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Experts call for outright cigarette ban over China’s railway network

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BEIJING: Experts called for an outright ban on smoking throughout China’s railway network, after air quality inspections found dangerous levels of harmful pollutants on slow trains, most of which currently allow tobacco use in designated areas, China Daily reported Friday.

Researchers led by the Chinese Association of Tobacco Control examined four slow trains in October. Three of the trains had set up designated smoking areas, and one had banned tobacco use due to an earlier lawsuit filed by a passenger.

Results released on Thursday showed the concentration of PM2.5 in carriages of the three trains where passengers can smoke exceeded 500 micrograms per cubic meter, meaning the air could be considered hazardous to human health.

China’s high-speed rail networks all prohibit smoking, but passengers on slow trains are allowed to smoke in designated areas, often the connecting areas between carriages.

Cui Xiaobo, deputy director of the Beijing Tobacco Control Association, said secondhand smoke is likely to cause life-threatening, acute illnesses.

“A lot of emergency medical requests occurring on trains are linked to vulnerable groups, including the elderly, children, pregnant women and those with chronic diseases who breathe in smoke,” he said.

The researchers also interviewed 94 passengers on the four trains, and found that 77 of them would applaud a complete ban on smoking on slow trains. China saw 3.37 billion railway trips in 2018.

 

 

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Asia

Beijing says China, US are ‘mutually indispensable’

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DAVOS: China and the United States cannot do without one another, one of Beijing’s most senior officials said Wednesday, as the world’s two biggest economies struggle to end a damaging trade war.
“The Chinese and US economies are mutually indispensable, so their relations must be mutually beneficial and win-win,” Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“This is the reality: neither side can do without the other side,” said Wang, who plays a top role in resolving the US-China trade battle.
The annual conference in the Alpine ski resort was originally expected to see the two sides meet, but the White House canceled the US delegation’s trip due to the government shutdown in Washington.
Economic experts assembled in Davos are also worried about an economic slowdown in China, but Wang — a close ally of President Xi Jinping – said the economy was growing at a healthy pace.
“The number is 6.6 percent. I think this is a pretty significant number. Not low at all,” Wang told the audience, referring to the growth rate for 2018, the lowest in 28 years.
The IMF on Monday warned that the US-China trade confrontation was feeding global uncertainty and threatening to drag down world growth.

 

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Pakistan

Pakistan believes in friendly terms with all

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Legislation against corruption will be PTI govt.'s priority

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Service Attaches from different countries on Wednesday called on Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser and discussed matters related to important regional and international issues and Pakistan’s relations with different countries of the world.

The Speaker said that Pakistan is a peace loving country and believed in building friendly relations with all countries including its neighbors. He said that vast investment opportunities exist in Pakistan and foreign investors can take advantages from these opportunities. He said that the incumbent government in Pakistan has introduced investment-friendly policies in the country and taking steps to safeguard the investment of the foreign investors. Asad Qaiser said that Pakistan has an abundance of beautiful tourist resorts and the highest mountain ranges of the world due to which it has a lot of attractions for foreign tourists. \

He said that promotion of tourism was the prime concern of the present government. He said that people of Pakistan and its security forces have rendered matchless sacrifices in the war against terrorism and more than 70 thousand innocent citizens and personnel of security forces were martyred during this war.  He said that due to successful military operations by Pakistan, terrorism has been reduced to a great extent. He urged upon the Attaches to play their due role to portray the soft and positive image of Pakistan in their respective countries.

On this occasion, Secretary National Assembly Tahir Hussain briefed the participants about formation, functions and organizational structure of the National Assembly and its standing committees. The Foreign Attaches thanked the Speaker National Assembly for providing them the opportunity to visit the National Assembly of Pakistan. They said that they have learned a lot about legislative procedures and other functions of this supreme constitutional body during this visit.

 

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Politics

Syria Safe Zone: Erdogan meets Putin

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MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met for Syria talks in Moscow on Wednesday, with Turkey saying they would focus on Ankara’s so-called “security zone” in northern Syria.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin in translated comments and said: “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The leaders were set to give a press conference after their talks.
The warm rhetoric came despite the fact that the two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Turkey has welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal from Syria but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labeled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan said Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Moscow, a long-term supporter of Assad, is likely to oppose the plan, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week saying Damascus must take control of the north.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran at the beginning of this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
“So far, no date has been set but after negotiations with Erdogan, we will begin preparations for the trilateral summit,” Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters last week.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan, and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
But in a separate briefing Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry said the situation in the province remained of “serious concern”.
“The situation in the (Idlib) de-escalation zone is rapidly deteriorating. The territory has in fact been taken under full control by militants,” said ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish
forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered with the remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

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