France’s far-right party now ‘adult’ and needs name change: Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, National Front (FN) political party leader, attends the party's convention in Lille, France, March 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 March 2018
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France’s far-right party now ‘adult’ and needs name change: Le Pen

PARIS: France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Friday her National Front party needs a name change because it has become “adult” and ready to govern.
Nine months after Le Pen was defeated by centrist Emmanuel Macron for president in a bruising battle between nationalists and globalists, the FN is struggling to rebound.
As FN president, she said she would propose a new name for the party at its conference on Sunday.
“The National Front has become adult ... its nature has changed. It has gone from a party first of protest in its youth, then an opposition party to a party of government,” Le Pen said on French television.
The FN “must acquire the culture of alliances... the culture of a governing party and changing its name is one of the ways to let it be known,” she said. Le Pen goes into the conference weakened by her poor performance in a final TV debate against Macron, which raised questions about her fitness to lead the world’s fifth-biggest economy.
She defended her far-right party’s stance against immigration and in defense of French culture and security.
The trained lawyer, who took over the FN leadership from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011, is running unopposed for a third term at the helm at the conference starting Saturday in the northern city of Lille.
The high point will come Sunday when Le Pen will announce a proposed new name for the party, turning a page on the anti-Semitic, openly racist Front of her former paratrooper dad.
“Without a name change we will not be able to forge alliances. And without alliances we will never be able to take power,” she told a party gathering in the eastern Alsace region last month.
Since the presidential campaign and June general election in which the FN bagged only eight seats, the party and its leader have appeared deflated.
This week Le Pen seemed heartened by the strong gains made by the allied anti-immigrant League party in Italy’s general election, hailing it as a “new stage in the awakening of the people.”
But despite her fighting rhetoric, her appetite for battle appears dented.
The 49-year-old mother of three told French radio recently that she would gladly step aside before the 2022 presidential election if another candidate was “better placed to unite people and help our ideas triumph.”


Saudi minister visits Delhi to streamline Umrah services for Indian pilgrims 

Updated 04 December 2023
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Saudi minister visits Delhi to streamline Umrah services for Indian pilgrims 

  • India has world’s largest Muslim-minority population, with over 200 million Indian Muslims 
  • Haj Committee of India hopes to discuss increasing nation’s Hajj quota with Al-Rabiah 

NEW DELHI: Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah will begin an official visit to India on Monday on a trip aimed at strengthening collaboration and streamlining the Umrah journey for international pilgrims, the Saudi Embassy in New Delhi said.  

India has the world’s largest Muslim-minority population, with over 200 million Indians professing Islam in the Hindu-majority country.  

Al-Rabiah’s visit to India this week is “an important part” of a series of international tours aimed at showcasing the Kingdom’s commitment to serving Umrah pilgrims from around the world, the Saudi Embassy in India said in a statement.  

“The visit aims to achieve significant advancements in streamlining procedures, enhancing services, and outlining comprehensive plans for hosting pilgrims and Umrah performers, aligning closely with the outlined objectives of ‘Saudi Vision 2030,’” it said.

Al-Rabiah will hold high-level discussions with Indian officials and prominent figures in the Hajj and Umrah services sector to strengthen coordination and collaboration, the embassy added.  

“To further streamline processes for Indian Umrah (pilgrims), an inaugural exhibition for the Nusuk platform and the Tasheer e-visa-issuing center will be organized during the visit,” it said.  

“These international visits reflect the ministry’s and its partners’ continuous efforts in the Hajj ecosystem to establish robust communication channels and foster cooperation with countries worldwide.” 

The Haj Committee of India is hoping to discuss increasing India’s Hajj pilgrimage quota during Al-Rabiah’s visit.  

“This visit is important and he is a very significant person,” Munawari Begum, the vice president of the Haj Committee of India, told Arab News.  

Under the 2023 Hajj quota, around 175,000 Indians traveled to Saudi Arabia for the spiritual journey that is one of the five pillars of Islam.  

“One of the agendas of the visit is to discuss the enhancement of the Hajj quota from the existing 175,025 to 200,000 at least,” Begum added. 


US combat ship ‘illegally’ entered territorial waters: China’s military

Updated 04 December 2023
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US combat ship ‘illegally’ entered territorial waters: China’s military

  • China is in dispute with several of its neighbors over its extensive claims of territorial waters in the South China Sea

BEIJING: China’s military on Monday said a US combat ship illegally entered waters adjacent to the Second Thomas Shoal, a disputed South China Sea atoll.
“The US seriously undermined regional peace and stability,” said a spokesperson for China’s Southern Theater of Operations in a statement.
The spokesperson also said the US deliberately disrupted the South China Sea and seriously violated China’s sovereignty.
China is in dispute with several of its neighbors over its extensive claims of territorial waters in the South China Sea.
In recent months it has had several confrontations with Philippine vessels, and also protested about US ships patrolling the disputed areas.
The spokesperson said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army organized maritime troops to follow and monitor the US ship., and that “its troops in the theater are on high alert at all times to resolutely defend national sovereignty.”

On Sunday, the Philippine Coast Guard deployed two of its vessels in the South China Sea after monitoring an “alarming” increase in the number of Chinese maritime militia vessels at a reef within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

 


Indonesia’s Marapi volcano erupts and blankets nearby villages with ash

Volcanic ash spews from Mount Marapi during an eruption as seen from Tanah Datar in West Sumatra on December 3, 2023. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2023
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Indonesia’s Marapi volcano erupts and blankets nearby villages with ash

  • Marapi’s alert level was maintained at the third-highest of four levels, Abdul Muhari said, and confirmed that authorities had been closely monitoring the volcano after sensors picked up increasing activity in recent weeks

PADANG, Indonesia: Indonesia’s Mount Marapi in West Sumatra province erupted Sunday, spewing white-and-gray ash plumes more than 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) into the air and sending hot ash clouds several miles (kilometers) away.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, said Ahmad Rifandi, an official with Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center at the Marapi monitoring post. The two routes for climbers were closed after the eruption and villagers living on the slopes of the mountain were advised to stay 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the crater’s mouth because of potential lava.
About 70 climbers started their way up the nearly 2,900-meter (9,480-foot) mountain on Saturday and became stranded. So far, 49 have been successfully evacuated with the rest still awaiting rescue, said Hari Agustian, an official at the local Search and Rescue Agency in Padang, the capital city of West Sumatra province.
He said about 168 rescuers, including police and soldiers, have been deployed to rescue all the climbers.
A video on social media shows the climbers were evacuated to a shelter, their faces and hair smeared with volcanic dust and rain.
National Disaster Management Agency spokesperson Abdul Muhari said several villages were blanketed with falling ash, blocking out the sun in many areas. Authorities distributed masks and urged residents to wear eyeglasses to protect them from volcanic ash, he said.
About 1,400 people live on Marapi’s slopes in Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages about 5 to 6 kilometers (3.1 to 3.7 miles) from the peak.
Marapi’s alert level was maintained at the third-highest of four levels, Abdul Muhari said, and confirmed that authorities had been closely monitoring the volcano after sensors picked up increasing activity in recent weeks.
Marapi has been active since January when it also erupted without causing casualties. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.
 

 


Despite rising demand, arms sales hampered by production woes: study

Updated 04 December 2023
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Despite rising demand, arms sales hampered by production woes: study

  • US arms suppliers are particularly vulnerable to supply chain disruptions as many of the weapon systems they produce are more complex

STOCKHOLM: Even with the war in Ukraine fueling demand, revenue for the world’s top arms suppliers dipped in 2022, as production issues kept companies unable to increase production, researchers said Monday.
The sales of weapons and military services by the 100 largest arms companies in the world totalled $597 billion in 2022, a decrease of 3.5 percent compared to 2021, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
At the same time, geopolitical tensions coupled with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fueled increased demand for weapons and military equipment.
Diego Lopes da Silva, a senior researcher at SIPRI, told AFP that in this context the slowdown in revenue was “unexpected.”
“What the decrease really shows is that there is a time lag between a demand shock like the war in Ukraine and the ability of companies to scale up production and really meet that demand,” Lopes da Silva said.
According to SIPRI, the decline was in large part due to diminished revenues among major arms makers in the United States, where manufacturers struggled with “supply chain issues and labor shortages” stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The United States alone saw a 7.9 percent decrease but still made up for 51 percent of total arms revenue in 2022, with 42 companies among the world’s top 100.

US arms suppliers are particularly vulnerable to supply chain disruptions as many of the weapon systems they produce are more complex.
“That means that the supply chain is also more complex, and it has more parts, which means it’s more vulnerable,” Lopes da Silva said.
Russian arms makers also saw revenues drop significantly in the report, falling by 12 percent to $20.8 billion.
The decline was in part due to sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine, but Lopes da Silva also noted that lower revenues could also be the result of delayed payments from the Russian state.
In addition, the transparency of arms makers in Russia has diminished and only two Russian companies were included in the top 100 “due to a lack of available data,” according to SIPRI.
In contrast in other parts of the world such as the Middle East and Asia and Oceania, weapon makers producing less complicated systems were able to respond to the increased demand.
The Middle East in fact saw the biggest increase of any region by percentage, growing 11 percent to reach $17.9 billion.
Turkish companies in particular saw an increase, with Baykar — which produces an unmanned drone widely used in Ukraine — seeing a 94 percent increase in revenue.

The combined revenue for arms suppliers in Asia and Oceania rose by 3.1 percent, reaching $134 billion in 2022.
China, which after the US represented the second largest supplier by country, saw its eight arms companies in the ranking increase their combined revenues by 2.7 percent, reaching to $108 billion.
Looking forward, Lopes da Silva said there were no signs of demand slowing down.
“In the company reports, something very interesting that we found is that the order intake and the backlogs of the companies, they are increasing by a lot,” he told AFP.
Added to that, many European countries have pledged increased military spending targets in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with some targets reaching all the way to 2030.
“We’re seeing that this demand will continue for the years to come. So we expect military spending to continue to increase and consequently arms revenues,” Lopes da Silva said.
 

 


Magnitude 6.9 quake latest to rattle southern Philippines

Updated 04 December 2023
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Magnitude 6.9 quake latest to rattle southern Philippines

  • At least two people were killed and several were injured after Saturday’s quake, authorities said. It was followed by a series of aftershocks of magnitudes exceeding 6.0 through Sunday, according to the USGS

MANILA: A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck off the coast of the southern Philippines early Monday, the United States Geological Survey said, the latest in a slew of strong quakes all concentrated in the same area.
Monday’s quake hit just before 4:00 am local time, (2000 GMT Sunday), at a depth of 30 kilometers (18 miles), some 72 kilometers northeast of Hinatuan municipality on Mindanao island.
That followed a magnitude 6.6 earthquake on Sunday and a deadly magnitude 7.6 quake Saturday in the same region, which had briefly triggered a tsunami alert.
At least two people were killed and several were injured after Saturday’s quake, authorities said. It was followed by a series of aftershocks of magnitudes exceeding 6.0 through Sunday, according to the USGS.
Hinatuan police Staff Sergeant Joseph Lambo said Sunday evening’s quake sent people rushing out of their homes again.
“They were panicking due to the memory of the previous night’s quake,” Lambo told AFP.
He said police were checking for any further damage or casualties.
Saturday’s quake triggered tsunami warnings across the Pacific region and sent residents along the east coast of Mindanao fleeing buildings, evacuating a hospital and seeking higher ground.

There have been no reports of major damage to buildings or infrastructure so far, disaster officials told AFP earlier on Sunday.
A 30-year-old man died in Bislig City, in Surigao del Sur province, when a wall inside his house collapsed on top of him, said local disaster official Pacifica Pedraverde.
Some roads in the city were cracked during the earthquake and aftershocks but vehicles could still drive on them, she said.
A pregnant woman was killed in Tagum city in Davao del Norte province, the national disaster agency said, without providing details.
Two people suffered minor injuries from falling debris in Tandag City, about 100 kilometers north of Bislig, an official said.
The Philippine seismology institute initially warned of a “destructive tsunami” after the first quake Saturday, expecting “life threatening” waves, though none occurred and the warning later ended.
Small swells were reported as far away as Japan’s eastern Pacific coast, where a tsunami warning was also briefly in effect. Palau, a western Pacific archipelago located about 900 kilometers off Mindanao, reported no impact.
The recent temblors came some two weeks after a 6.7 magnitude quake hit Mindanao, killing at least nine people, shaking buildings and causing part of a shopping mall ceiling to collapse.
Earthquakes are a daily occurrence in the Philippines, which sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic and volcanic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
Most are too weak to be felt by humans.