World News Headlines: 12-24-2018

Germany (DW)

Venezuela and Guyana spar over Exxon Mobil oil seismic vessel; The offshore exploration work of an Exxon Mobil vessel has inflamed tensions between Venezuela and its eastern neighbor Guyana. The South American nations have been locked in a century-old territorial dispute.A ship belonging to Exxon Mobil Corporation was “intercepted” by Venezuela’s navy, Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said. The incident caused a spat between the neighboring South American nations, which share a century-long dispute over Guyana’s border territory. Guyana’s government denounced the move by Caracas, calling it an “illegal, aggressive and hostile act.” The foreign ministry statement charged that the incident “once again demonstrates the real threat to Guyana’s economic development by its western neighbor; an act that violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country.” In a statement released on Sunday, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said its navy encountered two Exxon Mobil ships, in an area that it referred to as “undoubtedly Venezuelan sovereignty.” Caracas said that, “given the flagrant violation,” of its sovereignty it had proceeded with the “appropriate protocols” for this kind of situation.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Our democracy is as strong as we make it; German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has urged the people of Germany to address tensions in society by engaging with each other. The country must not be allowed to drift apart, he says in his annual Christmas speech.Political and societal dissent in Germany has grown louder and more intense in 2018. There is much talk of social division, of alienation between politicians and ordinary people. Many express anger, especially on so-called “social” media, where there’s often no real interest in debate or a genuine exchange of views. In his Christmas address, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier refers to the increased bitterness of this discourse. “Wherever you look – especially on the social media – we see hate; there is shouting and daily outrage,” he says. “I feel that we Germans are spending less and less time talking to each other. And even less time listening to each other.” Steinmeier urges people to keep on talking to each other, even if they espouse different views and it leads to argument – because that’s part of what constitutes democracy.

Sudan rocked by protests over bread price hike; Demonstrators are demanding the ouster of President Omar Bashir, who has been in power since 1989. The sub-Saharan nation has been gripped by soaring inflation, a weak currency, and food shortages.Protesters in Sudan took to the streets on Sunday for a fifth day, facing tear gas and arrests, as a wave of unrest has gripped the sub-Saharan nation since Wednesday. The protests were triggered by a steep increase in the price of bread, a staple for most Sudanese, but are also related to ongoing food and fuel shortages. Demonstrators have demanded that long-time President Omar Bashir step down. In Omdurman, just across the River Nile from central Khartoum, protesters chanted “The people want the fall of the regime” and “Freedom! Freedom!” Demonstrations have taken place in several other cities. Some 600 residents in the city of Um Rawaba, 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Khartoum, gathered in the market chanting “the people want the fall of the regime,” Agence France Presse reported. Protesters burnt tires and branches in the streets and attempted to storm a government building before being repelled by security officials, witnesses said.

Russian pranksters target Ukraine church leader, impersonating EU’s David McAllister; A Russian prankster duo claims to have spoken with Epiphanius Dumenko, the head of Ukraine’s new Orthodox Church. Dumenko said the church should work to increase understanding for LGBT people, according to the recording.The head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Epiphanius Dumenko, was hoaxed into talking to a man he believed to be David McAllister, the European Union Parliament lawmaker in charge of foreign affairs. A recording of the conversation was published by the Russian pro-Kremlin prankster team Alexei Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov on Saturday. The duo, who go by Vovan and Leksus online, are well known for targeting high ranking Western politicians and diplomats, including UK’s Boris Johnson earlier this year. Ukraine’s church press officials confirmed Dumenko was targeted. On the recording, Dumenko is heard discussing topics such as his church’s conservativism and Ukraine’s standpoint towards the LGBT community. He also mentions “very noticeable support” from the US in a bid to set up an independent Ukrainian church.

Der Spiegel files suit against ex-star reporter Claas Relotius; Claas Relotius told people he would give donations to two Syrian orphans he claimed to have met. But the money seems to have gone straight into his own bank account. Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine announced on Sunday that it was filing a criminal complaint against disgraced journalist Claas Relotius over suspicions he set up a phony donation campaign to help Syrian children he claimed to have met in 2016. “The fate of two Syrian children described in Relotius’ story ‘King’s children’ so moved readers that they wanted to donate to them,” Spiegel editors wrote on the magazine’s website. However, it became clear that “he collected the readers’ money under false pretenses, which he apparently has not, as promised, passed on,” the editors continued. Relotius was also accused of falsely claiming in a recently published journalism anthology of having helped the two children to be adopted in Germany.

Volkswagen finds ‘anomalies’ in diesel software update; German carmaker Volkswagen said they “promptly” informed German authorities after discovering abnormalities in the new emissions software. The firm is still paying billions over the 2015 emissions cheating scandal. Carmaking giant Volkswagen (VW) detected “anomalies” while running internal checks on a software update for their diesel engines, the company said on Sunday. The software measures emission values for a type of Volkswagen’s 1.2 liter diesel engine. VW said the update was developed by a third party. The German auto concern did not provide details. The carmaker is still dealing with the fallout from the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal over three years ago, when VW admitted to cheating on emission tests for millions of their diesel cars.

FRANCE (France24)

UK police release pair without charge over Gatwick drone chaos; Sussex Police arrested a 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman from the local area late on Friday after drones were flown onto the airfield between Wednesday and Friday, forcing about 1,000 flights to be diverted or cancelled and affecting 140,000 passengers. “Both people have fully co-operated with our enquiries, and I am satisfied that they are no longer suspects in the drone incidents at Gatwick,” Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said on Sunday.

Sudanese police fire tear gas on people protesting higher bread prices; Residents in Um Rawaba, 200 kilometres southwest of Khartoum, told AFP that some 600 people gathered in the market chanting the slogan, “The people want the fall of the regime”. Protesters burnt tyres and branches in the streets and attempted to storm a government building before being rebuffed by security officials, witnesses said. In Atabara, 300 kilometres northeast of the capital, riot police and plain-clothed operatives deployed tear gas against hundreds of protesters, a witness said.


Tension mounts in Bangladesh before election; Tension is mounting in Bangladesh with opposition candidates being detained as a parliamentary election approaches. The election scheduled for December 30th is being contested between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League and the opposition alliance led by former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Hasina has appealed to voters about her administration’s bid to improve the country’s security situation by cracking down on extremists. In 2016, an attack by Islamic extremists in the capital, Dhaka, killed 22 people, including seven Japanese nationals. The Hasina administration has also been increasing pressure on the opposition camp. The opposition camp says police have detained at least 1,900 people, including 20 opposition candidates, since the start of this month alone. Citing grave concerns over human rights violations, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the government last Thursday to properly deal with the situation.As voting day approaches, a series of clashes have occurred around the country between the supporters of the ruling and opposition camps. Forces supporting Islamic extremist groups are also urging people to oust the Hasina administration.

China working on bill to ban forced tech transfers; China’s government has started working on new legislation to ban forced technology transfers from foreign companies operating in China. The state-run Xinhua News Agency says the government on Sunday submitted a new bill on the rights of foreign firms to the standing committee of the National People’s Congress. The bill stipulates that administrative measures must not be used to force foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese companies. It says the aim is to protect their intellectual property rights. Foreign companies are required by law to operate in China via their joint ventures with Chinese partners. The administration of US President Donald Trump complained that the requirement has forced foreign firms to transfer technology through such ventures to Chinese companies. China insisted such technology transfers were made voluntarily based on corporate contracts, and not forced by the Chinese government. China’s recent move shows its willingness to concede to the US complaint. Analysts say China is trying to ease trade friction with the US through negotiations ahead of the deadline on March 1st next year.

Police to study cyber-attacks on self-driving cars; Japanese police plan to launch a study on how to deal with possible cases of cyber-attacks on self-driving vehicles. Japan’s National Police Agency says it will begin the study in fiscal 2019 that starts next April, with the aim of establishing investigation methods for such crimes. The project is in line with a government plan to allow drivers to operate fully self-driving systems on the country’s expressways by 2020. The agency has already released a draft revision to the Road Traffic Law to allow such automated driving, which is ranked level-three on the government’s self-driving scale of one to five. The agency cites the risk of hacking and other cyber-attacks targeting self-driving cars that will obtain maps and traffic information online. The agency says it allocated seven million yen, or about 63 thousand dollars, for next fiscal year’s research on ways to analyze data on automated vehicles.

OECD recommends Japan reform its labor market; The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says Japan should change its mandatory retirement age and wage systems to encourage older people to continue working. The OECD made the recommendation in a new report released last week. The report says Japan is among a number of countries that have high employment rates for older workers. However, the report points out that, due to Japanese employment practices, these workers are often re-hired as non-regular workers. They are often given low-paid jobs, where the working conditions are poor, and there is little job security. The report also says that, even if the age limit for re-hiring is raised to 70, the same problems will remain. It recommends that Japan consider abolishing the mandatory retirement system and introduce wage systems that are based on a worker’s performance and skills. It also says that Japan should tackle excessive hours of work so that elderly people can continue to work.

Japan-funded oil refinery in Vietnam completed; A joint project involving Japan’s major oil wholesaler Idemitsu Kosan has celebrated the completion of a new oil refinery in Vietnam. Idemitsu, Mitsui Chemicals and state-run oil companies of Vietnam and Kuwait have invested in the Nghi Son oil refinery in the northern Vietnamese province of Thanh Hoa. The refinery, the second of its kind in Vietnam, began full-fledged operation in October. It has a daily production capacity of 200,000 barrels. On Sunday, about 1,000 people attended a ceremony at the refinery. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said with the completion of the new refinery Vietnam can provide about 80 percent of domestic demand and reduce its dependence on imported oil. Idemitsu Kosan President Shunichi Kito said Vietnam’s demand for oil will grow as the motorization of the country progresses. He said he hopes the refinery will provide stable supplies of oil, and that Vietnamese people will be better off. Vietnam has seen annual economic growth of more than six percent, and the number of motorbikes and vehicles has been increasing.


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