Tuesday, June 5, 2018

“linguicide” of the Dutch language

Hague: Dutch education officials said Monday they aim to rein in the spread of courses taught in English in the country´s universities and slow the flood of foreign students.
The move comes amid a growing outcry at the infiltration of English language courses in Dutch higher education institutions, with many warning that Dutch students are being disadvantaged and the language is under threat.
Even if “the internationalisation of higher education brings added value… there must always be a place for Dutch students” at the country´s 14 universities, the education ministry insisted.
The report comes after the largest lecturers´ union, known as BON, warned of the looming “linguicide” of the Dutch language if the trend continues.
Even though about 65 percent of bachelor´s degrees are taught in Dutch, only about 15 percent of master´s degrees are. And almost a quarter of students obtaining a master´s are foreigners.
Britain´s exit from the European Union next year has only accelerated the phenomenon, with international students flocking to the Netherlands drawn by the large number of English-taught degree courses.
“The clauses in the law pertaining to the choice of language in higher and vocational education must be revised,” the ministry said.
Greater accent must be placed on “accessibility to education for Dutch students”.
BON has launched a lawsuit accusing Twente University and the University of Maastricht of killing the Dutch language through the “Anglicisation” of courses as they both offer two master´s degree courses in psychology exclusively in English.
They termed the offers by the two universities as an “impoverishment” and a “dangerous abandonment” of the Dutch language.
But Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven also cautioned against becoming too inward-looking.
“I represent an open Dutch society in which we dare to look beyond the borders,” she said, quoted in the statement.
“We must not let ourselves be scared by stories in which internationalism is something negative which is swamping us,” she added.
Media agencies

US & NK meet on June12, Singapore

With hectic preparations are on for a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were going well, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Monday, and the two were tentatively scheduled to meet at 9 AM Singapore time (6 AM PST) on June 12.
After having cancelled the summit on Friday, Trump said the meeting was back on after he received the North Korean delegation bearing a letter from Kim.
Asked about the contents of Kim’s letter, Sanders declined to “get into the specifics” but added: “We feel like things are continuing to move forward and good progress has been made.”
“The president has been receiving daily briefings on North Korea from his national security team,” she added.
After meeting a senior official from Pyongyang at the White House on Friday, Trump said North Korea was being more cooperative and that although sanctions would remain in place, he would hold off on imposing new ones.
Trump said he didn’t want to use the term “maximum pressure” any more, because the two sides were “getting along”.
On consisting to the  question at a news briefing on Monday whether the “maximum pressure” campaign would continue, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters: “We have sanctions on, they are very powerful and we would not take those sanctions off unless North Korea denuclearized.”
The Trump administration has credited its “maximum pressure” campaign, supported by the United Nations and major world powers, for helping bring North Korea to the table to negotiate giving up its nuclear weapons.
Top Senate Democrats on Monday told Trump not to make a deal that leaves North Korea with nuclear weapons and threatened to maintain or toughen sanctions on Pyongyang if that condition is not met.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and ranking Democrats from national security committees released a letter to Trump laying out demands for any pact, which they said must be permanent.
They also urged him to lean hard on Kim’s ally China to ensure it “will do all it can to help secure an agreement and then insist on strict North Korean compliance with such an agreement”.
Easing sanctions under a deal would likely need approval from Congress which has passed sanctions on North Korea.
Since most legislation needs 60 votes to pass the 100-member Senate and Trump’s fellow Republicans hold only 51 seats, that would require Democratic support.

29th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square 115 Ks turnout

People in Hong Kong have gathered for an annual memorial service for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.Organizers say about 115,000 people turned out on Monday for this year’s gathering to mark the 29th anniversary of the incident. That’s 5,000 more than last year.
Participants lit candles in memory of the victims of the fatal crackdown on pro-democracy activists, many of whom were students.
The demonstrators demanded that the Chinese government re-evaluate the incident, which it says left 319 people dead.
Critics say the number was far larger.
The organizers displayed a bust of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo at the rally. Liu was a symbol of the pro-democracy movement in the country. He died last year.
The demonstrators protested against the Chinese authorities’ continued surveillance of his widow, Liu Xia, and called for her release from house arrest.
They also criticized what they see as an intensifying crackdown on human rights lawyers in mainland China, as President Xi Jinping moves to solidify his one-person rule.
A 61-year-old participant said that people in Hong Kong need to make their voices heard in the international community about the deterioration of human rights and democracy in China.
About 100 people also held a rally in the Taiwanese city of Taipei on Monday night to remember the victims of the incident.
Wu Renhua, a former university lecturer, told the crowd what he saw when he joined the student-led protest on June 4th 29 years ago. Wu now lives in exile in the United States.
Wu said more than 200,000 troops were mobilized against the protest. He said troops fired at crowds randomly and tanks charged into them. He said children and medical staff giving first aid were among those killed.
Wu emphasized that the impact of Tiananmen continues. He said Chinese authorities still threaten veterans of the protest at home and abroad. He called on people at the rally to stand up and continue saying “no” to the Chinese government and Communist Party.
A man in his 20s said people in Taiwan need to sustain interest in how Chinese authorities persecute dissidents. Otherwise, he said Taiwan could lose its democracy just like what is happening in Hong Kong.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen delivered a message to people in mainland China on her Facebook page, using simplified Chinese characters.
She wrote that China is haunted by the 1989 tragedy. But she said it can be turned into a foundation to move toward a society that embraces freedom and democracy if Beijing faces up to history and admits using state violence on its citizens.
Tsai said she hopes the universal values of freedom and democracy can be enjoyed by people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Hani Mulki has resigned

Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani Mulki has resigned following widespread protests against plans to raise income tax. King Abdullah accepted Mulki’s resignation on Monday.
Media reports say the King has asked Omar al-Razzaz, the education minister, to form a new government as prime minister.
Mulki’s government sparked protests with a reform plan, backed by the International Monetary Fund, which included a steep tax hike.
Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in the capital Amman since last week, clashing with security forces.
It is unclear whether Mulki’s resignation will end demonstrations. Labor unions have vowed to continue protesting until the authorities give up the planned tax hike.
Jordan’s economy has been hit hard by regional insecurity in recent years, in particular due to conflicts in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Jordan has accepted nearly 700,000 refugees from Syria.

Merkel: Iran is a ‘concern’ for Israel’s security

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that she agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s activities in the Middle East are a concern, particularly for Israel’s security. She made the statement after a meeting in Berlin. “We agree that the question of Iran’s regional influence is worrying, especially for Israel’s security,” the chancellor said. Netanyahu’s European tour this week follows the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal which France, Germany and Britain have said they will continue to respect. The Israeli leader is also expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and possibly British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss ways to stop what Netanyahu called “Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional expansionism,” Reuters said.

Groupe PSA begins suspending joint ventures in Iran

Groupe PSA has begun to suspend its joint venture activities in Iran, the French carmaker said on Monday, following the withdrawal of the US from a nuclear pact signed with the country, Reuters reports. European signatories are scrambling to save the accord, by protecting trade with Iran against the re-imposition of US sanctions to dissuade Tehran from quitting the deal. “The group has begun to suspend its joint venture activities, in order to comply with US law by August 6,” PSA said in a statement. “With the support of the French government, the Groupe PSA is engaging with the US authorities to consider a waiver.” The suspensions do not alter PSA’s current financial guidance, the group said, adding that its Iranian activities accounted for less than 1 percent of revenue.

 Putin is set to visit Austria on Tuesday

 Putin is set to visit Austria on Tuesday – a country that traditionally has good relations with Moscow. His trip, however, might have wider implications for a Europe that seems to be at a crossroads.
Austria has had constructive and pragmatic –if not friendly– relations with Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union, since the establishment of the Second Republic back in 1955. Vienna has also strived to keep it that way through the recent turbulent years, marked by increased tensions between Russia and Europe.
Even though it had to join anti-Russian sanctions after Russia’s reunification with Crimea and the start of the Ukraine crisis, Austria repeatedly called for easing or even lifting the restrictions, pointing at their ineffectiveness and utter futility.
Austria was the first European country Putin visited in summer 2014, after the outbreak of the European conflict put a strain on Russia’s relations with the EU.
Now seems the right time to give these good relations a boost. Last month, the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz praised Russia as a “superpower” as he expressed Vienna’s desire to “keep the channels of communication with Russia open.”
In his interview with the Russian media ahead of Putin’s visit this week, he said he sees a “positive dynamic” in the development of bilateral relations, adding that they have “enormous potential.” Kurz also chose Russia as a destination for his first visit to a non-EU country after he took up the chancellor’s post in what could also be described as a positive sign.
His Austrian People’s Party’s coalition partners, the right-wing Freedom Party (FPO), hold an even more favorable view of Moscow. The FPO called for the lifting of anti-Russian sanctions on numerous occasions throughout these years and even vowed to fight for it as part of the Austrian government.
The FPO members also visited Crimea in 2017. Austria maintains strong economic ties with Russia, even though bilateral trade between the two nations has been severely hit by a series of sanctions and counter-sanctions imposed by Moscow and Brussels against one another over the course of the Ukraine crisis.
Economic ties seem to be recovering: In 2017, the trade turnover between Russia and Austria grew by 40 percent, compared with the previous year. Some 60 percent of Austria’s gas supply also comes from Russia. Since the start of 2018, the Alpine nation has increased its gas imports by an impressive 77.2 per cent, compared to the same period of the already record-breaking previous year.
The Russian president’s visit also conveniently coincides with the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Soviet gas supplies to the Alpine nation. The Austrian OMV energy company became the first western enterprise to sign a gas supply agreement with the Soviet Union in 1968.
Against such a positive backdrop, Putin’s visit to Austria, his first foreign visit since re-election in March, is poised to be beneficial for both sides in terms of both political and economic relations. However, the two leaders might have some bigger plans in mind than just a bilateral agenda. Austria, which takes pride in its neutrality and geographical location “at the heart” of the European continent, apparently strives to fill a role as a ‘bridge’ in relations between Moscow and the EU, which Kurz says he wants to normalize.
One has to admit that a small Alpine nation could hardly be called a political heavyweight in the current European political landscape. Neither is Austria likely to single-handedly undo the damage done to Russian-European relations by the years-long bickering over the conflict in Ukraine, the Syrian war and some other issues.
Still, it might be able to influence the situation at a time when the future of European foreign policy seems to be left in a sort of limbo. Kurz has already said that his government would seek to “bridge” the rift between Brussels and some opportunist Eastern European governments, which has been plaguing the bloc for quite some time.

Kim invited to Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un to pay an official visit to Russia. The invitation came in a personal letter that was delivered earlier by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
One of the possible occasions for the visit could be the 4th Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia’s Far Eastern city near its border with North Korea. The forum will take place on September 11-13.
However, the visit depends on Pyongyang, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “Time will show to what extent it is convenient for the North Korean side,” he told journalists on Monday. Peskov added that the issue is to be worked on via diplomatic channels and there are no specific details on the meeting so far.
The top Russian diplomat traveled to the North Korean capital last week to discuss the course of intra-Korean negotiations and de-escalation in the region with senior officials. After receiving Putin’s personal letter, Kim reaffirmed his commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The meeting with Lavrov came less than two weeks before the highly anticipated summit between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader. Trump disapproved of Lavrov’s visit to the North, questioning its purpose, but then conversely noted that “it could be very positive too.”

US: Chinese items targeted for 25 percent tariffs

China says it has made progress with the United States in weekend talks on bilateral trade in farm and other products. But it warns that any US trade sanctions on Chinese imports would nullify this progress.
Two countries held another two days of trade talks on Saturday and Sunday in Beijing. US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross met with Liu He, the Chinese Vice Premier in charge of economic affairs.
After the talks, Chinese officials said in a statement that, “the two sides had good communication in various areas such as agriculture and energy, and have made positive and concrete progress.”
But it added that, “all economic and trade outcomes of the talks will not take effect if the US side imposes any trade sanctions, including raising tariffs.”
They said the latest trade talks were based on a bilateral agreement to avoid a trade war and that the outcome of the talks would be nullified in the event of possible US economic sanctions.
During the previous round of talks in Washington, the two countries agreed to avoid a trade war. China also agreed to import more American farm products to reduce its trade surplus with the US.
The US announced on Tuesday of last week that it would release a final list of Chinese items targeted for 25 percent tariffs by mid-June and promptly impose the levies, citing alleged violations of intellectual property rights by China.

Grenade attack in Shopian

16 people, including four policemen, were injured in a grenade attack in a busy market area in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district, police said.
Terrorists hurled a grenade on security forces in Shopian town, resulting in injuries to at least 12 civilians and four cops, a police official said.
He said the area has been cordoned off and searches started to nab the attackers.
Terrorists have carried out a series of grenade attacks on security forces and politicians since last week.

Modi, Mattis pledge to continue strong US-India strategic partnership  


India and the United States have pledged to continue their strong bilateral strategic partnership, the Pentagon said after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.
Mattis met the prime minister on the sidelines of the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ 17th Asia Security Summit — also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue — in Singapore on Saturday.
“The two discussed the importance of the US-India relationship, and the role of both nations in cooperating to uphold international laws and principles, and to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” defence spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said here yesterday.
The two leaders “pledged to continue the strong US-India strategic partnership and affirmed their commitment to maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the region,” Davis said in a readout of the meeting. — PTI  

RFID chips for keeping track of organoids

Researchers in the U.S. and Japan plan to use Radio frequency identification (RFID) chips for keeping track of organoids, samples of human tissue that mimic pieces of organs and are grown from stem cells. The organoids the researchers embedded with RFID chips functioned normally and withstood extreme conditions, suggesting that they could be a useful way to organize and identify the large quantities of organoids that are often needed in experimental situations.
Human organoids are a promising avenue for research into human development and disease because they replicate the structure, function, and phenotype of our organs in miniature in the lab. Grown from human induced pluripotent stem cells, they divide, differentiate, and self-assemble according to the growth programs of their corresponding organs. And particularly in medicine, they can illustrate the effects of certain drugs on our organs in ways that more traditional cell cultures cannot.
More work needs to be done to scale up the production of these hybrid organoids, and the research team is currently working to develop a system that could scan the radio frequency and fluorescence of an organoid at the same time. The team also hopes that other kinds of microchips could be integrated into organoids in the future and that RFID chips with sensing technologies could be used to record real-time data about the organoids.
biospectrumasia.com

13 Indian beaches will get the Blue Flag certification.

Environment-friendly, clean and equipped with amenities of international standards for tourists, 13 Indian beaches will soon get the Blue Flag certification. These beaches of Odisha, Maharashtra and other coastal states will be the first in not just India, but in Asia, to get the Blue Flag certification.
The Indian beaches are being developed by the Society for Integrated Coastal Management (SICOM), an environment ministry’s body working for the management of coastal areas.
Project Head of SCIOM Arvind Nautiyal said that to make the beaches environment and tourist-friendly in accordance with the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to be plastic-free and be equipped with a waste management system.
They also have to ensure availability of clean water for tourists, have amenities of international standards for tourists and be equipped with facilities for studying environmental impact around the beach, he said.
Mr Nautiyal was speaking at a five-day conference, which was organised to commemorate the World Environment Day, about making the beaches pollution free.
He said that according to the Blue Flag standards, a beach has to strictly comply with 33 environment and tourism related conditions. There is not a single Blue Flag beach in Asia so far, he added.
The Blue Flag beach standards were established by Copenhagen-based Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) in 1985. The Blue Flag programme, which requires 33 standards in four areas to be met to make beaches environment-friendly, first started from Paris.
Within the next two years, almost all beaches in Europe were accorded the Blue Flag certification. This campaign spread outside Europe, to South Africa, in 2001.
Asia remains untouched by it till date. The environment ministry started a pilot project to develop the Indian beaches according to the Blue Flag standards in December 2017.
A senior ministry official said that 13 beaches from the coastal states had been chosen for the Blue Flag certification under the project. For this, these beaches are being developed in accordance with the Blue Flag beach standards under a Unified Coastal Areas Management Programme.
This project has two main aims. Firstly, to improve the aquatic habitat by cleaning the growing pollution and garbage in the Indian beaches. Secondly, to develop ecological tourism with constant progress and development of tourist facilities.
According to ministry sources, Chandrabhaga beach of Odisha’s Konark coast was the first to complete the tag certification process. It will be awarded the honour on the World Environment Day tomorrow.
Maharashtra’s Chiwla and Bhogave beaches are also being made a part of this initiative. Apart from these, one beach from Puducherry, Goa, Daman and Diu, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands each has been chosen as Blue Flag beach.

Met Dept advisory

Met department has issued a weather warning of thunderstorm, gusty winds and lightning at various places in the country today. According to the advisory, thunderstorm accompanied with gusty winds and lightning are very likely at isolated places over Gangetic West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Vidarbha, Konkan and Goa, Madhya Maharashtra, Marathawada, Tamilnadu, Telangana, Rayalaseema and Interior Karnataka and Coastal Andhra Pradesh.
Heavy rain is also expected at isolated places over Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam and Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura, Telangana, Rayalaseema, Coastal Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
The advisory further said, heat wave conditions are very likely to occur at one or two pockets over West Rajasthan.

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