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China To Suspend US Navy Visits To Hong Kong Over New Law

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China To Suspend US Navy Visits To Hong Kong Over New Law

China has on Monday suspended visits by US Navy ships and aircraft to Hong Kong after Washington passed legislation last week backing pro-democracy protesters in the semi-autonomous territory.

China’s Foreign Ministry announced that the measures were in response to U.S. legislation passed last week supporting anti-government protesters. It said it had suspended taking requests for U.S. military visits indefinitely, and warned of further action to come.

The ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying said at a news briefing in Beijing, “we urge the U.S. to correct the mistakes and stop interfering in our internal affairs. China will take further steps if necessary to uphold Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity and China’s sovereignty.”

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Beijing also unveiled sanctions against a number of US human rights groups.

Hua said China would sanction organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House and others that she said had “performed badly” in the Hong Kong unrest, but did not specify what form the measures would take.

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Last week, President Donald Trump signed the Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, a law that mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.

The legislation was backed by U.S. lawmakers who are sympathetic to the protesters and have criticized Hong Kong police for cracking down on the pro-democracy movement.

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Amid the ongoing protests, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said she’ll accelerate dialogue but hasn’t offered any concessions since the elections.

The protests are blamed for driving the economy into recession. Tourism, airline and retail sectors have been hit particularly hard, with retail sales down about 20%.

Amid broader tensions between US and China, visits have at times been refused and two U.S. ships were denied access in August.

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Russia And Ukraine Agree To Ceasefire By The End Of 2019

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Russia And Ukraine Agree To Ceasefire By The End Of 2019

Russian and Ukrainian leaders have agreed to a ceasefire and to swap prisoners by the end of the year.  This agreement was reached during a four-way meeting in Paris on Monday involving France and Germany.

The four heads of state said they had made progress and that just talking was a key step forward. They are to meet again in four months.

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Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky said he was confident the ceasefire would take place this month.  In a late-night press conference, Zelensky outlined both steps forward and progress still to be made.

This is the first meeting between Zelensky and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, since the Ukrainian president took office earlier this year. It’s the first such four-way summit since 2016.

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Putin confirmed that there was a possible thaw between Russia and Ukraine he said there was progress on most issues.

These talks are an effort to resolve the ongoing conflict between the two countries—conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives since 2014. Both sides have since accused each other of failing to honor a 2015 peace agreement.  But president Zelensky, a political newcomer, has made ending the conflict a priority.

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International Journalist Group: Fewer Media Staff Killed This Year

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International Journalist Group: Fewer Media Staff Killed This Year

The International Federation of Journalists said on Monday far fewer journalists are being killed this year compared to last.   But it warned that part of the reason may be that media workers are going to the most dangerous areas in fewer numbers.

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The IFJ said 49 journalists have been killed so far this year, down from 95 overall last year. The group says even if it is good that journalists show more caution, it also means that the public is less informed about some of the worst war and human rights claims.

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IFJ general secretary, Anthony Bellanger said that lack of security that has led to loss of lives among journalists and media workers in several conflict zones in recent years has deterred many journalists from covering these events from the field.  He said this has resulted in people being less informed about matters of public interest.

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French Pension Strikes Expand, Police Gird For New Protests 

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French Pension Strikes Expand, Police Gird For New Protests 

French airport workers, teachers and others joined nationwide strikes on Tuesday as unions stepped up pressure on the government to scrap changes to the national retirement system.

Police ordered shops and restaurants closed in many parts of Paris, for fear of violence springing up on the fringes of what government opponents hope is another mass march in the afternoon. At least 800,000 persons demonstrated around France when the strike movement kicked off last Thursday.

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Protests were also ongoing on Tuesday in other cities, as the strike pushes on into a sixth straight day.  Unions fear president Emmanuel Macron’s retirement reform will force people to work longer for smaller pensions.

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Only about a fifth of French trains ran normally on Tuesday.  Tourists were frustrated at empty train stations and cancelled trains.  Most Paris subways were grounded.

Overall the number of striking workers is lower than last week but travelers’ patience is wearing thin, as commuters struggle to squeeze on scarce regional trains to get to work.

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Air France, the national carrier, said the strike will ground more than a quarter of its domestic traffic on Tuesday.

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