Brazil swears in far-right President Jair Bolsonaro; Brazil has sworn in former army captain President Jair Bolsonaro, amid tight security. The far-right politician, an admirer of the country’s former military dictatorship, pledged to rid the country of “ideological ties.”Bolsonaro was sworn in as at president on Tuesday, promising to overhaul the country’s economy and bring about sweeping social change. An aficionado of US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro rose to power on a pro-gun, anti-corruption agenda. Speaking in an address to the nation on Tuesday, Bolsonaro said, now that he had taken power, his country had been “liberated from socialism and political correctness.” In an earlier inauguration speech, the 63-year-old former paratrooper had promised to “unite the people, value the family, respect religion and our Judeo-Christian tradition, combat the ideology of gender and preserve our values.”
Dozens massacred by armed men in Mali; Violence between rival and Fulani communities has claimed the lives of more civilians, Mali’s government said. The region has been plagued by ethnic tensions, Islamist militant groups and conflict over resources. In total, 37 civilians belonging to the Fulani ethnic group were killed in an attack on a village in central Mali on Tuesday, the government said. The attackers, “armed men dressed like traditional dozo hunters” according to a government statement, raided the village of Koulogon, located in the central Mopti region. Some of the victims were children. Moulage Guindo, the mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, said the attack occurred around the time of the first call to prayer of the new year. Guindo said the assailants targeted the Fulani part of Koulogon and that the other part of the village is mostly inhabited by Dogon, an ethnic group to which the Donzos are linked.
Germany has big plans for UN Security Council seat; Germany is once again occupying a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. How does it plan to use it — and what is the country’s current involvement in UN missions? German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ business trip to New York in June has borne fruit. He had long been making the case for Germany to have a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the United Nations’ most important body.Germany has a lot of plans it wants to implement over the next two years. At the UN General Assembly in September, Foreign Minister Maas advocated strengthening multilateralism, which has come under pressure from, among other things, the “America First” policies of US President Donald Trump. “The United Nations is at the heart of the multilateral system,” said Maas before departing for New York earlier this year. “We are living at a time when we need more international order, more reliability, more confidence in our common rules. The United Nations is as strong, just and effective as its members make it.”
US support of Israel to continue despite Syria pullout, says Pompeo; The US secretary of state has reassured Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington still supports his country. Pompeo’s comments reflect unease caused by Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from Syria. A decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria will not affect Washington’s cooperation with Israel over Syria and in efforts to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (top photo) said on Tuesday. “The decision the president made on Syria in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel,” Pompeo said. “The counter-ISIS [“Islamic State,” IS] campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made,” he said.
DR Congo: Internet, SMS shutdown threatens crediblity of election; Internet, SMS messages and media have been restricted for a second day following a chaotic election. The opposition claims the government is committing election fraud. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government cut internet and SMS services across the country for a second day on Tuesday, further threatening the credibility of a delayed presidential election marred by irregularities and voting problems. The government said it shut down communications for “security reasons” as votes were being tallied from Sunday’s election. In a joint statement, the European Union, the United States, Canadian and Swiss heads of mission in Kinshasa urged the government to immediately restore communications. “We request that the government refrains from blocking means of communication, in particular access to the internet and the media,” they said. They also called on the government to allow the main Congolese election monitoring organizations to have access to voting centers counting ballots. Final results are expected on Sunday. The signal to Radio France Internationale (RFI), one of the most popular news sources in the French speaking country, was also jammed.
Bolsonaro says Brazil ‘liberated from Socialism’ at inaugural ceremony; Bolsonaro is the latest of several far-right leaders around the world who have come to power on a wave of anti-establishment anger and promises to ditch the status quo. A fan of US President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old longtime congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energised Brazilian conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers’ Party.
Romania takes over EU presidency amid strained relations with Brussels; Brussels is already at loggerheads with the increasingly populist government in Bucharest on multiple fronts and Juncker’s comments highlight some of the strains. Romania will be in charge for the next six months as the European Union faces a series of tricky tests – most notably Brexit, European parliamentary elections, and wrangling over the next budget. The Eastern European nation, which takes the presidency for the first time as it succeeds Austria, has been one of the EU’s most consistently europhile member states since it joined in 2007.
Dozens killed in central Malian region plagued by ethnic violence; Violence between Fulani and rival communities has compounded an already dire security situation in Mali’s semi-arid and desert regions, which are used as a base by jihadist groups with ties to al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group. The government said in a statement that the attackers, who were dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, raided the village of Koulogon in the central Mopti region and that some of the victims were children. Moulage Guindo, the mayor of Bankass, the nearest town, said the attack occurred around the time of the first call to prayer of the new year and targeted the Fulani part of Koulogon. He said another part of Koulogon is mostly inhabited by Dogon, an ethnic group to which the Donzos are linked, less than 1 km (half a mile) away. Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over its north in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year. Islamists have since regained a foothold in the north and centre, tapping into ethnic rivalries to recruit new members.
Centre-left opposition splinters ahead of Israeli election; The announcement means the end of their Zionist Union alliance, which secured the second most seats in the last general election in 2015, but has since slipped in opinion polls. The Zionist Union included Gabbay’s Labour party and Livni’s Hatnuah. It won 24 out of 120 seats in 2015, behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, which won 30. Gabbay’s partnership with Livni, which he inherited from previous Labour leader Isaac Herzog, had been uneasy since he took over the party’s helm in 2017. “I still believe in partnership, in connections, in uniting a large camp committed to change, but successful connections necessitate friendship, upholding agreements and commitment to a course,” Gabbay told a meeting of Zionist Union parliament members.
“That didn’t happen in this partnership,” he said, adding that he believed voters agreed.
Emperor greets well-wishers for last time; Emperor Akihito is delivering his annual New Year greetings to the public at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday. It is the last time the Emperor and Empress Michiko will greet well-wishers before he abdicates in April. More than 30,000 people were waiting outside the main gate when it opened at 9:15 AM. The number was far larger than the previous year. The Emperor and other members of the Imperial family waved to the crowd from the palace’s balcony three times before noon. The Emperor said he was pleased to celebrate the New Year with the people under clear skies. He expressed hope that this year will be a good one for everyone. He said he is praying for peace and happiness for people in Japan and around the world. Following his address, many well-wishers expressed words of gratitude for his 30 years on the throne. A 21-year-old man said the Emperor has remained close to the people by praying for the war dead and visiting disaster-hit areas.
Poll: 70% see development in Heisei era; An NHK survey shows that nearly 70 percent of respondents say they saw development in their communities during the 30 years of the current Heisei era. The era began on January 8th, 1989 when Japan’s Emperor Akihito ascended the throne. It will end on April 30th this year, one day before Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the throne at the start of a new era. NHK conducted the survey between September and November last year to find out how people viewed the era. A total of 3,554 people, or 59 percent, responded. Asked about how their communities fared during the period, 67 percent said their regions underwent development while 30 percent said they saw a decline. The survey shows the respondents’ feelings about development are linked to the size of their communities. Of those who live in Tokyo’s 23 wards, 74 percent cited expansion. Elsewhere, the figure was 66 percent in cities except for ones with special designations, and 58 percent in towns and villages. The respondents were divided over the large-scale municipal mergers that were carried out in the middle of the era. The amalgamation saw a decrease in the number of municipalities across the country from about 3,200 to around 1,700. 54 percent expressed appreciation for the measure, while 43 percent opposed it.
Tsai: China’s interference a challenge; Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has said the island faces security risks, especially China’ s attempts to use the openness and freedom of Taiwan’s democratic system to interfere in its politics and society. Tsai said in her New Year speech that dealing with these moves by China has become Taiwan’s greatest challenge. Tsai was referring to the Chinese government’s plan to step up exchanges with municipalities in Taiwan where top posts were elected from the opposition Nationalist Party. Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party suffered a blow in last November’s mayoral and gubernatorial elections. China wants to strengthen ties with new local leaders from the pro-China opposition party on condition that they accept its “one China” principle. Tsai is wary of the move, which seeks to bypass her government.
March held in Hong Kong against political pressure; Thousands of people joined a march in Hong Kong to protest what’s seen as a clampdown by China on pro-democracy groups and activists. A civic group organized the march in central Hong Kong on Tuesday. The group says about 5,500 people took part. Last year, authorities in Hong Kong banned a political organization that called for the territory’s independence from China. They also disqualified five pro-democracy candidates in the Hong Kong assembly and other elections. Protesters said that the high-level of autonomy given to Hong Kong has been threatened. They argued the banning of some candidates from the elections constitutes political repression. They demanded that the right to vote must be returned to people. Tuesday’s marchers included Joshua Wong, who had led major protests in 2014 as the head of a student organization. He warned that many more politicians could be oppressed this year. He said he wants to fight against such circumstances.
China’s economic slowdown continues; A key gauge of China’s manufacturing sector fell for the fourth straight month in December. Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday shows that the official Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, fell to 49.4. A figure under 50 indicates contraction instead of growth. The December figure is down 0.6 points from November, and is the first contraction since July 2016. The PMI for new export orders fell to 46.6, marking a contraction for the seventh straight month. Investment in infrastructure, which has been the main engine of China’s growth, is stagnant. Sales of new cars this year are expected to be below last year’s figure. That would be the first year-on-year decline in 28 years. The figures show that the economic outlook among manufacturers in China is increasingly bleak against the backdrop of ongoing trade friction with the United States.