China censors 'Fatty the Third' Internet search as North Koreans visit

March 27 (UPI) — News of a North Korean visit to Beijing has been followed by censorship on the Chinese Internet, according to multiple reports.

On Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, the word “fatty” has become unsearchable, when used in the context of the North Korean visit, South Korean news service News 1 reported.

Search terms like, “Fatty has arrived in Beijing,” or “He has arrived” did not turn up results on the social media platform.

The derogatory nickname “Fatty the Third” is commonly used in China to refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who represents the third phase of succession in the relatively isolated regime.

By late Tuesday the visiting North Korea delegation was not identified, but speculation swirled the visitor was Kim Jong Un, and not his sister Kim Yo Jong or Kim Yong Nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea.

The ban on the search terms contrasts with the situation Tuesday morning — simply typing in “Korea” would turn up photographs of the visit, according to News 1.

South Korean newspaper Kukmin Ilbo reported Tuesday “Fatty the Third” also could not be searched on Baidu, China’s largest Internet portal.

All articles referring to a possible “Kim Jong Un visit” were not searchable, the report stated.

The Chinese government has not released information on the mysterious visit that has been met with heightened security in central Beijing and near the North Korean Embassy.

“Because the Chinese authorities are reluctant to disclose their activities, they are controlling the state media and the Internet,” a Beijing-based source told the Kukmin on Tuesday.

The North Korean delegation arrived in an armored train late Monday then was accompanied by personnel traveling in 10 black sedans, three vans, three minibuses and an ambulance, according to South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo.

The last visit to China from members of North Korea’s top leadership, excluding ministry and Workers’ Party personnel, took place in August 2012, when Kim Jong Un’s uncle-in-law Jang Song Taek visited Beijing.

Jang was sentenced to death in 2013 for alleged treason and corruption.

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Uber exits most of Southeast Asia, sells to Grab

March 26 (UPI) — Uber said Monday that it sold its business in eight Southeast Asian countries to competitor Grab.

The deal allows Grab to acquire the mobile application-based U.S. ride-hailing company’s global services in the region of 620 million people, including its UberEats food delivery service. The deal gives Uber a 27.5 percent stake in Grab and reduces its market in Asia to India.

SoftBank Group Corp., the largest shareholder in both companies, pushed to reduce their competition, Bloomberg reported, with a ride-hailing market of $ 20.1 billion estimated by 2025.

Uber, Grab, China’s Didi Chuxing and India’s Ola provide an estimated 45 million daily rides. The San Francisco-based company has pulled out of other regions in recent years, including Russia in 2017 and China in 2016. However, it’s uncertain if it will exit India.

Uber has invested $ 1 billion in India, but has faced fierce competition from rival Ola, which operates in 110 cities compare to Uber’s 30 cities.

“It is not unthinkable that Uber would sell its Indian operations to Ola,” BMI Research Head of Automobiles Anna-Marie Baisden told CNN.

Still, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in New Dehli last month that India is “a very important market, not only in terms of our business today but where our business is going to be five or 10 years from now.”

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Son of Angola's former president charged in $500m fraud case

March 26 (UPI) — The son of Angola’s former president has been charged with fraud in relation to an alleged illegal transfer of $ 500 million from the country’s central bank.

Jose Filomeno dos Santos, son of former President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, is the highest profile figure to be charged as part of new President Joao Lourenco’s efforts to combat corruption in Angola.

He also was the head of Angola’s $ 5 billion sovereign wealth fund, but was removed from the position following an internal governance review.

Dos Santos allegedly attempted to transfer the $ 500 million to a British bank, but authorities froze the funds due to suspicion about the transaction.

British authorities said the money can be returned to Angola.

Dos Santos’ passport was seized and he was forbidden from leaving the country as a result of the charges.

Deputy Attorney General Luis Benza Zanga said the crime won’t be pardoned because fraud isn’t covered under the government’s amnesty provisions.

“A pardon will not work … this case will run to its final outcome,” Zanga said.

The former governor of Angola’s central bank, Valter Filipe da Silva, also was charged with fraud in connection to the case.

Lourenco also ousted other members of the former president’s family including removing his daughter Isabel Dos Santos from her position as head of the state oil company Sangol last year.

She is Africa’s richest woman and has been the subject of investigations regarding transactions she made as the head of the oil company.

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Evacuation, flood orders lifted after Southern California dodges dangers

March 23 (UPI) — Southern California escaped major mudslides and flash flooding from heavy rains, officials said Friday.

It was feared that slides could occur in vegetation-free areas that were weakened recently by wildfire, but only one mudslide was reported, near Toro Canton.

Evacuation orders in the areas of the Thomas Fire, in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and flood warnings were lifted Thursday. Several roads were closed and traffic on Highway 192 was reduced to a single lane.

Officials said a woman was killed when her car slid down an embankment in San Luis Obispo County and struck a tree — and ten people were rescued from the swollen Salinas River in Paso Robles. A person was also rescued after being trapped in a culvert in Tollhouse in Fresno County.

Numerous traffic accidents were reported across the region, including a bus crash that injured 13 people.

Santa Barbara’s airport received a record 1.8 inches of rain Thursday during brief, but intense, storms. The communities of Paso Robles, Oxnard, Camarillo and Palmdale also saw record rainfall.

“Thursday was always going to be the peak day for [rain in] Los Angeles County,” National Weather Service meteorologist David Sweet said.

Rain fell at the rate of a half-inch per hour in some areas, including the foothills of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Precipitation totals Thursday were higher in the foothill areas, with Rose Valley reporting more than 4 inches.

The 60-foot tall Moccasin Dam near Modesto began leaking and led officials to issue a mandatory evacuation in the area. Floodwaters spilled over the dam, but authorities later said they believed a breach was not imminent.

“For a few moments, it was very stressful because we felt they were going to lose that dam,” Tuolumne County Sheriff James Mele said. “Even though it’s a very small reservoir, the fact of the matter is it would have eroded a lot of the roadway.”

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NYC firefighter dies after 5-alarm fire at Harlem movie set

March 23 (UPI) — A 15-year veteran of New York City’s fire department died and several others were injured in a fire at a movie set late Thursday in Manhattan.

Authorities said firefighter Michael Davidson died from injuries he received while battling the Harlem blaze. Two other firefighters are being treated for serious burns.

The fire broke out around 11 p.m. Thursday in the basement of an unoccupied residential building used to film “Motherless Brooklyn,” a film starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe and Alec Baldwin. The building, designated as a New York City landmark, was constructed in 1920 and was not fire-resistant.

At one point, firefighters were told to evacuate the building but Davidson became separated from the rest of the unit, according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

Davidson, found critically injured and unconscious, was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was the 1,150th firefighter to die in the line of duty in the history of the FDNY.

“Our entire department, our entire city, mourns this horrific loss of a very brave firefighter,” Nigro said. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to the family and may God rest his soul.”

Eric Phillips, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio‘s press secretary, tweeted about the death: “You haven’t heard a scream until you’ve heard the scream of a mother who’s seen her son give his life to protect us”

The film’s producers issued a statement saying as production winding down for the day, the crew noticed smoke was coming into our set and into other parts of the building from below.

“Our deepest condolences to the family of Michael R. Davidson. … New York City firefighters truly are the bravest in the world. We watched firsthand with astonishment as they charged into the smoke to make sure all were safely out and then fought to contain the blaze and prevent it from spreading, putting their lives on the line as they do every day. The FDNY are real life super-heroes and have our boundless admiration and gratitude.”

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Hundreds of Syrian rebels evacuate besieged Eastern Ghouta

March 22 (UPI) — After weeks of conflict that included more than 1,200 deaths, hundreds of rebel fighters and their families on Thursday began leaving Eastern Ghouta in Syria.

The enclave on the outskirts of the capital Damascus was one of Syria’s last significant rebel-held areas. It is now controlled by the Syrian regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad, who had help in the battle from Russian air raids.

The Ahrar Al-Sham fighters agreed to leave the Eastern Ghouta town of Harasta under an evacuation deal that allows fighters to take their weapons and ensures their safety as they leave with their families. As many as 1,500 fighters and 6,000 of their family members are expected to evacuate.

The fighters’ surrender leaves only Douma and a few other pockets of rebel-held areas in Eastern Ghouta, including Jobar, Ein Terma, Arbin and Zamalka.

Buses transported families out of the enclave and on to the Idlib province in the northwest of the country close to the Turkish border.

Assad visited Eastern Ghouta in a rare public appearance on Saturday, after the Syrian military announced that 80 percent of the area was retaken from armed anti-government groups that have held the territory since 2013.

The siege of Eastern Ghouta by Syrian troops with Russian air support has killed at least 1,250 people. The United Nations said that at least 20,000 people have fled Eastern Ghouta since the bombings began several weeks ago.

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