BEIJING (AP) — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:
Plunging temperatures after a wet winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the U.S. Northeast were expected to flash freeze much of the region on Sunday and make travel dicey during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday. "Any water that remains on the road will freeze into a sheet of ice and make conditions quite hazardous," said Rich Otto, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS). Sub-zero temperatures tied to gusting winds prompted the NWS to issue wind chill advisories and warnings for more than 10 states, from North Dakota and other parts of the central United States to East Coast metropolitan centers including Washington, New York and Boston.
Mexico has opened an investigation into what caused a deadly pipeline explosion, including possible negligence by authorities, the attorney general said Monday, as the death toll rose to 91 people. It is still unclear exactly how events unfolded leading up to the Friday blast, which occurred as hundreds of people rushed to collect fuel in buckets and jerrycans from a geyser of gasoline that was spouting from an illegal pipeline tap near the town of Tlahuelilpan, in the central state of Hidalgo. Attorney General Alejandro Gertz said investigators were trying to determine who tapped the pipeline -- whether locals acting alone or one of the criminal gangs that have turned fuel theft into a booming industry in Mexico.
United Flight 179 passengers leaving New Jersey were stranded for nearly a day in Canada and then sent back to Newark Liberty International Airport.
Donald Trump has cited San Antonio as proof that border walls make the US safer, despite the Texas city not having a border wall and being 150 miles from Mexico. Mr Trump’s comments on Saturday were intended to justify his demand for $5.7bn to fund a US-Mexico border wall. The president may have intended to refer to El Paso, a Texas border city he used as an example in a similar anecdote last week.
A statement condemned the actions and apologized
A group of former diplomats and academics have signed an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping calling for the release of two Canadians who have been detained on allegations of espionage. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were last month arrested in China for activities that "endanger China's security" -- a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging espionage. The letter said both Kovrig and Spavor worked to improve understanding of China and to promote better relations with the world.
US federal workers who are not getting paid during the longest government shutdown in the country's history are increasingly turning to pawnbrokers for short-term loans, according to shop owners. The turnout is small – a few people per day – pawnbrokers said, but many expect the numbers to increase amid the stalemate. About 800,000 federal workers have missed a paycheck during the nearly month-long shutdown.
Protesters, some wearing traditional army suits, chanted slogans like “Macedonia is Greek,” and asking the government to hold a referendum for the issue, while police used tear gas to keep demonstrators away from parliament. Under the so-called Prespes agreement, Greece’s neighbor will change its name to Republic of North Macedonia in exchange for the Greeks ending opposition to its bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Many Greeks say Macedonia should only be used to refer to their country’s northern region of that name -- the birthplace of Alexander -- and see any use as an attempt to steal their cultural heritage.
China's population grew at a slower rate last year despite the abolition of the one-child policy, official data showed Monday, raising fears an ageing society will pile further pressure on an already slowing economy. There were 15.23 million live births in 2018, a drop of two million from the year before, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. With 9.93 million deaths, this led to a growth rate of 3.81 per thousand in 2018, a dip from 5.32 per thousand the previous year. NBS commissioner Ning Jize said population growth had peaked, but said the country still had huge potential. "China's labour participation rate is not considered low worldwide, more than 700 million of our 900 million people (of working age) are employed, and there is still room (for growth)," he said. Signs of China's falling population growth had emerged when data released by some local authorities indicated a significant drop in births last year. In Qingdao, a city in eastern Shandong province - one of China's most populous regions - births between January and November decreased by 21 percent to just over 81,000 compared to the previous year. Top 10 | Largest countries by population Still, China's total population rose by 5.3 million in 2018 to 1.395 billion people, retaining its title as the world's most populous nation. China for decades limited most families to one child - often enforcing this policy through hefty financial penalties - in a bid to control population growth. This was relaxed in 2016 when couples were allowed two children in response to concerns about an ageing society and shrinking workforce. China's workforce - those aged between 16 and 59 - was 897.3 million last year, a 4.7 million drop from 2017, NBS data showed. The workforce is on track to decline by as much as 23 percent by 2050.
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