Canada’s Trudeau sidesteps questions after extradition talks with China are revealed 

Canada says the talks, long-sought by Beijing, are unrelated to the recent release of a Canadian held by China for two years on spying charges.

Reuters

September 21, 2016

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sidestepped questions on Tuesday on the sensitive topic of possible extraditions to China, saying Canada would stick to high standards when deciding whether to return Chinese citizens.

A statement posted on Trudeau’s website said his national security adviser went to Beijing last week and agreed to start talks about an extradition treaty as part of a security dialogue.

China, which wants the return of officials suspected of corruption who it says are hiding in Canada, has long pressed for such a treaty.

Some Western countries are reluctant to sign extradition deals with China, partly out of concern about the integrity of its judicial system and treatment of prisoners.

Some people convicted of corruption face the death penalty. Canada refuses to send people to countries without assurances they will not be executed.

“Extradition is certainly one of the things the Chinese have indicated they want to talk about,” Trudeau told a televised news conference at the United Nations.

“As everyone knows, Canada has very high standards in terms of extradition treaties in accordance with our values. But we’re happy to have a high-level security dialogue,” he said.

News of the Beijing meeting revived speculation Ottawa had made concessions to secure the return of Kevin Garratt, a Canadian citizen convicted of spying, whom China deported last week.

kevin-and-julia-garratt

Kevin Garratt, a Canadian held in China for two years on suspicion of spying, with wife after been freed and arriving in Vancouver on Thursday, September 16 in a diplomatic triumph for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canadian officials insist there was no deal, and that the Garratt release was unrelated to the extradition talks.

Garratt’s release was widely seen as a triumph for Trudeau, who visited Beijing earlier this month in a bid to seal closer economic ties. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Canada on Wednesday for the start of a three-day trip.

The opposition Conservative Party, long suspicious of China’s human rights record, accused Trudeau of abandoning Canadian principles.

“Does the prime minister not understand that our openness to China should be about encouraging China to adopt our values for human rights, as opposed to us giving in to China’s?” interim party leader Rona Ambrose told the House of Commons.

China does not have extradition treaties with the United States, Australia or Canada, which according to state media are the most popular destinations for suspected economic criminals from China.

A number of suspects wanted by China are known to reside in Canada.

They include the Vancouver-based property developer Michael Ching Mo Yeung, who is wanted by China for alleged embezzlement and concealing stolen funds.

Ching, who is seeking refugee status in Canada, is wanted under the name Cheng Muyang. He is the son of Cheng Weigao, the former Communist Party secretary of Hebei province who was expelled from the party for corruption and died in 2010.

Source: Canada’s Trudeau sidesteps questions after extradition talks with China are revealed | South China Morning Post

Beijing Launches Ice Hockey Program for Children

Students play in a ice hockey leauge held in Beijing on May 21, 2016. 749 students from 46 primary schools and middle schools in the city participated in the games. [Photo: qianlong.com]

 2016-06-07 20:10:49   From:  CRIENGLISH.com

Pupils in Beijing now have opportunities to play ice hockey.

Over 20 primary schools in the city have joined a program that aims to promote the sport and an athletic spirit among youngsters.

Initiated by the National Committee for the Wellbeing of the Youth and Beijing Ice Star Sports Management, the Thousands of Children on the Ice program will provide students with free professional ice hockey lessons and equipment.

The company said the program will use two of its existing rinks and another five that are expected to be put into operation later this year.

The program’s organizers hope the students can start to enjoy ice hockey games after playing it firsthand.

Ice hockey, known for its intense actions, is widely popular in North America and Europe.

But in China, the sport is still quite new. Relatively high costs of equipment and training have also prevented the sport’s growth here.

Ice hockey equipment cost 3,000 yuan (460 U.S. dollars) on average, while expenses for training can be as high as 100,000 yuan a year.

Beijing, as one of the host cities of the 2022 Winter Olympics, has been actively working to promote winter sports, including ice hockey, in recent years.

Thanks to these efforts, ice hockey has seen fast development here.

A total of 15 hockey clubs and 116 minor hockey teams have been set up in the city so far.

Source: Beijing Launches Ice Hockey Program for Children

China Releasing Chemicals To Kill Fish Around Philippine Islands | The Daily Trends

May 13, 2016

Residents of Philippine-occupied Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea reportedly confirmed that Chisese vessels are regularly releasing chemicals to destroy the corals and marine species around the island.

According to Kalayaan ATIN ITO Facebook page, “China is aggressively removing economic activities of the civilian community at the Kalayaan Island Group to drive away civilians and isolate the Islands.”

Natural ecosystem and the “bahura” or coral reefs around Pag-asa Island are destroyed and the source of livelihood of Filipino fisherfolk are adversely affected.

“Once all civilians are gone, Chinese military activities to occupy the islands will be easier.” it said.

Pag-asa is surrounded by around 20 to 30 hectares of reefs that are home to aquarium and commercial fish.

It provides livelihood and food for the island’s 200 dwellers. It is often visited by rare types of turtles like the endangered leatherback.

Source: China Releasing Chemicals To Kill Fish Around Philippine Islands | The Daily Trends

Study Reveals How Chinese Skullcap Makes Anti-Cancer Compounds 

The Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis). Image credit: Dalgial / CC BY-SA 3.0.

A new study, published in the journal Science Advances, has revealed how the popular Chinese herbal remedy Huang-Qin (Scutellaria baicalensis) — also known as the Chinese skullcap — produces compounds which may help to treat cancer and liver diseases.

Apr 11, 2016

The Chinese skullcap is cultivated in China, Siberia, Mongolia and Korea. It is an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of conditions including epilepsy, hepatitis, infections, and cancer. It is often used in combination with other botanicals such as PC-SPES and sho-saiko-to.

Previous research on cells cultured in the lab has shown that certain compounds called flavones — found in the roots of the Chinese skullcap — not only have beneficial anti-viral and anti-oxidant effects, but they can also kill human cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched.

In live animal models, these flavones have also halted tumor growth, offering hope that they may one day lead to effective cancer treatments, or even cures.

As a group of compounds, the flavones are relatively well understood. But the beneficial flavones found in the roots of the Chinese skullcap — such aswogonin and baicalin — are different: a missing hydroxyl (-OH) group in their chemical structure left scientists scratching their heads as to how they were made in the plant.

“Many flavones are synthesized using a compound called naringenin as a building block,” said study senior author Prof. Cathie Martin, from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK.

“But naringenin has this -OH group attached to it, and there is no known enzyme that will remove it to produce the flavones we find in the Chinese skullcap roots.”

Chinese skullcap: root-specific flavones from this plant have a variety of reported additional beneficial effects including anti-oxidant and anti-viral properties. Image credit: John Innes Centre.

Chinese skullcap: root-specific flavones from this plant have a variety of reported additional beneficial effects including anti-oxidant and anti-viral properties. Image credit: John Innes Centre.

Prof. Cathie and her colleagues explored the possibility that Chinese skullcap’s root-specific flavones (RSFs) were made via a different biochemical pathway.

Step-by-step, they unraveled the mechanism involving new enzymes that make RSFs using a different building block called chrysin.

“We believe that this biosynthetic pathway has evolved relatively recently inScutellaria roots, diverging from the classical pathway that produces flavones in leaves and flowers, specifically to produce chrysin and its derived flavones,” Prof. Martin said.

“Understanding the pathway should help us to produce these special flavones in large quantities, which will enable further research into their potential medicinal uses.”

“It’s exciting to consider that the plants which have been used as traditional Chinese remedies for thousands of years may lead to effective modern medicines,” she added.

_____

Qing Zhao et al. 2016. A specialized flavone biosynthetic pathway has evolved in the medicinal plant, Scutellaria baicalensis. Science Advances, vol. 2, no. 4, e1501780; doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1501780

Source: Study Reveals How Chinese Skullcap Makes Anti-Cancer Compounds | Biology, Medicine | Sci-News.com

Freeport-McMoRan: A Roller Coaster Ride in November 2015

Market Realist
By Mark O’Hara

On November 13, 2015, Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) closed at $8.68. Although Freeport’s stock is down more than 25% so far in November, it is still trading ~12% above its 2015 lows. The year has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for Freeport investors.

part 1

Stocks have been falling

The entire base metals space (XLB) has seen heightened volatility over the last six months or so. However, companies including Freeport-McMoRan, Teck Resources (TCK), and Glencore (GLNCY) have been more volatile as compared to some of their peers in this sector.

Teck Resources has seen its share price dwindle more than 65% this year. Teck Resources is the world’s second largest exporter of steelmaking coal. It is also North America’s largest coal producer, with the annual capacity to produce 28 million tons. Along with falling copper prices, Teck Resources has been hit by the reduced Chinese coal demand.

Freeport is not far behind, and its stock has fallen more than 62% this year. Southern Copper (SCCO) has not fallen much, as can be seen in the graph above. Please read Southern Copper: A Business Overview of a Copper Giant to learn more about SCCO.

Key drivers

There are several factors that would determine how Freeport-McMoRan could trade over the next few months. As Freeport is also involved in the energy exploration business, its stock price could also be guided by movement in energy prices. However, Freeport has announced that the company is looking at several “strategic alternatives” for the energy business, and a final decision has yet to be made.

The key driver, however, would be how copper prices play out in the coming months. In the next part of this series, we’ll explore what analysts think about copper prices.

Copper prices

Copper prices resumed their downside in November after remaining relatively strong in October. On November 13, 2015, the LME (London Metals Exchange) three-month copper contract closed at $4,810 per metric ton, losing more than 1% from the previous day’s closing.

So far in November, the LME three-month copper contract has lost ~6% and joined the ranks of other metals, including steel and aluminum, to hit fresh 2015 lows. The graph below shows the recent movement in copper prices.

How low can it get?

Goldman Sachs had earlier given a target of $4,800 per ton for copper by the end of December 2015. However, according to an October 8 Reuters report citing Max Layton, the head of European commodities research for Goldman Sachs, copper could even fall below $4,000 per metric ton.

A November 12, 2015, Reuters’ article, cited Axel Rudolph, technical analyst at London-based Commerzbank, who noted, “Copper is likely to extend losses in coming weeks to $4,397.”

Bears are back

Bears, it seems, are back full throttle in copper. The bearish sentiments surrounding copper faded somewhat a few weeks ago on supply cuts from Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) and Glencore (GLNCY). However, the goodwill failed to last beyond a month, and copper prices have resumed their downside.

While FCX and GLNCY have announced production cutbacks, diversified miners such as Rio Tinto (RIO) and BHP Billiton (BHP) don’t plan to cut their copper production. Both companies are among the low-cost copper producers, so it would make economic sense for these companies to keep mining copper from their mines.

Meanwhile, the concern has again shifted to the demand side of the equation. In the last week or so, there has been quite a bit of negative data from China, whether it is monthly trade data or credit activity. Pessimistic Chinese data is weighing heavily on copper prices. A stronger US dollar (UUP), on expectations of a possible Federal rate hike in December, is not helping copper’s cause, either.

Falling copper prices

As seen in the previous part of this series, copper prices have crashed to a fresh six-and-a-half-year low on concerns over the Chinese economy and a stronger US dollar. However, unlike other pure-play copper producers like Turquoise Hill Resources (TRQ) and Southern Copper (SCCO), Freeport-McMoRan’s (FCX) worries extend beyond falling copper prices. Together, Freeport and Newmont Mining (NEM) form ~4.1% of the Materials Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLB).

 

Lower energy prices

Freeport-McMoRan is also involved in the energy exploration business. In 3Q15, the company sold 1.0 billion pounds of copper, 23 million pounds of molybdenum, 13.8 MMBOE (or million barrels of oil equivalent), and 294,000 ounces of gold. Freeport has given a guidance of 13.3 MMBOE for 4Q15.

Energy exposure makes Freeport’s earnings sensitive to falling crude oil prices as well. The company’s energy operations generated an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of $0.3 billion in 3Q15. This is roughly one-third of Freeport’s 3Q15 consolidated EBITDA.

Sensitivity

According to Freeport-McMoRan, the company expects its 2016 EBITDA to fall by $215 million for every $5 per barrel fall in Brent oil prices. The company also expects its operating cash flows to be lower by $170 million for every $5 per barrel fall in Brent. Please note that the sensitivity is based only on the energy operations and does not account for diesel costs in Freeport’s copper operations.

Brent oil prices have fallen in the last couple of weeks, as can be seen in the graph above. Falling energy prices could weigh heavily on Freeport’s 4Q15 earnings.

Freeport noted that it is looking at “strategic alternatives” for its energy business. However, falling crude oil prices have only made things worse for Freeport’s plans.

Icahn lift

Freeport-McMoRan (FCX) jumped smartly in August after activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed his 8.5% stake in the company. Known as the “Icahn lift,” this phenomenon sometimes occurs after Icahn buys a stake in a company. The activist investor has a reputation for encouraging company management to make decisions that he perceives to be in the investors’ best interests.

part 3

Recent developments

The graph above shows some of the recent developments in Freeport-McMoRan after Icahn disclosed his stake. Currently, the activist investor holds two seats on Freeport’s board. In his statement following his representation on Freeport’s board, Icahn cited examples of companies like eBay (EBAY), Mentor Graphics (MENT), and Herbalife, whose “shareholder value has been greatly enhanced” after he won board representation.

Would it help?

To be fair, there’s not much that either Icahn or Freeport-McMoRan’s management can do when commodity prices are hovering at multiyear lows. For its part, the company has taken several aggressive measures, including mine closures and capital expenditure cuts. However, these can only help lessen the pain from falling commodity prices (COMT) (DBB).

Unfortunately for Freeport, even if it breaks off its energy assets, it would not be a smooth ride. Even Freeport’s core copper business is going through a rough patch on the back of a Chinese slowdown. To add to that, Freeport has a surging debt pile of $20.7 billion as of September 30, 2015. Freeport was looking to cut its debt next year. However, a continued slowdown in commodity prices could continue to pose challenges for Freeport’s optimistic 2016 plans.

Please read Freeport-McMoRan: Why the Current Rally Could be Unsustainable to learn more about the company’s outlook.

You can also visit Market Realist’s Copper page for the other recent developments in this industry.

Source: Freeport-McMoRan: A Roller Coaster Ride in November 2015 – Yahoo Finance

China-Taiwan Summit: Ma Ying-Jeou Gambles His Party’s Future As China, Taiwan Leaders Meet For First Time Since 1949

The first summit ever Saturday between the leaders of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (Taiwan) represents a huge gamble for Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou: Can Ma play the peacemaker and burnish the legacy of his Kuomintang (KMT) party, or will he be seen as caving in to Beijing’s might? Ma and mainland counterpart Xi Jinping are meeting in Singapore, just weeks ahead of January’s presidential and parliamentary elections on the island. The KMT, or Nationalist Party, is expected to take a beating from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party.

The meeting is not expected to produce any agreements or joint statements. During Ma’s tenure, 23 economic agreements have been reached with the mainland, promoting economic integration across the Taiwan Strait, and raising fears that Beijing is gaining political leverage over the island, which it has always claimed as its territory.

Kenneth Pomeranz, a professor of Chinese history at the University of Chicago, said mainland China seems to be trying a bit of reverse psychology in advance of the elections.

“The Kuomintang is probably going to lose power,” Pomeranz told International Business Times. “The mainland is thinking if they want to do anything to move the [integration] process forward, now is one of their last chances for a while. I suspect they’re also thinking back to previous elections when things were not going their way and they amped up pressure. That didn’t work. Now they want to see if being nice will help.”

Pomeranz called the meeting significant in that it sets a precedent — even if there are no announcements afterward.

“Even if nothing comes out of this meeting in a direct way … the symbolism of it has a real significance,” he said. “Somewhere down the line when some other mainland leader wants to do this, there will be a precedent. Precedents matter. They might not get much much in the short run, but the fact it has happened could be something we look back on and say, ‘Gee, that made another step in making cross-strait relations a little easier.’ ”

Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP’s presidential candidate, told reporters the meeting will damage Taiwan’s democracy and called the scheduling “hasty and chaotic.” “I believe people across the country, like me, felt very surprised,” she said in prepared remarks.

DPP spokesman Cheng Yun-peng said the summit was called to “affect the election,” but Andrew Hsia, head of the government’s Mainland Affairs Council, said China’s Taiwan Affairs Office initiated the overture and no secret deals were made.

For decades, Taiwan billed itself as the only true China, ruled by Chiang Kai-shek, who was chased from the mainland by Mao Zedong’s communist forces in 1949. Leaders of the two sides have not met since. For the two entities to create a lasting peace, Ma needs to convince Xi that any talks must include the DPP, without forcing the DPP to embrace the “one China” policy, the Economist reported. Tsai’s party is pushing for a permanent separation from China, something the mainland has always firmly opposed.

The Taipei Times reported that Beijing is pushing Taiwan to accept the “one China” policy, and the issue was reported still under negotiation as of late Friday. Taiwan wants to maintain the so-called 1992 consensus, a tacit understanding that there is only one China, but each side has its own interpretation of what that means.

taiwan A pro-Taiwan independence protester wears a Taiwan T-shirt outside the parliament in Taipei in 2008.  Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

Pomeranz said even if the DPP comes out ahead in the elections, it is unlikely it would sever the deals Ma has spearheaded.

“There are just far too many Taiwanese economically tied up with the mainland,” Pomeranz told IBT. “Even if you’re not risking military action here, there are just so many people doing business, so many people visiting relatives, so many mainland tourists visiting. I really doubt the DPP wants to do anything sudden.”

Ma has been trying to improve relations with China since he was first elected in 2008, although some of the island’s residents fear he will sell out to their huge neighbor. Ma, however, has asked China to stop threatening the island (the Chinese coast is bristling with missiles aimed at Taiwan) and has insisted that for Taiwan to contemplate unification, the mainland first would need to become democratic, the Economist reported.

There’s a vast difference in the living standards between between China and Taiwan. Data compiled by the Peterson Institute for International Economics show per capita earnings are five times higher in Taiwan than the People’s Republic.

The mainland’s state-run Xinhua news agency called Saturday’s meeting a “breakthrough in communication between the leaders” and a “milestone for cross-strait relations.” One of the oddities of the talks is neither leader was to address the other as president: They were to use “mister” instead.

Earlier this week, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said Washington welcomes the summit and hopes it will promote “stable and positive cross-strait ties.”

“We encourage authorities in Beijing and Taipei to continue their constructive dialogue on the basis of dignity and respect,” she said, refusing to comment on whether there would be any impact on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

What does China get out of this meeting?

“China gets to keep going a process of gradual deepening engagement, which they figure in the long run works for them,” Pomeranz said. “They would like to absolutely minimize number of people on Taiwan who would contemplate a serious break. The more they can keep the process of engagement going … the more businessmen involved, the more people there are to count on visitors from the mainland, the more people who have relatives — not just going back 70 years but new marriages — the better in the long run that is for Beijing.

“If they’re worried all those processes are about to be interrupted or slowed down, anything they can do to push them forward is something they see as positive. By making a gesture they perceive as friendly, they think they’ll help the KMT in the elections.”

Source: China-Taiwan Summit: Ma Ying-Jeou Gambles His Party’s Future As China, Taiwan Leaders Meet For First Time Since 1949

United States and China In Conflict Over U.S. Not Recognizing China’s Claims To Islands Air Space

The U.S. Navy sent a warship within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea.

October 27, 2015    by Ryan Biek  http://www.newsy.com

http://www.newsy.com/videos/u-s-defies-china-s-territorial-claims-in-south-china-sea/#ooid=IwZGlmeDqr2oaFJkJ7o3GsE-y-63Uyj3

A U.S. warship defied Chinese territorial claims Tuesday and sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island in the South China Sea.

The Chinese island has been called an unsinkable aircraft carrier by some military analysts. The manmade land holds an airstrip, barracks and other military equipment. (Video via U.S. Navy)

Maritime law extends a country’s ownership 12 nautical miles beyond its land. By sending guided missile destroyer USS Lassen through that zone, the U.S. has essentially said it doesn’t recognize China’s claims.

“It follows on a step the U.S. took in May this year when it flew a U.S. surveillance plane, and we were on board, directly over these islands to say that the U.S. does not recognize Chinese airspace …,” a security correspondent told CNN.

As Fox News notes, China says almost all of the South China Sea is theirs. Meanwhile, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have declared parts, or all, of the sea as their own.

The U.S. claims neutrality on territorial disputes and says it’s only exercising its freedom of navigation. The U.S. Navy frequently patrols the South China Sea, often with Chinese ships close behind, as you can see in this video. (Video via U.S. Navy)

An article published in The Wall Street Journal notes the South China Sea is home to half of the world’s shipborne trade. The author also argues historical inaccuracies plague China’s so-called “historic rights” to the sea. (Video via Fox News)

Still, it’s a little unclear what the U.S.’s endgame is. It’s unlikely that China will break up its artificial islands anytime soon.

But as a naval expert told CNN, China’s strategy in the South China Sea has been “one of ambiguity.” The U.S.’s recent move could force China to clarify its ownership claims, which can then be refuted or defended. (Video via U.S. Navy)

This video includes images from Getty Images.