biden has approved domestic action on green energy after years of gridlock and skepticism by much of the rival Republican Party.

“One of the messages that we’ve heard loud and clear from Pacific Island leaders is that building resilience is about more than equipping communities to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis, which for many of you is an existential threat,” Blinken said.

“It’s also about preparing communities to weather a wide range of interrelated shocks that we know have caused cascading effects.”


Harjot Kaur Bhamra: Bihar IAS officer mocks schoolgirl’s sanitary pad request

At Tuesday’s Sashakt Beti, Samriddh Bihar (Empowered Daughters, Prosperous Bihar) event in the state capital, Patna, the student asked senior official Harjot Kaur Bhamra if the government could provide girls with free sanitary pads that cost 20-30 rupees ($0.25-$0.37; £0.23-£0.34) in the market.


At least 6 people wounded in shooting at school in Oakland

Thu, 2022-09-29 02:30

OAKLAND, California: At least six people were wounded in a shooting at a school in Oakland on Wednesday, officials said.
The scene of the shooting was “no longer active,” according to Alameda County Sheriff spokesperson Lt. Ray Kelly. Paramedics had transported six patients to hospitals, all with gunshot wounds, according to Oakland Fire Department spokesperson Michael Hunt.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted that all of the wounded were adults and the shooting happened at Sojourner Truth Independent Study, an alternative K-12 school.

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Queen Elizabeth’s Youngest Maid Of Honor Died ‘Peacefully’ 1 Night Before Royal Funeral

Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey last week was attended by more than 2,000 people and watched by millions more. It’s now become public that Lady Mary Russell, the youngest of six maids of honor at her 1953 coronation, died the night before.

The 88-year-old’s obituary in The Times of London confirmed Russell “died peacefully at home with her family around her” on Sept. 18. She left behind her husband, David, children Arabella, Anthony, Philip, Jason and Mariana, as well as 12 grandchildren.

Russell had known the queen for years before she was chosen to serve at her coronation on June 2, 1953. Her father, the Earl of Haddington, was a lifelong friend of the queen’s mother, according to Harper’s Bazaar. Russell was only 19 when Queen Elizabeth was crowned.

Photos of the occasion show Russell and her fellow maids of honor standing alongside Queen Elizabeth, who wore golden bracelets, a silver-white dress embroidered with gold, and a crown. Her maids of honor were dressed in the same palette with fewer accessories.

Queen Elizabeth, far right, with the queen mother and six maids of honor at her 1953 coronation.
Queen Elizabeth, far right, with the queen mother and six maids of honor at her 1953 coronation.

Print Collector via Getty Images

Russell and her fellow maids of honor were tasked with holding Queen Elizabeth’s 21-foot train as she navigated her way through the coronation, according to ET Online. The occasion took place at Westminster Abbey, where the queen’s funeral was held nearly 70 years later.

“It was overwhelming and moving — especially during the anointing,” Russell once told Tatler. “It was an incredible moment, but all I could think about was how heavy the embroidery felt. Of all the girls our age in the country, we six girls were chosen to carry the Queen’s train and that meant a great deal.”

The queen’s coronation dress was designed by Sir Norman Hartwell who also crafted her wedding gown in 1947, according to People. It was fitted with embroidered flowers representing the U.K. and its Commonwealth countries at the queen’s request, leading to a total weight of 11 pounds.

Russell is the second of the six maids of honor to pass away. Lady Moyra Campbell died in 2020 at age 90; Dowager Baroness Glenconner, Lady Jane Lacey, Baroness Willoughby de Eresby and Lady Rosemary Muir are still alive.

Queen Elizabeth died at age 96 on Sept. 8 at her Scottish residence of Balmoral. She was buried in King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor Castle on Sept. 19 after days of lying in state, which allowed mourning Brits to pay their respects.


U.S. VP Kamala Harris travels to Korea’s DMZ after North’s latest missile tests – National

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is capping her four-day trip to Asia with a stop at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula as she tries to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the security of its Asian allies.

The visit on Thursday comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches and amid fears that it may conduct a nuclear test. Visiting the DMZ has become something of a ritual for American leaders hoping to show their resolve to stand firm against aggression.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, while Harris was in Japan, and had fired one before she left Washington on Sunday. The launches contribute to a record level of missile testing this year.

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North Korea fires unidentified ballistic missile ahead of visit from U.S. VP Kamala Harris

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Harris was traveling to Seoul after three days in Tokyo, where she denounced North Korea’s “illicit weapons program” during a speech on an American destroyer at a naval base. She was in Tokyo to attend the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the latest missile tests would not deter Harris from the DMZ and that she wanted to demonstrate America’s “rock-solid commitment” to regional security.

“As you know, North Korea has a history of doing these types of tests,” Jean-Pierre said, calling it “not unusual.”

Before stopping at the DMZ, Harris was to meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office in May. Despite the close alliance between the United States and South Korea, the relationship has been marked by tension recently.

A new law signed by President Joe Biden prevents electric cars built outside of North America from being eligible for U.S. government subsidies, undermining the competitiveness of automakers like Seoul-based Hyundai.

Click to play video: 'U.S. authorities concerned North Korea could conduct nuclear test during Biden Asia trip'

U.S. authorities concerned North Korea could conduct nuclear test during Biden Asia trip

U.S. authorities concerned North Korea could conduct nuclear test during Biden Asia trip – May 19, 2022

South Koreans have reacted with a sense of betrayal, and Harris acknowledged the dispute in a conversation with the country’s prime minister, Han Duck-soo, on Tuesday in Tokyo.

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“They pledged to continue to consult as the law is implemented,” the White House said of the meeting.

There could be more tension over gender issues during Harris’ visit to South Korea. Harris, the first woman to serve as U.S. vice president, planned to hold a roundtable with female leaders on gender equity issues. Yoon has faced criticism for the lack of female representation in his government.

As they did in Japan, however, regional security issues were likely to dominate the final day of Harris’ trip.

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South Korea, U.S. begin joint military drills amid North Korea backlash

A North Korean nuclear test could come after China holds its Communist Party convention on Oct. 16 but before the United States holds its midterm elections on Nov. 8, according to South Korean lawmakers who attended a closed-door briefing from the National Intelligence Service.

The spy agency repeated its earlier assessment, shared by U.S. intelligence, that North Korea had restored an underground tunnel at its nuclear testing facility as part of its preparations.

North Korea has used Russia’s war on Ukraine to accelerate its arms development. It has tested dozens of weapons, including its first long-range missiles since 2017, exploiting a divide in the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow and Beijing have blocked Washington’s attempts to tighten sanctions on Pyongyang.

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Missiles tests have been punctuated by repeated threats of nuclear conflict. Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp parliament also authorized the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in a broad range of scenarios where its leadership comes under threat.

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North Korea rejects Seoul’s ‘foolish’ offer to trade economic aid for denuclearization

South Korea and the United States this year resumed large-scale combined military exercises that had been downsized or suspended under President Donald Trump to support his ultimately fruitless nuclear diplomacy with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Senior U.S. and South Korean officials met in Washington this month for discussions on improving the allies’ deterrence strategies, but some experts said the meeting failed to produce anything new and exposed a lack of ideas on how to deal with the North’s evolving threat.

Some South Koreans have expressed interest in the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons after their removal from South Korea in the 1990s and even for the country to pursue its own nuclear weapons program.

Yoon, during a news conference in August, said his government had no plans to pursues its own deterrent and called for North Korea to return to nuclear diplomacy, which imploded in 2019 over disagreements on exchanging the release of crippling U.S.-led sanctions against the North and the North’s disbarment steps.

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Associated Press writers Tong-hyung Kim and Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59 in Los Angeles

Issued on:

Coolio, the rapper who was among hip-hop’s biggest names of the 1990s with hits including “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage,” died Wednesday at age 59, his manager said.

Coolio, whose legal name was Artis Leon Ivey Jr., died at the Los Angeles home of a friend, longtime manager Jarez Posey told The Associated Press. The cause was not immediately clear.

Coolio won a Grammy for best solo rap performance for “Gangsta’s Paradise,” the 1995 hit from the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film “Dangerous Minds” that sampled Stevie Wonder’s 1976 song “Pastime Paradise.”

He was nominated for five other Grammys during a career that began in the late-1980s.

Born in Monessen, Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh, Coolio moved to Compton, California, where he went to community college. He worked as a volunteer firefighter and in airport security before devoting himself full-time to the hip-hop scene.

His career took off with the 1994 release of his debut album on Tommy Boy Records, “It Takes a Thief.” It’s opening track, “Fantastic Voyage,” would reach No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

A year later, “Gangsta’s Paradise” would become a No. 1 single, with its dark opening lyrics:

“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realise there’s not much left, ‘cause I’ve been blastin’ and laughin’ so long, that even my mama thinks that my mind is gone.”

Social media lit up with reactions to the unexpected death.

“This is sad news,” Ice Cube said on Twitter. “I witness first hand this man’s grind to the top of the industry. Rest In Peace, @Coolio.”

“Peaceful journey brother,” Questlove tweeted.



Bank of England forced to step in, IMF issues warning

The International Monetary Fund has told the UK’s new government to re-think its tax cuts while Moody’s warned its rating is at risk.

Bruce Whitfield interviews investment strategist Russell Silberston (Ninety One) and Prof. Adrian Saville, investment specialist at Genera Capital

– The new UK government’s tax-cutting policy has resulted in surging borrowing costs and a fall in the pound

– The Bank of England has been forced to step in to calm markets by buying up government bonds

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has told the UK to back down from its tax cuts as borrowing costs rocket in one of South Africa’s biggest trading partners.

This comes as the Bank of England stepped in to calm markets by buying up government bonds.

Ratings agency Moody’s has also warned that the UK’s rating could be downgraded.

Image of Bank of England by Primrose on Pixabay

Bruce Whitfield interviews Professor Adrian Saville, Investment Specialist at Genera Capital.

He also talks to Russell Silberston, Investment Strategist at Ninety One.

Silberston has worked in financial markets in the City of London for 40 years,

I’ve been through a few crises – this ranks well up there, to be honest. It’s disorderly markets.

Russel Silberston, Investment Strategist – Ninety One

Silberston explains the context of the current crisis, stemming from ill-considered policy proposals from the new UK government which include larger-than-expected tax cuts.

The bottom line is that on the 23rd, last Friday… we had unexpectedly large tax cuts… and by deeming this a ‘fiscal event’, no oversight was deemed to be required.

Russel Silberston, Investment Strategist – Ninety One

Because the tax cuts were much larger than people were expecting, and it was unfunded an we had to borrow a lot more… and the gilt markets just soared off incredibly aggressively to the point where the solvency of a lot of pension funds were being questioned, that’s forced the Bank of England to try and steady the ship today.

Russel Silberston, Investment Strategist – Ninety One

Silberston says it’s a “massive deal” that bond rates soared to what is a high in the UK at close to 6%.

We don’t know what’s going to happen to spending because it’s unfunded and the government’s assumed the market will pay for it – that’s what’s caused the problem. It hasn’t been a credible package and so the UK has been behaving like a risk asset, which just undermines the credibility of our institutions.

Russel Silberston, Investment Strategist – Ninety One

This is a financial stability problem. When you see our bond market collapse… volatility rises… and what the Bank of England have done is to say ‘this market is dysfunctional; we will buy unlimited amounts of long-dated bonds to try and reintroduce price discovery’… Apparently the South African Reserve Bank did something very similar over COVID…

Russel Silberston, Investment Strategist – Ninety One

The extent of the market moves is “off the charts” says Professor Adrian Saville, Investment Specialist at Genera Capital.

To see a 30-year bond market move 100 points, or 1%, in a space of a couple of hours… and moving from 3% to 6% over the space of a few days – this is the stuff of emerging markets, and emerging markets that are in stress or distress, so this really is uncharted territory.

Prof. Adrian Saville, Investment Specialist – Genera Capital

Interestingly, a lot of it is being interpreted as if it is a monetary phenomenon… but it’s a **fiscal** issue. This is, does the British government have the ability to fund these promises, and the market has made a very clear declaration.

Prof. Adrian Saville, Investment Specialist – Genera Capital

It’s hard to see how this doesn’t translate into a change in government.

Prof. Adrian Saville, Investment Specialist – Genera Capital

The economic meltdown will have a knock-on effect for South Africa with the UK being a major trading partner and an important source of tourism.

Scroll to the top to listen to the detailed analysis from the two experts

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : UK economic meltdown: Bank of England forced to step in, IMF issues warning


Security forces killed dozens of civilians: Ethiopia rights body

Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Wednesday that security forces had killed dozens of civilians in Gambella in June suspected of collaborating with rebels after an attack on the southwestern city.

The joint assault on June 14 by the Gambella Liberation Front (GLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group branded a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government, triggered an hourslong gunfight.

After soldiers successfully repelled the attack, regional forces killed anyone suspected of participating or collaborating in the assault, the EHRC said in a 13-page report based on interviews with 58 people including victims, their families and eyewitnesses.

The state-affiliated independent rights body had earlier accused security forces of carrying out “door-to-door executions” of residents, according to a statement released days after the attack.

On Wednesday, the EHRC said it had “verified that at least 50 civilians have been killed individually and in mass extrajudicial executions primarily by the region’s security forces between June 14-16, with (victims) accused of harboring OLA fighters and having firearms.”

“The bodies of civilians who were killed by security forces were collected by the region’s special forces and regular police … and buried en masse,” the rights body said, with victims’ families denied access to the remains.

The victims included mentally ill people, while at least 25 others suffered injuries, with some residents tortured and beaten. The rights body said OLA and GLF fighters killed seven civilians, with six other people dying during the gunfight between the rebels and soldiers.

The EHRC said the region’s police commission told the rights body that local officials had collected and buried bodies lying on the streets. The regional police said the civilians were killed by rebels and that no one had claimed the bodies that were buried by the city administration.

The Gambella region borders South Sudan and has in the past suffered incursions by armed fighters from the neighboring country. The OLA last year forged an alliance with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been locked in conflict with federal forces in northern Ethiopia since November 2020.

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Bank of England intervenes to buy UK bonds, warns of risk to financial stability

CNN Business

The Bank of England said Wednesday it would buy UK government debt “on whatever scale is necessary” in an emergency intervention to halt a bond market crash that it warned could threaten financial stability.

Investors have been dumping the pound and UK bonds since the government of new Prime Minister Liz Truss on Friday unveiled a huge package of tax cuts and increased borrowing aimed at getting the economy moving and protecting households and businesses from sky-high energy bills this winter.

Markets fear the plan will drive up inflation, forcing the Bank of England to push interest rates as high as 6% next spring, from 2.25% at present. Mortgage markets have been in turmoil all week as lenders have struggled to price their loans. Hundreds of products have been withdrawn.

“This repricing [of UK assets] has become more significant in the past day — and it is particularly affecting long-dated UK government debt,” the central bank said in its statement.

“Were dysfunction in this market to continue or worsen, there would be a material risk to UK financial stability. This would lead to an unwarranted tightening of financing conditions and a reduction of the flow of credit to the real economy.”

In other words, the Bank of England is worried that markets could seize up and that the economy — which it believes has already entered a recession — would suffer even worse damage.

To prevent that happening, the central bank said it would buy long-dated UK government bonds until October 14.

“The purchases will be carried out on whatever scale is necessary to effect this outcome,” it added.

It reiterated that it would make a full assessment of recent developments at its next scheduled meeting in November and act accordingly.

“The [bank] will not hesitate to change interest rates by as much as needed to return inflation to the 2% target sustainably in the medium term, in line with its remit,” it said.

Yields on 10-year UK government bonds fell sharply after the Bank of England’s announcement on Wednesday but remain elevated. They were last near 4.1%, up from under 2.9% at the beginning of the month. The pound continued its decline, however, sliding 0.4% to below $1.07.

UK interest rates have risen seven times since December 2021. As part of its efforts to tighten monetary policy and get a grip on inflation, which now stands near 10%, the bank is planning to sell £80 billion of UK government bonds each year. The bonds were bought as part of an effort to prop up the economy during the pandemic.

It said Wednesday it would retain that target but that the start of sales had been pushed back until October 31.


Europe vows response to suspected sabotage

Putin tries to illegally annex Ukrainian territories as Nord Stream pipeline possibly sabotaged

The European Union on Wednesday raced to find out exactly what happened and why after mystery gas leaks hit two underwater Russian gas pipelines, warning of retaliatory measures for any deliberate attack on the region’s energy infrastructure.

In a statement on behalf of all 27 members, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday that the bloc was “deeply concerned” about the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines connecting Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

“All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act. We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why, and will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security,” Borrell said.

“Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.”

Nord Stream AG, the operator of the two pipelines, said Tuesday that three known gas leaks caused “unprecedented” damage. The company added that it was not possible to determine when the gas network system’s capacity would be restored.

BORNHOLM, DENMARK – SEPTEMBER 27: Danish Defense shows the gas leaking at Nord Stream 2 seen from the Danish F-16 interceptor on Bornholm, Denmark on September 27, 2022.

Danish Defence/ | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Seismologists on Monday reported explosions in the vicinity of the unusual Nord Stream gas leaks, prompting gas to spew into the Baltic Sea.

Denmark’s armed forces said video footage showed the largest gas leak created a surface disturbance of roughly 1 kilometer (0.62 miles) in diameter, while the smallest leak caused a circle of approximately 200 meters.

Danish and Swedish authorities declared a no-shipping zone around the location of the leak, which is situated in international waters but inside Denmark and Sweden’s exclusive economic zone.

The cause is not yet known. Some European leaders have suggested possible sabotage, particularly as the suspected attack comes amid a bitter energy standoff between Brussels and Moscow.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that it was of paramount importance to investigate the incidents.

“Any deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure is unacceptable [and] will lead to the strongest possible response,” von der Leyen said via Twitter.

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Danish Prime Minister Annette Frederiksen said the leaks were clearly the result of deliberate actions, while Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck said the suspected attack was an act of sabotage.

Both Europe and Russia have said sabotage cannot be ruled out as the cause of the damage.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that claims Russia was behind the suspected attack were “stupid,” Reuters reported.

“Never believe anything until the Kremlin denies it,” Timothy Ash, an emerging markets strategist at BlueBay Asset Management, said via email.

(L to R) Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist hold a press conference on the gas leak in the Baltic Sea from Nord Stream in Stockholm, on Sept. 27, 2022.

Fredrik Persson | Afp | Getty Images

Neither pipeline was pumping gas at the time of the leaks but both lines were still pressurized: Nord Stream 1 stopped pumping gas to Europe “indefinitely” earlier this month, with Moscow’s operator saying international sanctions on Russia prevented it from carrying out vital maintenance work.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, meanwhile, never officially opened as Germany refused to certify it for commercial operations due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Environmental hazard

Analysts at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group said that given the pipelines have the capacity to pump around 165 million cubic meters of methane-heavy gas per day, leaks of this scale are a “severe safety and environmental hazard, especially should Russia not stop pumping gas into the system.”

Swedish police on Tuesday started an investigation regarding Nord Stream.

Sweden’s Prosecution Authority told CNBC on Wednesday that prosecutors are now reviewing the investigation and will decide how the case will be handled going forward.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that he held talks with Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod about the “apparent sabotage” of Nord Stream 1 and 2.

Blinken said the U.S. “would remain committed to promoting European energy security.”

— CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.