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New Zealanders have rallied around their fellow citizens in the

  wake of the Christchurch tragedy, laying flowers and messages of support on the side of Hagley Park, close to the Al Noor mosque.

  A makeshift memorial grew in the center of the main street, below traffic lights that flashed orange to indicate roads leading to the mosque were closed.

  No one was allowed to approach the building, not even local home owner Sue Harrison, whose c

ar was still parked in the driveway of her property behind the Deans Avenue mosque.

  Christchurch resident Sue Harrison heard the gunshots from her house, near to the Al

Noor mosque, and called the police. Her son Zin (right) called her to check she was alright.

  She remembers listening to the soothing chant of afternoo

n prayers when it was broken by gunshots. Harrison called the police and hid inside her

house as the gunman worked his way through the mosque, shooting as many people as he could.

  ”The time the shots were happening, it was terrifying, absolutely terrifying,” Har

rison said. “There was almost an immediate feeling that they’re being targeted.”

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Iranian human rights lawyer sentenced to 38 years in prison, her

  Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes, according to her family.

  Sotoudeh is well known for representing human rights defenders, dissiden

ts and women who protested against the compulsory wearing of a headscarf in Iran.

  According to IRNA, Iran’s state-owned news service, the human rights lawyer w

as convicted of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and for “insulting the Supreme Leader”.

  A Facebook post by her husband Reza Khandan said the ruling sentenced her to 33 years and 148 lashes. He added that the pu

nishment brings her prison time to 38 years. In 2016, she was sentenced in absentia to five years, according to Khandan.

  But state media said that Sotoudeh was sentenced to seven years in prison, citing the jud

ge in the case, Mohammad Moghiseh. The reasons for the discrepancy in the reports was not immediately clear.

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Highlights of news conference of the Ministry of Commerce

  Zhong Shan, Minister of Commerce; Wang Shouwen, Vice-Minister of Commerce and Deputy China Internatio

nal Trade Representative, and Vice-Minister of Commerce Qian Keming, answered questions on China’s domestic market and all-round opening-up at

a press conference during the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress on March 9, 2019.

  China’s total social consumption in 2018 reached 38.1 trillion yuan, up 9 percent ye

ar-on-year, Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan said on Saturday during a media conference.

  Consumption contributed 76.2 percent of last year’s economic growth, Zhong said.H

ope is rising for the Sino-US trade talks as both negotiation teams are trying their best to turn the consensus reac

hed between both countries’ leaders into reality, according to the Ministry of Commerce on Saturday.

  Tariff hikes do no help any parties, Wang Shouwen, vice-minister of commerce, told a press conference during the two sessions on Saturday.

  A mutually beneficial agreement between China an

d the United States will meet both countries’ interest and also the whole world’s expectation, Wang added.

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The duel will serve to unite the Republican Party in Washing

  gton behind the President — amid some signs of cracks opening in the GOP edifice in the Senate, at least, over his national emergency declaration.

  It will be a rallying moment that will enrage and enthuse Trump‘s base ahead of the 2020 cam

paign. That may mean he can avoid risky strategies, such as the disastrous government shutdown, to keep his troops motivated.

  Republicans are already working off the Trump playbook, which is designed to present him as the victim of unfair presidential persecution by Democrats.

  ”He just believes they are out to take a wrecking ball to his life,” Republican Sen. Lind

sey Graham of South Carolina said Tuesday after meeting the President. “They’ll go nuts.”

  Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas warned that the Democratic investiga

tion was less about finding the truth and more about ousting a President.

  ”It’s all about setting up the stage for impeachment proceedings. That’s pretty clear,” Cornyn told CNN’s Manu Raju.

  Republicans make such arguments in the knowledge that the nation, despite Trump’s unpopularity and w

idespread suspicions about his conduct, is not yet ready for the trauma of the third impeachment drama in 50 years.

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The dinner session was thought to serve as a tone

setting test for the formal talks scheduled on Thursday morning, which may decide the future of

a peace process that has been stalled after the two leaders’ Singapore summit in June.

On Wednesday, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Beij

ing hopes the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump will take an important ste

p forward to achieve denuclearization and establish a peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula.

“China expects the meeting between leaders of the DPRK and the US will continue moving

forward in the direction of the ‘dual-track’ approach,” Wang said at a news conference after the 16th me

eting of the foreign ministers of China, Russia and India in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province.

Analysts have described Kim and Trump’s Singapore summit as focused on breaking the ice to p

ave the way for full-scale diplomacy on denuclearization, improved ties and a formal conclusion to the

war on the Korean Peninsula, going beyond the armistice reached in 1953. Now the two nations are facing a more da

unting task of attempting to reach specific deals over details, going beyond a vaguely worded joint statement, they said.

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