China, India to seek peaceful resolution of border impasse

NEW DELHI: Indian and Chinese military commanders have agreed to peacefully resolve the current border issue in eastern Ladakh in accordance with bilateral agreements reached between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in recent years, an Indian statement said on Sunday.

India’s ministry of external affairs recalled that in recent weeks, India and China had maintained communications through established diplomatic and military channels to address the situation in areas along the border.

“A meeting was held between the (Indian) corps commander based in Leh and the Chinese commander on June 6 in the Chushul-Moldo region,” the statement said.

“It took place in a cordial and positive atmosphere. Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements and keeping in view the agreement between the leaders that peace and tranquillity in the India-China border regions is essential for the overall development of bilateral relations.”

Military commanders of both sides discuss situation

The Hindu newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying the Indian side had pressed China to go back to the positions of April.

“Both sides also noted that this year marked the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and agreed that an early resolution would contribute to the further development of the relationship,” the ministry said.

“Accordingly, the two sides will continue the military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” the statement said.

The Indian delegation was led by Lt Gen Harinder Singh, the general officer commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps, while the Chinese side was headed by the commander of the Tibet military district, Maj Genl Liu Lin.

Global Covid-19 death toll hits 400,000

PARIS: The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic climbed past 400,000 on Sunday with fatalities accelerating in the epicentre of Latin America even as Europe emerges from its virus lockdown with infections there increasingly under control.

Almost seven million infections have been registered since Covid-19 emerged in China late last year, forcing much of the globe into lockdown and pushing the world economy towards its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

However, fears of a second wave of the deadly disease have given way to grave worries over the economy, encouraging European countries to reopen borders and businesses, and countries throughout Asia and Africa to slowly return to normal life.

Pope Francis, addressing Catholics in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday for the first time since the health emergency began, said the worst was over in Italy and expressed sympathy for those in hard-hit Latin American countries.

“Your presence in the square is a sign that in Italy the acute phase of the epidemic is over,” Francis said as the Vatican confirmed there were no more cases of Covid-19 within its population.

“Unfortunately in other countries — I am thinking of some of them — the virus continues to claim many victims.” Brazil has the world’s third-highest toll — almost 36,000 dead — but President Jair Bolsonaro has criticised stay-at-home measures imposed by local officials and has threatened to leave the World Health Organisation.

Tolls are also rising sharply in Mexico, Peru and Ecuador, while in Chile, deaths have risen by more than 50 per cent in the past week.

A total of 400,052 deaths have now been recorded worldwide — a figure that has doubled in the past month and a half, according to an AFP tally using official figures.

While almost half of the deaths have been recorded in Europe, the United States remains the hardest-hit nation with 109,802 deaths, followed by Britain with 40,542.

The number of coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia surpassed 100,000 on Sunday, the health ministry said, after a new surge in infections.

The kingdom has seen infections spike as it eases lockdown measures, with the number of daily cases exceeding 3,000 for the second day in a row on Sunday.

In Europe, countries are slowly working towards a post-pandemic normal, also seeking to revive key tourist sectors in time for the summer and return to business.

The UK government said on Sunday it would reopen places of worship for individual prayer on June 15 as it looks to speed up easing measures and save jobs.

Chinese short video app makers take rivalry overseas

BEIJING: Chinese short video app makers have taken their rivalry overseas, with TikTok facing stiff competition from a newcomer that has surged in popularity abroad — by paying users to keep scrolling.

Zynn, a product of China’s number-two video app maker Kuaishou, launched in May and became the most popular free app in the US Apple App Store just a month later.

With Zynn, Kuaishou is trying to dethrone TikTok, the app by its Beijing-based competitor Bytedance that has become a worldwide sensation.

Zynn’s interface is a near-clone of TikTok, allowing users to view a continuous feed of short videos featuring other users dancing or performing stunts to upbeat music. But unlike TikTok, Zynn promises more than just entertainment.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

TikTok facing stiff competition from Zynn

Zynn, which is not available in China, rewards users in the US and Canada with cash when they invite friends to download the app — up to $20 per invite, depending on how active the friend is on the app.

Users also earn points for simply watching videos, which can then be converted into cash.

Zynn’s model is familiar to users in China, where startups have thrown millions of yuan in gifts and cash at users in order to grab a larger share of the market than competitors offering nearly identical services.

Nasdaq-listed news aggregator Qutoutiao was among the first apps to offer users cash rewards in what it calls “loyalty programmes” that “cost-effectively acquire new users”.

“It requires people who are sensitive to small financial incentives of which there are plenty in China’s vast inland rural areas,” Shanghai-based mobile technology expert Matthew Brennan told AFP.

Kuaishou is taking a gamble in exporting its model to North America, where few apps have managed to build long-term audiences by paying people to use them.

Success will depend on whether the main attraction of the app is the money up for grabs, or whether payment is “merely a secondary ‘side benefit’ to using Zynn”, Rui Ma, a tech adviser and host of the Tech Buzz China podcast, told AFP.

Kuaishou has chosen a “smart” time for Zynn’s debut, with many young people stuck at home because of Covid-19, and with the summer holidays approaching, said Man-Chung Cheung, an analyst at Insider Intelligence.

But in the long run, retaining users will depend on Zynn’s “ability to attract top content creators, talent and brands to share videos”, Cheung told AFP.

US officials have warned that TikTok, which has denied any ties with the Chinese government, could become another tool exploited by Chinese intelligence services.

Zynn has sought to downplay its Chinese origins, with its website offering little information about its background and giving an address in Palo Alto, California.

Zynn spokesman Rocky Zhang confirmed that Kuaishou is behind the upstart app.

“Zynn is a product only for the US, and we launched Zynn for the US,” he told AFP.

Zhang said Zynn plans to continue paying users in the long term, but will shift towards rewarding “content creators” in the future, while generating revenue through advertising.

A years-long rivalry between massive Chinese tech companies lies behind Kuaishou’s new foray across the Pacific and into North America.

Kuaishou is backed by Tencent, the Chinese tech giant behind payment and social media app WeChat, which has long sought to expand its share of the short-video market.

Premier League teams prepare for restart with practice games at stadiums

LONDON: Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea were among the clubs who stepped up their preparations for the Premier League’s return by holding practice matches on Saturday.

Clubs are attempting to build up players’ fitness as well as get used to playing without fans before the league resumes on June 17 following a 100-day suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The league also announced Saturday that the sixth round of Covid-19 testing of 1,195 players and staff across the 20 clubs on Thursday and Friday produced no positives.

Saturday’s announcement means there have been a mere 13 positives from an overall 6,274 tests carried out on Premier League players and club staff.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

Testing will continue on a twice-weekly basis as officials look to resume a season that was suspended in March because of the pandemic.

Arsenal, which will be in action on the first night back away to Manchester City, beat second-tier Charlton Athletic 6-0 in a friendly at an empty Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal hosted Charlton behind closed doors and with officiating roles carried out by club staff.

Alex Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored before halftime while academy graduate Eddie Nketiah grabbed a second-half hat-trick. Joe Willock was also on target.

Manchester United, who play Tottenham Hotspur on their return on June 19, staged a game between members of the first-team squad game at Old Trafford on Saturday.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have been particularly pleased to see Marcus Rashford and Paul Pogba back in action after the pair spent a sustained period out through injury prior to the season being suspended. Players drove to the stadium in their match kits and the match was refereed by fitness coach Charlie Owen.

Chelsea also hosted a friendly between their own players at Stamford Bridge. The Blues currently occupy fourth spot in the fight for Champions League qualification, three points clear of United, and will resume their campaign against Aston Villa on June 21.

Manager Frank Lampard and his coaching staff acted as officials for the match, which saw the squad split and wear their home and away kit.

Villa, who are two points from safety in the relegation battle, played a friendly against West Bromwich Albion, whose second-tier campaign is due to resume later this month.

Many injured as five-storey residential building collapses in Lyari

KARACHI: Scores of people suffered injuries and many were feared trapped inside after a five-storey residential building collapsed in Lyari’s Khadda Market area on Sunday evening, officials said.

Police said around eight families were living in the flats of the building.

A rescue operation was under way in the affected area till late into the night and local government officials, charity workers, police and Rangers were taking part in it. However, darkness and narrow lanes of the densely populated neighbourhood had made their work quite difficult.ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER AD

The fresh incident came as a grim reminder of a similar tragedy that took place in March this year in Rizvia Society and claimed more than 20 lives.

It appears to be another case of negligence on part of relevant civic authorities and the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA).

Both Sindh governor and area MNA of PTI hold SBCA responsible for the collapse

“Just a day ago, the residents of the building started feeling that something was wrong with the structure,” Lyari MNA Abdul Shakoor Shad of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf told Dawn.

“They called the SBCA and the commissioner’s office with complaints that their building doesn’t look safe anymore and they need help. None of them responded and the people started planning to evacuate the building on a self-help basis. They were just in the phase of planning when all of sudden the building collapsed.”

“It’s the criminal negligence of Karachi commissioner and SBCA officials and both should be charged for this crime,” said Mr Shad.

Rescuers managed to pull out many people alive from under the rubble.

A senior police official on the scene said that the removal of debris with the help of heavy machinery was crucial, but narrow and congested lanes of the area had not allowed such initiative.

“However, we have still moved some machinery and contacted a few private contractors for the same purpose. We are trying our best to make them utilised,” said SP-Lyari Altaf Hussain, assessing that there were some eight families living in the ill-fated building.

Only on March 5, a multi-storey residential building in Rizvia Society met the same fate leaving over 20 dead including women and children. The incident had left so many questions about the role of the SBCA and the alleged rampant corruption in the regulatory organisation.

Though the police arrested and charged the builder without any credible action against the SBCA high-ups, the fresh episode of the building collapse brought the PPP-led Sindh government and PTI-nominated governor at loggerheads.

“The irresponsible and criminal negligence of the SBCA costing people their lives,” Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said in a statement while seeking immediate report from the Karachi commissioner on the incident. “The corruption of the SBCA is the key reason behind such incidents. This body needs extreme measures of reforms and revival.”

Sindh Local Government Minister Nasir Shah said in a statement that the victims of the Lyari building collapse would be provided complete support from the Sindh government.

He directed the municipal administration to join hands with the rescue organisation and law enforcement agencies in the relief operation and ensured a transparent enquiry against those responsible.