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US and South Korea break off defense cost talks

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U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper (L) attends with South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (R) during their press conference after the 51st Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) at Defense Ministry on November 15, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea.

Jeon Heon-Kyun-Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images

South Korean and U.S. officials broke off talks on Tuesday aimed at settling the cost burden for Seoul of hosting the U.S. military, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, amid a public backlash over a U.S. demand for a sharp increase in the bill.

Officials had resumed a planned two-day negotiation on Monday, trying to narrow a $4 billion gap in what they believe South Korea should contribute for the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country for next year.

“Our position is that it should be within the mutually acceptable Special Measures Agreement (SMA) framework that has been agreed upon by South Korea and the U.S. for the past 28 years,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said, referring to the cost-sharing deal’s official name.

“The U.S. believes that the share of defense spending should be increased significantly by creating a new category,” the ministry said in a statement.

Negotiators left the table after only about one hour of discussions while the talks were scheduled throughout the day, South Korean media reported, citing unnamed foreign ministry officials.

South Korean lawmakers have said U.S. officials had demanded up to $5 billion a year, more than five times the 1.04 trillion won ($896 million) Seoul agreed to pay this year for hosting the 28,500 troops.

U.S. officials have not publicly confirmed the number, but Trump has previously said the U.S. military presence in and around South Korea was “$5 billion worth of protection”.

The negotiations are taking place as U.S. efforts to reach an agreement with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs appear stalled, ahead of a year-end deadline from Pyongyang for the U.S. to shift its approach.

Lee Hye-hoon, head of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, said in a radio interview on Tuesday the U.S. ambassador to South Korea talked to her at length earlier this month about how Seoul had been only paying one-fifth what it should have been paying for the cost of stationing U.S. troops.

Under South Korean law, the military cost-sharing deal must be approved by parliament.

Ruling party lawmakers have said this week they will “refuse to ratify any excessive outcome of the current negotiations” that deviate from the established principle and structure of the agreements for about 30 years.

Trump has long railed against what he says are inadequate contributions from allies towards defense costs. The United States is due to begin separate negotiations for new defense cost-sharing deals with Japan, Germany and NATO next year.

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Axing Hong Kong Lunar New Year party essential for coronavirus ‘crisis’

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Travelers wearing face masks stand in line inside the departure hall at West Kowloon Station, operated by MTR Corp., in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.

Paul Yeung | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A decision by the Hong Kong government to scrap major Lunar New Year celebrations due to the coronavirus outbreak is intended to ensure citizens are prepared for the “crisis to come,” according to Jacob Kam, CEO of majority state-owned rail operator MTR Corporation.

The virus, which originated in the Wuhan region of mainland China, has now killed 26 people and infected over 800 more. The World Health Organization on Thursday refrained from declaring a global health emergency, suggesting the outbreak was largely confined to China.

Hong Kong has canceled the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Carnival and the Lunar New Year Cup football tournament, along with tightening its health declaration requirements for high-speed rail passengers. Speaking to CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Friday, Kam said the decisions taken by the Hong Kong government to curb Lunar New Year celebrations were intended to “ensure our citizens prepare for the crisis that is to come.”

“There has been a lot of promotion about getting prepared and so on, but nevertheless these celebrations will bring a lot of people together,” Kam told CNBC’s Karen Tso.

“We are encouraging people to make less unnecessary trips, so unless we believe it is necessary, we probably don’t want to hold too many big crowd-gathering events.”

Kam explained that MTR had implemented a contingency plan correlated to the “serious” alarm level issued by the Hong Kong government.

“We have built our plans based on the experience from the SARS epidemic so we believe that we are reasonably prepared for what is coming,” he said.

“Among all these different measures, of course we have the enhanced cleaning of our premises, trains, all the public areas as well as our staff areas. In addition, we have our body temperature measurement for our ports. The government has put in place body temperature screening and symptoms screening arrangements.”

Asked whether he was concerned about the impact on his business of falling demand, Kam suggested that the long-term nature of investment in the railway industry kept MTR insulated from short term fluctuations.

Hospital Authority Director Dr Chung Kin-lai said during a media briefing Friday that Hong Kong’s medical bed occupancy rate was at 97% and 5,000 people had attended A&E in relation to the virus.

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Equinor to run ship fitted with ammonia fuel cells

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This image shows Equinor’s Johan Sverdrup oil field in the North Sea west of Stavanger, Norway, on January 7, 2020.

Carina Johansen | NTB Scanpix | Getty Images

The European Union has awarded 10 million euros ($11.05 million) in funding to a scheme that is aiming to install an ammonia-powered fuel cell on a ship.

The beneficiary of the money, the ShipFC project, is a consortium of 14 firms and institutions co-ordinated by NCE Maritime CleanTech.

The project will involve the modification of Eidesvik Offshore’s “Viking Energy” ship. The vessel has been used by Norwegian energy major Equinor for 17 years.

“Together with Equinor, we are now launching a full-scale research project to test a propulsion solution based on fuel cells running on pure and emission-free ammonia,” Jan Fredrik Meling, who is the CEO of Eidesvik Offshore, said Thursday.

“The goal is to install fuel cell modules with a total power of 2 MW (megawatts) on board Viking Energy in 2024,” he added. “This will make the vessel the world’s first emission-free supply vessel.”

In its own statement, Equinor explained that the vessel would take supplies to installations located on the Norwegian Continental Shelf.

Vermund Hjelland, vice president of technology and development at Eidesvik Offshore, said part of the testing would see the Viking Energy use ammonia “in transit between harbour and offshore installations for one year.”

The firm, Hjelland explained, envisaged ammonia also being used to power the ship when alongside the quay.

“Our ambition is that 60 to 70 percent of the energy consumption will come from ammonia during the test period,” he said. “In addition, we want to demonstrate that the technology can supply up to 90 per cent of the total power demand.”

Cecilie Ronning, who is senior vice president for Equinor’s joint operations support, said the company was aiming to reduce emissions in its supply chain “and regards the use of ammonia as a promising solution.”

Renewable sea change

The announcement of this week’s funding comes against the backdrop of a significant shift in the shipping industry.

At the beginning of January, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) introduced new emissions regulations that it’s hoped will curb pollution generated by ships.

And in August 2019, an all-electric ferry capable of carrying roughly 30 vehicles and 200 passengers completed its maiden voyage.

The e-ferry Ellen crossed waters between the ports of Soby and Fynshav, which are located on the islands of Aero and Als in the south of Denmark.

The ship is powered by a battery system with a capacity of 4.3 megawatt hours, provided by Switzerland-headquartered energy storage firm Leclanche, and is able to sail as much as 22 nautical miles (approximately 25.3 miles) between charges.

Another example of more sustainable shipping is Finnish firm Viking Line’s M/S Viking Grace, a hybrid ship which has the capacity to use diesel, “traditional heavy fuel oil”, or liquefied natural gas.

To offset that, the vessel can also make use of a 24-meter-tall cylindrical rotor sail developed by Norsepower Oy, another Finnish company. The sail uses something called the “Magnus effect” for propulsion, according to Viking Line.

As the rotor spins, passing air will flow with a lower pressure on one side compared to the other, the business says. This difference in pressure creates a propulsion force that moves the ship forward.

CNBC’s Sam Meredith and Natasha Turak contributed to this report

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Hudson Valley hotels and glamping

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The Hudson River Valley has long attracted city dwellers trying to escape New York.

The beautiful region — an 150-mile stretch from the northern tip of Manhattan to Albany — features abundant forests, fertile farmlands and dramatic views of the pristine Hudson River.

Hudson Valley is popular in the autumn, but the winter — shown here in the Catskill Mountains — can be just as beautiful.

AlisonPerryPhotography

But more than just its natural splendor, the Hudson River Valley is brimming with rich cultural heritage, a thriving food and wine scene, and year-round activities that make it an ideal destination for those looking to escape the bustle of the Big Apple.

A historical hangout for the elite

Founded in 1869 — having celebrated its 150th anniversary last year — Mohonk Mountain House is a favorite getaway among New York’s elite, including five U.S. presidents.

Situated along the banks of Lake Mohonk in New Paltz and designated a National Historic Landmark, this all-inclusive resort mixes Victorian frills with modern amenities.

Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York.

Courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House

Accommodations range from elegant rooms with lake and mountainside views to suites with private balconies, rustic cottages with full kitchens and the stunning Grove Lodge, a house for families or groups seeking a more private experience.

For the outdoor adventurer, the area is a hiker’s dream thanks to 85 miles of private trails and guided nature walks. Among the all-inclusive activities are kayaking, canoeing, rock scrambling, archery and Tomahawk throwing — plus tennis, basketball, golf and lawn games.

There’s also swimming at an indoor pool and private beach, and in the winter, ice skating and cross-country skiing.

Cross-country skiing at Mohonk.

Courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House

For an additional fee, guests can enjoy scenic carriage rides, horseback riding and spa services.

Executive Chef Jim Palmeri recommends a farm-to-table approach at the resort’s new dining venue, Surrey. Guests can also enjoy cookouts at The Granary, a casual outdoor venue overlooking Lake Mohonk.

Nightly entertainment abounds with live music, dance parties, magic performances and more. And, history buffs can lose themselves in the nearby Mohonk Barn Museum.

Stay in a castle

Perched atop one of the highest points in the lower Hudson Valley, Castle Hotel & Spa in Tarrytown combines old world majesty with a tranquil, luxurious atmosphere.

It is renowned for its Sankara Spa and Equus Restaurant, where contemporary French cooking earned the latter an “Excellent” rating from The New York Times.

Castle Hotel & Spa.

Courtesy of Castle Hotel & Spa

The estate boasts 31 guest rooms and suites, including its Castle King Parlor and two Castle Royal Suites in the original wing of the castle, built in 1897. There’s also butler service, a 24-hour fitness center, an outdoor swimming pool and a host of signature activities.

“We often create in-house events such as murder mystery dinners, casino royal wine and dine galas, summer poolside parties and more,” said Alison Yassky, Castle Hotel & Spa’s maître d’hôtel.

The hotel is also a great jumping off point to take in Hudson Valley’s storied history — places like author Washington Irving’s Sunnyside home, Lyndhurst Mansion, Tarrytown Music Hall and the Brotherhood Winery, said to be the oldest winery in the U.S.

Castle Hotel & Spa hosts casino-themed galas and other special events.

Jason Laboy Photography | Castle Hotel & Spa

Luxury travelers short on time can book door-to-door service via helicopter, offering a swift trip from Manhattan and a scenic aerial tour of the area. Bookings can also include an intimate Chef’s Table experience prepared by Equus’ Executive Chef Christopher Colom.

Go glamping

Collective Retreats has perfected the art of glamping — no more so than at Collective Hudson Valley at Liberty Farms. Guests stay in soaring tents outfitted with 1,500 thread-count linens and antiques from the area. Ensuite private bathrooms feature rain showers, Beekman 1802 bath amenities, parachute towels and Frette robes.

Interior of a summit tent.

Courtesy of Collective Hudson Valley

Breakfast is served with locally-baked goods, while farm-to-table dinners are based on a rotating seasonal menu. And let’s not forget gourmet s’mores — with chili-dusted marshmallows and sea salt caramel chocolate — served around the campfire.

Collective Hudson Valley is located on a working organic farm.

Courtesy of Collective Hudson Valley

Collective’s full concierge service will arrange winery and brewery tours, agri-culinary classes and hot air balloon rides. There’s also Saturday Night Sangria & Sunset events, seed-to-table tours, apple picking and cider making.

Collective Hudson Valley closes during the winter, but bookings — which start in late April — can be made now.

Boutique chic

For those seeking a more in-town vibe, Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern fits the bill. This luxury boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Saugerties has 30 guest rooms, each with their own balcony and scenic views of the waterfall in Esopus Creek.

Suites are furnished with European flair and hand-crafted antique vanities.

Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern in Saugerties, New York.

Courtesy of Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern

Diamond Mills made its mark in the culinary world with The Tavern, hailed as one of the region’s best restaurants. New American fare is prepared by Executive Chef Giuseppe Napoli in an elegant setting overlooking the falls or alfresco on the Grand Terrace.

Diamond Mills has won a “Best of Weddings” award from wedding website The Knot three years in a row.

Courtesy of Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern

The hotel is just steps away from a myriad of shops, restaurants and fun outings like the Saugerties Farm Market, horse shows and the town’s annual Hudson Valley Garlic Festival.

Cruise at a slow speed

For those eager to take in the Hudson River itself, American Cruise Lines provides an eight-day round-trip cruise from New York City aboard two 100-passenger ships and the new, 175-passenger American Constitution.

The trip organizes guided tours both on board and on shore making stops such as the Vanderbilt Mansion, Sleepy Hollow and West Point.

The Constitution cruise ship.

Courtesy of American Cruise Lines

Each ship sports spacious suites with private furnished balconies, king beds and full-sized bathrooms, and guests eat meals that highlight Hudson Valley fare.

The best time to go is during the peak fall foliage season. The itinerary includes one night docked in New York City.

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