World News Headlines: 01-26-2019


Venezuela: Who will the military support?; Venezuela’s army has declared its support for Nicolas Maduro. But differences between top officers and the rank and file could weaken the military’s loyalty to the president — with far-reaching consequences.After opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president of Venezuela, Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez declared on Twitter: “Our armed forces will never accept a president appointed by dark powers.” Padrino Lopez labeled Guaido’s self-appointment a coup d’etat. Immediately afterward, the commander of the army, Jesus Suarez Chourio, declared his “absolute loyalty” to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Other leading military figures then went on television and echoed the pledge to Maduro.

Germany to stop using coal by end of 2038: commission; A government commission has agreed that Germany should phase out all coal-fired power plants by the end of 2038. The government is already planning to shut down nuclear power plants over the next three years.A government-appointed commission has agreed that Germany will stop producing energy from coal-fired plants by 2038, sources told local media early on Saturday.A final agreement was reached after 21-hour talks that lasted well into the night, with only one opposing vote in the 28-member body. The decision aims to reduce Germany’s carbon emissions from coal, which drive climate change.

Pro-Brexit MP criticized for ‘anti-German’ remarks about Airbus chief; The comments from Mark Francois came after Airbus CEO Tom Enders urged lawmakers to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Taking aim at Enders, Francois referenced D-Day and said he wouldn’t submit to “bullying by any German.” Conservative, pro-Brexit member of Parliament Mark Francois raised eyebrows on Friday for using World War II references to criticize Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, who is German.
On Thursday, Airbus posted a video message from Enders who implored the British lawmakers to avoid a no-deal Brexit, saying “there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft.” “Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness, which asserts that ‘because we have huge plants here, we will not move and we will always be here.’ They are wrong,” Enders said in the video.Speaking to the BBC on Friday Francois hit back at the CEO, emphasizing Enders’ German nationality and criticizing his video message.

Pope Francis: Viewing migrants as threat to society is ‘senseless’; The leader of the Catholic Church told hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims that they should welcome migrants, not stigmatize them. He said it was “senseless” to condemn every immigrant “as a threat to society.” n remarks made to hundreds of thousands of young Catholics at World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis said Friday it was “senseless and irresponsible” to view migrants as a blanket threat to security. “We want to be a church that fosters a culture that welcomes, protects, promotes and integrates, that does not stigmatize, much less indulge in a senseless and irresponsible condemnation of every immigrant as a threat to society,” the pope said.He spoke about learning “how to welcome and take in all those abandoned, and forced to leave or lose their land, their roots, their families and their work.”

Two UN peacekeepers killed by mine in Mali; The two casualties come after an attack on the UN mission in northern Mali that killed 10 peacekeepers last weekend. The UN has urged a swift investigation to “bring the perpetrators to justice.” Two Sri Lankan peacekeepers with the UN’s force in Mali have been killed and six others injured when their vehicle hit an explosive device in the central Mopti region, the UN said Friday. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council condemned the attacks. “The secretary-general recalls that attacks targeting United Nations peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law,” his office said in a statement. No group has claimed credit for the attacks, but they bore all the marks of al-Qaida linked militants operating in the Sahel region. The 15,000-strong UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has been deployed in the West African country since 2013 to support stabilization, a political transition and counter jihadi militants. It is the UN’s deadliest peacekeeping mission, with nearly 180 peacekeepers killed. The latest casualties come after militants linked to al-Qaida attacked a UN camp on Sunday, killing 10 peacekeepers from Chad and wounding 25 others. It was one of the deadliest attacks on the UN mission to date.

Zimbabwe’s president guilty of ‘gross human rights abuses,’ says opposition;
Opposition figure Tendai Biti says President Emmerson Mnangagwa is to blame for the alleged human rights abuses being carried out against people in Zimbabwe. In an interview with DW, he urged the UN to intervene. Zimbabwean opposition politician Tendai Biti has accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa of orchestrating the violence gripping the southern African country.”He is the author of the current crackdown,” Biti told DW in an interview. “He is the author of the gross human rights abuses that have been committed against the civilian population.” Nationwide protests, rioting and looting erupted in Zimbabwe last week after a steep rise in the cost of fuel. Security forces responded with a brutal crackdown to disperse the demonstrators. At least 12 people have died in the unrest, according to NGOs operating in the country. More than 1,000 people have been arrested, including several opposition activists and politicians.

FRANCE (France24)

Venezuela opposition leader Guaido calls for ‘major demonstration’ next week; Guaido said the public would remain in the streets “until we achieve an end to the usurpation, a transitional government and free elections”. Guaido and Maduro have been locked in a power struggle since the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature, proclaimed himself “acting president” Wednesday, declaring that Maduro’s inauguration this month for a new six-year term was illegitimate. Reacting to a statement by Maduro that he was open to holding talks with “this young man”, Guaido said he would not attend a “fake dialogue”.”When they don’t get the results they want through repression, they offer us fake dialogue instead,” he told a separate news conference in a Caracas square.”I want that to be clear to the world and to this regime: nobody here is signing up for a false dialogue.”

Former Sudanese PM calls for Bashir to quit as protests mount; “This regime has to go immediately,” Mahdi told hundreds of worshippers at a mosque in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum, which has seen near daily anti-government protests. Hundreds of protesters then marched through Omdurman after Friday prayers, until police fired teargas to try to break up the rally. Mahdi said that since the protests against Bashir’s government erupted on December 19, “more than 50 people have been killed” in violence during the demonstrations. Officials say 30 people have died in the protests, while rights groups have put the death toll at more than 40.

Turkish court orders release of Kurdish MP after 11 weeks on hunger strike; Leyla Guven, 55, launched a hunger strike on November 8 in protest at the prison conditions for Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and her deteriorating health has sparked concerns and rallies to support her cause.The MP will be monitored after she is freed, the court in Diyarbakir in the Kurdish majority southeast said, although few further details of the terms of her release are yet available. Guven, whose party has said is suffering a “life-threatening” medical condition, did not attend the hearing, according to an AFP journalist in the court.


Magnitude 4.3 quake hits Kumamoto; A strong earthquake has jolted southwestern Japan. There is no danger of tsunami. The magnitude 4.3 quake struck Kumamoto Prefecture on the island of Kyushu. It registered an intensity of five-minus on the Japanese scale of zero to seven in the town of Nagomi. It reached an intensity of four in Yamaga City and the town of Gyokuto. Intensities between three to one were felt across the Kyushu region. The Japan Meteorological Agency says the quake occurred at around 14:16 on Saturday, Japan Time. The agency estimates the focus at a depth of about 10 kilometers in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Govt. to access home devices in security survey; apan will attempt to access Internet-connected devices in homes and offices to find their vulnerabilities. The first-of-its-kind survey is aimed at beefing up cyber-security. The government approved the survey on Friday. It will be carried out by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology. Starting mid-February, the institute will generate IDs and passwords in its attempt to randomly break into about 200 million devices, such as routers and webcams. Owners of the devices that are breached will be informed that they need to improve safeguards. The institute found that Internet of things devices were targeted in 54 percent of the cyber-attacks it detected in 2017. A revised law that went into effect last November gives the institute the authority to gain access to people’s devices over a five-year period. A communications ministry official asked the public for its support and understanding, citing the need to improve cyber-security in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year. Institute of Information Security professor Harumichi Yuasa said it’s possible that researchers might unintentionally gain access to webcam images or stored data. He said this would violate the device owners’ constitutional right to privacy if their identities were revealed.

Merkel to visit Japan in February, meet with Abe; German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Japan early next month to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. On Friday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced Merkel will arrive for a two-day visit on February fourth. She will hold talks and have dinner with Abe. Suga said he hopes the meeting will signal that the two countries are committed to maintaining the international order and ensuring global prosperity. He also said he expects cooperation and goodwill between the countries to deepen. The visit will be Merkel’s fifth to Japan since she took office in 2005. The leaders are expected to discuss free trade and other global issues ahead of the G20 summit scheduled to be held in Osaka in June.

Tibetan leader calls for dialogue with China; A Tibetan political leader has urged the Chinese government to resume dialogue, saying that is the only way Beijing can guarantee true autonomy for the Tibetan people. The prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile Lobsang Sangay gave an exclusive interview to NHK. Sangay said, “I think the Chinese government should listen to the voices and the cries of the Tibetan people. 153 Tibetans have committed self-immolation. And many are demanding the same thing. They want to see the return of his Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and basic freedom for the Tibetan people. I think this something that is fundamental as far as Tibetans are concerned. If the Chinese government listens to their voices, then I think it will be good for the Chinese government and good for China as well.” This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising that caused thousands of refugees and the Dalai Lama to flee to India. Sangay and the government in exile want talks with China to negotiate more autonomy. But Beijing refuses such talks, saying that the aim is separatism. Sangay says that in the six decades of Chinese rule, Tibetans have not been allowed to hold peaceful demonstrations and have faced other suppression under the Chinese government. He also says, “They destroyed 98 percent of Tibetan monasteries and nunneries. They disrobed 99.9 percent of monks and nuns. They disallow the practice of Buddhism. They disallow possession of the photograph of the Dalai Lama.”


World News Headlines: 01-26-2019


Heiko Maas says Germany ‘not neutral’ on Venezuela, seeking ‘fresh elections’; Germany’s foreign minister told DW that Berlin supports new elections in Venezuela, since Nicolas Maduro “is not a democratically legitimate president.” Meanwhile, Maduro announced Venezuela is closing its US embassy.German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Berlin and the European Union support holding fresh elections in Venezuela after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country’s interim leader. “We are not neutral,” Maas told DW’s Oliver Sallet in New York City, adding that Germany “stands on the side of Guaido” as the leader of the National Assembly. “This is why we we are calling for fresh elections, for the National Assembly to assume responsibility and for the force of constitutional law to be restored to Venezuela. We’ve made that known together with our European partners and that’s going to be our policy in the coming days,” Maas said. “We are not neutral as regards this question, but rather support what Guaido is doing,” he added.

Italy: Court rules far-right leader Salvini can be charged with kidnapping; Prosecutors in Sicily say Interior Minister Matteo Salvini held 177 migrants hostage by stranding them on a ship. The European Council has expressed concern about xenophobia in Italy.A court in Sicily ruled on Thursday that Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini can be charged with kidnapping after he prevented refugees from disembarking an Italian coast guard ship in August. “I confess,” Salvini said in a video posted to his Facebook page, “there is no need for a trial. It’s true, I did it and I’d do it again.” “I risk 3 to 15 years in prison for blocking illegal landings in Italy. I have no words,” wrote Salvini, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Lega (League) party, which now rules Italy in a coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).
Salvini also claimed on Facebook that #SaliviniNonMollare (“Salvini, don’t give up”) was the top trending hashtag on Italian Twitter, but many of the tweets were English-language posts declaring solidarity with Italian nationalists.

France, Italy ratchet up rhetoric amid migration dispute; France and Italy are no strangers to a diplomatic war of words. However, a dispute over migration, against the backdrop of rising nationalism, has driven modern ties between two of the EU’s biggest members to a new low.”The dealings between French and Italian leadership haven’t been this bad since the war,” columnist Aldo Cazzullo argued in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. His opinion was not a reaction to the latest verbal attack on French President Emmanuel Macron from Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini. In fact, Cazzullo wrote that line back in June 2018. Last summer, the anti-immigration Salvini, who heads the far-right League party, closed Italy’s ports to ships carrying refugees. When Macron referred to right-wing populism and xenophobia in Europe as a “lesion,” Salvini cried hypocrisy because France, too, was denying refugees entry.

Vietnamese-Australian democracy activist ‘detained’ in Vietnam; A pro-democracy opposition group says a prominent member of the Vietnamese community in Australia has been detained incommunicado in Vietnam. Another Vietnamese activist is also believed to have been detained. A Vietnamese-Australian pro-democracy activist has allegedly been detained in Vietnam, the exiled opposition group Viet Tan said Friday. An Australian citizen, Chau Van Kham was detained on January 13 while on a “fact-finding” mission to assess the human rights situation in Vietnam, Viet Tan spokesman in Australia Phong Nguyen said in a statement.”Mr. Kham has been detained incommunicado for almost two weeks and without Australian consular access,” Viet Tan said, adding that the group and Kham’s family were in contact with the Australian foreign ministry. Kham is well-known in Australia’s Vietnamese community as “a long time democracy activist, working with civil society on the ground in Vietnam as well as campaigning for human rights with elected officials in Canberra,” Viet Tan said. Viet Tan is a self-described pro-democracy opposition group advocating for human rights. It is considered a terrorist organization by Vietnam, although it is peaceful and has a presence in several countries.

Gay congressman Jean Wyllys leaves Brazil, citing death threats; Jean Wyllys told a Brazilian paper that he had left the country and would not be returning to start his third term. The advocate for LGBT rights described the atmosphere under new President Jair Bolsonaro as “unsafe.”Jean Wyllys, a prominent openly gay congressman in Brazil, said he was stepping down from his position in response to death threats. Wyllys made the announcement in an interview published on Thursday in the daily Folha de S. Paulo. In it, he said that he was currently outside of the country and had no plans to return. He told the paper that he intended to work in academia going forward. “This was not an easy decision, and it involved a lot of pain, because I am also giving up being close to my family, my dear friends, and the people who love me and want me near them,” Wyllys said in the interview.

Austrian interior minister accused of ‘attacking rule of law’; Herbert Kickl, Austria’s far-right populist interior minister, came out for tough asylum laws. He even questioned the European Convention on Human Rights, infuriating Austria’s president and Amnesty International. If he meant to provoke, he succeeded. Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl’s comments against the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) drew a sharp rebuke from government officials and President Alexander Van der Bellen. When asked by an Austrian public broadcaster whether curfews for asylum-seekers and speedy deportations could violate the rule of law, Kickl referred to the rights conventions saying that there are “strange legal structures, sometimes many years old and developed under totally different circumstances, that prevent us from doing what is necessary. I would like to take on those rules.”

FRANCE (France24)

Russia, Venezuelan military top brass back Maduro; A day after Venezuela’s National Assembly head Juan Guaido proclaimed himself the country’s interim president in a move welcomed by the US, Canada and several countries in the hemisphere, Venezuela’s top military officials delivered vows of loyalty to Maduro. Around half-dozen generals belonging largely to district commands and with direct control over thousands of troops joined Maduro in accusing the US of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs and said they would uphold the socialist leader’s rule. Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, a key Maduro ally, later delivered his own proclamation, dismissing efforts to install a “de-facto parallel government” as tantamount to a coup. “It’s not a war between Venezuelans that will solve our problems,” he said. “It’s dialogue.” enezuelans are heading into uncharted political waters after Guaido declared himself acting president following the widely contested May 2018 presidential election. Under Venezuela’s constitution, a vacancy in the presidency must be filled by the head of the National Assembly until new elections are held. Shortly after Washington’s recognition of Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president, Maduro dug in for fight, breaking diplomatic ties with the US and giving US diplomats in Venezuela 72 hours to leave the country. On Thursday, the US ordered non-emergency embassy staff to leave Venezuela but stopped short of complying with the full expulsion demanded by Maduro. The US State Department also said that US citizens “should strongly consider departing Venezuela”. Earlier, Maduro announced that Venezuela was to close its embassies and all consulates in the US. Russia meanwhile has backed Maduro, with Putin calling his Venezuelan counterpart to express “support for the legitimate authorities of Venezuela in the context of a domestic political crisis that has been provoked from the outside”, said the Kremlin. Moscow has warned Washington against any attempts to militarily intervene in Venezuela. Russia has extensive economic interests in Venezuela and has invested billions of dollars in its energy sector

Greek MPs to vote on Macedonia name change; Greek lawmakers are due to vote Friday on a deal to change the name of neighbouring Macedonia and resolve a diplomatic dispute that has dragged on for nearly 30 years.The vote was originally scheduled for after midnight Thursday but had to be postponed to Friday because some 230 lawmakers wanted to speak on the issue, the parliament speaker said. Hundreds opposed to the deal protested outside parliament on Thursday evening, with police using tear gas to disperse them. The vote on the agreement to rename Macedonia as the Republic of North Macedonia is now planned for around 2:30 pm (1230 GMT). “Tomorrow is a crucial vote… now is the time to break free of the vicious cycle of nationalism and look at… future cooperation,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told the chamber. Macedonia’s parliament on January 11 backed a constitutional revision to change the country’s name but for the deal to go through, it must also be approved by Greek MPs. Communist party activists Thursday draped giant banners outside the Acropolis, the ancient citadel on an rocky outcrop overlooking Athens, reading: “No to the Tsipras-Zaev agreement.” That was a reference to the landmark compromise agreed in June between Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart Zoran Zaev.

Frustration and sadness as Italy migrant centre closed; “I found a family here, I worked with the parish priest, I helped with mass, I went to school,” said Nigerian Anthony Ehikwe, one of hundreds of migrants being expelled from Italy’s second-largest migrant centre. “And now I do not even have the time to say goodbye.” Italian authorities are this week removing migrants from the reception centre at Castelnuovo di Porto, just north of Rome, after far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s tough anti-migrant decree became law.

France’s Macron calls election of Venezuela’s Maduro ‘illegitimate’; Macron said in his tweet that Europe supports the restoration of democracy, and “welcomes the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who march for their freedom”. Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim leader on Wednesday, winning the support of Washington and parts of Latin America and prompting Maduro, who has led the oil-rich nation since 2013, to sever diplomatic ties with the United States. The European Union has imposed sanctions on Venezuela and boycotted Maduro’s swearing-in, but stopped short of following Washington’s line. However, it called on the authorities in Venezuela to respect his “civil rights, freedom and safety” and appeared to support calls for a peaceful transition of power away from Maduro.


Nissan, Renault confirm to cooperate; Nissan President Hiroto Saikawa said he talked with Renault’s new chairman Jean-Dominique Senard on the phone. He said they confirmed they’ll cooperate to help synergize the alliance. Saikawa told reporters on Friday, “I told Mr. Senard we’ll work hard together. It’s a new start, and I’d like to keep close communication.” Saikawa said he intends to endorse Senard as a Nissan director in an extraordinary shareholders meeting planned for mid-April. But there are differences between the two automakers on who will take the lead at Nissan after the arrest of chairman Carlos Ghosn.

Dai-ichi to buy US insurer’s unit for $1.2 bil; Dai-ichi Life Holdings has decided to buy the individual life insurance and annuity unit of a US life insurer. Japanese insurance companies have been looking abroad for growth as their home market shrinks. Dai-ichi Life says its wholly owned US subsidiary will buy a total of about 240 thousand policies from Colorado-based Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance. The 1.2 billion-dollar transaction is expected to close in the first half of this year. Dai-ichi Life has been accelerating its market expansion in the US since 2015. That’s when it purchased local insurer Protective Life and turned it into its US arm.

France: Nissan should abide by agreement; French economy minister Bruno Le Maire says one of the top executives of Nissan should be from Renault, based on an agreement made by the two companies. France apparently wants Renault to maintain its influence over the Japanese partner. Renault announced on Thursday that Jean-Dominique Senard will be the firm’s new chairman, after Carlos Ghosn gave up his executive positions. Senard is currently the CEO of tire manufacturer Michelin. Le Maire spoke to NHK in Switzerland. He said Senard’s first job is to strengthen the alliance with Nissan. Le Maire said, “There is a clear agreement. We have to stick to the agreement between France and Japan about the alliance. That, for us, is the key point.” The French government is the top shareholder in Renault. And Renault is Nissan’s largest shareholder, with a 43-percent stake. Some Nissan executives want the companies to review their capital ties to ensure that the Japanese automaker maintains its managerial autonomy. Le Maire said the issue is not even on the table.

US Navy ships sail through Taiwan Strait; Two US Navy vessels have passed through the Taiwan Strait in an apparent action to keep China in check amid tension between the two countries over trade issues and the South China Sea. The US Pacific Fleet said in a statement that the destroyer USS McCampbell and the replenishment vessel USNS Walter S. Diehl conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Thursday. The statement said the transit demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. It added the US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows. The US Navy also sailed ships through the strait in November. US President Donald Trump’s administration has been increasing the pace of dispatch of naval ships to the region. In a related development, Taiwanese defense authorities said multiple Chinese warplanes, including H6 bombers, conducted flight drills near Taiwan on Tuesday and Thursday.

Thai election campaign starts; Political parties in Thailand have officially kicked off their election campaigns. On Wednesday, the country set March 24th as the date for its long-anticipated general election. The vote will be a crucial step toward democracy after nearly five years of military rule. Major parties held a press conference to outline their political positions. A pro-military party stressed that it is not an extension of the military. Palang Pracharath Party leader Uttama Savanayana said, “I can assure everyone that our party is as ready as it can be. Our personnel are ready. Some old faces are rich with experience. Some new faces with passion and ideas.” A rival party that supports former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called for a free and fair election. Pheu Thai Party leader Viroj Pao-in said, “We encourage the Thai people and Pheu Thai members to exercise their right to vote, which will pave the way to complete democracy in this country.” The party criticized the fact that four current ministers have been allowed to establish and run the pro-military party and just months ahead of the vote are using sizeable government funds on projects to boost their popularity. The military has controlled the government since it staged a coup in 2014. It has pledged to hold an election to hand over power to a civilian administration, but it has repeatedly postponed that. The prime minster and former army chief Prayut Chan-o-cha has hinted that he may seek to be re-named the country’s leader after the polls. He could run with one of the pro-military parties or become a so-called “outsider prime minister.” Under new rules, the premier is not required to be a member of parliament.

Choice to be added for base referendum in Okinawa; Members of the prefectural assembly in Japan’s southwestern prefecture of Okinawa have agreed to add another choice for a planned referendum on relocation of a US base in the prefecture. They decided to add “neither” to the initially proposed two options of “yes” or “no” to the relocation plan. The assembly decided to hold the referendum in the wake of wide local objections to a plan to relocate the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Ginowan City to the less populated Henoko area within the prefecture. The date of the referendum was set for February 24th. But Ginowan and four other cities opted not to take part on the grounds that just the “yes” or “no” options are insufficient to ascertain the people’s will. That would have reduced the number of voting municipalities to 36. On Wednesday, the assembly’s ruling bloc, which supports Governor Denny Tamaki, decided to allow other choices in the upcoming referendum. The next day, all political groups in the assembly agreed to add “neither”. It is widely believed that the agreement will lead to implementation of the referendum at all municipalities in Okinawa.

World News Headlines: 01-25-2019


Hundreds evicted from Italy refugee home; More than 500 migrants have been forcibly removed from Italy’s second-largest refugee center. Itay’s populist government claims it is “helping Italians,” but the town complains that years of hard work are being ruined. The Italian government deported over 500 people from the country’s second largest refugee center on Tuesday and Wednesday, shipping people off in buses to undisclosed locations. The mayor of Castelnuovo di Porto, the small suburb north of Rome, said that the migrants were removed from his town with little warning or further information. Thousands of migrants have passed through Castelnuovo di Porto in the past decade, and it was famously the site of Pope Francis’s traditional Easter foot washing in 2016. The move comes a little more than month after a new immigration law, dubbed “Salvini’s decree,” after hardline anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, came into force

Malaysia’s royalty to pick new king; Malaysia’s new monarch will be selected from a group of nine sultans. The ceremonial proceedings at the top of the Southeast Asian nation won’t mark the beginning of a new era, but are not completely irrelevant either.When Malaysia’s King Muhammad V unexpectedly abdicated in early January, it was not bad health that forced the 49-year-old to give up his post. The youngest king in Malaysia’s history apparently stepped down because of his liaison with a former “Miss Moscow,” whom he is said to have secretly married. In 2008, he divorced his first wife, a Muslim princess from Thailand, making him the first unmarried king to ascend the throne. The king’s private life, which is considered incompatible with Islamic values, has led the other sultans of Malaysia to believe that Muhammad V should be replaced.

FRANCE (France24)

Juan Guaido: the ‘survivor’ challenging Venezuela’s Maduro; He will need to be: the bold young politician, head of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature, became public enemy number one when he declared himself interim president Wednesday, defying embattled President Nicolas Maduro. Guaido did not set out to supplant Maduro, the socialist president who has presided over a spiraling political and economic crisis in Venezuela. But the sometimes reserved 35-year-old was thrust to the front of the Venezuelan opposition when more senior leaders were forced from the scene — some detained, some banned from politics and some pushed into exile.


Japan fishery group plans commercial whale hunt; NHK has learned that a Japanese fishery group plans to resume commercial whaling for the first time in 31 years. Sources say the cooperative will team up with a group of firms to form a fleet. It plans to head out on its first hunt on July 1st. The cooperative is based in western Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture, in the town of Taiji. Officials made the decision after Japan announced last month it would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission. The ships will likely depart from Hokkaido or Aomori prefectures, in the north of the country. Both have ports specially equipped to handle the extra-large cargo. The crews will spend about a week at sea hunting minke whales. The cooperative will separately conduct an expedition off central Japan that will end in August. And it plans to reform the larger fleet down the track for a two-month hunt. The head of Japan Small-Type Whaling Association, Yoshifumi Kai, says he’s been waiting years for this day to come. Kai said, “It’s important that we abide by the catch quota and make sure the whale population does not dwindle.” Japan suspended commercial whaling in line with a 1988 moratorium. Since then it has been taking small catches for research purposes.

Former S.Korea Chief Justice arrested; outh Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper and other media outlets report that a former Supreme Court Chief Justice was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of abuse of power. This is related to allegations of unjustly delaying a ruling on the wartime labor issue involving Japanese firms. Yang Sung-tae is accused of acting in line with the wishes of the government of then-president Park Geun-hye, which is said to have been concerned about worsening of ties with Japan. He is reportedly the first former South Korean Chief Justice to be arrested.

Japan, S.Korea FMs differ on bilateral issues; South Korea did not take a stance on Japan’s call for talks on the wartime labor issue at a meeting of the two countries’ foreign ministers. Japan’s Taro Kono met his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Wednesday. This is their first meeting since South Korea’s Supreme Court recently ordered Japanese companies to compensate Koreans who say they were forced to work for the companies during World War Two. Kono hoped South Korea would agree to hold talks at an early date based on an agreement reached in 1965. The Japanese government says any right to such claims was settled finally and completely in the agreement the countries signed when they normalized ties. Kang only said the government is carefully studying the matter. But she said it was regrettable that there have been low-altitude flights by Japanese Self-Defense Force planes close to South Korean warships. Kono rebutted South Korea’s claims, saying Japanese aircraft weren’t flying as close to South Korean vessels as Seoul claims they were. The Japanese Foreign Ministry says further worsening of ties is undesirable as there is the need to address issues relating to North Korea.

China detains Chinese-Australian writer; The Australian government says China’s authorities have detained a Chinese-Australian writer who has become a vocal critic of the Communist Party in China. Australian officials say Yang Hengjun is in detention. He is a former diplomat for China who took Australian nationality after retiring. Yang’s acquaintances have lost contact with him since he arrived in Guangzhou on Saturday from New York. Australia’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Department says that on Wednesday, the Chinese authorities informed the Australian Embassy in Beijing of the detention. The department is asking China to disclose the reason for the detention and allow officials to meet him. Feng Chongyi, associate professor at University of Technology Sydney, is an acquaintance of Yang. Feng told NHK that Yang was likely taken away by Chinese officials who were waiting for his arrival at the airport, and sent to Beijing on the same day. Yang wrote on his blog on December 30th that Western nations’ legal, economic, and social systems have many loopholes, and most of those who exploit them for profit are Chinese. In another post on December 18th, he wrote that the spirit of China’s reform and opening-up policy centers on the liberation of thought, and that repressing freedom of speech only reverses history. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a news conference on Wednesday that the ministry has no information on the matter.


World News Headlines: 01-23-2019


Syria on agenda, Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Vladimir Putin; Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Their alliance is in good shape, so what’s left to talk about for two men who’ve engineered themselves all-powerful presidencies? Now that President Donald Trump has announced plans to withdraw US troops from Syria, countries that intend to remain involved in the mutlifront civil war are adapting their strategies accordingly. And Syria will certainly be on the agenda when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan travels to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The leaders will discuss creating a “security zone” east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria; Erdogan’s desire to launch a military operation to take the self-governed northern city of Manbij, which has been protected by Kurdish forces that drove out the Islamic State (IS) group; and the growing influence of a militia allied with al-Qaida in Idlib. Turkey officially opposes the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and has dedicated its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has close ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as a terror group. Turkey, the European Union and the US classify the PKK as a terror organization. The United States had worked with the YPG militia to combat IS, including training and arming fighters, which has angered Turkish officials and created tensions between the NATO members. The PYD seeks to establish an autonomous state in northern Syria, just south of Turkey’s border. Erdogan, however, wants to push YPG fighters out of this region in order to set up his security zone, where Syrians who have fled the war to Turkey could be resettled.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro inherits Davos keynote on overseas debut; President Bolsonaro said he would present a new, investment-ready Brazil to the Davos elite. He told the forum he’d try to walk a line between business interests and environmental protection. Brazil’s newly sworn-in nationalist President Jair Bolsonaro gave the first keynote speech to the globalist audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday. Bolsonaro has promised to institute neoliberal policies, such as the privatization of most infrastructure. The president did little to assuage the fears of environmentalists who worry about his ideas concerning the economic potential of the Amazon rainforest, by telling the forum that development and concern for the climate should go “hand in hand.” “One should not emphasize more than the other,” he said. He promised to open up Brazil’s “relatively closed” economy by lowering taxes and easing regulations on foreign investment, and to seek active reforms of the World Trade Organization. He further cemented his right-wing populist bonafides by vowing that the left wing “would not prevail” in Latin America. The only major policy initiative undertaken by Bolsonaro thus far is to pull Brazil from a UN pact meant to curb irregular migration, following in the footsteps of other populist leaders from around the world. He has also moved to relax gun regulations in violence-plagued Brazil.

Lebanon’s political and economic meltdown; Lebanon, it seems, is close to political and economic paralysis. Rampant corruption, poor health care, and soaring unemployment have turned the country into a powder keg. Anchal Vohra reports from Beirut. Barely a week passes these days without people in Lebanon taking to the streets. In one such protest last week in Beirut, demonstrators marched from the Labour Ministry to the Health Ministry, chanting slogans and displaying placards lamenting the country’s deteriorating economic conditions. The majority of the protesters were young and many of them unemployed. Take Zeenat. She studied French — the second most spoken language in Lebanon after Arabic — and would like to teach the language as a professional, if she could only get a job. “There are just no openings, no jobs,” she told DW. “We do not even have the money to live on.”

Analyst: China has to be put in the category of a ‘rogue state’; A group of ex-diplomats and academics have signed an open letter to the Chinese president for the release of two Canadians detained on national security grounds. DW spoke to Bill Hayton, one of the letter’s signatories.Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were on December 10 arrested for activities that “endanger China’s national security” — a phrase often used by Beijing when alleging espionage. Their detentions are thought to be in retaliation for Canada’s arrest on a US request of Huawei vice president Meng Wanzhou, who is facing fraud charges linked to violations of Iran sanctions. In an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, released on Monday, a group of more than 100 former diplomats and academics called for the release of the two Canadians. The signatories included former ambassadors to China from Canada, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, the UK and the US. They all are “deeply concerned” by the detentions.

Uprising shows instability of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela; A small group of Venezuelan soldiers have apparently failed in their to overthrow the regime. Observers say the uprising demonstrates how unstable Venezuela’s political situation has become.On Monday, members of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) launched an apparent uprising. Things were seemingly back to normal by afternoon. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said the “criminals” had been arrested and would feel the full force of the law. The failed revolt once again illustrates the political instability and humanitarian crises that plague Venezuela. Internationally and at home, the very legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro, who has been sworn in for a second term, is being questioned. “There have been similar revolts in the past,” said Victor Mijares, a Venezuelan native and professor of political science at the University of Los Andes in the capital of Colombia, Bogota. “There will be more in the future,” he said. Venezuela’s opposition has called for nationwide protests on Wednesday. Mijares said Venezuelan soldiers had put up with working conditions that breed discontent. Low- and midlevel personnel are particularly disgruntled, he said. “These people have the same worries that most ordinary citizens have. So this is a revolt by impoverished citizens, albeit with guns and uniforms.” The question is whether Venezuela’s disaffected citizens and military personnel will manage to destabilize the regime. And whether that would actually pave the way toward a democratic transition.

EU fines Mastercard more than half a billion euros; The EU has fined Mastercard €570 million for limiting competition between banks offering cheaper payment fees. The European Commission said Mastercard’s actions harmed consumers and retailers in the bloc. The European Commission on Tuesday fined Mastercard €570 million ($648 million) for preventing retailers from looking for better card payment terms at banks around Europe. The Commission, which monitors competition, said that Mastercard’s rules prior to 2015 forced retailers to pay certain bank fees in the country they are located rather than let them shop around. Mastercard, which also controls the Maestro brand, is the second-largest credit card program in Europe. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that “By preventing merchants from shopping around for better conditions offered by banks in other member states, Mastercard’s rules artificially raised the costs of card payments, harming consumers and retailers in the EU.”

Huawei scrambles to untangle crossed lines; Huawei just needs a better “brand storytelling” approach, a company source reportedly said. But will the telecoms giant’s charm offensive work as the EU wakes up to Chinese industrial espionage? Chinese telco Huawei kicked off a charm offensive this week aimed at salvaging its rapidly deteriorating reputation. The company has been hit with accusations of stealing trade secrets, several countries are blocking or planning to block its equipment from sensitive infrastructure projects, and its finance chief is under arrest in Canada.


Sources: Ghosn plans to step down from Renault; NHK sources say former Nissan head Carlos Ghosn intends to resign from his position as the chairman and CEO of Renault. Ghosn has been held in detention in Tokyo for over 2 months on a series of financial misconduct allegations. He was ousted from his post as Nissan chairman after his arrest in mid-November, but Renault has kept him on board. Ghosn oversaw the alliance between Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi Motors. The news comes as the French automaker prepares to hold a board meeting on Thursday to replace Ghosn. The French government is Renault’s largest shareholder. It’s urging the company to appoint new management to ensure stability. French media say tire manufacturer Michelin’s chief executive will likely take over as chairman. And Renault’s Chief Operating Officer is expected to become CEO. He has been filling in for Ghosn as acting chief executive. Ghosn’s expected departure is likely to intensify a power struggle and talks over the future of the alliance. Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan’s shares, but the Japanese automaker is more profitable. So there have been calls from within Nissan to review the partnership and possibly become more independent.

Indian police arrest Rohingya Muslims; Indian police have arrested a group of Rohingya Muslims who were trying to enter Bangladesh through its border. They had been stranded at the border for nearly a week. The 31 Rohingya Muslims include women and children. They had been reportedly living in the Kashmir region. Around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims are estimated to be in India after violence erupted in Myanmar. They live in settlements and slums across the country, but are considered illegal migrants and a potential security risk. Last October, seven Rohingya Muslims were repatriated to Myanmar, raising fears that more expulsions may follow. The United Nations estimates 730,000 refugees have fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh. The UN has condemned the violence as ethnic cleansing, and has warned conditions in Myanmar are not conducive for the refugees to return.

US, N.Korean officials had ‘productive talks’; The government of Sweden has hinted that officials from the United States and North Korea had productive discussions at an international conference in the country. The US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, and North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister, Choe Son Hui, attended the meeting that was held for three days from Saturday near Stockholm. Biegun and Choe are believed to have discussed a second US-North Korean summit. Swedish officials told NHK on Tuesday that delegates from the US, North and South Korea and Sweden took part in the conference and discussed confidence-building and economic development. But the officials did not say whether US and North Korean delegates had one-on-one talks or how Pyongyang’s denuclearization was discussed. The head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Kenji Kanasugi, was also in Stockholm but did not attend the conference. Kanasugi, who spoke with Biegun, said he did not meet the North Korean delegates. He added that Japan will provide support to ensure that the proposed US-North Korean summit will be a success.

Russians demonstrate opposing islands’ handover; Scores of Russians have staged a demonstration in front of the Japanese embassy in Moscow against a possible handover of islands claimed by Japan. About 100 people, mainly supporters of Russia’s Communist Party, gathered there on Tuesday. This comes before a Japan-Russia summit in Moscow on the same day to discuss a peace treaty that would include a resolution to the issue of the Russian-held islands. The demonstrators were holding up signs saying, “Russia won’t hand over the islands,” or “Japan should give up on them.” One criticized the Russian government, saying it should not negotiate with Japan on the sovereignty of the islands. Some of the participants scuffled with police. The demonstration’s organizers say 11 people were detained. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in November to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on a 1956 joint declaration. The declaration states that Russia will hand over to Japan two of four Russian-held islands after the conclusion of a peace treaty. But opposition to the handover has been increasing since then. Russia controls the four islands. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two.


World News Headlines: 01-22-2019


New France-Germany treaty aims to revive EU; A follow-up pact to the Elysee Treaty marks the latest gesture of friendship between France and Germany. The new bilateral pact pledges deeper cooperation between the two nations and paves the way for EU reforms. As they mark the 56th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty in the German city of Aachen on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel will sign a new friendship treaty that is designed to deepen the Franco-German friendship, bring ties to a “new level” and improve the lives of citizens in both countries.The idea isn’t new. Paris, in particular, has regularly suggested renewing the treaty in the decades since it was first signed, despite the fact that amendments have been added over the years.

Mexico sets new murder record with more than 33,000 killed in 2018; Mexico saw more murders in 2018 than any other year since nationwide records began some two decades ago, according to the country’s Interior Ministry. Mexico might soon get a national guard tasked with combating crime. ith drug-related crimes and gang violence rife across Mexico, investigators opened 33,341 murder probes in 2018, setting a new record, according to the latest data published by the nation’s authorities. Men make up the overwhelming majority of the victims, with 861 women losing their lives last year. The number of murders logged in 2018 is also the biggest since the national records began in 1997. The data showed a total increase of some 15.5 percent compared to all murders in 2017. Mexico logged 28,866 murders in 2017, far outpacing the much larger US where the FBI noted 17,284 instances of “murder and non-negligent manslaughter” during the same time. Mexico’s population is about 130 million, compared to the US population of about 326 million.

Germany deports record number of refugees to other EU states; Most of the asylum-seekers that were deported were sent to Italy. The deportations follow the EU’s Dublin III rule, which states that applications must be processed in the first country of arrival.In 2018, more refugees were transferred from Germany to other EU member states than ever before, according to an Interior Ministry report obtained by German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. The report was a response to a parliamentary inquiry by the Left Party. Some 8,658 asylum-seekers who were required to leave Germany did so between January and the end of November 2018. The previous year, 7,102 were deported to other states. As such, the proportion of completed transfers from Germany to other EU countries saw a rise from 15.1 percent in 2017 to 24.5 percent in 2018. The deportations follow the EU’s Dublin III rule, which states that the country where a refugee first entered Europe is responsible for handling his or her application.

France fines Google €50 million for EU privacy breaches; The biggest penalty so far under new EU rules was justified by the severity of the infringements of transparency, information and consent, France’s regulator ruled. It is a challenge to Google’s business model. The €50 million ($57 million) fine on the US company whose revenues for 2017 were $109.65 billion was due to a lack of transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data. “The data-processing purposes, the data storage periods or the categories of personal data used for the ads’ personalization” were spread over a series of documents, pages and settings, the ruling’s text said. Google had also failed to properly obtain users’ consent for personalized adverts, according to the ruling.

Zimbabwe president pledges probe into protest crackdown; Unrest over a sharp increase in fuel prices had got so bad that Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa cut short an investment-seeking trip to Europe. He promised to investigate “unacceptable” violence by security forces. Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday defended the decision to raise fuel prices as the “right thing to do” to stabililze supply. A crackdown against the protests that followed, however, led to the deaths of at least 12 people. The events were “regrettable,” Mnangagwa said on Twitter and added that “violence or misconduct by security forces was unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe … and will be investigated.”

Venezuela captures troops rebelling in Caracas; Security forces in Venezuela have arrested 27 members of the National Guard who took part in a public mutiny against the regime of Nicolas Maduro. Previously, the guardsmen urged Venezuelans to take to the streets.Venezuela’s military put down an uprising by a group of soldiers in Caracas on Monday, after surrounding a command post claimed by the mutineers and arresting 25 soldiers. Another two were arrested at a different location, officials said. “They were neutralized, surrendered and captured in record time,” Diosdado Cabello, a close aide of President Nicolas Maduro, said of the rebelling troops. “They are already confessing details and the first thing they said is that they were offered villas and castles but were left alone, they were tricked,” he added, without providing details.

FRANCE (France24)

Hundreds killed in Yumbi, DR Congo: ‘People were finished off with machetes’; The massacre took place in Yumbi, a town on the banks of the Congo River, and in several surrounding villages. Most of the people in this area are from the Batende community. The largest minority group is the Banunu. According to Gentiny Ngobila, the governor of Mai-Ndombe province, an estimated 200,000 people live in and around Yumbi, with about 40,000 living in the town itself. In late December, several photos, seemingly taken in Yumbi during the massacre and in the days following, started circulating on social media. However, it was difficult to verify their origin, especially because there was an internet blackout in the country, which lasted from December 31 – the day after the presidential election – through January 19.

France summons Italian envoy after Di Maio’s ‘unacceptable’ Africa comments; he ambassador was summoned on Monday after the “unacceptable and groundless” comments by Di Maio on Sunday, a source in the cabinet of France’s Europe Minister Natalie Loiseau told AFP on condition of anonymity. Di Maio made a series of incendiary remarks while visiting the Abruzzo region in central Italy, the latest sign of serious tensions between the populist government in Rome and France’s centrist leader Emmanuel Macron. “The EU should sanction France and all countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave, because Africans should be in Africa, not at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” Di Maio said.“If people are leaving today it’s because European countries, France above all, have never stopped colonising dozens of African countries,” added the leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), which governs alongside the far-right League party. The International Organization for Migration said at the weekend that more than 100 people were feared missing after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Libya.

African Union delays DR Congo mission over disputed presidential vote; “All I can confirm at this time is that the trip has been postponed. We will release a statement shortly,” said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for the head of the AU Commission, Chadian Moussa Faki.This comment comes after an AU source earlier had said the pan-African organisation was cancelling its trip to Democratic Republic of Congo. At a summit on Thursday, AU leaders had cited “serious doubts” about the election figures and called for the announcement of the final results to be delayed.The European Union concurred with the AU assessment, a spokeswoman had said. But the 16-nation Southern African Development Community congratulated Felix Tshisekedi, a longtime opposition leader, on Sunday for being declared president-elect and called for a peaceful handover of power. The AU mission to Kinshasa, to be led by Faki and AU chairman Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, had originally been set for Monday.


Carlos Ghosn denied bail again; A Tokyo court has shot down another bail request by Nissan Motor’s former Chairman. Carlos Ghosn has been in custody for over 2 months. That period is likely to stretch even longer with little prospects he will be released any time soon. His lawyers are expected to appeal the decision. This is the second time his defense team had applied for bail, after Ghosn’s most recent indictment earlier this month. He was charged with aggravated breach of trust and for underreporting his compensation. In his first appeal, he asked to stay in France and travel to Tokyo for court appearances. It’s believed the request was denied to protect the ongoing investigation and reduce the risk of evidence tampering. This time, he promised to stay in Japan, wear a monitoring device and respect any other bail conditions. But the court once again rejected the request. In Japan, defendants under investigation by special prosecutors tend to be detained a long time when they deny the charges as Ghosn does.

Labor ministry probe focuses on possible cover-up; A committee investigating the faulty statistics survey of Japan’s labor ministry is focused on whether there was systematic involvement in misconduct or cover-ups.The labor ministry was supposed to cover all large businesses in Tokyo for its monthly statistics report on wages and hours, but was found to have been surveying only a fraction of them. A special panel of outside lawyers and statistics experts met behind closed doors on Tuesday and made adjustments to finalize a report. They examined a manual used at the section in charge of the survey in 2004. It said accuracy can be ensured even if the survey does not cover all businesses. Panel members say this phrase was deleted from the manual in 2015, but the substandard practice continued, indicating that officials recognized the wrongdoing and were trying to conceal their actions. The panel has already finished questioning relevant officials. The ministry plans to impose punishments based on the results of the panel’s probe.

Japan to resume Iranian oil imports; Japan is reportedly preparing to receive its first shipments of oil from Iran since an embargo was announced. Iran’s central bank governor, Abdolnaser Hemati, said on Monday that Japan has begun conducting operations so that the imports can resume, following similar moves by China and South Korea. The administration of Donald Trump rolled out the economic sanctions on Iran in November last year, covering crude oil. But Washington granted Japan and seven other countries an exemption. They can keep buying Iranian oil for 180 days, to May this year. Major Japanese oil wholesaler Showa Shell Sekiyu is already preparing to transport the crude. Japan’s largest oil wholesaler, JXTG Holdings, is expected soon to follow suit.
Japan plans to negotiate with the US over extending the temporary exemption, so that its Iranian oil imports can continue flowing.

US-N.Korea talks in Sweden likely ended; US and North Korean officials appear to have met in Sweden, following the announcement by the US of a second summit next month. The US special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui spent three days at a facility near the capital Stockholm. The two left for their respective embassies in the country on Monday. It was the first time top working-level negotiators from the two countries were in contact since the White House announced plans for a second US-North Korea summit in late February. Neither of the officials took questions from reporters, but they are believed to have discussed the denuclearization process. The Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau chief, Kenji Kanasugi, later visited the US Embassy in Stockholm, apparently to get a briefing from Biegun on the US-North Korean negotiations. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held separate conference calls with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. They are reported to have discussed how to proceed with negotiations with Pyongyang.

World News Headlines: 01-21-2019


Israel admits strikes against Iranian Quds in Syria; In a rare acknowledgement of military action in Syria, Israel says it fired rockets at Iranian Quds sites in Damascus. Syrian state media said it had shot down the missiles. Israel’s military said on Monday that it had struck Iranian military targets inside Syria, an unusual admission by a country that rarely comments on its military actions in Syria. “We have started striking Iranian Quds targets in Syrian territory,” Israel’s military wrote on Twitter. “We warn the Syrian Armed Forces against attempting to harm Israeli forces or territory,” Syria said it had shot down several “hostile targets” without elaborating.

Greek police and protesters clash at rally over Macedonia name deal; Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Athens to voice their disapproval of a name deal with neighboring Macedonia. Greece’s parliament is due to vote this week on whether or not to ratify the deal. Clashes broke out between riot police and protesters in Athens on Sunday as thousands of people took part in a rally against the Greek government’s name change deal with Macedonia, which is currently officially referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “We cannot stomach this deal, to give away our Macedonia, our history,” Amalia Savrami, a 67-year-old pensioner, told Reuters news agency. “Macedonia is Greek, period,” she added, waving a large blue and white Greek flag. Police fired tear gas to disperse protesters outside of parliament after a group of protesters threw rocks, paint, flares, fireworks and other objects. One man wearing a Greek flag attacked police with a large stick while others also struck officers by swinging large flags on wooden poles.

Colombia’s shattered hopes of peace; Fear has returned to Colombia, two years after the government signed a peace deal with FARC rebels. Real peace remains an illusion, as this week’s bomb attack has shown. Ofelia Harms Arruti reports from Bogota. Weeping mothers, wives and children: the scenes outside the General Santander police academy in the Colombian capital were heartbreaking. At least 21 young people died and another 68 were injured in the car bombing in Bogota on Thursday. Most of the victims were aged between 17 and 23. The bomber is assumed to have been a member of the ELN guerrilla group. The police cadets had just participated in a promotion ceremony when he drove his explosive-laden car into the academy compound and blew it up. The attacker died in the blast, and his motive remains unclear.

10 UN peacekeepers killed in Al Qaida-linked attack in Mali; An attack on the UN mission in Mali has left 10 peacekeepers dead and at least 25 injured. Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, an Islamist group with al Qaida ties, has claimed responsibility.An al Qaida-linked Islamist group has claimed responsibility for an attack that killed 10 UN peacekeepers from Chad in the north of Mali on Sunday. In a statement posted on messaging platform Telegram, the Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen group said the attack was a response to Chadian President Idriss Deby’s revival of diplomatic relations with Israel.At least 25 others were injured in the attack on the UN camp, which was one of the deadliest attacks against MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali. The gunmen struck early Sunday at the Aguelhok base 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Kidal and toward the border with Algeria, according to a source close to the MINUSMA mission. “MINUSMA forces responded robustly and a number of assailants were killed,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said without specifying the toll.

Zimbabwe warns brutal crackdown is ‘just a foretaste’ of things to come; Zimbabwean authorities will hold opponents “fully accountable” for the unrest, and a spokesman described the deadly crackdown as “just a foretaste” of the future. President Mnangagwa has cut short a foreign trip. The government of Zimbabwe is set to drastically ramp up its response to protests over fuel prices, a spokesman for President Emmerson Mnangagwa told The Sunday News newspaper. Authorities claim three people have lost their lives in the unrest, but activists say some 12 people were killed and scores of others suffered gunshot wounds in the brutal crackdown. Talking to the pro-government paper, spokesman George Charamba said the opposition MDC party and the trade unions had “unleashed” violence. Zimbabwe’s government “will not stand by while such narrow interests play out so violently,” Charamba told The Sunday News from Azerbaijan, where he was following the president on an official trip.
“The response so far is just a foretaste of things to come,” he added

Opinion: Europe caught in a dangerous nuclear trap; The treaty banning intermediate- and shorter-range missiles is beyond saving. The Cold War is back with a vengeance, and for Europe it’s even colder and more dangerous than 30 years ago, writes Christian F. Trippe. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is not one to envy right now: He wants to try to save a treaty between the US and Russia that is beyond saving. The INF treaty is dead. Signed in 1987, the agreement oversaw the elimination and banning of short- and medium-range missiles. These are weapons first developed by the USSR and then later by the United States. Given their limited range and nuclear capability, it would have been Europe, not the US, to suffer the radioactive consequences. That’s why such a ban has always been a matter of life or death for Europeans. It led to a two-tiered NATO policy towards the Soviet Union: Get rid of these weapons or have the same ones pointed at you. A negotiated disarmament was always on the table.

FRANCE (France24)

Israel and Chad renew diplomatic ties decades after rupture; Netanyahu and Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno have “announced the renewal of diplomatic relations between Chad and Israel”, a statement from the Israeli premier’s office said. Ties between Israel and the Muslim majority nation were broken in 1972. “The two sides view the resumption of relations as the key to future cooperation for the benefit of both countries,” the statement said.

Deadly explosion in Syrian capital Damascus; The head of the city’s civil defence, Asef Hababe, told Reuters the blast came from military technicians detonating a bomb. State TV had said earlier that initial reports pointed to a terrorist attack, and that a number of people were injured. The state outlet did not provide any more details on the incident.

Qatar’s emir in Beirut for Arab economic summit; Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has arrived in Beirut to attend an Arab economic summit marred by divisions over readmitting Syria into the Arab League. Qatar’s government has been one of the main backers of Syrian insurgents who have tried, since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. So the visit by its main representative is widely seen as a first step to restoring relations with Syria.

Ex-Nissan boss Ghosn vows to stay in Japan if granted bail; The Tokyo District Court will later Monday consider the 64-year-old’s latest petition for bail but has already rejected previous applications, judging Ghosn a flight risk who might seek to destroy evidence. “As the court considers my bail application, I want to emphasise that I will reside in Japan and respect any and all bail conditions the Court concludes are warranted,” Ghosn said in a statement released by his US-based representatives. He vowed to attend any subsequent trial “not only because I am legally obligated to do so, but because I am eager to finally have the opportunity to defend myself”.


China growth slows amid trade dispute; China says its economy grew 6.6 percent in 2018. That’s 0.2 percentage point less than the previous year, marking the first dip in two years. The figure marked the weakest annual growth in 28 years. The National Bureau of Statistics released the data on Monday.Economists point to the country’s trade dispute with the US as a big factor for the downturn.

Mindanao votes on new autonomy law; People on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao have been voting on a new law that would grant the local government substantially more autonomy. If they vote “yes”, it could pave the way for lasting peace after decades of fighting between government forces and Muslim militants. The first part of the election took place Monday, with people from two key cities and five provinces having their say. Other cities will vote on February 6th. A win would allow the autonomous government in the Muslim-majority region to change the educational and judicial systems and develop natural resources. The autonomy was part of the terms of a 2014 peace treaty between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the region’s largest militant group. President Rodrigo Duterte has been calling for a “yes” vote, saying the country must stand together against violence.
The government hopes the autonomy will stimulate development in the resource-rich region. Even if law comes into effect, it is no guarantee of peace in the region. Other militant groups there are recruiting members under the name of the Islamic State militant group. The final result of the vote is expected late next month.

Fierce presidential race expected in Afghanistan; The registration of candidates was closed on Sunday for Afghanistan’s presidential election. A fierce race is expected between the incumbent and his power-sharing partner. A presidential election is held every five years in Afghanistan. This year’s poll will be held on July 20th. President Ashraf Ghani announced his candidacy for a second term. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who is the number-two in the Ghani administration, and former National Security Advisor Mohammad Hanif Atmar are also running. Ghani and Abdullah had staged a fierce battle in the previous race in 2014. A run-off was held after neither one of them gained a majority of ballots in the first round. Vote-recounting was also held due to vote-rigging allegations. It took more than five months before the election results were finally announced. The race this time is also expected to be fierce, centering on how to improve security in the country as well as on ways to rebuild its economy which has been strained by civil war. Anti-government Taliban militants have regained power in Afghanistan since most of the multi-national troops withdrew from the country in 2014. The security situation continues to worsen.

Abe to leave for Russia to meet Putin; Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to leave for Russia on Monday for talks with President Vladimir Putin. Abe is determined to promote discussions on signing a peace treaty that would include a solution to the issue of four Russian-held islands. Russia controls the four islands. Japan claims them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. It says the islands were illegally occupied after World War Two. During his two-day stay in Russia, Abe is expected to meet Putin on Tuesday. It will be the 25th summit between the two leaders. They met in Argentina last month. Abe and Putin agreed in November to accelerate negotiations on a peace treaty based on a 1956 joint declaration stating that two of the four islands would be handed over to Japan after the conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty. But last week’s meeting between Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov highlighted differences over the territorial issue. The Russian side has urged Japan to recognize Russian sovereignty over the islands as a result of World War Two. It has also expressed concern and frustration over the Japan-US alliance and Japan’s joining Western nations in imposing sanctions on Russia. The Russians have nonetheless shown a willingness to continue negotiations with Japan.

Kono, Pompeo to meet over N.Korea; apanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have agreed to meet in mid-February to discuss the second US-North Korea summit. Kono talked with Pompeo over the phone for about 20 minutes on Monday morning. Kono was briefed on the negotiations between the United States and North Korea. The White House said last Friday that US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold their second summit late next month. Kim Yong Chol, a close aide to the North Korean leader, met Trump on Friday. Kono and Pompeo confirmed that Japan and the US will maintain close cooperation with South Korea. They also agreed to work together to resolve the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

World News Headlines: 01-20-2019

Germany (DW)

Congo’s Martin Fayulu declares himself president, top court sides with Felix Tshisekedi; The runner-up in the presidential election in DR Congo, Martin Fayulu, had said he was the real winner in the contest and called for protests. But a high court ruling said the challenge was “unfounded.” The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of Congo rejected a challenge to last month’s presidential election results. The high court said early Sunday that runner-up Martin Fayulu’s challenge to Felix Tshisekedi’s win was “inadmissible.” In the verdict, the court also rejected a request to carry out a recount and declared Tshisekedi “President of the Democratic Republic of Congo by simple majority.”The ruling comes shortly after the African Union had asked Congo to delay announcing the final election results, casting “serious doubts” about the vote. On January 10, DR Congo’s Electoral Commission said Tshisekedi had provisionally won with 38.57 percent of the vote against Fayulu’s 34.8 percent.

Northern Ireland: Suspected car bomb explodes in Londonderry; Northern Irish police posted a picture of what appeared to be a burning car in front of a courthouse. Irish politicians have condemned what they called a terrorist attack. No one was injured by the explosion. A suspected car bomb exploded in the Northern Irish city of Londonderry late on Saturday, police have said. “As far as we know no one injured,” police wrote on Facebook. A photo posted by the police’s Twitter account showed what appeared to be a car in flames outside of a courthouse near the city center.

Angela Merkel sees Germany-France as drivers of European unity; With Brexit looming on the horizon and populist parties calling for further EU exits, European unity has been shaken. In a video message, Merkel explained why she thinks a new friendship treaty with Paris will help. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance and significance of German-French ties in a video message posted on Saturday. After centuries of war between the two countries, the friendship that now exists between Berlin and Paris was “anything but self-evident,” she said. Her remarks come just days before she and French President Emmanuel Macron are due to sign a new friendship treaty in the city of Aachen.

FRANCE (France24)

US airstrike in Somalia kills 52 Al Shabaab extremists, military says; According to the statement, the airstrike was “in response to an attack by a large group of Al Shabaab militants against Somali National Army Forces” near Jilib, 370 km southwest of Somalian capital Mogadishu. “We currently assess this airstrike killed fifty-two militants,” read the statement. Military officials from this East-African country and local elders said heavily-armed Al Shabaab militants had launched a dawn raid on a military camp on Saturday morning, followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire which lasted hours. “The terrorists attacked Bulogagdud military base using heavy weaponry and explosives. The Somali military and Jubaland forces resisted the enemy before later retreating back from the base,” Mohamed Abdikarin, a Somali military official told AFP by phone.

Lebanon urges Arab League to readmit Syria ahead of regional summit; The Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, or AESD, is being held in Lebanon for the first time amid sharp divisions in the country and among Arab countries.
Syria was not invited despite demands by allies of Damascus in Lebanon. “Syria is the most notable absentee at our conference, and we feel the weight of its absence,” Gibran Bassil said.


Toyota, Panasonic to set up EV battery company; apanese firms Toyota Motor and Panasonic plan to set up a joint venture to make batteries for electric vehicles, or EVs. They want to increase their production capacity and competitive edge as EVs become more popular. The two companies have been holding talks since 2017 on how to work together in the field of EV batteries, which are key to extending the range of the vehicles. Toyota will own 51 percent of the firm. Panasonic will hold the rest of the company’s stock. The joint venture will be formally established next year at the earliest. Panasonic will shift most of its battery production facilities in Japan and China to the new firm. A plant in Nevada that it operates with US electric vehicle maker Tesla will not be involved. Toyota hopes that by around 2030 it will sell 5.5 million electric vehicles a year, or half its total projected sales. News of the planned joint venture comes as Chinese companies increase their battery production. Toyota and Panasonic are also working together to develop next-generation all solid-state batteries.

Ministers speak after TPP meeting; Ministers of the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement held a news conference after their first meeting in Tokyo. Canada’s Minister of International Trade Diversification, Jim Carr, said his country has become the first G7 nation to sign free trade agreements with all the other members. He said free trade agreements build bridges that are “crossed by investment, goods and services” which “produce growth, wealth and jobs.” Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing, said he was encouraged that all the members were united, despite many facing protectionist pressure. He said the members are committed to seeing the rules evolve to suit the times, and that it is in their common interest to embrace more countries within the agreement. Of the 4 countries that have yet to ratify the deal, the representatives from Peru and Chile said they hope to complete the process within a few months while the representative from Brunei said it would be as soon as possible. Malaysia’s administration led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who took office last May is showing caution toward the TPP. The country’s representative said in the news conference that the country is still evaluating the trade pact.


World News Headlines: 01-19-2019

BREAKING NEWS: Mexico: Fire at illegal fuel pipeline tap kills 20


Second summit coming for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, US President Donald Trump; After exchanging a number of letters and announcing they “fell in love,” US President Trump will attend a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Exactly where and when the pair will meet has not been determined. North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol met with President Donald Trump on Friday as the two sides worked to resume stalled efforts to end the North’s nuclear weapons program by arranging a second summit with leader Kim Jong Un. “President Donald J. Trump met with Kim Yong Chol for an hour and a half to discuss denuclearization and a second summit, which will take place near the end of February. The President looks forward to meeting with Chairman Kim at a place to be announced at a later date,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Mexico: Fire at illegal fuel pipeline tap kills 20; Some 200 people were at the scene of a pipeline blast that left at least 20 dead. Dozens of Mexican states have experienced fuel shortages since President Lopez Obrador shut down pipelines to curb fuel theft. A leaking pipeline in central Mexico sparked a large blaze that killed at least 20 people and injured dozens, authorities said on Friday. The fire ignited after an illegal tap was drilled into the Tuxpan-Tula pipeline, belonging to state oil company PEMEX. Locals were attempting to gather the fuel with buckets when the blaze occurred. “The preliminary report I’ve been passed is very serious, they’re telling me 20 people have died, charred, and that 54 are injured, burned,” Omar Fayad, governor of Hidalgo state, told Mexican television. The massive fire occurred in a small town of Tlahuelilpan in Hidalgo, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Mexico City. Footage from Mexican television earlier in the day showed what appeared to be gasoline spouting dozens of feet into the air and people approaching it with containers. Mayor Juan Pedro Cruz told Mexican media that the fuel spill took place around 5 p.m. local time (2300 UTC). He said members of the army arrived at the scene and cordoned the area, but were ultimately unable to stop some 200 people who broke through to reach the fuel.

Brexit: German leaders write emotional letter to Britain; Over 20 major figures from German politics, sports, business and entertainment have written a passionate appeal to the UK. Britons would “always have friends in Germany and Europe,” they wrote. Leading German politicians, celebrities, athletes and business leaders have written an emotional letter in Friday’s edition of the British Times newspaper, insisting to their “British friends” that the door to the European Union would always remain open. “Britain has become part of who we are as Europeans,” the letter read. “And therefore we would miss Britain. We would miss the legendary British black humor and going to the pub after work hours to drink an ale. We would miss tea with milk and driving on the left-hand side of the road. “The short but impassioned message was signed by the leaders of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Green Party, as well as the heads of four major industry associations, the CEOs of Daimler and Airbus, the rock star Campino, classical pianist Igor Levit, and former national football goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. The letter’s signatories included Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, successor to Angela Merkel as head of the CDU and potentially Germany’s next chancellor.

Will Germany use autobahn speed limits to cut carbon emissions?; A national commission has laid out a number of steps to help Germany meet EU emissions targets. Though desperately needed, they will face resistance from citizens and the country’s influential auto industry.

Colombia seeks arrest of ELN rebel leaders after bombing; Authorities said a man linked to the National Liberation Army guerrilla was the driver of the car bomb that killed 21 people in a Bogota. President Ivan Duque accused the ELN of lacking “true desire for peace.” Colombian President Ivan Duque announced on Friday that he was reinstating the arrest warrants of 10 National Liberation Army (ELN) members after his government accused the group of being responsible for a car bombing in a Bogota police academy. The attack on Thursday, which left 21 people dead and dozens wounded, has been a major setback to two years of peace talk attempts between the Colombian government and the ELN. Former President Juan Manuel Santos had begun the talks with the group in Havana, but Duque suspended them just after taking office in August. The Colombian president has now called on Cuba to hand over 10 ELN members who were on the island for the stalled peace talks. “It’s clear to all of Colombia that the ELN has no true desire for peace,” Duque said, citing a long list of kidnappings and attacks attributed to the guerrillas since peace talks began in 2017. “We would like to thank the Cuban government for the solidarity it expressed yesterday and today, and we ask that it capture the terrorists who are inside its territory and hand them over to Colombian police,” Duque added.

German police detain patient who took hostage at hospital; Police and special forces swarmed a hospital in Bavaria after a male patient took a woman hostage. The man also threatened several other people with knives, but police did not comment on a possible motive.A 40-year-old male patient at a hospital in southern Germany was arrested on Friday after he took a female patient hostage with a knife. The incident took place at the Mainkofen district hospital in the Bavarian town of Deggendorf. Police and special forces were able to overpower the man and arrest him. Authorities later said that the man was an Austrian national. According to news agency DPA, the man suffered minor injuries in the police operation.

FRANCE (France24)

ICC grants prosecution request to keep Ivorian ex-leader Gbagbo in custody; Judges cleared 73-year-old Gbagbo on Tuesday on charges of crimes against humanity relating to a wave of violence after disputed elections in 2010, and ordered his immediate release. The crisis claimed some 3,000 lives. But prosecutors at the Hague-based court challenged the release of Gbagbo, who has already spent seven years in jail, saying he should be detained while they make a broader appeal over his acquittal.

DR Congo refuses African Union request to delay release of final vote results; In a surprise announcement on Thursday, the AU called for the results to be postponed because of “serious doubts” over the conduct of the election, which was supposed to mark Congo’s first democratic handover of power in 59 years of independence but which the runner-up candidate says was rigged. The final tally will be released once the Constitutional Court has ruled on challenges to the provisional results. It is expected to decide on appeals, including that of opposition leader and second-placed Martin Fayulu, on Friday or Saturday. “I do not think anyone has the right to tell the court what to do. I am not under the impression (the AU) fully understands Congo’s judicial process,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said. “No country in the world can accept that its judicial process be controlled by an (outside) organization.”

Egypt abuses put French military deals in spotlight as Macron heads to Cairo; In May 2016, hundreds of workers at the Alexandria Shipyard Company in northern Egypt staged a two-day, peaceful sit-in over fairly routine labour rights issues. The employees were demanding improvements in their work conditions – including safety equipment – and wage increases commensurate with the national monthly minimum wage. The nature of the sit-in did not appear to be particularly crippling or adversarial: workers demonstrated in shifts while production continued at Alexandria Shipyard, which is owned and operated by the Egyptian military. The response to the sit-in though has shocked international labour rights defenders. In a systematic crackdown, the Egyptian military suspended hundreds of Alexandria Shipyard employees and arrested over two dozen workers. The latter were only released months later after they were forced to resign from their jobs.

Russia says it will allow German, French experts to monitor Kerch Strait; Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels in the narrow strait — shared between Russia and Ukraine–as the boats tried to pass from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea on November 25.President Vladimir Putin had “immediately agreed” to Berlin’s request to send observers to the area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Maas. Lavrov said German Chancellor Angela Merkel had asked Putin for permission to send German specialists to the strait “over a month ago” and later requested for French observers to join the mission. “This can be done today, tomorrow, at any moment,” Lavrov said, adding that the foreign observers had still not arrived. Lavrov said he received concrete proposals for the mission from Maas on Friday and confirmed Moscow also agreed for the French observers to take part. Maas, who was due to travel to Ukraine later on Friday, said that the two countries had not yet agreed on a start date to the mission but that he expected it to be a “topic in the coming weeks”. The German diplomat added that the passage of ships in the Kerch Strait is “currently open” and that “this has been confirmed by all sides”.


US media: China offers to eliminate trade gap; A US media outlet is reporting that China has offered to reduce its trade surplus with the United States to zero by 2024. Bloomberg said China presented the offer when trade negotiators from the two sides met in Beijing for three days through January 9th. The report says Chinese negotiators told their US counterparts that it will increase goods imports from the US by a combined value of more than one trillion dollars by 2024. Some trade policy experts note that it would be unrealistic to eliminate China’s huge trade surplus with the US. But Bloomberg says the US side asked China “to do even better, demanding that the imbalance be cleared in the next two years.” At a summit last month, the two countries agreed that the US would postpone imposing higher tariffs on Chinese imports until March 1st while they continue negotiations to try to settle their dispute. Observers say it may be relatively easy for Washington and Beijing to narrow their differences over China’s imports, compared to addressing its alleged intellectual property rights violations. But they say it remains unclear if the two sides can reach a deal by the March 1st deadline.

Huawei CEO interview; Huawei’s founder and CEO strongly denies that his company’s products are a security risk. Speaking to Japanese media on Friday, Ren Zhengfei dismissed allegations that Huawei is engaged in espionage on Beijing’s orders. Huawei’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei said “Our company has never received nor will receive orders from the government. We will refuse any order from the government.” Asked about the US and other countries banning Huawei products, Ren said it’s only a few countries doing that. He said “Huawei is a global leader in information system products. Several countries that have decided to boycott our products are already lagging behind in construction of the equipment. They will soon realize they made a wrong choice in not using Huawei’s excellent products.” Ren is the father of Meng Wanzhou, now under arrest in Canada. He said he felt sorry for his daughter, but said he believed the issue would be solved in the courts.

Japan eyes applying domestic law to GAFA; apan’s communications ministry is expected to start preparing to apply domestic privacy regulations to US IT giants. Japanese telecoms and IT firms want Japan’s telecommunications business law to cover US-based Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, known collectively as GAFA. They argue that not doing so gives their foreign competitors an unfair advantage. Carriers are prohibited by law from looking at the content of mails without users’ consent. In principle, the law doesn’t cover the four US firms, which don’t have data centers or communications bases in Japan. The communications ministry plans to apply what is known as the extraterritorial application provision to regulate firms based abroad. This means the four IT giants will have to get users’ consent before displaying selective ads based on e-mails and other telecommunications logs, just like Japanese firms. The government plans to consider reviewing the anti-monopoly law and other legal provisions to level the playing field between GAFA and Japanese telecom and IT firms.

Arrest warrant sought for ex-chief justice; South Korean prosecutors are seeking an arrest warrant for a former Supreme Court Chief Justice. Yang Sung-tae is currently mired in dozens of allegations of wrongdoing including that he abused his power to help the country’s now-disgraced former president. He’s the first Supreme Court Justice to be questioned as a criminal suspect. Prosecutors have interrogated him 3 times in the past week. It’s alleged he delayed a key ruling as a favor to former President Park Geun-hye before her impeachment. The case was a lawsuit against a Japanese firm brought forward by people who said they were forced to work at the company’s plants during World War Two. Park was trying to boost relations with Tokyo at the time. It’s believed she was worried the ruling would worsen them. The court handed down its ruling last October siding with the workers and souring relations between Tokyo and Seoul. Japan’s government says any right to claims was settled in 1965 when the 2 countries normalized ties. Yang is also accused of putting pressure on judges to rule in ways he wanted… and blacklisting those who disagreed with his ideas. He has denied any wrongdoing. Judges he used to supervise could decide if there are grounds for an arrest as early as Tuesday.

World News Headlines: 01-18-2019


Trans-Atlantic rebuke for Trump downgrade of EU ambassador; There was no about-face in the US government after DW broke news that the EU ambassador’s status had been downgraded. But one expert has said lawmakers’ responses show the trans-Atlantic network still operates – a bit. The Trump administration’s recent downgrading of the EU ambassador’s status without prior notice, first reported by Deutsche Welle, has led to parliamentary action on both sides of the Atlantic. In a strongly worded letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 27 congressional Democrats denounced the diplomatic downgrade. “Disturbingly, this step, which appears to have taken place late last year, occurred without congressional consultation or apparent notification to the European Union,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter published this week. Led by the new chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Representative Eliot Engel, the group slammed the unannounced demotion. “Both the substance of this decision and the undiplomatic way in which it was carried out needlessly denigrate trans-Atlantic relations.”

Major powers ‘largely absent’: HRW wants more from Merkel; The head of Human Rights Watch appeals on DW for Germany and Angela Merkel to do more for rights abroad. Kenneth Roth noted that “the traditional powers” on the world stage, the US and UK, “were largely absent” of late. Human Rights Watch (HRW) Executive Director Kenneth Roth had good reason to present his organization’s annual report in Berlin on Thursday. Roth told DW, “If you look around the world, the traditional powers were largely absent” when it came to championing human rights over the past year. Roth praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, noting her work on applying pressure on rights abuses in Hungary and ending arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Most importantly he said that Merkel had helped prevent a bloodbath in Syria: “In a step that probably saved more lives than anything else, Chancellor Merkel was at the forefront of pressing Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to a ceasefire in the Idlib Province in Syria, where 3 million civilian lives were at risk because Russia and Syria were about to begin an indiscriminate bombardment there.”

As UK’s EU withdrawal nears, Germany steps up Brexit prep; The Bundestag has ensured that Brits in Germany can still apply for citizenship even after Brexit. But opposition politicians warn that customs officials are not ready for the impending bureaucratic nightmare. On Thursday, the German parliament passed a new law in preparation for Britain’s impending withdrawal from the European Union. The Brexit transition legislation was passed unanimously by almost all political parties in the Bundestag — only the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) voted against the plan. The law, which would come into force when Britain formally leaves the EU and the so-called transitional phase begins, is supposed to create clarity for people likely to be affected by Brexit, especially British nationals living in Germany and Germans living in the UK. Perhaps most relevant for the almost 120,000 British people registered in Germany, the measure means that UK citizens would still be able to apply for citizenship during the transitional phase, which is expected to last until the end of 2020, with the date of their applications taken into special consideration. After that, however, the obstacles to becoming German will be significantly greater. Authorities have recorded a massive increase in the number of British people keen to take German citizenship since the 2016 Brexit referendum.

German media made Frank Magnitz the new face of the AfD; Reaction to the attack on Frank Magnitz, a Bundestag member for the far-right Alternative for Germany, reveals just how polarized the country has become. The AfD has received a clear boost from the media hoopla. According to press reports, in an internal party document circulated by members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), Frank Magnitz says it was his intention to dramatize the recent attack on him to stir up “attention” and “media outrage.” That’s why Magnitz, a member of the Bundestag and AfD’s party leader in the state of Bremen, distributed a press release and images of his bloodied face — making sure to implicate the German left in his detailed account of the attack. Since then, however, details have emerged that contradict Magnitz’s account. Surveillance footage does show three men attack him from behind, but exactly how he sustained a massive wound on his face remains inconclusive. (The injury is visible in the video, and one assessment suggests that it may have been caused by his fall.)

Dieselgate: Four Audi managers charged in the US over emissions scandal; Four German managers at carmaker Audi were the latest to be charged in the United States as part of a diesel emissions cheating scandal. The company has already paid an €800 million fine as part of a case in Germany. A US grand jury in Detroit has indicted four Audi engineering managers from Germany on allegations of conspiracy, wire fraud and violations of the Clean Air Act. The indictment alleges the four men took part in nearly a decade-long conspiracy to deceive the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by cheating on emissions tests for 3-liter diesel engines. Audi tests showed emissions were up to 22 times higher than the allowed US limit, the indictment added. Read more: Why veering Germans away from cars is tough The indictment said the employees realized there was not enough room in the vehicles to meet VW design standards for a large trunk and high-end sound system while still holding a big tank for fluid to treat diesel emissions, which led the four to design software to cheat on the emissions tests so they could get by with a smaller tank for the fluid. None of the men are in custody, and they are believed to be in Germany, a US Justice Department spokesman said. Audi is a luxury brand owned by German automaker Volkswagen. VW pleaded guilty in 2016 to criminal charges in the scandal and will pay more than $30 billion (€26.3 billion) in penalties and settlement costs.

Former Macron bodyguard in French custody over misuse of diplomatic passports;
Alexandre Benalla, who was fired last July after he was filmed beating a May Day protester, has been taken into custody in Paris. Prosecutors say he illegally used diplomatic passports to travel to Africa and Israel. French President Emanuel Macron’s former bodyguard and security adviser Alexandre Benalla was taken into custody by officials on Thursday for his misuse of diplomatic passports. The Paris Prosecutor’s Office said that Benalla had used diplomatic passports to facilitate his consultancy work in Africa. Additionally, prosecutors are investigating possible forgeries and the unlawful acquisition of administrative documents. Benalla initially denied that he had used the passports, only to confess last week that he had. On Wednesday, Patrick Strzoda, Macron’s chief of staff, informed the French Senate that Benalla had begun traveling on his two diplomatic passports within a week of his firing on July 22. Benalla lost his job after he was filmed attacking a May Day protester in Paris.

Norway forms first conservative majority government in 30 years; A cycle of minority governments had plagued Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s tenure. The Conservative Party leader reached a deal with the Christian Democrats, agreeing to their demand for changes to Norway’s abortion law. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg reached a deal with the small Christian Democratic Party on Thursday to form a center-right majority government. The move is set to strengthen Solberg, who has been in power since 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. “This is a historic day. Norway is getting its first non-socialist majority government since 1985,” said Solberg, who has led Norway’s Conservative Party since 2004. “We had tough negotiations,” Solberg said, celebrating the deal alongside leaders of the Christian Democrats and her existing governing partners of the Progress Party and the Liberal Party. But the new majority did not come without a cost, as the deal involved caving to demands by the Christian Democrats to amend Norway’s abortion law. The parties in Solberg’s coalition agreed to end so-called “selective abortions,” a woman’s right to abort a fetus in a multifetal pregnancy, which can be done to limit the number of births. But Solberg stopped short in the most controversial Christian Democrat proposal, which sought to end the right to late-term abortion, in cases where a fetus is diagnosed with Down’s syndrome or other genetic conditions.

UN health organization to investigate racism, misconduct allegations; Among the allegations are charges of “systematic racial discrimination against Africans” working at the World Health Organization in Geneva. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus ordered a probe last year. A series of anonymous emails that circulated within the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has triggered an investigation into “allegations of misconduct,” the agency said Thursday. The allegations depict the WHO as an organization is rife with racism, sexism and corruption. As a result, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus ordered an internal oversight office to carry out a probe. Tedros, a former health minister of Ethiopia and WHO’s first African director-general, did not speak about the details of the allegations. The WHO stressed that since he took office in 2017, he had “championed openness, transparency and diversity”.
The UN agency is “working consistently to increase geographical diversity and improve gender balance at all levels as part of its ongoing transformation process,” an organization statement added.

African Union calls on Congo to hold off election result announcement; The African Union says “serious doubts” remain over Democratic Republic of Congo’s election results. The AU isn’t alone in expressing qualms about the outcome of the presidential election. The African Union (AU) on Thursday called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to suspend the release of the final results of its disputed presidential election due to its doubts over the provisional results. The AU’s call came after a meeting of the bloc’s leaders in Addis Ababa, where AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said “serious doubts” remained after Felix Tshisekedi was declared the presidential election winner. “The heads of state and government attending the meeting concluded that there were serious doubts on the conformity of the provisional results as proclaimed by the National Independent Electoral Commission with the verdict of the ballot boxes,” the AU said in a statement.

Russian lawmakers vote to keep up Council of Europe boycott; The Russian parliament has agreed not to send representatives back to the Council of Europe and not to resume funding of the organization. Human rights advocates fear Moscow may leave the organization completely.Russian lawmakers on Thursday voted against sending a delegation to the Council of Europe (CoE) and to not resume funding of the body. Deputies in the Russian parliament, the Duma, accused the council of “grossly” violating the rights of Russia by stripping their delegation of voting rights over the Crimea crisis. “As a result of the lengthy anti-Russian campaign, the activities of Russia in the Council of Europe were actually suspended along the parliamentary line, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe itself, violating the basis of parliamentarism, found itself in a deep systemic crisis,” the lawmakers said in a statement published on the Duma website. The Strasbourg-based council is a non-EU organization aiming to uphold human rights across the continent. It incorporates 47 European states. The body is in charge of electing judges for the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

FRANCE (France24)

Sweden’s Social Democratic PM set for second term; Sweden will end a four-month political vacuum Friday when lawmakers elect Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to a second term, after he elbowed out the far-right to save one of Europe’s few left-wing governments. Lofven, 61, may have won a victory, but the former welder emerges weakened by months of wrangling after September’s election forced him to concede to centre-right parties to win their support. Members of parliament are due to vote at 9am (0800 GMT) on the speaker’s nomination of Lofven as prime minister for a four-year term. His minority centre-left government, comprising his Social Democrats and the Greens, will be one of the weakest in Sweden in 70 years, with just 32.7 percent of voters having cast ballots for the two parties. Lofven has secured the support of the Centre and Liberal parties — until now members of the four-party centre-right opposition Alliance — with whom he has signed a political policy document. Together, the four parties hold 167 of 349 seats in parliament, eight fewer than the 175 that constitutes a majority in the Riksdag. The ex-communist Left Party had backed Lofven’s previous minority government since 2014, providing key support to pass legislation in parliament. But this time, the Left, which now holds 28 seats, was excluded as Lofven shifted his government toward the centre. To block the far-right Sweden Democrats from wielding any influence in parliament, the Left announced it would still allow Lofven to be elected.

Davos assembly faces Brazilian populism and Brexit; Government and business leaders trek to the freezing Swiss Alps next week for the annual Davos conclave, taking heat from a populist wave encapsulated in Brazil’s new far-right leader, trade conflicts and the looming onset of Brexit. US President Donald Trump stole the show at last year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) with a tax-cutting agenda that harmonised with the corporate priority-list, even if many in the audience were agog at his more outspoken rhetoric on trade and the media. But Trump ruled out a repeat visit, and on Thursday cancelled any representation by US officials at this year’s forum as a government shutdown drags on due to a funding row over his demand for a border wall with Mexico.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been slated to join Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan in Davos, as the two countries try to negotiate a truce to a punitive tariff war. That leaves the stage clear for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro to steal the spotlight on his first trip abroad since taking office earlier this month. The high-powered week of networking and socialising kicks off Monday and will feature an eclectic lineup of discussions devoted to issues such as mindful parenting in the digital age, chronic loneliness, and harnessing artificial intelligence without destroying jobs. The week is expected to draw some 3,000 political and business figures, including 65 government leaders from Germany, Israel, Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

France will remain ‘militarily engaged’ in Middle East through 2019; “The retreat from Syria announced by our American friends cannot make us deviate from our strategic objective – eradicating Daesh,” Macron said in a speech at an army base near Toulouse, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “We are staying invested to participate in the stabilisation of the region,” Macron said, adding: “Any rush to withdraw would be a mistake.” Macron also expressed condolences for “our four American friends killed on Syrian soil” in a bomb blast claimed by the Islamic State group on Wednesday.

Several killed in suspected car bomb blast at Bogota police academy; The defense ministry said the “terrorist act” was carried out using a vehicle packed with 80 kilograms (around 175 pounds) of explosives. “Unfortunately, the preliminary toll is 21 people dead, including the person responsible for the incident, and 68 wounded,” Colombian police said in a statement, adding 58 of those injured had been discharged from hospital. The defense ministry had previously reported 11 dead and 65 injured. “All Colombians reject terrorism and we’re united in fighting it,” President Ivan Duque tweeted in the aftermath.


Kim Jong Un’s close aide arrives in US; A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has arrived in the United States, apparently to discuss a second summit between the two countries’ leaders. Kim Yong Chol, who is in charge of high-level talks with the US, arrived at an airport near Washington on Thursday evening via Beijing. A crowd of reporters was awaiting him. He walked through the terminal building and left in a car. Kim Yong Chol is expected to meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to lay the groundwork for the summit. Speculation is rife that the summit may be held in an Asian country such as Vietnam, a country that Washington sees as a possible model for North Korea’s future development. Attention is focused on whether the two sides can reach an agreement on the summit’s venue and timing. Just before the first US-North Korea summit last June, the high-ranking official visited the White House to deliver a letter from Kim Jong Un to US President Donald Trump. Whether he will meet with Trump on this trip is also being closely watched.

N.Korea’s suspected violations reported to UN; NHK has learned that the Japanese government filed a report with the UN Security Council on North Korea’s suspected violations of sanctions resolutions. Sources close to the Security Council say that last November the Japanese government informed the Council’s sanctions committee in writing of two apparent ship-to-ship transfer cases in which North Korea’s involvement was suspected. The document said a North Korean-registered tanker was detected alongside a Singaporean-flagged tanker in high seas of the East China Sea from the night of September 12th to the next morning. The document said a hose between the two vessels raised the possibility that refined petroleum products were being transferred between them. It also said a tanker subject to the sanctions and a Singaporean-registered tanker were spotted alongside each other in the same area on October 28th. The sources close to the Security Council say these cases will be included in a report by the sanctions committee that is due to be released as early as March. The Security Council will likely convene talks to discuss the possible violations of the sanctions resolutions.

Indonesia presidential candidates in first debate; Indonesia’s two presidential candidates sparred in their first TV debate on Thursday, ahead of the election in April. Incumbent President Joko Widodo and former military leader Prabowo Subianto discussed terrorism and human rights, among other issues. On measures against terrorism, Prabowo said people develop extreme ideas because they are poor or think society is unfair. He said he will resolve these problems by investing in education and creating jobs. In response, Joko, who is aiming for his second term, stressed his achievements. He said he has been stepping up anti-terrorism measures by revising laws. Joko said his efforts to reform former Islamic extremists are serving as a model for other nations. A series of terrorist bombings last year in Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya targeted Christian churches. The two candidates will hold three more TV debates to exchange views on poverty, economic policy and other issues. In the latest opinion poll, Joko leads Prabowo by about 20 percentage points.

Workers in Tunisia go on strike; Public servants in Tunisia staged a nationwide strike on Thursday to demand higher salaries in the economically struggling country. About 670,000 public sector workers, except those who work in emergency medical treatment, left their offices after 10 AM to go on strikes throughout the day. Workers marched through the capital Tunis. Some were calling for the administration’s resignation. Tunisia is called the only country to succeed in the “Arab Spring” democracy movement. But the people are increasingly frustrated with the government as rising prices erode their living standard. Tunisian workers staged similar strikes in November, but the government did not meet their demands. The government has been avoiding spending increases because the International Monetary Fund has been helping the country deal with its economic crisis. The workers union leading the strikes says it is considering stepping up its actions against the government.

Ghosn’s defense team requests bail again; The defense team of former Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn has again asked the Tokyo District Court to grant bail to their detained client. The attorneys filed the second request for bail on Friday. On Thursday, the court rejected the appeal filed by his lawyers over its decision to deny bail. Ghosn was charged with aggravated breach of trust a week ago. Prosecutors allege the auto tycoon inappropriately transferred about 15 million dollars from a Nissan subsidiary to a Saudi Arabian businessman’s company after he helped Ghosn to cover personal investment losses. Ghosn denies the charges. Under the Japanese legal system, an accused person can be kept in custody for up to two months after indictment. Lawyers can file bail requests repeatedly. Sources close to the matter say the defense team is willing to accept conditions for bail, such as requiring Ghosn to stay in Japan. Ghosn had earlier wanted to travel to France if he was granted bail.

World News Headlines: 01-17-2019


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wins confidence vote; The vote came after a key minister in the Greek government quit last week over the Macedonia name dispute. Prime Minister Tsipras said he would put the ratification of the Macedonia name-change agreement on the agenda. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday won a confidence vote in parliament, just days after the country’s governing coalition collapsed.Tsipras received the minimum 151 votes he needed from the parliament for his government to survive. Speaking after the vote, Tsipras said winning a vote of confidence was a vote for stability in Greece. “Today the Greek parliament gave a vote of confidence in stability,” he said. “We received a vote of confidence with our only concern to continue to address the needs and interests of the Greek people.” Panos Kammenos, the defense minister in Tsipras’ government who leads the small nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, was the latest minister to quit the coalition over a proposed name-change agreement with neighboring Macedonia. Greece has been blocking Macedonia from joining NATO and the European Union for a decade over the name row.

Vladimir Putin to meet with troubled Serb counterpart; Ecstatic crowds are expected to greet Vladimir Putin as he enters the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade alongside Aleksandar Vucic. For over a month, thousands have turned out for weekly protests against Serbia’s president. The tabloids report that 70,000 people will turn out in Belgrade on Thursday to warmly welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin. That could be the case: Putin is popular in Serbia. The greeting has been organized by small political associations founded by politicians from nationalist splinter groups that have close ties to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). On the internet, there are offers for day packages that include lunch and bus transportation to the festivities for about €13 ($15). Street vendors are even selling T-shirts bearing Putin’s face and Russian flags.

Taiwan prepares to hold large-scale military drills to deter China; Amid heightened tensions in cross-strait relations, Taiwan’s military is starting a series of newly designed large-scale military drills. Taiwanese analysts say the island should enhance its combat preparedness. Taiwan’s armed forces are on Thursday holding their first live-fire drill for this year, an exercise aimed at improving their military readiness. It comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping recently reasserted Beijing’s right to use force to unify the self-governing island with mainland China. Thursday’s drill is part of the large-scale military exercises designed to counter the growing threat from China. Even though Taiwan’s military holds such exercises regularly, this year’s training adopts new tactics aimed at “defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” said Major General Yeh Kuo-hui, the Taiwanese defense ministry’s planning chief.

German police raid suspected KKK members’ homes; Police conducted raids on several properties throughout Germany thought to be connected to an extremist group that associates itself with the Ku Klux Klan. A total of 17 people are at the center of the investigation.German police on Wednesday raided 12 apartments in eight different German states belonging to suspected members of an extreme-right group calling itself the National Socialist Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Deutschland. A total of 200 police officers searched properties in Baden-Württemberg, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland Palatinate, Saxony Anhalt and Thuringia. More than 100 weapons — including air guns, swords, machetes and knives — were seized in the raids, prosecutors and regional police in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg said.

ICC halts release of Ivory Coast ex-President Laurent Gbagbo; Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his right-hand man had been acquitted of crimes against humanity. But they will have to stay in custody until the court evaluates an appeal by prosecutors. The International Criminal Court on Wednesday halted the release of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, after prosecutors filed an appeal to keep him in custody on charges of crimes against humanity. Judges on Tuesday ordered Gbagbo and his right-hand man, Charles Ble Goude, to be immediately freed after clearing them of any role in a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011 that killed 3,000 people.

UN officials, international parties talk Yemen in Berlin; Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has hosted further talks aimed at ending the civil war in Yemen and building on the breakthrough achieved in Stockholm in December. No representatives from the country were at the table. Representatives of 17 governments and international organizations gathered at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on Wednesday in the latest round of talks to end the civil war in Yemen. The High-Level Strategic Dialogue on the Peace Process and Prospects for Stabilization in Yemen was intended to build on the breakthrough achieved in Stockholm in December, when an agreement for a ceasefire around the key port city of Hodeida was reached. The discussions in Sweden marked the first time that the belligerents in Yemen had come together at all since 2016. “For the first time in a long time, we’ve seen good news from Yemen,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the roundtable of diplomats in his welcoming remarks. “We’ve taken an important step towards a peace process that we would like to see in other crises and conflicts we are confronted with at the moment.”

Sweden to end months without a government; Stockholm has been trapped in deadlock, with no party wanting to govern with the far-right Sweden Democrats. Social Democrat PM Stefan Lofven is set to retain his post by promising to bring his party to the right. Sweden looked set to finally resolve four months of political deadlock on Wednesday and allow Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to take a second term in office. The Left party said it would abstain in a crucial vote on Friday, clearing the way for Lofven and his patchwork coalition. Lofven, leader of the Social Democrats, has been leading a caretaker government since elections on September 9 yielded inconclusive results. Although the Social Democrats won the most votes, their 31.1 percent support left them grappling to form a coalition in a country with eight mainstream parties and proportional representation. These problems were compounded by the fact that most other parties wanted to govern without the support of the Left and the far-right Sweden Democrats, who are rooted in Norwegian white supremacist circles.
But the Social Democrats have managed to pull together an unusual union of the left and right wing by gaining the support of the Greens, Liberals, and the Center party. In doing so, however, Lofven has had to promise to take his traditional center-left party to the right. “Sweden needs a government,” said Lofven, adding that he was “humbled to have been nominated” for Friday’s vote.

FRANCE (France24)

At least 30 people abducted’ by separatists in Anglophone Cameroon”; More than 30 people were kidnapped yesterday on the road between Buea and Kumba” in the Southwest Region, a source close to the authorities there said, confirming an account by a local NGO. Since October 2017, the Southwest and neighbouring Northwest Region have been in the grip of an armed revolt by anglophones demanding independence from the majority French-speaking country. The people were kidnapped after suspected separatists attacked buses plying the highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the country, one of the sources said.

Suspected extremists abduct Canadian in Burkina Faso; The Canadian man, identified as Kirk Woodman, was abducted overnight during a raid on a mining site in Tiabongou, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mansila in Yagha province, said ministry spokesman Jean Paul Badoum. Woodman worked for the Progress Mineral Mining Company. Burkina Faso recently declared a state of emergency in the region as attacks by Islamic extremists increase, especially along the border with Niger and Mali. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said her government has seen the reports of the kidnapping.

Syria Kurds reject proposed ‘security zone’ under Turkish control; Senior political leader Aldar Khalil said the Kurds would accept the deployment of UN forces along the separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops to ward off a threatened offensive. “Other choices are unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region,” Khalil told AFP. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Ankara would set up a “security zone” in northern Syria suggested by US President Donald Trump.

Macau denies entry to Hong Kong former activist leader; A former leader of Hong Kong’s student-led Umbrella Movement protests has been refused entry to Macau as a “public security” threat in what critics said was a new escalation in Beijing’s drive to curb the movement of dissidents. Yvonne Leung, 25, was a prominent leader of the 2014 pro-democracy movement and the only female student leader to meet with senior government officials at the height of the rallies. But in recent years she has retreated from the political frontlines. She was refused entry to Macau on Wednesday, a decision that took some by surprise because of Leung’s less prominent public profile. Leung told AFP that the reason provided to her from authorities in Macau was “strong references that you intend to enter to participate in certain activities which may jeopardise the public security or public order”. She declined to provide further comment, including the purpose of her visit.


Kim Jong Un aide expected to visit US; A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to go to the United States soon to discuss a second summit between the leaders of the two nations. Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, flew in to Beijing on Thursday. He is in charge of high-level talks with the US, and may leave for Washington later in the day for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Just before the first US-North Korea summit last June, the vice chairman visited Washington to deliver a letter from Kim Jong Un to US President Donald Trump. It remains to be seen whether Kim Yong Chol will meet Trump this time around. In his talks with Pompeo, Kim faces the challenge of narrowing the differences between the two sides over North Korea’s denuclearization to pave the way for a second summit. The US has been urging Pyongyang to take more specific measures toward dismantling its nuclear program, while North Korea wants sanctions to be lifted. North Korea also wants to negotiate a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War and to have its political system guaranteed.

Japan, US defense chiefs confirm close cooperation; The defense chiefs of Japan and the United States have reaffirmed their close cooperation in dealing with China’s growing maritime presence and other regional matters. Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya met acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in the United States on Wednesday. It was Iwaya’s first meeting with Shanahan, who assumed his post at the start of this month after James Mattis resigned as Secretary of Defense. Iwaya and Shanahan agreed to maintain close Japan-US cooperation in the domains of space and cyberspace with China’s increasing maritime activities in mind. They reaffirmed that Article 5 of the Japan-US Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and that the US has an obligation under this article to defend them. Japan controls the islands. The Japanese Government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. China and Taiwan claim them.

Expert warns about Shindake volcanic flows; A volcano expert says footage of the latest eruption on Kuchinoerabu Island shows flying rocks and pyroclastic flows from the crater. He is urging residents to be on the alert. Kyoto University Professor Masato Iguchi spoke with NHK in a telephone interview on Thursday. He said these phenomena were now limited to an area within two kilometers from the crater of Mount Shindake. Professor Iguchi urged people to follow the advice of the eruption alert level not to approach the volcano. The level is currently at three on a scale of one to five.