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China passes controversial national security law for Hong Kong

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Hong Kong Police Guard of Honour raises a Chinese national flag and a Hong Kong flag during a flag raising ceremony at the Golden Bauhinia Square on June 15, 2020 in Hong Kong, China.

Anthony Kwan | Getty Images

The top decision-making body in China’s parliament has passed the contentious national security law for Hong Kong, according to a member of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress.

Tam Yiu Chung, the sole Hong Kong delegate to the committee, confirmed media reports that the law has been passed in a press conference. Reuters cited Cable TV earlier and reported that the law was passed unanimously.

It comes ahead of tomorrow’s anniversary marking Hong Kong’s handover from the U.K. to mainland China on July 1, 1997. 

Hong Kong — a former British colony governed under the “one country, two systems” framework — enjoys some freedoms that other Chinese cities do not have. They include limited election rights and a largely separate legal and economic system. 

But critics say the new law will undermine the autonomy promised to the special administrative region when it was handed over to China 23 years ago.

Beijing says the law is aimed at prohibiting secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference. It was proposed during China’s annual parliamentary meeting in late May and reignited protests in Hong Kong over fears that freedoms in the city would be eroded.

Following reports of the law being passed, prominent activist Joshua Wong announced that he would be stepping down as secretary general of pro-democracy party, Demosisto, and withdrawing from the group. Fellow members Nathan Law and Agnes Chow made similar announcements on Facebook.

The South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong delegates to China’s top advisory body have been asked to attend a meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. It also cited sources who said state news agency Xinhua would publish details of the legislation in the afternoon. A full draft of the law has not been publicly revealed thus far.

Controversy over the law

Many were concerned about Beijing encroaching on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms when this law was proposed, in part because the move would bypass the city’s own lawmakers.

Hong Kong was promised a high level of autonomy for 50 years after the handover — or until 2047. There is no clarity on what will happen when the policy ceases.

It is also seen as a way for China to gain more control after Hong Kong saw prolonged — and sometimes violent —protests over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

Earlier this week, Eurasia Group said that passing the law before the anniversary of the handover could be an indication that Beijing wants to “clamp down on protests far ahead” of Hong Kong’s legislative council elections in September. If the law were to take effect before the annual march on July 1, it could expose demonstrators to new legal risks and “further sap momentum from protesters,” Eurasia said.

Meanwhile, businesses see the need for a security law, but want to know what it entails and how it will be implemented, David Dodwell, executive director of the Hong Kong-APEC Trade Policy Group, told CNBC in early June.

Reuters reported that a national security office would be set up in Hong Kong to collect intelligence and handle related crimes, and that the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, would be allowed to appoint specific judges to hear national security cases. 

Lam said she would not do so, but would select a panel of judges that the judiciary can choose from, according to Reuters. 

She has also said the new law would not infringe on Hong Kong’s way of life, but would target a “small minority of illegal and criminal acts.”

International backlash

Countries including the U.K. have criticized Beijing over the law which they say will infringe on the rights of Hong Kong citizens. The European Parliament this month voted for the EU to take China to the International Court of Justice if the national security law is imposed on Hong Kong, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Senate last week passed legislation that would impose mandatory sanctions on people or companies that back efforts by China to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy. But for the Hong Kong Autonomy Act to become law, it must be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

It came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress in late May that the city was no longer highly independent from China.

China has hit back and urged the U.S. not to interfere in its domestic affairs.

“No matter how vociferous the separatist forces in Hong Kong and how pressured by external anti-China forces, they can’t stop China’s determination and actions to promote Hong Kong’s national security legislation,” said Zhao Lijian, deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department. “Their plot will fail, and the relevant bill is also a piece of waste paper.”

— CNBC’s Huileng Tan, Yen Nee Lee, Tucker Higgins contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/30/china-reportedly-passes-national-security-law-for-hong-kong.html

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Why oil giants like Chevron and BP are investing in geothermal energy

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Miles below the Earth’s surface, there’s a source of renewable energy that could sustain all of humanity for the foreseeable future. Just 0.1% of Earth’s total heat content could meet our energy needs for 2 million years, according to ARPA-E, the government agency that funds R&D efforts for advanced energy technologies.

It’s called geothermal energy, and in some ways, it’s old news. It’s been used to heat buildings since the late 1800s and provide electricity since the 1900s. The U.S. has the most installed geothermal capacity in the world, but it still only accounts for about 0.4% of our total electricity mix. That’s because, in most places, it’s too expensive and challenging to drill geothermal wells. That could change soon, though.

Over the last few years, a number of start-ups in the geothermal space have gained traction, such as Eavor Technologies, Fervo Energy, Sage Geoystems, and GreenFire Energy. While their technologies and approaches differ, all are trying to figure out how to access the “heat beneath our feet” in geographies that have traditionally been considered too difficult to reach.

Watch the video to learn more about these company’s strategies, and why they’re partnering with major oil and gas companies, like BP and Chevron, as the potential of geothermal energy grows.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/07/why-oil-giants-like-chevron-and-bp-are-investing-in-geothermal-energy.html

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Germany’s move to electric vehicles will affect thousands of workers, new study says

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The underbody of an ID.3. electric vehicle being worked on at a Volkswagen facility in Dresden, Germany, on January 29, 2021.

Matthias Rietschel | picture alliance | Getty Images

The shift to electric vehicles could affect thousands of workers in Germany over the coming years, the Munich-based Ifo Institute said Thursday.

The Ifo’s study, which was undertaken on behalf of the German Association of the Automotive Industry, illustrates some of the potential challenges ahead as governments attempt to phase out diesel and gasoline vehicles in favor of low and zero emission ones. 

In a statement issued alongside the report’s release, the research institution said an estimated 75,000 production workers in Germany’s autos sector would retire by the middle of this decade.

“But if by 2025 the production of cars powered by combustion engines declines to the extent foreseen under current emissions regulations, then the switch to electric motors will affect at least 178,000 employees,” it added.

This cohort, Ifo explained, would consist of “workers who manufacture product groups that depend directly or indirectly on the combustion engine, with 137,000 of them employed directly by the automotive industry.”

Ifo President Clemens Fuest described the “transition to electromobility” as “a major challenge, especially for automotive suppliers, where medium-sized companies are dominant.”

“It’s important to maintain highly skilled jobs in the remaining production of combustion engines and in electric vehicles without putting the brakes on structural change,” he said.

A significant transition does indeed appear to be on the horizon. Germany’s federal government wants 7 to 10 million electric vehicles to be registered in the country by the end of this decade. In January Reuters, citing Germany’s road-traffic regulator, said battery-electric vehicle sales were over 194,000 in 2020, a three-fold rise.

Looking at the bigger picture, the EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, wants at least 30 million zero-emission cars on the road by 2030 as part of its “Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.”

According to the International Energy Agency, roughly 3 million new electric cars were registered last year, a record amount and a 41% rise compared to 2019.

Oliver Falck, who is director of the Ifo Center for Industrial Organization and New Technologies, sought to emphasize the systemic shift that was already taking place.

“Developments in production figures are already showing us that very different parts are needed for electric cars than for combustion engines,” he said, noting that “this transformation has yet to manifest to the same degree in headcount.”

“The transformation that can be expected in headcount won’t be fully cushioned by the retirement of the baby boomers,” he went on to explain. “Since companies are already aware of this gap, they have the opportunity to take appropriate measures in good time, such as retraining and further training.”

According to Reuters, the Ifo’s survey “did not take into account the potential creation of new jobs in EV manufacturing or battery cell production.”

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/07/germanys-move-to-evs-to-affect-thousands-of-workers-new-study-says-.html

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Toshiba launches a new lineup of Fire TV Edition televisions

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Toshiba has introduced new options to choose from if you’re looking to buy a new Fire TV: The manufacturer has launched a lineup of smart TVs with built-in Fire TV experience that will be available in five screen sizes. The 43-inch and the 50-inch variants are already listed on Amazon and Best Buy for $350 and $470, respectively, though they won’t be in stock until May 13th at the earliest. While the company doesn’t have a release date for them yet, Toshiba will also sell 55-, 65- and 75-inch versions of the TV in the future.

The new smart Fire TVs have thinner bezels than Toshiba’s previous models, with an extra HDMI and USB ports. They have a 4K resolution powered by the company’s Regza Engine, and they support Dolby Vision and HDR10. Since they run Amazon’s Fire OS, they have the features you’d expect from a Fire TV, including the ability to view video feeds from compatible video doorbell or other cameras on top of whatever you’re watching on the screen. 

You can use voice commands to quickly change picture and sound settings, as well. For instance, you can say “Alexa, set picture mode to movie” or “Alexa, set bass to 3.” The voice remote the TVs come with will also give you the ability to control the power and volume of compatible audio/video receivers and soundbars.

According to AFTVnews, the devices will ship with the older Fire TV interface, but they’re getting the redesigned UI this summer when it rolls out to older models. The refreshed UI comes with a new look and introduces User Profiles, so up to six members of your household can customize their experience. 

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/toshiba-new-fire-tv-lineup-053842934.html

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Denon, Marantz and Yamaha address 4K, 8K and 120Hz gaming issues

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Last year we started to see the first receivers roll out with HDMI 2.1 ports that could support 120Hz refresh rates and up to 8K resolution. However the early devices have had compatibility issues with other hardware — namely the Xbox Series X — and it looks like the fix will be pretty complicated. 

As Forbes and HD Guru point out, Yamaha, Denon and Marantz all sell receivers that have had these compatibility problems that gamers noticed once the new consoles started rolling out last fall. Denon and Marantz are both brands owned by Sound United, and they’re going to fix it by providing an extra hardware adapter to sit between the Xbox and their receivers. The SPK618 will “correct” the HDMI data from the Xbox so that it’s passed to your 4K/120Hz ready TV while also playing audio. Owners of affected receivers can order the box starting on May 15th by checking with Denon or Marantz.

As for Yamaha, so far it’s advised gamers to connect their consoles directly to the TV — which can have its own issues, as we’ve experienced — and use HDMI eARC functionality to feed audio back to the receiver. It also said “We will address the reported HDMI 2.1 issue via these planned future updates in order to provide customers with the best solution available.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/hdmi-2-1-xbox-series-x-receiver-issues-034534313.html

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