Key Democratic lawmaker may invite bank CEOs to testify before U.S. Congress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrat Maxine Waters, poised to become chair of the U.S. House banking committee, told Reuters on Thursday she would like the heads of the country’s biggest banks to testify before the panel as she seeks to ramp up regulatory oversight.

Waters also said Democrats had not yet decided whether to issue subpoenas to Deutsche Bank over President Donald Trump’s finances. The bank is among the large lenders expected to face increasing scrutiny after she takes control of the House Financial Services Committee in January.

“I do think it’s legitimate for the CEOs to come in and testify about what’s going on in their banks,” she said in a phone interview. “I would hope that it would not be a hostile situation.”

Waters, the top Democrat on the committee, is expected to drastically alter the course of the panel when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in January. The party captured the chamber in Tuesday’s congressional elections.

Over her lengthy congressional career, Waters has emerged as a fierce critic of big banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) and plans to increase oversight of those firms in her new role.

While in the minority, Waters repeatedly sought documents from Deutsche Bank about Trump’s finances and its role in a 2011 Russian money-laundering scheme. She went so far as to call for a subpoena of those documents, but Republicans in charge of the committee ignored her efforts. The bank told Congress that privacy laws prevented it from handing over such information.

Deutsche Bank has lent the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures and is one of the few major firms that lent extensively to Trump in the past decade. A 2017 financial disclosure form showed liabilities for Trump of at least $130 million to Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, a unit of German-based Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE).

On Thursday, Waters told Reuters that Democrats had not yet made a decision on whether to use the committee chair’s unilateral subpoena power to seek information from the German lender.

“We don’t know whether we’re subpoenaing or not. We’re not going to do any kind of threatening of anybody at this point,” she said.

A spokesman for Deutsche Bank said the bank was committed to cooperating with authorized investigations.

“Our recent record of cooperating with such investigations has been widely recognized by regulators. We intend to keep working in this spirit if we get an authorized request for information,” he added.

CLASHING WITH TRUMP

Waters, 80, has represented Los Angeles in Congress since 1991. During her lengthy congressional career, she has championed consumers, the homeless and those in need of affordable housing.

More recently, she has become one of Trump’s fiercest critics, going so far as to call for his impeachment. For his part, Trump has derided her as having an “extraordinarily low IQ.”

Waters also said that Democrats were currently focused on ensuring Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign was protected following a shake-up on Wednesday at the Justice Department.

“It’s at the top of our agenda,” she said.

Congressional Democrats on Thursday demanded emergency hearings in the House to investigate Trump’s ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying it was an effort to undermine the Mueller probe. Russia has denied interfering in the election and Trump has denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

“We’re trying to find out what we can do protect Mueller in the best way we possibly can,” said Waters.

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12 killed in US bar shooting

Twelve people including a sheriff’s sergeant were killed in a mass shooting inside a crowded southern California bar by a gunman who is then believed to have taken his own life.

The killer was identified as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old former US marine with mental health issues, with investigators trying to find the motive for the attack at a venue hosting a country music evening for students.

The hooded killer used a smoke bomb and a handgun, sending hundreds of people fleeing in terror.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said his department had several previous contacts with Long, including a call to his home in April, when deputies found him angry and acting irrationally.

The sheriff said a mental health crisis team was called at the time and concluded Long did not need to be taken into custody.

Patrons at the bar screamed in fear, shouted “Get down!” and used bar stools to smash second-floor windows and jump to safety as gunfire erupted at the Borderline Bar & Grill, a Thousand Oaks venue popular with students from nearby California Lutheran University.

The dead included 11 people inside the bar and a sheriff’s sergeant who was the first officer inside the door, the sheriff said.

“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Mr Dean said in a press conference at a car park.

“There’s blood everywhere.”

The killer deployed a smoke device and used a .45-calibre handgun.

It was the deadliest mass shooting in the US since 17 students and teachers were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school nine months ago.

It also came less than two weeks after a gunman massacred 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

That, in turn, closely followed the series of pipe bombs mailed to critics of President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump praised police for their “great bravery” in the California attack and said: “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.”

The gunman was tall and wearing all black with a hood and his face partly covered, witnesses told TV stations.

He first fired on a person working the door, then appeared to shoot at random at people inside, they said.

“I dropped to the floor,” Sarah Rose DeSon told ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’.

“A friend yelled, ‘Everybody down!’ We were hiding behind tables trying to keep ourselves covered.”

Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman arrived at the Borderline around 11.20pm in response to several 911 calls, heard gunfire and went inside, the sheriff said.

Sgt Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots, Mr Dean said.

The highway patrolman pulled Sgt Helus out, then waited as a Swat team and scores more officers arrived.

Sgt Helus died early yesterday at a hospital.

By the time they entered the bar again, the gunfire had stopped, according to the sheriff.

They found 12 people dead inside, including the gunman who apparently took his own life, the sheriff said.

“There’s no doubt that they saved lives by going in there and engaging with the suspect,” said Mr Dean, who was set to retire today.

He praised the murdered officer, a close friend, as a hero, saying: “He went in there to save people and paid the ultimate price.”

The body of the slain sheriff’s officer was taken by motorcade from the hospital to the coroner’s office yesterday. Thousands of people stood along the route. Firefighters used two ladder trucks to raise a giant American flag over the route.

Helus was a 29-year veteran of the force with a wife and son and planned to retire next year.

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Malin will not hire new CEO to replace Howd

State-backed life sciences investor Malin will not hire a new CEO, and will instead look for a chief investment officer.

The new hire will report to Malin’s board, alongside chief financial officer Darragh Lyons. Malin chairman Ian Curley said the new hire will focus on the detail of Malin’s portfolio companies and identify potential new assets.

The hunt comes after former CEO Adrian Howd departed the company last month.

Yesterday Malin hosted its first ever capital markets day, presenting on the outcome of a strategic review that will see it focus in the main on four core assets. The shares soared in Dublin yesterday, up more than 12.5pc in late afternoon trading. But they were still less than half their IPO price – leaving the State sitting on a loss of more than 50pc on its initial €50m investment.

Ultimately, they closed up 5pc at €4.50 last night.

Malin went on a spending spree after a €330m IPO and a number of further share issuances. The company has around €30m in cash left, but is hoping to add to that once its investee companies generate realisable returns.

Mr Lyons said a large proportion of capital realised from investee companies would be returned to shareholders.

He said he didn’t anticipate returning to the market to raise more money, with the plan being to fund any new assets from capital generated from investees. The company has a number of investment targets following on from its backing from the State, which came via the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

It undertook to invest €150m in Irish life sciences companies, or firms with significant operations in Ireland. It also pledged that 10 of the companies in which it invests will employ at least 200 people in Ireland on a full-time basis over the following five years after investment – ie by spring 2020.

As of June 30 last, it had invested €103m in nine Irish companies. There were 65 Irish-based employees.

Executives said yesterday the company still hopes to meet the targets.

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Opinion | The Newest Jim Crow

In the midterms, Michigan became the first state in the Midwest to legalize marijuana, Florida restored the vote to over 1.4 million people with felony convictions, and Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment requiring unanimous jury verdicts in felony trials. These are the latest examples of the astonishing progress that has been made in the last several years on a wide range of criminal justice issues. Since 2010, when I published “The New Jim Crow” — which argued that a system of legal discrimination and segregation had been born again in this country because of the war on drugs and mass incarceration — there have been significant changes to drug policy, sentencing and re-entry, including “ban the box” initiatives aimed at eliminating barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people.

This progress is unquestionably good news, but there are warning signs blinking brightly. Many of the current reform efforts contain the seeds of the next generation of racial and social control, a system of “e-carceration” that may prove more dangerous and more difficult to challenge than the one we hope to leave behind.

Bail reform is a case in point. Thanks in part to new laws and policies — as well as actions like the mass bailout of inmates in New York City jails that’s underway — the unconscionable practice of cash bail is finally coming to an end. In August, California became the first state to decide to get rid of its cash bail system; last year, New Jersey virtually eliminated the use of money bonds.

But what’s taking the place of cash bail may prove even worse in the long run. In California, a presumption of detention will effectively replace eligibility for immediate release when the new law takes effect in October 2019. And increasingly, computer algorithms are helping to determine who should be caged and who should be set “free.” Freedom — even when it’s granted, it turns out — isn’t really free.

Under new policies in California, New Jersey, New York and beyond, “risk assessment” algorithms recommend to judges whether a person who’s been arrested should be released. These advanced mathematical models — or “weapons of math destruction” as data scientist Cathy O’Neil calls them — appear colorblind on the surface but they are based on factors that are not only highly correlated with race and class, but are also significantly influenced by pervasive bias in the criminal justice system.

As O’Neil explains, “It’s tempting to believe that computers will be neutral and objective, but algorithms are nothing more than opinions embedded in mathematics.”

Challenging these biased algorithms may be more difficult than challenging discrimination by the police, prosecutors and judges. Many algorithms are fiercely guarded corporate secrets. Those that are transparent — you can actually read the code — lack a public audit so it’s impossible to know how much more often they fail for people of color.

Even if you’re lucky enough to be set “free” from a brick-and-mortar jail thanks to a computer algorithm, an expensive monitoring device likely will be shackled to your ankle — a GPS tracking device provided by a private company that may charge you around $300 per month, an involuntary leasing fee. Your permitted zones of movement may make it difficult or impossible to get or keep a job, attend school, care for your kids or visit family members. You’re effectively sentenced to an open-air digital prison, one that may not extend beyond your house, your block or your neighborhood. One false step (or one malfunction of the GPS tracking device) will bring cops to your front door, your workplace, or wherever they find you and snatch you right back to jail.

Who benefits from this? Private corporations. According to a report released last month by the Center for Media Justice, four large corporations — including the GEO Group, one of the largest private prison companies — have most of the private contracts to provide electronic monitoring for people on parole in some 30 states, giving them a combined annual revenue of more than $200 million just for e-monitoring. Companies that earned millions on contracts to run or serve prisons have, in an era of prison restructuring, begun to shift their business model to add electronic surveillance and monitoring of the same population. Even if old-fashioned prisons fade away, the profit margins of these companies will widen so long as growing numbers of people find themselves subject to perpetual criminalization, surveillance, monitoring and control.

Who loses? Nearly everyone. A recent analysis by a Brookings Institution fellow found that “efforts to reduce recidivism through intensive supervision are not working.” Reducing the requirements and burdens of community supervision, so that people can more easily hold jobs, care for children and escape the stigma of criminality “would be a good first step toward breaking the vicious incarceration cycle,” the report said.

Many reformers rightly point out that an ankle bracelet is preferable to a prison cell. Yet I find it difficult to call this progress. As I see it, digital prisons are to mass incarceration what Jim Crow was to slavery.

If you asked slaves if they would rather live with their families and raise their own children, albeit subject to “whites only signs,” legal discrimination and Jim Crow segregation, they’d almost certainly say: I’ll take Jim Crow. By the same token, if you ask prisoners whether they’d rather live with their families and raise their children, albeit with nearly constant digital surveillance and monitoring, they’d almost certainly say: I’ll take the electronic monitor. I would too. But hopefully we can now see that Jim Crow was a less restrictive form of racial and social control, not a real alternative to racial caste systems. Similarly, if the goal is to end mass incarceration and mass criminalization, digital prisons are not an answer. They’re just another way of posing the question.

Some insist that e-carceration is “a step in the right direction.” But where are we going with this? A growing number of scholars and activists predict that “e-gentrification” is where we’re headed as entire communities become trapped in digital prisons that keep them locked out of neighborhoods where jobs and opportunity can be found.

If that scenario sounds far-fetched, keep in mind that mass incarceration itself was unimaginable just 40 years ago and that it was born partly out of well-intentioned reforms — chief among them mandatory sentencing laws that liberal proponents predicted would reduce racial disparities in sentencing. While those laws may have looked good on paper, they were passed within a political climate that was overwhelmingly hostile and punitive toward poor people and people of color, resulting in a prison-building boom, an increase in racial and class disparities in sentencing, and a quintupling of the incarcerated population.

Fortunately, a growing number of advocates are organizing to ensure that important reforms, such as ending cash bail, are not replaced with systems that view poor people and people of color as little more than commodities to be bought, sold, evaluated and managed for profit. In July, more than 100 civil rights, faith, labor, legal and data science groups released a shared statement of concerns regarding the use of pretrial risk assessment instruments; numerous bail reform groups, such as Chicago Community Bond Fund, actively oppose the expansion of e-carceration.

If our goal is not a better system of mass criminalization, but instead the creation of safe, caring, thriving communities, then we ought to be heavily investing in quality schools, job creation, drug treatment and mental health care in the least advantaged communities rather than pouring billions into their high-tech management and control. Fifty years ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned that “when machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” We failed to heed his warning back then. Will we make a different choice today?

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Michelle Alexander became a New York Times columnist in 2018. She is a civil rights lawyer and advocate, legal scholar and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” 

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Taylor Swift, Donald Trump and an America That Confounds the World

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau chief. Sign up to get it by email. Here’s where to find all our Oceania coverage.

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After Taylor Swift sang “Bad Blood” and “Gorgeous,” before the trapeze artists appeared, while the fireworks were bright and the rain was still bucketing down, I smiled and thought: This is so American.

That was last Friday, when she performed in Sydney at ANZ Stadium. I was there with my young daughter and son, and it’s not the first time I’ve contemplated what pop music could teach my kids about the United States.

As I wrote when they were toddlers in Mexico, “our ears pull in the first lessons of culture,” and America’s greatest appeal can often be found in the sounds showing off the country’s carefree creative exuberance.

Friday’s concert, though, came at a serious time: just a few days before the American midterm elections that determined control of Congress. And what I saw in Taylor Swift’s no-holds-barred extravaganza (even though I’m a middling fan of her music) was some important context for all of us trying to figure out what on earth is going on in the U.S. of A.

What it told me — or reminded me — was that the country is impossible to hold down, that it’s far too big and too dynamic for any one person to totally corral or define. No place that can produce Childish Gambino and Taylor Swift, or Lady Gaga and Cardi B, will ever be easy to control.

President Trump received a form of that message with Tuesday’s election results. Despite structural barriers that favor Republicans in many states (from gerrymandered districts to voter ID restrictions), the House of Representatives flipped to the Democrats.

The Republicans added seats in the Senate but the results will no doubt lead to more pressure for the president and more open political conflict.

House leaders have already signaled that they plan to use their subpoena power to demand more from Mr. Trump (including his tax returns) while the president has threatened that he would retaliate with investigations of his own.

But before the battle gets going, let’s take a breath and ask: What do the results tell us about the country on a deeper level?

A few things to look at:

1. District Maps: This New York Times map shows which parts of the country shifted to the left and to the right compared to 2016. The leftward tilt was pretty widely dispersed.

2. Exit Polls: Surveys of voters from the 1980s onward highlight divisions that are both racial and generational, with the age divide becoming especially striking.

3. Diversity: More women and more young, nonwhite lawmakers are heading to Washington, including the first Muslim and Native American women elected to Congress. That means the power structure will more closely resemble the country at large.

All three of those developments point to an electorate with more people who have become more frustrated with President Trump, including many of those who voted for him two years ago.

If the age trends hold, and with a bunch of the winners coming from the more moderate side of the Democratic Party, it may also mean a future with more consensus than we have now.

Imagine that, an America united. I admit, I have a hard time picturing it.

But if we look beyond the what-ifs and issues and ideology — if we really step back — maybe we can see something more illuminating.

The results and the messiness of American democracy — with ridiculously long lines to vote, with far too many ways to cast ballots, with oodles of money sloshing around from billionaires — all spotlight the jumble of paradoxes that have shaped the United States since settlement.

It’s a country founded as a utopian “city on a hill” — and defined by ruthlessness in capitalism and politics.

It’s a country where white nationalism is surging — and “Black Panther” is the year’s top box-office earner.

I could give you a dozen more of these with 10 minutes and a beer, but I don’t live there anymore so I won’t bore you with that.

And really, Taylor Swift said it best. With just her guitar, playing in the middle of a giant stadium, with most of her big budget production taking a rest, she stripped down America to its essence:

“We’re happy free confused and lonely in the best way,” she sang. “It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah.”

Now for some other stories. Because even Tay knows it’s not always about her or her country.

You know where to find us for more discussion: Our NYT Australia Facebook group, and at [email protected]

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Australia and Beyond

We had a busy week. So busy in fact, that I’m going to limit this week’s roundup to coverage connected to Australia and the region. Let’s dive in.

If you have a thoughtful 15 minutes…

• Zero-Tolerance Immigration and Suicidal Children: A reporter made it to Nauru for us and found, firsthand, the effects of Australia’s offshore detention policy. Part of what’s intensifying the desperation? Refugee rejections from the Trump administration.

• Geoffrey Rush’s Defamation Trial Becomes a #MeToo Reckoning for Australia: Does defamation law in Australia keep more women from coming forward?

• ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ and the History in Historical Fiction: Most readers haven’t noticed or been worried by omitted details or factual mistakes in the book. But is there a greater imperative for novels about the Holocaust to get basic facts correct?

If you’re wondering about Australians and the world…

• He Helped People Cheat at Grand Theft Auto. Then His Home Was Raided. A gamer in Melbourne has had his assets frozen in connection with a popular video game cheat. He’s one of many being sued by game companies worldwide, raising questions about copyright and freedom.

• Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., Trump’s Pick for Ambassador to Australia, Offers Direct Line to President: Mr. Culvahouse is the third candidate the White House has selected to fill the post.

• Another Trump Scoop, a Giddy Reaction and a Reporter Under Fire: Jonathan Swan made a name for himself in Canberra, and is now a reporting star in Washington. But is he too quick to choose access over detachment?

• Australia Likely to Block Hong Kong Company’s Bid for Gas Pipeline: Citing national security concerns, Australia said it would probably block an effort by CK Group from acquiring the country’s largest gas and pipeline company.

• Robyn Denholm Succeeds Elon Musk as Leader of Tesla Board: Tesla said Ms. Denholm would step down from her role at Telstra once her six-month notice period is complete.

If you’re looking for something to smirk or smile about…

• What Sydney Can Learn About Dining From Another Sunny City: Our restaurant critic in Australia wishes that Sydney could take a few lessons from Los Angeles.

• Virgin Australia Airline Seeks to Thank Veterans for Their Service. Vets Say, ‘No, Thanks.’ Critics said the policy was too American, and at odds with Australia’s egalitarian ethos.

• Crossing Paths With Meghan and Harry, and Missing the Plane to Paradise: In New Zealand, our columnist immerses herself in Maori culture. Then rain, traffic and a lost (and found) passport complicate what should have been an easy Fiji trip.

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… And We Recommend

It’s time for our monthly Netflix guide. I started watching the new “House of Cards” — not sure how I feel about it yet.

We’ve also pulled together all the guides from previous months, putting them on a single collection page for easy browsing and so past recommendations don’t get lost.

Are there other things in media or life you’d like to see Times guides for? Let us know.

Here, for inspiration, are some other Times guides that aim to help you live a better life.

Damien Cave is the new Australia bureau chief for The New York Times. He’s covered more than a dozen countries for The Times, including Mexico, Cuba, Iraq and Lebanon. Follow him on Twitter: @damiencave.

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Stephen Hawking's thesis and wheelchair sell for US$1 million

LONDON (REUTERS) – A motorised wheelchair used by the late British physicist Stephen Hawking sold at auction on Thursday (Nov 8) for almost 300,000 pounds (S$540,000) while a dissertation raised nearly twice that at a sale to raise money for charity.

Famed for his work exploring the origins of the universe, Mr Hawking died in March at the age of 76 after spending most of his life confined to a wheelchair with motor neurone disease.

Some of his belongings including essays, medals, awards and a copy of his book a “Brief History of Time” signed with a thumbprint were sold online on Thursday alongside letters and manuscripts belonging to Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein.

Mr Hawking’s 117-page dissertation “Properties of expanding universes” from 1965 sold for 584,750 pounds, well ahead of the estimate of up to 150,000 pounds.

Medals and awards sold for 296,750 pounds, compared with an estimate of 15,000 pounds, while the red motorised wheelchair sold for 296,750 pounds, also compared with an estimate of 15,000 pounds.

Auction house Christies ran the nine-day online auction called “On the Shoulders of Giants” to raise money for the Stephen Hawking Foundation and the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

It also offered fans of the physicist known for his electronic voice synthesiser a chance to buy some of his possessions.


Mr Hawking died in March at the age of 76, after spending most of his life confined to a wheelchair. PHOTO: AFP

“Stephen Hawking was a huge personality worldwide. He had this amazing ability to connect with people,” Thomas Venning, head of the Books and Manuscripts department at auction house Christie’s London, told Reuters ahead of the event.

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North Korea postponed meeting with Pompeo because 'they weren't ready': Haley

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korean officials postponed a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that had been scheduled for this week because they were not ready, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters on Thursday.

“North Korea said they needed to postpone it for whatever reason,” she said. “Secretary Pompeo was ready to come. We continue to stand ready to talk but I don’t think that there was some major issue. I have talked with the administration and basically what we’re looking at is they postponed it because they weren’t ready.”

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Samsung's foldable phone – at a glimpse

SAN FRANCISCO • Samsung Electronics has unveiled its much-anticipated foldable phone in San Francisco, urging Android developers to start writing apps for it.

The South Korean tech company needs to get the foldable phone right to reverse steep declines in profit for its mobile division and restore some of the cachet its brand has lost to Apple.

Foldable phones promise the screen of a small tablet in a pocket-sized device.

Mr Justin Denison, a senior vice-president of mobile product marketing, on Wednesday showed a prototype with a screen that he said measured 18.5cm diagonally.

Folded in two it looked like a thick phone, but the media and developers were not allowed to touch or see the device up close.

Mr Dave Burke, vice-president of engineering for Google’s Android software platform, told a Google conference in California that Samsung planned to introduce a new Android-based device early next year. “We expect to see foldable products from several Android manufacturers,” he said.

Google’s head of Android UX, Mr Glen Murphy, who was on stage with Samsung, said Google would work with developers to bring more features to the phone.

Samsung said it would be ready for mass production in the coming months.

Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell said that while the bendable screen provided a wow factor, shoppers may not like the thickness of the folded phone or its price tag. “They’ll have to prove that it’s more than just a gimmick,” said Mr O’Donnell.

“But it’s smart to open it up to developers early to do different types of experiences.”

Ms Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research, said the product would likely be quite expensive in the near term. “We’re talking about brand new materials that have been made for this and also a new manufacturing process,” she said.

Samsung is among a few developers working on foldable phones.

China’s Huawei Technologies has said it is planning to launch a 5G smartphone with a foldable screen in mid-2019.

Samsung and Huawei have been beaten to the market, however, by Royole, a Chinese display making start-up, which last week unveiled a foldable Android phone with a 7.8 inch screen, priced from around US$1,300 (S$1,800). Royole said it would start filling orders late next month.

REUTERS

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Frail Mikhail Gorbachev warns against return to the Cold War

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, warned on Thursday (Nov 8) against rising tensions between Russia and the United States and said there should be no return to the Cold War.

The frail 87-year-old was physically helped by aides to a cinema hall to watch the premiere in Russia of a new documentary about his life, his Soviet reforms in the 1980s and his arms control drive that helped end the Cold War.

His legacy has come under a pall as ties between Moscow and Washington have fallen to post-Cold War lows, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and rows over sanctions, election meddling and the poisoning of a spy in England.

He spoke briefly to a cinema hall in Moscow after “Meeting Gorbachev”, a new documentary directed by filmmakers Werner Herzog and Andre Singer, and was asked if the world would hold back from a new Cold War.

“We must hold back,” he said.

“And not just from the Cold War. We have to continue the course we mapped. We have to ban war once and for all. Most important is to get rid of nuclear weapons.”

Reviled by many Russians as the man whose reforms ultimately led to the Soviet breakup, Gorbachev is lauded in the West as the man who helped end the Cold War.

Gorbachev, whose visibly ailing health was in stark contrast to the vigorous reformist figure he cut in the 1980s, said the world was moving dangerously closer to a new arms race.

Last month in a column for the New York Times, Gorbachev denounced the United States after President Donald Trump said he planned to quit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty which Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed in 1987.

The pact eliminated all short- and intermediate-range land-based nuclear and conventional missiles held by both countries in Europe.

In a prepared, written message read out to the hall by an aide before the film, Gorbachev alluded to the article and said”I am convinced we can stop a new Cold War. I will do everything for this.”

“Most dangerous would be a return to confrontation, the start of a new arms race. They are already talking about a nuclear war as if this is something entirely acceptable. It is being prepared, scenarios are being discussed.”

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Rare sharks' nursery of 'mermaid's purses' eggs found off the west coast

Scientists have discovered a “very rare” shark nursery more than 300km off the west coast.

So-called ‘mermaid’s purses’, or eggs, were discovered littered across the seabed during an exploration of Ireland’s deep ocean territory, with large numbers filmed at depths of up to 750 metres.

Marine scientists say such large concentrations of eggs are rarely recorded, and suggest that females may gather in the area. A nearby coral reef might also act as a refuge for juvenile shark pups when they hatch.

The nursery was discovered during the SeaRover survey undertaken last July, which was exploring Ireland’s deep-water coral reef systems.

A large school of Blackmouth catshark (Galeus melastomus) was present at the site, and scientists said the eggs were likely to be from this species.

But a second more unusual and solitary species, the Sailfin roughshark (Oxynotus paradoxus), was also observed.

This is listed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meaning it may become extinct in the near future. It grows up to 1.2 metres in length, and while not observed by the science team, it may have been feeding on the eggs.

The findings were announced at the INFOMAR seabed mapping seminar in Kinsale, where footage captured by the Marine Institute’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Holland 1, deployed on board the ILV Granuaile, was revealed.

The chief scientist on the SeaRover survey, David O’Sullivan, said the nursery was on a scale not previously documented in Irish waters.

“No pups were obvious at the site and it is believed that the adult sharks might be utilising degraded coral reef and exposed carbonate rock on which to lay their eggs,” he said.

“A healthy coral reef in the vicinity may act as a refuge for the juvenile shark pups once they hatch. This discovery shows the significance of documenting sensitive marine habitats, and will give us a better understanding of the biology of these beautiful animals and their ecosystem function in Ireland’s biologically sensitive area.

“It is anticipated that further study of the site will answer some important scientific questions on the biology and ecology of deep water sharks in Irish waters.”

The discovery highlights the importance of mapping seabed habitats, and the nursery was observed within one of six offshore Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Irish waters.

These host a diverse range of marine animals including sea fans, sponges, worms, starfish, crustaceans and a variety of fish species.

The survey is the second of three commissioned and jointly funded by the Irish Government and the EU.

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