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World

    A Chinese envoy is going to Washington on Wednesday to prepare for trade negotiations. The announcement Tuesday follows conciliatory gestures by both sides ahead of the October talks on their fight over trade and technology, which threatens to dampen global economic growth. A deputy finance minister, Liao Min, will lead a delegation to Washington to 'pave the way' for the 13th round of negotiations, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It gave no details of their agenda. The two governments have raised tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods. That has battered farmers and manufacturers on both sides and fueled fears the global economy, which already is showing signs of cooling, might tip into recession. Beijing announced Friday it will lift punitive tariffs on American soybeans, China's biggest import from the United States. That followed President Donald Trump's decision to postpone a tariff hike on Chinese imports. But there has been no sign of progress on the core issues in their sprawling dispute. Washington wants Beijing to roll back plans for state-led development of leaders in robotics and other technologies. The United States, Europe and other trading partners argue those violate China's free-trade commitments. Some American officials worry they will erode U.S. industrial leadership. Negotiations broke down in May over how to enforce any deal. Beijing says Trump's tariff hikes must be lifted as soon as an agreement takes effect. Washington wants to keep some in place to ensure Chinese compliance. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in June to resume talks but the last round in Shanghai in July produced no progress.
  • Israelis were voting Tuesday in an unprecedented repeat election that will decide whether longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays in power. Against the prospect of a likely indictment on corruption charges, Netanyahu is seeking a fifth term in office. He faces a stiff challenge from retired military chief Benny Gantz, whose centrist Blue and White party is running even with Netanyahu's Likud. Both parties could struggle to form a majority coalition with smaller allies, though, forcing them into a potential unity government. It's the second election this year, after Netanyahu failed to build a coalition following April's vote and dissolved parliament. Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. and exit polls are expected at the end of the voting day at 10 p.m. Official results are projected to come in overnight. With his political career on the line, Netanyahu has campaigned furiously and taken a late hard turn to the right. He's staged a flurry of media appearances to beseech supporters to vote in large numbers to stave off the prospect of a left-wing government he says will endanger the country's security. A centerpiece of his late-hour agenda has been the pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank and to annex all the Jewish settlements there, something Netanyahu has refrained from doing during his decade-plus in power. The proposal sparked a cascade of international condemnation, including from Europe and Saudi Arabia, an influential Arab country that has quiet, unofficial ties with Israel. The U.S., however, had a muted reaction, suggesting Netanyahu coordinated his plan with the Americans ahead of time. He's also been flaunting his close ties to President Donald Trump and the prospect of a defense pact between their countries shortly after the election. Gantz is offering himself as an honest alternative to the scandal-plagued Netanyahu and his narrow coalition of ultranationalist and ultra-religious parties. Campaigning on rhetoric of unity and egalitarianism, Gantz says he represents a fresh start for Israel and has ruled out joining forces with a prime minister accused of serious crimes. Israel's attorney general has recommended pressing criminal charges against Netanyahu in three separate corruption cases, pending a long delayed pretrial hearing scheduled for early October — just three weeks after the election.
  • Taiwan has lost its largest ally in the Pacific after the Solomon Islands on Tuesday confirmed it is switching diplomatic allegiance to China, and observers say other Pacific nations may soon follow. The switch has geopolitical significance that will be felt as far away as Washington because the Solomon Islands are located directly between Australia and the U.S. and were the site of fierce battles during World War II. Alex Akwai, a spokesman for Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, says the government's caucus took a poll on Monday with 27 lawmakers voting in favor of switching allegiance to China and another six abstaining. He says the Cabinet then voted unanimously in favor of the change. Taiwan said it condemned the decision, while China said it welcomed the Solomon Islands.
  • Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday that the government had asked international public relations firms to help restore the city's reputation, battered by months of pro-democracy protests, but was rejected. Lam said the firms told the government that 'the time is not right' as the violence and unrest in the semiautonomous Chinese territory showed no signs of ending. She didn't give details on the firms or when they were approached. The city's reputation was likely tarnished not just by the protests but by what many viewed as the government's slow response to the crisis. Days after more than a million people took to the streets in early June, kicking off the protests, Lam suspended an extradition bill that sparked the unrest but refused to formally withdraw it. She caved in this month after the demonstrations escalated, but the promise to ax the bill was deemed too little, too late as protesters widened their demands to include democratic reforms. 'It would perhaps be not the most cost-effective way to use government resources to launch any campaign to rebuild Hong Kong's reputation, but sooner or later, we will have to do it because I have every confidence in Hong Kong's fundamentals,' Lam told a news conference Tuesday. 'The time will come for us to launch a major campaign to restore some of the damage done to Hong Kong's reputation,' she said. Hong Kong's economy, already reeling from the U.S.-China trade war, is facing its first recession in years, with tourist arrivals plunging and businesses being hit by the unrest. Violence flared again over the weekend after an unapproved march downtown descended into familiar chaos. Lam said the city's downgrade this week by credit ratings agency Moody's was 'disappointing' but acknowledged that the continued instability has tarnished international perception of Hong Kong's financial stability. Moody's was the second agency to make the move after Fitch Rating. Lam said that she will begin open dialogues next week with various community groups, including protesters, and that participants can freely express their views. Many protesters have said the dialogues are meaningless if the government refuses to accept their four other demands — direct elections for the city's leaders, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, unconditional release of protesters who have been detained and not labeling the protests as riots. Lam said not all Hong Kong citizens support the protesters' demands and reiterated that the government cannot condone violence. She said the dialogues are not one-off 'gimmicks' but an important first step to resolve grievances over problems such as shortage of affordable housing and lack of jobs that contributed to the unrest. Also, a subway train derailed during Tuesday morning rush hour, sparking rumors that it may have been caused by protesters, some of whom have vandalized subway stations in recent weeks. Transport Secretary Frank Chan urged the public not to speculate as investigations are ongoing. The fire department said eight people were injured, with five of them hospitalized.
  • South Korea is culling thousands of pigs after confirming African swine fever at a farm near its border with North Korea, which had an outbreak in May. Kim Hyun-soo, South Korea's agricultural minister, said the country's first case of the highly contagious disease was confirmed Tuesday in tests on five pigs that died Monday evening at the farm in the city of Paju. Officials were planning to complete by Tuesday the culling of some 4,000 pigs raised at the farm and two nearby farms run by the same owner. The government also strengthened efforts to disinfect farms and transport vehicles and ordered a 48-hour standstill on all pig farms, slaughterhouses and feed factories across the country to prevent the spread of the disease, which threatens a massive industry that involves 6,000 farms raising more than 11 million pigs. African swine fever has decimated pig herds in China and other Asian countries before reaching the Koreas. It is harmless to people but for pigs is highly contagious and fatal. There is no known cure. The outbreak in South Korea comes despite months of heightened monitoring efforts at border area farms after the disease spread to North Korea. In May, the North told the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, that 77 of the 99 pigs at a cooperative farm near its border with China died of the disease and the remaining 22 pigs were culled. South Korea's agriculture ministry said investigators were sent to the farm to trace the source of the outbreak and it wasn't immediately clear if the disease would have crossed from North Korea. North Korea has scaled back cooperation with South Korea after a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump collapsed in February, and it has ignored repeated South Korean calls for joint efforts to stem the spread of the disease. South Korea placed hundreds of fences and traps around border area farms to prevent pigs from being infected by wild boars that roam in and out of North Korea, while the military used its heat sensors installed along the border to monitor the movement of the animals.
  • The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China on Monday, becoming the latest country to leave the dwindling Taiwanese camp. Taiwan's Foreign Ministry confirmed the move, saying the Solomon Islands Cabinet approved a resolution to recognize Beijing as the government of China. 'We sincerely regret and strongly condemn their government's decision to establish diplomatic relations with China,' Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said at an evening news conference. There was no immediate confirmation from the Solomon Islands. The possibility of a switch had been widely reported in recent weeks. Taiwan split from mainland China during a civil war in 1949 and set up a rival government to the victorious Communists in Beijing. Most countries recognize Beijing today, and China has been ratcheting up diplomatic and economic pressure to woo the remaining ones since Tsai took office in 2016. Fewer than 20 governments still recognize Taiwan. Tsai said Taiwan will close its embassy in the Solomon Islands and recall all technical and medical personnel stationed there. She said their unfinished cooperation projects would be a loss for the country's people. 'However, this is the choice that the Solomon Islands' government has made, leaving us with no other option but to respond in this way,' she said. China, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory, wants to bring the island back into its fold under the 'one country, two systems' framework that governs Hong Kong and is being sorely tested by pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous city this summer. 'As is known to all, there is only one China,' Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said about the Solomon Islands issue last week. She described the one-China principle as the right choice that meets the trend of the times. 'This choice has been made by 178 countries,' she said. Tsai vowed to resist pressure from China, saying that the mainland was trying to damage the morale of the Taiwanese people and force Taiwan to accept 'one country, two systems' by luring away diplomatic allies. 'I am confident that the 23 million people of Taiwan have this to say in response: not a chance,' she said.
  • More than half the tigers rescued three years ago from a Buddhist temple in Thailand where they served as a popular tourist attraction have died of disease, wildlife officials said Monday. The tigers were vulnerable to illness because of inbreeding, leading to laryngeal paralysis causing respiratory failure, said national parks official Patarapol Maneeorn. Eighty-six of 147 rescued tigers kept at government-run wildlife sanctuaries have died. The DNA of all 147 confiscated tigers could be traced to six tigers who were the original breeding stock, said Patarapol, head of the department's Wildlife Health Management Division. Such inbreeding 'affects their well-being, resulting in disabilities and weakened health condition,' he said at a news conference. 'And when they have weakened genetic traits, they also have problems with their immune system as well.' The temple in the western province of Kanchanaburi served for more than a decade as a de facto zoo where tourists could feed tigers and pose for photos with them, despite concerns about possible mistreatment and suspicions of wildlife trafficking. Police found tiger skins and teeth and at least 1,500 amulets made from tiger bones when they raided the temple, as well as 60 cub carcasses stuffed in freezers and in formaldehyde in jars. Tiger parts, such as ground bones, are popular as traditional medicine in Asia. Tiger hides can sell for tens of thousands of dollars in China. There are estimated to be more than 1,000 tigers in captivity in Thailand, but only about 200 in the wild out of a global wild population of about 4,000. Patarapol said Thai authorities would do their best to care for the surviving rescued tigers. 'We are mobilizing team members, increasing our readiness and adjusting our plan,' he said. 'We will provide the best care possible.
  • There were glittery runway shows Monday as London Fashion Week showcased some of its top stars including Burberry and Christopher Kane. Venues were packed as designers tried to build on past successes and break new ground with daring collections. There was a breathless pace to the shows in various parts of London. Important buyers and influencers were whisked around in cars and drivers provided by the Britain Fashion Council. Others had to make do with the crowded subways and buses. Once at the shows, it wasn't always easy to get about — especially if one was wearing stiletto heels going up stairs. There were a few near misses but no tumbles. BURBERRY BUILDS ON PAST GLORIES The Burberry collection was a triumph for Riccardo Tisci, the relatively new chief creative designer. He's found a way to elaborate on the brand's familiar themes — those trenches and those checks, those clean lines and easy drapes — without adulterating what made Burberry unique to begin with. It's a balancing act, and he makes it work. 'My first year at Burberry was about understanding and refining the new codification for the house,' he said. 'With that foundation in place, I feel ready to start exploring.' For Burberry the roots are always English — in this case, many of the designs are variations of the Victorian era look. That meant reconstructed trench coats, some almost abstract in design, along with cinched blazers, box-pleat skirts suits, corset detailing and ruffled lace dresses. The evening dresses were decorated with crystal mesh and ostrich feathers layered by hand. The colors were familiar to Burberry devotees: gray, black and beige dominated, along with many outfits that simply mixed black and white. There were beautiful print blouses with billowing built-in scarfs, and imaginative variations of the classic trench, including some that were cutaway in front to reveal sexy slip dresses. There was nothing gaudy or flashy, nothing too outrageous, and no sense of trying too hard. There was more variety to the menswear than in recent years, including a series of belted suits, some of which could pass for sophisticated business wear and some of which was simply too unusual, with silver decoration or contrasting panels in the jacket. For the moment, Burberry seems to have turned its back on the traditional dress shirt, tie and dark suits that were once staples of its menswear collections. Some of the outfits, including an impressive series of white lace mini-dresses, bore the statement 'I am a unicorn' across the front. It seemed at first like an attempt to be trendy, but Tisci said it was, like so many things, actually tied to Burberry's history. He said the firm's founder, Thomas Burberry, chose the image of a unicorn for the family crest. Tisci said Thomas Burberry was 'a daring innovator but also a romantic and a dreamer.' ___ CHRISTOPHER KANE FOCUSES ON ENVIRONMENT - AND SEX Designer Christopher Kane loves to shock and loves to embrace the sensual, so it's not surprising his new collection embraces the 'ecosexual' — a term that may be difficult to define but certainly sounds intriguing. It was printed on some of the outfits and was a recurring theme on the soundtrack that accompanied the runway show. No one should be surprised. Celebrating sex has been one of Kane's major themes in recent years. 'We looked at the last season which was all about fetishes and sexual behavior,' he said after the show. 'So, this season again was all about that. But we looked at earth and nature, and science and nature is always something I look at for every collection.' It's been a winning approach for Kane, who finds new fans each year. This show was less overtly sexual than in years past, and the environmental theme was subtly showcased by a predominance of green floral prints at the start of the show. There was a green floral trench coat, a green floral mini-dress with high boots, and green floral suits, and a slinky black top paired with a tiny green floral skirt, other variations on the theme. Each looked different, and fun. Kane seemed to enjoy toying with formal wear, offering a silk brocade tuxedo jacket paired with a slightly over-the-top lime green top, and many outfits had silvery oversize bulbs for decorations. There was a welcome playfulness to the collection, mixed with Kane's high level of craftsmanship and color. ___ Associated Press writer Sian Watson contributed.
  • Greece has asked its European creditors to approve the early repayment of part of its bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund, the country's finance minister said Monday. Christos Staikouras said paying off the IMF loans ahead of schedule would reduce debt servicing costs by about 70 million euros ($77 million). He said the average annual interest rate of the IMF loans is 4.9%, while the country can currently borrow raise money much cheaper in the markets — the interest rate on Greece's 10-year bonds is around 1.6%. Although the loans are owed to the IMF, European creditors — to whom the country owes far more — must sign off first on the request under the terms of Greece's bailouts. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the early repayment, for which both the IMF and European creditors have voiced support, will 'boost the country's credibility' while improving the viability of its huge debt burden. Between 2010-2018, Greece received €290 billion ($320 billion) to keep afloat because of the perilous state of its public finances. Greece has repaid a large part of its IMF loans but still owes the fund about 9 billion euros. The average interest that Greece pays its European creditors is around 1.4%.
  • A minority group of opposition parties in Venezuela agreed Monday to enter negotiations with President Nicolas Maduro's government without the participation of U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó, eroding his efforts to hold together a coalition to confront the socialist administration. The agreement was signed by representatives of several opposition parties alongside Maduro's top aides in a nationally televised event attended by foreign diplomats. It marks the first significant split in the anti-Maduro camp since Guaidó, as head of the opposition-controlled congress, declared himself interim president in January, citing what was seen as Maduro's fraudulent re-election last year. Guaidó quickly drew recognition from the U.S. and more than 50 nations. 'Everyone who wants to join and sign this agreement is welcome,' Maduro said later Monday. 'The starting point is to accept our difference and seek peace.' Lawmaker Timoteo Zambrano, an opposition lawmaker who signed the agreement, was critical of the efforts led by the larger anti-Maduro parties. He didn't directly mention Guaidó. Zambrano said he and the others seek to recover time lost due to the 'ambition of some and the mistakes of us all.' He urged support from the international community. 'We ask the governments of the region and the world to listen, value and support this path,' Zambrano said. The talks will focus on reforming Venezuela's electoral board as well as finding a solution to the impasse caused by the creation of a pro-government constitutional assembly to rival the opposition-controlled congress. At least four opposition leaders appeared on state TV to sign the agreement launching the negotiations, though they represent less than one-tenth of seats in the National Assembly. They wield far less power than parties like Guaidó's Popular Will, experts said. Guaidó appeared at a separate event Monday, saying he considered the announcement of sideline negotiations with the minority opposition parties a 'maneuver' that Maduro's government has employed before to split the opposition. 'We already know what the conclusion was,' Guaidó told The Associated Press, noting that those attempts failed to reach solutions. Guaidó a day earlier said that negotiations with the government brokered by Norway had been exhausted, saying Maduro and his allies 'have blocked a political solution' to the crisis by 'refusing to discuss and agree on a sensible proposal.' Until recently, the talks held on the Caribbean island of Barbados had been seen as the best chance at resolving Venezuela's crisis. Leaders in Oslo, however, said they left open the possibility of talks. Despite Guaidó's brave face, some in the opposition acknowledged that by absorbing the attention the new dialogue attempt would muddle efforts both inside and outside Venezuela to secure Maduro's removal. Geoff Ramsey, a researcher at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank, said this division will complicate negotiations such as those in Barbados. Maduro will be able to claim he's made meaningful concessions, while doing the bare minimum, Ramsey said. 'The opposition formally announcing the end of talks provided the regime with an opening,' Ramsey said. 'There are plenty of opportunists among the fringes of the opposition that are happy to steal the limelight.' The international community will never endorse agreements from the new negotiations, he said, because democracies around the world have been denouncing Maduro's government as illegitimate for the past eight months, and any deal that doesn't lead to new presidential elections is going to be a 'non-starter.' Many of the same issues, such as reforming the electoral board, had also been raised by Guaidó's envoys in the Barbados talks. So the government can legitimately claim that it is at least partially addressing longstanding opposition demands. Venezuelan Communications Minister Jorge Rodríguez said that agreements have already been reached on some issues. Both sides are working on an agenda to continue negotiations on further agreements, he said. 'We have not closed, nor will we close, any doors to any initiative that will allow Venezuelans to resolve our troubles,' Rodríguez said, urging other countries not to interfere. 'These issues only concern us as Venezuelans.' Rodríguez also said members of the ruling socialist party would soon return to the opposition-controlled National Assembly, having abandoned the body in 2016 and then forming their own legislative body. Even with the defections by a few lawmakers representing the opposition parties who signed Monday's accord, forces aligned with Guaidó would still hold a solid congressional majority despite the arrest and exile of several lawmakers. Guaidó is counting on a majority to thwart any attempts to have him removed as head of congress when his one-year term expires in January. It remained to be seen how Guaido's international backers would react. But there was no indication the U.S. — the first of some now 50 countries to recognize Guaidó as Venezuela's rightful leader — would ease pressure on Maduro. ___ Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez and Jorge Rueda contributed to this report.