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Friday
Jun222018

Whiskey, Harley prices expected to jump in Europe as tariffs take effect

iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- In the heart of London's Soho, whiskey mecca Milroy's of Soho has a section dedicated exclusively to American whiskey.

"The rarer products we get in ... they'll be hit fairly quickly because there's not that much of it in the country," the owner of the shop, Simo, who prefers to go by just one name, told ABC News.

Milroy's customers will feel the price rise quickly, he said Friday afternoon, as whiskey drinkers filed in after work.

The European Union's imposition on Friday of tariffs on American imports in retaliation for President Donald Trump's tariffs on aluminum and steel imports will be applied to anything that leaves the U.S. today, going forward.

The American tariffs effect some $7.5 billion worth of European goods coming into the U.S., while the current European tariffs hit some $3.2 billion worth of American goods.

But it's the specific goods the E.U. chose that matters, economist Matthew Oxenford, of the London think tank Chatham House, told ABC News in an interview at Milroy's.

The E.U. has levied a 25 percent duty on scores of products, including iconic American brands Levi jeans, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon. Some other goods have been hit with 10 or 50 percent tariffs.

"I think any sort of retaliatory tariff like this sort of tariff is designed not to inflict the most economic damage but the most political damage on the people who implemented these tariffs, in this case President Trump. So they're targeting iconic brands that have political resonance with powerful Republicans in Congress such as Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, also the new potential House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from northern California, near where Levi's is headquartered," Oxenford said.

Even orange juice from Florida, a swing state in U.S. presidential elections, is included.

"Generally when economists talk about a tit-for-tat trade war, this is exactly what they're talking about. The United States has implemented tariffs on steel and aluminum, the EU has retaliated, the U.S. thinks that's unfair and is retaliating further," Oxenford said.

Trump on Friday threatened to impose a 20 percent tariff on cars from the E.U.

"This could become something that affects more and more and more products, and more and more and more consumers will feel the pinch," Oxenford said.

Harley-Davidson in the UK declined an invitation from ABC News for an interview but in a statement said its position on tariffs hadn't changed. "We support free and fair-trade policies that address barriers to international growth and allow us to compete globally," the company said.

For Simo, Kentucky bourbon may cease to compete, and his customers' taste may just shift.

"Europe is actually the largest emerging market for American whiskey. I mean the UK alone imported 124 million pounds last year. That's just in the UK alone. And unfortunately with this 25-percent tariff, it's going to make it slightly unobtainable for sort of those whiskey drinkers coming in," Simo said.

"It's going to kill the American whisky industry here," he added, saying he was among those in the U.K. who wore Levi jeans and drove a Harley-Davidson. "Yeah, my life is about to get a bit more expensive."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jun222018

Russian city sprays vanilla to try to repel clouds of gnats before World Cup game

iStock/Thinkstock(VOLGOGRAD, Russia) -- Authorities in the Russian city of Volgograd are spraying vanilla concentrate to try to stop huge clouds of gnats from impacting the World Cup games being played at the city's stadium.

The gnats attracted almost as much attention as the soccer during a game between England and Tunisia last Monday. Swarms of the insects were visible on television and players batted and swatted at them throughout the game. One German TV journalist took extreme measures, donning a bee-keeping mask during her broadcast.

“There were a lot more than I first thought ... some of them in your eyes, some of them in your mouth,” England’s captain, Harry Kane, told reporters after his team won 2-1.

To try to head off the problem ahead of Friday's match between Iceland and Nigeria, city authorities said they were spraying vanilla concentrate on trees and shrubs around the stadium, the state news agency TASS reported.

“The vanilla concentrate will not create inconveniences for fans, but it will be enough to repel the gnats,” one official told TASS.

Formerly known as Stalingrad and the site of the Second World War's bloodiest battle, Volgograd is located in southwest Russia on the huge Volga River — the longest river in Europe that stretches hundreds of meters wide. The waters and marshes around the city are ideal breeding grounds for the gnats during the hot, dry summers there.

Organizers had known the insects would be a nuisance during the World Cup and had taken other measures before the tournament, using helicopters to spray pesticide on nearby marshland. Authorities had also reportedly regulated the flow of water through a hydro-electric dam, which locals believe has an effect on the flies' numbers.  

Large trucks with sprayers on the front were seen hosing the roads with vanilla concentrate near the fan zone set up for people to watch game. Volunteers were also handing out bug spray. Rules banning liquids from being brought into the fan zone had been relaxed to allow people to bring in their own repellent.

Dantata Ubaidullah, a Nigerian fan, told Reuters: “We came close to the river and they were almost entering our eyes, our ears and they flew around your face wherever you go."

But both Nigerian and Icelandic fans getting ready for their teams’ match said they didn’t believe their players would be put off by the flies.

“This doesn't bother us because we are from Iceland. Our players are tough, they won't complain at all,” Egill Skallagrimsson told Reuters.

"The heat the flies the mosquitoes, everything - it feels like home so I think it's an advantage to Nigeria than to Iceland,” Ubaidullah added.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Jun222018

New, long-extinct ape species found in ancient Chinese tomb

Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images(SHAANXI PROVINCE, China) -- An entirely new but long-extinct ape species has been discovered in an ancient tomb in central China.

The skull and jaw of the never-before-seen gibbon were found in Shaanxi province inside a royal burial chamber that was built some 2,300 years ago. The previously unknown genus and species of gibbon, which researchers have named Junzi imperialis, may be the first ape to have become extinct due to humans, according to a new study published in the journal Science on Friday.

"Our discovery and description of Junzi imperialis suggests that we are underestimating the impact of humans on primate diversity," the study's lead author, Samuel Turvey, said in a statement.

Zoological Society of London Handout/EPA via ShutterstockTurvey and other scientists, led by international conservation charity the Zoological Society of London, made the discovery while examining the contents of the tomb, which was first excavated in 2004 and contained 12 burial pits with animal remains. The team also uncovered the bones of black bears, cranes, leopards, lynx and a variety of domestic animals, the study found.

Researchers believe the burial chamber, and possibly the gibbon, may have belonged to Lady Xia, the grandmother of China's first emperor, Qin Shihuang.

Zoological Society of London Handout/EPA via ShutterstockGibbons are the smallest apes, known for their loud, melodic songs and long arms, which they use to swing gracefully through the treetops. They were revered as regal primates in imperial China and were often kept as high-status pets, according to an article announcing the findings published in Science.

The Junzi imperialis was likely widespread in the region at the time and may have survived until the 18th century, just a few hundred years ago, the study says.

There are no gibbons in that area of China today. So the finding may indicate an unrecognized biodiversity of primates that thrived across Asia, according to the study.

There are more than a dozen recognized species of gibbons in present day, living in rain forests from northeast India to southern China and Indonesia, and many are considered to be endangered or critically endangered. All surviving Chinese species are currently classified as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list of threatened species.

Researchers believe the eventual demise of the Junzi imperialis was a result of past human activities, which likely included deforestation and hunting.

All of the world's apes are under threat of extinction due to human activities, according to the Zoological Society of London. But there has been no evidence of humans directly causing extinction among our relatives -- until now.

"These findings reveal the importance of using historical archives such as the archaeological record to inform our understanding of conservation and stress the need for greater international collaboration to protect surviving populations of gibbons in the wild," Turvey said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jun212018

Japanese worker docked for starting lunch 3 minutes early

iStock/Thinkstock(KOBE, Japan) -- Officials in the western Japanese city of Kobe made a public apology on Thursday to a municipal employee for docking his pay after he took his lunch break three minutes early.

“It is very regrettable that this misconduct has happened. We’re very sorry,” a city official said at the press conference, according to local media.

Yet it apparently wasn't a one-time infraction - the unnamed 64-year old employee allegedly slipped out early 26 times over seven months.

Traditionally, Japanese workers have logged particularly long hours at their jobs - leading to a national debate about work-life balance.

Prior to this incident, officials have been pushing for a new bill that would improve work-life balance among citizens.

One component of the bill would set a cap on the amount of overtime hours an employee can work a month, according to Japanese media.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jun212018

John Bolton heads to Moscow to plan potential Putin-Trump summit

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump may finally get his wish – a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin – as his National Security Adviser John Bolton heads to Moscow to discuss a potential meeting between the two leaders, a National Security Council spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

This would be the first formally-arranged meeting between Trump and Putin after they talked on the sidelines of two international summits in 2017, and it comes after the president's repeated calls for stronger ties with Russia and warm words for Putin.

But those calls have unnerved U.S. allies abroad and angered critics at home, who point out Putin's abysmal human rights record; aggression in the U.K., Ukraine, Georgia, Syria, and other countries; and interference in U.S. politics, including Trump's own election in 2016.

Trump himself floated a possible meeting last Friday when speaking to reporters, saying that it "may" happen and that, "It's much better if we get along with them than if we don't." Now, with Bolton traveling to Moscow, there are reports that the two sides are looking at a July meeting, possibly in a third-party country like Austria, which has a right-leaning populist leader that both Trump and Putin support.

The visit would come around Trump's attendance at an annual major NATO summit, after he attended last year's meeting and blasted the Western military alliance's European members for not spending enough on defense. While supporters say the tough words are needed to galvanize Europe to care about defense, critics see it as undermining trust in the alliance, essential to its success.

It also comes as he continues to call for Russia to be readmitted to the G7 nations. Russia was expelled from the G8 in 2014 for its illegal seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine. But Trump blamed former President Barack Obama for the crisis in Crimea and said it was Obama's personal animus that led to Russia's suspension: "I think President Obama didn't like him," Trump told reporters last Friday.

Now, key allies like Germany, France, and the U.K. – which suffered a Russian chemical weapons attack on its soil earlier in March – are growing alarmed that Trump is disrupting America's traditional alliances in favor of strongmen like Putin and Kim Jong Un, whom Trump has repeatedly praised as "very talented" and capable of "turn[ing] that country into a great, successful country."

Trump vs. his administration on Russia

Even while Trump's rhetoric has caused concern, he and his supporters argue he is tougher on Russia, taking into account what his administration has done.

That's mostly true, with a series of steps that have pushed back on Russia, including some the Obama administration wouldn't take.

In December, Trump's administration decided to arm Ukraine with lethal weapons, and his State Department has consistently criticized Russia for leading, arming, and supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. While the Obama administration increased aid to Ukraine, and rallied European partners to slap Russia with international sanctions, it never crossed the line into providing lethal support.

The Trump administration has kept those sanctions in place, and senior officials have said they will remain so until Russia withdraws from eastern Ukraine, abides by the peace deals it pledged to support – known as the Minsk agreements – and returns Crimea to Ukraine.

After Russia retaliated for U.S. sanctions by forcing the U.S. to shrink its diplomatic missions in Russia, Trump responded by "thanking" Putin "because we're trying to cut down on payroll," again stoking outrage. But his administration then expelled a number of Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian facilities in New York and Washington and the Russian consulate in San Francisco – reportedly a major spy hub for the country.

In March, a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned, allegedly by Russian agents, in Salisbury, U.K., and the administration again expelled Russian diplomats and closed the consulate in Seattle, as other U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere took similar measures.

But Trump was reportedly upset that the U.S. did the heavy lifting and expelled the most diplomats, and days after the expulsions, Trump called Putin to "congratulate" him on his reelection, despite aides urging him not to do so and the elections being largely seen as fraudulent.

On the world stage, Trump's record is also a mixed bag. He has ordered airstrikes against Russian ally Syrian President Bashar al Assad for chemical weapons use and expanded domestic energy production and the sale of U.S. liquefied natural gas to counter Russia's energy strong-arming of European neighbors. But he's also slapped tariffs on U.S. allies in Europe and Canada and accused them of cheating America, driving the kind of wedge that Russia has long been seeking.

What's at stake in a summit?

Putin and Trump's critics expect the same outcome of a Trump-Putin summit then – that Trump would reverse some of the tougher actions his administration has taken and further damage America's western alliances.

In particular, given Trump's effusive praise of Kim Jong Un after their summit, there's concern that Trump will seek a good personal relationship with Putin, at a price to U.S. national security.

"What I worry about in this particular meeting is the peculiar style of President Trump in meeting with autocratic leaders around the world... [that] he'll seek a good relationship, a friendly relationship and we'll see all kinds of praise for President Putin, like he did with the North Korean leader, without any results, and that to me does not serve American national interests," former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told France 24 television.

On Russian state television, there was speculation that he could recognize Crimea as part of Russia, something U.S. officials have vociferously denied.

But there are real issues in the U.S.-Russian relationship that need to be resolved, and some foreign policy hands favor meetings over continued confrontation, including McFaul. When Trump and Putin met in November in Vietnam on the sidelines of the ASEAN conference, they signed an agreement on a ceasefire zone created in southwest Syria, where U.S. and Russia continue to have tensions over the future of the country. The U.S. is also seeking Russian cooperation on continued sanctions implementation against North Korea and steps toward the country dismantling its nuclear weapons program.

Regardless of the meeting's outcome, the president's fiercest critics say that even by meeting with Putin at all, he's undermining the NATO alliance.

"Trump's plan to meet Putin immediately before or after the NATO summit is a slap in the face to the alliance, whose mission centers largely around deterring Russian aggression. And that's probably just as Trump intended," tweeted former National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Jun212018

New Zealand prime minister becomes second world leader in modern era to give birth

Phil Walter/Getty Images(AUCKLAND, New Zealand) -- The prime minister of New Zealand has given birth to a girl.

Jacinda Ardern, 37, wrote in a personal Instagram post that her daughter arrived at 4:45 p.m. local time on Thursday, weighing in at 7.3 pounds.

It's the first child for Ardern and her partner, Clarke Gayford.

"Thank you so much for your best wishes and your kindness," Ardern wrote in her post. "We're all doing really well, thanks to the wonderful team at Auckland City Hospital."

Ardern became the second elected world leader in modern times to give birth in office, joining the late Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who gave birth to a daughter in 1990, according to official reports.

Ardern is planning to take a six-week leave before returning to work. Winston Peters, New Zealand's deputy prime minister, has taken over in the meantime.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

On World Refugee Day 2018, a record 68.5 million forcibly displaced last year

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Record high numbers of men, women and children were driven from their homes across the world last year due to war, violence and persecution, according to a new report by the United Nations' refugee agency.

The UNHCR's annual "Global Trends" study found that a staggering 68.5 million people worldwide had been forcibly displaced by the end of 2017.

Nearly a quarter of them were uprooted just last year, either for the first time or repeatedly. That's an average of one person displaced every two seconds of the day, the study says.

"Now, more than ever, taking care of refugees must be a global –- and shared –- responsibility," Filippo Grandi, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement Wednesday. "It’s time to do things differently."

"On World Refugee Day, it’s time to recognize their humanity in action -– and challenge ourselves, and others, to join them –- in receiving and supporting refugees in our schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces," he continued. "This is where solidarity starts –- with all of us."

The report was published Tuesday ahead of World Refugee Day, amid global outrage over a "zero-tolerance" policy enacted by U.S. President Donald Trump that is forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents at the border with Mexico. Thousands of Central Americans are fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries -- including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- and are risking their lives to reach the United States.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has described the immigration policy as "government-sanctioned child abuse" and urged the U.S. government to end the controversial practice.

"In the past six weeks, nearly two thousand children have been forcibly separated from their parents," al-Hussein said in a statement Monday. "The thought that any State would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable."

According to the UNHCR report, the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the civil war in South Sudan and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar into Bangladesh were the leading causes of forcible displacement last year.

The global displacement figure for 2017 includes 25.4 million refugees who fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution, the study says. That's 2.9 million more refugees than the year before -- the steepest increase UNHCR has ever seen in a single year.

The report shows that Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide for the fourth consecutive year, with 3.5 million people. It was followed by Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran, Germany, Bangladesh and Sudan.

"International responsibility-sharing for displaced people has utterly collapsed. Rich countries are building walls against families fleeing war, at the same time as less money is available for aid to people in conflict areas," Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a statement Tuesday.

Halfway through the fiscal year, the Trump administration has admitted less than a quarter of the 45,000 refugees it set as a cap -- already the lowest ceiling in the 43-year history of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program -- with only 10,548 refugees allowed entry into the United States since October 1, 2017.

In a statement marking World Refugee Day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized that his government provides aid to crises that uproot people from their homes and that "new actors" must step up to the plate to address the rising number of displaced persons.

"As global displacement has reached record levels, it is vital that new actors – including governments, international financial institutions, and the private sector – come to the table to assist in the global response to address it," Pompeo said in his statement Wednesday. "The United States will continue to be a world leader in providing humanitarian assistance and working to forge political solutions to the underlying conflicts that drive displacement."

"The United States provides more humanitarian assistance than any other single country worldwide, including to refugees," he added.

The U.N. 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone who is forced to leave their home due to "a well-founded fear of persecution." The persecution must be "because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion," the treaty says.

Other types of forcibly displaced persons include asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, stateless persons and returnees.

"Refugees are ordinary human beings who have been forced to flee their homes under the most extraordinary circumstances," Ryan Mace, grassroots advocacy and refugee specialist at Amnesty International, said in a statement Wednesday. "They all deserve to have their human rights respected, protected, and fulfilled."

"Refugees bring so much to their communities, wherever they are," he continued. "They have innumerable skills, ideas, hopes, and dreams. Here in the U.S., we should be welcoming them into our communities with open arms and inviting them to our table, not building taller walls and implementing draconian policies meant to keep refugees and asylum seekers out."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

How European countries deal with the detention of migrant children

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In response to mounting criticism of the policy of separating migrant children from their families, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that he said is about "keeping families together" and "ensuring we have a powerful, very strong border."

"I think the word 'compassion' comes into it," Trump said. "My wife feels strongly about it. I feel strongly about it. Anybody with a heart would feel this way."

The practice of separating children from their parents and detaining them had sparked widespread criticism from other world leaders, including the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Theresa May.

"The pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing," Theresa May told lawmakers Wednesday. "This is wrong. This is not something that we agree with. This is not the United Kingdom's approach."

It is unclear how and where migrant children who are detained in the U.S. will be housed following the executive order. But America's policies toward migrant children remain much different than those of European Union member states. While some EU countries do detain child migrants, they are not separated from their parents, and EU law says that asylum-seeking families should be kept united as much as possible.

So how do European countries deal with asylum-seeking families and children? Here’s what you need to know.

How many migrant children are detained in the EU?

Children have represented up to a third of migrant arrivals in the EU since the summer of 2015, according to a 2017 report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. But there is no comparable and reliable data on how many migrant children are detained in the EU, the agency found.

The agency did analyze data provided by EU member states on the number of children detained on three specific days, however: Dec. 31, 2015, March 31, 2016, and Sept. 1, 2016.

On those days, no children were detained in Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Spain or the United Kingdom.

Bulgaria had the largest number of children in detention on any one day -- 458, all of whom were in detention with their families on Sept. 1, 2016. On the same day, Greece had 255 children in immigration detention; only seven of them were detained without their families. Those who were detained without their families had arrived alone without parents or guardians, and had not been separated from their families by authorities, the report said.

Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia were other countries that detained a large number of children on some of the days studied in the report.

Overall, while these numbers are not a complete picture of the number of children detained each day, they are significantly smaller than the approximately 2,000 migrant children who had been detained and separated from their families by U.S. authorities over the past six weeks.

Where are detained migrant children held and what are the conditions like?


Most EU countries that allow the detention of children have established specialized spaces for them -- either as part of existing detention centers or separate facilities, according to the report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

But many of these facilities still resemble prisons, the report found, and they are often surrounded by barbed wire.

Many officers in these facilities wear military fatigues and use handcuffs to transport detainees, the report found, and in most of the cases the agency examined, staff members had no specific training on child protection.

Human rights organizations have criticized some European countries for detaining children too long and in "degrading" conditions.

For example, in a 2016 report, Human Rights Watch found that Greece had been arbitrarily detaining children for prolonged periods of time, often in "poor and degrading conditions" at police stations, protective custody or in pre-removal detention centers and closed facilities on the Greek islands.

"In some cases, children said they were made to live and sleep in overcrowded, filthy, bug- and vermin-infested cells, sometimes without mattresses, and were deprived of appropriate sanitation, hygiene, and privacy," the report found.

How long do children stay in detention in the EU?

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights report found that the time children spent in detention varied from a few hours to several months. Most of the children detained were boys. On the days that the agency examined in its 2017 report, three countries -- Luxembourg, Poland, and Slovakia -- had detained infants with their families. Four countries -- Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Sweden -- held children for 15 days or less on the days examined.

On the dates the agency studied, two unaccompanied children had been detained for more than four months: a 15-year-old boy in Latvia had been detained for 195 days and a 16-year-old boy in Poland had been detained for 151 days.

Questions about a child's age, irregular border crossings and waiting for a guardian to be appointed were among the reasons EU countries gave for detaining children for longer periods of time.

What does the UN and the EU say about separating families?

Under international law and binding European directives, detention of unaccompanied children -- children who arrive in a country without their parents or adult guardians -- can only be used as a last resort. Such detention is reserved for exceptional circumstances, and the law mandates that the child's best interest must to be kept in mind.

Article 9 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child requires countries to make sure that children are not separated from their parents against their will unless competent authorities "subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child." This separation might be necessary in cases where parents are abusing or neglecting their children, the article says.

EU law also states that countries have to do what they can to ensure that families are not separated. Article 12 of the Reception Conditions Directive states that EU member states "shall take appropriate measures to maintain, as far as possible, family unity" if asylum seekers are provided with housing by the host countries.

Article 11 of the same document states that "minors shall be detained only as a measure of last resort" and after it has been established that there are no better alternatives. The policy also says that the detention of children has to be for the shortest period of time possible and in a place suitable for them. Additionally, detained families need to be held in separate facilities to ensure their privacy.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

World Cup fans drinking Moscow dry, straining bars' beer supplies

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Fans partying at the World Cup in Moscow are downing so much beer that they are nearly drinking parts of the city dry, with some bars saying they get close to running out each night.

For almost a week, tens of thousands of foreign and local fans have been turning the heart of Moscow into a street party each night, gathering in the area around the Kremlin in a huge tide of chanting, dancing and drinking, which doesn't recede until the very early hours of the morning.

“They drink half a tonne of beer each night!” said Evgeny Gorbanov, a bouncer at Let’s Rock Bar, whose establishment has been overflowing with fans every night since the month-long tournament began.

Half a dozen bars said they had almost ran out of beer in the first few days of the competition and had had to quickly increase orders to keep up with the demand.

“We hadn’t counted on it,” said Nikolai Vladik, manager at Ketch-Up, a burger bar. “On the first day, it got pretty tough. But we’ve prepared now,” he said.

Like many residents in Moscow, the bar staff said they had been caught off guard by the avalanche of fans and the scale of the partying. At Kamchatka, an all-night bar that sells beers in plastic cups, staff said they had sharply increased their beer orders. At the restaurant Dante, manager Nadia Desyatelik said fans were drinking 200 liters a night, compared to the 30 they normally sell.

Several shell-shocked, but happy-looking bar staffers and managers said fans need not worry - they would keep the beer taps flowing.

Asked what the fans drink when they run out of beer, Vladik - with a wry laugh - said. “Vodka.”

The World Cup street parties - flooded each night with flag-wrapped fans - are unfolding in one of Moscow’s toniest neighborhoods, sitting between the famous Bolshoi Theater and Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office.

The epicenter of the revelry is Nikolskaya Street, a long, pedestrianized drag that leads directly onto Red Square and the Kremlin. Fans head there after each win.

Each night, a bobbing, deafening mass of people from a bewildering mix of countries mingle — Mexican fans in sombreros and wrestling masks, Egyptians dressed as pharaohs, Russian fans teaching Argentinians folk dances, to name a few.

On Tuesday night, after Russia beat Egypt 3-1 to effectively put them through to the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time in almost 30 years, a vast flood of euphoric Russians poured into the streets again.

Some of the fans themselves have said that they were also impressed by how much was being consumed, with some saying other host cities were being drained too.

“That’s crazy,” said Per Engstrom, a Swedish fan sitting with three friends drinking beer on a nearby terrace. “We were in Nizhny Novogorod and they also ran out of beer,” he said referring to a host city about 6 hours from Moscow.

“At 11 o’clock! Before lunch!”

“It’s not ok,” he added, laughing.

Some bar staff said they were nervous that beer suppliers might miss vital deliveries.

But Baltika, the Russian unit of Carlsberg told Reuters that while there was increased risk of supply disruption during the World Cup, their business was so far able to handle demand. Heineken also told Reuters sales were strong and the brewer did not yet see any challenges to its supply.

The party has surprised Muscovites all the more because few can remember anything like it in the city. Drinking on the street is illegal in Russia, carrying a fine of between $7 - $23.

A growing emphasis from the Kremlin on public discipline, combined with an official suspicion towards street gatherings, has made wild public displays unwise.

But those rules seem to have been suspended for the World Cup. Russian police have stood by and watched as fans have clambered up lamp posts and hung flags from buildings. On Nikolskaya Street, Argentinian fans have covered a monastery with team banners. Riot police, usually dour, have been addressing people with rare politeness at security points.

Russians are marveling at the new light-touch approach. Many are also delighted by the party atmosphere on the streets. The revelry has so far been good-natured - with few reports of trouble.

“Everyday is a weekend,” said Liza Yakushenko, a worker at a cocktail bar, Cuba Libre, which is open 24 hours a-day.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun202018

Kim Jong Un again calls for step-by-step denuclearization

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- In their third meeting in less than three months, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly hailed their close and growing ties, while Xi urged the United States and North Korea to build on the momentum from their Singapore summit.

“No matter how the international and regional situations change,” China and the Communist Party’s support of North Korea will remain “unchanged,” Xi told the North Korean leader, according to China’s state-run news agency Xinhua.

Kim, in turn, vowed to “lift the unbreakable" North Korea-China relations "to a new level."  

Xi commended Kim for making “positive efforts for realizing denuclearization and maintain peace on the peninsula,” adding that the situation there has been “put back on the right track of seeking settlement” and that “the situation on the peninsula was developing toward peace and stability.”

Kim arrived in Beijing Tuesday morning and returned to North Korea late Wednesday.

According to the official Chinese comments on the meetings, Xi was quoted as saying, "China speaks highly of the summit."

The most crucial remarks were possibly Kim’s commitment to “implement the consensus of the summit step by step solidly."

The phrase “step by step” was deliberate, showing that China supported Kim’s own proposed pace of denuclearization.

The Trump administration had sought for North Korea to be “completely denuclearized” before any sanctions would be lifted.

The resulting joint statement the United States and North Korea ultimately signed in Singapore last week included no timetable.

But “China will continue to play a constructive role to this end,” Xi said.

Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, welcomed Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, with a banquet and cultural performance Tuesday night at the Great Hall of the People just off Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Kim previously met with Xi during two secret meetings -- late March in Beijing, and early May in the coastal city of Dalian. Prior to the Singapore summit, Trump had complained that the North Koreans’ attitude changed after Kim and Xi met in Dalian.

Xi and Kim’s meeting continued during the morning Wednesday at the Diaoyutai guesthouse, where Kim was staying, concluding with a luncheon again with their wives.

Before returning to Pyongyang, Kim visited the Beijing rail traffic control center and a national agricultural technology innovation park under the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

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