US tech giant Microsoft said Sunday its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, as a deadline looms for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations.

TikTok has been at the center of a diplomatic storm between Washington and Beijing, and President Donald Trump gave Americans a deadline to stop doing business with TikTok's Chinese parent company ByteDance -- effectively compelling a sale of the app to a US company.

Trump claims that TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.

"ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok's US operations to Microsoft," the US tech giant said in a statement referring to TikTok's owner.

"We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok's users, while protecting national security interests," the statement added.

Following Trump's executive order, Microsoft and Oracle were possible suitors to take over TikTok operations.

Microsoft said that it would have "made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation."

TikTok has filed a lawsuit challenging the crackdown by the US government, contending that Trump's order was a misuse of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act because the platform is not "an unusual and extraordinary threat."

Downloaded 175 million times in the US, TikTok is used by as many as a billion people worldwide to make quirky, short-form videos on their cellphones. It has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe and Britain’s car industries called on Monday on the two sides to urgently clinch a free trade agreement, warning that a disorderly Brexit would cost the sector 110 billion euros ($130 billion) in lost trade over the next five years.

Less than four months before a post-Brexit transition period ends in December, Britain and the European Union’s talks on a trade deal for 2021 onwards have been plunged into crisis, after Britain tabled a plan to break the divorce treaty both sides signed in January.

Failure to secure a deal would lead to tariffs. That would make vehicles more expensive and cause a drop in demand that could eliminate production of 3 million vehicles over the next five years, 23 auto industry associations said in a joint statement on Monday.

That could cost EU plants 57.7 billion euros and UK factories 52.8 billion euros, they said.

“These figures paint a bleak picture of the devastation that would follow a ‘no deal’ Brexit,” Mike Hawes, chief executive of Britain’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said.

Associations that signed the statement included SMMT, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers and Germany’s Association of the Automotive Industry.

A hard Brexit would see World Trade Organisation tariffs applied to trade across the English Channel, adding to pressure on Europe’s car industry which is already reeling from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tariffs, of 10% for cars and up to 22% for trucks and vans, would “almost certainly” need to be passed onto consumers, the associations said.

These losses would come on top of an estimated 100 billion euros in lost UK and EU production value so far this year, as car sales plunged during the pandemic.

New passenger car registrations in the EU dropped by 38% in the first half of 2020, compared with the same period last year, while sales in Britain saw a 49% drop.


The Christian Council of Sweden on Sunday condemned the burning of the holy Quran in Sweden in recent weeks.

Ten prominent Christian reverends of the Scandinavian country, including the Archbishop of the Swedish Protestant Church Antje Jackele, released a statement against the anti-Muslim acts.

The archbishop, together with other church leaders, strongly dissociated herself from "conscious violations of people's faith."

The group said that the the actions by a Danish far-right racist group, were "barbaric."

Such attacks increase polarization between people "at a time when our country needs to gather around everyone's dignity and rights," it added.

The anti-immigration Hard Line (Stram Kurs) party on Thursday burned a copy of the Muslim holy book in Rinkeby, a pre-dominantly Muslim neighborhood of Stockholm.

It came days after a similar act in the southern Sweden city of Malmo.

The ensuing violence left several police officers injured, and at least 10 people were arrested.

Police also banned group leader Rasmus Paludan from entering Sweden for two years.

Even the International Union for Muslim Scholars, a Doha-based group, has condemned the violent acts.

Turkey and Pakistan also slammed the right-wing extremists in Sweden for their Islamophobic actions./aa


The Yellow Vests were out in force again Saturday with demands for a more equitable way of life in the Republic far from over, after being shelved for most of the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately 1,000 protesters participated in demonstrations in Paris as well as Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Lille.

Jerome Rodrigues, famously known as the unofficial head of the movement, lead the much smaller thab expected crowd in the capital on the Place Wagram and Boulevard Pereire in the north of the city.

Rodrigues spoke out on behalf of those assembled -- nightclub owners still unable to open businesses and citizens not part of the ruling class.

"We've been shelved, smashed, but the anger is there," he said in a statement to Radio France International. "The people who held France together during the two-month lockdown -- the health workers, cashiers, rubbish collectors -- those are the Yellow Vests."

The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, is a two-year-old grassroots protest movement that was launched in response to France's soaring fuel taxes and prices and a very apparent deepening divide between the classes.

Despite France's cosmopolitan aura, many towns and villages remain provincial, even rural, with transportation systems hard to reach, forcing citizens into long and costly commutes.

The name of the movement was adopted for the yellow vests drivers are required to keep in their vehicles in case of an accident. Protesters are easily recognizable for wearing the vests during demonstrations.

By 2.15 p.m. (0015GMT) police had arrested 193 demonstrators, some carrying lethal weapons, like axes and knives. Tear gas was used to break up crowds on Place Wagram and Boulevard Pereire, as some protesters threw projectiles at police and set fire to trash cans and one vehicle.

Protesters carried signs that read, "Macron resign!" and "Macron the dictator, off to prison!"

Paris Chief of Police Didier Lallement had forbidden protests from taking place on the Champs Elysees, Paris's prized thoroughfare and one that has already suffered from a lack of tourism in recent months. Merchants boarded up storefronts in anticipation.

"There's a need for calm on this avenue which is a showcase for our country. So I banned the demonstrations," said Lallement.

Since the start, the Yellow Vests have been relentless, taking to the street every Saturday since November 2018.

The demonstrations reached an early apex Dec. 1, 2018 when thousands gathered to protest around the Arc de Triomphe, often their locale of choice.

Three protesters broke into the monument and scaled to the top to wave the tricolor to the cheers of fellow demonstrators.

ROME (AP) — Hundreds of people in Italy joined a funeral procession Saturday for a young Black man whose brutal beating death has shaken the country and drawn condemnation from the highest levels of the government.

Premier Giuseppe Conte and Italy’s interior minister attended the funeral of 21-year-old Willy Monteiro Duarte, who was killed during a fight in Colleferro, a city on the outskirts of Rome, early Sept. 6.

Four Italians have been arrested, including two brothers with police records and a martial arts background, but to date prosecutors haven’t indicated if the slaying was racially motivated.

Italian news reports have quoted witnesses as saying Monteiro Duarte, who was born in Rome to parents from the African island nation of Cape Verde, intervened while seeing a friend get beaten up in the fight and was then fatally beaten himself.


The slaying has struck a chord in a country that in recent months has shown a remarkable sense of common purpose in its bid to curb Italy's coronavirus outbreak. Carlo Verdelli, writing in Saturday’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, said the beating was evidence of another Italy, an uglier one where indifference, hatred and anger are on the rise.

“Today's funeral for Willy is the funeral of a nation that doesn't know how to educate or protect its sons," Verdelli wrote.

While noting that a racial element hasn't been established, Verdelli said the slaying was evidence of a “hatred for those who are different, who come from the outside, who are fat, weak, female or handicapped, or who try to oppose the law of the survival of the fittest."

The funeral procession featured hundreds of people, most wearing white shirts and face masks, walking toward the sports stadium where Monteiro Duarte was being honored and then clapping in respect as his casket was carried out. It was a strong show of solidarity for the young man, an apprentice cook who has been described as hard-working and upstanding by those who knew him.

Photos of his smiling face have been plastered on Italian newspapers for days, alongside images of the suspects, including ones showing the tattooed brothers shirtless in boxing poses.

The slaying appears to have affected Conte on a visceral level: He phoned the family afterward to express his condolences and has demanded justice. Conte has also said that the slaying was not an isolated event and must not be minimized.

“We must look ourselves in the eye and become fully aware that there are some pockets of society and fringes of the population that cultivate the mythology of violence and oppression,” Conte told the crowd after the funeral Saturday.

In a separate Facebook post, he asked what it means that someone could be killed in Italy for having tried to help a friend.

“Will we tell our children to look away? To not intervene to quell disputes or to try to protect weaker friends or friends in obvious difficulty?” Conte asked. “I don’t think this can be the answer or the way forward. Rather, we must multiply our efforts in every location and context, so that our children grow up with the culture of respect for everyone.”/aa

MILAN (AP) — Twenty-seven migrants who have grown increasingly distressed aboard a Danish tanker since being rescued at sea more than a month ago have been transferred to a humanitarian rescue ship, a nongovernmental organization said Friday.

Mediterranea Saving Humans immediately appealed to Malta to offer a safe port, after taking the migrants on board its ship Mare Jonio.

The migrants have been caught in a standoff since being rescued by the Danish-flagged chemical tanker from a flimsy fishing boat just before it sank in the central Mediterranean on Aug. 5. Neither Italy nor Malta has offered a safe port to disembark.

The 185-meter-long (610-foot) tanker, the Maersk Etienne, had sounded an alarm that food and fresh water were running low, amid a worsening situation with three migrants having jumped overboard and the threat of a hunger strike.


“Our medical team found them in serious psycho-physical conditions that make it impossible for them to stay on the petrol tanker," Mediterranea Saving Humans tweeted.

The Maltese government has said that that the rescue occurred in Tunisia’s search and rescue area.

Despite Malta’s insistence, Mediterranea Saving Humans said Friday that Malta was responsible for the search and rescue area where the migrants were picked up on Aug. 5. It has requested that Malta authorities “disembark these people in urgent need of treatment.” Most are from northern Africa, and they include a pregnant woman and a child.

While the fate of the migrants remained unclear, the shipping company Maersk Tankers said a statement that the Etienne would head to a “suitable port” to debrief the crew “and ensure they too get the care they need.”

“We are relieved and grateful. The rescued persons can now finally get the medical care they need and our crew can continue their voyage safely,” said Tommy Thomassen, chief technical officer of Maersk Tankers. “While we are appreciative of the support from Mediterranea in helping us to bring a closure to this unprecedented situation, we are at the same time deeply concerned that it has not been possible to find a solution to the situation before now.”

Parts of Louisiana hit hard by Hurricane Laura have been left fighting off hordes of mosquitoes so vast they are killing farm animals by biting them in huge numbers.

The animals are dying from the sheer number of bites, which leave them anemic and bleeding under the skin, as well as from the exhaustion caused by constantly moving to avoid the insects.

According to Dr Craig Fontenot, a vet in the city of Ville Platte, the “vicious little suckers”, pushed out of marshes by the huge storm, have already claimed some 300-400 cattle, as well as a few horses.

Goats have so far been spared as they are kept in stalls that can be sprayed with insecticide, but one deer rancher has lost at least 30 of his animals.


Large-scale insecticide spraying efforts are underway to fight the hordes of bloodsucking insects. In Acadia County, local Lousiana AgCenter agent Jeremy Hebert reported that "the spraying has dropped the populations tremendously. It's made a night-and-day difference", though other counties are still struggling to turn the tide.

Hurricanes often present a risk of surging mosquito populations, as eggs laid by floodwater mosquitoes in previous floods start to hatch. While adult mosquitoes generally do not survive a hurricane’s high winds, the egg-hatching phase that kicks in after a storm can drive a huge increase in the population.

While these explosions are not usually associated with disease outbreaks, some parts of Louisiana saw an uptick in cases of West Nile Virus after Hurricane Katrina in 2005./Associated Press

A New York student was arrested after repeatedly going to to school on days he was scheduled for online learning, officials say.

Maverick Stow, a student at William Floyd High School in Long Island, went to campus Thursday despite his suspension for going to campus on a day he was supposed to be attending remote classes, according to the William Floyd School District. Suffolk County police officers arrested the teenager as he entered the building.

Stow is protesting guidelines imposed by state officials for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic. The high school of 3,000 students is offering a hybrid of online and in-person classes to abide by social distancing requirements.

“Mr. Stow continues to display irresponsible and selfish behavior with today’s latest publicity stunt,” the school said in a statement. “He arrived wearing a neon green shirt — for high visibility — with a contingent of media just outside the fence line trying to capture him getting arrested as he entered the building.”

He was arrested on a charge of criminal trespassing.

“I feel strongly that kids should be able to go to school five days a week,” Stow told WPIX. “I hope that me facing the consequences for my actions are going to lead to potentially change in the schooling system and a 100% in-person learning solution.”

The 17-year-old’s parents support their son’s decision, WABC reported.

“Kids need to be in school every day. Virtual learning is not learning,” Nora Kaplan-Stow told the news outlet a day before her son’s arrest. “My son is being suspended because he wants to be in school.”

The school district says Stow’s actions are creating a “circus atmosphere.”

“We are still in the midst of a pandemic and will abide by the regulations set in place by our government and health officials designed to keep our students and staff safe,” the school district said. “As we have said, Mr. Stow’s rights as a student do not surpass the rights of any of our other 8,799 students; they should not have to come to school to witness this circus atmosphere each day.”

Miami Herald

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - A group of 27 migrants who had been stuck onboard the Maersk Etienne tanker for more than a month have been transferred safely to a ship operated by the NGO Mediterranea, Maersk Tankers said on Friday.

The tanker's crew rescued the migrants, including a pregnant woman, on Aug. 4 near Malta from a wooden dinghy that had been at sea for days and sank immediately after the rescue operation.

Neither the Maltese, Italian nor Libyan authorities had let them come ashore, according to Maersk Tankers, the operator of Maersk Etienne.

The migrants had been sleeping on mattresses and blankets, some on the deck protected from the sun by makeshift shades. Their physical and mental health had worsened in recent days, resulting in three of them jumping overboard on Sunday only to be rescued by the crew, Maersk said. 

Maersk Tankers had requested help from Mediterranea to conduct a health assessment of the migrants using the medical team onboard the Mare Jonio vessel.

"The transfer to the ship occurred following their assessment that the rescued persons' condition called for immediate care in suitable medical facilities," Maersk Tankers said in a statement.

Evidence shows that wildfires have become more widespread and severe over the years, with the ongoing West Coast blazes bearing testament to the worrying trend.

Firefighters and farmers have tricks of their own to prevent fires from sparking and to contain them enough for successful defeat. But there might be a secret weapon that hasn’t been getting the attention it deserves.


Researchers with the University of California Cooperative Extension set out to evaluate how much fine fuel — grasses and other plants known to start fires — cattle eat and how their feeding behavior affects flame activity.

The team concluded that without cattle grazing, there would be “hundreds to thousands” of additional pounds of fine fuels per acre of land, which could lead to “larger and more severe fires.”

The team’s study results have yet to be published, but they offered their preliminary findings in a blog post published Aug. 31.

“Reducing fire hazard is not as simple as grazing rangelands to bare soil or even to low levels of fuel,” the researchers wrote in their blog post. “Widespread and severe wildfires are predicted to increase over time in California. This ‘new reality’ requires that we take advantage of all the tools in our management toolbox to protect public safety while meeting our broader rangeland management objectives.”

Planned fires, also called “controlled burns,” are often used to reduce dry fuels that can lead to destructive blazes, according to the National Park Service. These “prescribed fires” are also used to help endangered species recover and clear land for animals.

Beef cattle can be found grazing in every California county, according to the researchers, except San Francisco. In 2017, they consumed 11.6 billion pounds of fuel and roamed about 19.4 million acres of primarily private rangeland.

The team’s data comes from county crop data, Agricultural Census data and their own that they’ve collected over the years. But still, there are acres of grazable land untouched by cattle or very lightly exploited by the hungry animals, meaning “there are opportunities to improve fire safety,” the researchers wrote.

There’s also room for more cows to join the feast. The team learned that 1.8 million beef cattle grazed California lands in 2017, yet the number of cows there today “are only about 57% of their peak numbers in the 1980s.”

Sometimes, farmers purposely leave dry leafy remains on grazing lands to protect other aspects of the environment, such as future forage production, protection from soil erosion, and defense against certain weeds, the researchers explained.

Generally, fine fuels should be kept at or below 1,200 to 1,300 pounds per acre during the spring and summer to ensure flames, if a fire starts, stay below four feet — the “critical threshold that allows firefighters to safely access an area from the ground without heavy equipment,” the team said.

Conditions can differ depending on temperature, wind and humidity levels, they added.

“These fuel removal estimates are based on the best available data, but this data does not describe the complex details and variation of cattle grazing across the state,” the researchers wrote. “There is a need for more consistent and accurate accounting of cattle numbers and grazed acres across the state to better understand grazing’s impact on fire fuels.”/

Miami Herald