Typhoon Noru kills 2, draws near Japan

LONDON: Britain is prepared to pay up to €40 billion (US$47.1 billion) to the European Union to settle its accounts when it leaves the bloc, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported. British multinationals have delivered upbeat earnings as Brexit looms AFP/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS It is the first time the British side has put a figure on its so-called Brexit bill - although the sum falls well short of the €100 billion sum discussed in Brussels. The newspaper report, based on unnamed government sources, said Britain would pay this only if the EU agrees to negotiate the settlement as part of a deal on future relations, including trade. Brussels has said progress must be made on the divorce bill, as well as the rights of European citizens living in Britain and the Irish border issue, before any talks can start on a free trade agreement. British officials are looking at proposing a transition deal where Britain would continue to make net payments to the EU of 10 billion euros a year for up to three years after it leaves in March 2019, the Telegraph said. This money, paid in return for continued access to Europe's single market, would be a "partial down-payment" on the final bill. The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has declined to publicly name a sum for Britain's divorce bill, which includes its share of EU spending projects already agreed, as well…... [read more]

MONTREAL: A major telecom outage triggered a disruption of flights and emergency services as Canada's Atlantic region reeled from a widespread loss of cell phone coverage. At Halifax airport in Nova Scotia, around 20 flights were delayed or cancelled due to the major telecom outage. A system failure reported by two telecom operators, Bell and Telus, led to widespread service outage in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in the east of the country. The failure caused problems for airlines Air Canada and WestJet, whose passenger check-in services use the affected network, leading to long lines in some airports. At Halifax airport in Nova Scotia, around 20 flights were delayed or cancelled, and a dozen other airports - including Moncton, St John's and Charlottetown - reported significant disruptions to their services. "A service outage is affecting some regions in the Atlantic provinces. Our teams are working to re-establish service as soon as possible," Bell Canada said in a statement posted on Twitter. Telus partially depends on Bell's infrastructure in the afflicted region. The outage, reportedly caused by damage to a cable, was affecting cell phone networks, internet and television services and telephone landlines, the operators said. Emergency services were also hit in Nova Scotia, with 911 lines not working in some areas. Police advised the population to use their general station numbers to contact them in…... [read more]

MOSCOW: Rescuers at one of Russia's largest diamond mines were searching late into the night on Friday (Aug 4) for nine miners still unaccounted for after water leaked into an underground shaft with more than 100 workers inside. Russia has experienced several deadly mining disasters in recent years. (AFP/LUCIE GODEAU) Alrosa, Russia's largest diamond producer, said in a statement that "nine people are being searched for" after water broke through into the Mir mine in the Sakha region some 4,160 kilometres east of Moscow. The emergency situations ministry for the region said rescuers were "carrying out a search of the mine's workings in order to find and save people". The water leaked into one of the mine's pumping stations out of a flooded disused crater that contained some 300,000 cubic metres of water, or the equivalent of 120 Olympic-size swimming pools, the emergency situations ministry said. The accident is believed to have been caused by an "uncontrolled increase in the flow of water" out of the mine's abandoned crater into the underground shaft, Alrosa said. It said this was caused by sudden geological processes and the washing away of rocks in the crater but insisted that all of the mine's "equipment has been regularly tested." The Sakha region's branch of the Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said in a statement that it was carrying out a check into possible safety…... [read more]

The council is expected to vote on Saturday on the measures that include a ban on exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as seafood by the cash-starved state. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has been leading the charge at the UN Security Council for tougher sanctions against North Korea. (AFP/Jewel SAMAD) UNITED NATIONS: The United States on Friday (Aug 4) presented a draft UN resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea with a sweeping ban on exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood that could deprive Pyongyang of US$1 billion in annual revenue. After a month of negotiations, the United States reached a deal with China, North Korea's main trading partner and ally, on the measures aimed at ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang to halt its missile and nuclear tests. The United States requested the UN Security Council hold a vote on Saturday on the new raft of sanctions, but the meeting was not immediately confirmed. The draft resolution calls for a ban on all exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state, according to the text seen by AFP. If implemented by all countries, the ban would strip Pyongyang of roughly a third of its export earnings estimated at US$3 billion per year, according to a diplomat familiar with…... [read more]

THE HAGUE: Supermarkets in the Netherlands and Germany were on Thursday (Aug 3) removing millions of eggs from their shelves believed to have been contaminated by a toxic insecticide in a widening food scandal. Some 10 billion eggs were produced in the country last year by about 1,000 poultry farms, with many of them going across the border into Germany. (AFP/Patrick HUISMAN) Amid fears the Dutch poultry industry could be facing huge financial losses, German officials said late Thursday they believed three million tainted eggs had been made their way into the country and been sold. After shuttering 180 businesses earlier in the week, the Dutch food authority (NVWA) said following tests that 138 poultry farms - about a fifth of all such concerns in the country - would remain closed, with one batch of eggs posing "an acute danger to public health". Eggs from another 59 farms contained high enough levels of the insecticide, fipronil, that the food authority warned they should not be eaten by children. "Those businesses whose egg codes have been printed on the website will remain closed," the NVWA said, publishing a list of 138 codes printed on the sides of the eggs, which identify which farm they have come from. According to Dutch media, some 10 billion eggs were produced in the country last year by about 1,000 poultry farms, with many of them going across…... [read more]

LONDON: The average annual pay packet of Britain's top executives fell by 17 percent in 2016, but was still 132 times the average full-time wage, according to a report published Thursday (Aug 3). Study shows the average salary of the chief executive of a FTSE 100 company was £4.5 million (US$5.9 million in the 2016 financial year, down from £5.4 million in 2015. (Photo: AFP/Niklas Halle'n) The study, by worker pressure groups High Pay Centre and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found that the average chief executive of a FTSE 100 company was £4.5 million (US$5.9 million, €5 million) in the 2016 financial year, down from £5.4 million in 2015. "Our review of FTSE 100 CEO pay packages shows a sharp turnaround," said the report. "FTSE 100 CEOs have seen an overall drop in pay packages, especially at the top end, though the gulf between the highest paid executives and the rest of the workforce still remains," it added. It would still take the average full-time British worker 132 years to earn this amount, with 60 of the FTSE 100 CEOs earning more than 100 times the average salary, according to official figures. The report said that part of the "squeeze" was down to top earner Martin Sorrell, with the advertising chief's compensation dropping from £70.4 million to £48.1 million in 2016. "If we were to exclude him…... [read more]

PARIS: The prospect of crude remaining near the current US$50 level is no longer a doomsday scenario for the world's oil majors whose latest earnings announcements show that cost-cutting lets them turn a profit even at these price levels. Even if the oil majors have adapted to low prices for the moment, developing new resources affordably could pose a challenge say analysts. (Photo: AFP/Spencer Platt) BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total have all published results in recent days, showing they pocketed US$23 billion in net profit in the first half of the year. Either they increased their earnings or at least returned to profit compared with the same period last year. With the exception of ExxonMobil they all benefitted from an increase in output from the same period last year, but more importantly they all profited from a rebound in crude prices as OPEC members and Russia agreed to limit production. The price of the international benchmark Brent crude averaged US$51.7 per barrel in the first half of this year, up considerably from US$39.8 during the same period last year. While the profits are still less than half of what the firms turned in during the same period three years ago when Brent was trading at over US$100 per barrel, they show that the major firms can survive profitably if crude prices stay at current levels, a scenario many now foresee. …... [read more]

TOKYO: The escapee is female, weighs 55kg and has a "gentle" disposition - but a history of running away. Shibukawa Animal Park's giant tortoise, which has escaped for the second time in less than two weeks. (Photo: Shibukawa Zoo) A Japanese zoo said Thursday (Aug 3) it was searching for its giant tortoise, which has escaped for the second time in less than two weeks. The reptile, measuring about 1m in length, was captured on security cameras as she wandered out of the main entrance of Shibukawa Animal Park in western Japan's Okayama prefecture on Tuesday morning, according to zoo staffer Yoshimi Yamane. The tortoise "won't immediately die because it will eat grass available around the zoo, but we're all very worried", Yamane told AFP. "She's quiet and gentle," Yamane said, adding that the zoo has received no reports of sightings of the approximately 35-year-old tortoise. Tuesday's escape was the second time in less than a fortnight that the fleet-footed reptile, which is allowed to walk freely inside the park during opening hours, fled the zoo. Yamane said it was found walking down the road 150m away from the zoo on Jul 21. "I spotted her on the way to the zoo. I stopped my car and asked my colleagues to help," she said. "She can walk faster than we can ever imagine." Source AFP ... [read more]

PARIS: The world's blind will increase threefold from about 36 million today to 115 million in 2050 as populations expand and individuals grow ever older, researchers said on Thursday (Aug 3). Opthalmologists from the University of Santo Tomas perform microscopic surgery in Manila on Jan 16, 2011. (Photo: JAY DIRECTO / AFP) The number of people with a moderate to severe vision impairment - only those not corrected by glasses, contact lenses or an operation - will also near triple, from about 217 million to 588 million over the same period. Most of those affected live in Africa and Asia, a team wrote in The Lancet Global Health journal. Looking at data from 188 countries, the researchers concluded that the prevalence of blindness - the number of blind per population group - decreased from 0.75 per cent in 1990 to 0.48 per cent in 2015. The rate of moderate to severe visual impairment declined from 3.83 percent to 2.9 per cent over the same time. "This is almost certainly because of improved health interventions," such as cataract surgery, study co-author Rupert Bourne of the Anglia Ruskin University told AFP. But the rough numbers have not stopped rising in step with population growth and ageing. Most visual problems occur in older people. The new forecast is based on UN population projections, even assuming that the prevalence continues to decline, said Bourne. The…... [read more]

UNITED NATIONS: Russia's UN envoy on Wednesday (Aug 2) dismissed new US sanctions against his country as "no sensation" and said Moscow will continue to work with the US administration despite the punitive measures. Russia's United Nations envoy Vassily Nebenzia (left) says the US sanctions bill was based on "a host of absurd accusations about Russia". (AFP/TIMOTHY A. CLARY) "It's no sensation. We expected that," Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters when asked about President Donald Trump's decision to sign a bill that will target Russia's energy sector and weapons exporters. "It's not our habit to be resentful children and to get offended with anything like that." Nebenzia said Trump had no option but to sign the bill under pressure from the US Congress, which he said had based the legislation on "a host of absurd accusations about Russia." "It is harming our relations inevitably, but we will be working in conditions that exist in the hope that it will turn (around) one day," he added. "Those who invited this bill, if they were thinking that they might change our policy, they were wrong, as history many times proved." The sanctions seek to penalise the Kremlin for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election - which Trump won - and Russia's annexation of Crimea. Source AFP ... [read more]

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