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China’s growth cools further as tariff war pressures mount
By JOE McDONALD and PAUL WISEMAN | Mon, July 15, 2019 03:19 EDT
BEIJING (AP) — China’s economic growth sank to its lowest level in at least 26 years in the quarter ending in June, adding to pressure on Chinese leaders as they fight a tariff war with Washington.
The world’s second-largest economy grew 6.2% over a year ago, down from the previous quarter’s 6.4%, government data showed Monday.
Hopes for an early growth rebound faded after President Donald Trump raised tariffs on Chinese imports in May to turn up pressure on Beijing over the aggressive tactics it’s using to challenge American technological dominance. Now, economists say the slowdown might extend into next year.
Weaker Chinese activity carries global repercussions. China is the world’s second-biggest export market behind the United States. Countries that feed raw materials to Chinese factories — from Chilean copper to Indonesian coal — are especially vulnerable to decelerating growth in China.
The proportion of South African output going to China, for instance, has shot up from 2% in the mid-2000s to 15% now, according to a study by the McKinsey Global Institute. Then there’s the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which sends 45% of its exports to China, according to United Nations data cited in the McKinsey report. In addition, emerging market countries are increasingly dependent on Chinese investment.
Among major economies, Australia sent 35% of its exports to China in April, Brazil 30% and South Korea 24%, according to the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Besides hurting countries that export raw materials to Beijing, the Chinese slowdown could come back to squeeze American companies like Procter & Gamble and General Motors that sell into the vast Chinese consumer market. Slowing demand in China could depress their revenue, earnings and stock market value, said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist who studies trade.
Eventually, weaker stock prices could undermine U.S. consumer confidence and the American economy, she said.
“President Trump is probably happy that he’s starting to tank the Chinese economy,” Lovely said. “But it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ “
IHS Markit foresees world economic growth slowing this year to 2.8% from 3.2% in 2018.
A decelerating “China is certainly part of that,” said Sara Johnson, IHS’ executive director for global economics.
But the world faces other problems, too. For one thing, Trump’s tariffs on imports from a host of countries — and the retaliation they have drawn from America’s trading partners — are crimping world trade and investment.
Manufacturers worldwide are also sitting on unsold stockpiles of goods, and growth will likely slow as they pare their inventories, Johnson said.
Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed last month to resume negotiations in a fight that has battered both American and Chinese exporters. But economists warn their truce is fragile because they still face the same array of disputes that caused talks to break down in May.
“The trade war is having a huge impact on the Chinese economy,” Edward Moya of OANDA said in a report. “As trade negotiations struggle for meaningful progress, we are probably not near the bottom for China’s economy.”
Chinese leaders have stepped up spending and bank lending to keep growth within this year’s official target range of 6% to 6.5% and avert politically dangerous job losses. But they face an avalanche of unexpectedly bad news including plunging auto sales.
In the second half of the year, “the external environment may still be more complicated,” said a government spokesman, Mao Shengyong, at a news conference.
Quarterly growth was the lowest since China began reporting such data in 1993, according to an employee of the press office of the National Bureau of Statistics, Dong Hui.
In 2009, the NBS reported growth of 6.1% for the first three months of that year. However, Dong said that later was revised up to 6.4%.
Jittery consumers are putting off major purchases, depressing demand for autos, home appliances and other goods.
“I don’t think the country’s economy is as good as it looks,” said Peng Tao, a 26-year-old delivery courier who said he makes 5,000-6,000 yuan ($750-$870) a month.
“China has been surely hurt more in the trade war,” said Peng. “I am not very happy about job prospects because there just aren’t many opportunities out there.”
The International Monetary Fund and private sector economists have cut this year’s Chinese growth forecast to as low as 6.2%, a further marked decline after last year’s three-decade low of 6.6%.
Growth in retail sales slowed to 8.4% in the first half of 2019, down 0.1 percentage points from the first quarter, the government reported. Growth in factory output decelerated to 6% in the first half, down 0.1 percentage points from the first quarter.
Auto sales, reported earlier, fell 7.8% in June, extending a yearlong contraction in the industry’s biggest market. Chinese exports to the United States fell 7.8% in June from a year ago.
Urban families the ruling Communist Party is counting on to help propel consumer-driven growth to offset weak trade are being squeezed by rising living costs and slower wage growth.
Qiu Wanli, who works for an insurance company in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, said her family has little left over each month after paying a mortgage and expenses for her 3- and 6-year-old daughters and two elderly relatives.
“The burden to support the family is fairly heavy,” said Qiu, 30. “We rarely travel and have no plans to because of financial conditions.”
The fight between the two biggest global traders has disrupted sales of goods from soybeans to medical equipment and rattled financial markets.
The biggest factor in the latest Chinese economic weakness is lackluster activity in construction and industry, according to Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics. He said that was likely to worsen because a boom in real estate development is fading.
“Combined with increasing headwinds from U.S. tariffs and weaker global growth, we expect this to culminate in a further slowdown in economic growth over the coming year,” Evans-Pritchard said in a report.
Wiseman contributed from Washington.
National Bureau of Statistics: www.stats.gov.cn
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Man charged in Utah college student’s death appears in court
By BRADY McCOMBS | Mon, July 15, 2019 07:39 EDT
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A tech worker charged in the death of a Utah college student made his first court appearance Monday as friends of the slain woman held hands in the front row.
Ayoola A. Ajayi appeared by video from jail alongside a court-appointed attorney during a quick hearing Monday to set a future court date. He did not speak or enter a plea to murder, kidnapping and other charges.
Prosecutors say Ajayi killed 23-year-old Mackenzie Lueck, who died from blunt force trauma to the head. Police say her body was found with her arms bound behind her in a canyon 85 miles (138 kilometers) from Ajayi’s home.
They have not discussed the motive or how they knew each other.
Ajayi’s court-appointed attorney, Neal Hamilton, didn’t say anything during the hearing about the charges and the public defender’s office has said it will not be commenting on the case.
Lueck’s friends said afterward they are relieved that a suspect is behind bars. They said seeing Ajayi by video in court was shocking and left them angry and sad and took their breath away.
Ashely Fine said they don’t plan to say his name or give him any attention moving forward, but are following the legal process to make sure Lueck gets justice.
“We are all still in extreme shock. Even right now I feel like I could call her and text her and she would answer,” Fine said. “We didn’t get to say goodbye to our friend.”
They said they still have many questions, including why Lueck was chosen and if the killing was planned. They said they don’t know how they knew one another.
“What did she do to deserve this?” Kennedy Stoner asked.
Lueck disappeared shortly after she returned from a trip to her California hometown in June for the funeral of her grandmother and took a Lyft from the airport to a park. She exchanged text messages with Ajayi, 31, and met him there, apparently willingly, but her phone was turned off a minute after the last text and never turned back on, prosecutors have said.
Ajayi is an information technology worker who had stints with high-profile companies and was briefly in the Army National Guard.
He was investigated in a 2014 rape allegation and was arrested in a stolen iPad case at Utah State University in 2012. The arrest and the expiration of his student visa led to him being banned from the campus for about three years.
A native of Nigeria, Ajayi holds a green card that allows him to legally work and live in the U.S., prosecutors have said. He is scheduled for a July 29 court hearing.
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Scientists close in on blood test for Alzheimer’s
By MARILYNN MARCHIONE | Mon, July 15, 2019 04:02 EDT
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Scientists are closing in on a long-sought goal — a blood test to screen people for possible signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
On Monday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, half a dozen research groups gave new results on various experimental tests, including one that seems 88% accurate at indicating Alzheimer’s risk.
Doctors are hoping for something to use during routine exams, where most dementia symptoms are evaluated, to gauge who needs more extensive testing. Current tools such as brain scans and spinal fluid tests are too expensive or impractical for regular check-ups.
“We need something quicker and dirtier. It doesn’t have to be perfect” to be useful for screening, said Maria Carrillo, the Alzheimer’s Association’s chief science officer.
Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, called the new results “very promising” and said blood tests soon will be used to choose and monitor people for federally funded studies, though it will take a little longer to establish their value in routine medical care.
“In the past year we’ve seen a dramatic acceleration in progress” on these tests, he said. “This has happened at a pace that is far faster than any of us would have expected.”
It can’t come too soon for patients like Tom Doyle, a 66-year-old former university professor from Chicago who has had two spinal fluid tests since developing memory problems four years ago. First he was told he didn’t have Alzheimer’s, then that he did. He ultimately was diagnosed with different problems — Lewy body dementia with Parkinson’s.
“They probably could have diagnosed me years ago accurately if they had had a blood test,” said Doyle, who represents patients on the Alzheimer’s Association’s board.
About 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form. There is no cure; current medicines just temporarily ease symptoms. Dozens of hoped-for treatments have failed. Doctors think studies may have enrolled people after too much brain damage had occurred and included too many people with problems other than Alzheimer’s.
A blood test — rather than subjective estimates of thinking skills — could get the right people into studies sooner.
One of the experimental blood tests measures abnormal versions of the protein that forms the plaques in the brain that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Last year, Japanese researchers published a study of it and on Monday they gave results from validation testing on 201 people with Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, mild impairment or no symptoms.
The blood test results closely matched those from the top tests used now — three types of brain scans and a mental assessment exam, said Dr. Akinori Nakamura of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Obu, Japan. The test correctly identified 92% of people who had Alzheimer’s and correctly ruled out 85% who did not have it, for an overall accuracy of 88%.
Shimadzu Corp. has rights to the test and is working to commercialize it, Nakamura said.
Another experimental test looks at neurofilament light, a protein that’s a marker of nerve damage. Abdul Hye of King’s College London gave results of a study comparing blood levels of it in 2,300 people with various neurological conditions — Alzheimer’s, other dementias, Parkinson’s, depression, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease — plus healthy folks for comparison.
Levels were significantly higher in eight conditions, and only 2% of healthy folks were above a threshold they set for raising concern. The test doesn’t reveal which disorder someone has, but it may help rule one out when symptoms may be psychological or due to other problems.
Later at the conference, Dr. Randall Bateman of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis will give new results on a blood test he helped develop that the university has patented and licensed to C2N Diagnostics, a company he co-founded. Like the Japanese test, it measures the abnormal Alzheimer protein, and the new results will show how well the test reflects what brain scans show on nearly 500 people.
“Everyone’s finding the same thing … the results are remarkably similar across countries, across techniques,” said Bateman, whose work is supported by the U.S. government and the Alzheimer’s Association. He estimates a screening test could be as close as three years away.
What good will that do without a cure?
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year found that most Americans would want to know if they carried a gene tied to a disease even if it was incurable.
“What people want most of all is a diagnosis” if they’re having symptoms, said Jonathan Schott of University College London. “What we don’t like is not knowing what’s going on.”
Marilynn Marchione can be followed at http://twitter.com/MMarchioneAP
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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Ugandan singer Bobi Wine plans to run for president in 2021
By RODNEY MUHUMUZA | Mon, July 15, 2019 10:07 EDT
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ugandan pop star and opposition figure Bobi Wine said Monday he will challenge longtime President Yoweri Museveni in a 2021 election “on behalf of the people.”
But Wine, whose real name is Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, said he is concerned about his safety after what he believes was an attempt on his life last August. His driver was shot dead in his car after protesters threw stones at the president’s motorcade.
Wine’s arrest at the time sparked protests in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. The 37-year-old said he is fearful of harm from running for president because “there has never been a threat to this regime like the threat we pose to it today as a generation.”
“I live every day as it comes, not being sure of the next day,” Wine said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I am not blind to the fact that the regime wants me dead and wants me dead as soon as possible.”
Authorities have repeatedly denied Wine is being targeted.
As the leader of a popular movement known as “People Power,” Wine has captured the imagination of many who want to see the exit of Museveni, a U.S. ally on regional security who has held power since 1986 and looks set to seek a sixth term.
Wine said his aim ahead of the election is “to multiply myself in various young men and women, so that there are as many Bobi Wines as possible.”
Uganda has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power since the East African country gained independence from Britain in 1962.
“Power has been taken away from the people by those that wield guns, and that’s what we want to put an end to through the vote,” he said.
Wine first came to national prominence in 2017 when, as an independent candidate, he won election as a lawmaker representing a constituency near Kampala. He has since successfully campaigned for other opposition candidates, raising his profile as a leader and attracting encouragement to run for president.
Wine is “a symbol,” a potential catalyst for change in a country where many young people are jobless and angry over official corruption, said Mwambutsya Ndebesa, history lecturer at Uganda’s Makerere University. “He can still be symbolically a game changer in a system where the political space has been narrowed.”
Yet the singer’s candidacy comes with multiple challenges, including limited opportunities to hold rallies or stage concerts. Police violently foiled his recent attempts to hold public events, firing bullets and tear gas. Authorities insist such action is necessary in order to protect public order.
Wine also faces treason charges stemming from his alleged role in the incident in which the president’s convoy was attacked with stones. Prosecutors added additional charges of annoying the president over that incident. He also is charged with the offense of disobeying statutory authority after he led a demonstration against a new tax targeting social media. He denies all the charges.
Wine would be ineligible to run for president if he were to be convicted of any of those crimes.
“We know that the regime is going to try anything within their reach to block us from contesting,” Wine said.
Museveni, who is 74 and remains popular among some Ugandans, is expected to run again after parliament passed legislation removing a clause in the constitution that prevented anyone over 75 from holding the presidency.
As the bill was being debated, security personnel during one chaotic session entered the parliamentary chamber and roughed up opposition lawmakers, including Wine, who had been trying to delay a procedural vote.
The president accuses Wine and other opposition figures of trying to lure young people into deadly rioting.
Museveni’s party, which dominates the national assembly, has endorsed him as its sole candidate for the next election. The opposition is divided, with veteran opposition figures frequently attacking each other in public.
Although Wine’s rise as a possible presidential contender has energized the opposition, it also has exposed rifts among the opposition figures who hope to take power after Museveni.
As Wine’s stature rose, tensions grew between him and Kizza Besigye, a four-time presidential candidate who has been Museveni’s most serious election opponent. Besigye was criticized by Wine’s supporters after he suggested that the singer was not yet ready to become president, underscoring how difficult it will be for the opposition to unite against Museveni.
Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa
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NYC mayor, running for president, on defense after blackout
Mon, July 15, 2019 12:51 EDT
NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s mayor fended off criticism Monday for being in Iowa campaigning for president while Manhattan was in the grips of a major power outage.
Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC that he was in frequent contact with agencies handling the emergency and that he thinks first responders did an “incredible job.”
The Saturday night blackout darkened more than 40 square blocks of Manhattan, including Times Square.
De Blasio sidestepped criticism from numerous quarters, including from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a fellow Democrat. A front-page New York Post editorial called for de Blasio’s ouster.
During an appearance Monday on “Morning Joe,” de Blasio insisted that the blackout response was well-managed with his remote supervision. No injuries were reported from the blackout, he said, noting that power was back on within several hours.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, you’re in charge of your team and making sure people are executing a plan,” said the mayor, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president. “The important thing is to get the right people into the right place.”
De Blasio said he took a four-hour car ride from Iowa to Chicago and got on the first available plane home.
Cuomo, speaking on public radio Monday morning, said he would leave it to the voters of New York City to pass judgment on de Blasio’s response, but added that “there’s no substitute for firsthand information and firsthand knowledge” during an emergency.
“People want to see their leader on site, in charge, in control, and it makes people feel more confident,” Cuomo said. “There is no substitute for showing up.”
Cuomo ruled out the suggestion, raised by The Post’s editorial, that he use his authority to remove de Blasio from office.