Vienna retains top ranking
Vienna has retained its ranking as the world’s most livable city, according to an annual report released yesterday by the Economist. Vienna once again came ahead of Melbourne — which had held the top ranking for seven years until losing it to Vienna last year — an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) report said. The top two were followed by Sydney; Osaka, Japan; and Calgary, Alberta. Each year, the EIU gives 140 cities scores out of 100 on a range of factors such as living standards, crime, transport infrastructure, access to education and healthcare, as well as political and economic stability. Vienna scored 99.1 points out of 100, as it did last year. For the first time, the index noted the effects of climate change on livability, with New Delhi and Cairo plunging in the rankings to 118th and 125th place respectively due to poor air quality, undesirable average temperatures and inadequate water provision.
Panel rejects district maps
A North Carolina judicial panel on Tuesday rejected state legislative district maps, saying that legislators took extreme advantage in drawing voting districts to help elect a maximum number of Republican lawmakers. The judges gave lawmakers two weeks to try again. The three-judge panel of state trial judges unanimously ruled that courts can step in to decide when partisan advantage goes so far it diminishes democracy. Their ruling came after the Supreme Court in June ruled in a separate case involving North Carolina’s congressional map that it was not the job of federal courts to decide if boundaries are politically unfair — although state courts could consider whether gerrymandering stands up under state laws and constitutions.
Judge orders opioid trial
A judge on Tuesday rejected efforts by major drugmakers, pharmacies and distributors to dismiss claims that they caused the nation’s opioid crisis, clearing the way for a scheduled landmark trial even as he pushes for a nationwide settlement. District Judge Dan Polster, who oversees about 2,000 opioid lawsuits by states, counties and cities, said that the plaintiffs could try to prove that drugmakers’ deceptive marketing of the painkillers caused a harmful, massive increase in supply that pharmacies and distributors did not do enough to stop. The ruling was among seven decisions and orders totaling 80 pages from Polster ahead of a scheduled Oct. 21 trial by two Ohio counties against Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker accused of fueling the epidemic, and several other defendants.
Maduro orders border drills
President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday ordered the military to hold exercises along the border with Colombia, accusing Colombian President Ivan Duque of plotting an attack as tensions mounted between the two countries. It was the latest salvo between Maduro and Duque, who have accused each other in the past few days of harboring militants. “Columbia’s government doesn’t want peace,” Maduro told a class of officers in a nationally televised military ceremony. “It wants war. It wants violence.” Tensions flared last week when the former chief negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia announced in a video that he would take up arms, saying that the Colombian government has failed to uphold a 2016 peace accord. Maduro ordered Venezuela’s armed forces to be on alert and called for more than two weeks of maneuvers to start on Tuesday next week.
Compliance stipulation set
The nation yesterday said it would resume full compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal if it can sell its oil or get a US$15 billion credit line guaranteed by future crude sales. However, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi expressed doubt that such a plan could be agreed before a looming deadline to further scale back its commitments under the nuclear accord. Araghchi ruled out any renegotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but said that Iran is open to talks on how to implement it better. “I don’t think the European countries will be able to take an effective step before Friday ... so we will take the third step,” he added.
Najib accused of debt offer
A witness in former prime minister Najib Razak’s trial testified that Najib offered projects to China in exchange for help resolving 1MDB’s debt. Fugitive financier Jho Low represented Najib in a meeting with China’s Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which was attended by witness Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin, a former aide to Najib. Low and Najib planned to use agreements with Chinese state-linked companies to bail out 1MDB’s debt, Amhari said. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s administration has not confirmed the talks. The commission was offered projects including the East Coast Rail Link, the witness said, which had been put on hold by Mahathir before being resumed at a lower cost. The Trans-Sabah gas pipeline, a Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok high-speed rail and the development of offshore financial hub Labuan were also tabled at the meeting, he said.
Study affirms CCP campaign
Hundreds of Chinese accounts suspended by Twitter were part of a disinformation operation for years targeting critics of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), researchers have found. After combing through 3.6 million tweets from 940 suspended Twitter accounts, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said that the accounts had conducted “blunt-force influence” campaigns for “at least two years.” The most intense information operation targeted billionaire businessman Guo Wengui (郭文貴), who fled into exile after being accused of corruption, according to the study published on Tuesday. The tweets often came during work hours in Beijing and stopped on weekends and Chinese public holidays. “This was a blunt-force influence operation, using spam accounts to disseminate messaging, leveraging an influence-for-hire network,” the study said.
Garbage shipped back
Hundreds of shipping containers filled with garbage have been sent back to their nations of origin, the Directorate-General of Customs and Excise said yesterday. About 250 containers seized in the past few months have already been returned and authorities are inspecting more than 1,000 others, a customs official said. Among them, 49 containers of waste seized on Batam Island have been shipped back to the US, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Australia, agency spokesman Deni Surjantoro said. The shipments were loaded with a combination of garbage, plastic waste and hazardous materials in contravention of import rules. Nearly 200 containers have also been shipped out of Surabaya to the US, Britain and Germany. Authorities near Jakarta are gearing up to send back about 150 containers while inspecting more than 1,000 others that could contain banned materials, Surjantoro said.
Five Chinese die in crash
Five Chinese were killed and another six injured when a tourist bus veered off a highway and flipped during bad weather in North Island, police said. Twenty-seven people were in the vehicle when it crashed about 20km outside Rotorua, a popular tourist town in the Bay of Plenty area known for its hot springs. Two of the survivors were seriously injured and four were moderately hurt, inspector Brent Crowe told reporters. He declined to give details of the deceased, saying authorities were still working to identify them and contact their families in China. He said the driver was not seriously injured and an investigation into the cause of the crash was under way. The Chinese embassy in Wellington told TVNZ that Ambassador Wu Xi (吳璽) was on her way to the crash site to help the victims.
Putin promises financial aid
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday promised to help finance new infrastructure in the nation, as the landlocked country looks to reduce its reliance on Beijing. “Russia will never forget Mongolia’s help and support when Russia was fighting against the Nazis,” Putin said, joining in a celebration to mark the 80th anniversary of a battle fought by Mongolian and Russian soldiers against the invading Japanese army in 1939. Mongolian President Khaltmaa Battulga and Putin signed a series of agreements, including joint investment funds to finance infrastructure developments, with Moscow lending 100 billion rubles (US$1.5 billion) in a gift for the battle anniversary. Battulga said that he planned to use the aid to build new railroads to the Chinese border to open one more channel for coal and mineral export. The nation hopes to build its own terminal in a Russian port to facilitate exports of natural resources, he added.
TARNISHED LEGACY: Woodrow Wilson served as the university’s president before becoming the US’ 28th leader, but his racism was ‘significant and consequential’ Princeton University is removing former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges after trustees concluded that the 28th president’s “racist thinking and policies” made him “an inappropriate namesake.” The Ivy League school’s trustees made the decision on Friday, according to a statement on Saturday. It comes at a time of widespread rethinking of the US’ racial legacy. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, energized by a series of high-profile deaths of black Americans, has resulted in the removal of Confederate monuments, flags and symbols of racism across the US. Deleting Wilson’s name at Princeton
‘FULLY ENCLOSED’: Residents of Anxin County would be confined to their homes and would only be allowed out once a day to buy necessities such as food and medicine China yesterday imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people near the capital to contain a fresh COVID-19 cluster as authorities warned the outbreak was still “severe and complicated.” After China largely brought the virus under control, hundreds have been infected in Beijing and cases have emerged in Hebei Province. Health officials said that Anxin County — about 150km from Beijing — would be “fully enclosed and controlled,” the same strict measures imposed at the height of the pandemic in the city of Wuhan earlier this year. Only one person from each family would be allowed to go out once a
Japan said it opposed changes to the G7 nations as it pushed back against a reform plan by US President Donald Trump that would have rival South Korea this year join in an expanded meeting. Tokyo has told the US it stands against South Korea’s participation on the grounds of differences in policy on China and North Korea, Kyodo News reported this weekend, citing more than one source related to Japanese and US diplomacy. Japan also wants to maintain its status as the only Asian country in the group, the news agency added. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga yesterday told reporters that
The onset of summer has sparked a rise in incidents of “mask rage” in South Korea as more hot and bothered commuters either refuse to wear face coverings or leave parts of their faces exposed. In South Korea, Japan and other countries in East Asia, widespread mask wearing has been cited as one possible explanation for the region’s relative success in bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected by the virus, flattened the coronavirus curve in April, although it is now struggling with dozens of daily cases, mainly in and around