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    China on Monday expanded its sweeping efforts to contain a deadly virus, extending the Lunar New Year holiday to keep the public at home and avoid spreading infection as the death toll rose to 81. Mongolia closed its vast border with China, and Hong Kong and Malaysia announced they would bar entry to visitors from the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak following a warning by medical officials that the virus’s ability to spread was growing. Travel agencies were ordered to cancel group tours nationwide, adding to the rising economic losses. Stock markets around the world were down sharply Monday as the lockdown in Chinese cities was expected to stifle travel, shopping and business for millions of people. Though markets in much of Asia, including China, were closed for the Lunar New Year, they slumped more than 2% in Japan and across Europe. Wall Street was expected to drop on the open and the international price of oil was down a sharp 4%. China's increasingly drastic containment efforts began with the Jan. 22 suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China where the virus was first detected last month. That lockdown has expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed. The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s busiest travel season, was pushed back to Sunday from Thursday to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a Cabinet statement said. The government of Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people and a global business center, extended the Lunar New York holiday by an additional week within the city to Feb. 9. It ordered sports stadiums to close and religious events to cancel. Tens of millions of peopl e in China and around Asia h ad been due to crowd into planes, trains and buses to return to work after visiting their hometowns or tourist sites for the holiday. Schools will postpone reopening until further notice, the Cabinet said. The death toll rose Monday when the southern island province of Hainan in the South China Sea reported its first fatality, an 80-year-old woman whose family arrived from Wuhan on Jan. 17. Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, has accounted for 76 of the deaths reported so far. There have been one each in Shanghai and the provinces of Hebei in the north, Heilongjiang in the northeast and Henan in central China. The spread of the illness is being watched around the globe, with a small number of cases appearing in other countries. South Korea confirmed its fourth case Monday. Cases also have been confirmed in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, Canada and Australia. The U.S. cases are in Washington state, Chicago, southern California and Arizona. China also reported eight cases in Hong Kong and five in Macao. Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, the head of Hong Kong's communicable disease branch, said the city's eight cases all have Hubei ties, so there was no no sign yet that it is spreading to Hong Kong's general population. Mongolia is the second country to close its border with China, following North Korea. Neither has reported any cases of the virus. Mongolia also closed its schools, universities and playgrounds for more than a month — until March 2. China’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, visited Wuhan to “guide epidemic prevention work,” the Cabinet website said. Photos showed Li, in a blue smock and green face mask, meeting hospital employees. Later, the premier, wearing a face mask and a dark windbreaker, visited a supermarket in the beleaguered city. Shoppers, also wearing masks, cheered to him, “Happy New Year!” “To get the epidemic under control in Wuhan and the good health of people in Wuhan will be good news for the whole country,” Li told the crowd. Elsewhere, the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, closed indefinitely to tourists on Monday. The former imperial palace in Beijing closed Friday until further notice and other major tourist sites also have shut down, including two of Hong Kong's most popular tourist attractions, Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park. The disruption to industry and consumer spending threaten to depress Chinese economic growth that Beijing is struggling to shore up after it sank to a multi-decade low of 6.1% last year. That could spread shockwaves to other Asian economies that rely on China as a source of tourists and export markets. Chinese regulators called on banks and insurers Monday to support to people and companies affected by the outbreak. The biggest impact will be on travel, hotels and restaurants but Chinese retail spending, factory output and investment also would suffer if the outbreak and quarantines last, forecasters say. The outbreak is a “notable downside risk” to growth, though it “could potentially be a high impact but short-lived event,” said Tommy Wu and Priyanka Kishore of Oxford Economics in a report. They pointed to the example of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, when economic activity plunged but recovered relatively quickly. The impact should be “less severe” than SARS because of faster official reaction and “increased transparency,” they said. Abroad, economies including Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Philippines with big tourism industries that rely on Chinese travelers “seem most at risk,” said Wu and Kishore. The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, said it was arranging to evacuate its diplomats and some American citizens on Tuesday. The French government said it would fly its citizens in Wuhan to France and quarantine them there. Japan also was preparing to fly its citizens out of Wuhan. French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen, which has a factory in Wuhan, said it was moving foreign employees and their families by bus to be quarantined in another city. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his government is considering evacuating its estimated 90 citizens in Wuhan. T he National Health Commission said 2,744 cases in mainland China were confirmed by midnight Sunday. The youngest patient is a 9-month-old girl in Beijing. China's health minister, Ma Xiaowei, said the country was entering a “crucial stage' as “it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.' President Xi Jinping has called the outbreak a grave situation and said the government was stepping restrictions on travel and public gatherings while rushing medical staff and supplies to Wuhan. The epidemic has revived memories of the SARS outbreak that originated in China and killed nearly 800 people. Then, Chinese authorities were criticized for reacting slowly and failing to disclose information. The government has responded more aggressively to the latest outbreak. The National Health Commission said anyone traveling from Wuhan is required to register with community health stations and quarantine themselves at home for 14 days — the virus' maximum incubation period. Hong Kong announced it would bar entry to travelers from Hubei, starting Monday. Hong Kong residents returning from the area will be allowed into the territory but were told to quarantine themselves at home. Also Sunday, Wuhan banned most vehicle use, including private cars, in downtown areas. Wuhan is building two hospitals, one with 1,500 beds and another with 1,000, for the growing number of patients. The first is scheduled to be finished next week. The virus is from the coronavirus family that includes the common cold but also more severe illnesses like SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The new virus causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath and pneumonia. The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan. On Sunday, authorities banned trade in wild animals and urged people to stop eating meat from them. ___ Associated Press video journalist Alice Fung in Hong Kong and writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Carlo Piovano in London contributed to this story.
  • Countries with citizens in the central Chinese city that's the epicenter of a viral outbreak are planning evacuations as the number of illnesses grow and China takes drastic measures to try to stop the spread of the virus. A look at steps being taken: — CHINA: The government cut transportation links to and from the city of Wuhan on Jan. 22 and has since expanded those controls to several nearby cities. Anyone traveling from Wuhan is required to register and quarantine themselves for 14 days — the virus' maximum incubation period. Hong Kong barred entry to travelers from Hubei province and told Hong Kong residents returning from the area to quarantine themselves at home. — JAPAN: Chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said 560 Japanese citizens are confirmed in Hubei and chartered evacuation flights are being prepared to leave “as soon as possible.' The Japanese Embassy in Beijing said the initial evacuation is limited to those in Wuhan. Evacuees are expected to include employees of Honda Motor Co., Tokyo Electron, Aeon Co. and other Japanese companies operating in Wuhan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his Cabinet will designate the new coronavirus as an infectious disease subject to forced hospitalization and isolation. Such preventative measures appear to be preparation for the evacuation. — UNITED STATES: The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan plans a charter flight Tuesday to evacuate its personnel and some other Americans. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said the limited capacity on the flight to San Francisco meant priority will be given to to individuals “at greater risk from coronavirus.” — FRANCE: Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said French citizens who want to leave Wuhan will be taken on a direct flight to France in the middle of the week, and then held in quarantine for 14 days. French automaker PSA, which produces Peugeot and Citroen cars, said it was evacuating its expatriate employees and their families from Wuhan and quarantining them in another city. It didn't elaborate. — SRI LANKA: The embassy in Beijing has applied for a Sri Lankan Airlines plan to be allowed to land at the Wuhan airport to airlift home 32 Sri Lankan students and their family members. The foreign ministry also said it was working to bring back all other Sri Lankan students throughout China. About 860 Sri Lankan students are in China. — AUSTRALIA: Foreign Minister Marise Payne said her government is “exploring all opportunities” to help with evacuation of a number of Australians reportedly in Wuhan. She didn't elaborate. Australia doesn't have a consular presence in Wuhan. — GERMANY: Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that his country is considering evacuating its citizens from Wuhan, with a government crisis response committee meeting soon with medical experts to evaluate the situation. He said the number of German citizens in Wuhan is in the double digits. The foreign ministry currently advises Germans to refrain from or postpone 'non-essential travel' to China. — THAILAND: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said his country's Defense Ministry was ready to evacuate its citizens from affected areas in China, but hadn't yet received permission from the Chinese government. The Thai Foreign Ministry, which is handling the issue, announced that there are 64 Thais in Wuhan, and 18 others elsewhere in Hubei province.
  • Kosovo’s outgoing prime minister on Monday considered as “positive signs” two recently-achieved agreements with Serbia that will restore air and railway traffic between the two former war foes. Speaking after paying respects at a memorial in Pristina for Holocaust victims, Ramush Haradinaj said the two deals would “not damage” Kosovo, adding that they would also push the country to repair its railway system, which is in “a miserable situation.” Relations between Kosovo and Serbia have remained tense despite European Union-mediated negotiations, which started in 2011. They have been stalled since Haradinaj imposed a trade tax on Serbian goods in 2018. Serbia doesn't accept Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence, although its former province has been recognized by about 100 countries, including the U.S. and most EU nations. Last week, senior U.S. officials brokered the air and railway deals. First Serbia, Kosovo and German airline Lufthansa signed an agreement at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin on the resumption of commercial flights. On Monday, Kosovo and Serb officials were negotiating the terms of resuming rail service. Xheme Veseli of Kosovo’s infrastructure ministry said they were having “good talks” on resuming the rail link and had already agreed to “successfully end the talks in the next days.” Richard Grenell, the U.S. special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo who visited Pristina and Belgrade last week, urged both sides to focus on the economy, new jobs and prosperity as the way toward normalizing ties. He called on Serbia to stop its international de-recognition campaign against Kosovo and on Pristina to lift the 100% tariff. Serbia's brutal intervention against Kosovo's independence-seeking ethnic Albanians in 1998-99 prompted NATO to intervene to stop the conflict.
  • A Portuguese hacker is claiming responsibility for leaking confidential documents implicating the billionaire daughter of a former prominent African leader in alleged murky international business deals. Lawyers for Rui Pinto, who is in a Lisbon jail awaiting trial in a separate case, said in a statement Monday he gave the information about Isabel dos Santos to the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa, an advocacy group based in Paris, in 2018. Dos Santos is a daughter of Angola's former president Jose Eduardo dos Santos and is reputedly Africa’s richest woman after holding top jobs in Angola and a high-profile international career. The document trove was investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and its affiliates, which produced an explosive report a week ago. The report incriminates not only Dos Santos, her husband and her close associates but also banks and businesses in Europe and the Middle East. Angolan authorities suspect Dos Santos of money-laundering, embezzlement, mismanagement, influence-peddling, forgery. They are demanding she repay at least $1.1 billion. Dos Santos has denied any wrongdoing. The more than 715,000 documents leaked by the Portuguese hacker detail allegedly unscrupulous deals by Dos Santos to build her estimated $2 billion fortune. Portugal is the southwest African country's former colonial ruler, and many of the documents were written in Portuguese. Pinto's lawyers, William Bourdon and Francisco Teixeira da Mota, said in a statement their client acted out of “a duty of citizenship” and received no financial reward. Gerard Ryle, director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, said on its website Monday: “The documents came from a concerned citizen — someone doing the right thing by the public.” Pinto, however, has been in jail for almost a year after Portugal extradited him from Hungary. He is charged with publishing internal documents that embarrassed soccer clubs and officials in the Football Leaks case. Pinto denies wrongdoing in that case, saying he is a whistleblower who acted in the public interest.
  • Supporters of a regional pact that would tackle transportation emissions are struggling to win over several New England governors concerned that the climate change initiative will increase gas prices. After the Transportation and Climate Initiative was announced last month, New Hampshire's Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said the state won't join, citing fears of a gas price hike. Vermont's Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he couldn't support the initiative if it amounts to a tax on carbon. A spokesman for Maine's Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the state has yet to sign a draft memorandum of understanding for the TCI, citing the unique challenges of addressing transportation in a rural state. The initiative is aimed at a dozen Northeast and mid-Atlantic states and would take effect in 2022. It would address pollution from transportation — which represents 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, the largest source of emissions. The area has tens of millions of registered vehicles. New Jersey has not committed to implementing the initiative while a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said his administration was still examining it. Virginia is also reviewing the draft memorandum. “I am happy to see that other Governors are following my lead in rightfully sounding the alarm on this new gas tax,' Sununu said in a statement. 'New Hampshire is proof that the best environmental stewardship can be achieved without massive tax schemes.” Many of the states are already part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which covers 10 states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic and targets emissions from the power sector. Under the agreement, wholesale fuel companies would be required to purchase pollution allowances at auction. The sale of those allowances could generate billions for states to invest in carbon-reducing transportation options — like electric buses, electric car charging stations, bike lanes and sidewalks. The initiative could lead to emissions reductions in the region by as much as 25% by 2032. But the opposition appears be around a potential gas price hike. If fuel companies pass the cost of the allowances onto consumers, the price of gas in the region could climb by five cents to 17 cents per gallon in 2022, when the pact would take effect. Among the pact's opponents is Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group founded by the billionaire Koch brothers. The group's New Hampshire chapter came out against the TCI the same day as Sununu, calling the initiative a top-down government mandate that would 'punish hardworking Granite Staters.” Supporters of the TCI said the fears over gas prices are overblown and ignore the initiative's potential benefits. “Personally I think this is political grandstanding,' said Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies at Brown University. “This is the incremental change, it would be over 12 years. This is just using a well-meaning effort as a whipping boy.” But Roberts and others acknowledge that the pact needs to address the concerns of low-income and working families who must drive long distances for work or school. “Some people positively opt into this lifestyle, but many don’t. They live where they live because of family, lack of economic mobility, or other factors,” said Jason Veysey, the deputy director for the Stockholm Environment Institute's energy modeling program. “People who have to drive may be negatively affected by an increase in fuel prices,' he said. 'However, it’s worth underlining that TCI is supposed to be a cap-and-dividend program, in which higher costs for the most vulnerable are mitigated by the dividends.” The pact has been praised by many of the region's business, health and environmental leaders, including Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. He touted the pact in his State of the Commonwealth address last week as part of his plan for the state to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Other governors also appear supportive. J.J. Abbott, press secretary for Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, said the state was “committed to being a part of the TCI conversations,” but would make no decision on joining “until the program is fully designed.' Josh Block, a spokesman for Rhode Island's Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, said she is “fully committed to the goals of the Transportation Climate Initiative,” but that the specific statutory and regulatory changes needed to meet those goals 'will be the source of public discussion and input over the coming year.' Jordan Stutt, the carbon programs director of the Acadia Center, an environmental research and advocacy nonprofit, said states understand the need to address transport emissions. The initiative could also help improve air quality, boost economies and improve transport, especially in rural areas, he said. According to information on the TCI website, modeling has showing public health benefits of as much as $10 billion annually by 2032, including over 1,000 fewer premature deaths. It would also generate up to $7 billion annually that could be invested into expanding transport choices for rural, urban and suburban communities. “Without any viable alternative to this program, the states will not be able to achieve their climate goals,” Stutt said. ___ Associated Press writers David Sharp in Maine, Wilson Ring in Vermont, Michael Catalini in New Jersey, Mark Scolforo in Pennsylvania and Susan Haigh in Connecticut contributed to this report.
  • With tens of millions of Chinese ordered to stay put and many others avoiding travel as a new virus spreads, tourism around the globe is taking a heavy hit during one of the biggest travel seasons in Asia, the Lunar New Year. Tourism from China was already weakening before the virus forced much of the country into a standstill. In Thailand, a favorite tropical destination for Lunar New Year travel, officials estimate potential lost revenue at 50 billion baht ($1.6 billion). In Asia and much farther away, hotels, airlines, cruise operators and others who depend on big spending Chinese tourists are ruing their absence. On Monday, China extended the week-long holiday by an extra three days to Feb. 2 to help prevent the epidemic from spreading further, as authorities announced that 2,744 people had fallen ill and 80 had died from the new virus first found in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Shanghai pushed the holiday's end back to Feb. 9. Travel agencies in China were told to cancel group tourism, and governments around the region were restricting travel from Wuhan, closely monitoring other travelers and helping arrange evacuations of some foreigners stuck in Wuhan. So far, 17 Chinese cities that are home to more than 50 million people have imposed lockdowns. In Thailand's capital, Bangkok, many drugstores ran out of surgical masks and the number of Chinese tourists appeared to be much smaller than usual for the Lunar New Year. The government announced it was handing out masks, and that the airport rail link would be disinfected. The Tourism Council of Thailand estimated revenues for the holidays would be at least 50 billion baht ($1.6 billion) lower than usual, based on an estimate of Chinese tourists usually spending about 50,000 baht ($1,600) each. That followed a downturn in arrivals from China in early 2019 after several boating accidents raised questions about the safety standards of tour operators. Overall, a few months ago the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute predicted 7 million outbound trips for Chinese New Year this year, up from 6.3 million in 2019. Anti-government protests in Hong Kong have left many from the Chinese mainland wary of visiting that popular destination and more likely to travel farther afield. The same goes for the self-governed island of Taiwan, where heavy voter turnout in elections earlier this month favored candidates who do not favor uniting with Beijing as China's leaders insist must happen eventually. Chinese made about 134 million trips in 2019, according to official figures, up 4.5% from a year earlier but a much slower rate of increase than the nearly 15% growth seen in 2018. Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea tend to be favorite destinations. Tourism from China to the U.S. was already on a decline even before the coronavirus hit, hurt by the prolonged trade dispute between Beijing and Washington. In 2018, travel from China to the U.S. fell for the first time in 15 years, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office, which collects data from U.S. Customs forms. The office has forecast a further decline of 5% in 2019. It was predicting a return to slow but steady growth in 2020 and beyond, and it isn't clear how the outbreak and latest travel restrictions might change that. China ranks fifth overall in the number of tourists it sends to the U.S., behind Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Japan. In Europe, Chinese tourists tend to be big spenders and to visit fashion capitals like Paris, Milan and London to buy luxury goods items. In Britain, Chinese visitors were second only to tourists from the Middle East in how much they spent per visit - about $2,200 on average in 2018. That sum is down from previous years, in part due to the fact that luxury goods are becoming more accessible and affordable in China. But the number of Chinese visiting Britain keeps growing, quadrupling since 2010. The impact of the crisis will be difficult to estimate accurately, given the wide range of businesses likely to be affected, apart from the trips cancelled, fewer shop-til-you-drop mall visits, restaurant meals and hotel stays. “The structural changes to the global economy complicate the economic analysis of this because there are linkages within economies, across sectors, and across international trade and capital flows that need to be factored,' Stephen Innes, chief market strategist for AxiCorp, said in a commentary. In fact, the already diminished flow of Chinese tourists to the U.S. thanks to the trade war means that market may suffer less of a direct hit, he said.
  • Ireland’s prime minister warned Britain on Monday that Brexit is far from finished -- and the European Union will have the stronger hand in upcoming negotiations on future relations between the two sides. Leo Varadkar said “we're only at halftime on Brexit,” as the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator visited Dublin in a show of solidarity, five days before the U.K. is due to leave the EU . Britain's exit on Friday, the first time a nation has left the bloc, will be followed by an 11-month transition period in which Britain will continue to follow EU rules while the two sides work out new deals on trade, security and other areas. “The European Union is a union of 27 member states. The U.K. is only one country,” Varadkar told the BBC before meeting EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. “And we have a population and a market of 450 million people. The U.K., it's about 60 (million). So if these were two teams up against each other playing football, who do you think has the stronger team?” Speaking after the meeting, Varadkar added that the negotiations didn’t need to be a contest, and could end in a “mutually beneficial” deal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is adamant that he won’t agree to extend the Brexit transition beyond the end of 2020, even if a deal has not been struck. Varadkar, however, said it would be difficult to secure a comprehensive agreement in time and there was a chance a deal might need to be approved by parliaments in all 27 EU countries -- any of which could hold it up. “We need to get down to business very quickly trying to get that trade deal, which is absolutely essential for the Irish economy, as well as of course for Britain's as well,” said Varadkar, who is battling to retain his job in an election on Feb. 8. Ireland is the only EU country to share a land border with the U.K., and Britain is one of Ireland’s top trading partners. Britain and the EU are committed to striking a wide-ranging free trade agreement but appear to be on a collision course. The U.K. government says it will not agree to follow an EU rule book in return for unfettered trade; the bloc insists there can be no trade deal unless Britain agrees to a “level playing field” and does not undercut EU regulations. Negotiations are not due to begin in earnest until March, when EU leaders sign off on a mandate for the talks drawn up by Barnier. Barnier said that if no agreement was reached by the end of the year it 'cannot be business as usual.” 'We are to face a risk of a cliff edge, in particular for trade,' he said, ___ Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • Britain officially leaves the European Union on Friday after a debilitating political period that has bitterly divided the nation since the 2016 Brexit referendum. Difficult negotiations setting out the new relationship between Britain and its European neighbors will continue throughout 2020. This series of stories chronicles Britain’s tortured relationship with Europe from the post-World War II years to the present. —- After a modest renegotiation of Britain’s membership in the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron set the date for a referendum for June 23, 2016. He would back and lead the “remain” campaign, but he gave his ministers the right to back “leave” and many of them did. Though some big names came out in favour of leaving the EU, such as former London Mayor Boris Johnson, the prevailing view as the referendum campaign began in earnest was that the “remain” camp would win and confirm Britain’s membership in the bloc for at least another generation. There would, the consensus went, be a rush to the status quo when the time actually came, in much the same way there had been in Scotland two years earlier when it voted, by a convincing 10-point majority, to remain part of the United Kingdom in an independence referendum. A dizzying array of forecasts of an imminent recession should Britain vote to leave were bandied about, but nothing appeared to stick. The “leave” camp led in many opinion polls during the campaign, its message of “Take Back Control” seemingly resonating far and wide, and beyond any material considerations. Promises of much more money for the financially strained National Health Service on a side of a bus also caught the mood of a country tired of years of austerity. As did, it must be said, warnings about untrammelled immigration at a time when Europe was struggling to cope with an unprecedented surge of migrants, largely from war-torn Syria. Brexit wouldn't be a problem, according to the likes of Johnson, who claimed that Britain could “have our cake and eat it.” The whole campaign came to a halt a week before the referendum when Labour lawmaker and big remain backer Jo Cox was killed by a far-right extremist. When campaigning resumed a few days later, it was widely thought that the remain camp would win partly because of the horror associated with the killing of Cox. On the day of the referendum itself, British bookmakers thought the vote was in the bag for remain as they offered odds of 10-to-1 on. The pound also pushed sharply higher on foreign exchange markets. But when the first results started coming in just before midnight from many provincial towns, it was clear that something very different was taking place. Though Scotland, London and most of the other big cities voted, often by big margins, to remain in the EU, whole swathes of the country backed leave. The pound tanked around 15% before dawn had broken on June 24 and David Cameron announced his resignation soon after. “Let June 23 go down in our history as our Independence Day,” UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage roared to cheering Brexit supporters. Brexit had won, but Brexit wasn’t done. ___ Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit and British politics at https://www.apnews.com/Brexit
  • China is the second-largest arms producer in the world behind the United States but ahead of Russia, a Swedish arms watchdog said Monday. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, said the research is the most comprehensive picture of Chinese companies’ weapons production to date. In its annual report, SIPRI said it had “identified information from 2015–17 on the value of arms sales by major Chinese arms companies,” and looked at four companies that cover three sectors of conventional arms production: aerospace, electronics and land systems, “for which credible financial information is available.” In the past, a lack of transparency has meant that the value of Chinese companies’ arms sales has been either unknown or difficult to reliably estimate, SIPRI said to explain why the Chinese arms companies previously were not included in its annual ranking of the world’s 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies. SIPRI added that with the increase of available data on these companies, it is now possible to develop reasonably reliable estimates of the scale of the Chinese arms industry and the four major Chinese arms companies chosen for the study “can now finally be compared with the major arms companies from the rest of the world.” The institute released figures for 2017 and said that of the 20 largest companies 11 were based in the U.S., 6 in Western Europe and 3 in Russia. If the four Chinese arms companies were included in the study, they would all rank among the top 20, with combined estimated arms sales totaling $54.1 billion. Three of the companies would be ranked in the top 10.
  • India said Monday it plans to sell its entire 100% stake in the national carrier Air India to shore up falling government revenues amid an economic slowdown, after an initial attempt last year failed to attract a single bidder. The government issued a document on Monday inviting initial expressions of interest in the airline, which operates both domestic and international routes and has accumulated huge losses in the past decade. The document set March 17 as the deadline for submissions and said the bidders would have to absorb 232 billion rupees ($3.26 billion) of the airline's 580 billion rupee ($8 billion) debt burden. The government previously had offered only 76% of its stake for sale, a major roadblock for many potential investors. Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri called Air India a “great asset” whose financial position was “fragile” due to burgeoning debts. Puri told reporters in New Delhi that Air India as a brand will continue to fly but it needs to be privatized. Successful bidders will also get 50% of Air India SATS, a joint venture between the national carrier and Singapore Airlines which provides cargo and ground handling services at major Indian airports. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is moving to privatize various state-owned enterprises to help repair government finances and give the economy a boost. Growth slowed to a 4.5% annual pace in the July-September quarter, its slowest rate since mid-2018. Last week, the International Monetary Fund downgraded its economic growth forecast for India and said the country's slowing growth was the single biggest drag on its global growth forecast in the past two years. Modi's government has high hopes that foreign investors will participate in the Air India bidding. It wants to raise 1.05 trillion rupees ($14.6 billion) through the sale of public assets by March 2020. Kapil Kaul, an aviation expert said the latest offer could attract a better response from investors because the government is finally looking to sell Air India off completely. “It's an attractive offer,” Kaul said. Air India's employee base of more than 19,000 employees do have a big stake in the plan, experts said. The news agency Press Trust of India reported that various Air India employee unions will meet on Monday to discuss the proposed privatization plan. Air India carried 18.36 million domestic passengers in 2019 and has suffered from overly bureaucratic management and political interference as privately-owned low-cost airlines have gained market share. It started as a mail carrier in 1932 before gaining commercial popularity and has been incurring losses since its 2007 merger with another state-owned domestic carrier, Indian Airlines. The new owner will be taking on a fleet of 121 Air India aircraft and 25 planes in the Air India Express fleet. India's aviation story has seen major downturns recently. In April 2019, Jet Airways, once India’s largest airline, ceased operations after failing to raise enough money to run its services. The other Indian carriers that have failed are Air Costa, Air Odisha and Air Pegasus.