1 US sees China as ‘destablising force’ (The Guardian) China is “destabilising” the South China Sea region by pursuing territorial disputes with other nations, US defence secretary Chuck Hagel has warned. Hagel said the US would “not look the other way” when nations such as China try to restrict navigation or ignore international rules and standards. “In recent months, China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea,” he said.
But China’s president Xi Jinping played down the threat posed by China’s running disputes in the area. “We will never stir up trouble, but will react in the necessary way to the provocations of countries involved,” Xinhua news agency quoted Xi as saying.
For the second year in a row, Hagel also used the podium at the Shangri-La conference to accuse China of cyberspying against the US. While this has been a persistent complaint by the US, his remark came less than two weeks after it charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American companies to steal trade secrets. The Chinese, in response, suspended participation in a US-China cyber working group, and released a report that said the US was conducting unscrupulous cyber espionage.
In a string of remarks aimed directly at China, Hagel said the US opposes any nation’s use of intimidation or threat of force to assert territorial claims. “All nations of the region, including China, have a choice: to unite, and recommit to a stable regional order, or, to walk away from that commitment and risk the peace and security that has benefited millions of people throughout the Asia-Pacific, and billions of people around the world,” he said.
2 Siemens revamp to hit 11,600 jobs (BBC) German industrial giant Siemens plans a major reorganisation of its business, affecting 11,600 workers. The restructuring directly affects 7,600 jobs worldwide, with another 4,000 potentially affected as part of changes to its regional organisation. However a company spokesman said: “Removing jobs in one area does not necessarily have to mean job cuts.”
The company is reorganising itself into nine divisions from its current 16. It intends to cut annual group costs by 1bn euros ($1.4bn) from 2016. The reorganisation follows a previous one that affected 15,000 posts. A Siemens spokesman said that the number of job losses from that revamp was 4,000. Siemens employs 360,000 staff worldwide, with about a third of these in Germany.
Earlier this month, Siemens said in its latest company report that it expected its markets “to remain challenging in fiscal 2014” with a recovery not expected until later in the year. Siemens is keen to buy part of France’s Alstom. To do that, it will have to come up with a more attractive bid than US firm General Electric (GE), which is pushing hard to do a deal with the French industrial firm. To sweeten its approach, GE recently promised to create 1,000 jobs in France.
3 Youth open to banking with Google, Apple, Amazon (Kathleen Pender in San Francisco Chronicle) Almost 40 percent of North American consumers 18 to 34 would consider switching to an online-only bank and 30 to 40 percent would bank with a technology company if it offered such services, according to survey by Accenture. Not surprisingly, young consumers were far more likely to embrace non-traditional banks than older ones.
The survey comes at a time when non-banks are making inroads into banking with products such as prepaid debit cards that consumers can use to make purchases and pay bills. Among the younger crowd, 40 percent said they would consider banking with Google, 37 percent with Amazon.com and 34 percent with Apple.
As for switching to a bank without branches, 39 percent of the youngest group said they would consider it, compared with 29 percent of the middle-aged group and 16 percent of the over-55 crowd.
4 Backlash in India over new rape outrages (Johannesburg Times) Outrage has grown in India over two shocking rape cases as the new government said it was planning to set up a special crisis cell to ensure justice for victims of sex attacks. On Thursday it emerged that two teenagers from a low caste had been found hanging from a tree after being gang-raped in their village. A day later police said the father of the chief suspect in another rape case had savagely attacked the mother of his son’s alleged victim.
Rights activists and politicians said that the cases highlighted that the authorities in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh were “not serious” about tackling sexual crimes. India revised its laws on sex attacks in the wake of the December 2012 gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi which triggered outrage, but they have done little to stem the tide of sex attacks.
Police in Uttar Pradesh said three people, including a police constable, had been arrested in connection with a sex attack on the two girls in the village of Budaun earlier this week. The two cousins, aged 14 and 15, were found hanging from a mango tree on Wednesday morning, with subsequent tests showing that they had been the victim of multiple sexual assaults.
Mukul Goel, a senior police officer, told AFP that it had still not been determined whether the victims had committed suicide or been strung up as a way of silencing them after they were raped. Maneka Gandhi, who was appointed child welfare minister by India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week, said that every officer who had been involved in the case should be dismissed. Gandhi said that she planned to set up a “rape crisis cell” to ensure swift justice for victims of sex crime.
The two incidents have been seized upon by opponents of the local government in Uttar Pradesh which is run by the socialist Samajwadi Party. The party’s leader Mulayam Singh Yadav — whose son is the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh — told an election rally lst month that he was opposed to the death penalty for gang rapists brought in after the December 2012 bus attack, saying “boys make mistakes”.
Amnesty International said the gang rape of the cousins showed that women from lower castes “face multiple levels of discrimination and violence” despite “the existence of constitutional safeguards and special laws”. There is a long history of women and girls from India’s lower castes — especially those who belong to the Dalit caste who were previously known as “untouchables” — of being sexually abused by people from higher castes.