BEIJING, September 30 -- Hundreds of Chinese people are set to celebrate China National Day, which falls on 1 October.
This day commemorates the birth of China's People Republic (PRC), proclaimed on 1 October 1949 by the then chairman Mao Zedong, after more than 20 years of civil war fought between the Kuomintang (KMT) party and Community Party of China (CPC). Mao gave the announcement in Tiananmen Square.
In August 1927, military leader Chiang Kai-shek launched the Northern Expedition, aimed at unifying China under the control of the KMT. The expedition led to the end of the warlord era in China and the establishment of the Nanjing government in 1928. However, the civil war continued until 1937, when the KMT and CPC joined forces and formed the Second United Front to counter a Japanese invasion.
The civil war restarted in 1946 and lasted for four more years, culminating with the victory of the CPC over the KMT.
However, the campaign was a failure and millions of people died due to a man-made famine caused by the reform.
In 1966 Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, a 10-year-long process aimed at eliminating all the capitalistic aspects present in Chinese society. During the revolution, educational institutions were closed and millions of youths were sent to the countryside to do manual work. Mao also carried out a widespread purge to get rid of several political figures and intellectuals.
When Mao died in 1976, he was replaced by Deng Xiaoping, who carried out economic reforms in the country. Some policies adopted by the government were also aimed at eliminating the "mistakescommitted during the Mao era", especially during the Cultural Revolution. Rural areas were de-collectivised and industrial reforms decentralised government control in the industrial sector.
Tiananmen Square Massacre
In 1989, after weeks of protests by students who had taken to the streets to demand social reforms and criticise the corruption and the repressive regime, Communist Party elders approved the decision to use force to quell the dissent.
The student-led protest ended in a bloodbath, with up to 300 people estimated to have been killed by government troops. However, due to the censorship applied by China following the massacre, the exact number of victims is to this day unknown.
Source: De Peet Journal
BANGKOK, September 30 -- A machine that can scientifically evaluate the make-up of Thai food has been developed with the help of the country's ex-prime minister.
Fed up with poor Thai food when visiting other countries, Yingluck Shinawatra came up with the idea of a machine to rate food samples against authentically-prepared dishes. The food robot was due to be unveiled in Bangkok on Tuesday. It is part of a growing trend to use computers to analyse food.
The machine, dubbed e-delicious, has ten sensors which create a chemical signature for food, which is then measured against a gold standard recipe, as approved by 120 taste testers. According to the website, the machine is composed of three parts:
"An electronic nose for measurement of smell by an array of 16 gas sensors, an electronic tongue that allows us to measure sourness, sweetness, saltiness, spiciness, and a central processing unit that gathers data and interprets the result."
Each test takes no more than 30 minutes.
Thai food is one of the world's most popular cuisines but, according to the website, "the flavours of Thai food in many restaurants and in hotels abroad are deviating from the authentic ones."
The government, which was ousted by a military coup in May, was so concerned about the idea of inferior Thai food that it set up the Thai Delicious committee and gave it $100,000 (£61,000) to build the machine.
Each recipe has had its chemical make-up recorded in a database to compare with other versions. Food samples are inserted into the box to be analysed and are rated out of 100. In the case of a Thai green curry, the dish will be tested to ensure it has the right mix of basil, curry paste and coconut cream.
The team from the Thai Delicious committee has also created an app with authentic recipes for chefs to use.
Source: Bangkok Post
SAN FRANSISCO, September 30 -- Several dozens of Twitter accounts used by advocates of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group have been suspended following the uploading to the Web of another video showing seized British journalist John Cantlie.
"It's definitely been one of the heaviest weeks [for suspending pro-ISIS accounts] ever," NBC News quoted historian and blogger Pieter Van Ostaeyen as saying. He also added that at least 77 pro-IS accounts he followed were suspended.
NBC News' terrorism analyst Evan Kohlman said the IS propaganda machine could not be destroyed this easily.
"This has somewhat disrupted their propaganda distribution mechanism, but not really. It just takes a few hours more for the media to go viral, but it always does. Nobody has managed to really stop ISIS from releasing new beheading videos," he argued.
According to web intelligence company Recorded Future, over 27,000 Twitter accounts supporting the IS were created within just two weeks after the footage showing the beheading of American reporter James Foley was released.
The IS group has proclaimed a caliphate on the territories it controls across Iraq and Syria. It is particularly infamous for taking hostages and threatening to kill them in protest of the Western foreign policy. The insurgents also use social media for publishing the video messages of their prisoners, or even their killings.
Earlier on Tuesday, the militants have released a third video showing John Cantlie, a British reporter, denouncing the US approach to counter-terrorism action. The group has also uploaded on YouTube the videos showing the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. In addition, Algerian militants, linked to the IS, have filmed the execution of a French national Herve Gourdel over Paris' support for the US-led anti-IS airstrikes.
ROTTERDAM, September 30 -- An earthquake measuring 2.8 on the Richter scale was felt in Groningen province on Tuesday [11:42GMT] - considered a significant quake in the Netherlands.
Social media channels were buzzing with news from people who felt the quake, some of whom were in Groningen city itself. 'I have never felt such a strong one,' local councillor Pual de Rook said on Twitter. There have not yet been any reports of damage, news agency ANP said.
The quakes are caused by the ground settling following the extraction of natural gas from under the province. Gas extraction company NAM has not yet commented on the strength of Tuesday's quake but the tremors are thought to have been strongest in the villages of Ten Boer and Bedum.
NAM, a 50:50 joint venture between Shell and ExxonMobil, is currently assessing claims from hundreds of people who say their homes have been damaged by the quakes.
The government has sharply reduced gas extraction volumes in the worst affected areas. Earlier this year, economic affairs minister Henk Kamp set aside €1.2bn to compensate people whose homes have been hit by earthquakes.
Source: De Peet Journal
HONG KONG, September 30 -- Huge crowds of pro-democracy protesters defy government calls to go home, bringing city's key districts to a standstill.
Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have turned parts of Hong Kong into a massive street party on Monday night, with the mood turning festive just a day after riot police had deployed tear gas.
The huge crowds defied government calls to go home after Sunday's chaotic scenes, bringing key districts of the Asian financial hub to a standstill, as they vowed to stay put until the Chinese government grants them free elections.
Sunday's violence saw riot police fire clouds of tear gas as they struggled to control the protesters, in one of the biggest challenges to Beijing's rule of the semi-autonomous city. The anger gave way to a lighter atmosphere on Monday night as riot police retreated, leaving huge masses of protesters in control of at least four major thoroughfares around the city.
Although there were few police on the scene, some protesters feared a repeat of Sunday's clashes, donning goggles and masks to protect themselves against tear gas.
The demonstrators are furious over last month's announcement by Beijing that while it will allow the city's next leader to be elected in 2017, it will insist on picking the candidates, with critics branding the move a "fake democracy".
Public anger over rampant inequality is also at its highest in years in a city once renowned for its stability.
Cantonese pop music filled the air during the second day of what some are dubbing the "umbrella revolution", as protesters have been using the canopies as shields against tear gas and the scorching sun alike.
One British sympathiser won huge cheers as he set up a barbecue and began handing out hamburgers and sausages to the protesters.
"I saw everybody was just standing around and just eating bread and bananas and I thought, 'These guys have been here for 24 hours now, and everybody needs cooked food'," Daniel Shepherd, a finance broker by day, told AFP news agency.
"Firing tear gas at students that are unarmed, I think, seems a bit excessive," added the 32-year-old.
The crowds hoisted up a makeshift copy of the "goddess of democracy" statue that graced the 1989 protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, while lamp posts were adorned with yellow ribbons - which, like the umbrella, have become a symbol of the movement.
But many people in Hong Kong have expressed frustration at the huge disruption the protests have caused, with the crowds blocking key junctions in the busy Causeway Bay and Mongkok shopping districts as well as the biggest protest site in Admiralty.
There was chaos on the transport network, shuttering many businesses, with schools in two central districts set to close for a second day on Tuesday.
Some social workers and teachers also went on strike after the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) and the Professional Teachers' Union (PTU) called for members to take action.
SEOUL, September 30 -- South Korea has informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it intends to open up the country's rice market with an import tariff reaching 513 percent.
."The government has submitted to the WTO secretariat its plan to revise the country's tariff rate on rice imports ahead of market opening through tarrification that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015," Yonhapnews quoted South Korea's Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry as saying.
South Korea has started its rice market liberalization process in accordance with an agreement it had with the WTO that granted South Korea a 20-year quota agreement for this purpose. The tariff South Korea has established for its rice market will have to be approved by the WTO. Currently, South Korea is importing only 408,900 tons of rice annually under the WTO's Minimum Market Access (MMA) quota.
According to South Korea's Agriculture Minister Lee Dong-phil, the country is unable to expand its MMA import quota, especially now that consumer interest in rice is sliding.
KABUL, September 30 -- Afghanistan has signed a long-delayed security deal which will allow some US troops to stay in the country next year, signalling that newly-inaugurated President Ashraf Ghani intends to repair frayed ties with Washington.
National security adviser Hanif Atmar and US ambassador James Cunningham signed the bilateral security agreement (BSA) in a televised ceremony at the presidential palace on Tuesday, a day after Ghani was inaugrated.
Hamid Karzai, who stepped down as president on Monday, had refused to sign the deal in a disagreement that came to symbolise the breakdown of Afghan-US relations.
"The signing sends the message that President Ghani fulfils his commitments. He promised it would be signed the day after inauguration, and it will be," Daoud Sultanzoy, a senior aide of Ghani's, told the AFP news agency.
"It shows the president's commitment to the Afghan security forces and confidence in our future relationship with the US. We are replacing uncertainty with certainty."
"The agreement will enable Afghanistan, the United States and the international community to maintain the partnership we've established to ensure Afghanistan maintains and extends the gains of the past decade," Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the US State Department, told journalists on Monday.
Parallel NATO agreement
Under the terms of the agreement, troops from Germany, Italy and other NATO members will join a force of 9,800 US soldiers, bringing numbers up to about 12,500.
After NATO's combat mission ends in December, the new mission, named Resolute Support, will focus on training and support for the Afghan army and police as they take on Taliban fighters. Negotiations over the pact had seen Karzai add new demands, shif positions and infuriated the US, Afghanistan's biggest donor.
He eventually refused to sign the agreement despite a "loya jirga" grand assembly that he convened voting for him to do so. On the campaign trail, both Ghani and his poll rival Abdullah Abdullah had vowed to reverse Karzai's decision. Washington had threatened to pull all US forces out by the end of the year, but it choose to wait through a long election deadlock until Afghanistan finally inaugurated a new president on Monday.
There are currently about 41,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 130,000 in 2012.
HONG KONG, September 30 -- Demonstrators should stop the “illegal” protest actions in Hong Kong that “disrupt everyday life of people and their security, and undermine the economy and the image of Hong Kong,” the head of China’s special administrative region said on Tuesday.
The movement has been already labeled "the Umbrella Revolution" for the umbrellas that many people are holding to protect themselves from pepper spray and tear gas, as well as to cope with oppressive heat.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, said the organizers of the protests, the Occupy Central group, have earlier repeatedly pledged to stop the demonstration if the situation goes out of control.
In his 15-minute address, the first over the past few days, the Hong Kong leader however failed to reveal how the administration plans to resolve the current situation. He also refused to confirm whether the local officials are expected to hold talks with the leaders of the pro-democracy movement.
ANKARA, September 29 -- Turkish tanks have been sent to hills overlooking the Syrian border town of Ain al-Arab besieged by IS, while a US-led coalition intensified its bombing of the group in northern and eastern Syria.
Their deployment of Monday came after IS fired shells near a refugee camp on Turkish soil. At least 15 tanks were positioned, some with their guns pointing towards Syrian territory. Reports from the Turkish border town of Suruc, said that three shells fell in Turkey, "very close to a refugee camp, security forces and a number of protesters who had gathered to express anger at what they say was limited support provided to Kuridsh fighters battling ISIL".
"There has been no response from the Turkish side, so far," our correspondent said. The military said earlier it had fired back on Sunday after two mortar bombs crossed the border.
Adding that shells hit at least three homes and a school in Ain al-Arab, a largely-Kurdish town known to its residents as Kobane. "There were no reports of injuries, as the targets were vacant," she said.
More than 150,000 Syrian Kurds have streamed into Turkey since last week, as IS fighters pressed towards Ain al-Arab.
"Things are intensifying. This doesn't mean ISIL are advancing, because they have long-ranging artillery, but it shows that the fighting is ongoing," Dekker said.
Meanwhile, US-led coalition air raids targeted towns and villages in northern and eastern Syria controlled by IS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the violence in Syria, said the coalition targeted grain storage areas in the IS stronghold of Manbij, east of Aleppo, killing workers and not fighters.
The observatory reported that 10 air raids targeted various parts of the province of Idlib, killing at least one child and six others, including five members of the same family. The purported civilian casualties would add to the 19 civilians that the Observatory says have already been killed in raids against the group. Anti-West sentiments are increasing as more civilians are killed.
An activist in an IS-held town said: "These air strikes are causing an economic crisis. Winter is around the corner and people need heating oil. Most of the oil facilities are not operational - even those which haven't been hit because people are scared."
On Sunday, Human Rights Watch said that it had confirmed the deaths of at least seven civilians - two women and five children - from apparent US missile strikes on September 23 in the village of Kafr Derian in Idlib province. It based its conclusions on conversations with three local residents.