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European markets joined Asia on a roller-coaster session Wednesday, as China's interest rate cut showed no sign of ending a crisis fuelled by fears over stalling growth in the world's number-two economy.

Frazzled investors sent Europe's top indexes falling by more than one percent in opening trade after a choppy session on Asian bourses, and analysts predicted more turbulence ahead.

China's central bank reduced interest rates and slashed the amount of money banks need to hold in reserve on Tuesday -- its second such double move in two months -- in a bid to stoke growth.

The measures are not only aimed at boosting boost cash flow in China, but also to revive confidence that Beijing can steer the economy away from a hard landing and keep global growth on course.

The cuts initially fuelled a rebound in Europe but optimism fizzled by the end of US trading, and on Wednesday Asian markets see-sawed in nervous trade.

 

 

"The struggle between gains and losses suggests that the market doesn't really know what to make of the policy move yet," Bernard Aw, a strategist at IG Asia, told Bloomberg News.

China's benchmark stock index fell 1.27 percent, or 37.68 points, to 2,927.29, after a day that saw it veer wildly from between losses and gains of around four percent.

Other Asian shares were mixed, with Tokyo surging 3.20 percent, Seoul closing up 2.57 percent and Sydney adding 0.69 percent, while Hong Kong followed Shanghai down to close 1.52 percent lower.

"The equity market roller-coaster continues," said TrustNet analyst Tony Cross as Frankfurt, Paris and London all lost ground after Tuesday's strong gains.

"It's Wall Street's slump... that appears to be setting the pace for the UK market and, as is often the way after these excessive moves, this volatility appears likely to be with us for some time yet."

 

- 'Full-blown crash' -

 

Chinese stocks have lost more than 40 percent of their value since a year-long, debt-fuelled rally collapsed in June, prompting Beijing to unleash unprecedented market support measures, including using state-backed vehicles to buy up shares.

While the slump in Shanghai may have a limited impact on the broader economy -- worth some 13 percent of world output -- it reflects investors' views that the sky-high valuations of quoted companies are not justified.

 

 

 

They allow you to climb the steepest streets of Madrid without sweating, even on sultry summer days: more than 50,000 residents of the Spanish capital have signed up for a public electric bike share system.

In the shadow of the San Ildefonso church in the heart of Madrid, Anne Stauder, a tourist from Luxembourg, is trying out a BiciMAD bike for the first time.

"We came from Luxembourg with our four bicycles inside our car -- my children, my husband and me -- and we have visited the city like that for 10 days. But I wanted to try the electric bike because Madrid is hilly," the 44-year-old said.

The white bicycles work just like a regular bike but an electric motor kicks in to help with pedalling, and most importantly it give an extra push up hills.

The city of some three million people launched its electric bike share system in June 2014.

While other European cities like London and Paris set up shared bicycles schemes earlier, Madrid is the first major city to offer a system that only uses electric bicycles.

The argument behind BiciMAD is that with only regular bikes, they accumulate in low-lying areas and need to be shuffled around by trucks to redistribute them to higher ground -- as happens in Barcelona.

 

 

Margot Bonilla, a 28-year-old IT technician, started using the electric bikes in July and no longer uses the metro to get around the city.

"You exercise, you don't pollute and you move around fast. It's just a bit expensive for my taste," she said.

An annual membership to the bike sharing scheme costs 25 euros ($27.7) while renting a bicycle costs 50 cents during the first half hour, then 60 cents for the next half hour.

By comparison a ride on the Madrid metro costs 1.5 euros for travel in the centre of the city.

Another problem is a lack of bicycles, Bonilla added.

"Yesterday I had to walk home because I went to two stations and did not find any," she said, repeating a common complaint from regular users of the system.

 

- Vandalised and stolen -

 

The city rents the bicycles from Spanish firm Bonopark, which since 2013 has supplied electric bicycles for a similar scheme in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian.

"We have a thousand bicycles available at 160 stations right now," said the head of the BiciMAD system, Joaquim Jimenez.

 

 

 

Two American women will on Friday become the first female soldiers to graduate from the elite and hugely demanding Ranger School, the US Army announced.

"Congratulations to all of our new Rangers. Each Ranger School graduate has shown the physical and mental toughness to successfully lead organizations at any level.

"This course has proven that every soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential," Secretary of the Army John McHugh said Monday.

"We owe soldiers the opportunity to serve successfully in any position where they are qualified and capable, and we continue to look for ways to select, train, and retain the best soldiers to meet our nation's needs," he added.

Nineteen women began the rigorous training program in April but 17 were eliminated.

 

 

 

 

South Korea announced Wednesday a series of heavy-weaponry, live-fire military drills with the United States as part response to a recent landmine attack blamed on North Korea.

Four exercises, involving tanks, howitzers, attack helicopters and fighter bombers, will be held in the coming weeks in an area around 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the North Korean border, the defence ministry said.

"This will show our preparedness to retaliate against any provocative acts, including such a treacherous act of aggression as the landmine attack", a ministry spokesman said.

The first drill was to take place later Wednesday, with the last one conducted towards the end of the month.

 

Now 73 and sitting in his Tokyo home, Yohachi Nakajima fights back tears when he thinks of his Chinese adopted mother and the farming village he once called home -- a boy lost inside imperial Japan's crumbling empire.

He was just three years old when Tokyo surrendered on August 15, 1945, ending World War II but also leaving about 1.5 million Japanese stranded in Manchukuo, Tokyo's puppet regime in northeastern China.

Farmers, labourers and young military reserves had migrated into the region from the early 1930s, attracted by government promises of a better life as Japan marched across Asia in a brutal expansionist campaign.

Nakajima's father, Hiroshi, was among those drawn to Manchukuo, but the frontier life proved miserable and the elder Nakajima was drafted into the military just three weeks before Japan's surrender. His fate is unknown.

Ill and poverty-stricken, Nakajima's mother sought out a local family to care for her son.

"Japan was an invader for them, clearly," Nakajima, who now lives in Tokyo, told AFP.

"It must have been pure humanity that convinced them to adopt and raise me, a child of the aggressor."

The malnourished boy, stomach bulging from starvation, was brought into the centre of the village as curious locals looked on.

One woman, Sun Zhenqin, volunteered to be his guardian and soon gave her scrawny charge a new name, "Lai Fu" (good luck coming).

"She would feed me from her mouth and gently massaged my stomach," Nakajima said.

"She was a midwife. It must have been almost on impulse that she took me in."

- 'Pearl in the palm' -

After Emperor Hirohito announced his country's surrender, the situation for Japanese migrants trapped in northeastern China deteriorated, with tens of thousands dying of hunger and disease as a frigid winter set in later in the year.

 

Some migrants-turned-refugees resorted to mass suicide, cramming into small houses that they blew up with grenades, while roving groups of sword-wielding male migrants stabbed women and children to death to end their suffering.

It is believed that just a handful of children were adopted by local families. Many others died of starvation, sickness and some were even killed by fellow Japanese out of mercy. There are no reliable statistics on how many survived.

The mother of Sun Shouxun, 58, a Chinese man who now lives in the northeastern city of Changchun, was one of those who took in a Japanese child.

He described his adopted Japanese sister as "a pearl in the palm" for his loving parents.

"Public opinion at the time was rather strong against raising a Japanese child and our relatives also opposed it, but my mother insisted on doing so," he said.

It is not known exactly how many Japanese children found new homes in China like Nakajima and Sun's sister, but Tokyo has confirmed just over 2,800.

Nakajima returned to Japan when he was 16 and afterwards spoke just once with his adopted mother, in 1966, during a trip to China when he acted as an interpreter on a cultural exchange.

However, the country, by then in the grips of the chaotic Cultural Revolution, was largely closed to foreigners and Nakajima only made brief contact by telephone with Sun who could only shout "Lai Fu! Lai Fu!" before the call got cut off.

The two never talked again and Sun died in 1975.

- 'No phone calls, no letters' -

Tokyo's efforts to repatriate those left behind in China only began several years after 1972, when it normalised diplomatic ties with Beijing.

 

 

 

New Zealanders were presented with 40 flag options Monday as the country moved a step closer towards voting on whether it wanted to change its national standard.

The government-appointed panel overseeing the project released its long list of designs, chosen from more than 10,000 public submissions.

The 40 will now be subject to further scrutiny, including an intensive intellectual property review, before being whittled down to four to be put to a public vote later this year.

A second referendum is planned for next year when the country will choose between the existing flag -- which features Britain's Union Jack -- and the most popular new design.

Project head John Burrows said the potential new flag had to be unmistakably from New Zealand and "celebrate us as a progressive, inclusive nation that is connected to its environment, and has a sense of its past and vision for its future".

"It is important that those designs are timeless, can work in a variety of contexts, are simple, uncluttered, balanced and have good contrast."

Common themes among the 40 flag offerings are silver ferns, the symbol used by New Zealand sports teams, and the Southern Cross constellation. Colour schemes are predominantly red, black or blue, and white.

 

 

 

 

A draft of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II includes the word "apology", public broadcaster NHK reported Monday.

The closely-watched remarks -- expected on Friday -- will be heavily scrutinised by China and Korea, which dispute Tokyo's version of its wartime history and who are waiting to see if Abe repeats earlier apologies for Japan's militarism in the 20th century.

NHK said an original draft of Abe's statement included the words "apology" and "aggression".

Those words appear in a landmark 1995 statement by then premier Tomiichi Murayama, who expressed "deep remorse" and a "heartfelt apology" over Japan's actions.

The so-called Murayama Statement said Japan "through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations".

Also Monday, the right-leaning Sankei newspaper said Abe was likely to use the word "aggression", though not necessarily linking it to Japan's warring.

 

 

 

A rare Burgundy has emerged as the world's most expensive wine at more than $15,000 a bottle, and it is not a Romanee-Conti, according to the WineSearcher website.

Instead it is a Henri Jayer wine with the $15,195 (14,254 euro) price tag, and Bordeaux's top-of-the-line Petrus is far down the list at 18th place.

It is a 1985 Richebourg Grand Cru created by Jayer, a winemaker widely considered a visionary in the business who died in 2006 aged 84.

WineSearcher, founded in London in 1999, released the annual list this month of the 50 most expensive wines in the world based on price lists from nearly 55,000 wine merchants.

 

 

 

 

Most teenagers in the United States start the school day too early each morning, robbing them of the sleep they need to concentrate properly and remain healthy, according to a study.

Fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the United States start at 8:30 am or later, as recommended, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has found that adolescents are biologically programmed to stay asleep longer than adults.

Depriving teens of that sleep could wreak havoc on their academic performance, the CDC said in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"Getting enough sleep is important for students' health, safety, and academic performance," said Anne Wheaton, lead author and epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Population Health.

"Early school start times, however, are preventing many adolescents from getting the sleep they need."

In 2014, the AAP urged secondary schools not to begin classes until 8:30 am to give teens the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of nightly sleep they need.

But only 17.7 percent of US high schools actually start at the recommended hour.

 

 

Singapore marks its 50th anniversary on Sunday celebrating a remarkable transformation from colonial backwater to regional powerhouse, but analysts say the festivities are unlikely to silence rumbling discontent ahead of expected elections.

The nationalistic celebrations are the high-point of a year of jubilee events and will be marked with a huge military parade, fireworks display and video tribute to late founding father Lee Kuan Yew, whose death in March prompted a national outpouring of grief.

More than a quarter of a million people are expected to take to the streets to attend the commemorations, reflecting the widespread pride felt by many residents at the city-state's achievements over the past half century.

But behind the highly choreographed events, the opposition is keen to tap into voter anxiety ahead of elections expected in September and pressure the government to ease strict political controls credited with keeping the ruling People's Action Party in power.

Singapore's birth as a nation state came on August 9, 1965, when it was ejected from the Malaysian federation following a stormy two-year union.

It has since gone on to surpass far larger neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia in terms of development and military power.

 

And although several metrics, such as home ownership of more than 90 percent and per capita gross domestic product of $56,284 in 2014, put Singapore among the most advanced societies in the world, critics say its success has come at a steep cost.

The recent jailing of teenager Amos Yee for insulting Christianity in a video tirade against Lee, as well as a defamation suit against an activist who accused the current prime minister of misusing state pension funds, have been held up as examples of the government's intolerance for dissent.

- Feel-good factor -

Analysts have widely predicted that Lee's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, 63, will call snap elections for September 12 in the hope of harnessing the celebratory mood and extending the PAP's uninterrupted five and a half decades in power.

But the party, which suffered significant losses in 2011 elections, will have to contend with a series of voter gripes, including the high cost of living, immigration policy, rising healthcare costs and one of the widest incomes gaps in the world.