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China to overtake Australia as biggest donor to Pacific

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China Xi

Canberra, Aug 10: China could overtake Australia as the biggest donor to Pacific nations, but only if Beijing follows through on its promises of aid and support that are currently billions of dollars short of being realised, a new report said here on Friday.

According to the report from Australia’s Lowy Institute, a foreign policy think tank, China has pledged around $5.88 billion worth of aid to the Pacific since 2011, less than Australia’s $6.72 billion, reports CNN.

During the same period, the US committed $1.36 billion in aid to the Pacific.

While Australia is still the biggest player in the region, ongoing major spending under Belt and Road could see Beijing leapfrog it.

In Papua New Guinea alone, China has pledged billions of dollars to build roads and other projects, some of which is not reflected in the Lowy data because the deals are in their early stages.

However during the 2011-2018 period, only around 21 per cent of the money China pledged was actually spent, compared to 97 per cent for Australia, according to the report.

While China’s aid commitments would see it overtake Australia in the near future, Jonathan Pryke, director of Lowy’s Pacific Islands Programme, was sceptical if actual spending would ever match Beijing’s promises.

“China is talking a big game in terms of its commitments to the region and that’s concentrated on one country, Papua New Guinea,” he said. “I’m not convinced China will (overtake) Australia. We have a much broader, much deeper degree of engagement than China has.”

Earlier this year, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells accused Beijing of constructing “useless buildings” and roads that “(don’t) go anywhere” while loading unsustainable debt onto poorer countries, reports CNN.

Australia has become increasingly gripped by concerns over Chinese influence in the country, and relations between Beijing and Canberra have deteriorated around the passage of an anti-foreign influence laws seen as targeting China.

A series of angry editorials and opinion pieces in Chinese state media when the laws were first introduced labelled them “disgraceful” and “absurd”.

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Late US President Bush secretly sponsored Filipino child

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George HW Bush

Washington, Dec 19:  Former US President George H.W. Bush, who passed away in November, has sponsored a seven-year-old boy in the Philippines for 10 years under a pseudonym, a non-profit who connected them has revealed.

Through Compassion International that uses churches to help children in poor communities around the world, Bush sponsored Timothy for a decade, the CNN reported.

The 41st US President, who passed away at the age of 94 years on November 30, sent funds that went toward Timothy’s education, extracurricular activities and some of his meals. The organisation has shared some of Bush’s letters with CNN.

The Bush family was not available to comment on the letters, but Jim McGrath, a spokesperson for the Office of George H.W. Bush, confirmed the letters’ authenticity.

Once the sponsorship began, Bush began writing to the boy right away. He said in his first letter, send on January 24, 2002, that he loved Timothy from the get-go.

“Dear Timothy, I want to be your new pen pal. I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you already. I live in Texas – I will write you from time to time – Good Luck. G. Walker”, a letter that perhaps was the first, read.

Despite concerns over his security breach, Bush continued his philanthropic mission and his letters to the child were some of the most endearing ones, Wess Stafford, the former president of Compassion International told CNN.

Timothy never caught on to the hints in Bush’s letters, and did not find out who his sponsor was until he had graduated from the program.

“After a while, my executive assistant, Angie Lathrop, took over the sponsorship, and after Timothy graduated at 17, she flew to the Philippines to meet him,” Stafford said. “That’s when she told him who his sponsor really was.”

Timothy was stunned, Stafford said. He really could not believe the man he had been writing letters to was once the President of the US.

Stafford said that Timothy told Lathrop he had no idea, and that the revelation was life-changing.

That was the last time the non-profit heard from Timothy, despite efforts to locate him, Stafford said.

Compassion International works through partnerships with over 7,000 churches in 25 countries around the world.

IANS

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Late rights activist Asma Jahangir wins UN Human Rights Prize for 2018

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Asma Jahangir
Asma Jahangir (File Photo)

United Nations, Dec 19: Late lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jahangir has been awarded the UN Human Rights Prize for 2018. Her daughter Munizae Jahangir received the prestigious award on behalf of her mother.

The award is given to individuals and organisations in recognition of outstanding achievement in human rights. Asma Jahangir was announced as one of the four winners of the quinquennial prize in October.

Receiving the award for her late mother, Munizae Jahangir dedicated it to Pakistani women and their courage. The ceremony was held at the UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Other prize winners included women’s rights activist in Tanzania, Rebeca Gyumi; activist for the rights of indigenous Brazilian communities Joenia Wapichana and Ireland’s human rights organisation Front Line Defenders.

Previous winners include Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter and Malala Yousafzai, the News International reported.

Asma became the fourth Pakistani woman to be awarded the UN Human Rights Prize. Before her, Begum Ra’Ana Liaquat Ali Khan (1978), Benazir Bhutto (2008) and Malala Yousufzai (2013) had been accorded the honour.

Asma, who died in February, was known for her outspoken nature and unrelenting pursuit for human rights as well as for remaining undaunted in the face of extreme pressure and opposition.

She is also remembered as a champion of the disenfranchised and for her services towards building a democratic and more inclusive Pakistan.

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Pentagon to establish ‘Space Command’

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Hack the Pentagon

Washington, Dec 18: While the Space Force would need congressional approval but US President Donald Trump issued an order on Tuesday directing the establishment of a “Space Command.”

Vice President Pence announced on Tuesday that the White House had directed the Pentagon to form a Space Command, a significant step toward the administration’s ultimate goal of establishing a department known as the Space Force that would become the first new branch of the Armed Services since the Air Force was created in 1947.

Trump said the new command will be created as a “unified combatant command” that will oversee all US military activities in space, according to his memo to Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

The president has asked Mattis to recommend officers for the command’s leadership, the one-page memo said.

It added that a comprehensive list of authorities and responsibilities for the Space Command will be included in the next update to the Unified Command Plan.

Trump has been pushing to establish a Space Force by 2020, an idea that has been questioned by Pentagon officials and military experts worried about adding cost and bureaucracy.

 

Pence was speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where he was to watch the launch of a SpaceX rocket with a military cargo.

 

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