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Blinken calls on China to stop targeting journalists in Hong Kong

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Chinese authorities to stop arresting Hong Kong journalists, a day after the biggest remaining pro-democracy news organization shut down under a probe.

Blinken’s comments on Thursday came in response to Stand News’s decision to lay off all its staff and cease operations. The move came hours after more than 200 police raided the outlet’s newsroom, froze some HK$61 million ($7.8 million) of assets and arrested seven people connected to it on a colonial-era sedition law.

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“Journalism is not sedition, said Blinken in a statement, calling on Chinese and Hong Kong officials “to cease targeting Hong Kong’s free and independent media and to immediately release those journalists and media executives who have been unjustly detained and charged.”

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters on Thursday that she agreed with Blinken that journalism wasn’t sedition, while defending the police’s actions.

“Seditious acts and activities and inciting other people through public acts and activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting,” she said.

“These actions are law enforcement actions. These actions have nothing to do with ‘suppression of press freedom’ or ‘suppression of democracy,’ as some will put it.”

The collapse of Stand News is the latest in a series of devastating blows to the pro-democracy opposition in the former British colony, which is guaranteed freedom of the press under a “one country, two systems” arrangement with Beijing. Those arrested included acting Editor-in-Chief Patrick Lam and Denise Ho, a pop star who had testified about Hong Kong before the US Congress.

Amanda Milling, the UK’s minister of state for Asia, said on Twitter that the actions “further erode freedom of speech in Hong Kong” and pledged to work with international partners to push back, while Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly expressed concern for those arrested, specifically mentioning Ho, a Canadian citizen.

Earlier this year, media mogul Jimmy Lai’s pro-democracy outlet Apple Daily closed in July after authorities froze its assets.

Scores of prominent activists and former opposition lawmakers have been arrested for speech-related crimes under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing.

Blinken said that Hong Kong’s guarantees of press freedom and access to information were what has enabled the city to flourish as an global center of finance, trade, education, and culture.

“By silencing independent media, PRC and local authorities undermine Hong Kong’s credibility and viability,” he said, referring to the formal name of China. “A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press.”

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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