China to complete 5th Antarctic station by 2022

As Beijing seeks a greater role in the South Pole, Chinese icebreaker ‘Xuelong,’ is bound for Antarctica with construction materials in tow to build the country’s fifth scientific research station on the continent.

The vessel set off from Shanghai on Wednesday and is due to arrive in New Zealand in around 18 days to stock up on supplies before heading on to Inexpressible Island in the Ross Sea of Antarctica’s Terra Nova Bay. ‘Xuelong’ (Snow Dragon) will deliver 550 metric tons of materials to the site where its 334-person crew will lay the foundations for Beijing’s new base.

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Not this place, it's a file photo © Mark Ralston

“This time around, we will build a 206-square-meter temporary base, which includes rooms for workers and a dock for large engineering machines, to facilitate future construction work,” Assistant Expedition Leader, Zhang Tijun told Asian News Network (ANN).

Located in an area with rich biodiversity, which makes it especially valuable for the scientists, construction is expected to be completed by 2022. The construction will meet all the international environmental protection criteria, according to Sun Bo, deputy director of the Polar Research Institute of China.

The Inexpressible Island project will become China’s third year-round base and fifth overall on the South Pole and will see Beijing, which joined the Antarctic race only in the mid-1980s, equaling Washington’s presence on the continent.

The five American stations, including three permanent ones, are currently equipped with dated hardware as the US Antarctic program faces financial constrictions.

As China continues on its quest to be a ‘polar power,’ Beijing continues to pour money into the continent, investing in stations as well as polar-capable aircraft and ships. ‘Xuelong,’ which was bought from a Ukrainian company in 1993, is currently the only active Chinese icebreaker, but domestically-built ‘Xuelong 2’ is expected to be put into use by 2019, according to Xinhua.

READ MORE: Dragon + Bear: China seeks Russia’s help in mastering Arctic, sets sights on Antarctic

An international treaty classes Antarctica as a scientific preserve, with no country allowed to claim territory there. Such a status “provides a precious opportunity to quickly develop China’s polar bases” on the continent, said Qin Weijia, director of the China Arctic and Antarctic Administration, as cited by AFP.

Although extraction of natural resources is banned at the South Pole for environmental reasons, some experts have expressed concerns that China’s interest in Antarctica is driven by the hope of drilling there to meet the vast energy demands of its growing economy.

It also hasn’t stopped Lin Shanqing, deputy director of China’s State Oceanic Administration, from urging the country to speed up “polar prospecting and extraction equipment.”

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China to complete 5th Antarctic station by 2022

As Beijing seeks a greater role in the South Pole, Chinese icebreaker ‘Xuelong,’ is bound for Antarctica with construction materials in tow to build the country’s fifth scientific research station on the continent.

The vessel set off from Shanghai on Wednesday and is due to arrive in New Zealand in around 18 days to stock up on supplies before heading on to Inexpressible Island in the Ross Sea of Antarctica’s Terra Nova Bay. ‘Xuelong’ (Snow Dragon) will deliver 550 metric tons of materials to the site where its 334-person crew will lay the foundations for Beijing’s new base.

Read more

Not this place, it's a file photo © Mark Ralston

“This time around, we will build a 206-square-meter temporary base, which includes rooms for workers and a dock for large engineering machines, to facilitate future construction work,” Assistant Expedition Leader, Zhang Tijun told Asian News Network (ANN).

Located in an area with rich biodiversity, which makes it especially valuable for the scientists, construction is expected to be completed by 2022. The construction will meet all the international environmental protection criteria, according to Sun Bo, deputy director of the Polar Research Institute of China.

The Inexpressible Island project will become China’s third year-round base and fifth overall on the South Pole and will see Beijing, which joined the Antarctic race only in the mid-1980s, equaling Washington’s presence on the continent.

The five American stations, including three permanent ones, are currently equipped with dated hardware as the US Antarctic program faces financial constrictions.

As China continues on its quest to be a ‘polar power,’ Beijing continues to pour money into the continent, investing in stations as well as polar-capable aircraft and ships. ‘Xuelong,’ which was bought from a Ukrainian company in 1993, is currently the only active Chinese icebreaker, but domestically-built ‘Xuelong 2’ is expected to be put into use by 2019, according to Xinhua.

READ MORE: Dragon + Bear: China seeks Russia’s help in mastering Arctic, sets sights on Antarctic

An international treaty classes Antarctica as a scientific preserve, with no country allowed to claim territory there. Such a status “provides a precious opportunity to quickly develop China’s polar bases” on the continent, said Qin Weijia, director of the China Arctic and Antarctic Administration, as cited by AFP.

Although extraction of natural resources is banned at the South Pole for environmental reasons, some experts have expressed concerns that China’s interest in Antarctica is driven by the hope of drilling there to meet the vast energy demands of its growing economy.

It also hasn’t stopped Lin Shanqing, deputy director of China’s State Oceanic Administration, from urging the country to speed up “polar prospecting and extraction equipment.”

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China to complete 5th Antarctic station by 2022

As Beijing seeks a greater role in the South Pole, Chinese icebreaker ‘Xuelong,’ is bound for Antarctica with construction materials in tow to build the country’s fifth scientific research station on the continent.

The vessel set off from Shanghai on Wednesday and is due to arrive in New Zealand in around 18 days to stock up on supplies before heading on to Inexpressible Island in the Ross Sea of Antarctica’s Terra Nova Bay. ‘Xuelong’ (Snow Dragon) will deliver 550 metric tons of materials to the site where its 334-person crew will lay the foundations for Beijing’s new base.

Read more

Not this place, it's a file photo © Mark Ralston

“This time around, we will build a 206-square-meter temporary base, which includes rooms for workers and a dock for large engineering machines, to facilitate future construction work,” Assistant Expedition Leader, Zhang Tijun told Asian News Network (ANN).

Located in an area with rich biodiversity, which makes it especially valuable for the scientists, construction is expected to be completed by 2022. The construction will meet all the international environmental protection criteria, according to Sun Bo, deputy director of the Polar Research Institute of China.

The Inexpressible Island project will become China’s third year-round base and fifth overall on the South Pole and will see Beijing, which joined the Antarctic race only in the mid-1980s, equaling Washington’s presence on the continent.

The five American stations, including three permanent ones, are currently equipped with dated hardware as the US Antarctic program faces financial constrictions.

As China continues on its quest to be a ‘polar power,’ Beijing continues to pour money into the continent, investing in stations as well as polar-capable aircraft and ships. ‘Xuelong,’ which was bought from a Ukrainian company in 1993, is currently the only active Chinese icebreaker, but domestically-built ‘Xuelong 2’ is expected to be put into use by 2019, according to Xinhua.

READ MORE: Dragon + Bear: China seeks Russia’s help in mastering Arctic, sets sights on Antarctic

An international treaty classes Antarctica as a scientific preserve, with no country allowed to claim territory there. Such a status “provides a precious opportunity to quickly develop China’s polar bases” on the continent, said Qin Weijia, director of the China Arctic and Antarctic Administration, as cited by AFP.

Although extraction of natural resources is banned at the South Pole for environmental reasons, some experts have expressed concerns that China’s interest in Antarctica is driven by the hope of drilling there to meet the vast energy demands of its growing economy.

It also hasn’t stopped Lin Shanqing, deputy director of China’s State Oceanic Administration, from urging the country to speed up “polar prospecting and extraction equipment.”

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‘Night of the Saudi long knives’: Who’s behind anti-corruption purge in oil-rich kingdom?

The arrests of members of the Saudi elite as part of a so-called anti-corruption purge came after consultations between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US investors as well as members of the Trump administration, investigative journalist Pepe Escobar told RT.

The Saudi crackdown had nothing to with corruption, Escobar stressed, saying that the Crown Prince “knows exactly what he’s doing – which is an old-style purge or what I called the ‘Night of the Saudi long knives’ where he got rid of any potential high-profile contenders against his one-man rule.” 

“Don’t forget, Saudi Arabia has no independent judiciary, no freedom of expression, no credible opposition. And in fact, King Salman isn’t ruling – who’s ruling is actually MBS [Mohammed bin Salman],” he said.

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© Reuters

The detentions of 11 Saudi princes, four ministers and dozens of business figures that shook the kingdom on Saturday weren’t as unexpected as the media outlets wanted the audience to believe, Escobar says. He explains that shortly before the arrests, in late October, “there was a famous ‘Davos in the Desert’ conference where the new crown prince and the new leadership outlined the future of Saudi Arabia as envisioned until 2030, which implies a lot of investment – especially, American investors… Larry Fink, Stephen Schwarzman.” 

Three thousand international politicians and businessman arrived in Riyadh for the Future Investment Initiative Conference, where bin Salman unveiled his plans to create a $ 500 billion investment zone, double the size of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund to $ 400 billion and restore a more tolerant order in the country. 

“And few days later, Jared Kushner [US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser] was in Riyadh where he has been bonding very closely with the Crown Prince. The next day there was the ‘Night of the long knives,’” Escobar said. “Trump has kept his hands off the matter,” Escobar said, adding that “what I get from some of my best sources – they [people close to Trump] have been doing business deals with the House of Saud [Saudi ruling royal family] for decades.” 

The agreement between Washington and Riyadh “involves personal deals; this involves new foreign policy that’s very complex and, especially, [includes] antagonizing Iran and Lebanon,” he said. 

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia accuses Lebanon of being ‘kidnapped’ by Hezbollah & ‘declaring war’ on Riyadh

On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia – a move which Escobar described as “completely absurd.” Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah has accused Riyadh of intimidating the PM, while the Saudis responded by accusing Lebanon of “declaring war” on the kingdom by allowing Hezbollah’s “aggression” against it, according to the Al-Arabiya broadcaster.

Those behind the Saudi Crown Prince don’t differentiate between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, Escobar believes. This makes a Saudi military conflict with the neighboring state a real possibility and “this is a very serious development.”

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Catalonia chaos: Pro-independence rallies block 60 roads & stop trains (VIDEOS)

Pro-independence protesters have brought Catalonia to a halt as part of a general strike to protest the imprisonment of the ousted Catalan leaders. Demonstrators blocked roads in over 60 places while train services were also at a standstill.

The general strike caused traffic chaos from around six o’clock on Wednesday morning. Major roadways such as the AP-7, which links France with Catalonia, and the A-2 from Barcelona to Madrid were affected.

Groups of protesters carried Catalan flags and called for the release of their jailed leaders. Eight former ministers were imprisoned on charges of rebellion and sedition following the October 1 referendum, which Spain considers illegal.

Meanwhile European arrest warrants were issued for sacked Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four of his ex-ministers who left Catalonia for Belgium. The five turned themselves into Belgian authorities and have since been granted bail.

They are due to appear in court in Brussels on November 17, as part of the European extradition procedure which could take several weeks to complete.

In the midst of the strike and ensuing protests, Spain’s Constitutional Court annulled the declaration of independence made by the Catalan parliament on October 27.

READ MORE: Catalonia’s declaration of independence annulled by Spanish court 

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Kleptocrat-owned media pick out perceived incrimination to target Russia – Keiser

“Oh my Gosh! Russia is involved!” The US media owned by the same kleptocrats who are hiding billions of dollars put out a story about Russian links exposed in the ‘Paradise Papers’ to deflect American watchers, said Max Keiser, host of RT’s Keiser Report.

The so-called ‘Paradise Papers,’ financial files leaked on Sunday, exposed where the wealthiest are hiding their incomes. It’s one of the biggest leaks of private documents in the world, revealing the financial dealings of the super-wealthy and powerful, from Royal families to famous global corporations.

A lot of news outlets have been trawling through the papers to find nefarious links between Russia and the US.

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Britain's Prince Charles © Lai Seng Sin

RT:  Lots of big names are mentioned in the papers. But do you think the Russia connection is receiving a disproportionate amount of media attention?

Max Keiser: Let’s talk about some numbers there. To put this into a broader context, the Tax Justice Network did a study a couple of years ago. They determined that between $ 21 and $ 31 trillion is held offshore. This means that hundreds of billions of dollars of taxes go uncollected. It means those who are paying tax are paying for the entire tax burden for various countries infrastructures, military, etc. You end up with what I would call apartheid, where you have got approximately 200,000 people in the world, who pay no tax and are able to invest without paying any tax. So they are compounding money at 20-22 percent a year without paying tax. So the billionaire class is escalating, we know this. Meanwhile, the poverty levels are continuing to rise because people are being ripped off by these corrupt countries in cahoots with these billionaires, who are placing the entire cost of running a society on those who can least afford it. And into the mix comes the social uprising – more violence, because naturally, if you have everything stolen from you, you have nothing to lose, so you become violent.

Now, to specifically answer your question about Russia being targeted by selectively picking out … here’s an elegant phrase – you’re trying to pick a fly poop from the pepper. So they look at this big scattershot of information, and with little tweezers, they try to pick out what they perceive to be incriminating data points. Then they build a scenario, and then the corporations that are owned by the same people that are hiding the wealth… There are only approximately six major media companies in America. Those are owned by the same kleptocrats that are hiding all these billions of dollars. They then put that story out there to deflect and confuse the average mainstream media watcher that “oh my Gosh, Russia is involved in this scandal! Russia is involved in Black Lives Matter! Russia is involved with Hillary losing the election because she is completely inept. Russia, Russia, Russia…”

I think Russia should open up some Russia branded companies here in America …Something with the Russian flavor to it, because Vladimir Putin T-shirts are selling well on Madison Avenue – Russian is the cash-in. And this incredible brand awareness in America from coast-to-coast – everything is about Russia. And the Russians start opening up shops here in America and cash-in on this Russia craze. Instead of just sitting back and trying to figure out the mentality of the American consumer and the American politician – because clearly there is no logic behind it – it is pure scapegoating.

The so-called ‘Paradise Papers,’ financial files leaked on Sunday, exposed where the rich are hiding their incomes. It’s one of the biggest leaks of private documents in the world, revealing the financial dealings of the super-wealthy and powerful from Royal families to famous global corporations.

A lot of news outlets have been trawling through the papers to find nefarious links between Russia and the US.

‘Tax the rich on transactions’

Steve Keen, Professor of Economics at Kingston University says the findings of the so-called Paradise Papers haven’t been surprising as “Tax evasion by the wealthy has been going on for decades, and we’ll never stop it.”

“We simply have to find a way to bring tax revenue back into the government that they can’t evade. And it will always manage to evade income tax,” he told RT.

Keen adds though that it won’t be easy to stop this thing from happening. Partly that’s “because we don’t understand how taxation actually works.”

“We think taxation is necessary to finance government spending. In fact, the government can spend regardless of taxation – the taxation simply takes large amounts of the money out of the system that government has spent into it because if we didn’t tax, we would have a risk of inflation.”

“Once you look at it that way, what the rich are actually doing – are siphoning off money that has been created by the government, accumulating it in offshore accounts and hanging onto the wealth, which should be recycled back into the economy. So the only way we can really stop it – is by forgetting about taxing them with income. Income tax works for workers – it doesn’t work for a corporation; it doesn’t work for the wealthy. We should tax them on transactions, and then they can’t evade unless they stop having transactions. If they stop having transactions, they will stop being wealthy,” he said.

RT:  What are the chances of that happening?

SK: It just takes politicians to understand how money is created. So I think it is almost virtually impossible. They continue spreading this myth that they have got to tax us to be able to spend, running austerity, which is unnecessary. All this fits in to actually loading the pockets of the rich. Maybe there is a connection…

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‘Mass is not a show’: Pope tells bishops to put down phones

Pope Francis apparently dislikes the way pilgrims and even priests and bishops take pictures with their smartphones during prayers. He urged them to put down their devices as Mass is a holy occasion and “not a show.”

“At a certain point the priest leading the ceremony says ‘lift up our hearts’. He doesn’t say ‘lift up our mobile phones to take photographs,’” the 80-year-old head of the Catholic Church told the audience who gathered in the Vatican’s Saint Peter’s Square on Wednesday, as cited by Vatican Radio. 

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© Henry Romero

“It’s so sad when I’m celebrating Mass here or inside the basilica and I see lots of phones held up –not just by the faithful, but also by priests and bishops! Please! Mass is not a show!” the pontiff said, adding that the holy prayer is first and foremost a celebration of the “resurrection of the Lord.”

This is not the first time the pontiff has spoken out against smartphones. In 2014 he urged young people to stop wasting time chatting online and fiddling with their smartphones. The pope was addressing German altar servers – young people who help the priest during religious services.

READ MORE: Pope Francis admits taking nap while praying…but says God’s OK with it

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, has become extremely popular for his open-minded speeches, as well as for his noted humility. Once he even shared 10 tips for living a happy, peaceful and fulfilled life.

The pontiff seems to be quite popular in the world of social media – he has over 14 million followers on his English-language Twitter account and 5 million on Instagram.

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Germany must legally recognize ‘third gender’ from birth – top court

Germany’s top court has called on the country’s parliament to legally recognize a ‘third gender’ which allows intersex people to identify as neither male nor female. Germany could become the first European country to allow a third gender on birth certificates.

The current law on civil status discriminates against intersex people as it rules out “the registration of a gender other than ‘male’ or ‘female,’” the Federal Constitutional Court said in a ruling on Wednesday. The German parliament should introduce new provisions into current legislation by December 31, 2018, it said.

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AFP Photo / Waltraud Grubitzsch Germany out

The court made its ruling in favor of an appeal brought earlier this year by an intersex person whose name hasn’t been revealed in the German media. The person was registered as female but chromosome analysis showed that the plaintiff was neither male nor female. The person brought the appeal to the top court after several lower courts had ruled against the bid for gender change in the birth register.

“Even if this person chose the option ‘no entry’ [for gender], it would not reflect that the complainant does not see themself as a genderless person, but rather perceives themself as having a gender beyond male or female (sic),” according to the ruling. Civil status is not “a marginal issue,” but rather a “position of a person within the legal system, as stated by the law,” the statement said. The German constitution does not require civil status to be “exclusively binary in terms of gender,” it added.

Germany’s Third Option activist organization has hailed the court’s decision. “We are completely overwhelmed and speechless. That’s a small revolution in the gender area,” the group wrote on Twitter.

According to the UN, intersex people are born “with sex characteristics that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.” Intersex traits can be “visible at birth” while in others “they are not apparent until puberty,” the agency says. Between 0.05 and 1.7 percent of the world population has intersex traits. “The upper estimate is similar to the number of red-haired people,” UN experts say.

READ MORE: Germany to become first European state to allow ‘third gender’ birth certificates  

In 2013, Germany became the first European country to allow parents of babies born with no clearly-defined gender characteristics to leave the ‘male/female’ field on birth certificates blank, creating a ‘third sex’ category in the public register. The law prevents parents from making hasty decisions on controversial genital surgeries for their newborns.

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Holocaust victims’ memorial stones uprooted in Berlin

Multiple “stumbling stones” bearing names of people murdered or abducted by the Nazis were uprooted overnight in Berlin, German media report. Police are investigating, and some local politicians blame far-right extremists for the theft.

The Holocaust memorial stones were stolen from Berlin’s districts of Neukoelln and Britz, the Berliner Kurier newspaper reported on Tuesday. Local residents reported more missing stones later in the day, prompting police to launch an investigation into the thefts. 

Police said it is unclear who was behind the thefts, adding that detectives specializing in politically-motivated crime had been dispatched, according to Deutsche Welle. While the probe is ongoing, some local politicians have already linked the incidents to far-right extremists.

READ MORE: German neo-Nazis list Berlin’s Jewish sites on anniversary of 1938 Kristallnacht pogroms

“If someone makes the effort to remove them, systematically picking out each stone, then they have political motives,” a spokesman for Fritz Felgentreu, a Social Democrat MP, told Deutsche Welle. He noted there was “a strong far-right presence” in Neukoelln. 

Local activists tweeted that the missing stones will be “replaced as quickly as possible.” In another tweet, they thanked supporters for their “overwhelming response and numerous donations” since the theft was announced.

Invented by the German artist Guenter Demnig in 1996, memorial plaques the size of cobblestones are meant to remind passersby of the Jewish, communist, homosexual, gypsy and other victims of the Nazi regime. Sunk into pavements outside houses in Germany and beyond, the Stolpersteine – “stumbling stones” – are meant to immortalize the victims of Hitler’s Germany. There are more than 60,000 stones laid down all over Europe.

Demnig laid the first Stolperstein in Cologne back in 1992, exactly 50 years after SS chief Heinrich Himmler directed the deportation of German gypsies to extermination camps. Over time, Demnig’s concept has grown into one of the world’s most renowned memorial projects.

Not everyone, however, is happy about the Stolpersteine project. Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria (IKG), argued in 2014 the stumbling stones are a desecration of the memory of the dead. Knobloch, herself a Holocaust survivor, insisted the victims should never be remembered with memorial plates dug into the ground. 

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Tooth tests put bite into age claim of refugee on trial for raping & killing EU official’s daughter

A refugee who allegedly raped and murdered a 19-year-old girl in Germany and claimed he was “underage” turns out to be in his twenties, experts told a court on Tuesday. A tooth the accused kept from a dentist visit proved not-so lucky for him after lab analysis.

Hussein Khavari, originally from Afghanistan, is accused of attacking, strangling and raping Maria Ladenburger, a 19-year-old medical student who disappeared while on her way home from a party in the city of Freiburg, southwestern Germany, in October 2016. Her body was found by locals on the bank of the Dreisam River in the city, which is home to one of Germany’s elite universities.

A single strand of black hair, partially dyed blonde, and a scarf found on the riverbed, along with several DNA samples found on the victim’s body led investigators to Hussein, who was later spotted on CCTV footage and brought in for questioning. The suspect arrived in Germany as an unaccompanied asylum-seeker in 2015, with no identity papers, and had been living with a Germany foster family since. At the time of his arrest, Hussein told police he was 17 years old.

However, on Tuesday, two experts who made the analysis of his teeth told the court that the accused is far from being 17, Badische Zeitung reported. Research scientist Ursula Wittwer-Backofen said that she had analyzed one of the suspect’s canine teeth from the upper jaw.

The tooth was pulled by a dentist in February 2016, eight months before his alleged crime, and Khavari had kept the tooth ever since, the paper said. The analysis showed that the accused is about 26 years old, Wittwer-Backofen said, adding that his age may even be 30.

Another expert, Andreas Schmeling from the Institute of Legal Medicine, analyzed Hussein’s wisdom teeth. He concluded that Hussein’s absolute minimum age is 19 years, while he could be 22-23 years old.

READ MORE: Second-time offender Afghan refugee charged with murder, rape of German student

If the court takes into account the experts’ testimony, Hussein could be convicted as an adult. This means that he would face life imprisonment.

The victim was the daughter of Clemens Ladenburger, an assistant to the director-general of the European Commission’s Legal Service since 2008, German media reported back in 2016. Maria Ladenburger had worked as a volunteer in one of the local refugee shelters in her spare time.

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