Miss Universe 2018 - Philippines' Catriona Gray wins

Miss Universe 2018 - Philippines' Catriona Gray 

MANILA, Philippines - Christmas came early to the Philippines as Catriona Gray bested 93 other aspirants for the 2018 Miss Universe crown in ceremonies staged at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday morning to becoming the fourth Filipino woman to win the crown.

She received her crown from last year's winner Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa.

Nel-Peters' compatriot Tamaryn Green failed to score a back-to-back victory for their country and settled for second place. Venezuela's Sthefany Gutierrez came in third.

The representatives from Vietnam and Puerto Rico, both strong and popular contenders, cracked the Top 5.

Philippines' Catriona Gray crown Miss Universe 2018

The 94-candidate haul this year is the biggest in the pageant's 66-year-history.

During the final round of questioning, the final three were asked about the most important lesson they learned in their lives.

Gray shared her experience working in the slums of Tondo, Manila, and looking at the "silver lining" through the smiles of the children there.

She hopes to inspire a feeling of being grateful "where negativity will not foster, and the children will have smiles."

This year, the global tilt had its first all-female panel of judges.

The esteemed group of women includes two Filipinos - US-based international fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, and Richelle Singson-Michael, daughter of former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, who organised the 65th Miss Universe pageant in the Philippines.

They were joined by former Miss Universe winners Porntip Nakhirunkanok of Thailand (who now goes by the name Bui Simon) and Michelle McLean of Namibia who won her crown in Bangkok in 1992.

Miss Philippines with performer Ne-Yo

Also in the panel were entrepreneurs Liliana Gil Valetta, Iman Obou, and Janaye Ingram.

As in the previous year, the Miss Universe pageant selected semifinalists based on geographical regions. Five delegates were chosen each from the Americas, Europe, and Africa and Asia-Pacific. Five more "wildcard" aspirants were included, regardless of the continent from where their countries are located.

The pageant also paid tribute to Spain's Angela Ponce for breaking barriers by being the first transgender woman to reach its global stage.

"I don't need to win Miss Universe, I just need to be here," Ponce said in Spanish in a pre-taped segment shown live during the telecast. She received a standing ovation from the judges and the audience.

The other Filipino Miss Universe winners were Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973) and Pia Wurtzbach (2015).

Steve Harvey hosted the ceremonies for the third straight year, with Grammy-winning RnB artist Ne-Yo performing.



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Johnson & Johnson shares plunge after the report on asbestos in baby powder

US pharmaceutical and cosmetics group Johnson & Johnson

The controversy has long dogged the company, which has been facing a wave of several thousand court cases claiming the baby powder is causing cancer

NEW YORK: US pharmaceutical and cosmetics group Johnson & Johnson saw its shares plunge Friday after a media report alleged the group had deliberately concealed for decades that its baby powder sometimes contained asbestos.

A lengthy investigation by the Reuters news agency, which reviewed thousands of company documents, showed the company marketed talc-based products that, at least between 1971 and the beginning in the 2000s, sometimes contained asbestos.

The company’s executives, researchers, doctors and lawyers were aware but deliberately chose not to disclose this information and not to refer it to the authorities, according to the report.
Johnson & Johnson strenuously rejected the claims made in the article, calling it “one-sided, false and inflammatory.”

“Simply put, the Reuters story is an absurd conspiracy theory,” the company said in a statement. “Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder is safe and asbestos-free.”
J&J stock closed down more than 10 per cent at $133 on the New York Stock Exchange, its worst one-day fall in 16 years.

The controversy has long dogged the company, which has been facing a wave of several thousand court cases claiming the baby powder is causing cancer.

In July, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $4.7 billion in damages to a group of 22 women claiming to have developed ovarian cancer following the use of the powder.
The company said Friday there were rigorous tests showing the talc did not contain the cancer-causing mineral.

In addition, “J&J has cooperated fully and openly with the US FDA and other global regulators, providing them with all the information they requested over decades.”

According to Reuters, the company also tried, unsuccessfully, to block regulations that lower the maximum level of asbestos allowed in talc-based cosmetics.



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Hyundai sets sales price of Kona Electric for U.S. market

Hyundai Motor Company

NEW YORK, -- Hyundai Motor Company has announced starting price of all-electric compact utility vehicle (CUV) Kona Electric on Friday for the U.S. market.

Consumers could pay no more than 30,000 U.S. dollars for the crossover CUV after reduction of around 7,500 U.S. dollars of tax credit, according to a release by Hyundai Motor America on Friday.

As Hyundai's first compact electric crossover for the U.S. market, Kona Electric has as much as 415 km of range for each charge and would be shipped to the U.S. market in the beginning of 2019 from its manufacturing base in Ulsan, South Korea.

Hyundai Motor has received awards from Australia, the United Kingdom and Spain regarding Kona Electric, according to media reports.

The affordability of Kona Electric makes it attractive but production capacity of the electric vehicle is seen limited to around 4,000 each month now.

The United States recorded 1 million EVs running on the road in September in comparison of 260 million of national total vehicles.

Still, sales of EVs in the United States could be dampened as U.S. President Donald Trump is working to roll back incentive measures aimed to stimulates deployment of environmental friendly EVs.

Now, a tax payer in the country could claim as much as 7,500 U.S. dollars of tax credits in buying one EV, according to federal laws enacted in 2010 under the Obama administration.

Why Huawei arrest deepens conflict between US and China


chief financial officer of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou

Washington has been pushing other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing’s spymasters.

British Telecom said this week that it would stop using Huawei equipment in its 5G network, the BBC reported, and US lawmakers have lobbied Canada’s prime minister to freeze out the Chinese supplier

WASHINGTON: The dramatic arrest of a Chinese telecommunications executive has driven home why it will be so hard for the Trump administration to resolve its deepening conflict with China.
In the short run, the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer heightened skepticism about the trade truce that Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping reached last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina. On Thursday, US stock markets tumbled on fears that the 90-day cease-fire won’t last, before regaining most of their losses by the close of trading.

But the case of an executive for a Chinese company that’s been a subject of US national security concerns carries echoes well beyond tariffs or market access. Washington and Beijing are locked in a clash over which of the world’s two largest economies will command economic and political dominance for decades to come.
“It’s a much broader issue than just a trade dispute,” said Amanda DeBusk, chair of the international trade practice at Dechert LLP. “It pulls in: Who is going to be the world leader essentially.”

The Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights Saturday — the same day that Trump and Xi met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina and produced a cease-fire in their trade war. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, reported that Meng is suspected of trying to evade US sanctions on Iran. She faces extradition to the United States, and a bail hearing was set for Friday.
The British bank HSBC is cooperating with US authorities in its investigation, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Huawei, the world’s biggest supplier of network gear used by phone and Internet companies, has long been seen as a front for spying by the Chinese military or security services, whose cyber-spies are widely acknowledged as highly skilled. A US National Security Agency cybersecurity adviser, Rob Joyce, last month accused Beijing of violating a 2015 agreement with the US to halt electronic theft of intellectual property.

Other nations are increasingly being forced to choose between Chinese and US suppliers for next-generation “5G” wireless technology. Washington has been pushing other countries not to buy the equipment from Huawei, arguing that the company may be working stealthily for Beijing’s spymasters.
Beijing protested Meng’s arrest but signaled that it doesn’t want to disrupt progress toward settling its trade dispute with the Trump administration. Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said China is confident it can reach a deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend a scheduled increase in US import taxes on $200 billion worth of Chinese products.

US national security adviser John Bolton told NPR that he knew of the pending arrest in advance. He noted that there has been much concern about the suspicion that Chinese firms like Huawei use stolen US intellectual property.

In the view of the United States and many outside analysts, China has embarked on an aggressive drive to overtake America’s dominance in technology and global economic leadership. According to analysts, China has deployed predatory tactics, from forcing American and other foreign companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market to engaging in cyber-theft.
Washington also regards Beijing’s ambitious long-term development plan, “Made in China 2025,” as a scheme to dominate such fields as robotics and electric vehicles by unfairly subsidizing Chinese companies and discriminating against foreign competitors.

In addition to Trump’s tariffs, the administration is tightening regulations on high-tech exports to China. It’s also making it harder for Chinese firms to invest in US companies or to buy American technology in such cutting-edge areas as robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Earlier this year, the United States nearly drove Huawei’s biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., out of business for selling equipment to North Korea and Iran in violation of US sanctions. But Trump issued a reprieve, possibly in part because US tech companies are major suppliers of the Chinese giant and would also have been scorched. ZTE got off with paying a $1 billion fine, changing its board and management and agreeing to let American regulators monitor its operations.

The US and Chinese tech industries depend on each other so much for components that “it is very hard to decouple the two without punishing US companies, without shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Adam Segal, cyberspace analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Dean Garfield, president of the US Information Technology Industry Council trade group, said innovation by US companies often depends utterly on product development and testing by Chinese partners, not to mention component suppliers.

British Telecom said this week that it would stop using Huawei equipment in its 5G network, the BBC reported, and US lawmakers have lobbied Canada’s prime minister to freeze out the Chinese supplier. New Zealand and Australia already have.  Other, less wealthy nations are concerned less about spying and more about low prices, which play to Huawei’s advantage.

Both Huawei and ZTE have not only been barred from use by US government agencies and contractors; they have also been mostly locked out of the American market. A 2012 report by the House Intelligence Committee report urged US businesses to avoid their products and called for blocking all mergers or acquisitions involving them.

And nearly a year ago, AT&T pulled out of a deal to sell Huawei smartphones.
“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party — and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion’ is no exception,” Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote in October to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They urged him to keep Huawei off Canada’s next-generation network.

Priscilla Moriuchi, a former East Asia specialist at National Security Agency now with the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, said both ZTE and Huawei are wedded to China’s military and political leadership.
“The threat from these companies lies in their access to critical Internet backbone infrastructure,” she said.

“No matter what happens in the short term, (the arrest of Huawei’s CFO) is a symptom of a long-term technology clash,” said Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “We’re not going to deal that away in 90 days.”

Scissors said he doubts that China will change its tech policies. Beijing must develop innovative technologies to keep its economy growing as its labor force ages and it confronts a huge stockpile of debt. Yet its political and economic system — which promotes inefficient state-owned companies at the expense of nimbler private ones — discourages innovation.
“I don’t see a way out of this,” Scissors said.

Likewise, Rod Hunter, an international economic official in President George W. Bush’s White House and a partner at law firm Baker McKenzie, said, “I’m skeptical that the Chinese are going to want to say ‘uncle.’ ” US and Chinese officials are “trying to tackle a problem that is going to take years, maybe a decade, to resolve.”



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Trump says interior secretary to leave office at year's end

US Interior Secretary Zinke resigning, cites ‘vicious’ attacks

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

As head of Interior, Zinke made plans to realign the agency’s bureaucracy, trimming the equivalent of 4,600 jobs, about 7 per cent of its workforce

WASHINGTON: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, facing federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest, will be leaving the administration at year’s end, President Donald Trump said Saturday. In his resignation letter, obtained by The Associated Press, Zinke said “vicious and politically motivated attacks” against him had “created an unfortunate distraction” in fulfilling the agency’s mission.

Trump, in tweeting Zinke’s departure, said the former Montana congressman “accomplished much during his tenure” and that a replacement would be announced next week. The Cabinet post requires Senate confirmation.

Zinke is leaving weeks before Democrats take control of the House, a shift in power that promises to sharpen the probes into his conduct. His departure comes amid a staff shake-up as Trump heads into his third year in office facing increased legal exposure due to intensifying investigations into his campaign, business, foundation and administration.

Zinke’s resignation letter, obtained from a Zinke aide on Saturday, cites what he calls “meritless and false claims” and says that “to some, truth no longer matters.”
The letter, dated Saturday, said Zinke’s last day would be Jan. 2. It was not clear whether Zinke had already submitted the letter when Trump tweeted.

Zinke, 57, played a leading part in Trump’s efforts to roll back federal environmental regulations and promote domestic energy development. He drew attention from his first day on the job, when he mounted a roan gelding to ride across Washington’s National Mall to the Department of Interior.
Zinke had remained an ardent promoter of both missions, and his own macho image, despite growing talk that he had lost Trump’s favor.

On Tuesday, Zinke appeared on stage at an Environmental Protection Agency ceremony for a rollback on water regulations. Mentioning his background as a Navy SEAL at least twice, he led the audience in a round of applause for the US oil and gas industry.

Trump never established a deep personal connection with Zinke but appreciated how he stood tall against criticisms from environmental groups as he worked to roll back protections. But the White House concluded in recent weeks that Zinke was likely the Cabinet member most vulnerable to investigations led by newly empowered Democrats in Congress, according to an administration official not authorized to publicly discuss personnel matters who spoke on condition of anonymity.

His tenure was temporarily extended as Interior helped with the response to California wildfires and the West Wing was consumed with speculation over the future of chief of staff John Kelly. But White House officials pressured him to resign, the official said, which he did after his department’s Christmas party on Thursday night. On Saturday night, hours after his resignation became public, Zinke was spotted at the White House for another holiday party, the Congressional Ball.
As interior secretary, Zinke pushed to develop oil, natural gas and coal beneath public lands in line with the administration’s business-friendly aims. But he has been dogged by ethics probes, including one centered on a Montana land deal involving a foundation he created and the chairman of an energy services company, Halliburton, that does business with the Interior Department.
Investigators also are reviewing Zinke’s decision to block two tribes from opening a casino in Connecticut and his redrawing of boundaries to shrink a Utah national monument. Zinke has denied wrongdoing.

The Associated Press reported last month that the department’s internal watchdog had referred an investigation of Zinke to the Justice Department.

Zinke’s travels with his wife, Lola Zinke, also had come under scrutiny.
Interior’s inspector general’s office said Zinke allowed his wife to ride in government vehicles with him despite a department policy that prohibits nongovernment officials from doing so. The report also said the department spent more than $25,000 to provide security for the couple when they took a vacation to Turkey and Greece.

Trump told reporters this fall he was evaluating Zinke’s future in the administration in light of the allegations and offered a lukewarm vote of confidence. Zinke in November denied he already was hunting for his next job.

“I enjoy working for the president,” he told a Montana radio station. “Now, If you do your job, he supports you.”
“I think I’m probably going to be the commander of space command,” Zinke said. “How’s that one?“
Zinke outlasted EPA chief Scott Pruitt, another enthusiastic advocate of Trump’s business-friendly way of governing who lost favor with Trump amid ethics scandals. Pruitt resigned in July. Trump’s first Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, also resigned under a cloud of ethical questions.
Democratic leaders in Congress were scathing in response to the news that Zinke was leaving as well.
“Ryan Zinke was one of the most toxic members of the cabinet in the way he treated our environment, our precious public lands, and the way he treated the govt like it was his personal honey pot,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of the New York tweeted Saturday. “The swamp cabinet will be a little less foul without him.”

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is set to become speaker in January, said Zinke had “been a shameless handmaiden for the special interests” and his “staggering ethical abuses have delivered a serious and lasting blow to America’s public lands, environment, clean air and clean water.”
Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, had warned that after Democrats took control of the House they intended to call Zinke to testify on his ethics issues.

Grijalva spokesman Adam Sarvana said Saturday that committee leaders still intended to ask for Zinke’s testimony. “It’s safe to say that Citizen Zinke may be leaving, but real oversight of former Secretary Zinke has not even started,” Sarvana said in an email.
Earlier this month, Zinke unleashed a jarring personal attack on Grijalva, tweeting, “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle.”

Zinke got a warmer send-off from Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, who said in a statement that he had been a “strong partner for Western states.”

Under Zinke’s watch, the Interior Department moved to auction off more oil leases, ended a moratorium on new sales of federally owned coal, and repealed mandates governing drilling. Zinke’s focus on the president’s energy agenda was cheered by oil, gas and mining advocates, who credit the administration with seeking to balance conservation with development on public lands. But his tenure was denounced by most conservation groups.

“Zinke will go down as the worst Interior secretary in history,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement released Saturday. “His slash-and-burn approach was absolutely destructive for public lands and wildlife. Allowing David Bernhardt to continue to call the shots will still be just as ugly. Different people, same appetite for greed and profit.”

Bernhardt, the deputy secretary, is in line to lead the Interior Department on an interim basis. He has spent years in Washington as a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry and has deep ties to Republican politicians and conservative interest groups.

Two outgoing Republican congressmen are said to be interested in the job.
Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho planned to go to the White House on Saturday to discuss the job with officials, said a GOP congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe Labrador’s private plans. Labrador, 51, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who is retiring from Congress after eight years. He lost a bid for his state’s GOP gubernatorial nomination last spring.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., is also interested in Zinke’s job, according to another Republican congressional aide who described the situation only on condition of anonymity. The aide said the White House has made inquiries about Denham to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who will be House minority leader next year. Denham, 51, has been involved in water issues in California. He lost his bid for re-election last month.

As head of Interior, Zinke made plans to realign the agency’s bureaucracy, trimming the equivalent of 4,600 jobs, about 7 per cent of its workforce. He also proposed a massive overhaul that would have moved decision-making out of Washington, relocating headquarters staff to Western states at a cost of $17.5 million.

Zinke was a one-term congressman when Trump selected him to join his incoming Cabinet in December 2016.

An early Trump supporter, Zinke is close to the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and publicly expressed his interest in a Cabinet post when Trump visited Montana in May 2016.

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