World News Headlines: 12-07-2018

GERMANY (DW) Conservatives to pick Angela Merkel’s successor as CDU head; Riding high in opinion polls, Christian Democrats are meeting this weekend to choose Angela Merkel’s successor. Party leadership is often a springboard to the chancellorship, and whom to choose will be a tricky decision. The 1,001 delegates at the conference held by the Christian Democrats (CDU) in Hamburg on have been tasked with electing a new party chair and other internal leaders during a two-day conference starting Friday. De facto, they will also be seeking their front-runner to take over power, sooner or later, from Angela Merkel when her long tenure as the head of the German government ends. “I’m very grateful that I could be party chairwoman for 18 years — it is a very, very long time and the CDU of course had its ups and downs,” Merkel said as she arrived at the conference venue in Hamburg. “But we won four national elections together… and I am happy I can remain chancellor.” The question of who would succeed Merkel became urgent in late October when she announced that she would not seek to extend her 18 years as CDU party chairwoman this year or run again for re-election as chancellor when the current Bundestag expires in 2021.

(DW) France boosts security amid fear of new ‘yellow vest’ protest riots; Officials warned that “major violence” could hit Paris as “yellow vest” protesters plan to gather again this weekend. Teens have also blocked hundreds of schools, while several unions called for solidarity strikes. The political crisis engulfing French President Emmanuel Macron’s government showed no signs of abating on Thursday, as public anger continues to grow despite the scrapping of a controversial fuel tax hike. Authorities across France are bracing for another weekend of “yellow vest” protests. The movement’s members are known for wearing yellow safety vests carried by French motorists. The protests began as demonstrations against the fuel tax, which started in November but turned violent in Paris last Saturday, with some of the worst rioting in France in decades. Three weeks of protests have led to four deaths and left hundreds injured. Some 89,000 security personnel will be deployed across the country on Saturday ahead of the fourth weekend of planned rallies, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday. About 8,000 officers will be in Paris where armored vehicles will be on the streets for the first time since 2005 when riots broke out in the capital’s suburbs. “We are facing people who are not here to protest, but to smash and we want to have the means to not give them a free rein,” Philippe said during an interview on TF1 national evening news.

(DW) Migrant rescue ship Aquarius to end operations; The NGOs that chartered the Aquarius cited a “smear campaign” by European governments as the reason for its ceasing operations. The ship has been stranded in Marseille since losing its registration.

(DW) Pressure on Germany as UK telecoms company shuns Huawei; German officials were reportedly pushing earlier this year for their government to follow other countries’ lead and slap a ban on Chinese IT firm Huawei. But Berlin doesn’t seem inclined to bow to US pressure. Chinese multinational tech giant Huawei Technologies opened a new information security lab in the German city of Bonn last month. Some observers see the move as designed to butter up German regulators ahead of the country’s 5G mobile spectrum auction. The German network regulator (BNetzA) is finalizing the terms for the 5G licensing round it plans to hold in the first quarter of 2019. The total cost of building Germany’s 5G networks could be €80 billion ($91 billion) and this means high stakes for Huawei and its rivals Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE and Samsung.

(DW) Ecuador: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can leave London embassy; Conditions have been met for Julian Assange to leave Ecuador’s embassy in London. Britain has guaranteed that the WikiLeaks founder would not be extradited to any country where his life would be in danger.

(DW) Nicolas Maduro and Vladimir Putin: United by oil, isolation; Venezuela’s economy is in a downward spiral, and the country owes Russia billions. Caracas may seem like an unequal partner for Moscow at first glance, but an increasingly isolated Russia is keeping its friends close. It seems that Putin is happy to continue to lend a helping hand to Venezuela. Maduro’s visit comes as the country’s economy is spiraling and it is increasing isolated on the world stage. The president has been condemned for ordering violent measures against the opposition and protesters. Putin acknowledged Maduro’s challenges: “We know and understand that the situation in Venezuela is still difficult.” And the Russian president praised his counterpart’s efforts to reach a “mutual understanding in society” and even warned that he condemns any attempt to “change the situation [in Venezuela] with force.” Putin is known to have a natural distrust for coups and popular uprisings.

(DW) Bolivians protest after Supreme Court allows President Evo Morales to run for fourth term; Thousands of angry Bolivians have taken to the streets across the country two days after the decision. The court’s ruling overturned a 2016 referendum spurred by Morales’ attempts to amend the constitution. Thousands of angry Bolivians took to the streets Thursday to protest a decision by the country’s Supreme Electoral Court allowing long-serving President Evo Morales to stand for a fourth term in office. Although Bolivia’s constitution bars him from running in next October’s election and a 2016 national referendum determined he should not be allowed to change the constitution to do so, the court, nevertheless, ruled in his favor on Tuesday.

(DW) France to tax tech giants from 2019 if EU fails to act; Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said France would give the EU until March to come up with a deal on taxing US internet giants. If it fails, France will go ahead and impose its own taxes in 2019. France has said it will start taxing Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, the big US technology companies known as GAFA, if European Union finance ministers fail to agree on a bloc-wide digital tax next year. “I am giving myself until March to reach a deal on a European tax on the digital giants,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told France 2 television on Thursday. “If the European states do not take their responsibilities on taxing the GAFA, we will do it at a national level in 2019,” he added. France, backed by Germany, had proposed a comprehensive digital services tax (DST) to cover all 28 EU member states. But Ireland vetoed the move, arguing that it would exacerbate US-EU trade tensions. Dublin also said the bloc should wait until the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had presented its tax proposals in 2019.

(DW) Cuban citizens can now access the Internet on smartphones; Cubans became eligible to sign up for data plans on their smartphones. It is a long-awaited, and expensive, development on an island that limited mobile access to the Internet for most people. People began receiving text messages in the morning from the state telephone monopoly informing them that they could buy internet access packages. Previously, nearly all Cubans could use their mobiles only to access their state-run email accounts unless they connected to the internet at a limited number of government-sponsored Wi-Fi spots.

(DW) Germany: Third of small and mid-sized companies have been hacked; A new study has found that a third of small and medium-sized companies have been the victim of industrial espionage. Experts say they should work more closely with authorities to prevent future attacks.

(DW) EU, France step up security, development aid for Africa’s G5 Sahel; The EU and France have increased their financial support for projects in the five Sahel states which sit on the southern rim of Africa’s Sahara desert. Terrorism and lawlessness have blighted the region for years. A two-day donor conference in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott ended on Thursday with pledges from the European Union and France to increase their financial contributions to development and security projects in Africa’s volatile Sahal region:

(DW) Rwandan court acquits government critic Diane Rwigara; A Rwandan court has dismissed all charges against opposition figure Diane Rwigara. This shows an independence of the judiciary, says political scientist Phil Clark. In a surprise move, a Rwandan court dismissed all charges against Diane Rwigara and her 59-year-old mother Adeline. They had faced charges of fraud and incitement to insurrection over criticism of the government. In 2017, Rwigara attempted to run for the presidency against President Kagame but was barred from doing so on the grounds of allegedly having forged supporter signatures. The two spent a year in jail before being released on bail in October 2018. Rights groups Human Rights Watch had previously criticized the Rwandan government, saying that the crackdown showed its unwillingness “to tolerate criticism or accept a role for opposition parties.” US lawmakers also weighed in on the international debate surrounding the case, voicing their support for Rwigara. Phil Clark, a political scientist at SOAS in London, spoke to DW about the case.

FRANCE (France24) Eiffel Tower, museums to close during new ‘Yellow Vest’ protests; Around a dozen museums across the capital have also said they will remain closed on Saturday after vandalism and clashes between protesters and police last week rocked France. The announcements came as around 200 high schools across the country remained blocked or disrupted by students protesting a raft of education overhauls, on a fourth day of action called to coincide with the anti-government demonstrations. An interior ministry official told AFP earlier that authorities were bracing for “significant violence” on Saturday, based on indications that protesters on both the far right and far left are planning to converge on the capital.

(France24) China relaxes smog restrictions as economy slows; Blue skies in Beijing are rare these days. Smog has returned to the Chinese capital, despite a concerted government crackdown that had seen air quality improve earlier this year. As China faces a slowing economy, experts say the environment is taking a backseat to economic growth. Our correspondents report.

(France24) South Sudan: NGO files landmark suit against government for sexual violence; in South Sudan where over the past two weeks, more than 125 women and girls have sought medical treatment for assaults in the Upper Nile region. They say some of the perpetrators wore military uniforms. After 52 years in the making, Senegal has opened it’s Museum of Black Civilizations. And Seyi Shay is in Paris to promote her new single “Gimme Love”

(France24) Canada’s Trudeau insists arrest of Huawei CFO not ‘political’; With China demanding the release of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said officers who arrested her Saturday as she was changing planes in Vancouver had acted on their own. “I can assure everyone that we are a country (with) an independent judiciary,” Trudeau told a tech conference in Montreal. “And they took this decision without any political involvement or interference.” Citing a court-ordered publication ban sought by Meng, Trudeau declined to comment further on the case, which according to a US senator was brought over Huawei’s activities in Iran.

JAPAN (NHK) Final showdown over foreign workers; Japan’s ruling coalition is pushing to get a controversial bill passed before the end of the day. It would pave the way for hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to enter the country amid a severe labor shortage. The immigration law revision has been a key issue during this Diet session. It would expand work permits for a wide range of blue-collar and healthcare jobs. But there are still a lot of questions about how exactly the bill would work. Japan’s prime minister has promised to make that clearer before next April when it is set to come into effect. The opposition says the government should tackle problems with existing programs before passing the bill. It’s determined to put up as much resistance as possible to block the legislation in the Upper House. The opposition camp tried to put forward a motion to dismiss a committee chair, but the governing coalition has a majority and voted down the motion. The current Diet session is set to close on Monday.

(NHK) Bolton knew about Huawei arrest in advance; US National Security Advisor John Bolton says he knew in advance about the arrest of a top executive from Chinese telecom device maker Huawei Technologies. Canadian authorities arrested Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on December 1st at the request of the United States. Local media outlets are reporting that she is suspected of violating US sanctions against Iran. Bolton said on Thursday that the US has been concerned for years about the practice of Chinese firms to use stolen American intellectual property to engage in forced technology transfers. He spoke in an interview with National Public Radio. He said Huawei is one company the US has been concerned about. But he said this was not respecting Meng’s arrest. Bolton also said he doesn’t know whether President Donald Trump knew in advance about the arrest. But Bolton admitted having prior knowledge based on information provided by the Justice Department. Bolton did not say whether he knew during the US-China summit in Argentina on December 1st that the arrest would take place.

(NHK) Trudeau denies govt. role in Huawei arrest; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government was not involved in the arrest of a top executive of Chinese IT giant Huawei Technologies. Officials at Canada’s Justice Department said earlier they arrested Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on December 1st at the request of the United States. Trudeau said on Thursday that Canada’s judiciary is independent and the appropriate authorities took the decision without any political involvement. He said his government was given a few days’ notice. Trudeau denied having contact with leaders of the countries concerned, such as Chinese President Xi Jinping, over the matter. Meng is expected to appear at a court hearing on Friday to hear a decision on her continued detention. A separate hearing will reportedly consider her extradition to the US. The charges against Meng have not been disclosed. Reuters says US authorities suspect Huawei used a British financial institution to make illegal transactions involving Iran and that they have been conducting an investigation since 2016.

(NHK) Govt. plans revising telecom equipment rules; The Japanese government plans to revise the rules for its procurement of telecommunications equipment to take into consideration the risks related to national security. The only current rules are on the cost of procurement. The government will begin studying revisions of the internal rules of the relevant ministries and agencies as early as next week, with an eye toward preventing information leaks from cyber-attacks. The US administration of President Donald Trump has banned the government from using products made by Huawei and other Chinese telecommunications companies due to national security concerns. The US has also asked countries that host US military bases not to use Chinese telecommunications equipment. The Japanese government plans to avoid naming specific Chinese companies in the revised rules. The minister in charge of cyber security, Yoshitaka Sakurada, says the government will take various steps by studying cyber security technologies and measures taken by other countries.

(NHK) Japan reconsidering Turkey nuclear project; The Japanese government and a consortium of private firms are reconsidering involvement in a nuclear power plant project in Turkey. They say the cost of the planned venture has skyrocketed. The government has been supporting the consortium consisting of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and other private Japanese firms. The export of infrastructure is a pillar of the Abe administration’s growth strategy. After conducting research into the project, the consortium decided that the cost of building a nuclear power plant on the Black Sea coast would be over 35 billion dollars, more than double the initial estimate. The increase is due to higher safety requirements implemented after the 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The Japanese side had asked Turkey to increase the purchasing price of power generated at the nuclear plant. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were unable to reach consensus in talks in Argentina earlier this month. Japan’s trade and industry minister Hiroshige Seko is expected to discuss the matter with Turkish government officials as early as January.

(NHK) Media: Russia sets up radar sites on islands; Russian media report that the country’s military has set up radar sites on several islands, including 4 Russian-held islands claimed by Japan. Interfax news agency reported this on Thursday based on sources, but did not give details on the islands involved. Russia deployed its latest anti-ship missile systems on 2 of the 4 Russian-held islands, Etorofu and Kunashiri, in 2016. Interfax reported that the new radar sites will help to increase the potential to monitor other countries’ military activities. On Wednesday, the US Pacific Fleet said the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell conducted an operation in the vicinity of Peter the Great Bay, near Vladivostok. The purpose was “to challenge Russia’s excessive maritime claims” in the Sea of Japan. Russia is apparently making clear its intention to boost its defense capability in the area by setting up new radar sites. The islands are mentioned in the 1956 joint declaration governing a peace treaty between Japan and the then-Soviet Union. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on that declaration.

(NHK) UN seeking access to Uighur camps in China; The United Nations human rights chief is seeking access to China’s Xinjiang province, where Uighur Muslims are believed to be held in camps. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet told reporters on Wednesday that her office is receiving worrying reports about the human rights situation in Xinjiang. Bachelet said her office is asking for direct access to the region to verify the reports. International human rights groups say many Uighur Muslims in the autonomous region have been unfairly detained in the name of counterterrorism and forced to go through “reeducation” under terrible conditions. Experts say as many as one million Uighurs have been held in camps. China’s government says the camps only provide vocational training for Uighurs who have been influenced by extremism, so that they can return to society.

(NHK) Indonesian rebels claim soldiers killed; Indonesian military has retrieved the bodies of 16 people killed in an armed attack in the eastern province of Papua. The authorities are reportedly saying that separatist rebels killed dozens of construction workers, but the rebel group insists they killed Indonesian soldiers. Local media say the West Papua Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for the attack. The group’s spokesperson said it is sure that those killed were soldiers of an Indonesian army unit specializing in battle infrastructure engineering. He added that, after 3 months’ observation, they can distinguish workers from soldiers. He argues that people in Papua do not want the trans-Papua highway currently under construction. Police say the armed group stormed a bridge construction site in Papua on Sunday. They say the group sees Indonesia as a colonial occupier and is seeking the region’s independence.

(NHK) South Korea mulls arrests of former top judges; A court in South Korea is deciding whether two former Supreme Court justices should be arrested for abuse of power. It is the country’s first such situation. The two retired Justices were summoned to the Seoul Central District Court on Thursday morning. Both are facing a slew of possible charges including abuse of power and dereliction of duty. Prosecutors allege they pressured other judges to make rulings that favored former President Park Geun-hye, who is currently serving a prison term for corruption. Prosecutors say Park Byong-dae deliberately put off a wartime labor case filed by former Korean workers who say they were forced to work in Japanese factories. It’s believed he did so after a request from the South Korean foreign ministry. At the time the ministry was trying to mend ties with Japan. Former justice Ko Young-han is accused of covering up an appellate court judge’s leaking of secret information because the judge had close ties with an important staff member in the presidential office. Prosecutors also suspect the two justices were involved in improper lobbying of the presidential office on behalf of the Supreme Court Chief Justice at the time. The court is expected to give its decision by Friday morning at the latest.

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