Landslide in southwest China kills 24

Heavy storms and wrecked roads hampered efforts to reach areas hardest-hit by Chinas worst earthquake in three decades on Tuesday as the death toll rose to more than 12,000. State media reports indicated that the number of dead was likely to soar, with Xinhua news agency saying 10,000 people were buried in the Mianzhu area of Sichuan province and that troops had arrived for the first time at Wenchuan county, the epicentre of the quake. A strong aftershock rocked Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, on Tuesday afternoon, one of more than 1,950 over the past day and kept nervous residents on edge. "Office workers in central Chengdu took to the streets again after the quake," Xinhua said, adding it was thought to be the strongest since Mondays 7.9 magnitude tremor. Premier Wen Jiabao, visiting Sichuan, ordered troops to clear roads to Wenchuan, a hilly area about 100 km (62 miles) from Chengdu. Damage from Mondays quake left the area, about 1,600 km southwest of Beijing, completely cut off. Rain and thick clouds over a province famous for its giant panda reserves meant that military helicopters dispatched to the area could not yet land. Parachutists belonging to the Peoples Liberation Army cancelled a rescue drop because of storms, Xinhua said. State television showed highways buckled and caved in from the quake and massive rockslides lining the roads. Troops and ambulances thronged the streets, and military trucks able to do heavy lifting had arrived. Rescuers had worked frantically through the night, pulling bodies…... [read more]

Heavy storms and wrecked roads hampered efforts to reach areas hardest-hit by China's worst earthquake in three decades on Tuesday as the death toll rose to around 10,000. State media reports indicated that the number of dead was likely to soar, with Xinhua news agency saying 10,000 people were buried in the Mianzhu area of Sichuan province and that troops had arrived for the first time at Wenchuan county, the epicenter of the quake. A strong aftershock rocked Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, on Tuesday afternoon, one of more than 1,950 over the past day and keeping nervous residents on edge. "Office workers in downtown Chengdu took to the streets again after the quake," Xinhua said, adding it was thought to be the strongest since Monday's 7.9 magnitude tremor. Premier Wen Jiabao, visiting Sichuan, ordered troops to clear roads to Wenchuan, a hilly area about 100 km (62 miles) from Chengdu. Damage from Monday's quake left the area, about 1,600 km southwest of Beijing, completely cut off. And rain and thick clouds over a province famous for its giant panda reserves meant that military helicopters dispatched to the area could not yet land. Parachutists belonging to the People's Liberation Army cancelled a rescue drop because of storms, Xinhua said. State television showed highways buckled and caved in from the quake and massive rockslides lining the roads. In Dujiangyan -- about midway between Chengdu and the epicenter -- there was devastation, with buildings reduced to rubble and bodies in the streets. Troops…... [read more]

ABU DHABI: Global oil producers said on Tuesday (Aug 8) they remained committed to cutting output and stemming the collapse in oil prices, OPEC said. File photo of OPEC logo is pictured ahead of an informal meeting between members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Algiers, Algeria, on Sep 28, 2016. (REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo) A technical panel including members of the Saudi-led cartel and other oil producers made the statement after a two-day session in Abu Dhabi. OPEC states and other oil producers agreed in November to cut output until March 2018, limiting a supply glut in a bid to raise prices following a collapse in 2014. After an initial rebound following the deal, oil prices have slid below US$50 a barrel. Some exporters have produced more oil than agreed under the November deal, raising doubts about OPEC's ability to enforce it. But the cartel said on Tuesday that countries at the Abu Dhabi meeting "remain steadfast in their commitment to fulfil" the November deal. Decisions at the meeting, attended by Russia and top producer Saudi Arabia, will "help facilitate full conformity" with production cuts, it said. Last month, OPEC said there was "room for improvement" in implementing the deal and called on countries that signed the deal to "promptly reach full conformity". The cartel's ministerial committee called the Abu Dhabi meeting with the aim…... [read more]

THE HAGUE: Two multi-layered "cakes" made from ice, vegetable juice and fruit greeted a pair of giant pandas at a Dutch zoo on Tuesday (Aug 8) for their first birthday party since arriving from China. Giant panda Xing Ya celebrates his fourth birthday with an ice cake in Ouwehands Dierenpark zoo. Xing Ya and Wu Wen are on loan from China and will stay in the Dutch Zoo for the next 15 years. (AFP/Remko DE WAAL) Female Wu Wen (Beautiful Powerful Cloud) and her male companion Xing Ya (Elegant Star) both turn four this month and officials at the Ouwehands Dierenpark in the central town of Rheenen decided to throw a joint party. "At first they both approached the cakes with caution, with the male panda giving his an exploratory lick," said animal biologist Jose Kok. "Then they became curious and realised 'hang on, this is something nice in my enclosure' and not long after that, the cake's layers were separated," Kok told AFP with a laugh. It took a week to prepare the icy treats, which where also layered with the pandas' favourite food: bamboo shoots. The two panda "superstars" arrived in The Netherlands in mid-April after an 8,000-kilometre journey from China, following years of negotiations in what has been dubbed "panda diplomacy". Male panda Xing Ya turned four on Aug 5, while Wu Wen was born on Aug 11. …... [read more]

SAN FRANCISCO: The US International Trade Commission on Tuesday (Aug 8) said it will look into Qualcomm's complaint that Apple is violating its patents in some iPhones. Qualcomm chief Steve Mollenkopf, pictured in July 2017, said the chipmaker's legal war with Apple is about defending his company's business model. (AFP/Rob Lever) The step, arguably procedural, means that the commission will assign Qualcomm's complaint to an administrative law judge for evidentiary hearings instead of dismissing it out of hand. Qualcomm last month escalated a legal battle with Apple, filing a patent infringement lawsuit and requesting a ban on the importation of some iPhones, claiming unlawful and unfair use of the chipmaker's technology. Qualcomm asked for an import ban on some iPhones with the US International Trade Commission, a quasi-judicial government agency which hears cases involving trade disputes. "Qualcomm is pleased with the ITC's decision to investigate Apple?s unfair trade practices and the unauthorized importation of products using Qualcomm?s patents," executive vice president and general counsel Don Rosenberg said in a release. The products at issue in the investigation are mobile devices such as the iPhone 7 and specific components including baseband processor modems, according to the commission. The complaint alleges that iPhones, which are made in China, should not be allowed to be brought into the United States if they infringe on Qualcomm's patents. Apple referred AFP to comment it made…... [read more]

SKOPJE: A delightful goal by Isco proved the difference as Real Madrid survived a Manchester United fightback to win 2-1 and lift the UEFA Super Cup in the Macedonian capital of Skopje on Tuesday (Aug 8). (From L) Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Marcelo and Marco Asensio celebrate after winning the UEFA Super Cup football match against Manchester United. (ARMEND NIMANI/AFP) Casemiro put the reigning European champions in front on 24 minutes on a steamy summer's night in the Balkans and Isco doubled their lead seven minutes into the second half after a one-two with Gareth Bale. The gulf in class between Madrid - for whom Cristiano Ronaldo appeared as a late substitute - and Europa League winners United that Jose Mourinho had feared was all too evident and it looked like the Spaniards would go on to win by a wider margin. But Romelu Lukaku pulled one back just past the hour, marking his competitive debut for United with a goal and sparking a big improvement from the Premier League club in the final stages. It was to no avail, with Zinedine Zidane's side winning this trophy for the second year running and the fourth time overall. It is the eighth time in nine years that a Spanish club has won the Super Cup. BALE HANDED START While Ronaldo started on the bench for Madrid having only…... [read more]

SINGAPORE: An 81-year-old guitar-slinging Singaporean granny has shredded stereotypes to pursue her love of rock music, becoming a sought-after performer and unlikely Internet sensation. Eighty-one-year-old Singapore granny Mary Ho has recorded her own album of Latin music, is often in demand for charity gigs and a video of her playing rock classic 'Need Your Love So Bad' has more than 1.1 million views on YouTube (Photo: AFP/Roslan RAHMAN) Mary Ho's late-flourishing career will reach its zenith Wednesday (Aug 9) when she performs in front of a huge crowd at Singapore's National Day Parade, marking 52 years of the city-state's independence. Grandmother-of-seven Ho only started playing the guitar at 60, fulfilling a lifelong dream to learn the instrument. She initially taught herself from a book with an acoustic and was content strumming along and singing. But when a friend introduced her to rock star Carlos Santana's classic track Samba Pa Ti about a decade ago, she decided to seek some professional tutoring to shift things up a few gears. "It was too difficult (to learn on my own) so I found a teacher," she told AFP. "But the teacher looked at me and said 'Oh I've never taught anyone your age before'." Despite not knowing how to read music, Ho was determined to learn her favourite song and practised up to three hours a day to get the hang of it. …... [read more]

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to backpedal on the issue of creating an official First Lady position for his wife in the face of attacks from left-wing opponents and a petition against the move, officials and reports said. The focus on the First Lady proposition comes at a bad time for Macron as polls show his popularity slipping badly. (Photo: AFP/Eric Feferberg) The newly-elected 39-year-old president had promised in March on the campaign trail to create "a real status" for his wife Brigitte, who is his former schoolteacher. The issue has become a new political headache for Macron after an online petition against creating the role garnered around 270,000 signatures and an opinion poll showed a majority of French people were also opposed. The presidency will clarify Brigitte Macron's position in the coming days, a source told AFP late on Monday, adding that there were would be no change to the constitution to create a First Lady position. Instead, the presidency will make clear the resources at Brigitte Macron's disposal and the cost to the public purse. "The idea is for the French people to know how much this role costs," Aurore Berge, a senior lawmaker from Macron's Republic on the Move party, told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday. The new status would have seen France copy the American tradition of a prominent public role for the First Lady.…... [read more]

TEHRAN: French automaker Renault on Monday (Aug 7) signed a long-awaited joint venture deal with Iran worth €660 million (US$779 million) to build up to 300,000 cars per year. (L to R) Thierry Bollore, deputy director of Competitiveness at Renault, Mansour Moazami, Chairman of the Board of Directors of IDRO Group, and Kourosh Morshed Solouk, deputy director of the Iranian Automobile Importers Association, at the signing ceremony in Tehran. (AFP/ATTA KENARE) The new deal puts Renault in partnership with Iran's state Industrial Development and Renovation Organisation (IDRO) and private firm Parto Negin Naseh. Renault will hold a 60 per cent stake with IDRO and Parto Negin Naseh 20 per cent each. "The first phase of this accord worth 660 million euros provides for the annual manufacturing of 150,000 cars," IDRO head Mansour Moazami said at a signing ceremony in Tehran. He said the first cars will roll off the assembly line in around 18 months. The new venture will produce Renault's Duster and Symbol models at a refurbished factory in Saveh, around 120 kilometres southwest of Tehran. A second, three-year phase will start in 2019 with production ramping up to 300,000 cars per year. Under the deal, 30 per cent of the cars and parts made by the venture will be exported. "We are happy to sign one of Renault's most historical contracts here," said Thierry Bollore, number two…... [read more]

TORONTO, Canada: Qualifier Varvara Lepchenko rallied to stun French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 1-6, 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/5) on Monday (Aug 7) in the first round of the WTA hardcourt tournament in Toronto. American Varvara Lepchenko, pictured in June 2017, won her first round match in Toronto. (AFP/Lionel BONAVENTURE) American veteran Lepchenko, 31 years old and ranked 68th in the world, trailed 6-1, 3-0 before turning things around against the 12th-ranked Latvian, who had followed up her Roland Garros triumph by reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. "I think I woke up, I was a little bit in the sleeping mode for a set and a half," said Lepchenko, a former top-20 player herself. "All the credit to her, she played amazing tennis - she hardly missed any ball from the very beginning. "Once I gave her a little push back, that's when the game started. I pretty much focused on my game. "I know I have powerful shots and I'm as good a player as her, so I knew I just had to give my best, and it would be a battle." Lepchenko notched her first win this season over a top-20 player and her first since she beat then 15th-ranked Timea Bacsinszky at the US Open last year. The match was one of the Centre Court highlights on the opening day of this key US Open tuneup. Seven-time Grand Slam…... [read more]




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