World News Headlines: 12-04-2018

GERMANY (DW) France revolts against Emmanuel Macron and the ‘elite’; Representatives of the “yellow vest” demonstrators have called off talks with the French government, though it was doubtful they would’ve ended the protests. The gap between the people and their government is deepening.Still under the impression of Saturday’s dramatic events, the prefect chose his words to the public with care. “There was the will of the protesters to kill people,” said Yves Rousset, who represents the French state in the department of Haute-Loire. This past weekend, angry “yellow vest” protesters burned down his workplace, the prefecture in the tranquil town of Le Puy-en-Velay. Demonstrators hurled bricks through the windows and lobbed Molotov cocktails into the building. People were shocked at the unbridled protests in a pilgrimage town that is seen as the heart of Catholic France. Usually, political shockwaves from the capital are not noticeable that far away, more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Paris.Things are different these days. A largely uncoordinated wave of protest has spread across the country, and quickly. From Brest to Strasbourg, from Lille to Marseille, demonstrators have blocked tollbooths, roads and fuel depots and gathered for protest marches, clad in yellow safety vests. The movement could continue to pick up speed. On Monday morning, protesters supported by demonstrators wearing yellow vests blocked about 100 schools nationwide in protest to the government’s education policy.

DW) France, Germany fight to save EU tech tax; The two countries want tech giants such as Google and Facebook to pay tax on digital revenue. But the idea faces opposition from a large contingent of the EU. France and Germany are fighting to save a proposal for an EU-wide tax on big digital firms ahead of a meeting of European finance ministers on Tuesday. The two countries have encountered significant opposition to their plan for the bloc and need to scale it back to have any chance of passing it into law. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Monday: “What matters for France is that there is a legally-binding instrument that can be adopted as soon as possible.” “This makes a lot of sense as it will cover some of the most profitable activities,” a source told Agence France-Presse news agency. According to EU sources, the two countries are declaring in a joint statement their “determination to introduce a fair and effective tax on large digital companies.”

(DW) Brexit: UK parliament launches debate on Theresa May deal; Britain is entering the endgame over its planned departure from the European Union. Prime Minister Theresa May faces an uphill task as she tries to convince enough lawmakers to back her draft Brexit deal. British lawmakers kick off five days of debate on Tuesday on a draft UK-EU agreement on Britain’s exit from the European Union ahead of a crucial final vote on the deal on December 11. “The British people want us to get on with a deal that honors the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted,” British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to tell the Parliament. “This is the deal that delivers for the British people.”

(DW) China and Panama sign partnerships in Latin American first; Panama has become the first Latin American country to sign on to Beijing’s vast “Belt and Road” investment initiative. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Panama on Monday to sign a range of cooperation agreements and extend China’s influence in Central America. China only opened diplomatic ties with the nation last year, and with the new deals, Panama became the first Latin American country to sign on to Beijing’s vast “Belt and Road” investment initiative.

(DW) Venezuela: Erdogan and Maduro slam US sanctions; Venezuela has suffered from a severe political and economic crisis since a collapse in oil prices several years ago. It has sought to bolster its ties with Turkey as it faces down a range of US sanctions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced US sanctions against Venezuela at a joint press conference with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Monday. Ties between the two countries have grown closer in recent months as Venezuela struggles to overcome a severe economic and political crisis.

(DW) Kinshasa is drowning in waste; Every day almost 9,000 tons of garbage accumulate in Kinshasa. The Congolese capital does not have a functioning garbage collection system. Consequences for the health of the “Kinois” are catastrophic. The area in front of Kinshasa’s main station is bustling with activity. And everybody has to make their way through piles of garbage. Passing vehicles whirl up plastic and paper bags. The scenario repeats itself all around town. It is an everyday torture for the “Kinois”, as the inhabitants of Kinshasa are known. Many people say that they are disgusted: “It gets worse every year. Our once so beautiful Kinshasa has degenerated into a big dump,” a woman told DW. Another one added: “We Congolese obviously despise our country. Otherwise we would not allow our cities to sink into such filth.” Jules Mulimbi, in charge of environment and sustainable development at Kinshasa City Council, is worried about the quality of life in the capital too. “For me, a healthy environment is a fundamental human right,” he told DW. The problem is not just the completely inefficient disposal of waste. The behavior of the inhabitants also contributes to the problem. “The solution begins with every single citizen, every single family. If everyone disposed of the garbage on their own doorstep, we would already have solved part of the problem,” said Mulimbi.

(DW) Angela Merkel needs cheat sheet to recognize Australian PM; Angela Merkel resorted to a cheat sheet at the G20 as she faced the fifth Australian prime minister in as many years. Australia’s two main political parties are notorious for stabbing their leaders in the back. German Chancellor Angela Merkel needed illustrated assistance to identify Australia’s prime minister at the Argentina G20 meeting. Australia has burned through so many prime ministers in recent years that Merkel openly resorted to a page of notes with a headshot as she sat next to Scott Morrison for a short bilateral meeting. After studying her notes for some time she started the conversation, during which she frequently checked her watch. Morrison became the 30th prime minister of Australia in August after a botched attempt by Peter Dutton to replace Malcolm Turnbull. In the ensuing leadership battle, Turnbull resigned and low-profile Morrison scooted ahead to take power while Dutton failed.

(DW) Qatar’s OPEC exit rooted in Gulf region’s diplomatic unrest; Qatar is leaving OPEC. The Gulf country’s government has said the move is mainly for economic reasons, but dramatically worsened ties with some of its neighbors also played a significant role.

(DW) German cities get more funding for air quality, but retro-fitting plan still to come; With EU diesel bans looming over cities and municipalities, Angela Merkel approved new funds to help improve air quality standards. But on hardware retro-fitting, Merkel’s government said it could not yet provide a plan. The German government agreed on Monday to provide additional funding to cities, in an effort to tackle air pollution linked to diesel vehicle emissions. The decision came after a meeting dubbed the “diesel summit” between Chancellor Angela Merkel and representatives from cities and municipalities. German cities are currently facing court-imposed bans on older diesel-powered vehicles. This stemmed from legal action taken by environmentalists to enforce EU regulations on air quality. To address the issue, the German government established the “Cleaner Air” program, in place from 2017 to 2020, to cut emissions from municipal vehicles. The German automotive sector is also making a financial contribution.

FRANCE (France24) Fuel supplies, schools hit on third week of France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ protests; Dozens of French “Yellow Vest” demonstrators blocked access to a major fuel depot and several highways on Monday on the third week of anti-government protests which led to major riots in Paris at the weekend. Around 50 people blocked the fuel depot in the port of Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille, where police have repeatedly intervened to dislodge demonstrators since small-town and rural France erupted in protests over rising living costs on November 17. Traffic was also backed up on highways leading to the southern cities of Aix-en-Provence, Orange, Montpellier, Nimes and Sete as the movement, which began over fuel tax increases but has morphed into a broader wave of resistance to Macron’s pro-business policies, rumbled on.

(France24) UK parliament starts five days of crucial debate on Brexit deal; Prime Minister Theresa May will urge parliament to back her Brexit deal on Tuesday at the start of a high-stakes five-day debate that could determine her fate and whether Britain leaves the European Union without a deal. May’s plan to keep close ties with the EU after leaving has been criticised by Brexit supporters and opponents alike, leaving her struggling to secure parliament’s approval in a vote that will follow the debate on Dec. 11. If, against the odds, she wins the vote, Britain will leave the EU on March 29 under terms negotiated with Brussels — the country’s biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years. If she loses, May could call for a second vote on the deal. But defeat would increase the chances of Britain leaving without a deal — a prospect that could mean chaos for Britain’s economy and businesses — and put May under fierce pressure to resign. Defeat could also make it more likely that Britain holds a second referendum, three years after voting narrowly to leave the EU, or lead to Brexit not happening. May, 62, has toured Britain and television studios, spent hours being grilled in parliament and invited lawmakers to her Downing Street residence to try to win over her many critics. But the deal, sealed in Brussels last month, has united critics at both ends of the political spectrum: eurosceptics say it will make Britain a vassal state while EU supporters – expressing the same idea though with different language – say the country will become a rule taker. Her allies in parliament, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party which props up her government, have also rejected the deal and opposition parties say they cannot back it. May is pressing on nonetheless. “The British people want us to get on with a deal that honours the referendum and allows us to come together again as a country, whichever way we voted,” she will tell lawmakers on Tuesday, according to excerpts of her speech. “This is the deal that delivers for the British people.” Few in the House of Commons, the lower house of parliament, seemed convinced so far. On Monday, her government’s bid to calm another row over the legal advice received on the deal did little more than inflame tensions in parliament. Her former Brexit minister David Davis said flatly: “This is not Brexit.”

(France24) It’s real me’: Nigerian president denies being replaced by lookalike; Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday quashed a rumour stemming from his ill health that he had died and been replaced by a lookalike impostor from Sudan, his spokesman said. “It’s real me, I assure you. I will soon celebrate my 76th birthday and I will still go strong,” Buhari said as he met with the Nigerian diaspora in Poland, where he is attending the UN COP24 climate summit in Katowice. He was answering a question from the audience about repeated claims — spread via tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos — that the leader of Africa’s most populous nation was an imposter called “Jubril”. “A lot of people hoped that I died during my ill health. Some even reached out to the Vice President to consider them to be his deputy because they assumed I was dead,” Buhari said, according to a statement signed by his spokesman Garba Shehu. He referred to those who started the rumour as “ignorant” d “irreligious”. Buhari, who is seeking re-election next year, spent a large part of 2017 in London for treatment for a serious illness, which has never been revealed to the public.

JAPAN (NHK) Okinawa defense bureau suspends landfill work; Japan’s defense chief says the Okinawa bureau of the defense ministry has temporarily suspended work related to a US base relocation plan after the local government pointed out the necessary steps hadn’t been taken. The Okinawa defense bureau ordered soil and sand to be loaded onto a vessel at a pier of a private company in Nago City on Monday. This is in preparation for reclamation work to construct a replacement facility for the US Marines’ Futenma Air Station in the city’s Henoko coastal district. The central government plans to start full-fledged reclamation work on Friday of next week despite local opposition. Okinawa Prefecture called for a stop to the loading, calling it “illegal work,” because the defense bureau failed to submit the necessary documents to local authorities. Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters on Tuesday that the loading work has been suspended following the request. He said he hopes the situation will be reviewed as quickly as possible, and if shortcomings are found, the bureau will correct them and proceed with the plan. Asked whether the suspension could affect the planned start of the landfill work, Iwaya said he hopes there will be no impact.

(NHK) 40% of world’s patent filings from China; A UN agency has reported that China accounted for more than 40 percent of world patent filings last year. The country has been at the head of the world rankings for 7 straight years. The World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, released on Monday its latest report on patent applications in 2017. WIPO says China’s intellectual property office received a total of 1.38 million applications. The United States was second at slightly more than 600,000 and Japan third at nearly 320,000. Innovators around the globe filed 3.17 million patent applications last year — the highest total on record. The report comes as US criticism of China’s alleged violations of intellectual property rights is playing a key role in the ongoing trade row. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry says that in just a few decades China has constructed an intellectual property system and encouraged homegrown innovation. He says the country is driving worldwide growth in intellectual property applications.

(NHK) Trump asks for Pakistan’s help; The American president seems to be softening his harsh attitude towards Pakistan. Government officials there say Donald Trump is asking for cooperation to end the long-running conflict in neighboring Afghanistan. The officials say Trump made the request in a letter to Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan. He asked for his “support” in negotiating with the Afghan Taliban… and he called the relationship with Pakistan very important to end the 17-year-long war. It’s a significant change in tone for Trump. He’s repeatedly accused Pakistan of harboring the insurgents and failing to crack down on their activities, despite billions of dollars in US aid. Trump wants to end the war and bring thousands of American troops deployed there back home. The Pakistani Information ministry welcomed his letter saying the country “has always advocated a political settlement.”

(NHK) Sri Lankan court bars PM from office; In Sri Lanka, the courts are weighing in on an ongoing political battle. A new ruling is barring Mahinda Rajapaksa from holding the post of prime minister and it’s blocking his cabinet. It comes after a brawl in parliament last month, when lawmakers passed a non-confidence vote against him. The turmoil started in October, when the president abruptly fired his prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, accusing him of being corrupt. He then replaced him with Rajapaksa. But that caused backlash. Rajapaksa led the country through the end of its bloody civil war, and has been accused of human rights abuses. This court decision is another setback for him. He’s managed to hold onto his seat, but lawmakers have passed multiple non-confidence measures against him, and the Supreme Court stopped the president from dissolving parliament to call a new election. Wickremesinghe still claims to be the rightful prime minister and has refused to back down. The political drama stems partly from a rivalry between Rajapaksa’s pro-China bloc and a pro-India faction. Rajapaksa says he doesn’t accept the latest order and will file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

(NHK) Philippine news site chief bailed; A Philippine court has granted bail to the top executive of a news website known for its critical reporting of the president’s policies. The Philippine Justice Department indicted Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa, on tax evasion charges in October. Ressa spoke to reporters after posting bail of about 1,100 dollars. She said: “Before the government files these, they should have gone through their own due process, and just in this court alone, we feel that we did not get due process. So I’ll let our lawyers argue it in court, but no, I’m not afraid.” Ressa added she will continue fighting the charges to show they are “politically motivated” and “manufactured.” The Justice Department says Rappler and Ressa tried to evade taxes by not reporting gains of almost 3 million dollars in 2015. The site gained a reputation for its exposure of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs. The court set her arraignment for Friday.


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