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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Diplomats vow progress on code of conduct

Image result for south china sea

China and ASEAN made several breakthroughs on the South China Sea issue on Tuesday, including vowing to finish a framework by the middle of next year for a code of conduct for the sea.
Senior diplomats also approved a guideline for a China and ASEAN hotline for use during maritime emergencies and a joint declaration that the Conduct for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, which was signed by more than 20 Pacific nations in 2014, applies to the South China Sea.
Vice-Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin co-chaired the 13th senior officials' meeting on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
He told a joint news conference that documents about the hotline and the conduct for unplanned encounters will be presented to the meeting of leaders from China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, scheduled for early September, for final approval.
"There is another achievement - we reached broad consensus on pushing forward the negotiations on a code of conduct for the South China Sea," Liu said.
"All sides agreed to raise the frequency of the negotiations in a situation without interference, and seek to finish a draft framework of the COC by the middle of next year."
The senior officials' meeting has been held twice a year since 2011, but this is the third meeting held this year.
"We held the conference more frequently than in previous years," Liu told reporters after the meeting.
"It shows that as the situation in the South China Sea is getting more and more complicated, especially with the interference of external forces, ASEAN countries and China have realized that we have to grasp the key to the South China Sea issue in our own hand."
He said the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, signed in 2002, provides an effective platform for properly handling disputes through negotiation and cooperation.
Jia Duqiang, a senior researcher in Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Tuesday's achievements are "an important step" in China's relations with ASEAN.
"The frequent meetings between China and the ASEAN countries this year is a good thing - it shows that we both have the willingness to keep the key in our hand," Jia said.
Wang Xiaopeng, a researcher with CASS, said the ASEAN countries are willing to work with China, which has interests intertwined with those of its regional neighbors.

Hollande meets pope, honours terror victims at Rome church


© Osservatore Romano / AFP | This handout picture taken and released on August 17, 2016 by the Osservatore Romano shows French President Francois Hollande exchanging gifts with Pope Francis in the Vatican

French President Fran├žois Hollande met Pope Francis on Wednesday to thank him for his solidarity with the French people after attacks by Islamist militants, including the killing of an elderly priest in July.
A professed atheist, Hollande started his brief, private trip to Rome and the Vatican with a stop in San Luigi dei Francesi, the 16th century church of the French community in the Italian capital.
He stood in silence for about 10 minutes in front of a small side chapel that became a place of prayer and remembrance after the wave of Islamist attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people.
To the left of the altar, near bowls where visitors leave notes to honour victims of terrorism, was a photograph of Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest killed on July 25 in the town of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray.
Hamel was saying mass when attackers stormed in, forced the 85-year-old to his knees and slit his throat while chanting in Arabic.
Speaking to reporters outside the church before heading to the Vatican, Hollande said he wanted to thank the pope for his solidarity with France over the attacks.
He said that in a telephone conversation after Hamel's murder the pope "let me know that he felt like a brother standing alongside the French people".
Hollande, who has not ruled out running for re-election next year, said that apart from the attacks in France, he wanted to discuss with the pope the flight of Christians from the Middle East because of war, and the refugee crisis in Europe.
Hollande made an official visit to the Vatican in 2014.
(REUTERS)

Louisiana’s ‘Cajun Navy’ sets sail in fishing boats to rescue flood victims

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The devastation of Louisiana's record flooding became real for Timmy Toups on Saturday as he scrolled through his Facebook feed. Toups, an electrician living south of New Orleans, realized this wasn’t like Hurricane Katrina. These folks didn’t know to evacuate.
“These people don’t flood,” Toups said.
Not normally, anyway. “They live on high ground. Probably most of them don’t even have flood insurance. People were crying for help on Facebook, just putting out any call for help.”
So Toups, 35, decided to lend a hand. He found a babysitter that night for his kid (his wife works nights as a nurse) and began contacting friends. By 9 a.m. Sunday,  he and two friends rolled out in his truck with a fishing boat in tow and no plan but to help people in need.
By the end of Monday, Toups said he found himself with 20-some other volunteer rescuers whose boats sailed through murky floodwaters to deliver supplies and rescue those trapped after the storm that claimed at least 11 lives and left more than 40,000  homes damaged. It is some of the worst flooding in Louisiana history.
Such makeshift flotillas popped up across the region over the weekend. Many are operating under a name familiar in Louisiana: the Cajun Navy.
Eleven years ago, in the wake of Katrina, the original Cajun Navy formed as civilians took to the water in their boats to aid fellow Louisianians. They saved thousands, by some estimates. And as floodwaters once again put untold thousands in need over the weekend, the flotillas of the Cajun Navy – or at least the latest versions of it – rose again.
“The reality of the Cajun Navy is everybody out here with a boat that isn’t devastated gets out and helps others,” said Clyde Cain, a 53-year-old from Tangipahoa Parishwho runs the Facebook page Louisiana Cajun Navy. “We’re just one big network.”
The Facebook page filled over the weekend with photos of volunteers cooking jambalaya for hungry neighbors in Springfield or sailing their boats through flooded streets. Posts told readers where to meet – to help or to get help.
Cain, who describes himself as a well-networked entrepreneur, started the Facebook page as a hub to connect needs with resources. He wasn’t a part of the original Cajun Navy, but he hopes to flesh out his Facebook group into a legitimate organization with registered volunteers who are organized to work with authorities should another storm strike.
Many of the volunteer efforts on the page unfolded southeast of Baton Rouge.
Toups, who met Cain years ago through work, expressed amazement at how this version of the navy’s fleet came seemingly out of nowhere.
“A lot of it was hunting boats, shallow draft duck hunting boats with mud motors. Twenty-something foot boats with outboard motors,” he said. “Airboats. Pirogues. Kayaks. You name it. Everybody was wide open, going at it.”
Toups himself had a flat-bottomed boat built for crawfishing, he said, the kind made for sweeping between trees in the swamp. His crew worked the villages east of Baton Rouge. When they saw another boat, they’d flag its driver down. They’d ask where he came from, and what people needed in that direction. And then with water, snacks and Gatorade in tow, they’d set off that way.
Some would deny their help, he said, insisting others further down were worse off. Others, thinking the water would soon recede, refused to climb aboard, he said. They gave them water and moved on.
Toups knows of Cain’s plan to form a registered Cajun Navy, one recognized by local governments and able to help authorities when the next storm hits. For locals like him, who own boats and know the land, it just makes sense, he said.
“They can only do so much,” Toups said. “We have resources. We live in boats. My whole family is commercial fishermen. I grew up on the water. There is not too much that I’m going to come across out there that I cannot deal with on the fly.”

Cisco to cut 5,500 jobs in shift away from switches, routers

The Cisco Systems logo is seen as part of a display at the Microsoft Ignite technology conference in Chicago, Illinois, May 4, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

Cisco Systems Inc said it would cut nearly 7 percent of its workforce, posting charges of up to $400 million in its first quarter, as the world's largest networking gear maker shifts focus away from its legacy hardware towards higher-margin software.
The gradual move to fast-growing sectors such as security, the Internet of Things and the cloud is a response to sluggish demand for Cisco's traditional lineup of switches and routers from telecom carriers and enterprise customers, amid intense competition from companies such as Huawei and Juniper Networks Inc.
Revenue at the company's routers business fell 6 percent in the fourth-quarter ended July 30, while switching unit revenue was up 2 percent. Orders from service providers fell 5 percent, while revenue in emerging markets fell 6 percent, Cisco said.
Cisco projected flat revenue in the first quarter and gave an earnings forecast that was shy of analysts' estimates, saying it expected adjusted earnings of 58 cents to 60 cents per share, versus Wall Street estimates of 60 cents.
"We're uncertain how to model any improvement in those two (segments) in particular going forward," Chief Executive Chuck Robbins told analysts during a call, speaking of service providers and emerging markets.
Robbins, who took over from John Chambers in July last year, has been steering Cisco toward more software and subscription-based services. Security, which Robbins said was the top priority of all its customers, posted a revenue gain of 16 percent in the quarter.
Gross and operating margins also improved in the fourth quarter, reflecting cost savings, Cisco said.
"It's part of what we're driving in our shift to software," said Chief Financial Officer Kelly Kramer. "Those businesses have great margins and it's part of the overall transition."
Cisco, which is also betting on acquisitions to fast-track growth, has made 10 acquisitions since Robbins began as CEO, according to FactSet StreetAccount data, from Internet-of-Things startup Jasper Technologies to cloud security provider CloudLock.
Shares of the company were down 1.4 percent in after-hours trade to $30.30.

The shares had gained 13.2 percent this year through Wednesday's close, compared with the 6.8 percent increase in the broader S&P 500 index.
Cisco's fourth-quarter net profit rose to $2.81 billion, or 56 cents per share, from $2.32 billion, or 45 cents, a year earlier. Excluding items, the company earned 63 cents per share.
Revenue fell 1.6 percent to $12.64 billion.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of 60 cents and revenue of $12.58 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Cisco, which expects to start laying off employees from the first quarter, said it will take a charge of about $325 million to $400 million in the quarter. On the whole, the company expects a pretax charge of $700 million.
Technology news site CRN, citing sources, first reported on Tuesday that Cisco planned to lay off about 14,000 employees, or nearly 20 percent of its workforce.

Olympic pole vault penis claim denied by Japan athlete Hiroki Ogita



Japan's Hiroki Ogita knocks the pole vault bar off in the Men's Pole Vault Qualifying Round in Rio de Janeiro on 13 August 2016.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionHiroki Ogita was upset at the media's reporting of and social media's response to the incident
Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita has described his bewilderment after reports his penis had prevented him from progressing in the Rio Olympics went viral.
A video of the athlete hitting the bar with what looked to some like his penis under his shorts quickly spread online.
His leg had already made contact with the bar but his arm finished the job.
"I never expected the foreign media to take me down like this," the 28-year-old athlete tweeted.
"It's one thing if it was true, but I have to say I'm pretty devastated that they'd go so far to make something up to mock and ridicule me so much."
Mr Ogita lying on the crash mat after a jumpImage copyrightAFP
Image captionHiroki Ogita's shirt, loose at the bottom, could have caught the bar, say some observers
One pole vaulting expert told the BBC he thought it was a case of an unfortunate camera angle.
"He had already pressed on the crossbar so much," pole vaulting coach David Yeo said in Singapore.
"The crossbar was bound to dislodge. I think it was just the crumpling of the fabric which happened at the wrong position."
Mr Ogita did clear the bar on his second attempt but as he only managed a height of 5.45m on his final jump, the earlier foul cost him. He finished too far down the field to progress through the qualifying stage.
But his fans rallied round him online, telling him to not to worry and reassuring him that the coverage was not all hostile.
@LeviSakaki tweeted in Japanese (translated) to Mr Ogita: Image copyright@LEVISAKAKI
Image caption"I live in the States, and the reaction here is positive. Fight on!"
Twitter user @wotarou0019kota tweeted (in Japanese): "Don't stress over it and be positive! I do athletics as well, and sometimes stuff happens. It's awesome enough that you're able to be up there on the world stage, so hold your head up high and keep on jumping!"
@ogi1230's Twitter pageImage copyright@OGI1230
Image captionIn an attempt to escape the online reaction, Mr Ogita changed his Twitter handle, losing his account's "verified" blue tick in the process
Despite the athlete's dismay, he encouraged his readers to take an active interest in the sport.
"To be honest, it's pretty rough, but I guess I'm in the spotlight so this might be some kind of opportunity. I'll do my best and get the results so that I get the last laugh," he wrote.
"It doesn't matter if you do it for a joke or whatever, I ask you to go and watch an actual game at a stadium for once. I hope you appreciate, even a bit, what a great sport pole vaulting is."
@ogi1230 tweeted (in Japanese - translated): Image copyright@OGI1230
Image captionOnce the pain of losing had subsided, he was able to see it slightly differently, ending a tweet with the kanji (Chinese character) for "laugh"
He eventually tweeted that he was able to see the funny side: "Watching again, this is pretty funny, if I say so myself. LOL."

Burkini beach row puts French values to test


Police on beach in Cannes and a woman in a burkini on a French beachImage copyrightEPA/AP
Image captionSecurity on French beaches has been tight this summer and the burkini row should be seen in that light
This is a controversy France could have done without.
Burkini or bikini, French commentators have asked, ironically, about this summer's choice of beachwear.
It is no coincidence that the ban on Islamic burkinis - full-body swimsuits - should arise from French Riviera beaches, a few kilometres from Nice, a city struck by a militant Islamist attack that killed 85 people on Bastille Day, just a month ago.
The town of Cannes was the first to pass the summer ban, which was confirmed by the courts on 13 August. And Cannes was soon followed by the towns of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, and Sisco in Corsica.
Even the mayor of the northern seaside resort of Le Touquet is said to be about to pass a similar ban: no burkini will be tolerated on public beaches.

'Extremist symbol'

So far a small number of women have been fined (€38 in Cannes - £33; $43) for wearing a burkini on the beach at Cannes. And the mayor's decision has triggered a heated debate.
Cannes mayor David Lisnard has tried to explain his decision in these terms: "The burkini is like a uniform, a symbol of Islamist extremism. This is why I am banning it for the summer."
His view surprised the Cannes Muslim community, as David Lisnard is known locally for having allowed a large plot of land in his city to be used to build the Iqraa mosque, financed by a Saudi donor.

What do Muslim women think?

Burqinis on display in Dubai (file pic)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
"I am a practising Muslim, and I believe there should be a choice," said Sabrina Akram, who grew up in Pakistan, and now lives in the US state of Massachusetts.
"I think it's outrageous that you would effectively be asked to uncover some flesh or leave," said Maryam Ouiles from Gloucester.

A French anti-Islamophobia association, CCIF, decided to challenge the Cannes mayor's decision in court but lost the case.
According to the administrative court which authorised the ban, it falls within the remit of the 2004 law restricting religious signs in public spaces.
Tweet from CCIF, appealing to the Conseil d'Etat against the court decision to back the banImage copyrightTWITTER
Image captionFrance's anti-Islamophobia association says it will appeal against the court's decision to back the burkini ban
The court explained its decision: "In the context of a state of emergency and after recent Islamist attacks in France, the conspicuous display of religious signs, in this instance in the shape beachwear, is susceptible to create or increase tensions and risk affecting public order."
In other words, the court asserts that a burkini may not be seen simply as an innocent religious symbol, but as a militant and proselytising form of radical Islam.
Like many of his colleagues and a majority of the French people, Jean-Christophe Ploquin, columnist at Catholic daily La Croix, disagrees.
"In France, everybody is free to dress the way they like as long as they abide by the law. Everybody should therefore be free to wear a burkini," he argues. "This, however, doesn't mean we should be naive. The burkini offers a separatist vision of society and applies pressure on other women in the Muslim community."

Women in France

In fact, the burkini challenges two fundamental French values and traditions: women's emancipation and a desire to live together as one nation.
Brigitte Bardot with boyfriend Patrick Gilles in 1970Image copyrightKEYSTONE FEATURES
Image captionIt was Brigitte Bardot who made the bikini popular in France
The country that gave the bikini to the world, following on a long tradition of influential women - from philosopher Madame du Chatelet, friend of Voltaire, to Coco Chanel, by way of Simone de Beauvoir, author of the ground-breaking female study The Second Sex - is shocked to see that some French women accept what it sees as the diktat of religion and of men on them.
The burkini also deeply challenges the notion of national unity, which is at the heart of the French narrative. The burkini is seen as a symbol of separatism and, for some, to allow it is to undermine the very idea of France.
The burkini controversy will probably slowly disappear as August draws to a close. It is nonetheless revealing of France's deeply troubled state of mind, one which is going to linger on for some years to come.