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Myanmar coup risks billions in foreign investment – analysts

Businesses and analysts predict that the coup in Myanmar is likely to damage the country's economy. Photo: AFP Companies say the coup has already put billions worth of foreign investment at risk. The US has already said it is considering imposing additional sanctions on Myanmar, which is one of the region's poorest countries. However, the impact of US sanctions could be limited because most of the country's investment comes from Asia. According to the World Bank, Singapore was the largest foreign investor in Myanmar last year, accounting for 34 percent of overall approved investment. Hong Kong was the second largest investor with 26 percent. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) commitments into Myanmar were worth $US5.5 billion ($NZ7.6b) in the 2020 fiscal year, which ended in September. Real estate and manufacturing each accounted for about 20 percent of that figure. These figures were already expected to be significantly lower this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Vriens & Partners is a government affairs consultancy that is currently handling $3b to $4b worth of projects for foreign clients investing in Myanmar. The projects are mainly for energy, infrastructure and telecommunications. "That's all at risk now," the firm's managing partner Hans Vriens said. "This country has already been badly hit by Covid and by diminishing appetite to invest. And now we have this on top." Sanctions could have a significant effect on foreign investment, with both Western and Japanese companies thinking twice about projects in Myanmar. With the US already considering sanctions against Myanmar, Vriens thinks businesses might turn to China instead. "It's really the only country they can turn to," he said. Impact of sanctions One Yangon-based businessman, who asked not to be named, said he's relieved that the coup so far appears to be have been relatively peaceful. "So far it's peaceful, without protests, but emotions are strong and people are upset," he said. He said it's likely to have an impact on the economy, but the effect of any western sanctions will depend on whether they're broad or they target the coup leaders. The effect of sanctions could be limited, however, because the bulk of foreign investment comes from Asia. "It will have a psychological impact, but the actual dollar figure coming in, we were never reliant on western investment," he said. He said engagement is a better approach than sanctions, which punish responsible companies. "You have responsible companies that are adhering to European or US standards who are ironically most affected by sanctions," he said. Photo: AFP Fashionable democracy Stephen Lamar, president of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, said many of the trade group's members did business in Myanmar and found the coup deeply concerning. "Our hearts and prayers are with the Myanmar people for a swift, peaceful, and democratic resolution to this crisis - one that does not take away the economic progress made by the hardworking people of Myanmar," he said. A spokesperson for H&M said the company was monitoring events and was in close contact with suppliers, but had no immediate plans to change its sourcing strategy. "We are closely following the developments, but refrain from speculating about what this will mean for us going forward," the official said. Trading halt The coup has already affected one listed company. Myanmar-focused Yoma Strategic Holdings issued a trading halt in Singapore, where the company is listed. Yoma has interests in real estate, food and beverage, automotive and financial services in Myanmar. The company's chief executive Melvyn Pun said a lack of information from Myanmar made the trading halt necessary. "It was difficult to tell what was going on. There were no telecoms in or out of Yangon [on Monday morning]," he said. Australian oil and gas firm Woodside Energy has drilling activities in Myanmar and says its "highest priority remains the safety of our people, their families and contractors." "Noting our current 2021 drilling campaign, we are working with our stakeholders to understand how these planned activities may possibly be impacted and preparing our forward plan," a Woodside Energy spokesman told the BBC. Slow growth The World Bank's most recent figures suggest that the economy will grow at a sluggish 2 percent this fiscal year, while poverty rates are expected to increase from 22.4 percent at the end of 2019 to 27 percent. Anita Basu from financial data firm Fitch Solutions told the BBC's Asia Business Report that prior to the coup, strong growth of 6 percent was expected for the next financial year. Now Fitch expects that growth will be cut in half. She said it's not yet clear if the coup will have a significant effect on foreign investment. "The biggest investors that will be impacted by this will be Asian investors, and therefore you have seen a very tentative reaction from a lot of these countries," Basu said. For China it is an "uncomfortable situation", she said, because even though its Belt and Road initiative investments are fairly modest in Myanmar, China has become nervous about countries where there's political uncertainty. - BBC
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Huge snowstorm hits US east coast

A massive winter storm has pummelled the US east coast, grounding flights, shuttering vaccination sites and bringing New York City to a standstill. A taxi cab driver shovels through heavy snow during a winter storm on 2 February, in New York City. Photo: AFP As much as 19in (48cm) of snow had already fallen in parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and 17in (43cm) in New York City this morning. New York City and New Jersey have both declared a state of emergency. The US National Weather Service said the storm would move up to New England, before tapering off tomorrow. Wind gusts of up to 80km/h are also forecast for several days creating a blinding, blowing snow storm. The storm has wrought havoc on local travel. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an order restricting non-essential travel from 6am (local time) today, and closing public schools. New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York City as well as 44 other counties. The frozen Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in Bryant Park in NYC Photo: AFP "This is a dangerous situation," he said in a press conference on Monday. "A life-threatening-situation. Expect closures. It's going to get very bad very quickly." In New Jersey, Governor Philip Murphy suspended the state's bus and rail operations. His emergency order allows authorities to shut roads and evacuate homes. A man takes a photo as snow continues to fall in Times Square, NYC. Photo: AFP More than 1600 flights have been cancelled at major airports in the storm's path, including Newark Liberty International Airport, John F Kennedy Airport, and Philadelphia International Airport. At New York's La Guardia Airport, all flights were suspended as of Monday evening (local time). The storm has also halted vaccine distribution in Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, parts of Washington, DC and the New York area. A woman stands at Times Square as snow falls across the city. Photo: AFP In New York City vaccinations will be cancelled through to tomorrow, as Mayor de Blasio has said it was "not safe" for older residents to go outside in the blizzard conditions. "We're in a local state of emergency," de Blasio said at a news conference. "I'm fearful that this tough situation we have now could get worse." Snow hit the west coast last week, with some parts of California experiencing more than 6ft (2m) of snowfall. A snowman is seen on the North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. Photo: AFP In Washington DC, many have enjoyed the snow in front of the capital's iconic landmarks. After a day of snow on Sunday, the winter weather advisory from the National Weather Service has been extended until Tuesday at midnight in the DC area. Freezing rain and sleet showers are expected through the day. President Joe Biden met advisers to discuss "a range of issues, including the approaching winter storm", a White House official said. -BBC
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Myanmar's coup: Why now – and what's next?

By Flora Drury for BBC News Myanmar's military has announced it has taken control of the country, a decade after agreeing to hand power to a civilian government. A soldier stands guard on a blockaded road to Myanmar's parliament, Naypyidaw, after the military seized power in a coup against the re-elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AFP The coup has sent a shudder of fear through the country, which endured almost 50 years of rule under oppressive military regimes before the move towards democratic rule in 2011. The early morning arrests of Aung San Suu Kyi and other politicians were all too reminiscent of days many hoped they had left behind. In November's election, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) won enough seats to form a government. The army said the vote was fraudulent. For the past five years, Suu Kyi and her once-banned party led the country after being elected in 2015 in the freest and fairest vote seen in 25 years. On Monday morning, the party should have begun its second term in office. But behind the scenes, the military has kept a relatively tight grip on Myanmar (also known as Burma), thanks to a constitution which guarantees it a quarter of all seats in parliament and control of the country's most powerful ministries. Which raises the question why did it seize power now - and more to the point, what happens next? Myanmar migrants hold up portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi in a protest outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo: AFP 'Trumpian' fraud allegations The exact timing is easily explained, as the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head points out: Monday morning should have been the first session of parliament, which in turn would have enshrined the result. This now won't happen. Elections in November saw the NLD win more than 80 percent of the vote, remaining hugely popular even in the face of allegations of genocide against the country's Rohingya Muslims. The military-backed opposition immediately began making accusations of fraud after the vote. The allegation was repeated in a signed statement released by the newly-instated acting president to justify the imposition of the year-long state of emergency. "The UEC [election commission] failed to solve huge voter list irregularities in the multi-party general election which was held on 8 November 2020," Myint Swe, a former general who had been vice-president, said. But there has been little evidence to support the allegation. "Obviously Aung San Suu Kyi won a resounding election victory," Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Asia, tells the BBC. "There have been allegations of electoral fraud. It is somewhat Trumpian - all these allegations of fraud with no evidence." Even so, Mr Robertson describes the takeover as "inexplicable". "Did [the vote] mean a loss of power? The answer is no." Embarrassing the 'Father of the nation' November's vote may have seen the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) win a fraction of the vote, but the military still holds massive sway over the government thanks to a controversial 2008 constitution drawn up during junta rule. It not only gives the military a quarter of parliamentary seats automatically, but also hands it control of three key ministries - home affairs, defence and border affairs. So, as long as the constitution remains the same, the military retains some control. But could the NLD, with its majority, have amended the constitution? Unlikely, says Jonathan Head, as that requires the support of 75 percent of the parliament - an almost impossible task when the military controls at least 25 percent. Aye Min Thant, a former journalist and tech educator, suggests there may be another reason for today's action: embarrassment on the part of the military. "They weren't expecting to lose," she tells the BBC from Yangon (Rangoon). "People whose families were in the military must have voted against them." Of course, it is far more than that. "You need to understand how the army views its position in the country," Aye Min Thant adds. "International media are quite used to referring to Aung San Suu Kyi as 'mother'. The army considers itself the 'father' of the nation." As a result, it feels a sense of "obligation and entitlement" when it comes to ruling - and in recent years, as the country has become more open to international trade, it has not liked what it has seen. "They view outsiders especially as a danger." The pandemic and international concerns over the Rohingya being disenfranchised in the November vote may have emboldened the military to act now, Aye Min Thant suggests. All the same, it still took her by surprise. What does the future hold? Indeed, experts appear unsure of exactly why the military acted now, as there seems little to gain. "It is worth remembering that the current system is tremendously beneficial for the army: it has complete command autonomy, sizeable international investment in its commercial interests and political cover from civilians for war crimes," Gerard McCarthy, a postdoctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore's Asia Research Institute, tells the BBC. "Seizing power for a year as it has announced will isolate non-Chinese international partners, harm the military's commercial interests and provoke escalating resistance from millions of people who placed Suu Kyi and the NLD in power for in another term of government." Perhaps, he says, they hope to improve the USDP's standings in future elections, but the risks of such a move "are significant". HRW's Phil Robertson points out the move puts Myanmar in danger of becoming a "pariah state" once more, while angering the people at home. "I do not think the people of Myanmar are going to take this lying down," he adds. "They do not want to head back to a military future. They see Suu Kyi as a bulwark against a return to military power." There are still hopes that this can be resolved through negotiation, he says, but adds: "If we start seeing major protests beginning, then we are into a major crisis." - BBC
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New Caledonia braces for Cyclone Lucas

Two tropical cyclones are active in the southwest Pacific, with forecasts saying New Caledonia will be hit within 24 hours. Tropical Cyclone Lucas Photo: Fiji Meteorological Service Cyclone Lucas is a category 2 system moving to the southwest of Vanuatu towards New Caledonia's Loyalty Islands. Cyclone Ana crossed Fiji's main islands yesterday and is tracking southeast away from land to the south of Tonga. Advisories have been issued for Vanuatu and New Caledonia, where winds are expected to strengthen during the day. Lucas is forecast to bring heavy rain and high seas, with residents advised to prepare for the storm to hit. Tropical Cyclone Ana Photo: Fiji Meteorological Service
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At least five die in Papua New Guinea landslide

Five people have been confirmed dead from a landslide in Papua New Guinea's Bulolo district. Bulolo district, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades The Post Courier reports the five were part of a family of alluvial miners swept away by a landslide that triggered flooding of the Vibo River. A district administrator said bodies of three adults and two children were retrieved from the disaster area after being swept away by the flood and debris. The incident happened last week. A search is ongoing for three more people who had also been swept away. A search and rescue team has been joined by local villagers and Morobe province disaster officials. The Bulolo MP Sam Basil has been on hand to help deliver relief supplies and coffins for the bodies. He told the newspaper it was important to ensure the deceased have a proper burial.
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Shell targets power trading and hydrogen in climate drive

Royal Dutch Shell is betting on its expertise in power trading and rapid growth in hydrogen and biofuels markets as it shifts away from oil, rather than joining rivals in a scramble for renewable power assets, company sources said. A Royal Dutch Shell sign. Photo: AFP Shell and its European rivals are seeking new business models to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels and appeal to investors concerned about the long-term outlook for an industry under intense pressure to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Shell will present its strategy on Feb. 11 and unlike Total and BP the company will focus more on becoming an intermediary between clean power producers and customers than investing billions in renewable projects, the sources said, giving previously unreported details of the plan. Shell announced in October it would increase its spending on low-carbon energy to 25 percent of overall capital expenditure by 2025 and the sources said that would translate into more than $US5 billion a year, up from $US1.5b to $US2b now. The Anglo-Dutch company will, however, keep its overall oil and gas output largely stable for the next decade to help fund its energy transition, though gas is set to become a bigger part of the mix, the sources told Reuters. A Shell spokeswoman declined to comment on the details of the company's new strategy ahead of its February announcements. BP, meanwhile, plans to slash its oil output by 40 percent by 2030 and has swept aside its core oil and gas exploration team to focus on renewables, with spending on low-carbon energy set to rise 10-fold to $US5b over the coming decade. While Europe's big oil firms are all rolling out strategies to survive in a low-carbon world, investors and analysts remain sceptical about their ability to transform centuries-old business models and triumph in already crowded power markets. Power trading Central to Shell's plans are its experience in trading all types of energy from oil to natural gas to electricity and its vast retail network, which has more outlets than either of the world's two biggest food chains, Subway and McDonald's. Shell is already the world's leading energy trader, an activity it calls "marketing". It trades about 13 million barrels of oil a day, or 13 percent of global demand before the pandemic, using one of the biggest fleets of tankers. It is the top trader of liquefied natural gas (LNG), buys and sells power, biofuels, chemicals and carbon credits, and now aims to use its pole position to snare a large chunk of the fast-growing low-carbon power market. "The future of energy is particularly bright for our marketing and our customer-facing businesses where we already have scale. So we will accelerate a growth plan which is already underway," Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in October. Trading has been key for oil majors for decades, allowing them to use their global operations to quickly take advantage of changes in supply and demand. Shell's trading helped it avoid its first-ever quarterly loss in the second quarter of 2020 even as consumption plummeted due to the coronavirus epidemic. Nevertheless, analysts say Shell's trading division will face a challenge because it is heavily reliant at the moment on sales of refined fossil fuel products, which also account for a large proportion of its carbon emissions. "Shell faces difficult choices on how to balance its trading cash flow that leverages oil products while still having carbon-intensive operations," JP Morgan analyst Christyan Malek said. "But because of their scale, customer base and distribution, they can be much more flexible." Hydrogen hubs At the same time, Shell plans to boost its consumer base by expanding its electricity supply business for homes and its network of electric vehicle charging points, as well as signing long-term corporate power purchase agreements (PPA). Shell already has 45,000 retail outlets worldwide, far more than its European rivals, and it is planning to add another 10,000 by 2025. As a major biofuel producer, Shell wants to ramp up its production of fuel made from plants and waste as an alternative source of energy for transportation, the sources said. Shell's is also betting on future growth in hydrogen, the sources said. While still a niche market, hydrogen has attracted huge interest in recent months as a clean alternative to natural gas for heavy industry and transportation. Hydrogen, and so-called green hydrogen which is made solely with renewable power, comes with high costs and infrastructure challenges though Shell is already investing. Its push will centre initially on Europe, where it is developing a hydrogen hub in Hamburg, Germany, and it is one of several firms developing a hub in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It is also looking to expand into the United States and Asia. The U.S. state of California, for example, is backing the rollout of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to help achieve its climate goals while countries such South Korea and Japan are betting heavily on hydrogen as an alternative fuel. The sources did not give any targets for increases in Shell's production of either hydrogen or biofuels. Like Shell, rivals including BP, Total, Italy's Eni and Spain's Repsol also plan to expand in hydrogen and biofuels markets, as well as add electric vehicle charging points to generate new revenue away from oil. Competitive edge? However, Shell won't chase the same ambitious targets some of its European rivals have for adding wind and solar generation capacity and will prioritise trading and selling electricity instead, the sources said. Shell is wary about investing heavily in renewable projects where it won't have any particular competitive edge over other oil companies or utilities, such as Spain's Iberdrola and Denmark's Orsted that are already becoming significant green energy producers. Shell will still expand its renewable capacity, especially in offshore wind farms where it believes it has an advantage after years of operating offshore oilfields, but the business will centre on profitability rather than size, the sources said. "Shell will have some volumetric targets but that is not the focus," a senior company official told Reuters. "A single focus on the volume of renewable energy generating capacity could be dangerous and lead us to some bad deals." BP wants to boost its renewable generation capacity 20 fold by 2030 while Total is aiming to have 100 gigawatts (GW) of gross renewable energy generation capacity by 2030. Investors are concerned, however, that they may struggle to hit their profit projections by investing in costly renewable projects which typically have lower rates of return than oil. Shell provided some details on its new strategy on 29 October, including a plan to narrow its oil and gas production to nine hubs, cut the number of refineries to six from 14 and boost its marketing business. The company also announced plans to cut its workforce by up to 9000 employees, or about 10 percent, by August this year as part of a broad cost-cutting review known as Project Reshape. - Reuters
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Guilty pleas bring abrupt end to Pell media contempt trial

A dozen Australian media firms have agreed to plead guilty for breaching a suppression order on reporting on the trial and conviction of former Vatican treasurer George Pell in 2018 for child sexual assault, a court heard on Monday. The surprise agreement was reached nearly two years after the charges were brought. They relate to how media covered the trial of George Pell after foreign media named him. (file pic) Photo: AFP Pell was cleared last year of the sexual abuse charges after spending 13 months in prison. He was convicted in December 2018 for sexually assaulting two choirboys but reporting on the trial and verdict was gagged Australia-wide by the County Court of Victoria to ensure the cardinal got a fair trial on further charges he was due to face. As part of the agreement announced on Monday, the state prosecutor said it was dismissing charges of sub judice contempt against all of the media firms and all charges against 15 reporters and editors at those newspapers, radio and television stations. The surprise agreement was reached nearly two years after the charges were brought, nearly three months after the media trial began and 10 months after Pell was acquitted by the High Court. Despite the Australian gag on reporting, foreign media published news on the outcome of Pell's trial, naming him and the charges. Australian media then published reports saying they were unable to cover major news about an unidentified high-profile person, with some pointing out that the news was accessible online. The state initially alleged that dozens of media, journalists and editors had breached the suppression order and interfered with the administration of justice in running those articles. Breaches of suppression orders can be punished with up to five years' jail and fines of nearly $A100,000 ($106,000) for individuals and nearly $A500,000 for companies. Some charges had been dismissed over the past two years, but 79 charges remained as of January. "The prosecution has resolved," prosecutor Lisa De Ferrari told the Supreme Court of Victoria today. "Each corporate respondent has indicated that it will plead guilty in respect of each publication for which they are charged to contempt by breaching the proceeding suppression order," she said. "Given the plea and the acceptance of responsibility in respect of each publication ... the director [of public prosecutions] has determined that it is in the public interest to dismiss the remaining charges." The plea hearing has been set for 10-11 February. Last week, the former editor of the Age, Alex Lavelle, the first media witness to appear in the trial, told the court he ran a story only to explain why the newspaper could not cover the news that was being reported overseas, as the newspaper had received numerous queries from the public. Readers were "wondering if the Age was part of a Catholic church conspiracy", Matthew Collins, the lawyer representing Nine Entertainment, told the court. Lavelle said based on legal advice, he believed the article did not breach the suppression order. A spokeswoman for Nine said in emailed comments: "Our decision to enter a guilty plea was important to protect our individual people, who were simply going about their jobs." - Reuters
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Groundbreaking biofuel rocket could be 'Uber for space'

By Jane O'Brien for the BBC Snow swirled and a biting wind sent temperatures plummeting to several degrees below zero as the Stardust 1.0 made its debut at a former military base in Maine. Stardust is the first commercial launch of a rocket powered by bio-derived fuel. Photo: YouTube /Aeroshift Strapped to a trailer and pulled by a pick-up truck along a runway once used by B-52 bombers in the Cold War, it wasn't the most glamorous entrance for a rocket about to make history. And it very nearly didn't as the subzero conditions played havoc with the electronics and clouds moved in. But after several delays and as the Sunday afternoon light waned, Stardust finally lifted off, becoming the first commercial launch of a rocket powered by bio-derived fuel. https://t.co/ADwHmhmTNI#avgeek #cubesat #engineering #historic #innovate #innovation #launch #launchday #madeinmaine #maine #mainemade #milestone #nanosat #newspace #prototype #rocketry #rocketscience #rockettech #space #spaceindustry #success #teamspace #futureisnear #vc — bluShift Aerospace (@bluShiftAero) February 1, 2021 Sascha Deri, who invented the biofuel, is cagey about what it's made of, but says it can be sourced from farms around the world. The founder and chief executive of bluShift Aerospace, he and his team have spent more than six years refining the formula and designing a modular hybrid engine, which is also unique. "We want to prove that a bio-derived fuel can serve just as well, if not better in some cases, than traditional fuels to power rockets and payloads to space," he says. "It actually costs less per kilogram than traditional rocket fuel and it's completely non-toxic. And it's a carbon-neutral fuel which is inherently better for our planet and more responsible." Stardust is a small rocket, just 6 metres long and weighing 250kg. But because it's relatively cheap to fly and doesn't need the high-tech infrastructure of larger rockets, it will help make space research accessible to more people. Students, researchers and businesses will be able to conduct experiments and test products with greater control and frequency. "Right now there are freight trains to space like SpaceX and ULA - and there are buses to space, like medium size rockets," says Deri. "They're taking thousands of kilograms to space. But there's no space launch service allowing one or two payloads to go to space. There's no Uber to space. We want to be the Uber service to space." For the first launch, the payload included a high school experiment and tests on an alloy called nitinol made by Kellogg Research Labs in Salem, New Hampshire. Founder Joe Kellogg says nitinol is a shape memory material that is used in medical devices such as stents. It is also used to protect rocket payloads from vibrations. "We're very heavily involved in space and trying to get into the larger missions like the lunar missions and the Mars missions that are coming up. Our long-term goal is to build whole rockets out of nitinol," he says. "We think we can make them lighter and more energy efficient." While Stardust flew just 2km into the sky before parachuting back to Earth, a second planned rocket will be suborbital and a later version called Red Dwarf will enter polar orbit. Polar orbits offer more exposure to land than equatorial orbits. And Maine is geographically suited to such launches which makes it attractive to the growing space satellite communication industry, says Terry Shehata, executive director of Maine Space Grant Consortium which is funded by the US space agency, Nasa. By some estimates, small satellite launch services could generate $US69 billion within the next decade. bluShift alone expects to create 40 new jobs in five years through launching tiny satellites known as cubesats. Maine already has the infrastructure to support the industry, says Shehata. At the height of the Cold War, Loring Air Force Base at Limestone was the nation's front line of defence. B-52 bombers armed with nuclear warheads constantly circled the skies on high alert to deter any threat from Russia. Stardust launched from the base's runway of reinforced concrete and was temporarily housed in a hangar built for fighter jets. The base closed in 1994, with devastating economic effects on the region. Other former bases include Brunswick Landing which could become Mission Control for a statewide spaceport complex. "Maine has the right resources, we have the people, we have the geographical advantage of being able to launch into polar orbit. All we need to do is believe in ourselves that we can do this," Deri says. - BBC
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Trump names new lawyers to head his impeachment defence

Former US president Donald Trump has named two new lawyers to lead the defence in his upcoming Senate impeachment trial after abruptly parting ways with his previous counsel. Donald Trump at the rally that preceded the storming of Capitol Hill on 6 January. Photo: AFP Lawyers David Schoen and Bruce Castor will head the defence effort in the trial set to begin on 9 February, Trump's office said in a statement. Schoen had already been helping Trump and advisers prepare for the proceedings, according to the former president's office. Butch Bowers and Deborah Barberi, two South Carolina lawyers, are no longer on Trump's team, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Saturday. The source described their departure as a "mutual decision." The US Senate will consider an article of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives on 13 January charging Trump with inciting the 6 January storming of the US Capitol by his followers, a rampage that left five people dead. Trump is due to file a response to the impeachment charges on Tuesday. Forty-five Senate Republicans backed a failed effort last week to halt Trump's impeachment trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign Trump will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol. Schoen previously represented Trump's former adviser Roger Stone, who was convicted in November 2019 of lying under oath to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump pardoned Stone in December 2020, weeks before leaving office on 20 January. Castor is a former Pennsylvania district attorney known for his decision not to prosecute entertainer Bill Cosby in 2005 after a woman accused Cosby of sexual assault. Bruce Castor is known for his decision not to prosecute entertainer Bill Cosby when he was accused of sexual assault in 2005. Photo: AFP In 2017, Castor sued Cosby's accuser in the case for defamation, claiming she destroyed his political career in retaliation. Cosby, 83, is now serving a three-to-10-year sentence in a state prison near Philadelphia after being found guilty in a 2018 trial of drugging and raping a onetime friend at his home in 2004. - Reuters
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Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi 'detained by military'

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's governing National League for Democracy (NLD) party, has been arrested, the spokesman for the party said. Supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party stand with banners of Aung San Suu Kyi in November last year. Photo: AFP It comes amid tensions between the civilian government and the military, stoking fears of a coup. The NLD won enough seats in parliament to form a government in November, but the army says the vote was fraudulent. The army has called on the government to postpone convening parliament, which was due to take place on Monday. Spokesman Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone that Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other leaders had been "taken" in the early hours of the morning. "I want to tell our people not to respond rashly and I want them to act according to the law," he said, adding he also expected to be detained. The BBC's South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, says there are soldiers on the streets of the capital, Naypyitaw, and the main city, Yangon. Telephone and internet lines in Naypyitaw have been cut, the BBC's Burmese Service reports. Soldiers also visited the homes of chief ministers in several regions and took them away, family members said. On Saturday Myanmar's armed forces promised to abide by the constitution as concerns grew that they were preparing to stage a coup. Who is Aung San Suu Kyi? Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Myanmar's independence hero, General Aung San. He was assassinated when she was only two years old, just before Myanmar gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948. Suu Kyi was once seen as a beacon for human rights - a principled activist who gave up her freedom to challenge the ruthless army generals who ruled Myanmar for decades. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, while still under house arrest, and hailed as "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless". Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years in detention between 1989 and 2010. In November 2015 she led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide victory in Myanmar's first openly contested election for 25 years. The Myanmar constitution forbids her from becoming president because she has children who are foreign nationals. But Suu Kyi, now 75, is widely seen as de facto leader. But since becoming Myanmar's state counsellor, her leadership has been defined by the treatment of the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority. In 2017 hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh due to an army crackdown sparked by deadly attacks on police stations in Rakhine state. Suu Kyi's former international supporters accused her of doing nothing to stop rape, murder and possible genocide by refusing to condemn the still powerful military or acknowledge accounts of atrocities. A few initially argued that she was a pragmatic politician, trying to govern a multi-ethnic country with a complex history. But her personal defence of the army's actions at the International Court of Justice hearing in 2019 in the Hague was seen as a new turning point that obliterated what little remained of her international reputation. At home, however, "the Lady", as Ms Suu Kyi is known, remains wildly popular among the Buddhist majority who hold little sympathy for the Rohingya. -BBC
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