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Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during Formula One pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Barcelona
F1 in talks over second China GP
16 April 2019, 10:36 AM

Formula One is in talks with six local governments in China this week about holding a second Grand Prix in the country, a senior F1 official told AFP, with a Beijing road race said to have been floated.

A second grand prix, most likely on the streets, would complement the existing one on the $450 million Shanghai International Circuit.

No country currently has two Formula One races, although F1 officials are negotiating for a second Grand Prix in the United States.

Formula One’s landmark 1 000th race took place in Shanghai on Sunday, underlining China’s growing role as the sport’s US-based owner looks to Asia.

A source with knowledge of the matter told AFP that a race on the streets of the Chinese capital Beijing has been raised as one idea.

Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, did not confirm or deny the road-race plan for Beijing when approached by AFP.

“In terms of interest, we would be highly interested in a street race,” he said.

“It would be a nice juxtaposition to the purpose-built, extraordinary facility that we have here,” Bratches told AFP in Shanghai.

“Our intent is to bring our show to the people.”

Bratches said Formula One chiefs will this week embark on a visit to six potential host cities in China.

“There’s meetings set up in each with government officials to talk about identifying a second city to host a grand prix,” Bratches said.

“We think there’s an opportunity to grow from that perspective.”

Elevate the brand

Liberty Media, which took over Formula One in early 2017 in a multibillion-dollar deal, wants to have more street races, believing that is the best way to attract new fans.

Next year, the bustling Vietnamese capital Hanoi will host an F1 road race, while on Saturday crowds watched China’s Zhou Guanyu drive a Formula One car in central Shanghai.

“If you want to elevate the brand to the casual fan and the non-fan to move them up the ladder to become avids, you’re going to need to… demonstrate and show to them what this sport is about,” Bratches said.

The shift to China, the world’s most populous country and home to a growing number of motorsport fans, has angered some traditionalists.

There was talk of moving the milestone 1,000th race to Silverstone, in England, the unofficial home of Formula One and which staged the first race back in 1950.

But staging it in Shanghai was apt, said Bratches, who says it will not be long until there is a Chinese driver and team in the sport.

“It did not take us long to land on Shanghai (for the 1 000th race),” he said.

“We have no regrets about it and we’d make the same decision (again).”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gives an address after the gunmen attack in Minya.
Egypt parliament to vote on extending Sisi rule
16 April 2019, 9:54 AM

Egypt’s parliament, packed with loyalists of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, is to vote on Tuesday on changes to the Constitution that could keep the former military chief in power until 2030.

The proposed amendments were initially introduced in February by a parliamentary bloc supportive of Sisi and updated this week after several rounds of parliamentary debates.

It includes changing Article 140 of the Constitution to allow the Egyptian president to extend his current four-year term, which ends in 2022, by two years.

A further change would permit Sisi to stand for another six-year term and potentially remain president until 2030.

Sisi led the army’s overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader’s rule.

He won his first term as president in 2014 and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97% of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.

His government has been widely criticised by human rights groups for the repression of political opponents.

But Mohamed Abu-Hamed, one of the members of parliament who pushed for Constitutional amendments to keep Sisi in power, is adamant that the changes are a must.

“The Constitution in 2014 was written under tough exceptional circumstances,” he told AFP.

He hailed Sisi as a president who “took important political, economic and security measures… (and) must continue with his reforms,” in the face of the unrest gripping neighbouring countries following the toppling of veteran president Omar al-Bashir in Sudan and the escalation of the conflict in Libya.

Keeping Sisi in power, he added, reflects “the will of the people”.

Authoritarian rule

Since Sisi overthrew Morsi, Egypt has drawn heavy international criticism for its sweeping crackdown on dissent.

The authorities have jailed thousands of Morsi’s supporters as well as liberal and secular activists, including a popular blogger, actors, singers and journalists.

Last week, Human Rights Watch warned that the amendments, which would also increase the military’s political role and grant Sisi control over the judiciary, would “institutionalise authoritarianism”.

As Sisi visited Washington for talks with President Donald Trump, it urged Congress, to withhold endorsement of the Egyptian president’s bid to extend his rule.

“Congress needs to use its levers to pressure the Egyptian president to reverse course, starting with withdrawing these constitutional amendments set to consolidate authoritarian rule,” said HRW’s Michael Page.

As well as a crackdown on dissent, Sisi has overseen a military campaign against Islamic State group-linked militants based in the Sinai Peninsula

On Tuesday, the 596-seat parliament will also vote on a controversial article which critics fear might allow the military a greater influence in Egyptian political life.

The vote is expected to be swift after the bill passed by an overwhelming majority earlier this year.

If the bill is passed by a majority of two thirds, parliament will then hold a referendum in which Egyptians will vote on the raft of amendments.

Other proposed amendments include a quota for women’s representation of no less than 25 percent in parliament and forming a second parliamentary chamber.

Human rights groups and opposition parties say the government has intensified its crackdown on dissent with a wave of arrests ahead of the vote.

Small toy figures are seen in front of a displayed Huawei and 5G network logo in this illustration picture
Huawei secured 40 commercial contracts to build 5G infrastructure
16 April 2019, 8:55 AM

Huawei Technologies, one of the world’s biggest smartphone makers, has not had talks with Apple Inc about supplying it with 5G chipsets, Rotating Chairman Ken Hu said on Tuesday.

Hu made the remark at the company’s annual global analyst summit at its headquarters in Shenzhen in southern China. His comment comes after founder Ren Zhengfei told CNBC that Huawei was “open” to selling its fifth generation (5G) chips to Apple.

“We have not had discussions with Apple on this issue,” Hu said, reiterating that Huawei does not plan to become a chipset vendor at this time. He also said he looked forward to Apple’s competition in the 5G phone market.

Hu said Huawei had secured 40 commercial contracts to build 5G telecommunications infrastructure as at the end of March, up from a previously disclosed tally of more than 30.

Huawei’s outlook has come under a cloud over the past year with the United States voicing concerns that its equipment could be used by the Chinese government for espionage. Washington has also urged allies to ban Huawei from building 5G mobile networks.

Huawei has dismissed the security concerns as unfounded.

Huawei is also the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker. Its inhouse semiconductor arm, HiSilicon, also designs chipsets that are used in its products.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in an interview with CNBC this week that the company is “open to” selling its 5G modem chips to Apple, without elaborating.

His comments came after repeated denials from Huawei that it had any intention of becoming a chip vendor to compete against the likes of Qualcomm and Intel.

Huawei in January launched its 5G modem Balong 5000, which it said is the industry’s most powerful, as well as a 5G base station chipset dubbed Tiangang.

The company last month reported a 25% rise in net profit in 2018 to 59.3 billion yuan ($9 billion), even as revenue from its network equipment business fell 1.3% to 294 billion yuan due to telecommunications industry investment cycles.

Detained Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo arrive at Insein court in Yangon, Myanmar
Jailed Myanman Reuters reporters win Pulitzer Prizes
16 April 2019, 7:52 AM

Reuters won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, one for revealing the massacre of 10 Muslim Rohingya men by Buddhist villagers and Myanmar security forces, and another for photographs of Central American migrants seeking refuge in the United States.

The awards marked the second year in a row that Reuters has won two Pulitzers, the most prestigious prize in American journalism. Reuters has won seven since 2008.

Two of this year’s honourees have been jailed for 490 days in Myanmar for their role in uncovering the killings.

“While it’s gratifying to be recognized for the work, public attention should be focused more on the people about whom we report than on us: in this case, the Rohingya and the Central American migrants,” Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said.

In other categories, coverage of mass shootings in the United States and investigations into US President Donald Trump featured prominently. The New York Times and the Washington Post also took two Pulitzers each.

Reuters and the Associated Press were both awarded prizes for international reporting, with the AP winning for its coverage of war atrocities in Yemen.

The Reuters award was for an investigative report that revealed the massacre of 10 Rohingya at the village of Inn Din, in the heart of the conflict zone of Rakhine state in Myanmar.

Two young Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both Myanmar citizens, found a mass grave filled with bones sticking out of the ground. They went on to gather testimony from perpetrators, witnesses and families of victims.

They obtained three devastating photographs from villagers: two showed the 10 Rohingya men bound and kneeling; the third showed the mutilated and bullet-ridden bodies of the same 10 men in the same shallow grave.

In December 2017, before Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo could complete their story, they were arrested in what international observers have criticized as an effort by authorities to block the report. The report, “Massacre in Myanmar,” was completed by colleagues Simon Lewis and Antoni Slodkowski and published in February of last year.

In September, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years imprisonment for violating the country’s Official Secrets Act.

“I’m thrilled that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo and their colleagues have been recognized for their extraordinary, courageous coverage, and our photojournalists for their moving pictures that show humanity defying huge obstacles,” Adler said. “I remain deeply distressed, however, that our brave reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are still behind bars.”

BORDER IMAGES

In the breaking news photography category, 11 Reuters photographers contributed pictures to “On the Migrant Trail to America,” a package of images showing asylum-seekers and other migrants from Central America at the US border.

One photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon showed migrants fleeing tear gas launched by US authorities into Mexico at the San Diego-Tijuana border. In the image a mother grabs her twin daughters by the arm, one in diapers and wearing rubber sandals, the other barefoot, as a teargas cannister emits its fumes.

In another image, an aerial photo, Mike Blake was the first to photograph the detention facility in Tornillo, Texas, where children walked in single file, like prisoners.

Goran Tomasevic captured an image in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world, of a rooster scratching in the dirt next to the slain body of a Barrio 18 gang member. Tomasevic was a previous finalist for his pictures of the war in Syria.

Mass shooting coverage honoured

The New York Times won a prize for explanatory reporting of Trump’s finances and tax avoidance and another for editorial writing by Brent Staples.

The Washington Post’s Lorenzo Tugnoli won the feature photography prize for images of the famine in Yemen and the newspaper’s Carlos Lozada also won for criticism.

The Wall Street Journal won the national reporting prize for uncovering Trump’s secret payoffs to two women during his campaign who claimed to have had affairs with him.

Coverage of mass shootings in the United States was also recognized four times.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel won the public service award for “exposing failings by school and law enforcement officials before and after the deadly shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” the Pulitzer board said. Seventeen people died in the massacre at the Parkland, Florida, high school on Feb. 14, 2018.

The staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette won the breaking news prize for its coverage of “immersive, compassionate” coverage of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that killed 11 people on October 27, 2018.

Pulitzer administrator Dana Canedy, upon announcing the winners, also offered admiration for a non-winner: the staff of the Eagle Eye student newspaper at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for its coverage of the killings.

The Pulitzer board also awarded a special citation to the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland, for “their courageous response to the largest killing of journalists in US history in their newsroom.” A gunman shot and killed five people there on June 28, 2018.

Sudanese demonstrators protest outside the Defence Ministry in Khartoum, Sudan April 14, 2019.
Sudan’s disparate opposition comes together post Bashir
16 April 2019, 5:30 AM

After decades of intense divisions, Sudan’s political opposition united recently to form a powerful three-pronged bloc that became part of the protest wave which ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir last week.

During Bashir’s politically repressive three-decade rule, Sudan had around 100 political parties. They ranged from Islamists to leftists and ran the gamut from ardent critics to regime loyalists.

A military transitional council is now set to rule the country for the next two years.

Veteran journalist Mahjoub Mohamed Saleh (91) mapped out the political trajectories of the burgeoning opposition movement for AFP.

Who is the Sudanese opposition?

“The opposition in Sudan now is made up of the (Paris-based) Nidaa Sudan, the National Consensus Forces and the Sudanese Professionals Association,” said Saleh, who was imprisoned several times during Bashir’s reign.

Collectively, the tripartite bloc is known as the Alliance for Freedom and Change.

Nidaa Sudan includes the Umma Party, the Sudanese Congress Party as well as armed movements such as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

The Umma Party is led by Oxford-educated Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was prime minister twice during the 1960s and 1980s and was ousted by Bashir’s 1989 coup.

He returned to Sudan this year after a year of self-imposed exile in Cairo.

Meanwhile, the “more radical” Sudanese Communist Party and the Baath Party alongside other leftist gatherings form the National Consensus Forces.

Lastly, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) is comprised of small political cadres mostly staffed by young, urban people counting academics, doctors and engineers among their ranks.

They have been the driving force behind mobilising thousands of demonstrators through their savvy and active social media usage to protest against Bashir since December 18.

The SPA has called on the transitional military council to immediately “hand over power” to a civilian administration and urged demonstrators to continue with their sit-ins.

How strong is the opposition now?

Protesters have been camped for several weeks in front of important government buildings throughout the country.

Saleh says the opposition bloc has been the most consistent and well-organised in agitating for tangible political change.

“For four months, these people were not afraid to put their bodies on the line,” he said.

Over 30 protesters have been killed in clashes with security forces since the uprising erupted.

The bloc has urged the forthcoming transitional government to arrest Bashir and a coterie of political elite figures who have been in power since the 1989 coup.

These include the powerful security and intelligence chiefs and leaders of Bashir’s National Congress Party.

“All the various parties that make up the opposition are now going to unite, sort out their differences and learn from their previous mistakes at this crucial time,” he added.

“But when things return to their natural state, political squabbles and factional in-fighting will ultimately emerge.”

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