Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan



News Desk, Barta24.com
Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan, Photo collected.

Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan, Photo collected.

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping today (Friday) for the fifth time since taking office at a time when tensions have ratcheted up once again over Taiwan.

On the other hand, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to visit the island—which China claims as its own territory—has been met with both public and private admonitions from Chinese officials. So great is the potential for missteps, the U.S. military is reportedly preparing multiple scenarios to cover potential security risks that go with the trip.

Pelosi has shown no signs of scrapping the trip (which, considering the precarious position of the Democratic Party ahead of the November midterm elections, could be her last as Speaker).

On the contrary, she’s begun extending invitations to other lawmakers to join her. Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has been asked to come, as has Rep. Michael McCaul the most senior Republican on the committee (McCaul has already declined, citing prior engagements).

Although Biden has not publicly remarked on whether Pelosi should travel, he has hardly been circumspect on the issue of Taiwan. In May, he said the United States would defend the island if it came under attack from the Chinese military in remarks that received the now customary walking back from U.S. national security officials.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said that the timing of Pelosi’s Taiwan trip particularly risks a Chinese response: Nationalistic sentiment will be higher in August, when China celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, as will party politics, as senior Chinese officials make their annual pilgrimage to the resort town of Beidaihe. It’s all part of a lead-up to the 20th Party Congress in October, where Xi is expected to be named to a third term.

“There’s still jockeying for various personnel selections and Xi Jinping cannot be seen as weak on an issue like Taiwan,” Glaser said.

Writing in Foreign Policy Journal on Tuesday, Mike Chinoy questioned the merits of a trip that seems “very much symbolism over substance.”

And in Wednesday’s China Brief, FP’s James Palmer highlighted Pelosi’s trip from the perspective of Beijing, where officials and media nurse a strong dislike for the House speaker.

As well as geopolitics, Biden and Xi are likely to discuss economic competition, including whether to end some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods. On Tuesday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby described the 2020 U.S.-China agreement as “a shoddy deal,” but Biden is still undecided on what to do instead. The U.S. president is in the process of “working this out with his team,” Kirby said.

It also comes as U.S. lawmakers are trying to take a leaf out of China’s book and roll out state support for key industries. The CHIPS act, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, plans to invest $54 billion in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and research. Its supporters say it will help reduce U.S. reliance on China, as well as boost U.S. competitiveness in a strategically important area of the global economy.

Meanwhile, climate change policy, one of the bright spots of cooperation between the countries, is also on the agenda, but how much Biden can bring to the table is questionable considering his signature climate bills have so far failed in Congress.

That may be about to change, however, as late last night, Sen. Joe Manchin seemed set to reverse his opposition to climate spending and said he would back $369 billion of climate and energy funding as part of the freshly-minted Inflation Reduction Act.

The two sides have maintained a high-level engagement on the subject. Environment Minister Huang Runqiu visited Washington earlier this month for talks with the U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, EPA chief Janet McCabe, and California governor Gavin Newsom. Huang’s visit made him the most senior Chinese official to visit the U.S. capital since Biden became president.

Expert Glaser listed some positive developments to look out for once both sides publish their readouts, including progress on risk reduction efforts between the two countries, statements from both sides about wishing to avoid a military crisis, as well as any movement on strategic stability talks—which have so far remained stagnant.

Although Glaser doesn’t expect today’s call to solve Taiwan’s anxieties in one go, it might reignite efforts to calm tensions and reduce the chances of U.S.-China military conflict. “There seems to be a lack of appreciation for how potentially dangerous this is,” Glaser said. “I hope this is a real wake up call.”

How to See the Sturgeon Full Moon, Last Supermoon of 2022



International Desk, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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The last supermoon of 2022 is set to shine this Thursday. Known as the sturgeon moon, the event is a perfect excuse to step outside at night to enjoy the celestial show. Take some binoculars and treat yourself to a closer view of our lunar neighbor's scenic craters.

The sturgeon moon nickname traces to the Maine Farmer's Almanac and its listing of Native American names for moons, said NASA's Gordon Johnston in a full moon guide for August and September. This is a good time of year to catch sturgeon fish.

While the moon will be full at 6:36 p.m. PT on Thursday, Johnston said it will appear full from Wednesday morning through Saturday morning, giving you multiple chances to revel in the view.

In case clouds, weather or other circumstances get in the way, you can tune in to the Virtual Telescope Project's full moon livestream from Rome at 10:30 p.m. PT on Aug. 11.

The term "supermoon" is inexact. It's meant to highlight those times when the moon is closest to Earth, which can make it appear slightly bigger and brighter. Johnston calls August's full moon a "marginal supermoon," saying it's the third closest full moon of the year. The June and July full moons were closer.

The beauty of the full moon is that it doesn't really matter if it's super or not. It's going to be gorgeous. All you need is the right timing, a clear sky and your eyes. As a bonus, we're also hitting the peak of the Perseid meteor shower, so look out for shooting stars, too. Check out these tips for spotting the Perseids even during a full moon.

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India's aviation regulatory body to allow transgender pilots to fly the planes



International Desk
India's aviation regulatory body to allow transgender pilots to fly the planes

India's aviation regulatory body to allow transgender pilots to fly the planes

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Taking a welcome step toward inclusivity and breaking the glass ceiling, India's civil aviation regulatory body Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday, for the first time, issued medical guidelines that will allow transgenders and non-binary individuals to fly aeroplanes in the country.

Reportedly, DGCA in its circular stated that transgender candidates who have completed their hormone therapy for transition or have gone under the knife more than five years ago will be able to fly the planes, after clearing mental health screening tests.

The mental health tests will be based on the blueprint laid out by World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

“Those transgender applicants who have been taking hormone therapy or had a gender reassignment surgery within the last five years will be screened for their mental health status,” read the circular.

As for those individuals that have completed their treatment within the last five years, they will have to undergo not only psychological and psychiatric evaluations but also submit a detailed evaluation from their endocrinologist as well as surgeon about any surgery that might have taken place in the last year.

If the candidate manages to tick every single box in the evaluation, then only they will be declared fit and allowed to sit in the cockpits.

Furthermore, those on life-long hormone therapy will only be admitted if they can prove that they have reached a stable dose. 

Meanwhile, the novices who have started the therapy or gone under the knife only recently will be deemed medically 'unfit' and will have to wait for a period of three months to seek another attempt. 

“If the applicant is on hormone replacement therapy (as applicable), as with any medication, on commencement of hormone therapy or any change in the drug or adjustment of its dose, the applicant will be declared medically ‘unfit’ for at least three months,”

According to DGCA, the medical guidelines are applicable for all categories of pilot's license viz. private pilot’s license, student’s pilot license and commercial pilot license.

However, a caveat of transgender persons being allowed to only fly as first officers has been added. In case a transgender pilot is the pilot-in-command, their co-pilot ought to have 250 hours of experience on that machine.

As reported by WION, India's first transgender pilot, 23-year-old Adam Harry was earlier declared unfit for flying an aircraft by the DGCA. It was Adam's efforts that led DGCA to bring about a sea of changes in its policy.

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Details emerge about Crimea blast



News Desk, Barta24.com
Details emerge about Crimea blast, Photo collected.

Details emerge about Crimea blast, Photo collected.

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According to international media reports, the damage at a Russian air base in Crimea appears to be worse than the Kremlin initially claimed.

After a series of explosions on Tuesday, Crimea’s leader declared a state of emergency and said that more than 250 people had to evacuate from their homes. Officials on the Russian-occupied peninsula said at least one person was killed and dozens more were wounded.

Ukraine has not officially taken responsibility for the explosions. But a senior military official said Ukraine’s special forces and partisan resistance fighters were behind the blast.

As per experts analysis, the blasts could be important, because any Ukrainian attack on Russian forces in the Crimean Peninsula would be a significant expansion of Ukraine’s offensive efforts. Until now, Ukraine has focused on pushing Russians back from territories occupied after the invasion began.

In terms of nuclear plant, Russian missiles killed 13 people near a Russian-held nuclear plant in the south, a Ukrainian official said. Russia may try to divert its electricity to Crimea, which could intensify military competition for the plant and heighten the risk of an accident.

Press reports further said that Russian investigators detained a former state television journalist yesterday, months after she staged a rare on-air protest against the war in Ukraine.

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Top 10 Nations With The Most Smartphone Users



Maria Gourtsilidou
Top 10 Nations With The Most Smartphone Users

Top 10 Nations With The Most Smartphone Users

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The country with the most smartphone users is China. More than 950 million people use smartphones in China. This means that the Chinese market is larger than that of India, the US, and Indonesia combined.

After China, in second place in the world is India. Smartphone users in India amount to 493 million. In third place in the world is the United States, with 274 million users. The USA is followed by Indonesia, with 170 million smartphone users.

Brazil with 119 million users, Russia with 102 million, Japan with 83 million users, and Mexico with 75 million are the next largest smartphone markets worldwide. Lastly, Vietnam with 67 million and Germany with 66 million users complete the top ten.

The data from Statista.com shows the number of smartphone users in the US from 2018 to 2025. By the year 2022, the number of smartphone users in the United States is estimated to reach 301.65 million. This number will further rise in the coming years. By 2023, the number of smartphone users in the United States is estimated to reach 305.1 million. In 2024, the number of smartphone users in the United States is estimated to reach 308.39 million, while in 2025, the number of smartphone users in the United States is estimated to reach 311.53 million.

Although the smartphone penetration rate as a share of the population in the United States in 2010 was 20.2%, it soon rose to higher levels. For example, in 2015, the smartphone penetration rate as a share of the population in the United States was 59,4%, in 2018 was 69,6%, in 2020 was 72,2% and in 2021 was 72,7%.
Statista.com indicates that the popularity of the smartphone in the US has risen immensely since Apple introduced its first iPhone in 2007.

The first iPhone was quite different from other smartphones. This is because it used a large touchscreen for finger input rather than a stylus, keypad, or keyboard. It was in 2008 that the first smartphone to use the Android OS (HTC Dream) was released. Although people using this OS were not many at the beginning, it has since grown to be the most used operating system over the years.

The smartphone industry, despite problems in 2021, such as low stock availability, increased sales compared to 2020. Limited stocks in popular models are expected to postpone some of the potential sales for 2022.

Smartphone sales revenue between the years 2013 and 2020 reached 409 billion dollars, according to Statista.com. More specifically, between the years 2013 and 2018, the greatest smartphone sales value compared to other regions was reported in China. In China, smartphone sales value between 2013 and 2018 reached almost 153 billion dollars. At the same time, smartphone sales value reached 84 billion dollars between 2013 and 2017 in North America, while the value of smartphone sales in Western Europe between 2013 and 2017 reached 56 billion dollars.

There are some top manufacturers of smartphones on the market. For example, Huawei’s market share of smartphone shipments during Q4 2020 was 8.4%, while Samsung’s global smartphone market share was 20.6%. At the same time, Apple’s smartphone sales market share worldwide is 23.4%. Not to forget to mention that according to data from Statista.com, the Android operating system market share worldwide is 85.9%.

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