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Sudanese return to streets over dire living conditions

CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese protesters took to the streets in the capital and across the country on Wednesday over dire living conditions and a deadly crackdown on demonstrators in the east earlier this month.

The protests came on the anniversary of a 1964 uprising that ended six years of military rule. Sudan is currently ruled by a joint civilian-military government, following the popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir last year.

The demonstrations came a week after at least 15 people were killed and dozens were wounded in tribal clashes and a government crackdown against protesters in eastern Sudan. The violence broke out after Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok earlier this month sacked Saleh Ammar, governor of the eastern Kassala province.

Footage circulating online showed protesters marching Wednesday in Khartoum and its twin city, Omdurman, as well as in other cities across the country. Protesters set tires ablaze in some areas in the capital. There were no immediate reports of violence.

Security forces blocked off major roads, bridges and streets leading to the presidential palace and the military’s headquarters in Khartoum ahead of the demonstrations. The state-run SUNA news agency said the city center was in complete lockdown.

The “million-man march” was called by the so-called Resistance Committees, which were instrumental in the protests against al-Bashir and the generals who removed him from office and briefly held power. Other political parties and professional unions took part in the demonstrations.

The protesters are calling for the formation of a legislative body, which is supposed to happen as part of a power-sharing agreement they reached with the military last year.

They also demand results from an independent investigation into the crackdown against protests last year, including the deadly break-up of the main Khartoum protest camp in June 2019. The probe was supposed to have been completed by February, but investigators asked for an extension in part due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The transitional government has been struggling to revive Sudan’s battered economy amid a huge budget deficit and widespread shortages of essential goods, including fuel, bread and medicine.

Annual inflation soared past 200% last month as prices of bread and other staples surged, according to official figures.

Sudan’s economy has suffered from decades of U.S. sanctions and mismanagement under al-Bashir, who had ruled the country since a 1989 Islamist-backed military coup.

The country has more than $60 billion in foreign debt, and debt relief and access to foreign loans are widely seen as its gateway to economic recovery. But access to foreign loans is linked to the removal of sanctions related to the country’s listing by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terror.

President Donald Trump recently said Sudan will be removed from the blacklist if it follows through on its pledge to pay $335 million to American terror victims and their families.

Sudanese officials welcomed Trump’s announcement which is widely seen as a key incentive for the east African country to normalize relations with Israel.

The terror designation dates back to the 1990s, when Sudan briefly hosted Osama bin Laden and other wanted militants.

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Family Mask: “Open Seventeen – Supporting Next-Gen Leaders Innovate for a Sustainable Post-Pandemic World”

HONG KONG, Oct. 21, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The Open Seventeen (“O17”) is a challenge-based, online interactive coaching programme to help young global innovators connect and shape good ideas into viable social innovations projects. O17 supports projects that enable grassroots public participation and citizen science through the use of open data and crowdsourcing. Family Mask, a United Nations Global Compact member, is delighted to publish this group Q&A interview series in support of StartmeupHK, of which Global Citizen Capital is an official supporting organization.

The Open Seventeen (“O17”) is a challenge-based, online interactive coaching programme to help young global innovators connect and shape good ideas into viable social innovations projects.

 

Jessie Chung and Kenneth Kwok with Family Mask team at Family Mask Academy (Hong Kong)
Jessie Chung and Kenneth Kwok with Family Mask team at Family Mask Academy (Hong Kong)

A total of 12 teams worked in close collaboration with international experts to make sure that the projects are concrete, achievable and relevant to the SDGs, whether at a local, regional or global level. Other stakeholders have contributed, from both the public and private sectors, civil society and academia.

The O17 Challenge was hosted by University of Geneva in partnership with Citizen Cyberlab, Citizen Science Center Zurich, GovLab and Tsinghua X Lab, and supported by Geneva Tsinghua Institute.

Q&A interview conversation as below:

KK: Francois, what an amazing O17 challenge for 2020. The program itself pivoted in light of COVID-19, and we are happy to see it moved forward. How did you make it happen?

Dr. Francois Grey (UNIGE): Well, we almost didn’t! All other summer schools at our University were simply cancelled. What helped us was that we’ve been running an online innovation programme every spring on Zoom, so we could adapt that online methodology to the much more intensive summer school format, which we normally do in person.

KK: Stephanie, this program would not have happened without your participation. Which aspect of the challenge did you find to be the most rewarding?

Stephanie Chuah (UNIGE): Thank you Kenneth! Definitely the opportunity to work with the students in the development of their projects and getting to know many of them personally through our workshops and Zoom calls! They worked tremendously hard and carried with them the passion to create change in their communities- very inspiring!

KK: Great. Now let us interview some of the teams which have scored the highest in the competition. Digital Water team, what is the one main highlight for Digital Water in the O17 Challenge?

Digital Water (O17 Team): We took a step back to look at our project and ask ourselves harder questions. In the process, we made the brave decision to shift directions. With the enormous knowledge and resourcefulness from the O17 Team, Digital Water got a mix of assistance, inspiration, growth and challenges from day one!

KK: Le Cat team, if you can take the competition again, what improvement would you make?

Le Cat (O17 Team): If we had to do everything all over again, Le Cat team wouldn’t change a thing! Having the members meet, the ideation process around accessibility for hearing impaired people, the fail and learn steps, all of it was very meaningful to our project, the hearing compass. The learning curve might’ve been steeper, the task management might’ve been more efficient,  and some electronics and design problems may’ve been avoided, but learning is a journey!

KK: Hybrid Thinkers team, what is something new you learned about yourself during the challenge?

Hybrid Thinkers (O17 Team): The challenge allowed us to learn about ourselves as well as others by interacting in a social hardware project. The program taught us collaboration values, team player spirit, and benefits from a multiculturalism team. Mostly, it shows us that perseverance leads to a meaningful and rewarding achievement, thus it brought us self-confidence and wisdom.

KK: 4Givers team, how would you encourage other teams, especially those in Asia, to join next year’s O17 Challenge?

4Givers (O17 Team): We are confident that our peers are as enthusiastic as we are. To encourage them to take part in the O17 Challenge, we would share with them not just our experiences, but also our product, namely an online nursing home comparison platform that will be launched in Hong Kong.

KK: And finally, Mind to Mine team, now that the challenge has completed, what will you do in your everyday like to further sustainability?

Mind to Mine (O17 Team): Over the course of this program we’ve been heavily impacted by how effectively the program went and how well we worked together on a completely digital landscape. To continue to be sustainable, we will continue to work digitally to avoid using excess paper based materials, lessening our own environmental impact.

KK. Thank you all for your wonderful suggestions. Next, let us turn to Tsinghua University and X-Lab. Dear Pearl, so good to work together again. Tsinghua and X-Lab is a strongly supportive partner of the O17 Challenge. How would you continue to encourage multi-national and multi-lateral dialogue between Tsinghua and UNIGE to empower the development of sustainability leaders?

Pearl Mao (Tsinghua University): Besides of the O17 Challenge, Tsinghua x-lab also has collaboration with UNIGE on SDG Innovation Boot camp, SDG Open Hack and Social Innovation X-Change Program. Next step, we will work together to spread SDG Open Hack to other universities in China and other countries so as to engage and empower many more students in sustainability innovation.

KK: Looking forward to 2020 SDG Open Hack. Ji, you have been a great mentor to many teams. If you have two general tips for next year’s teams, what would they be?

Ji Li (OpenFIESTA). For sure. Tip 1: Have the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) instead of a perfect design. Tip 2: Learn and build from other similar projects instead of reinventing the wheel.

KK: Short and concise. Finally, back to Dr. Grey, we know that Hong Kong looks forward to co-operating with the Open 17 Challenge in 2021. How can our ecosystem best support?

Dr. Francois Grey (UNIGE): One thing that Hong Kong, including the StartmeupHK eco-system, can support us on is how to get beyond a good idea and a nice pitch. Swiss investors are usually highly risk averse, focused on high-tech high-margin products. I think that in Hong Kong, you are great at spotting and shaping good investment possibilities in more frugal tech and lower margin start-ups, important skills for social innovation. That’s an area where I believe we can work together, and help more young people make a better world.

KK: That’s a wrap, everyone. Thank you for the great input and we look forward to O17 Challenge in 2021!

Global Citizen Capital is proud to work with the MXA Group, Better Together Foundation and Family Mask Academy on the #BackToSchool and #KIDsforSDGs initiatives. Jessie Chung, Founder of Family Mask and Family Mask Academy, supports youth empowerment in the impact and sustainability space, and pledges to support Open Seventeen and its future initiatives. “A side (and positive) effect of COVID-19 was the advancement in adaptation of technology and the internet. Today, we are more connected than ever before and with sustainability-oriented education, our youth have a deep connection with nature and humanity. Let us keep the momentum and give our next generation a chance to make a difference,” Jessie Chung adds.

About the Author:

Mr. Kenneth Kwok is the Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Capital, President of Better Together Foundation, Co-President of Asia World Anti-Aging and Well-Being Association and Co-Founder of the MXA Group and Family Mask.

Follow Family Mask on @wearefamilymask on Twitter or Instagram. Head to http://backtoschool.wearefamilymask.com to purchase, gift or donate surgical PPE globally.

SOURCE Family Mask

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Construction Accounting Software Market Forecast to 2027

The global construction accounting software market was valued at US$ 647. 22million in 2019 and is projected to reach US$ 1033. 46million by 2027; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6. 1% from 2020 to 2027.

New York, Oct. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Reportlinker.com announces the release of the report “Construction Accounting Software Market Forecast to 2027 – COVID-19 Impact and Global Analysis by Component ; Deployment Type ; Application” – https://www.reportlinker.com/p05978063/?utm_source=GNW

Appropriate accounting software is a vital component for operating all construction companies successfully.Companies of all sizes are continuously dealing with numerous subcontractors, contractors, and temporary construction teams, which further complicate procurement, payroll, and several other accounting functions.

Pertaining to this fact, reliable software is required for guaranteeing everything from purchase orders, to inventory and equipment tracking.Construction accounting software offers users with several financial management tools for construction activities and large projects.

These solutions provide features such as payroll, job costing, general ledger, audit reporting, and accounts payable and receivable (AP/AR), among others.Certain construction accounting software solutions are developed and focused for specific financial information, while others offer accounting insights into the organization as a whole.

Construction accounting solutions are almost equivalent to basic accounting software; however, they are particularly tailored to the construction sector. Through deploying construction accounting software, builders and contractors are capable to enhance project performance by offering all the relevant information to the project managers.

The blooming construction industry and rising penetration of ERP modules in construction industry are some of the key driving factors for global construction accounting software market.However, availability of free construction accounting software may hinder the growth of the market in some applications.

Despite some limitations, a large untapped market amongst small construction firms is anticipated to drive the future growth of construction accounting software market.

The global construction accounting software market is segmented on the bases of component, deployment, and application.Based on component, market is further segmented into solution and services.

Based on deployment, the market is segmented into cloud and on-premise. Similarly, based on application, the market is segmented into SMEs and large enterprises.

According to the latest situation report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the US, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the UK, Russia, Turkey, Brazil, Iran, and China are among the worst affected countries due to COVID-19 outbreak.The outbreak first began in Wuhan (China) during December 2019, and since then, it has spread at a fast pace across the world.

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting the industries worldwide, and the global economy is anticipated to take the worst hit in the year 2020 and likely in 2021.The outbreak has created significant disruptions in the construction sector.

The sharp decline in the international trade is negatively impacting the growth of the global economy.The production shutdowns, restrictions on supply chain, procurement management, labor scarcity, and border lockdowns to combat and contain the outbreak have adversely affected the construction sector.

The production slowdown in the construction industry is directly affecting the adoption of various ad-hoc technologies and solutions such as construction accounting software, as the construction companies have reduced their spending on adopting several technology solutions to deal with the current scenario. The impact of COVID-19 outbreak on the global construction accounting software market growth in various countries/regions is described in the below sections.

Overall size of the construction accounting software market has been derived using both primary and secondary sources.To begin the research process, exhaustive secondary research has been conducted using internal and external sources to obtain qualitative and quantitative information related to the market.

The process also serves the purpose of obtaining overview and forecast for the construction accounting software market with respects to all the segments pertaining to the region.Also, multiple primary interviews have been conducted with industry participants and commentators to validate the data as well as to gain more analytical insights into the topic.

The participants typically involved in this process include industry experts such as VPs, business development managers, market intelligence managers, and national sales managers, along with external consultant such as valuation experts, research analysts and key opinion leaders specializing in the construction accounting software market. Acclivity Group LLC; Chetu Inc; CMiC; Foundation software Inc.; FreshBooks; Intuit Inc.; Jonas construction software; Sage Group PLC; Viewpoint, Inc.; and Xero Limited are among the major players operating in the global construction accounting software market.
Read the full report: https://www.reportlinker.com/p05978063/?utm_source=GNW

About Reportlinker
ReportLinker is an award-winning market research solution. Reportlinker finds and organizes the latest industry data so you get all the market research you need – instantly, in one place.

__________________________

CONTACT: Clare: clare@reportlinker.com US: (339)-368-6001 Intl: +1 339-368-6001
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Sterling jumps on Barnier sounding upbeat at EU Parliament

* Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 http://tmsnrt.rs/2egbfVh

* Graphic: Trade-weighted sterling since Brexit vote http://tmsnrt.rs/2hwV9Hv

By Olga Cotaga

LONDON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Sterling jumped to a one-week high against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday after the European Union’s Brexit negotiator said on Wednesday that a new trade deal with Britain was “within reach”.

The pound rose 0.9% to $1.3065, its highest since Oct. 14. The British currency also rose against the euro by 0.5% at 90.83 pence on the comments.

“An agreement is within reach if both sides are willing to work constructively, compromise and working to make progress on the basis of legal texts and if we are able in the coming days to resolve the sticking points,” Michel Barnier said.

Kenneth Broux, head of corporate research at Societe Generale, said the fact that Barnier was speaking in front of the EU Parliament could have meant he sounded more optimistic, giving reason for the hungry traders to buy sterling.

“The market doesn’t sit there thinking ‘there isn’t going to be a deal, we should be trading at $1.25’. The market wants to rally. Any positive soundbites that do come out are being jumped on as a reason to buy,” Broux said.

Having failed to reach a trade agreement by the self-imposed deadline of mid-October, Britain and the EU are now aiming to seal a deal by the end of this month.

If Britain leaves the bloc on Dec. 31 without a deal, it would be trading with its biggest partner on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which include quotas and tariffs.

Apart from Brexit, Britain is dealing with a rise in new coronavirus cases.

COVID measures in England might need to be tightened and deaths are likely to increase as a second wave of coronavirus infections in England picks up pace, deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said on Tuesday.

Britain’s government borrowing in the first half of the financial year was more than six times higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inflation in Britain rose 0.5% in September year-on-year, higher than the 0.2% inflation seen in the previous month. Transport costs, and restaurant and cafe prices have made the biggest contribution to the inflation rise, the Office for National Statistics said.

(Reporting by Olga Cotaga; Editing by Alison Williams)

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Fecal Analyzer Market Forecast to 2027

The fecal analyzer market was valued at US$ 657. 44 million in 2019 and is projected to reach US$ 842. 48 million by 2027; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3. 3% from 2020 to 2027. The growth of the fecal analyzer market is mainly attributed to the increasing incidence of colorectal cancer and implementation of screening programs, rise in geriatric population, and technological advancements in healthcare devices.

New York, Oct. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Reportlinker.com announces the release of the report “Fecal Analyzer Market Forecast to 2027 – COVID-19 Impact and Global Analysis by Product Type and End User, and Geography” – https://www.reportlinker.com/p05978071/?utm_source=GNW
However, the challenges related to analysis and fecal analyzer handling hinder the market growth.

The degeneration of cells or tissues of body with age leads to a greater risk of chronic diseases.Elderly people are more prone to gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease, colorectal cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); this is mainly ascribed to the changes in the composition and metabolic activities in the colonic ecosystem of aging human body.

Fecal testing enables access to the understand the physiology ofgut microbes and helps in designing treatment for IBS.
After colorectal cancer, IBS is a commonly diagnosed disease among geriatric population. ~10–20% of elderly people in the world are diagnosed with the symptoms of IBS. According to statistics from the United Nations (UN) Global Population Prospects for 2019, the world population is projected to grow by 2 billion over the next 30 years, to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 from 7.7 billion in 2019, and the world’s elderly population is already on the rise. This is expected increase the prevalence of IBS or other gastrointestinal diseases in the coming years, thereby escalating the demand for fecal analyzers.
Based on product type, the fecal analyzermarket is segmented into fully automated fecal analyzer and semi-automatic fecal analyzer.The fully automated fecal analyzer segment held a larger share of the market in 2019, and it is anticipated to register a higher CAGR during the forecast period.

The market growth of this segment is attributed to the capabilities these analyzersto simultaneously dilute, blend, extract, and suck the samples.
Based on end user, the fecal analyzer market is segmented into hospitals, clinics, and others. The hospitals segment held the largest share of the market in 2019, and it is further estimated to register the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Brazilian Association of Intestinal Cancer Prevention, Dubai Health Authority, and World Health Organization (WHO)are among the major secondary sources referred for preparing this report.
Read the full report: https://www.reportlinker.com/p05978071/?utm_source=GNW

About Reportlinker
ReportLinker is an award-winning market research solution. Reportlinker finds and organizes the latest industry data so you get all the market research you need – instantly, in one place.

__________________________

CONTACT: Clare: clare@reportlinker.com US: (339)-368-6001 Intl: +1 339-368-6001
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Many thorny global situations hinge on US election outcome

LONDON (AP) — Four years after Donald Trump’s election reframed how many nations interacted with the United States, the way that the world’s foremost superpower moves forward after its presidential election stands to impact many geopolitical pressure points — whether the victor turns out to be Trump or his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.

From Iran to Cuba, from China to Israel, American involvement and influence on the international stage has evolved sharply since Trump took office in 2017. He swept away agreements with some nations, alienated longstanding allies and pulled out of multilateral obligations that he said didn’t serve the interests of the United States.

Though the international community has sometimes criticized Trump’s ‘’America First″ tenure, underscored by the president’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic, there were already places, issues and conflicts where the United States’ involvement wasn’t always appreciated — under his predecessor, Barack Obama and other recent American leaders.

Before the pandemic struck, in the beginning of 2020, the most serious global concern was whether Washington and Tehran were on the cusp of a ruinous war that would inflame the Middle East. While that has ebbed, many around the world are watching closely to see what happens next — and who will be living in the White House three months from today.

Here’s a look at some key issues whose direction will be, in part, steered by who wins the U.S. presidency.

VIRUS GEOPOLITICS

The Nobel Peace Prize, won by Obama while in office, was something Trump had hankered for himself. But the honor went this month to the U.N. World Food Program. It was a resounding endorsement of a multilateral effort — the United Nations’ main message — during a pandemic that has caused serious food insecurity as it engulfs the world.

‘’We are sending a signal to this type of nationalism where the responsibility for global affairs is not being faced,” Nobel committee head Berit Reiss-Andersen said.

In the pandemic era, Trump has lambasted the World Health Organization and largely rejected multilateralism, as have likeminded leaders such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Britain’s Boris Johnson, who, like Trump, both downplayed the coronavirus and were infected by it themselves.

With the United States still in the virus’ vise and more than 220,000 dead, a rebound hitting Europe and sustained infections in India, Iran and beyond, these remain precarious days. Containing the virus, making a vaccine available and the international coordination around it — with the United States as a major player — will be central to whether the world can see a light at the end of a dark tunnel.

BATTLE OF THE SUPERPOWERS

The resurgence of Russia and the rise of China has ended a post-Cold War period in which Washington was the sole superpower.

Trump has made efforts to maintain relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia despite his own intelligence agencies’ confirmation of Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which sought to aid him, and allegations that Russia secretly offered bounties for American deaths in Afghanistan.

Biden has said that he is putting Russia and other foreign governments “on notice” that he would act aggressively as president to counter any interference in U.S. elections.

China has become a focus of Trump’s criticism in recent months. He has imposed punitive tariffs, made racist comments about the origins of the virus in Wuhan and taken action over cybersecurity issues. But whether Trump or Biden is in office for the next four years, Washington’s relations with Beijing seem set to continue their thorniness as China increasingly flexes internationally.

AGREEMENTS, ALLIES AND ADVERSARIES

Trump has made a point of moving away from the Obama administration’s and world powers’ Iran nuclear pact. He called it the ’’worst deal ever” and withdrew, which delighted Israel and Saudi Arabia but dismayed others. Then the U.S. killed Iran’s most senior military figure, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad. Iran responded with a ballistic missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American troops.

The administration’s decision to blacklist Iran’s financial sector, part of wide-ranging sanctions, signals the American direction during a second Trump term. Biden, who was vice president to the more multilateral Obama, could re-engage with allies who have actively opposed Trump’s policy, and potentially with Iran itself.

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Trump’s self-proclaimed “deal of the century” did not sit well for the Palestinians when it was released earlier this year. It effectively green-lighted Israeli annexation in the occupied West Bank, ending notions of the two-state solution and upending decades of official U.S. policy with regards to settlements. Because of this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is one leader who will be watching these elections closely.

Under Trump, U.S. relations with the European Union and NATO have also hit significant bumps. Many Europeans and their governments remain deeply wedded to such multilateral blocs. Biden, heir to a foreign policy tradition more in line with other U.S. leaders since World War II, has said he would take a more conciliatory approach to longtime allies.

Trump had hoped his jaw-dropping outreach to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un would be his signature foreign policy legacy. But the summits were huge on spectacle and produced no tangible results while giving Kim some of the status he craved. Little public attention has been given to the effort in recent months, and if previous policy is any indication, Biden would not court further summits.

U.S. MILITARY PRESENCE OVERSEAS

Trump has bemoaned America’s ’’endless wars″ and vowed to end them. But the U.S. military was blindsided by his latest claim that all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Trump’s comments unsettled the U.S. military and diplomats, some of whom say that putting a definitive date on troop withdrawal could impede a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Biden says troops must be withdrawn responsibly and that a residual force should remain to combat extremism.

Trump has also demanded U.S. troops are pulled out of ally Germany, where they have been based for decades, pushing the Pentagon into a plan that will cost billions of dollars and take years to complete. A U.S. troop cut in South Korea has also been floated. Trump has criticized allies who he says are not contributing as much as the United States.

Little indicates that Biden would see things the same way.

___

Tamer Fakahany is AP’s deputy director for global news coordination and has helped direct international coverage for the AP for 17 years. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/tamerfakahany

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World trade rebounding slowly, outlook uncertain: U.N. report

GENEVA (Reuters) – The value of global trade is set to fall by 7% to 9% in 2020 from the previous year, despite signs of a fragile rebound led by China in the third quarter, a United Nations report said on Wednesday.

No region was spared by an estimated 19% year-on-year plunge in world trade in the second quarter, as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted economies, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said.

Global trade recovered somewhat in the third quarter, when it was estimated at about 4.5% less than in the same period a year ago, the agency said in its latest update.

“Trade in home office equipment and medical supplies has increased in Q3, while it further weakened in the automotive and energy sectors,” UNCTAD said. Growth in the textiles sector was also strong.

Its preliminary forecast put year-on-year growth for Q4 2020 at 3% less, but the report said that uncertainties persisted due to how the pandemic would evolve.

If the pandemic resurges in coming months, that could lead to a deteriorating environment for policy-makers and sudden increase in trade restrictive policies, it said.

China’s exports rebounded strongly in the third quarter after falling in the early months of the pandemic, and have posted year-on-year growth rates of nearly 10%, UNCTAD said.

“Overall, the level of Chinese exports for the first nine months of 2020 was comparable to that of 2019 over the same period,” it said.

Chinese demand for imported products recovered following a decline in Q2 2020, contrary to other major economies, it said.

Earlier this month the World Trade Organization (WTO) upgraded its forecast for trade in goods due to improvements from June and predicted a drop of 9.2% for 2020.

But it saw a more muted rebound in 2021, with further lockdowns from a second wave of COVID-19 infections posing clear risks.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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Barrett was trustee at private school with anti-gay policies

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.

The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc., both before Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.

The three schools, in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia, are affiliated with People of Praise, an insular community rooted in its own interpretation of the Bible, of which Barrett and her husband have been longtime members. At least three of the couple’s seven children have attended the Trinity School at Greenlawn, in South Bend, Indiana.

The AP spoke with more than two dozen people who attended or worked at Trinity Schools, or former members of People of Praise. They said the community’s teachings have been consistent for decades: Homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Interviewees told the AP that Trinity’s leadership communicated anti-LGBTQ policies and positions in meetings, one-on-one conversations, enrollment agreements, employment agreements, handbooks and written policies — including those in place when Barrett was an active member of the board.

“Trinity Schools does not unlawfully discriminate with respect to race, color, gender, national origin, age, disability, or other legally protected classifications under applicable law, with respect to the administration of its programs,” said Jon Balsbaugh, president of Trinity Schools Inc., which runs the three campuses, in an email.

The actions are probably legal, experts said. Scholars said the school’s and organization’s teachings on homosexuality and treatment of LGBTQ people are harsher than those of the mainstream Catholic church.

Barrett’s views on whether LGBTQ people should have the same constitutional rights as other Americans became a focus last week in her Senate confirmation hearing. But her longtime membership in People of Praise and her leadership position at Trinity Schools were not discussed, even though most of the people the AP spoke with said her deep and decades-long involvement in the community signals she would be hostile to gay rights if confirmed.

Suzanne B. Goldberg, a professor at Columbia Law School who studies sexuality and gender law, said private schools have wide legal latitude to set admissions criteria. And, she said, Trinity probably isn’t covered by recent Supreme Court rulings outlawing employment discrimination against LGBTQ people because of its affiliation with a religious community. But, she added, cases addressing those questions are likely to come before the high court in the near future, and Barrett’s past oversight of Trinity’s discriminatory policies raises concerns.

“When any member of the judiciary affiliates themselves with an institution that is committed to discrimination on any ground, it is important to look more closely at how that affects the individual’s ability to give all cases a fair hearing,” Goldberg said.

The AP sent detailed questions for Barrett to the White House press office. Rather than providing direct answers, White House spokesman Judd Deere instead accused AP of attacking the nominee.

“Because Democrats and the media are unable to attack Judge Barrett’s sterling qualifications, they have instead turned to pathetic personal attacks on her children’s Christian school, even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly reaffirmed that religious schools are protected by the First Amendment,” Deere said in an email.

Nearly all the people interviewed for this story are gay or said they have gay family members. They used words such as “terrified,” “petrified” and “frightening” to describe the prospect of Barrett on the high court. Some of them know Barrett, have mutual friends with her or even have been in her home dozens of times. They describe her as “nice” or “a kind person,” but told the AP they feared others would suffer if Barrett tries to implement People of Praise’s views on homosexuality on the Supreme Court.

About half of the people asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation against themselves or their families from other members of People of Praise, or because they had not come out to everyone in their lives. Among those interviewed were people who attended all three of its schools and who had been active in several of its 22 branches. Their experiences stretched back as far as the 1970s, and as recently as 2020.

NOT WELCOME

Tom Henry was a senior at Trinity School in Eagan, Minnesota, serving as a student ambassador, providing tours to prospective families, when Barrett was an active member of the board.

In early 2017, a lesbian parent asked him whether Trinity was open to gay people and expressed concern about how her child would be treated.

Henry, who is gay, said he didn’t know what to say. He had been instructed not to answer questions about People of Praise or Trinity’s “politics.”

The next day, Henry recalled, he asked the school’s then-headmaster, Jon Balsbaugh, how he should have answered. Henry said Balsbaugh pulled a document out of his desk drawer that condemned gay marriage, and explained it was a new policy from People of Praise that was going into the handbook.

“He looked me right in the eye and said, the next time that happens, you tell them they would not be welcome here,” Henry recounted. “And he said to me that trans families, gay families, gay students, trans students would not feel welcome at Trinity Schools. And then he said, ‘Do we understand each other?’ And I said, yes. And I left. And then I quit the student ambassadors that day.”

Balsbaugh, who has since been promoted to president of Trinity Schools Inc., says his recollection of the conversation “differs considerably,” but declined to give details. He said it is likely he shared the school’s guidelines that at that time “had long been published in the parent handbook.”

Balsbaugh told the AP in an email that Barrett was not involved in the formulation or passage of any policies pertaining to homosexuality. He said Barrett served on the Trinity board from July 2015 to March 2017, and denied that the school’s leadership considered or formulated any new policy related to homosexuality during that time. He didn’t say whether the policy as described by Henry was ever adopted.

The school’s parent handbook says the board is the highest decision-making body, responsible for hiring the president and developing “broad institutional polices.”

THE COMMUNITY

People of Praise is not a church but is a community in which people sign a “covenant” pledging love and service to fellow community members and to God. It has 1,700 members and grew out of the Catholic charismatic movement rooted in Pentecostalism that began in the late 1960s. It emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus and can include baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and prophecy, according to former members, experts who have studied the movement, and its own publications. Most members are Roman Catholic.

Barrett has declined to say whether she is still an active member.

More than half of the people AP interviewed were involved with Trinity or People of Praise within the last decade. The AP verified the identities of everyone interviewed for this story through posts on the People of Praise and Trinity websites, published athletics results, school and membership directories, past listed addresses, or through other people verified by the AP as Trinity alumni or former members.

SCHOOL POLICIES

Multiple people who spoke with the AP detailed how Trinity’s leadership articulated and put in place policies that effectively barred gay families and employees.

A 2018-19 enrollment agreement obtained by the AP says “the only proper place for human sexual activity is marriage, where marriage is a legal and committed relationship between one man and one woman.” It goes on to say that activities such as “fornication, pornography, adultery and homosexual acts, and advocating or modeling any of these behaviors” are at odds with the school’s core beliefs.

In 2014, the year before Barrett joined the board, the school’s trustees voted to limit admissions to the children of legally married couples or single parents. At the time, gay marriage was not legal in Indiana or Virginia. The wording was softened slightly after the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, though it still explicitly opposes LBGTQ relationships.

“The reason was not any desire to judge or punish, but to avoid potential confusion for our students regarding our consistent position that sexual activity is meant to be only within marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman,” Balsbaugh said.

Balsbaugh said families and students don’t have to agree with the school’s positions, but it’s important that parents “understand and be able to support the culture that we are establishing.”

In addition to the written policies, school administrators made clear verbally they did not want to admit children of gay families, multiple people told the AP.

One described a faculty meeting at the Trinity School in Minnesota, where Balsbaugh, who was then headmaster, said in response to a question that people who subscribed to a religion other than Christianity would be welcome at the school because they were still “seeking truth.” Children of gay couples, on the other hand, would not be accepted, “because their life is so contrary to our beliefs, and essentially that it was a choice,” the person recalled Balsbaugh saying.

Balsbaugh said his recollection of the faculty meeting differed, but declined to give details. He denied this was the position of Trinity Schools, but declined to say whether children of gay couples would be admitted. He instead highlighted the school’s harassment policy against bullying or other abuse “based upon a student’s sex, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or perceived sexuality.”

“Such behaviors are considered major violations of our code of conduct for students and faculty alike,” the policy states.

A faculty employment agreement in place for the 2014-15 school year, obtained by the AP, states that “Blatant sexual immorality (for example, fornication, adultery, homosexual acts, etc.) has no place in the culture of Trinity Schools.”

Several people told the AP they were unaware of any openly gay employees and said it was understood that they were not welcome. One gay man spoke with the AP on condition of anonymity for fear of being ousted from his position at the school.

Balsbaugh told the AP many religious schools and faith-based groups have similar faculty agreements. He would not say whether the school has any LGBTQ teachers.

SCHOOL TEACHINGS

Many former students described a controlling and repressive environment where even a friendly hug could earn a detention. Michael Leehan spent six years at Trinity School in Minnesota, graduating in 2015. Leehan, who is gay and had come out to his friends at school, recalled being reprimanded by a dean for hugging a platonic male friend.

“I don’t know how else to describe it. He just got a kind of a mean look in his eye and venom in his voice,” Leehan said, recalling that the dean told him, “Don’t do that stuff here.” Leehan remembered a surge of anger — “the feeling of I’m dirty, in the context of this school.”

Several former students of varying ages who attend all three Trinity schools separately described being taught a vivid reading from Dante’s “Inferno” that depicts the eternal suffering of Sodomites condemned to hell for their sins. Four of them said teachers made clear the passage referred to gay men who were rightly suffering in hell. Some more recent graduates of the Minnesota school, however, said their teacher did not dwell on the passage.

Balsbaugh said Trinity teaches Dante “as a work of imaginative literature, not as a collection of moral or theological statements.”

Cara Wood, 28, attended Trinity School at Meadow View in Falls Church, a Virginia suburb of the nation’s capital, and recalled the only time the school addressed homosexuality was when students read the “Inferno” and learned about gay men being in hell. Wood, who is bisexual, graduated in 2010.

“They called it sexual preference rather than … sexual orientation and typically we just wouldn’t address it at all,” Wood told the AP.

During her confirmation hearing last week, Barrett also framed sexuality as a “preference.” That wording is rejected by LGBTQ advocates because it suggests sexual orientation is a choice.

“I have no agenda, and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” Barrett said during the Oct. 13 hearing.

After some Democratic senators seized on her use of the term, Barrett apologized, saying she “did not mean any offense or to make any statement by that.”

Andrea Turpin-King transferred to the South Bend school in 1990, in the middle of her 7th grade year, after her father was struck and killed by a drunken driver after leaving a well-known gay bar. Her mother hoped she could get a fresh start after she was bullied at another school. The teachers at Trinity were told about what had happened, she said.

Turpin-King recalled that during 9th grade one of her teachers told the class that all gay people go to hell.

“When she said that, all I could picture was my dad’s face, and all I could think about was how much I missed his hugs,” Turpin-King told the AP. “And so, I said, I don’t think that’s true. And she said that I was going to go to hell, too.”

Turpin-King said: “It felt like a request for me to disavow my father’s humanity. Even in death. And I couldn’t do that.”

LIFE IN PEOPLE OF PRAISE

Many former members told the AP they struggled to reconcile People of Praise’s and Trinity Schools’ religious teachings with their sexual identity, and suffered fear, anxiety and trauma. Many felt they had to leave, even at the risk of being shunned by friends and family.

One 2015 Trinity graduate who grew up in People of Praise recalled members requesting that the community pray that their gay loved ones would “recover” from their homosexuality.

Another Trinity graduate, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because his parents are still in People of Praise and his sexuality remains a sensitive topic for them, was forced to undergo conversion therapy after Trinity administrators learned he was gay at age 16. He also recounted being counseled by a senior People of Praise leader that same-sex attraction was “changeable” with treatment and prayer. The widely discredited practice has been condemned by mental health organizations and LGBTQ advocacy groups as pseudoscientific, unethical and psychologically harmful.

People of Praise spokesman Sean Connolly said the group had no knowledge of LGBTQ youths being referred for conversion therapy.

“People of Praise neither advocates for nor pays for such programs,” he said.

While some former members said they knew of no explicit People of Praise teaching against gay members, or said gay members could remain as long as they never acted on their sexual desires, most of those who spoke with the AP said it was clear gay people were not welcome.

Asked directly if a married same-sex couple or someone who is openly gay would be welcome within the community, Connolly responded, “People of Praise holds the standard Christian teaching, based on the New Testament, that sexual activity is meant for marriage, understood as the union of a man and a woman.”

Camellia Pisegna’s family was expelled from the community they had been a part of for 15 years in South Bend when she came out as a lesbian around 1990, she and others told the AP. Pisegna’s children were shunned, even from lifelong friends. Even now, Pisegna said, no one has apologized, even though she still lives in the area.

“Any one of these hundreds of people could very easily find me,” Pisegna said. “But that’s never happened in 30 years.”

Connolly said that account of what happened was “not accurate,” though he declined to provide details “out of respect for all parties involved.”

“We believe that harassing or persecuting gays and lesbians is contrary to the Gospel and that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect,” Connolly said in an email.

Massimo Faggioli, a theology professor at Villanova University, said some of the community’s teachings are more in keeping with pre-1960s Catholicism than the modern church.

“It comes from a very literalist reading of scripture,” Faggioli said. “It’s no longer the official language used by the official teaching of the Catholic Church. It’s no longer used by the pope. It’s no longer used by official documents that still have a negative view of same-sex marriage.”

“Even John Paul II, even Pope Benedict, who had more conservative views on these things, they were very careful in never sounding (like) homophobes,” Faggioli said.

LEGAL RAMIFICATIONS

Barrett, in her hearing last week, refused to say whether she agreed with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 struck down state laws criminalizing sex acts between those of the same gender. She also repeatedly refused to say whether she agreed with the high court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark 5-to-4 decision in 2015 that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Barrett stressed that she did not intend to signal any opinion one way or another. If confirmed, she insisted, she would keep an open mind about how she might rule in any future cases.

Barrett’s position on gay rights is particularly crucial after two of the high court’s conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, this month wrote a dissenting opinion that appeared to call for the court to reconsider its 2015 same-sex marriage decision. Both Thomas and Alito were in the minority in that decision, as was deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, whose judicial philosophy Barrett has said mirrors her own.

Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group that opposes Barrett’s confirmation, said his group fears “a far-right Supreme Court that could undermine the rights of marginalized communities and the LGBTQ community for decades.”

“Our love is valid, our love is equal, and our rights must be,” David said.

Turpin-King said she has briefly met Barrett, and they share mutual friends. Some of her husband’s family members are still members of the People of Praise community, and she loves and respects them. Many of Trinity’s teachers were wonderful to her. But the thought of Barrett sitting on the Supreme Court scares her.

“I am deeply concerned about my queer friends. I’m concerned about my own children,” Turpin-King said. “From what I experienced in People of Praise, as a student of one of their schools, everyone needs to be petrified, frankly.”

___

Follow Smith at http://twitter.com/MRSmithAP and AP Investigative Reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck

___

Contact AP’s global investigative team at Investigative@ap.org

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how US leader fell for autocrats

He “fell in love” with Kim Jong Un, praises Vladimir Putin and calls Recep Tayyip Erdogan “a friend”: President Donald Trump’s flattery of autocrats has confounded US allies and raised questions about his regard for democratic norms.

But analysts expect America’s traditional friendships to be restored in a post-Trump era, saying his fascination with unfettered power is a personality quirk that has not translated into an official change in foreign policy.

“He’s psychologically terrified by weakness,” Peter Trumbore, professor of political science at Oakland University in Michigan said.

Trump’s attraction to power was on display long before he won the White House on a promise to “make America great again.”

In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, the billionaire property developer declared that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who helped end the Cold War, had “not a firm enough hand” with pro-democracy demonstrators.

Three decades later, he continues to lavish praise on leaders who wield power ruthlessly while bashing longtime democratic allies such as Canada and Germany.

In a recording, the US president admitted he was fond of authoritarian leaders, telling journalist Bob Woodward the “tougher and meaner” they are, “the better I get along with them.”

–  ‘President for life’ –

In 2017, he threatened dictator Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury” if “Little Rocket Man” endangered the US, only to shake his hand in a historic visit to North Korea two years later.

While Trump’s outreach to Kim won plaudits, his assessment that the mercurial North Korean, who is accused of gross human rights violations, had a “great and beautiful vision for his country” was met with widespread derision. 

With China too, his message has swung wildly, lurching between tough talking on trade and the spread of Covid-19, to praise for Chinese President Xi Jinping after China’s ruling party abolished term limits in 2018.

“He’s now president for life… I think it’s great,” Trump declared.

While some surmised the remark was made in jest it chimed with the warm words he has had for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has also steadily increased his own powers and whom Trump calls a “friend.”

But it is the Republican’s relationship with Russia’s Putin that has attracted the most attention, in light of claims that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s chances, allegations which Russia denies.

At a summit with Putin in 2018, Trump appeared bowled over by the former secret services chief, saying he believed him over the FBI on the allegations of campaign interference, and describing his counterpart as “very, very strong.”

– ‘Real man’ rule –

For Trumbore, it’s plain to see: Trump is “envious of the power these strongmen wield”.

“When he sees Erdogan or (Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor) Orban he sees democratically elected presidents who have essentially used institutions of democracy to turn their states into soft authoritarian regimes. I think Trump wants that for himself.”

Charles Kupchan, professor of international affairs at Georgetown University, also ascribed Trump’s rapport with autocrats to envy, tinged with “a certain macho inclination.” 

“He probably likes that Putin rides a horse without a shirt on and appears like a ‘real man’,” Kupchan said.

The Trump administration argues he has made America safer by cultivating ties with longtime foes.

But analysts say his approach has yet to show results.

For Maud Quessard, a US specialist at the Institute for Strategic Research in Paris, Trump’s message is chiefly aimed at “showing his electorate that he is a strong president.” 

The leader who campaigned as a deal maker extraordinaire lacks the patience needed for diplomatic success in Kupchan’s view.

“Diplomatic breakthroughs do not come when two leaders sit down together with no preparation. They come through years of hard work and preparation.”

“With North Korea, none of that happened. It went nowhere”.

Meanwhile, relations with old allies in continental Europe took a beating, with Trump cheering Britain’s decision to quit the EU and claiming the union was created merely “to take advantage of the United States”.

For Brooks Spector, a former US diplomat based in South Africa, the main risk of a second Trump term “would be a greater confusion” on the international stage.

“What are the goals of the US policy? What are the expectations? What does the US realistically expect from Iran, Russia, with its trade disputes with China? 

“There’s a lot of head scratching in world capitals about what exactly the US wants to see happen. People look for the strategy or tactics and they don’t seem to find it very easily.”

pid-cb/mlr/sjw/mbx

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Russia calls for collective security in Gulf, US blames Iran

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister called for collective efforts Tuesday to prevent a large-scale war in the Persian Gulf and got strong support from all Security Council members except the United States, which called Iran the major culprit and urged that it be held accountable for supporting terrorists and destabilizing the region.

Sergey Lavrov told a high-level virtual council meeting that a worst case scenario was avoided earlier this year following the U.S. killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, and warned that “the situation remains fragile and could become dangerous and unpredictable again.”

But Russia, which holds the council presidency this month, believes that “if we work together openly and impartially, and if we pool our political will and our creative potential, we will be able to help the states of the Persian Gulf overcome this difficult historic period and create an effective system of collective security,” he said.

Robert Malley, president of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, warned that “the regionwide conflict that now looms largest across the globe is a conflict nobody apparently wants — a conflict triggered by tensions in the Gulf region.”

“It is far from inevitable,” he said, but “a single attack by rocket, drone or limpet mine could set off a military escalation between the U.S. and Iran and their respective regional allies and proxies that could prove impossible to contain.”

“An inclusive, collective regional security dialogue aimed at lessening tensions may have only a small chance of materializing, and an even smaller chance of success, but under current circumstances it would be irresponsible not to give it a try,” Malley said.

There was no shortage of ideas on promoting collective security from council members.

U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany all supported confidence building measures in the Gulf and stressed their support for the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of in 2018 — but they also sharply criticized Iran for destabilizing activities.

Two days after the lifting of the U.N. arms embargo on Iran over U.S. objections, French Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere urged possible weapons suppliers and recipients “to exercise the utmost restraint and responsibility in considering the consequences that possible transfers could have for regional security and stability, and to draw the necessary conclusions.”

Britain’s acting ambassador, Jonathan Allen, said Iran has continued to transfer arms to regional groups and told the council the UK would work “to find a suitable solution to Iranian proliferation.”

German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen criticized human rights violations in Iran, where, he said, “civilian and political rights are violated every day,” prisons “are the most abhorrent in the whole region,” and “religious minorities like the Baha’i are persecuted.”

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, meanwhile, dismissed any idea of collective security for the Gulf, touting instead the Trump administration’s new approach to the Middle East, including its key role in promoting diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Responding to Russia’s promotion of security for the Persian Gulf, Craft said: “Respectfully, I think the solution is much easier: This council must simply muster the courage to hold Iran accountable to its existing international obligations.”

“The United States recognizes that Iran is the single greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East,” she said.

She pointed to Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and support for proxies in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, saying that “the United States will continue to hold Iran accountable, even if it means we must act alone.”

“What makes America special is that we are unafraid to stand up for what is right,” Craft said. “And I don’t need a cheering section to validate my moral compass.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the U.S. deployment of nearly 50,000 troops in the Persian Gulf in 29 military installations, with more than 300 combat aircraft, and its hundreds of billions of dollars of arms sales “have enhanced neither the security of the external powers, nor of the region.”

“We need collective efforts by regional countries to establish inclusive dialogue and security networking in this region,” he said. “Otherwise, we will all be engulfed in turmoil for generations to come.”

Zarif said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s proposal for a Hormuz peace and security initiative launched a year ago awaits a response from regional leaders.

Lavrov reiterated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to hold an online meeting of leaders of the five permanent Security Council members — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — along with Germany to discuss ways to bring peace to the region.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the first step toward de-escalation is identifying viable confidence-building measures such as ways to combat the coronavirus, promote economic recovery, ensure unhindered maritime navigation and arrange religious pilgrimages.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, proposed “a platform for multilateral dialogue for the Gulf region,” starting with incremental progress on energy, shipping, trade and other less sensitive issues.

“Dialogue will not be smooth sailing nor will it reach its goal overnight,” he said. “But no matter how long the journey might be, step by step we’ll eventually reach the destination. The first step for dialogue, even a small one, will be one giant step toward peace.”