Monday, September 21, 2020

Taiwan responds to China's 'death threat' after US State Dept official's visit irks Beijing

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen with Keith Krach, US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs. (Photo credit: President Tsai Ing-wen Twitter)

Taipei [Taiwan], September 21 (ANI): Taiwan on Monday responded to China's threat to "set off war", in a cheeky manner following the visit of a US State Department official, which apparently irked Beijing.

"How do you deal with a neighbor sending you death threats just for having dinner with friends
 visiting from afar? Asking for a friend," said Taiwan Presidential Office Spokesperson.

This statement followed the threat issued by the Chinese mouthpiece Global Times after US Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach had visited the nation.

"Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, who pledged deeper ties with the US at a dinner for a visiting senior State Department official, is clearly playing with fire. If any act of her provocation violates the Anti-Secession Law of China, a war will be set off and Tsai will be wiped out," wrote Global Times.

During Krach's visit, President Tsai Ing-wen had pledged deeper ties with the US.

According to an official statement, Taiwan President has committed collaboration with the US to strengthen ties.

"I hope that Taiwan and the United States continue to work together to promote peace, stability, prosperity and development in the Indo-Pacific, positively impacting the region," said the President.

She had said, "Taiwan is committed to taking key steps, and engaging in exchanges of opinion to bring about a new milestone in the deepening of Taiwan-US economic cooperation."

During the visit to Taiwan, Krach and the delegation to Taiwan attended the memorial service for late President Lee Teng-hui. The visit of the senior-most US official has angered China.

In a belligerent show of force by Beijing, scores of Chinese jets had crossed the midline of Taiwan strait during the US official's visit. Taiwan's air force scrambled jets and deployed air defense missile system to monitor China's activities.

"PLA's military intimidation is deplorable and has caused resentment among people in Taiwan. We call on PRC to cherish peace and maintain regional stability," said Taiwan Ministry of Defence in a tweet after Friday's incident.

Earlier this month, Taiwan warned China not to "cross the line" saying that it wants peace but will defend its people.

"Don't cross the line. China again flew fighter jets into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone today. Make no mistake, Taiwan wants peace but we will defend our people," Vice President of Taiwan, Lai Ching-Te said in a tweet.

During US Health Secretary Alex Azar's historic visit to Taiwan earlier, China deployed fighter jets that briefly crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait, South China Morning Post had reported citing Taiwan's Defence Ministry. The ministry had said it had tracked the PLA fighters with its land-based anti-aircraft missiles and had "strongly driven them out". (ANI)

TikTok global will be 80 per cent owned by ByteDance: Company

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Beijing [China], September 21 (ANI/Sputnik): ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of video-sharing app TikTok, says it will retain an 80 per cent stake in the newly created US company TikTok Global.

"The board of directors of TikTok Global will include the founder of ByteDance [Zhang Yiming], curre
nt ByteDance directors as well as the CEO of Walmart [Doug McMillon]," ByteDance specified in a statement on Monday.

According to ByteDance, the parent company will not hand any algorithms or technologies to TikTok Global, but Oracle will be able to conduct security checks on TikTok US's source code.

On Sunday, ByteDance told the Chinese Global Times newspaper that it was not ruling out inviting more investors on the heels of the agreement with Oracle and Walmart.

TikTok confirmed an agreement with Oracle and Walmart on Saturday, saying that both companies will take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round in which they can take up to a 20 percent cumulative stake in the company.

"As part of this proposal, Oracle will become our trusted technology provider, responsible for hosting all US user data and securing associated computer systems to ensure US national security requirements are fully satisfied. We are currently working with Walmart on a commercial partnership as well," TikTok said in its Saturday statement.

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he had approved the deal. Immediately after the announcement the US Commerce Department said that it was postponing the planned block of new TikTok downloads until September 27. (ANI/Sputnik)

Locals of Nepal's Janakpur rejoice return of train after nearly a decade

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Janakpur [Nepal], September 21 (ANI): As a brand new train chugged into Janakpur Dham station in Nepal, it brought to an end the wait for hundreds of people for the first modern railway in the Himalayan country.

The trial for Nepal's first broad-gauge railway service in Janakpur began on Friday with
 the arrival of two trains to revive operation in the Janakpur-Jaynagar section.

For 78-year-old Hasim Nadaf, who had come to see the train arrive on its trial run it seemed as if a "migrant family member," was returning home after a long time.

"I saw trains that ran on coal and then the steam engine and now the modern train. The phase-wise transformation is like the growth of my child whom I haven't seen for many years. I was happy and cherished the sight of it arriving in the station," Nadaf said.

Pratap Kumar Bhagat who also was present at the station echoed Nadaf's sentiments. "I felt as if my son was back home after many years. When a distant family member returns from abroad it brings happiness and prosperity to family, the train similarly is hope for employment and richness for us."

The Konkan Railway delivered two modern Diesel-Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains to the Nepal Railway for Jaynagar-Kurtha broad gauge line on Friday.

In May 2019, Konkan Railways Corporation Ltd had signed a contract agreement with Nepal to supply two 1600 Hp DEMU train sets to operationalise railway link between Jaynagar in India and Kurtha in Nepal.

According to The Himalayan Times, the train service is expected to come into regular operation from November.

The newly manufactured train will cover a distance of 35 kilometres. The Government of India has been providing assistance to Nepal for the 69-kilometre railway line.

The route of the railway line is divided into three sectors.

The first sector which stretches from Jayanagar to Kurtha measures 35 kilometres while the second sector from Kurtha to Bhangaha in Mahottari-17 kilometres. The third sector is from Bangaha to Bardibas stretching 17 kilometers, which is still under construction. (ANI)

Hungry Ghosts and COVID-19 Not Scaring Away Singapore Home Buyers

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Singapore, September 21 (ANI): Last month, Singaporeans snapped up property at a rate not seen in two years in spite of the Chinese "hungry ghost" seventh month and the economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

1,047 new non-landed private residences (mainly flats and con
dominiums) were sold to Singaporeans in August, which is the highest figure for such properties sold to locals since July 2018. This surprising surge in property transactions has intrigued observers given Singapore economy's 13.2 per cent decline in the second quarter as well as the one per cent fall in property prices in the same period.

Furthermore, August is typically a slow month for property sales because most of August coincides with the Chinese lunar calendar's seventh month. This is an inauspicious time for Chinese, who make up about 76 per cent of Singapore's population, to conduct business and make large asset investments - for example purchases of houses or cars. In Chinese tradition and folklore centred around ancestor worship, during the seventh month, the gates of hell are opened and ghosts who may be deceased ancestors are given permission to roam to earth to look for food and entertainment.

To assuage these "underworld beings", the living would "celebrate" by burning joss paper, making food offerings, entertaining the ghosts through concert and stage performances and holding auctions of items like statues of deities, food hampers or TV sets, which have been blessed by priests or monks.

A total of 1,256 new non-landed private homes were sold in August this year to both locals and foreigners, making it the best August sale number since August 2012 when 1,427 units were transacted. According to the developers' sale survey by Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), private new home sales, excluding government-built housing, rose 16.3 per cent month on month from 1,080 units in July. Year on year, private home sales grew 6.5 per cent from 1,179. The number of units transacted was also at the highest level in 11 months and August represented the fourth consecutive month of higher sales.

Based on analysis by the research and consultancy arm of real estate firm OrangeTee & Tie, August property sales consisted of 49.5 per cent of units sold in the Rest of Central Region (RCR), 40.3 per cent in the suburban or Outside Central Region (OCR), with the remaining 10.2 per cent in the Core Central Region (CCR).

Singapore divides the island into three regions for statistical purpose in reporting property transactions. CCR covers areas popular with foreigners like the Central Business District (CBD), Orchard Road, Tanglin, Bukit Timah, Holland and Sentosa. RCR includes locations like Buona Vista, Toa Payoh and Queenstown.

August 2020 also saw the highest number of new non-landed properties launched by developers in over a year with 1,582 units made available for sale compared with 911 in August 2019.

Last month also saw the highest monthly sales volume of non-landed property sold to Singaporeans in two years. 1,047 or 83 per cent of non-landed homes were bought by Singapore citizens beating every month since July 2018 when 1,237 new units were bought by locals. The remaining 17 per cent were bought by permanent residents and foreigners. This is higher than the 9 per cent long-term average for property transactions by foreigners.

OrangeTee & Tie in their developer monthly sales analysis noted the increased interest from foreign buyers in the Singapore property market. Based on their data, the number of new non-landed homes bought by Singapore permanent residents rose to a two-year high of 139 units and foreigner purchases hit a seven-month high of 54 units last month. In the last three months from June to August, foreigners bought 421 non-landed homes in Singapore surpassing the sum of transactions in the preceding eight months.

Based on 2017 statistics, Chinese nationals form the largest group of foreigners buying a property in Singapore. Indians rank fourth after Malaysians and Indonesians.

Although the latest figures do not provide a breakdown of property purchasers based on nationalities, based on anecdotal on-ground observations, analysts are speculating that the bulk of foreign buyers in the last few months could be mainland Chinese looking for a safe haven for their assets.

"The passage of the national security law, as well as uncertainty from the recent increase in US-China tensions, could be possible reasons for the jump in transactions by mainland Chinese buyers," Christine Sun, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee & Tie was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying.

Despite the punitive 20 per cent additional buyers' stamp duty (ABSD) slapped on foreign purchases of Singapore property, many high net worth foreigners still believe that Singapore property is a good investment. Foreigners can only buy properties such as condominium units, flats or apartments or strata landed house in an approved condominium development. They are usually not permitted to buy landed residential property.

Besides, increased foreign interest in Singapore property, another reason for the uptick in property purchases is the pent-up demand built up during Singapore's pandemic lockdown (locally called "circuit breaker") from 7 April to 1 June. New families and residents looking for new homes earlier in the year had to wait for a couple of months before starting to house hunt as property marketing activities went into a hiatus and show flats closed.

In addition, Singaporeans consider property as a relatively secure alternative asset class and a good hedge against inflation. Especially with the backdrop of increasing economic uncertainty and the volatile financial markets coupled with a low-interest-rate environment.

Despite the increase in demand, property prices in Singapore have remained relatively stable. Singapore's URA data showed that overall prices of private residential properties increased just 0.3 per cent in Q2 2020 compared with a one per cent decrease in the previous quarter. (ANI)

Multi-pronged approach adopted to strengthen protection along border with Pakistan: MHA

Minister of State Home Affairs Nityanand Rai. (File photo)

New Delhi [India], September 21 (ANI): A multi-pronged approach has been adopted by the government to strengthen border protection along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, according to Union Minister Nityanand Rai on Monday.

The Minister of State (MoS) Home Affairs, in a written reply in the U
pper House, said, "Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach to strengthen border protection, which inter-alia includes strengthening of border infrastructure, multi-tiered deployment of border guarding forces along International Border/Line of Control, construction of border fencing."

The reply to a question posed by MP Jyotiraditya Scindia further adds that improved technological surveillance, weapons and equipment for security forces, improved intelligence and operational coordination are also being carried out.

Apart from these, the forces are also conducting special operations based on vulnerability mapping, anti-tunnelling exercise and are also taking pro-active action against intruders. (ANI)

Paytm accuses Google of trying to dominate India's digital ecosystem

Paytm says it did not break any rules and there was no violation.

Noida (Uttar Pradesh) [India], September 21 (ANI): Financial services app Paytm has accused Google of making policies that are over and above the laws of India after it was briefly delisted from the Playstore last week.

"As a startup, we are running law-abiding businesses and building for India. Goo
gle and its employees are making policies which are over and above the laws of our country, and are arbitrarily implementing them," it said in a blogpost.

Paytm said Google owns Android which is the operating system on which over 95 per cent of smartphones in India run. Google, as a result, has enormous control over which apps you download through its Playstore policies.

"It also makes billions of dollars in advertising revenues from the Indian startups that make these apps. In many cases like maps, email, payments, shopping and cloud storage, Google also has apps that compete with other apps, including, of course, the apps that are made by Indian startups."

Paytm said it had launched a campaign where users could collect cricket stickers and scratch cards to earn UPI cashback. The offer was applicable on recharges, utility payments, UPI money transfers and adding money to Paytm wallet.

On September 18, it got an email from Google Play Support informing that the Paytm Android app had been delisted.

This was the first time that Google was sending it a notification regarding its UPI cashback and scratch cards campaign.

"Contrary to accepted practise, we were not given any opportunity to respond to their concerns or put forth our views. We maintain that our cashback campaign was within guidelines, as well as all laws of the land. We did not break any rules and there was no violation. It is not related to gambling in any manner whatsoever," said Paytm. (ANI)

PM Modi expresses grief at loss of lives in Bhiwandi building collapse

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (File Photo)

New Delhi [India], September 21 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed condolences to the bereaved families in the building collapse incident in Maharashtra's Bhiwandi.

"Saddened by the building collapse in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families. Praying for a quick r
ecovery of those injured. Rescue operations are underway and all possible assistance is being provided to the affected," Prime Minister Modi said in a tweet on Monday.

At least ten people were killed after a three-storey building collapsed in Patel Compound area here on Monday morning.

The incident happened at around 3:40 am. Five people were also injured. The rescue operation by NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) is underway at the site of building collapse in Bhiwandi, Thane.

According to the NDRF, the estimated number of people trapped at the site is between 25 to 30. This number may change as the rescue operation is in progress.

"As many as 20 people were rescued by the locals," the NDRF had said earlier.

Meanwhile, one more person has been rescued from under the debris at the building site. Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde visits the site of the incident. (ANI)

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