GERMANY (DW) Crunch time for the climate at the COP24 global warming conference; There’s a lot at stake at the UN climate conference in Poland. Delegates will be scrambling to save the Paris Agreement — and the multilateralism of the United Nations. It was just three years ago. But the euphoric celebrations in Paris now seem a distant memory.; The United Nations’ 190-plus states had finally wrestled together an agreement that the Earth’s temperature shouldn’t rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels. Better still, that it should go up by considerably less.; “This is a historic moment for climate protection,” then-German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks told DW at the time. “Most children alive today will still be here towards the end of this century. And that’s why it’s important that it doesn’t heat up more than 2 degrees.”
(DW) Spain’s Socialists secure win in Andalusia regional election; For the first time in decades, a far-right party has won enough votes to enter a Spanish regional parliament. The result is a blow to Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who was facing his first major electoral test. Spain’s Socialist Workers’ Party secured the most votes in Sunday’s regional election in Andalusia, but fell well short of a majority.
(DW) Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it will allow evacuation of wounded Houthi rebels; The United Nations is pressing the coalition and Houthi rebels to take confidence building measures ahead of planned peace talks. It is still unclear when, or whether, they will take place despite recent positive signs. Fifty wounded Houthi rebels will be evacuated on a plane from Yemen’s capital on Monday as a confidence building measure ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden, the Saudi-led military coalition said. The UN chartered plane will take the rebels, three Yemeni doctors and a UN doctor from Sanaa to Muscat, Oman, for “humanitarian” reasons ahead of the talks sponsored by UN envoy Martin Griffiths, Saudi state media said.
(DW) Thousands march in Brussels ahead of COP24 climate conference; Tens of thousands of people have marched through Brussels to call on governments to stick to their climate change commitments. The protest came as a major United Nations climate summit kicked off in Poland.
(DW) Macron holds crisis talks after worst urban riot in 50 years; French President Emmanuel Macron is keen to prevent a recurrence of the angry fuel protests in Paris that turned into the most serious unrest in decades. Police arrested 412 people, while 133 were injured. The French government did not discuss the possibility of declaring a state of emergency to prevent future riots at “yellow-vest” protests across the country, an Elysee Palace spokesman said on Sunday. French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with several ministers after angry demonstrations a day earlier turned into the worst unrest in the capital, Paris, since 1968. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has been asked to prepare security forces for future protests and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to hold talks with political party leaders and protest representatives. Officials said 133 people were injured, including 23 police officers, and 412 people were arrested in the third weekend of clashes in the capital.
(DW) Germany: Blood sausage at Islam conference stirs controversy; Germany’s Interior Ministry has apologized for serving the pork sausage at an Islam conference in Berlin last week. The “#BloodSausageGate” scandal has sparked a debate over integration and tolerance. Germany’s Interior Ministry has come under fire for serving blood sausage at a national Islam conference last week, despite pork being forbidden for practicing Muslims. The issue has stirred a heated debate — one that touches on the fault line issues of integration and respect for different religions — between critics of the ministry and right-wing groups who justified the decision to serve the dish. The ministry has defended its decision to serve the sausage consisting of pig’s blood, pork and bacon at the evening buffet on Wednesday. It said the serving reflected the “religious-pluralistic composition” of the event, which brought together Muslim associations and leaders with officials from the federal and local governments. The ministry added that there was a wide range of food at the “clearly excellent” buffet, with vegetarian, meat, fish and halal dishes available. “If individuals were still offended for religious reasons, we regret this,” it said.
(DW) Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 concert held in Johannesburg for African development; Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Pharrell were among the stars who took to the stage in South Africa to raise awareness for global poverty. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s message offering good prospects for the future was beamed. In a message beamed on screen during the event, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany wanted to work with Africa to offer its young people good prospects for the future. “With this in mind, we have just launched the Development Investment Fund here in Berlin,” Merkel said. “We hope to raise up to a billion euros through this fund.”
(DW) Georgia protests decry presidential ‘election fraud’; Thousands of protesters have denounced Georgia’s “rigged” presidential election. While monitors said the vote was largely fair, the OSCE raised concerns that state money was used to fund the winner’s campaign. More than 20,000 protesters on Sunday gathered in the Georgian capital Tbilisi to protest the run-off presidential election, saying the vote had been rigged. Earlier this week, Georgia elected its first female president, Salome Zurabishvili, who beat out opposition candidate Grigol Vashadze, who in turn enjoyed the backing of former president and fugitive Mikheil Saakashvili. “People took to the streets today because the elections were rigged,” said one protester identified as Gia.
Some protesters accused Georgian billionaire and founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili of stealing votes. “I am here to protest against election fraud,” said a 63-year-old demonstrator. Vashadze addressed the protesters in the capital, saying the election was a “criminal farce.” The opposition “demands an early parliamentary election to be held in Georgia,” Vashadze said, referring to the legislature.
(DW) Afghanistan’s women’s team accuse FA of sexual abuse; Two players from the national team have made a string of allegations against the head of the Afghani Football Federation and several coaches. The women say they were sexually abused and assaulted, but the FA denies this.
FRANCE (France24) Macron surveys damage after worst riots in Paris for decades, calls for talks; French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday surveyed the damage from a day of riots across Paris and led crisis talks that ended with a call for further talks with anti-government activists who have staged two weeks of protests. Macron held crisis talks with the prime minister, interior minister and top security service officials to forge a response to the violence that left hundreds injured nationwide. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has been asked to meet protest organisers and party leaders as part of a “constant wish for dialogue,” the Elysee Palace said. Environment Minister Francois de Rugy met representatives of the “yellow vests” last week but failed to convince them to end the protests. The government has not ruled out imposing a state of emergency to combat the protests, which began over fuel taxes but have grown into wider anger over Macron’s agenda. The president earlier assessed the damage at the Arc de Triomphe, the massive monument to France’s war dead at the top of the famous Champs Elysees avenue, where rioters scrawled graffiti and ransacked the ticketing and reception areas. Inside, rioters smashed in the iconic face of a sculpture, a partial reproduction of the victory allegory “La Marseillaise” by Francois Rude. Macron also saw the wreckage of burnt-out cars and damaged buildings from rioting at other sites, where he praised the police but was also booed by sections of the crowd.
(France24) Shock at attack on Paris’ Arc de Triomphe during ‘Yellow Vest’ protest; One of France’s most revered monuments, the Arc de Triomphe, was stormed and vandalised on Saturday during the ‘Yellow Vest’ demonstrations, in one of the worst instances of unrest Paris has seen since the protests and riots of 1968. The interior of the Arc de Triomphe, the 19th-century arch that towers over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the western end of Champs Elysées, was ransacked. The statue of the Marianne, the symbol of the French republic, in display at the entrance of the Arc de Triomphe museum was smashed. A video shared on Facebook shows most of the front of the statue hacked off, while several other men, dressed with yellow vests, are being filmed repeatedly hitting other artefacts with hammers. While protests degenerated in some places into scenes of destruction and fires, graffiti was scrawled over the Arc, reading “Macron resign” and “the yellow vests will triumph.” Such was the shock over the desecration of this monument that, on his return from the G20 summit in Argentina, French President Emmanuel Macron went immediately to visit the Arc on Sunday. The Arc de Triomphe is so revered because it stands over the tomb of the unknown soldier, which commemorates the 1.4 million French soldiers who died during the First World War, covered by a granite slab bearing the statement: “Here rests a French soldier who died for his country, 1914-1918”. The granite slab bearing this epitaph is installed under the monument. A flame burns in front of the tomb to symbolise France’s commemoration of the fallen soldiers. It was lit for the first time on Armistice Day 1923 by the then minister of war André Maginot. It has burned ever since, relit in a ceremony every evening. The French army announced that – after the violence prevented the fire from being relit on Saturday night – the ceremony will resume on Sunday evening.
JAPAN (NHK) Moon hopes issues won’t harm Japan-S.Korea ties; South Korean President Moon Jae-in has expressed hope that historical issues won’t sour relations between his country and Japan. Moon spoke to reporters Saturday on his flight to New Zealand following the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. He said historical disputes shouldn’t undermine cooperative ties between Japan and South Korea. He said the 2 countries should focus on the future in their relations. It’s the first time Moon has publicly referred to bilateral relations since the South Korean Supreme Court ordered a Japanese company in October to pay compensation to wartime laborers. The Japanese government has strongly protested the decision. Moon also talked about his meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit. He said Trump asked him to deliver a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump’s message, Moon said, conveys his liking for Kim and expresses hope that the North Korean leader will implement the rest of their agreement. Moon said Trump told Kim he would like to help him realize his goals.
(NHK) Japan, Paraguay to make investment pact; The leaders of Japan and Paraguay have confirmed that the 2 countries will seek an early conclusion to talks on an investment pact that will further expand trade and investment ties. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with President Mario Abdo Benitez in Paraguay on Sunday, on the last leg of Abe’s tour of South American countries. He was previously in Argentina for the G20 summit. The 2 leaders agreed on the need to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Abe called for Paraguay’s understanding and cooperation in resolving the issue of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals at an early date. Abdo Benitez said he supports Japan’s stance on the issue.
(NHK) Japan, Uruguay reach agreement on beef trade; The leaders of Japan and Uruguay have agreed that their nations will start importing each other’s beef. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Uruguay’s President Tabare Vazquez in the South American country on Sunday. Abe had earlier attended the Group of 20 summit in neighboring Argentina. At a joint news conference, Abe said the 2 leaders agreed Japan will lift its embargo on imports of Uruguayan beef, and the South American country will allow imports of Japanese wagyu beef. The Japanese government started enforcing the ban in October 2000 after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Uruguay. Abe said the 2 leaders agreed on the need to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Abe said Japan and Uruguay are important partners sharing universal values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
(NHK) New measures against gold smuggling; The Japanese government is stepping up its efforts to fight gold smuggling. Officials are bracing for an expected rise in the number of cases ahead of a hike in the country’s consumption tax, set to go from 8 percent to 10 percent. People who bring gold into Japan are required by law to pay the tax to customs officials when they arrive. The amount is based on the value of the gold they’re carrying. Smugglers don’t report their gold. But when they sell it in Japan, they charge the buyer the consumption tax, so that the full amount of the levy ends up in their pockets. Japanese officials are worried next year’s tax hike will make smuggling more lucrative and prompt an increase in the number of attempts. The government says it will ask jewelry dealers to check the identification of sellers and keep copies of their driver’s licenses, passports and other ID. The officials plan to incorporate the new rule in its tax revisions for fiscal 2019, to be compiled this month.
(NHK) Bitcoin price plunges on Japanese exchanges; The price of Bitcoin has dropped to a fifth of its peak on Japan’s major crypto exchanges. The exchanges say the price briefly fell to around 390,000 yen, or about 3,400 dollars, late last month. That compares to around 700,000 yen at the start of November, and a peak of over 2 million yen last year. Investors have apparently soured on the currency after several billion dollars’ worth of customer assets were lost in a series of hacks. And on top of this, a separate crypto-currency split into two in November, which raised worries of possible market confusion, and contributed to the price plunge. Daisuke Yasaku of the Daiwa Institute of Research says demand for virtual currencies is unlikely to see a sharp recovery, due to tighter regulations worldwide and security concerns. A panel of experts set up by the Financial Services Agency is proposing that Japan refers to the currencies as “crypto-assets.” They say this will help consumers from confusing the assets with legal tender.