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Tokyo Tests Self-Driving Bus Service as Part of Transport Revolution

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In a bid to address the persistent shortage of bus drivers in Tokyo, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has initiated test runs of a self-driving bus. This autonomous vehicle, capable of reaching speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour, commenced its trial on Monday. Operating along a regular loop route that links Shinjuku Station with two key government buildings, the self-driving bus offers a limited seating capacity of 18 passengers. To secure a spot on this cutting-edge journey, passengers are required to reserve their seats in advance through an online booking system.

The test runs are set to continue until October 13, with the self-driving bus running 12 services during the week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a reduced schedule on weekends and holidays. Tokyo’s metropolitan officials aim to assess the vehicle’s performance in navigating areas with heavy traffic and determine the necessary infrastructure requirements for designated autonomous lanes. Despite Japan’s ambitious strides in pioneering transportation solutions, including level IV autonomous vehicles, experts acknowledge that the widespread adoption of driverless transit in the country still faces considerable challenges.

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With Biden out, Trump and Harris exchange barbs in reset US presidential race

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President Joe Biden on Wednesday addressed the nation for the first time since dropping his reelection bid, saying he decided to forgo personal ambition to save democracy in a sedate Oval Office speech that contrasted with the rough-and-tumble campaign.

Shortly before his speech, Republican Donald Trump laid into Democratic rival Kamala Harris in his first rally since she replaced Biden atop the ticket, signalling a bare-knuckled campaign ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

Trump branded Harris a “radical left lunatic” after she had dominated the campaign the two previous days with withering attacks on Trump that pointedly raised his felony convictions, his liability for sexual abuse, and fraud judgments against his business, charitable foundation and private university.

Biden said he believed he deserved to be reelected based on his record during his first term, but his love of country led him to step aside.

“I decided the best way forward is to pass the torch to a new generation. That is the best way to unite our nation,” Biden said, after previously resisting calls from within the party that he quit the race following his poor showing in a June 27 debate with Trump.

Biden, at 81 the oldest president in U.S. history, was greeted by cheers, applause and music in the Rose Garden after the address, as his staff had converged on the White House for a viewing party.

Trump was less kind, saying in a post on his Truth Social platform that Biden’s speech was “barely understandable and sooo bad!”

After spending much of the campaign attacking Biden as old and feeble, Trump, 78, now faces a younger candidate in Harris, 59, the first Black woman and Asian American to serve as vice president.

Energising many Democrats as potentially the first woman to take the White House, Harris quickly consolidated the party behind her, as her campaign said it had raised $126 million since Sunday, with 64% of donors making their first contribution of the 2024 campaign.

With nobody stepping up to challenge her for the nomination, she won the backing of party delegates on Monday, a day after Biden’s announcement.

The next highly anticipated development will be Harris’ choice of a vice presidential candidate to counter Trump’s selection of Ohio Senator J.D. Vance. Among the names being mentioned are Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The Democratic National Committee’s rules committee agreed on Wednesday on a plan to formally nominate Harris as soon as Aug. 1 – before the party’s Aug. 19-22 convention in Chicago – with Harris picking a running mate by Aug. 7.

Biden praised Harris as a strong leader who would make an effective president.

“She’s experienced, she’s tough, she’s capable. She’s been an incredible partner to me and a leader for our country. Now the choice is up to you the American people,” he said.

Trump tried to quash some of her momentum in an aggressive speech at a campaign rally.

“I’m not gonna be nice!” he told his cheering supporters in Charlotte, North Carolina, a battleground state where voting preferences can swing to either side.

Harris on Tuesday showed her willingness to throw a punch, contrasting her background as a prosecutor to his record as a convicted felon.

“Do we want to live in a country of freedom, compassion and rule of law, or a country of chaos, fear and hate?,” she asked during the speech in Milwaukee.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday showed Harris with a two-percentage-point lead over Trump, 44% to 42%. A CNN poll conducted by SSRS showed Trump leading Harris, 49% to 46%. Both findings were within the polls’ margins of error.

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Trump shot in right ear at rally, shooter dead

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Donald Trump was shot in the right ear during a campaign rally on Saturday, sparking panic in the crowd and spattering the Republican presidential candidate’s blood across his face, before he emerged and pumped his fist in the air appearing to mouth the words “Fight! Fight! Fight!”

The shooter was dead, one rally attendee was killed and two other spectators were injured, the Secret Service said in a statement.

“I was shot with a bullet that pierced the upper part of my right ear,” Trump said on his Truth Social platform. “Much bleeding took place.”

As the shots rang out, Trump grabbed his right ear with his right hand, then brought his hand down to look at it before dropping to his knees behind the podium before Secret Service agents swarmed and covered him. He emerged about a minute later, his red “Make America Great Again” hat knocked off and could be heard saying “wait, wait,” before agents ushered him into a waiting vehicle.

The Secret Service and the former president’s campaign said Trump was safe following the shooting in Butler, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles (50 km) north of Pittsburgh.

The shooter’s identity and motive were not immediately clear. Leading Republicans and Democrats quickly condemned the violence.

The shots appeared to come from outside the area secured by the Secret Service, the agency said.

An audience member was also dead, and another person was in critical condition, a Washington Post reporter said on social media, citing the Butler County district attorney.

The shooting occurred less than four months before the Nov. 5 election, when Trump faces an election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.

“President Trump thanks law enforcement and first responders for their quick action during this heinous act. He is fine and is being checked out at a local medical facility. More details will follow,” spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement.

Trump had just started his speech when gunshots erupted and Trump and other rally attendees hit the deck. Secret Service agents swarmed around him and Trump disappeared behind the podium for about one minute before he was rushed to the waiting vehicle.

Trump and Biden are locked in a close election rematch, with most opinion polls including those by Reuters/Ipsos showing the two evenly matched.

Biden said in a statement: “There’s no place for this kind of violence in America. We must unite as one nation to condemn it.”

Ron Moose, a Trump supporter who was in the crowd, described the chaos: “I heard about four shots and I saw the crowd go down and then Trump ducked also real quick. Then the Secret Service all jumped and protected him as soon as they could. We are talking within a second they were all protecting him.”

Moose said he then saw a man running and being chased by officers in military uniforms. He said he heard additional shots, but was unsure who fired them. He noted that by then snipers had set up on the roof of a warehouse behind the stage.

The BBC interviewed a man who described himself as an eyewitness, saying he saw a man armed with a rifle crawling up a roof near the event. The person, who the BBC did not identify, said he and the people he was with started pointing at the man, trying to alert security.

“I am thinking to myself, why is Trump still speaking. Why have they not pulled him off stage,” said the man, who was wearing a red Trump hat. “Next thing you know, five shots rang out.”

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS DECRY VIOLENCE

Trump is due to receive his party’s formal nomination at the Republican National Convention, which kicks off in Milwaukee on Monday.

“This horrific act of political violence at a peaceful campaign rally has no place in this country and should be unanimously and forcefully condemned,” Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said on social media.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was horrified by what happened and was relieved Trump was safe. “Political violence has no place in our country,” he said.

A Secret Service spokesperson said on social media: “The Secret Service has implemented protective measures and the former president is safe … This is now an active Secret Service investigation and further information will be released when available.”

CNN reported that Trump was injured, but gave no other details. It was not clear how or what injuries he may have sustained.

The venue was abandoned with chairs knocked over and yellow police tape around the stage. A helicopter flew above and law enforcement officers walked through the area, the video feed showed. Armed law enforcement officers were also seen on a roof near the stage where Trump was standing.

Biden’s campaign was working to pause its television ads and halting all other outbound communication, a campaign official said on Saturday.

Trump, who served as president from 2017-2021, easily bested his rivals for the Republican nomination early in the campaign and has largely unified around him the party that had briefly wavered in support after his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, attempting to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

The businessman and former reality television star entered the year facing a raft of legal worries, including four separate criminal prosecutions. He was found guilty in late May of trying to cover up hush money payments to a porn star, but the other three prosecutions he faces — including two for his attempts to overturn his defeat — have been ground to a halt by various factors including a Supreme Court decision early this month that found him to be partly immune to prosecution.

Biden spoke to Trump after rally shooting: White House

US President Joe Biden has spoken to his election rival Donald Trump, a White House official said, after the Republican was injured in an apparent assassination attempt at a campaign event in Pennsylvania.

“This evening, President Biden spoke to former President Trump,” the official said, adding that the US incumbent would receive an updated briefing from law enforcement officials on the incident on Sunday morning.

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Asian markets track Wall St records after Powell hints at rate cut

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Asian stocks on Thursday tagged along with a Wall Street rally that saw another round of record highs as bets on a September interest rate hike surged following comments by Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell.

The advances also saw Hong Kong and Shanghai push higher after struggling in recent weeks over worries about the Chinese economy, with investors awaiting a key Communist Party meeting next week.

On a second day of testimony to lawmakers, Powell said decision-makers would not wait until inflation had hit the bank’s two percent target before loosening monetary policy, adding: “If you waited that long, you’ve probably waited too long.”

His remarks came before the release of the latest consumer price index reading on Thursday, which is expected to show a further slowdown.

Traders ramped up bets on the Fed reducing borrowing costs in two months’ time, with analysts saying Powell was telegraphing to markets that the decision had been made.
The comments soothed recent fears among investors that officials might keep rates at their two-decade high for some time owing to a still strong labour market and inflation staying stubbornly above two percent.

The S&P 500 ended with a sixth straight record, while the Nasdaq also finished at an all-time peak.

And the upbeat mood filtered through to Asia, where Hong Kong jumped more than one percent, while Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Wellington, Taipei, Manila and Wellington also rose.

Eyes are also turning to the start of China’s Third Plenum gathering on Monday, where top officials including President Xi Jinping are expected to discuss ways to kickstart the world’s number two economy in the face of an ongoing property crisis and geopolitical issues.

However, while there is hope for some sort of major policy announcement, commentators remain cautious.

Andrew Batson, of Beijing-based consultancy Gavekal Dragonomics, told AFP he did not expect a “fundamental departure from the course Xi has already laid out”, in which technological self-sufficiency and national security outweigh economic growth.

Nomura’s Ting Lu added that the meeting was “intended to generate and discuss big, long-term ideas and structural reforms instead of making short-term policy adjustments”.

Economic growth in the first quarter of the year came in above forecasts and is tipped to top the government’s five percent goal for April-June, but the meeting comes amid ongoing concerns that officials are not providing enough support.

Taylor Nugent at National Australia Bank warned: “Further monetary policy easing is constrained by a reluctance to allow further depreciation in the renminbi, and expectations are low for any big policy shift at the Third Plenum.”

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 42,179.84 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 1.3 percent at 17,697.76

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.8 percent at 2,962.89

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0840 from $1.0833 on Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2862 from $1.2848

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 161.58 yen from 161.71 yen

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.27 pence from 84.29 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.8 percent at $82.79 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.9 percent at $85.81 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 39,721.36 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 8,193.51 (close)

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