Quake hits sea off Indonesia, but tsunami warning lifted

A woman uses a phone as she leaves an office building, following an earthquake hit in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 2, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Dwi Prasetya/ via REUTERS

By Ed Davies and Jessica Damiana

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake struck off the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java on Friday, triggering a two-hour tsunami warning that sent coastal-dwellers fleeing to higher ground and panicking people in the capital Jakarta.

The U.S Geological Survey put the epicenter in the Indian Ocean about 227 km (141 miles) from Teluk Betung city on Sumatra with an initial magnitude of 7 that was later lowered to 6.8.

There appeared to be no major damage or casualties, but strong tremors were felt in Jakarta, the capital, prompting people to run out of office buildings.

“It was so scary,” said Gustiani Pratiwi, carrying two children out of an apartment block in Jakarta after feeling the quake strongly.

Indonesia is situated on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, which is frequently hit by earthquakes and sometimes accompanying tsunamis.

The most devastating in recent Indonesian history was on Dec. 26 in 2004, when a magnitude 9.5 quake triggered a massive tsunami that killed around 226,000 people along the shorelines of the Indian Ocean, including more than 126,000 in Indonesia.

Indonesia’s geophysics agency issued a warning of potential tsunami waves up to three meters (10 feet) but that was withdrawn once the risk was discounted.

TV footage showed passengers at Jakarta’s international airport rushing out of a terminal building, but authorities later said the airport was operating normally.

The quake could also be felt in other cities such as Yogyakarta on Java island.

One social media video showed panicked guests dashing out past a hotel swimming pool on Java island.

Last year, a tsunami hit the city of Palu in Sulawesi island, killing thousands, while a crater collapse at the Anak Krakatau volcano triggered a tsunami that killed at least 430 people in an area near the latest quake.

(Reporting by Ed Davies and Jessica Damiana; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Cawthorne)

China to impose tariffs on U.S. goods despite Trump warning

U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/File Photo - RC1E974F0B70

By Makini Brice and Ben Blanchard

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Monday it would impose higher tariffs on a range of U.S. goods, striking back in its trade war with Washington shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump warned it not to retaliate.

China’s finance ministry said it plans to set import tariffs ranging from 5 percent to 25 percent on 5,140 U.S. products on a target list worth about $60 billion. It said the tariffs will take effect on June 1.

The announcement came less than two hours after Trump warned Beijing not to retaliate after China said it “will never surrender to external pressure.”

The White House and U.S. Trade Representative’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Global equities fell sharply on Monday as hopes of an imminent trade deal between the world’s two largest economies were crushed. Major U.S. stock index futures were down about 2 percent. [MKTS/GLOB]

The trade war escalated on Friday after Trump hiked tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, saying China had reneged on earlier commitments made during months of trade negotiations.

Beijing had vowed to respond to the latest U.S. tariffs. “As for the details, please continue to pay attention. Copying a U.S. expression – wait and see,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing on Monday.

Trump warned China not to intensify the trade dispute and urged its leaders, including President Xi Jinping, to continue to work to reach a deal. “China should not retaliate-will only get worse,” he said on Twitter.

“I say openly to President Xi & all of my many friends in China that China will be hurt very badly if you don’t make a deal because companies will be forced to leave China for other countries,” Trump wrote.

STEADY DRUM BEAT

Trump last week also ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to begin imposing tariffs on all remaining imports from China, a move that would affect an additional $300 billion worth of goods.

Asked about the threat, Geng said: “We have said many times that adding tariffs won’t resolve any problem … We have the confidence and the ability to protect our lawful and legitimate rights.”

Chinese state media kept up a steady drumbeat of strongly worded commentary on Monday, reiterating that China’s door to talks was always open, but vowing to defend the country’s interests and dignity.

In a commentary, state television said the effect on the Chinese economy from the U.S. tariffs was “totally controllable.”

“It’s no big deal. China is bound to turn crisis to opportunity and use this to test its abilities, to make the country even stronger.”

Before high-level talks last week in Washington, China tried to delete commitments from a draft agreement that Chinese laws would be changed to enact new policies on issues from intellectual property protection to forced technology transfers. That dealt a major setback to negotiations.

Trump has since defended the U.S. tariff hike and said he was in “absolutely no rush” to finalize a deal.

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Sunday there was a “strong possibility” Trump will meet China’s Xi at a G20 summit in Japan in late June.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Makini Brice in Washington; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Darren Schuettler, Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Simao)

White House warns Russia, others against sending troops to Venezuela

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Friday warned Russia and other countries backing President Nicolas Maduro against sending troops and military equipment to Venezuela, saying the United States would view such actions as a “direct threat” to the region’s security.

The warning comes after two Russian air force planes landed outside of Caracas on Saturday, believed to be carrying nearly 100 Russian special forces and cybersecurity personnel.

U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this week said “Russia has to get out” of Venezuela. His national security adviser John Bolton issued a second warning on Friday in a strongly worded formal statement.

“We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere, with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations,” Bolton said.

“We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region. We will continue to defend and protect the interests of the United States, and those of our partners in the Western Hemisphere,” he said.

The United States and most other Western countries support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who invoked the constitution in January to declare himself interim president, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Russia and China support Maduro, who has said Guaido is a puppet of Washington.

Russia has said it sent “specialists” to Venezuela under a military cooperation deal but insisted they posed no threat to regional stability, brushing aside Trump’s threat.

Trump said on Wednesday that “all options” were open to force Russia to pull its troops out of Venezuela.

Bolton condemned Maduro for using foreign military support to stay in power, saying it would “perpetuate the economic crisis that has destroyed Venezuela’s economy; and endanger regional stability.”

Maduro retains control of state functions and the country’s military. On Friday, Bolton also sent a Tweet urging Venezuela’s Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino, to stop supporting Maduro.

Years of economic mismanagement have left the economy of OPEC member Venezuela in shambles, causing hyperinflation. Severe shortages of food and medicine are common, and power blackouts have exacerbated the crisis.

The United Nations estimates that about a quarter of Venezuelans need humanitarian aid, according to internal UN estimates seen by Reuters.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Tim Ahmann in Washington; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and James Dalgleish)

Facebook says posts with graphic violence rose in early 2018

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

By David Ingram

MENLO PARK, Calif. (Reuters) – The number of posts on Facebook showing graphic violence rose in the first three months of the year from a quarter earlier, possibly driven by the war in Syria, the social network said on Tuesday, in its first public release of such data.

Facebook said in a written report that of every 10,000 pieces of content viewed in the first quarter, an estimated 22 to 27 pieces contained graphic violence, up from an estimate of 16 to 19 late last year.

The company removed or put a warning screen for graphic violence in front of 3.4 million pieces of content in the first quarter, nearly triple the 1.2 million a quarter earlier, according to the report.

Facebook does not fully know why people are posting more graphic violence but believes continued fighting in Syria may have been one reason, said Alex Schultz, Facebook’s vice president of data analytics.

“Whenever a war starts, there’s a big spike in graphic violence,” Schultz told reporters at Facebook’s headquarters.

Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. It continued this year with fighting between rebels and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s army. This month, Israel attacked Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria.

Facebook, the world’s largest social media firm, has never previously released detailed data about the kinds of posts it takes down for violating its rules.

Facebook only recently developed the metrics as a way to measure its progress, and would probably change them over time, said Guy Rosen, its vice president of product management.

“These kinds of metrics can help our teams understand what’s actually happening to 2-plus billion people,” he said.

The company has a policy of removing content that glorifies the suffering of others. In general it leaves up graphic violence with a warning screen if it was posted for another purpose.

Facebook also prohibits hate speech and said it took action against 2.5 million pieces of content in the first quarter, up 56 percent a quarter earlier. It said the rise was due to improvements in detection.

The company said in the first quarter it took action on 837 million pieces of content for spam, 21 million pieces of content for adult nudity or sexual activity and 1.9 million for promoting terrorism. It said it disabled 583 million fake accounts.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Israel admits bombing suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, warns Iran

A combination image shows screen grabs taken from video material released on March 21, 2018 which the Israeli military describes as an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor on Sept 6, 2007. Top row: The site before the attack (L), yellow circles depicting bombs during the air strike on the site (R). Bottom row: An explosion during the air strike on the site (L), debris seen on the site after the attack (R). IDF/Handout via Reuters TV

By stephen farrell

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel for the first time admitted that it bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 and said on Wednesday the strike should be a warning to Iran that it would not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

The Israeli military released previously classified cockpit footage, photographs and intelligence documents about its Sept. 6, 2007, air strike on the Al-Kubar facility near Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria.

It said the reactor was being built with help from North Korea and the facility had been months away from activation. Reuters has been unable to immediately verify the Israeli material.

Israel’s decision to go public comes after repeated calls in recent months by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the United States and international community to take tougher action on Iran, Syria’s ally.

Israel’s intelligence minister, Israel Katz, said on Twitter: “The (2007) operation and its success made clear that Israel will never allow nuclear weaponry to be in the hands of those who threaten its existence – Syria then, and Iran today.”

The Israeli military described in detail events leading up to the night of Sept 5-6, 2007, in which, it said, eight warplanes, F-16s and F-15s, carried out the mission after taking off from the Ramon and Hatzerim air bases and flying to Deir al-Zor region, 450 km northwest of Damascus. Eighteen tonnes of munitions were dropped on the site, it said.

An undated material released by the Israeli military relates to an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor on Sept 6, 2007. March 21, 2018. IDF/Handout via Reuters IDF/Handout via Reuters

An undated material released by the Israeli military relates to an Israeli air strike on a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor site near Deir al-Zor on Sept 6, 2007. March 21, 2018. IDF/Handout via Reuters IDF/Handout via Reuters

In his 2010 memoir “Decision Points,” former U.S. President George W. Bush disclosed that he discussed intelligence about the Syrian facility with then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before it was destroyed but did not give him the green light for the raid.

James Jeffrey, Bush’s deputy national security adviser, said on Wednesday the former U.S. president had been “absolutely supportive” of Israel.

“(He) made it clear that we were very happy that events had eliminated this threat and that if there were any threats to Israel that would emerge from this situation, the United States would stand with Israel, period,” Jeffrey told Israel’s Army Radio.

In 2008 the United States presented what it described as intelligence showing that North Korea had helped Syria with “covert nuclear activities.” At the time Syria dismissed the accusations as part of a campaign to discredit the Damascus government.

“The Syrian government regrets the campaign of lies and falsification by the U.S. administration against Syria, including allegations of nuclear activity,” said a government statement issued on the Syrian state news agency.

Iran, which says its nuclear program has only peaceful aims, signed a 2015 deal under which it accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. U.S. President Donald Trump and Netanyahu have both been critical of the deal.

FILE PHOTO- This undated combination image released by the U.S. Government shows the North Korean reactor in Yongbyon and the nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. U.S. Government/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

FILE PHOTO- This undated combination image released by the U.S. Government shows the North Korean reactor in Yongbyon and the nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. U.S. Government/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

“TOP SECRET”

The Israeli military declassified internal “top secret” intelligence reports, in Hebrew, some of them partly redacted.

One, dated March 30, 2007, said: “Syria has set up, within its territory, a nuclear reactor for the production of plutonium, through North Korea, which according to an (initial) worst-case assessment is liable to be activated in approximately another year. To our assessment [REDACTED] secretive and orderly [REDACTED] for achieving a nuclear weapon.”

Israeli intelligence predicted that the suspected reactor “would turn operational by the end of 2007”.

The mission to destroy the facility started at 10.30 p.m. on Sept. 5 and ended with the return of the warplanes at 2.30 a.m. the next day, the Israeli military said.

The event was first made public by Syria, which, as reported by Reuters at the time, said in the early hours of Sept. 6 that Syrian air defenses had repelled an incursion by Israeli warplanes.

Syria, a signatory of the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has always denied that the site was a reactor or that Damascus engaged in nuclear cooperation with North Korea.

The Israeli military’s announcement on Wednesday noted that the area in question, around Deir al-Zor, was captured by Islamic State after the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011.

Had there been an active reactor there, the Israeli military said, it would have had “severe strategic implications on the entire Middle East as well as Israel and Syria”.

The Israeli release contains a black-and-white aerial photograph captioned “before the attack” and showing a box-like structure amid desert dunes with smaller outlying buildings.

A series of black-and-white videos, taken above the target, shows the structure in cross-hairs. A male voice is heard counting down three seconds, a cloud of black smoke rises from the structure as it explodes. Other footage appears to show the aftermath – a smoldering hole in the ground.

Wednesday’s release came ahead of the publication of a memoir by Olmert containing passages about the 2007 strike.

(Writing by Dan Williams and Stephen Farrell; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

U.S. warns North Korea against new missile test, plays down talks

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., January 2, 2018

By Rodrigo Campos and Christine Kim

UNITED NATIONS/SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, warned North Korea on Tuesday against staging another missile test and said Washington would not take any talks between North and South Korea seriously if they did not do something to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.

Haley told reporters the United States was hearing reports that North Korea might be preparing to fire another missile.

“I hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, we must bring even tougher measures to bear against the North Korean regime,” Haley said.

South Korea on Tuesday offered talks with North Korea next week, amid a tense standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s Day speech that he was “open to dialogue” with Seoul.

Kim also said he was open to the possibility of North Korean athletes taking part in Winter Olympics South Korea hosts next month.

At the same time, he stressed that his country would push ahead with “mass producing” nuclear warheads in defiance of U.N. sanctions and that he had a nuclear button on his desk capable of launching missiles at the United States.

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to Kim in a Twitter post on Tuesday: “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

Haley said the United States would not take talks seriously if they did not take steps toward banning North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

“North Korea can talk to anyone they want, but the U.S. is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have,” she said.

Haley gave no details of the missile test preparations.

Another U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there were indications that could point toward a potential missile launch “sooner rather than later,” but cautioned that such signs had been seen in the past and no test had resulted.

‘DRIVE A WEDGE’

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said North Korea might be “trying to drive a wedge of some sort” between the United States and South Korea and added that while it was up to Seoul to decide who it talked to: “We are very skeptical of Kim Jong Un’s sincerity in sitting down and having talks.”

Trump, who has led a global drive to pressure North Korea through sanctions to give up development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States, earlier held back judgment on Pyongyang’s offer to talk, saying on Twitter:

“Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. “Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!”

Trump has frequently derided Kim as “rocket man.” The U.S. president said sanctions and other pressures were starting to have a big impact on North Korea.

Kim and Trump have exchanged fiery barbs in the last year and the U.S. president has warned that the United States would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.

North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the United States, South Korea and Japan and tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile in November, which it said was capable of delivering a warhead anywhere in the United States.

South Korea’s Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said the offer for high-level talks next Tuesday had been discussed with the United States. Nauert said she was not aware if the matter had been discussed in advance of the South Korean response.

Cho suggested the talks be held at the border village of Panmunjom and said they should be focused on North Korea’s participation at the Olympics, but other issues would likely arise, including the denuclearisation of North Korea.

“I repeat: The government is open to talking with North Korea, regardless of time, location and form,” Cho said.

Should the talks be held, it would be the first such dialogue since a vice-ministerial meeting in December 2015.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in welcomed Kim’s New Year address and asked his government to move as quickly as possible to bring North Korea to the Olympics, but he stressed that an improvement in inter-Korean relations “cannot go separately with resolving North Korea’s nuclear program”.

China, which has persistently urged a return to talks to ease tensions, said recent positive comments from North and South Korea were a good thing.

“China welcomes and supports North Korea and South Korea taking earnest efforts to treat this as an opportunity to improve mutual relations, promote the alleviation of the situation on the Korean peninsula and realize denuclearisation on the peninsula,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

(Reporting by Christine Kim, Jane Chung and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul, Michael Martina in Beijing, Doina Chiacu, David Brunnstrom, David Alexander and Arshad Mohammed in Washington, and Rodrigo Campos at the United Nations; Editing by Andrew Hay, Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker)

Amtrak train on new route derails in Washington state, killing several

An Amtrak passenger train derailment over interstate highway (I-5) is seen in this Washington State Patrol image moved on social media in DuPont, Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017.

(Reuters) – An Amtrak passenger train derailed on Monday during its inaugural run along a faster route through Washington state, sending part of the train crashing down onto a major highway and killing an unknown number of passengers, authorities said.

The derailment caused “multiple fatalities,” Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the local sheriff’s office, told reporters at the scene, though he did not offer a specific number. The train struck several cars on the highway, he added, causing injuries but no additional deaths.

Seventy-seven people were transported to hospitals in Pierce and Thurston counties, the Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan Health healthcare network said in a statement. Four of them were considered “level red” patients with the most severe injuries.

Approximately 78 passengers and five crew members were aboard the train, Amtrak said in a statement.

People escaped the derailed train by kicking out windows, passenger Chris Karnes told local news outlet KIRO 7.

“All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill,” Karnes said. “The next thing we know, we’re being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there’s water gushing out of the train. People were screaming.”

First responders are seen at the scene of an Amtrak passenger train derailment on interstate highway (I-5) in this Washington State Patrol image moved on social media in DuPont, Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017. Courtesy

First responders are seen at the scene of an Amtrak passenger train derailment on interstate highway (I-5) in this Washington State Patrol image moved on social media in DuPont, Washington, U.S., December 18, 2017. Courtesy Brooke Bova/Washington State Patrol/Handout via REUTERS

The derailment occurred on the first day Amtrak trains began using a new inland route between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia, part of a project to reduce travel time, according to an October news release from the state’s transportation department.

The rerouting takes trains along Interstate 5, eliminating a major choke point for passenger trains in Tacoma and allowing trains to reach speeds of 79 miles per hour (127 km per hour), the department has said.

Monday’s train, which had been scheduled to depart Seattle at 6 a.m. (1400 GMT) for Portland, Oregon, was the first to run along the new route, which uses tracks owned by a local commuter line.

It was not immediately clear whether the derailment, which came during a busy travel time one week before the Christmas holiday, was connected to the rerouting.

The train derailed around 7:30 a.m. (1530 GMT) in DuPont. A photograph posted by a Washington State Police spokeswoman showed an upside-down train car partially crushed on the highway, with a second car dangling off the overpass.

Authorities warned drivers to avoid the area, and southbound lanes remained closed.

The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team of investigators to the site, the federal agency said on Twitter.

“Thank you to the first responders on the scene,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote in a Twitter message. “We’re praying for everyone on board the train, and ask everyone to hold them in your thoughts.”

An Amtrak passenger train is seen derailed on a bridge over interstate highway I-5

An Amtrak passenger train is seen derailed on a bridge over interstate highway I-5. Courtesy WSDOT/via REUTERS

The mayor of one of the towns through which the rerouted trains travel warned earlier this month that the high-speed trains were dangerously close to cars and pedestrians.

“Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens,” Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson told transportation officials in early December, according to Seattle’s KOMO News.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Twitter to put warnings before swastikas, other hate images

People holding mobile phones are silhouetted against a backdrop projected with the Twitter logo in this illustration picture taken in Warsaw September 27, 2013.

By David Ingram

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Twitter Inc said on Monday it would begin putting a warning in front of pictures that show Nazi swastikas and other items it determines are hateful imagery, as well as ban their use in any profile photos on the social media network.

The step is one of several that Twitter said it would take to crack down on white nationalists and other violent or hateful groups, which have become unwelcome on a service that once took an absolutist view of free speech.

Twitter said in a statement it would shut down accounts affiliated with non-government organizations that promote violence against civilians, and ban user names that constitute a violent threat or racial slur.

It said it would also remove tweets that it determined celebrate violence or glorify people who commit violence.

Twitter, a San Francisco company founded in 2006, had called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” and tried to stay out of battles among users. But that has changed as persistent harassers have driven some women and minorities off Twitter, limiting their ability to express themselves.

A rise in white nationalism in the United States has also changed tech industry standards. In August, social media networks began removing white nationalists after hundreds gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, and one of them was charged with murdering a 32-year-old woman by running her down in a car.

In October, Twitter vowed to toughen rules on online sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of misconduct.

Tweets can still include hate imagery, but users will have to click through a warning to see them, the company said. Hate images will be banned from profile photos, and further restricted where national laws require, as in Germany.

The Nazi swastika was the only specific example of a hateful image that Twitter gave, but the company said it would try to give warnings for all symbols historically associated with hate groups or which depict people as less than human.

Twitter said it had decided not to categorize the U.S. Confederate flag as hateful imagery, citing its place in history.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Richard Chang)

China warns of imminent attacks by “terrorists” in Pakistan

China warns of imminent attacks by "terrorists" in Pakistan

BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Friday warned its nationals in Pakistan of plans for a series of imminent “terrorist attacks” on Chinese targets there, an unusual alert as it pours funds into infrastructure projects into a country plagued by militancy.

Thousands of Chinese workers have gone to Pakistan following Beijing’s pledge to spend $57 billion there on projects in President Xi Jinping’s signature “Belt and Road” development plan, which aims to link China with the Middle East and Europe.

Protecting employees of Chinese companies, as well as individual entrepreneurs who have followed the investment wave along what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, has been a concern for Chinese officials.

“It is understood that terrorists plan in the near term to launch a series of attacks against Chinese organizations and personnel in Pakistan,” the Chinese embassy in Pakistan said in a statement on its website.

The embassy warned all “Chinese-invested organizations and Chinese citizens to increase security awareness, strengthen internal precautions, reduce trips outside as much as possible, and avoid crowded public spaces”.

It also asked Chinese nationals to cooperate with Pakistan’s police and the military, and to alert the embassy in the event of an emergency.

It did not give any further details.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry could not be reached immediately for comment.

China has long worried about disaffected members of its Uighur Muslim minority in its far western region of Xinjiang linking up with militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At the same time, violence in Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province has fueled concern about security for planned transport and energy links from western China to Pakistan’s deepwater port of Gwadar.

The Taliban, sectarian groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State all operate in Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan and is at the center of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

In addition, separatists there have long battled the government for a greater share of gas and mineral resources, and have a long record of attacking energy and other infrastructure projects.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for killing two kidnapped Chinese teachers in Baluchistan in June, prompting the government in Islamabad to pledge to beef up security for Chinese nationals.

It had already promised a 15,000-strong army division to safeguard projects along the economic corridor.

China’s security concerns abroad have grown along with its global commercial footprint.

In 2016, a suspected suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, killing the attacker and wounding at least three people.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)

After massive quakes, millions in Mexico turn to early warning app

After massive quakes, millions in Mexico turn to early warning app

By Sheky Espejo

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Since two massive earthquakes hit Mexico in September, claiming more than 460 lives, an early warning start-up called SkyAlert has doubled its users to 5.8 million, making it one of the country’s most downloaded apps.

SkyAlert has also found a market selling alarms to small businesses in the capital, said its co-founder and director Alvaro Velasco. And it is looking to expand to Latin America, mainly Colombia, Peru and Chile, which lack an official alerting system despite frequent quakes in those countries.

Velasco said that he and SkyAlert co-founder Alejandro Cantú are talking to investors from Mexico and elsewhere about raising 100 million pesos ($5.35 million) in capitalization in 2018.

He said the surge in users after the most recent deadly quake in Mexico City had heightened the interest of existing investors including U.S.-based American Messaging and attracted interest from two Mexico-based private equity funds.

American Messaging did not respond to requests to comment on any potential new investment.

Velasco said SkyAlert was in talks with those funds and existing investors to inject around 20 million pesos (1.05 million dollars) into SkyAlert.

Still, finding a sustainable business model for the quake monitoring app has been a challenge partly because recent regulation in Mexico City has limited SkyAlert’s ability to access funds through public financing.

MAKING A PROFIT NOT EASY

Shomit Ghose at Onset Ventures, a U.S. private equity company with experience in software start-ups, said quake apps have struggled to get adequate financing because of the lack of a clear path to profits.

“If the business model is B2B where the earthquake early-warning is sent to companies, or railways, or hospitals, or high-buildings then perhaps a strong B2B case can be made for start-up investment,” Ghose said.

SkyAlert’s predicament echoes that of companies seeking funding to develop earthquake alert apps in the United States. Seismic activity is hard to monetize without government support.

It competes with its former partner, Mexico’s official alerting system run by government-funded non profit CIRES, which was created after an earthquake in 1985 killed thousands in the country.

One of the world’s few widely deployed seismic alarms, CIRES runs a network of sirens positioned around Mexico City that warn of a coming quake. SkyAlert mainly warns people through a mobile app.

Both sell quake warning systems, but a 2016 regulatory reform requires public buildings in Mexico City to purchase alarm systems from CIRES, limiting SkyAlert’s public financing.

SkyAlert initially replicated CIRES’ alerts, but in 2015 it decided to deploy its own detection sensors to increase coverage with greater accuracy, Velasco said.

“After a few false alerts from CIRES that affected SkyAlert’s credibility, we decided to invest in our own technology,” he said.

SkyAlert also is exploring ways to monetize its free app.

Currently, it sells a “premium” version for $4 a year that allows users to personalize alerts. However, Mexico has an average per capita income of $8,200, and the company said only around 4 percent of users pay for it.

Velasco said SkyAlert’s revenue is split fairly evenly between those fees and income from selling to businesses.

The newest version of the app allows for paid advertising, but ads would not be visible during a seismic alert.

SkyAlert, founded in 2011, has few peers, but one similar service in Japan is called YureKuru Call, which relies on government seismic data. YureKuru has received some government funding on an ad-hoc basis, but like SkyAlert is mostly funded by fees, said Rina Suzuki, an official at RC Solution Co., the Tokyo-based firm that developed YureKuru.

Detection technologies are evolving and they are all perfectible, Jennifer Strauss, external relations officer at the Berkeley Seismology Lab told Reuters.

“In the end, what matters is how effective they are at alerting people to save lives,” said Strauss.

(Additional reporting by Christine Murray in Mexico City and Minami Funakoshi in Tokyo; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Diane Craft)