Brazil troops deployed to stop gang attack violence; A special deployment of Brazil’s elite National Police Force has begun patrolling Ceara state in a bid to stop a major spike in violent gang attacks. The violence is a test for newly-elected President Jair Bolsonaro. Troops from Brazil’s National Police Force are being deployed in the northeastern state of Ceara with orders to end a wave of violent attacks by criminal gangs against banks, buses and shops, local officials said Saturday. Close to 300 members of the force arrived in the state capital, Fortaleza, and more than 10 other cities across Ceara on Friday in a bid to halt the rampage which has spiked over the past four days, national Public Security Secretary Guilherme Teophilo said, according to the government news agency Agencia Brasil. Brazilian media have shown security footage of service stations being torched by gang members in Fortaleza. Troops were deployed after Justice Minister Sergio Moro concluded Ceara police were overwhelmed. More than 50 suspects have been arrested since the violence broke out. The deployment is the first test for President Jair Bolsonaro and his strict law-and-order platform since he took office last Tuesday. While the trigger for the wave of violence is still being investigated, officials suspect the vicious attacks were ordered by organized crime gangs in retaliation for government plans to impose tighter controls in the state’s prisons, according to intelligence reports published in local media. Changes are set to include blocks on mobile phone signals and an end to a policy of separating prisoners according to gang membership.
Venezuela congress names new leader, calls Nicolas Maduro illegitimate; The new leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly has called Nicolas Maduro a dictator whose legitimacy has run out. Juan Guaido also said congress aimed to restore constitutional order.Venezuela congress names new leader, calls Nicolas Maduro illegitimate The new leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly has called Nicolas Maduro a dictator whose legitimacy has run out. Juan Guaido also said congress aimed to restore constitutional order. “We reaffirm the illegitimacy of Nicolas Maduro,” Guaido told lawmakers and foreign diplomats in attendance to show solidarity with the embattled legislative body. “As of January 10, he will be usurping the presidency and consequently this National Assembly is the only legitimate representative of the people.” Guaido called the Socialist president a dictator who has plunged the oil-rich country into economic and social misery, adding that Venezuela was living through a “dark but transitional” period in its history. He told lawmakers that opposition politicians have been jailed, driven into exile or killed.
Serbia: Thousands resume rallies against President Aleksandar Vucic; Protesters have braved a blizzard to demonstrate for a fifth week against President Aleksandar Vucic. Media freedom, an end to attacks against journalists and the opposition and electoral reform are among their demands. Several thousand people marched in the Serbian capital Saturday braving snow and freezing temperatures for the fifth consecutive weekend of street protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Some 15,000 demonstrators marched through the center of Belgrade, stopping in front of the offices of the state broadcaster RTS, which is firmly under Vucic’s control, before making their way to the presidency building. Loudspeakers played recordings of the president’s broken promises, while demonstrators blew whistles and jeered. Marchers also carried banners which read “We are the people,” “Stop the treason, defend the constitution and back the people” and “Down with the thieves.
German cyber defense body defends itself over massive breach; Hundreds of German public figures and politicians had their personal data and documents stolen by hackers. The cyber defense office had known about isolated cases for weeks, but said it only connected the dots on Friday. Germany’s Federal Office for IT Safety (BSI) has said that it had only become aware of a massive data breach affecting hundreds of lawmakers on Friday, several weeks after a lawmaker had told BSI officials about suspicious activity on personal accounts. “Everybody assumed it was an isolated case,” the BSI said. “Only by becoming aware of the release of the data sets via the Twitter account ‘God’ on January 3, 2019, could the BSI in a further analysis on January 4, 2019 connect this case and four other cases that the BSI became aware of during 2018,” it added. BSI head Arne Schönbohm said Friday that the agency had spoken with “some lawmakers” affected by the breach in early December. The statement prompted outrage among other hacking victims, who assumed BSI had known about the issue and failed to inform them.
Ukrainian church granted independence from Russian church; The decree, granting “autocephaly”, was signed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at a service with the head of the Ukrainian church Metropolitan Epifaniy and President Petro Poroshenko in St George’s Cathedral in Istanbul. “I want to thank the millions of Ukrainians around the world who responded to my appeal to pray for the church to be established,” Poroshenko said at a ceremony accompanied by solemn liturgical singing. “I want to thank the generations of Ukrainians who dreamed…and finally God sent us the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” he told the congregation in the crowded church.
Thousands protest against Hungary’s ‘slave’ labour law; Opposition groups have staged several rallies in the past weeks in the Hungarian capital and other cities against what they said was an authoritarian rule of conservative nationalist Viktor Orban. Saturday’s rally, organized by opposition parties, trade unions and civic groups, mainly targeted the new labour law dubbed by critics as “slave law”. The protesters marched in snowfall from the historic Heroes Square to the parliament building on the bank of the Danube river, carrying banners such as “Sweep away the regime”.
Japan’s Coast Guard to increase patrol vessels; Japan’s Coast Guard plans to add five more large patrol boats to its fleet to boost security. Coast Guard officials say a total of 70 Chinese vessels entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea in 2018. The number is 38 fewer than the previous year. Japan controls the islands. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. China and Taiwan claim them. And North Korean vessels have repeatedly conducted illegal fishing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Japan Sea off the coast of the Noto Peninsula. The Coast Guard gave warnings to a total of 1,624 North Korean squid fishing boats last year. Also 225 wooden boats which are believed to be from North Korea drifted to shores of Japan — the largest number ever. The five vessels will be added to the existing 62 large patrol boats. The officials say that they hope to be able to handle the situation even if multiple events happen concurrently in the waters around the country.
China’s population likely to shrink from 2030; China’s population, the world’s largest, is expected to start shrinking in 2030 after reaching a peak a year earlier. The state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences made the projection in a report on the country’s population and labor. The report says that the population is expected to grow from 1.39 billion at the end of 2017 to a peak of about 1.44 billion in 2029. The paper also says that China will likely see continuous negative growth from 2030 with the population standing at about 1.36 billion in 2050 and some 1.25 billion in 2065. The projections are based on an assumption that the current birthrate of about 1.6 births per woman will rise to 1.7 or higher because of the end of the one-child policy 3 years ago. The report says that if the birthrate remains flat, the population will start to decrease in 2027, and decline to about 1.17 billion in 2065. Under the new Chinese policy, married couples are now allowed to have two children.
Firms launch credit scoring services; An increasing number of firms are introducing credit scores as part of financial and other services. A credit score represents the creditworthiness of an individual given as a number. It is based on an analysis of various personal information, such as settlements for online shopping and cashless payments, as well as loans taken. The messaging app provider LINE will launch a financial service, issuing credit scores based on data on its approximately 78 million users. The company will use the score to determine the interest rate and credit limit appropriate for an individual, so that the firm will be able to better respond to user demand for medical fees and other expenses. Telecom operator NTT Docomo will launch a business in March that will provide financial institutions with individuals’ credit scores based on telephone fee payment history and how they use the service. Yahoo Japan will also conduct a trial in which it will provide companies with credit scores set by analyzing its users’ information, including their online shopping records and search history. In China, the use of such credit scoring systems is spreading, with people who have higher scores treated favorably in real estate transactions or job hunting.