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For many of us, an identity card is a little piece of plastic tucked away in a wallet that we rarely think much about.

But for Hong Kong transgender activist Henry Tse, his ID card was something that dominated his world for the past seven years, the center of a lengthy court battle and a fight for recognition that finally concluded this week.

On Monday, Tse finally picked up a new ID card that registered his gender as male at Hong Kong’s immigration office.

“This card in my hand means a lot to me and others who can finally get their new IDs,” he told reporters and photographers gathered outside.

Clad in a pink-and-blue-striped shirt over a white t-shirt – the colors of the transgender flag – he declared: “Finally, here comes the genuine solution to all the embarrassment and daily problems caused by an incompatible identity card.”

Tse’s legal battle is symptomatic of a wider trend across many places in East Asia where LGBTQ activists are forced to seek change through the courts against often conservative governments, even as public polls show growing acceptance for greater equality, especially among younger generations.

The 33-year-old activist, who holds both British and Hong Kong passports, identifies as a man and has lived as a man for years. His British passport identifies him as male but Hong Kong authorities refused to make that change for the city’s identity card, which is compulsory for all residents.

The card is essential for everything from filing tax returns and opening a bank account, to booking a tennis court or a doctor’s appointment.

For years, Hong Kong authorities insisted a gender change could not be registered unless the applicant had completed full gender confirmation surgery which, under the city’s rules, meant the removal or reconstruction of their genitalia.

Transgender rights groups have long argued that surgery is an individual’s choice and only one part of a person’s transition. Not all transgender people choose to have surgery, can afford to or are healthy enough to undergo such procedures which, like any surgery, can carry risks.

So in 2017, Tse took legal action against the Hong Kong government, which fought the case all the way.

Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal eventually ruled in Tse’s favor in February last year. But it took authorities more than a year to amend their policy to comply with the ruling, hence the long wait before Tse could finally retrieve his new ID card.

Even under the new legal framework unveiled by Hong Kong’s government, female-to-male transgender applicants are only required to undergo top surgery (the removal of breasts). However, male-to-female applicants still must have full gender confirmation surgery.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said it had to “consider and study carefully” the court ruling as the policy-making process, involving legal and medical opinion, is “complex.”

Battle for equality

Tse said life remained challenging while he waited for the government to act on the court order.

He described almost missing a flight because airline staff took issue with his gender on his old identity document and said he was detained by Chinese immigration officers while crossing the border into the mainland.

“I was still so anxious and felt being treated like a prisoner,” he said.

In late March, he filed another lawsuit accusing the government of “unreasonable delay.” Two weeks later, the government announced the new policy.

LGBTQ activists in Hong Kong have long questioned why they must keep fighting through the courts to gain recognition and equality, but they have nonetheless seen repeated successes.

That contrasts heavily with LGBTQ rights in mainland China where the community has come under increased pressure and scrutiny during the leadership of Xi Jinping.

In September last year, Hong Kong’s top court handed down the most far-reaching ruling yet, ordering the government to set up a new framework to legally recognize the rights of same-sex couples, despite not vouching for full marriage.

The government has not yet announced a concrete plan to put in place the court’s ruling.

Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019, two years after its Constitutional Court ruled that restrictions were unconstitutional.

Last year Japan’s top court ruled against the government’s requirement that transgender people must be sterilized before they changed their gender.

Meanwhile, a high court in Japan found in March this year that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, according to Reuters, in a case set to continue in the courts.

For Tse, his battle for equality has at least concluded.

“What is normal for any other men has finally become normal for me,” he said.

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Ministers from the Group of Seven nations have agreed to shut down all their coal plants by 2035 at the latest, a UK minister said on Monday, in a climate policy breakthrough that could influence other countries to do the same.

“We do have an agreement to phase out coal in the first half of the 2030s,” Andrew Bowie, a UK minister at the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, told Class CNBC in Turin, Italy. “This is, by the way a historic agreement, something that we weren’t able to achieve at COP28 in Dubai last year.”

“So, to have the G7 nations come around the table to send that signal to the world — that we, the advanced economies of the world are committed to phasing out coal by the early 2030s — is quite incredible.”

The US State Department declined to comment on the G7 agreement. Last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced new rules that will require coal-fired power plants to either capture nearly all of their climate pollution or shut down by 2039.

“Coming just days after the EPA released proposed new rules that will essentially lead to an accelerated phaseout schedule for most coal plants, this G7 commitment is a further confirmation from the US that coal is on its way out sooner rather than later,” said Katrine Petersen, a senior policy advisor at climate think tank E3G.

The commitment is “a major step forward in particular for Japan, as the only G7 country left without a commitment to move away from coal,” Petersen said.

Many of the other G7 nations already have national plans in place to phase out the fossil fuel. Around 16% of the G7s electricity comes from coal, Ember reports.

“This is another nail in the coffin for coal,” said Dave Jones, Ember’s Global Insights program director. “The journey to phase out coal power has been long: it’s been over seven years since the UK, France, Italy and Canada committed to phase out coal power, so it’s good to see the United States and especially Japan at last be more explicit on their intentions.”

He warned, however, that while coal power has been falling, gas consumption continues. “Coal might be the dirtiest, but all fossil fuels need to be ultimately phased out,” he said.

Fossil fuels are the main cause of the climate crisis. Almost every country in the world agreed last year to transition away from fossil fuels at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai, but failing to put an end date on coal was seen as a shortcoming of those negotiations.

Energy, environment and climate ministers are meeting in Turin for talks that are expected to end on Tuesday.

The G7 — made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the European Union as a member with special status — typically leads on global climate policy. The group’s decisions often trickle down or influence the wider G20, which includes other big emitters, like China and India, as well as major fossil fuel producers, such as Saudi Arabia and Russia.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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She spoke on the sidelines of the AmCham Business Summit after meeting Kenyan President William Ruto during her first official trip to Africa.

Anti-Western sentiment

Like many other African nations, Kenya has deep ties with China, which has funding projects and major infrastructure projects across the continent.

Russia is also making fresh inroads into the continent, capitalizing on anti-Western sentiment in some nations to profit from arms sales and natural resources.

Secretary Raimondo addressed the criticism that African nations dislike ‘lectures’ from the US and its European allies about democracy and human rights, and many prefer dealing with China or Russia that don’t make similar demands.

Raimondo said the US is coming to Africa “without strings attached,” saying she had brought more than a dozen businesses to the Nairobi summit.

“I just met with President Ruto, and we had a fantastic meeting. I said to him: we’re not here to lecture, we’re here to partner, we’re here to learn from you, we’re here to invest, in your people and in your country,” she said.

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Editor’s Note: Warning: This story has graphic content.

Twenty-two people, including at least one infant and a toddler, have been killed in an Israeli airstrike over Rafah, Gaza, overnight into Monday, according to hospital officials.

The deceased were brought into Abu Youssef Al Najjar hospital in Rafah following the attack, as their loved ones gathered for their final farewells.

People are seen crouching over the body bags, with some caressing their loved one’s lifeless bodies. At least one baby’s head can be seen sticking out of a bag, as the woman beside it shouts: “My whole family has perished.”

The baby’s uncle, Mahmoud Abu Taha, was carrying the 1-year-old’s lifeless body while talking to the camera, saying his parents had tried having children for 10 years before he was born.

“We were sitting in our homes, not doing anything. It was unexpected when they struck the house. Everyone was asleep in their beds… most of the people that were killed were displaced… they were women and children,” he said.

Lifting the baby boy’s body to the camera, Mahmoud Abu Taha cries out, “this is who they are targeting. This is their objective. This is the generation they’re looking for. This is the safe Rafah they talk about.”

“The IDF will continue to foil terrorist activity and protect Israeli civilians, in accordance with international law,” it added.

Another member of the Abu Taha family says in the video that 10 of his relatives were killed in the airstrike. Some of his relatives were originally displaced from Khan Younis, where several of them were killed in a previous Israeli airstrike. The remaining few who had fled Khan Younis for the safety of Rafah have now been killed overnight in Rafah, he says.

He called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop the war, saying “we want to live. We want peace. Enough Arab bloodshed.”

Another eyewitness says a five-day-old boy named Ghaith Abu Rayya was killed in the airstrike. The footage shows him opening a small body bag to reveal the infant’s head, saying his body has been dismembered.

“We are all alone. Nobody cares about us,” he cries.

He is seen opening another body bag next to Ghaith’s, sobbing, and saying, “my beloved Ramy,” who he says is Ghaith’s 33-year-old father.

Several men are seen bringing in another body bag with the name “Ahmad Saleem Abu Taha” written across it, and the crowded people start wailing in distress.

One woman caresses the lifeless face, which has been left exposed, saying: “Oh his smell. Oh God. Goodbye my beloved.”

The death toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to at least 34,454 following 205 days of war between Israel and Hamas, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported on Sunday. The ministry does not distinguish between casualties among civilians and Hamas fighters.

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The latest proposal, which Israel helped craft but has not fully agreed to, is laid out in two phases, the first of which calls for 20 to 33 hostages to be released over several weeks in exchange for the pause and the release of Palestinian prisoners. The second phase is what sources described as the “restoration of sustainable calm,” during which the remaining hostages, captive Israeli soldiers and the bodies of hostages would be exchanged for more Palestinian prisoners.

The diplomatic source familiar with the talks said the reference to sustainable calm was “a way to agree to a permanent ceasefire without calling it that.”

After months of deadlock, agreement from both sides would be a major step toward ending the war. But a failure to agree could deepen Israel’s presence in Gaza — if no deal is made, Israel is likely to launcha large-scale ground invasion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering. Israel’s allies, including the United States, have warned against the operation due to the potential for large-scale civilian casualties.

Israel is awaiting a response from Hamas, which is expected to meet Egyptian and Qatari mediators in Cairo on Monday, the sources said. A working-level Israeli delegation of Mossad, Shin Bet and the Israeli military officials is expected to travel to Cairo on Tuesday, the Israeli source and another Israeli official said.

A response from Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, is expected within days — possibly within the next 24 hours.

The length of the first phase of the pause in hostilities would be linked to the number of hostages released, with the latest framework calling for a one-day pause for each hostage, the Israeli source said, although this number is expected to shift during more in-depth negotiations.

The release of 40 hostages for a six-week ceasefire had been the basis of negotiations for months, but Israel has agreed to accept fewer hostages in the first phase after Hamas dropped its offer to fewer than 20 people earlier this month.

‘Extraordinarily generous’ proposal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that Hamas has been presented with a ceasefire proposal that is “extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel.”

“In this moment the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas,” he told World Economic Forum (WEF) President Børge Brende in the Saudi capital Riyadh. “They (Hamas) have to decide and they have to decide quickly,” he said. “I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, also speaking in Riyadh, said he was hopeful that Israel and Hamas will accept the proposal.

“There is a proposal on the table, up to the two sides to consider and accept but certainly the objective is a ceasefire, a permanent ceasefire and dealing with the humanitarian conditions,” Shoukry told a panel at the WEF in Riyadh on Monday.

He said he is hopeful that “the proposal has been taken into account” and that “we are waiting to have a final decision.”

Israeli officials have expressed an openness to negotiating the “restoration of sustainable calm” as part of a comprehensive deal that would effectively end the war.

An Israeli source familiar with the negotiations said Egypt has proposed the parties agree to a one-year ceasefire as part of a comprehensive deal that would see Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza and the release of all remaining hostages and the bodies of those who have died.

Hamas has insisted that a permanent ceasefire and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza should be part of the agreement. Israel has thus far maintained that its operation in Gaza will continue until Hamas is eradicated.

Israel has also now agreed to the unrestricted movement of Palestinians to northern Gaza, the sources said, a key demand by Hamas which has held back negotiations in the past.

Rafah operation

Hanging over the negotiations is the increasingly likely prospect of an Israeli military offensive in Rafah, which Israeli officials have signposted for months but are now holding back, saying they want to give space to the negotiations.

But Israeli sources have characterized the latest Egyptian effort to broker a deal as the last chance to avert that offensive.

“The only chance to stop Rafah is a deal,” the Israeli source familiar with the negotiations said.

The US and other Israel allies have warned that such an operation will not have their support if adequate measures aren’t taken to ensure the safety of civilians.

“Preparations for entering Rafah continue. In any deal, if there is one, Israel will not give up the goals of the war,” the Israeli official said.

Blinken reiterated in Riyadh that the US wouldn’t support a major military operation in Rafah “in the absence of a plan to ensure that civilians will not be harmed”.

“We have not yet seen a plan that civilians can be effectively protected,” he said.

White House National Security Council communications adviser John Kirby said Sunday that Israel has told its US counterparts that it won’t launch an invasion of Rafah until the Biden administration can share its concerns.

“I think we have to have a better understanding from the Israelis about what they want to do as a matter of fact, we’ve had several staff talks with them, we intend to do that more,” he said on ABC. “They’ve assured us that they won’t go into Rafah until we’ve had a chance to really share our perspectives and our concerns with them.”

In a call Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden addressed the need for increased humanitarian assistance and “reiterated his clear position” on a potential Israeli invasion of Rafah, according to a White House readout of the conversation.

Rising death toll

The death toll from Israel’s bombardment in Gaza continued to climb over the weekend.

Twenty people, including at least one infant and a toddler, died following an Israeli airstrike over Rafah, Gaza, overnight into Monday, according to hospital officials.

In a separate incident, two people were killed and several others injured when an Israeli airstrike targeted a house belonging to the Hijazi family in the Sabra neighborhood in the center of Gaza City, according to Basal.

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Nineteen people have been killed after a highway collapsed in China’s Guangdong province on Wednesday, according to the country’s state broadcaster, CCTV.

A section of the express highway connecting Meizhou City and Dapu City in Guangdong Province collapsed at around 2:10 a.m. on Wednesday, leaving eighteen cars trapped, CCTV reported.

Widely circulated social media videos shot in darkness showed a raging fire beneath where the road would have been and emergency service workers at the scene.

Images taken after daybreak showed cars piled up at the bottom of a ravine.

As of 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, 30 people were receiving medical care in hospitals, and they were “without immediate risk,” CCTV said without specifying their injuries.

The Guangdong provincial government had dispatched a rescue force of approximately 500 people, the state broadcaster said.

Rescue efforts were still underway, according to the update from the local police department.

Southern China has been bombarded with heavy rain in recent weeks.

Guangdong province, an economic powerhouse home to 127 million people, has seen widespread flooding, which has forced more than 110,000 people to relocate, state media reported, citing the local government.

The floods have killed at least four people in Guangdong, including a rescue worker, state news agency Xinhua reported Monday. At least 10 people remain missing, it added.

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China’s newest, largest and most-advanced aircraft carrier, the Fujian, took a big step to joining the world’s largest naval fleet on Wednesday as it set out from Shanghai for its first sea trials.

The naval assessment is expected to take place in the East China Sea, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) from the Jiangnan Shipyard where the carrier has been under construction for more than six years, according to Shanghai’s Maritime Safety Administration.

“The sea trials will primarily test the reliability and stability of the aircraft carrier’s propulsion and electrical systems,” read an announcement from the state-run Xinhua news agency on Wednesday.

The warship was launched in 2022 and has “completed its mooring trials, outfitting work and equipment adjustments” working up to the latest sea trials, Xinhua said.

With a displacement of 80,000 metric tons, the Fujian dwarfs the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) two active carriers, the 66,000-ton Shandong and the 60,000-ton Liaoning. Only the United States Navy operates bigger aircraft carriers than Fujian.

“The Fujian’s sea trials represent an important milestone for the PLAN, marking its entry into the small club of top-class carrier aviation-capable navies,” said John Bradford, a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs fellow.

The Fujian’s key feature is an electromagnetic catapult system that will enable it to launch larger and heavier aircraft than the Shandong and Liaoning, which use a ski-jump style launch method.

Analysts say the Fujian’s ability to launch larger warplanes carrying higher munitions loads to farther distances will give the carrier a greater combat range than its predecessors in the Chinese fleet, providing the PLAN with so-called “blue-water” capabilities.

“These sea trials mark the first major step in China’s developing the capacity to project sea-based air power into deep ocean areas,” said Carl Schuster, a former US Navy captain and former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center.

Comparison to US carriers

The electromagnetic catapult system puts the Fujian on par with the US Navy’s newest carrier, the USS Gerald R Ford, the only active carrier in the world with an electromagnetic catapult system. The US Navy’s 10 older carriers, the Nimitz class, rely on steam-powered catapults to launch aircraft.

All the US carriers, however, will retain two key advantages over the Fujian: power and size.

The US carriers are nuclear powered, giving them the ability to remain at sea for as long as crew provisions last, while the Fujian is powered by conventional fuel, meaning it must either make a port call or be met by a tanker at sea to refuel.

As for the US Navy’s size advantage over the Fujian, the Ford displaces 100,000 tons and the 10 Nimitz-class ships 87,000 metric tons. The larger US ships can take on more aircraft, around 75 compared to an expected complement of 60 on the Fujian, according to estimates by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Analysts have also noted that the US carriers have more catapults, a larger airway and more elevators to allow for quicker deployment of aircraft from the hangar deck below.

The US carriers “remain in an echelon of their own,” Bradford said.

Schuster said the current round of sea trials for Fujian are expected to last three to six days and would not include flight operations.

“Radars and communications equipment will get some testing, but the first sea trials always focus on hull integrity, propulsion and engineering since problems there prevent everything else from working well,” Schuster said.

In total, analysts expect the Fujian’s sea trials to take at least a year, with its commissioning likely to come next year or in 2026. A story on the website of the Chinese Defense Ministry in January noted the Liaoning underwent 10 sea trials and the Shandong nine before entering service.

When it joins the PLAN fleet, the Fujian will become the icon of what is now the world’s largest naval force,with more than 340 warships and counting as Chinese shipyards turn out new warships at a frenetic pace.

“It will be the most visible symbol of China’s growing naval power,” said Brian Hart, a fellow with the China Power Project at the CSIS.

Meanwhile, the announcement of a fourth carrier for the Chinese fleet could come soon, PLAN political commissar Yuan Huazhi said in March, according to a report in the state-run Global Times.

When that announcement is made, the answer as to whether China will have a nuclear-powered carrier will be answered, the report said.

The US Navy already has three new Ford-class carriers under construction, the future John F Kennedy, Enterprise and Doris Miller.

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In the early days of 2020, as science looked for answers to a mysterious viral outbreak in central China, a prominent Chinese virologist stepped forward to share critical data with the world.

Zhang Yongzhen’s disclosure of the genome of the virus that causes Covid-19 was a crucial step in the race to combat the pandemic, helping researchers globally to identify the pathogen and create vaccines to counter it.

He was lauded for his integrity by the scientific community, but in the years since, people who know Zhang say he has faced a series of unprecedented roadblocks in his career in China – with yet another barrier placed in front of his research over the past week.

On Sunday and Monday, Zhang, 59, slept overnight in protest outside his lab at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center after administrators closed the facility abruptly for renovations, according to accounts posted on his Weibo social media page.

A post on his page early Wednesday said a “tentative agreement” had been reached for Zhang’s team to resume their scientific work at the lab, some of which is related to tracing the origins of Covid-19.

The ordeal is just the latest hindrance to Zhang’s research since 2020, according to a colleague who has been in contact with the Chinese scientist in recent years.

An account by Zhang’s research students posted online also laid out a litany of challenges faced by the scientist since the formal transfer of his official employment to the Shanghai center in 2020, when his 19-year tenure at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention also ended.

“That a top scientist in his field, a person who has made contributions to the country and mankind should have fallen to this point – is really sad and chilling,” the post read.

In a statement Monday, the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center said it had closed some labs for renovation due to safety concerns and claimed it had provided additional office and experimental spaces for Zhang and his team.

The “institute always respects … and supports scientific researchers and students in carrying out normal research work,” the statement said.

Images posted on social media this week appeared to show Zhang wrapped in blankets and sleeping on the doorstep of the lab building as security guards hovered over him.

More than a dozen students’ research had been impacted by the lab closure, he said, adding it was “inconvenient” to say more at that time.

The earlier post by Zhang’s students said the two days originally allocated by the center for them to move their scientific work was insufficient. Their lab had been renovated as recently as 2020 and a second lab hadn’t been in use since the pandemic, they added.

Neither Zhang nor the online post detailing the circumstances leading to his protest connected the lab closure to his sharing of the coronavirus genome sequence in 2020.

‘Broken machine’

Zhang became the first scientist to share Covid-19’s genomic sequence on January 11, 2020 as the World Health Organization waited for China to provide the data following its announcement nearly two weeks earlier of a viral outbreak in the central city of Wuhan.

He was hailed internationally for his work and named by Nature as one of 10 people who helped shape science in 2020.

In an interview with the journal that year, Zhang reflected on his global recognition.

“They say, ‘January 11 was a turning point for understanding that this is serious. It was a turning point for China. It was a turning point for the world,’” he said.

But in China, Zhang faced challenges to his work that stemmed from that moment, according to his long-time collaborator Edward Holmes, a University of Sydney professor who published the genome with Zhang’s permission on an international data sharing website.

Following the release of the data, Zhang’s lab had limitations placed on it, which barred it from isolating the Covid virus, Holmes said.

It’s unclear if this move was separate from a Chinese government “rectification” order received by Zhang’s team that reports at the time said resulted in the temporary closure of the lab a day after the sequence release. Zhang told Nature in 2020 that the order merely required his lab to update its biosafety protocols after moving equipment during construction work.

Zhang, a scientist with China’s CDC since 2001, was also forced out of the agency in September 2020, according to a person familiar with the situation.

These changes for Zhang came as China – already known for top-down control on the academic sector – tightened oversight of scientific information related to the virus. That included imposing restrictions by April 2020 on the publication of academic research on the origins of the novel coronavirus.

Beijing has repeatedly defended its scientific transparency and data sharing related to the outbreak.

“In the old days, pre-Covid … he was like a machine and now the machine is broken. He’s just been slowly crushed by this.”

‘No regrets’

In the months after he shared the Covid-19 sequence, Zhang’s employment was transferred to the Shanghai Public Health Center, where he had held a five-year cooperation agreement and part-time professorship since 2018. It’s unclear if this move was already in the works prior to January 2020.

Since then, he has continued to publish in journals such as Cell and Nature Microbiology on the presence of viruses in animals and nature in China and received at least two international awards.

The most recent of his international publications in March looked at coronavirus variants in Shanghai in the initial months of the Covid-19 outbreak, and Zhang’s team continues to work on research related to the virus and its emergence.

Ongoing research includes a National Natural Science Foundation of China project at the laboratory, the post said.

In a Weibo post on January 11 marking the fourth anniversary of his Covid disclosure, Zhang appeared to allude to the challenges he has faced in the years since.

“Four years ago this morning, on behalf of the research team, we insisted on putting life first and made the right choice,” Zhang wrote.

“Despite going through continuous ups and downs, experiencing the warmth and cold of human emotion, and the harshness of the world, we have no regrets.”

But recent years have taken a steep toll on Zhang, according to Holmes.

“He’s not the same in terms of his productivity, he’s completely different – not the same person at all. It’s just been extraordinary to watch and extraordinary that it’s come to this,” he said.

Holmes, who had limited email contact with Zhang during his protest this week, said the Chinese virologist had told him he recently failed in his pursuit of a legal case against the Shanghai center for its handling of his contract.

“(All this has) gone on for a long time … but I hadn’t realized how bad it had got,” Holmes said.

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A transitional council responsible for choosing Haiti’s next leadership has named one of its members as council president and proposed a new interim prime minister amid efforts to control the gang violence in the Caribbean nation.

The council, which is responsible for paving the way for elections and addressing the country’s deteriorating security situation, on Tuesday named Edgard Leblanc Fils as its president and proposed former sports minister Fritz Bélizaire as new interim prime minister.

The nine-member council, which was sworn in at the National Palace last week, consists of seven voting members and was established with the help of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). It is tasked with the responsibility of naming a new prime minister and cabinet.

The committee will exercise certain presidential powers until a new president-elect is inaugurated, which must take place no later than February 7, 2026.

The country’s former prime minister, Ariel Henry, resigned last week as the council was sworn in and the former finance minister, Michael Patrick Boisvert, has been filling the role on a temporary basis.

Still to come are the tasks of appointing a new head of government and a cabinet; coordinating the arrival of a multinational security force to reclaim the capital; and eventually holding long-overdue elections.

The gangs oppose the council, he added, saying it was more of the same, and it was time for the old political elites to go – a view held by many in Haiti.

Since February, attacks by an insurgent alliance of gangs in the capital Port-au-Prince mean the city’s international airport and seaport have ceased to function, breaking vital supply lines of food and aid and triggering an exodus of evacuation flights for foreign nationals.

With the city virtually cut off from the outside world, hospitals have been vandalized while warehouses and containers storing food and essential supplies have been broken into as the social fabric frays.

According to the UN, nearly 5 million people in Haiti are suffering from acute food insecurity – defined as when a person’s inability to consume adequate food poses immediate danger to their lives or livelihoods.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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A nearly 300-year-old settlement once submerged beneath a major dam in the Philippines has reemerged as sweltering heat and drought dry up the reservoir.

Structures, including part of a church, tombstones and a municipal hall marker, reappeared in the middle of Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija province in March after months of almost no rain, Marlon Paladin, a supervising engineer for the National Irrigation Administration, told AFP.

The area was deliberately flooded in the 1970s in the dam’s construction. But a drought currently affecting about half of the country’s provinces has pushed the dam’s water levels down, according to AFP.

Figures from the Philippine government’s weather agency, PAGASA, show those levels on April 30 were nearly 50 meters (160 feet) lower than normal.

Paladin told AFP that this is the sixth time the settlement has resurfaced since the creation of the reservoir, but “this is the longest time [it was visible] based on my experience.”

When water levels drop, the ruins become a popular tourist attraction, according to AFP.

Like much of Southeast Asia, the Philippines has for the past several weeks been hit by scorching heat, leading schools to suspend classes after temperatures hit 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit).

Although April and May are normally the hottest months in the Philippines, with temperatures averaging in the mid-30s (high 80s to mid 90s Fahrenheit), much of the country has seen even hotter temperatures.

In the past five days, the heat index in some areas has exceeded 40 degrees (104 degrees Fahrenheit), figures from PAGASA show. Heat index is a calculation of what the human body feels the temperature is like. It takes into account the actual temperature and humidity, which affects the body’s ability to cool itself.

The town of Muñoz near the dam has seen heat index over 41 degrees (106 degrees Fahrenheit) the last five days. On Sunday the temperature felt like 47 degrees (117 degrees Fahrenheit) because of other contributing factors. As of the end of March, drought covered much of northern and central Luzon, including Nueva Ecija province where the dam is located, according to PAGASA.

April has remained dry across the country, with portions of central and southern Luzon seeing less than 25% of the rainfall they should receive at this time, according to the US Climate Prediction Center.

This year, the El Niño climate pattern has exacerbated those conditions, according to AFP. This natural fluctuation comes on top of planetary warming caused by human-driven climate change.

Last spring, several countries in Southeast Asia experienced record-breaking heat well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

A 2023 report from the World Weather Attribution described that heatwave as a once-in-200-years event that would have been “virtually impossible to have occurred without climate change.”

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