The nation is marking the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with tributes Monday recalling his past struggles for racial equality, observing the federal holiday named for him against the backdrop of a presidential election year.
In an early tribute to King, Vice President Mike Pence spoke Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee, at a church service in which he recalled the challenges and accomplishments of the slain civil rights leader.
Before the service, Pence toured the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where King was fatally shot on April 4, 1968, while standing on a balcony.
"I'm here to pay a debt of honor and respect to a man who from walking the dirt roads of the Deep South, to speaking to hundreds of thousands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, touched the hearts of the American people and led the civil rights movement to triumph over Jim Crow," Pence said Sunday at the Holy City Church of God in Christ.
Pence spoke about King's religion and how he "challenged the conscience of a nation to live up to our highest ideals by speaking to our common foundation of faith."
Acknowledging the nation's divisions, Pence said that if Americans rededicate themselves to the ideals that King advanced while striving to open opportunities for everyone, "we'll see our way through these divided times and we'll do our part in our time to form a more perfect union."
As a presidential election looms this fall, divisions rankle, according to recent opinion polls.
Among black Americans, more than 80% said last year that President Donald Trump's actions in office have made things worse for people like them, while only 4% said they thought Trump's actions have been good for African Americans in general. That's according to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The same poll found about two-thirds of Americans overall disapproves of how Trump handles race relations.
Trump is seeking to woo black voters, knowing he is unlikely to win them over en masse but hoping for more black support in critical swing states later this year. His campaign has stepped up outreach efforts, including to African Americans and Latinos, marking a departure from 2016 when Trump's volunteer "National Diversity Coalition" struggled to make an impact. The campaign already has spent more than $1 million on black outreach, including radio, print and online advertising in dozens of markets, the campaign has said.
In King's hometown of Atlanta, Monday's commemorations could draw attention to the continuing leadership role of the clergy in African American thought and politics.
The Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, will be the keynote speaker at a service Monday at organized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
It will be held in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which King and his father both led.
Wesley has argued that Christ should be remembered as a political radical and that Christians should challenge injustices of the established political and social order. King's economic and antiwar activism can sometimes be bleached out of celebrations of the holiday, he has said. Wesley has been on sabbatical in recent months from the pulpit at his church, which has grown rapidly under his leadership.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican appointed earlier this month by Gov. Brian Kemp, planned to attend the Ebenezer Baptist Church event.
Ebenezer Baptist is now pastored by the Rev. Raphael Warnock, one of several Democrats who could challenge Loeffler in a November special election.
Monday's planned gathering is one of a series of events honoring King's legacy, including a Saturday night gala in Atlanta hosted by the King Center and a series of service projects organized by community groups.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that Japan will form a space defense unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technology and the new unit will work closely with its American counterpart recently launched by President Donald Trump.
The Space Domain Mission Unit will start in April as part of Japan's Air Self-Defense Force, Abe said in a policy speech marking the start of the year's parliamentary session.
He said Japan must also defend itself from threats in cyberspace and from electromagnetic interference against Japanese satellites. Concerns are growing that China and Russia are seeking ways to interfere, disable or destroy satellites.
"We will drastically bolster capability and system in order to secure superiority" in those areas, Abe said.
The space unit will be added to an existing air base at Fuchu in the western suburbs of Tokyo, where about 20 people will be staffed ahead of a full launch in 2020. The role of the space unit is to conduct satellite-based navigation and communications for other troops in the field, rather than being on the ground.
Abe's Cabinet in December approved 50.6 billion yen ($460 million) budget in space-related projects, pending parliamentary approval.
The unit will cooperate with the U.S. Space Command that Trump established in August, as well as Japan's space exploration agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Abe has pushed for Japan's Self-Defense Force to expand its international role and capability by bolstering cooperation and weapons compatibility with the U.S., as it increasingly works alongside American troops and as it grows concerned about the increasing capabilities of China and North Korea.
Abe, in marking Sunday's 60th anniversary of the signing of Japan-U.S. security treaty, vowed to bolster Japan's capability and cooperation with the U.S., including in the areas of space and cyber security.
He said he is determined to settle Japan's "unfortunate past" with North Korea, as he hopes to "sum up" his country's postwar legacies before his term expires next year.
He reiterated his intention to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without the conditions he had demanded in the past — denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and resolving the decades-old issue of abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
Part of Abe's plan while in office is to achieve his long-cherished goal of revising Japan's U.S.-drafted constitution that prohibits use of force in settling international disputes. Despite Abe's push, chances are fading for the revision due to a lack of public interest and the opposition's focus on other controversial issues such as Japan's recent dispatch of naval troops to Middle East and questionable public record-keeping at Abe's annual cherry blossom-viewing parties.
In a sign of a thaw in Japan's recently tense relations with South Korea, Abe said he planned to cooperate closely with South Korea in dealing with a harsh security environment in northeast Asia.
Abe, however, repeated his demand that South Korea resolve the issue of compensation for the former Korean laborers during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule. "I hope (South Korea) to keep its promise between the two countries and build future-oriented bilateral relations," he said.
A footbridge on Indonesia's Sumatra island broke while it was packed with people and several fell into the overflowing river below and drowned, officials said Monday.
Nine bodies have been pulled from the water as far as 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the bridge that broke Sunday afternoon in Kaur district of Bengkulu province.
Rescuers are searching for a 14-year-old boy still missing and feared dead, said Ujang Syafiri, who heads a local disaster mitigation agency.
About 30 people, most of them teenagers, had just returned from a tour at a nearby hydropower plant and stopped on the footbridge to take photos of the extreme flow of the river.
"It was apparently (beyond) its capacity. Some teens even had rocked the bridge while joking," Syafiri said.
He said about 20 survivors were rescued and one was hospitalized with serious injuries.
Photos released by the agency showed rescuers using an inflatable boat while they searched for victims near the broken bridge and villagers using bamboo and clothes to carry a body.
Seasonal rains in recent weeks have caused severe flooding and landslides in Indonesia. Many of the nation's nearly 270 million people live in mountainous areas prone to landslides or plains close to rivers that flood regularly. The archipelago of 17,000 islands also has frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
With the arrival of a new decade, one predictable thing about China in the 2020s is that it is shifting into a higher-quality economy that is more open and abounds with new opportunities for global businesses.
Despite a cloud of challenges, China's economy wrapped up 2019 with 6.1-percent GDP growth as a top performer among comparable economies. Acting as a "locomotive," it is expected to contribute to around 30 percent of global growth.
Emerging from the 2010s larger and in better shape, the world's second-largest economy is increasingly shaped by the growing power of consumers and the services and emerging sectors, all believed to stimulate China's huge potential in market, reform and innovation.
These trends can offer glimpses into the positive changes the world can expect from China in the new decade:
Domestic consumers now account for over 60 percent of China's economic growth. Despite a moderation of headline GDP growth, retail sales, a major gauge of consumption, grew 8 percent in 2019.
Looking ahead, analysts expect the country's consumption to be shaped by a booming middle-income group, fast urbanization and technology advances, among other trends.
With the world's largest middle-income population, China has great potential to increase the contribution of consumption, especially that of services consumption, to its GDP growth, said Liu Qiao, dean of the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, predicting that services consumption would make up about 60 percent or more in China's total consumption by 2035.
Although large cities still contributed to a larger amount of consumption, that of lower-tier cities and rural regions continued to grow fast. A report from Morgan Stanley predicted that consumption in China's smaller cities could triple by 2030 from 2018.
"The future Chinese consumers will be richer and more tech-savvy," said Asian market analyst Angela Moh in the report, "Considering that by 2030, more than half of the population in China will either have grown up with a smartphone or be sufficiently tech-literate to benefit from the sprawling e-commerce, which is likely to remain a key driver of China's consumption."
In the 2020 Bloomberg innovation index, China ranked 15th on the list of the world's most innovative countries, rising from 16th in 2019 and 19th in 2018. The better performance came amid China's efforts to enhance intellectual property protection, increase productivity and foster new growth drivers through innovation.
A World Bank report named "China 2030: Building a Modern, Harmonious, and Creative Society" lists the country's advantages in its journey toward an innovative economy -- a steep upward trend of its spending on research and development, large manufacturing sector with wide-ranging capabilities and rising supply of science and engineering skills of improving quality.
Breakthroughs in technology will usher in the next wave of economic development and new investment opportunities, and China is to climb up the value chain, said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management.
China will ramp up its competitiveness in high value-added manufacturing categories such as information technology, emerging industries and household appliances, said UBS researcher Hou Yankun.
To tackle environmental challenges, the Chinese government has declared a war on pollution and introduced a series of green initiatives, including cutting overall emissions, reducing coal-fired plants and enhancing enforcement of environmental rules.
China is taking the lead with concrete actions. The proportion of China's clean energy sources in total energy consumption mix continued to rise to 24 percent of the total in 2019, up from 23 percent in 2018. Its carbon dioxide emissions per GDP dropped by 45.8 percent in 2018 from the 2005 level, a stride toward the goal of meeting the emission peak around 2030.
The country's green commitments can grow into enormous opportunities for global investors. Global financial giant Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) expects that China's efforts to meet the 2030 sustainable goals would bring about investment opportunities worth 3 trillion U.S. dollars, taking up about 30 percent of the total global investment value.
Realizing the full coverage of clean water and sanitary facilities in China, for example, will unlock investment potential worth 26.1 billion U.S. dollars for the private sector, SCB noted.
China will continue to shorten the negative list to ease foreign investment off-limits rules and beef up opening-up efforts in pilot free trade zones in 2020, said the National Development and Reform Commission.
With the implementation of the landmark foreign investment law, removal of restrictions on the manufacturing and financial sectors for foreign firms and tariff cuts, China has quickened its opening-up pace.
Electric carmaker giant Tesla witnessed China's speed as its Shanghai gigafactory delivered the first 15 Model 3 cars to customers less than one year after it began operation, which showed that China, with continued efforts in reform and opening-up, still tops the list of investment destinations for foreign firms.
China is committed to opening up at a higher level and honoring its promises to further open up its market, improve its opening-up structure, optimize the business environment, deepen multilateral and bilateral cooperation and advance Belt and Road cooperation.
As its door keeps opening wider and its economy expands steadily, China is bound to make greater contributions to the global economy.
"China will play a bigger role in fuelling global demand and supply," said Shao Yu, chief economist at Orient Securities.
A huge dust storm has blanketed large parts of outback Australia over the weekend, with videos and images posted on social media showing the jaw-dropping scale of the strange weather event.
Stretching from Broken Hill across to Nyngan, Parkes and Dubbo in the central-west of New South Wales State, local resident and photographer Marcia Macmillan told News Corp on Monday, that although it was the worst dust storm in 15 years, the phenomenon is becoming much more common in the region's drought-stricken towns.
"These monsters have sadly become our new normal, and they are just as corroding to our emotional and mental wellbeing as they are to the landscape," she said.
"It's enormous. We've had five in the last week and they just keep rolling in."
"The relentless drought continues, and dust storms of this magnitude now wreak havoc and devastation every couple of days. They are so common that people continue going about their daily routine without taking much notice."
Caused by a combination of strong wind, dry soil, low moisture in the air and unstable atmospheric conditions, dust storms can trigger serious health problems, particularly for people suffering from asthma or other respiratory illnesses.
"Some of them actually last all day so you're just in it, constantly," Macmillan said.
"They go for kilometers. Photos can't even give the scale. While it looks horrific, it doesn't really show the scale of what we are living through, sadly."
"They're not scary, they're just depressing. Some days you can't see anything outside and the dirt then sits in the atmosphere for days and settles over everything in the house."
Currently in the midst of the worst drought on record, dust storms have become a stark reminder of the stress agricultural communities are facing in the region.
"Conditions in the country are often tough and growing up in the bush, you know that. It's a beautiful place but it's really hard to enjoy the beauty at the moment," Macmillan said.
"Everyone is doing their best to keep a level of optimism and humour, but it just wears you down."