Samsung plans $32 billion spend, with artificial intelligence high on agenda

Samsung Electronics plans to spend $32 billion over the next three years on artificial intelligence, auto components and other future businesses.

The company has mapped out its strategy under the restored leadership of Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong after he was freed from prison.

The announcement today by South Korea's biggest business group was welcome news, coming at a time of deepening unease over slowing growth in Asia's fourth largest economy.

Samsung said it will spend the sum, amounting to 25 trillion won, on hiring artificial intelligence researchers, ensuring it will be a global player in next generation telecoms technology called 5G and deepening its involvement in electronic components for future cars.

Some of the funding will go to Samsung's biopharmaceutical businesses. Samsung has been beefing up its contract drug making operations to help counter a potential decline in its mainstay electronics businesses.

South Korea relies heavily on Samsung and its affiliated companies for investment and jobs, even after a corruption scandal that resulted in Lee's conviction for bribery.

Lee was freed after nearly a year in jail but former President Park Geun-hye and a close associate remain imprisoned for bribery and other charges.

Lee kept a low profile after his release in February but has been emerging in his public role in recent weeks.

The most notable appearance was in India, where Lee met with President Moon Jae-in and Samsung announced plans to expand its smartphone production there.

Samsung also said today that it plans to create 20,000 more jobs over the next three years, on top of a previously announced 20,000 new jobs.

Samsung cellphone. Source: 1 NEWS



Several boys rescued from cave get Thai citizenship

Three young soccer players who were trapped with other team members for almost three weeks in a cave in northern Thailand were granted Thai citizenship on Wednesday along with their 25-year-old coach.

All four had been stateless, and their lack of citizenship deprived them of some basic benefits and rights, including the ability to travel outside of Chiang Rai, the northern province where they live. The area is home to ethnic minorities with roots in neighboring Myanmar.

The boys and coach were among 13 people who were trapped in the cave until their dramatic rescue by scuba divers.

Nopparat Kanthawong, the head coach of the Wild Boars team, said they received official Thai ID cards along with another team member who had not been in the cave but also applied for citizenship.

"I'm happy," he said. "I want to say that football (soccer) can elevate the lives of kids whose families may not be in the best position."

"If they have Thai citizenship, in the future, if they don't want to play football they can take exams to become public officials or find good work that is related to their field of studies," he said.

Nopparat said he submitted documentation on Wednesday to help apply for citizenship for seven other Wild Boar players who are stateless.

The boys given citizenship Wednesday in their home district of Mae Sai had all applied for it before the cave incident, and all were fully qualified for the change in status, said a local official, district chief Somsak Kanakam.

"There are many people who are born in Thailand but haven't received citizenship yet," he said, adding that residents seeking Thai nationality should apply quickly, while he still holds his job, because he has "no corrupt intentions." He said that most people present at Wednesday's ceremony were aware of under-the-table payments that some officials had asked for in the past.

There are 488,105 stateless people registered in Thailand, according to government statistics. The actual number could be as high as 3.5 million, according to the International Observatory on Statelessness. The group says stateless people in Thailand are unable to vote, buy land, seek legal employment, work in certain occupations or travel freely.

Northern Thailand, whose porous borders have long been a boon to migrants, refugees and smugglers, is a melting pot of ethnic groups, including the Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Yao, Shan, Hmong and Karen. In neighboring Myanmar, the frontier regions are dominated by ethnic minority groups, but underdevelopment and conflict make opportunities scarce. Some people flee for their lives to Thailand; others just seek a better life.

Members of Wild Boars soccer team change clothes after marking the completion of their serving as novice Buddhist monks following their dramatic rescue from a cave last month in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province, northern Thailand, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. The members of the boys' soccer team rescued from almost three weeks trapped in a cave in northern Thailand completed their time as novice Buddhist monks, undertaken to give thanks for their survival and to show their gratitude to all those who helped them. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Members of Wild Boars soccer team after marking the completion of their serving as novice Buddhist monks. Source: Associated Press


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Largest wildfire ever recorded in California just one of many enormous blazes

The largest wildfire ever recorded in California needed just 11 days to blacken an area nearly the size of Los Angeles - and it's only one of many enormous blazes that could make this the worst fire season in state history.

Some 14,000 firefighters from as far away as Florida and even New Zealand are struggling to curb 18 fires in the midst of a sweltering summer that has seen wind-whipped flames carve their way through national forest land and rural areas, threaten urban areas and incinerate neighbourhoods.

"For whatever reason, fires are burning much more intensely, much more quickly than they were before," said Mark A. Hartwig, president of the California Fire Chiefs Association.

Some of the largest fires have erupted just within the past few weeks as the state has seen record-setting temperatures - and the historically worst months of wildfire season are still to come.

In Northern California, the record-setting Mendocino Complex - twin fires being fought as a single conflagration - gained ground on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) but more slowly because its own smoke covered the area and lowered the temperature, according to the California Department of Forestry.

The flames, which had burned 1,184 square kilometres, were raging in mostly remote areas and no deaths or serious injuries were reported but 75 homes were destroyed.

The blaze, which broke out July 27, initially spread fast because of what officials said was a perfect combination of weather, rugged topography and abundant brush and timber turned to tinder by years of drought.

Resources also were thin at first because thousands of firefighters already were battling a fire hundreds of miles north. That fire, which spread into the city of Redding, killed six people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. The so-called Carr Fire was less than half contained.

California is seeing earlier, longer and more destructive wildfire seasons because of drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change, and the building of homes deeper into the forests.

In becoming the biggest fire in California history, the Mendocino Complex fire broke a record set just eight months ago. A blaze in Southern California in December killed two people, burned 1,140 square kilometres and destroyed more than 1,000 buildings.

California's firefighting costs have more than tripled from $US242 million in the 2013 fiscal year to $US773 million in the 2018 fiscal year that ended June 30, according to Cal Fire.

"We're in uncharted territory," Governor Jerry Brown warned last week. "Since civilisation emerged 10,000 years ago, we haven't had this kind of heat condition, and it's going to continue getting worse. That's the way it is."

New images from space reveal the massive scale of the disaster. Source: 1 NEWS


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