Chinese visitor hotspot Maldives islands under emergency rule for 30 days

Chinese visitor hotspot Maldives islands under emergency rule for 30 days

The president of the Maldives, a chain of atolls popular with Chinese visitors, declared a state of emergency for 30 days today.

This follows an explosion on his speedboat and the discoveries of an explosive device near his official residence and a separate weapons cache.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil said President Yameen Abdul Gayoom made the decision to safeguard public safety. 
“The military and police found weapons and an explosive from two locations in their operations. Because these would be a threat to the public and the nation, the National Security Council has advised to take immediate steps to protect the people of Maldives,'' Anil said.

Chinese nationals made 24 million trips to the islands last year, Xinhua reported last month.

According to a poll announced at the International Islands Tourism Conference in Zhejiang Province, the Maldives topped a list of 20 favorite island destinations for Chinese visitors.

Maldives has been tense since a September 28 blast on the president's boat and a subsequent series of arrests of people, including the vice president, on suspicion of involvement in the explosion. 

Gayoom was unhurt by the blast, which the government called an assassination attempt.

(Pictured, Maldives police cordoned off the location of Vice President Ahmed Adeeb's residence on October 24).

The US FBI, which investigated the blast, said it found no evidence that it was caused by a bomb.

The military said on Monday that it found a homemade bomb in a parked vehicle close to the president's official residence. Days earlier, an arms cache was found on an island being developed as a tourist resort.—AP/The Standard

US digs deeper into Volkswagen dirty diesels

Leaders of a House committee are requesting more details and documents from Volkswagen after federal regulators said the car maker cheated a second time on emissions tests.
The Environmental Protection Department said this week that VW programmed about 10,000 cars with larger diesel engines to emit fewer pollutants during tests than in real-world driving.

The charges follow VW's admission in September that it rigged emissions tests for four-cylinder diesel engines on 11 million cars worldwide, including almost 500,000 in the United States.
Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter Tuesday to Volkswagen's US boss, Michael Horn, requesting additional information about so-called defeat devices designed to skirt emissions controls.

The bipartisan letter set a November 16 deadline for Horn to respond.—AP

Porsche halts diesel Cayenne sales

Porsche is voluntarily halting the sale of some diesel SUVs in the US and Canada after US regulators accused the brand of using software to cheat on emissions tests.

Porsche said it was halting sales of diesel Cayennes from the 2014-2016 model years until further notice. A Porsche spokesman didn't know how many vehicles were affected.
Porsche's parent, Volkswagen AG, has acknowledged that the software was on smaller diesel engines, mostly used in Volkswagen-brand cars. But the US Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that it also found the software on larger diesel engines in Porsche and Audi SUVs.
Porsche said it was surprised by the news and is cooperating with the EPA.

Audi has not yet said whether it will halt sales of its diesel SUVs.—AP

Excessive mercury found in Japanese tuna

Excessive mercury has been detected in a batch of chilled tuna imported from Japan, the food safety authorities said.
The Centre for Food Safety said a tested sample showed that it contained mercury at a level of 0.92 parts per million (ppm), exceeding the legal limit of 0.5 ppm.

“Mercury may affect the nervous system, particularly the developing brain. At high levels, mercury can affect foetal brain development, and affect vision, hearing, muscle co-ordination and memory in adults,’’ a spokesman said.


France dismantles 200 human trafficking gangs

France's top security official says 200 human-trafficking networks have been dismantled since the beginning of the year, including 30 in the tense Calais region where thousands of migrants are hoping to cross the Channel for a better life in Britain. 

In an interview with Europe 1 radio today, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said any French citizens caught trafficking would be punished. Ahead of a news conference by the local prosecutor, he did not confirm the Europe 1 report of a French fisherman's arrest in a network in the northern port of Dunkirk. 

Northern France, in particular the Calais region, has become the increasingly desperate temporary home to thousands of migrants fleeing war and poverty in their homelands. Dunkirk, about 50 kilometers away, is also a major port.—AP

ABN Amro fined for Dubai money laundering lapses

Dutch bank ABN Amro has been fined more than 1 million euros for “serious shortcomings'' in procedures to prevent money laundering at its private banking branch in Dubai.
The bank announced it has been fined 625,000 euros by the Dutch central bank and a further 586,000 euros by the Dubai Financial Services Authority.

The banks says the regulators had found “serious shortcomings in the client acceptance and risk management processes, aimed at preventing money laundering'' at the Dubai bank. The regulators also pointed to “shortcomings'' in oversight by ABN Amro's head office of its Dubai branch.
ABN Amro says in a statement it “sincerely regrets these irregularities'' and will not appeal. It stressed that regulators did not find that money laundering actually happened at the Dubai branch.—AP

Eurozone growth crawls along, survey shows

The 19-country eurozone economy is growing steadily but there is no sign of any marked lift-off, a key survey showed today.

In its monthly survey of economic conditions around the single currency bloc, financial information company Markit said its composite purchasing managers' index _ a broad gauge of economic activity encompassing both the manufacturing and services sectors _ inched up to 53.9 points in October from the four-month low of 53.6 in September.

Anything above 50 indicates expansion and, according to Markit, October's figure points to quarterly growth of 0.4 percent.

That's on a par with recent quarters but doesn't amount to much _ around 1.6 percent on an annualized basis, which is markedly lower than the rate of growth the US economy has experienced for much of the past few years and not enough to lower unemployment rates across the eurozone quickly. 
“The pace of growth looks set to remain frustratingly weak given the amount of stimulus in play at the moment,'' said Markit's chief economist Chris Williamson.

Of the four big eurozone countries, Markit found that Spain, which has the second-highest level of unemployment in the region after Greece and which is set for a general election next month, is experiencing the highest rate of quarterly growth at around 0.7 percent. Germany is close behind at 0.4 percent and Italy is at 0.3 percent, with France lagging at 0.2 percent.

The survey also showed subdued inflation within the eurozone.—AP

ASEAN tongue-tied on China’s maritime claims

Divisions within Asia over China's claims in the disputed South China Sea spilled over today to a meeting of US and Asian defense ministers, where China insisted the group make no public mention of the strategic waters in a joint declaration intended as a public display of unity.

As a result, a joint statement was canceled. Both host Malaysia and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter (Pictured) discounted the significance of the failure, which reflected a split with China and other Asian nations over the South China Sea issue.

“I had no expectation there would be agreement,'' Carter told a news conference, adding that the important point was that the South China Sea was a “persistent topic'' of the conference.

“Everybody raised it,'' he said.

Carter defended US Navy patrols in the contested waters that China objects to, saying the US has been sailing in the South China Sea for decades to the benefit of regional security and economic prosperity. He said he planned to go aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt transiting the South China Sea tomorrow, accompanied by his Malaysian counterpart, Hishammuddin Hussein, as a symbol of the United States' commitment to promoting stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

What's new and problematic, Carter said, is China's land reclamation and militarization of reefs and islets.

“What we sign on the joint declaration is not going to resolve the issue of duplicating claims nor is it going to wish vessels that are in the South China Sea away,'' Hishammuddin said.
He said that “our concerns are more real ... unintended accidents at the high sea, which can spiral into something worse and that we must avoid.'' The Southeast Asian grouping will continue to engage China and the US to ensure peace and stability in the region, he said.

Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the dispute over the joint declaration was due to “differences in phrasing and interpretation.'' But he said “all countries agreed on the freedom of navigation and all countries accepted international laws and norms.''

In a statement Malaysia said the meeting noted the importance of the early conclusion of the code of conduct in the South China Sea “to build mutual trust and confidence, and maintain peace, security and stability in the region.'' China has so far dragged its feet in concluding discussions on the code of conduct.

American officials traveling with Carter said that China, which like the United States is not a member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations but was attending the defense ministers' meeting as an invited partner, was adamant that the meeting's final public statement omit any mention of the South China Sea. The Americans argued that it would be better to make no joint statement at all rather than issue one that omitted mention of the contentious South China Sea issue.

At his news conference, Carter was asked about his meeting Tuesday with Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, where Chang told Carter that there is a “bottom line'' to China's patience with challenges to its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Carter noted that in a September visit to the White House, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he has no intention of pursuing militarization of the artificial islands his country is creating in the South China Sea.

“That's the fundamental point,'' Carter said, indicating the US intends to hold Xi to his word.

“We all must mean what we say,'' he said.

Carter said he has accepted an invitation by China to visit Beijing next spring.—AP
Chinese visitor hotspot Maldives islands under emergency rule for 30 days Chinese visitor hotspot Maldives islands under emergency rule for 30 days Reviewed by Ajit Kumar on 8:06 PM Rating: 5

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