World News Headlines: 12-31-2018

Germany (DW)

Angela Merkel’s New Year’s speech: ‘Democracy thrives on change’; German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeals to the public spirit in her own country and evokes the idea of a stronger EU in her New Year’s address. Her answer to international crises: greater responsibility for Germany. n her traditional New Year’s address, Germany’s chancellor first directs her words at the people in her own country: “Dear fellow citizens.” Yet these words should also be listened to attentively beyond Germany’s borders. When Angela Merkel takes stock of what she sees as an “extremely difficult political year,” she does so from two perspectives: national and international. The chancellor begins her speech with an inward look at the long and difficult process of forming a government after the 2017 federal elections. The process lasted six months “and once we had it, there was a lot of quarrelling and preoccupation with ourselves.” Merkel, a member of the Christian Democrats (CDU), does not mention any examples. But two are memorable: the constant disputes with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer from the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and spats with the Social Democrats (SPD). Most of them were over Germany’s migration policy.

Bangladesh election: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wins by landslide; A victory for Hasina’s Awami League was widely expected in an election marred by violence and rigging allegations. The opposition alliance has rejected the election as “farcical” and called for fresh polls. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s party has won the general election with a landslide majority, the Election Commission said early on Monday. An alliance dominated by Hasina’s Awami League won 288 seats in the country’s 300-strong parliament. The opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia won just six seats. Election to one seat was not held Sunday and results for another seat were halted by the commission. “My congratulations to the Awami League,” Helal Uddin Ahmed, secretary of the Election Commission Secretariat, told reporters. Hasina’s party was widely anticipated to win the election that was hit by violence and rigging allegations. At least 16 people were reported to have been killed in violence between rival supporters. Hasina, who is set to take office for the third consecutive time and fourth time overall, is credited with improving the country’s economy, which grew at a faster rate than neighboring India last year, and giving refuge to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar. But she has also been accused of a crackdown on media and dissent.

DR Congo: Election marked by delays, irregularities; Citizens in the DR Congo have voted in an historic election that will shape the future of the turbulent African country. Delays, irregularities and voting problems threaten the election’s credibility. Millions of voters cast ballots in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, in a widely anticipated election that could mark the African giant’s first democratic transfer of power or tip it further into violence. The election comes after President Joseph Kabila delayed elections for two-years after the end of his second and final term, triggering a violent political standoff that left dozens dead across the country.

Thousands protest over David Dragicevic death in Bosnia; Protesters led by an aggrieved father took to the streets to demand resignations from top police officials in Bosnia’s Serb entity. The father accuses the police of covering up the murder of his son, David Dragicevic.Several thousand people marched through Banja Luka, the main city of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, demanding accountability over the death of 21-year-old student David Dragicevic. Like previous protests, the Sunday rally was led by David’s father, Davor Dragicevic. Following the rally, riot police dispersed dozens of protesters who remained on the streets, with local media reporting several people had been detained. Addressing the crowd, Davor restated his accusations that his son was kidnapped, tortured, and eventually murdered by members of Republika Srpska police. He also urged the protesters to join him and camp out at a local square until the perpetrators are found. “If you don’t stand by this, they will kill you all,” Dragicevic said. “I’m not leaving. Everyone should come and stay as long as they could based on their conscience and obligations.” Protesters chanted “murderers” and “Justice for David” while passing by state buildings in the administrative capital of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity. Dragicevic, who fought for the Serb forces during the Bosnian war, also showed the police his wartime scars.

Russia brings back children of IS fighters from Iraq; Moscow is transporting Russian children of “Islamic State” fighters back to their homeland from Iraq. A group of 30 children left Baghdad on a special flight, accompanied by Russian doctors, psychologists, and rescuers.The first flight carrying Russian children of “Islamic State” (IS) militants landed in Russia after leaving Baghdad on Sunday. The group included 16 girls and 14 boys aged between 3 and 15, Russian officials said. Out of 30 minors on board the flight, 24 were from the Muslim-majority Russian state of Dagestan, three from Chechnya, one from the southwest city of Penza and one from Moscow, said Chechnya strongman Ramzan Kadyrov in an online post.

Angela Merkel tells Turkey to act responsibly in Syria; Angela Merkel has spoken with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syria. The German chancellor highlighted the importance of exercising restraint as the US exits the conflict. German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday to discuss the situation in Syria.
Merkel told Erdogan that she expected Turkey to “exercise restraint and act responsibly,” the Chancellery said in a statement.

FRANCE (France24)

UK, France to take action over rise in Channel migrant crossings; In the coming weeks, the two countries will increase surveillance patrols and focus on measures to dismantle trafficking gangs and improve awareness about the dangers of sea crossings in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. “The UK and France will build on our joint efforts to deter illegal migration — protecting our borders and human life,” said Britain’s Home Office minister Sajid Javid, after speaking on the phone with French counterpart Christophe Castaner. Attempts to cross the English Channel have been increasing since October, with authorities on both sides struggling to stop them.

Japan court extends detention of ex-Nissan boss Ghosn; The move comes after Japanese prosecutors re-arrested Ghosn for fresh allegations on December 21, dashing his hopes of being home for Christmas. “The decision to extend the (detention period) was issued today. The detention expires on January 11,” the Tokyo District Court said in a statement. The growing case against the auto tycoon represents a stunning reversal of fortune for a man once revered in Japan and beyond for his ability to turn around automakers, including Nissan. Since his stunning arrest on November 19, the twists and turns of the case have gripped Japan and the business world and shone a light on the Japanese legal system, which has come in for some criticism internationally. Authorities are pursuing three separate lines of enquiry against the 64-year-old Franco-Lebanese-Brazilian executive, involving alleged financial wrongdoing during his tenure as Nissan chief. They suspect he conspired with his right-hand man, US executive Greg Kelly, to hide away around half of his income (some five billion yen or $44 million) over five fiscal years from 2010. They also allege he under-reported his salary to the tune of four billion yen over the next three fiscal years — apparently to avoid criticism that his pay was too high. The extension that prosecutors won Monday allows them to continue investigating a complex third claim that alleges Ghosn sought to shift a personal investment loss onto Nissan’s books. As part of that scheme, he is also accused of having used Nissan funds to repay a Saudi acquaintance who put up collateral money.

JAPAN (NHK)

Cyberattack on US papers could be from N.Korea; A cyberattack on the operations of a major US newspaper has caused delivery delays, prompting the Department of Homeland Security to look into the situation. The information and printing system of the Los Angeles Times has been disrupted since Thursday night. It meant some content could not be sent to printing plants. The Los Angeles Times was not delivered in some areas, while the Chicago Tribune and a newspaper in Florida were also hit as they use the same system. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the attack is likely to have come from outside the United States. It reported that the attack came in the form of malware. Other US media pointed to the possible involvement of a North Korean hacker team called “Lazarus Group,” which is known to have previously used the same malware. The Los Angeles Times told NHK on Sunday that the system outage has not yet been completely resolved.

Putin expects constructive dialogue with Abe; Russian President Vladimir Putin says he hopes constructive dialogue with Japan will continue in wide-ranging fields. Putin expressed his hope in a message to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The Russian Presidential Office announced on Sunday that Putin has sent his New Year’s messages to world leaders including Japan, the United States, and China. In his message to Abe, Putin expressed hopes for an expansion of the legal foundation to facilitate bilateral cooperation, and for implementation of joint economic projects the two nations are planning in the Russian Far East. Putin and Abe agreed last month that the two countries should accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on a 1956 joint declaration. The declaration says Moscow will hand over to Japan two of the four Russian-held islands after a peace treaty has been signed. The Japanese government maintains all four islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. It says they were illegally occupied after World War Two. Putin is due to meet with Abe in Russia in January.

China ready to avoid worsening of ties with US; China says it stands ready to work with the United States to implement the consensus reached between the two country’s leaders. It says it seeks to expand cooperation on the basis of mutual benefit in the face of new challenges. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang released a statement on Sunday as the country is to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties with Washington on January 1st. Lu said China-US ties have not only delivered huge benefits to the two peoples but also contributed to peace, stability, and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. He added the two sides should view each other’s strategic intentions in a rational and objective manner, step up strategic communications, enhance strategic mutual trust and avoid strategic misjudgment. Lu was apparently mindful of the recent trade friction between the two countries. The spokesperson also said the two sides should properly manage differences in an effort to avoid disturbing the general picture of bilateral ties. State-run Xinhua news agency has reported President Xi Jinping conveyed his wishes for better relations in his phone conversation with President Donald Trump on Saturday. Xi referred to the upcoming anniversary and expressed his wishes for further exchanges.

Afghanistan delays presidential race by 3 months; The Afghan election commission says it will postpone the country’s presidential election by three months. The Independent Election Commission announced on Sunday that presidential polls will be held on July 20 instead of the originally scheduled April 20. It cited poor preparation and a lack of funds as reasons. The presidential race is held every five years. Security has been deteriorating in Afghanistan. When Lower House elections were held in October after having been put off for as long as three years, numerous accusations of voting irregularities were voiced in some states. The elections results have not been announced in those states. Peace talks have been going on since July between the US government, which stations its military in the country and anti-government Taliban militants. Observers say the delay reflects the Afghan government’s decision to watch how the peace talks play out first.

American support for Japan-US security pact down; A survey in the United States has found that 14 percentage points fewer Americans than last year think the Japan-US Security agreement should be maintained. An American firm appointed by Japan’s Foreign Ministry conducted the telephone survey in March this year. 1,057 people aged 18 or older answered questions. 87 percent said they trust Japan, an increase of 5 points from last year. 69 percent said the bilateral relationship is “very good” or “good,” an increase of 7 points. While 90 percent of respondents said the security pact is “important” or “very important,” an increase of 3 points, only 68 percent said “yes” when asked whether the pact should be kept. That’s down by 14 points from last year. Ministry officials say President Donald Trump’s comment that US allies are not paying enough for security may have affected sentiment.

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