GERMANY (DW) Catalan separatists launch hunger strike in Spanish jail; Two jailed Catalan leaders have accused Spanish authorities of failing to provide legal guarantees for a fair trial. Spanish prosecutors are seeking long prison terms for the duo’s involvement in an independence bid. Catalan separatist leaders on Saturday began an indefinite hunger strike in a Spanish jail as they await trial for their involvement in an outlawed independence referendum, according to their lawyer Jordi Pina. “I did not recommend this action,” said Pina. “It is a decision of my clients and they have my full support.” The two men are Jordi Sanchez, who once led the grassroots Catalan National Assembly (ANC) separatist movement, and Jordi Turull, an ex-minister in the Catalan government and failed regional presidential candidate.
(DW) Germany protests call for leadership on climate action; From Berlin to Cologne, protesters have gathered to demand more from the government in the fight against climate change. Greenpeace said Germany must lead, and that means phasing out coal by 2030. Organizers said the protest aimed to pressure the government into ending Germany’s reliance on coal for its energy needs and instead looking to renewable energies, such as solar energy and wind power.
“The point is that Germany must phase out coal by 2030,” Jennifer Morgan, who leads Greenpeace International, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
“What happens in high-tech Germany, how quickly the climate-damaging combustion of coal is replaced by solar energy and wind power, is very important, also for other countries.”
(DW) China issues air pollution warnings, 79 cities blanketed in heavy smog; Authorities have warned residents to stay inside as thick smog shrouds dozens of Chinese cities. Officials are considering temporary driving bans and an extension to the shutdown of heavily polluting factories. Along with 78 other cities, China’s capital, Beijing, was again blanketed in thick winter smog on Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Air pollution warnings were issued across the north, northwest and east of the country, forcing residents in many cities to curb outdoor activities due to the potential health risks.
Several Chinese cities struggled with high pollution levels throughout November, which in some instances forced the cancellation of flights and the closure of major highways.
(DW) Russia’s HIV capital relies on tradition against epidemic; For years, Russia’s Urals have been beset by a severe HIV epidemic, with thousands of people of all backgrounds affected. How does the state plan to tackle it? Juri Rescheto traveled to Severouralsk to find out. Severouralsk is a sleepy town in Russia’s Northern Urals, located several hundred kilometers from the cities of Yekaterinburg and Perm. The only way to reach it is via taxi or minibus. Home to some 26,000 people, it has always been a mining town, which is how most residents earn a living. And although the town has an unemployment rate of 3.28 percent, slightly higher than the Russian average, many still find work in the region’s bauxite mines. The town’s tranquility, however, belies a grim reality: Severouralsk is the country’s HIV capital. Severouralsk is grappling with a veritable epidemic. Here, every 25th resident is infected with HIV. The town was one of the first in Russia to properly record all known HIV cases, subsequently earning Severouralsk an infamous reputation. Here the virus is not only found among groups at higher risk of contracting HIV, but throughout society.
(DW) G20: Merkel calls on Putin to free Ukrainian sailors; On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, the German chancellor called for the release of Ukrainian sailors seized by Russia last weekend. Putin called Kyiv’s ruling party a “party of war.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel had an “in-depth” conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the worsening tensions between Moscow and Kyiv, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Saturday. Merkel joined French President Emmanuel Macron, who also met Putin separately on the sidelines of the G20 summit of the world’s biggest economies in Argentina, in demanding the release of the Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia’s navy last weekend. Putin insisted their cases would be dealt with by the courts. Russia captured several Ukrainian navy vessels on Sunday in the Kerch Strait, which links the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. The area is located off the Crimean Peninsula, a territory Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014. At a press conference later on Saturday, Putin said Ukraine was not interested in a peaceful resolution to the conflict and called the governing party in Kyiv a “party of war.” “As long as it’s in power, tragedies of this type and the war will continue,” Putin added.
FRANCE (France24) ‘Putin refuses to talk to me’, Ukraine’s Poroshenko; Ukraine’s president urged Russia to return the boats and sailors seized a few days ago in the Sea of Azov, which he described as a deliberate act of aggression. He wanted to deescalate the situation but lamented that Russian president Vladimir Putin has refused to talk to him since the beginning of the crisis. Poroshenko urged Moscow to return the boats and the sailors, whom he described as prisoners of war. He refused to say he was disappointed by the reaction from western countries.
(France24) Hundreds arrested as police clash with ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters in Paris; Protesters angry about rising taxes clashed with French police for a third straight weekend and scores were arrested after demonstrators built barricades in central Paris, lit fires and threw rocks at officers Saturday. According to figures released by French interior ministry, around 75,000 demonstrators took to the streets today in the anti-Macron protests. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said earlier on Saturday that “1,500 troublemakers” were around the Champs-Elysées avenue, outside a perimeter secured by police, who said that 270 people were arrested.
(Francw24) World AIDS Day: How a hidden epidemic threatens Madagascar; On paper, Madagascar is largely unaffected by AIDS and HIV: according to UNAIDS, the prevalence of HIV is 0.3 percent. But experts agree that there is likely a hidden epidemic. Only eight percent of the population has been tested for HIV or AIDS. “We see that if people do not want to be screened, it is for many–almost half–out of denial. They think that HIV doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t concern them. Or they are afraid of being stigmatized as a person with HIV if they are found to be positive,” said Yoann Maldonado, general coordinator for Doctors of the World. The group and other NGOs send volunteers into the field to survey people and convince them to get tested.
JAPAN (NHK) Abe, Putin agree on framework for talks; The leaders of Japan and Russia are following up on their agreement to speed up negotiations on a peace treaty. They have agreed to arrange a meeting between foreign ministers to discuss the issue before the next bilateral summit early next year. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin met in Argentina after the G20 summit. They agreed that Foreign Minister Taro Kono would negotiate a peace treaty with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, before Prime Minister Abe visits Russia. Abe and Putin also designated chief negotiators under the foreign ministers. Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov will represent the leaders as special envoys. It was the leaders’ 24th meeting following their previous summit in November in Singapore. In Singapore, Abe and Putin agreed to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on the 1956 joint declaration. It says Moscow will hand over to Japan 2 of 4 Russian-held islands after the conclusion of a peace treaty. A treaty was never signed after World War Two.
(NHK) Ghosn’s aide signed deferred pay documents; Sources say a close aide to Carlos Ghosn, the ousted chairman of Nissan Motor, has admitted that he signed documents outlining plans to pay part of Ghosn’s earnings after his retirement. Nissan’s former representative director Greg Kelly was arrested in November on suspicion of conspiring with Ghosn to underreport Ghosn’s income by tens of millions of dollars. Sources say every year Kelly created a document, which stipulated that Ghosn would receive a deferred payment after his retirement. Kelly told prosecutors that he signed the documents every year. But he insists that they were not official documents, and that the amount of Ghosn’s deferred remuneration had not been determined. He also says the documents were created to try to keep Ghosn at Nissan.
(NHK) US halts China tariffs increase; he US is not going ahead with a plan to raise tariffs on Chinese imports. Washington had planned to increase them from 10 percent to 25 percent on 200 billion dollars’ worth of goods from January 1. The agreement was reached at a summit between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, following the G20 conference. The White House says Beijing will buy more farm products and energy to reduce its trade deficit with Washington. It says the 2 countries will immediately begin negotiations on intellectual property protection and cyber theft. The White House says the US will raise tariffs if the 2 sides can’t reach an agreement within 90 days. Trump said previously his administration would increase them from January 1 if trade talks with China fail.
(NHK) Topics of finance ministers’ meeting announced; How to fix current account imbalances will be one of the topics at the Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting next June. Japan will host the meeting in the southwestern city of Fukuoka on June 8th and 9th. Finance Minister Taro Aso announced the major topics for discussion on Saturday in Argentina as the G20 summit closed. Aso told a news conference that he hopes the finance ministers will discuss the issue of current account imbalances. He said that Japan wants the discussion to focus on redressing such imbalances through multilateral measures, not bilateral trade negotiations. Japan also wants to discuss rules on country-to-country loans to improve transparency. An increasing number of emerging countries are burdened with loans from China that they cannot pay back. The ministers are also expected to discuss the impact of aging populations on the global economy and taxation of global IT giants. Aso said that he hopes the finance ministers and the governors of central banks will discuss laying the foundation for sustainable economic growth, as they are responsible for the future of the world economy.