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Importance of enhanced diplomatic ties among neighboring nations cited

Tokyo, Japan – Improvement in diplomatic relations among “neighboring nations” is desirable in principle. Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper stressed this in the wake of President Duterte’s pivot to China. “But if they disrespect the rule of law for the sake of narrow bilateral interest, that would be a grave concern for the Asian region,” the Japanese newspaper said in a Saturday editorial, referring to Duterte’s Beijing visit. After the China trip, President Duterte is taking his diplomatic road show to Japan. Duterte told Japanese public broadcaster NHK that his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will center on economic cooperation and “shared interest” in an interview ahead of his three-day visit. “Now the most important thing there is the shared interest... it’s about the South China Sea,” he said. Duterte has made a habit of …

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60 dead in attack at police academy

Quetta, Pakistan— Heavily-armed Islamist militants wearing suicide vests stormed a Pakistani police academy, killing at least 60 people and wounding dozens more, officials said Tuesday, in one of the deadliest extremist attacks this year. Three gunmen from a Pakistani Taliban-linked group burst into the sprawling academy, targeting sleeping quarters that are home to some 700 recruits, sending terrified young men fleeing. ''I saw three men in camouflage whose faces were hidden carrying Kalashnikovs,'' one cadet told reporters. ''They started firing and entered the dormitory but I managed to escape over a wall.'' The attack on the Balochistan Police College, around 20 kilometres east of provincial capital Quetta, began at around 11:10 pm Monday, with gunfire continuing to ring out at the site for several hours. Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister of Balochistan province, told reporters …

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Top Chinese Communist Party meeting starts in Beijing

Beijing,  — A key conclave of China's Communist Party elite kicked off Monday in Beijing, as leader Xi Jinping seeks to tighten his control over the organization. Nearly 400 top members of the world's most powerful political party have gathered at the exclusive Jingxi Hotel to discuss changes to party structure and management for four days. They will focus on reforming the ''norms for political life'' and the party's internal rules for supervising cadres, Xinhua said.    The dry rhetoric around the Sixth Plenum, as the meeting is known, hides what may be a ferocious, high-stakes battle for control over the world's second-largest economy. ''This year's plenum on party-building is key to Xi's entire political project, and could very well turn out to be the most important of his first term,'' said Trey McArver, …

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‘Crazy’ hike in Saudi visa fees could impact business ties

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia  — A seven-fold hike in visa fees to do business in Saudi Arabia risks deterring the foreign investment needed to transform its oil-dependent economy, diplomats and other sources say. But a senior Saudi business leader has dismissed such concerns, insisting the country’s most sought-after business partners could easily afford the new charges. “It’s incredibly short-sighted,” a Riyadh-based diplomat said of the changes which took effect this month. “They’re obviously bleeding and they want to put the cost on foreigners as much as they can,” he said, asking for anonymity. “It’ll end up costing them a lot more than what they gain in visa payments.” Higher visa fees are one of many moves adopted by the kingdom to cover a loss in oil revenue which has slumped by 68 percent over the …

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Colombia, FARC try to save peace process

Havana – Colombia's government and Marxist FARC rebels on Saturday started talks on how to retool a peace deal, rejected in a referendum last month that would end Latin America's longest civil war. ''Meeting of delegates and advisers to Government and FARC in Havana. Starting constructive dialogue. Let's get peace done,'' the government side said on Twitter. ''It's an optimistic atmosphere. Let's get peace,'' the lead FARC negotiator Timoleon Jimenez (Timochenko) tweeted. The sides are ''trying to find common ground,'' he said. Santos, who has staked his legacy on making peace, had extended the army's ceasefire to December 31 if no solution to the impasse is found by then. The FARC, which had criticized Santos deadline, has also confirmed its willingness to continue negotiations and maintain a bilateral ceasefire. The Colombian leader won the Nobel Peace …

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Rina, young Filipino-Japanese model taking world by storm

Aged just 17 and still living with her family, Rina Fukushi has seen more of the world than most Japanese schoolgirls. She is the newest model sensation making waves in Europe and New York, wowing on the runway for the likes of Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs when not chowing down on hamburgers or playing with her little brother. Discovered at 14, hailed by Vogue as "ultra-cool" and "eye-catching" with her enormous eyes, thick eyebrows and bee-sting lips, she is already the veteran of seasons in Paris, Milan and New York -- giving American models Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner a run for their money. "I always believed I could be a star from the moment I was scouted. But at the same time, I still can't believe it's real," says Fukushi, delightfully …

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Inspired by 007, Mexico to hold Day of Dead parade

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - The opening scene of the movie "Spectre" shows James Bond chasing a bad guy through a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City -- except there has never been such a procession. But life is about to imitate art. Inspired by the film, officials decided to hold a similar parade on October 29 that will start at the Angel of Independence monument and end at the historic Zocalo square. The procession will have hundreds of volunteers and will "revisit the props and the wardrobe of the well-known film Spectre," the city government said in a statement on Thursday. In the film, the British spy played by Daniel Craig goes after a bad guy through a parade featuring giant skeletons floating among people dancing with their faces painted as skulls. The …

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Planet’s longest hot streak in 137 years ended Tuesday

Miami– The planet’s longest hot streak in 137 years of record-keeping came to an end Tuesday, with last month registering as the second warmest September in modern times, said US government scientists. However, the trend of upward temperatures remains clear, with the year so far, from January to September, still the most scorching since 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in its monthly climate report. “September, 2016 was the second highest for the month of September in the NOAA global temperature dataset record,” said the report. “This ends the longest streak in the 137-year record of 16 consecutive months to reach a new monthly high global temperature.” September did not miss the record by much – it was just 0.07 Fahrenheit (0.38 Celsius) cooler than the record warmth of September, 2015 …

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Spending cuts a must in Gulf despite oil recovery – IMF

Dubai– A modest recovery in oil prices falls short of filling budgetary gaps in crude-exporting Gulf countries, the International Monetary Fund said, stressing the need to cut spending. The price of the region's main commodity has partially rebounded and is hovering around $50 per barrel having hit a 10-year low of less than $30 in January, from a peak of more than $100 in mid-2014. The recovery ''will definitely help in terms of the financial numbers for this year'' for the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Masood Ahmed, the IMF's director for the Middle East. ''But it doesn't really change the fundamental outlook for GCC countries or the challenges that face them,'' he told AFP in an interview Tuesday. Oil was expected to stabilize at around $60 per barrel in the medium …

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Scientists launch unprecedented Antarctic research mission

LONDON – More than 50 researchers from 30 countries are to carry out the first scientific full circumnavigation of Antarctica in an attempt to measure pollution and climate change, with the official launch held on Monday. The international team will cruise on Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov, leaving Cape Town on December 20 and returning on March 18 next year, braving hostile conditions in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of humankind’s effect on the Southern Ocean.     The Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition (ACE) will be the first scientific mission to study all the major islands in the vast ocean, as well as the Antarctic land mass. “The idea is to visit the islands around Antarctica, which is scientifically extraordinarily interesting,” businessman Frederik Paulsen, a founder of the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) and ACE …

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