World News Headlines: 01-15-2019

Germany (DW)

Day of strikes at eight German airports, including Frankfurt; Staff responsible for checking passengers and cargo have started an 18-hour warning strike at Germany’s biggest airport, Frankfurt and seven others. The action is in support of a pay claim. German airport association ADV warned that the strike action could disrupt travel for 220,000 passengers and “paralyze” the German flight network on Tuesday. Frankfurt Airport operator Fraport had canceled 570 of 1,200 flights at Frankfurt ahead of Tuesday’s warning strike organized by the DBB and Verdi trade unions. The airport issued a warning on Twitter: “Due to a strike by security personnel there will be significant disruption at Frankfurt Airport on 15th Jan. Security checks outside the transit area will not be staffed until 8pm and passengers will not be able to reach flights during the strike period.”

Clues to CDU’s post-Merkel leadership on show at conference; Unity and decisiveness are the messages the CDU and its new leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer are projecting to voters for 2019 — a year of many elections and a looming Brexit. Christoph Strack reports from Potsdam. Friedrich Merz wasn’t there, yet it was as if he were standing in the Kongresshotel Potsdam conference hall the entire time. On the opening evening of the two-day closed meeting of the Christian Democratic Party’s (CDU) leaders, Merz — the candidate who was defeated in the race to succeed party leader Angela Merkel and last week shot down speculation he would serve as a party advisor — was the subject of discussion for many Christian Democrats. That was especially the case for part members who, like him, are Merkel critics. In various interviews at the Potsdam meeting, the CDU’s new leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, dismissed speculation about Merkel’s successor in the chancellor’s office, while at the same time stressing that the party leader has the right of first choice. The new distribution of roles within the CDU has now become apparent. Merkel, who gave up her post as party chair after more than 15 years at a CDU conference in Hamburg at the beginning of December, was relaxed as she sauntered through the conference rooms. She did not speak in front of cameras or on the sidelines with reporters, and in the conference hall, she sat beside her successor at the party leaders’ table.

US and Turkish presidents talk over fate of Kurdish fighters in Syria; The US and Turkish presidents moved from Twitter to the telephone to exchange their views over the US-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria. Washington is insisting the anti-“Islamic State” fighters should not be harmed. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, took to the telephone to discuss the situation in northern Syria on Monday. “The president expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement, referring to the Islamic State (IS) extremist group. The Turkish presidency said the two men discussed the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria cleared of militia groups. It did not provide any other details.

Gabon president expected home after prolonged medical absence; President Ali Bongo is returning to Gabon after receiving treatment for a stroke he had in October, government sources say. It comes a week after a coup attempt was thwarted and days after he appointed a new government. Gabon’s ailing President Ali Bongo has left Morocco after spending three months receiving medical treatment there, according to sources quoted by news agencies Reuters and Agence France Presse (AFP). His return to Gabon comes a week after a small military group took over a state radio station in an attempted coup. The power grab was quickly thwarted, but exposed growing frustration in the oil-rich coastal African nation over his secretive absence.

FRANCE (France24)

Ivory Coast awaits ICC verdict on Gbagbo’s acquittal; International Criminal Court judges will rule on Tuesday on former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo’s request to be acquitted and released after more than seven years in custody. Gbagbo, 73, and Charles Blé Goudé, a close ally and former political youth leader, have been on trial since 2016 for war crimes allegedly committed under Gbagbo’s leadership. He faces four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts during post-electoral violence in Ivory Coast between December 2010 and April 2011, when Gbagbo refused to accept defeat by rival Alassane Ouattara. Gbagbo’s lawyers have accused prosecutors of “inventing another reality” to fit the charges and said security forces under Gbagbo had merely defended themselves against rebel attacks. Legal experts say that during the trial, which is roughly half over, prosecutors presented a lot of evidence that crimes occurred, but few witnesses could link the ex-Ivory Coast leader directly.

Elite French police on trial in alleged rape of Canadian tourist; It was a scandal that rocked the elite police unit at the centre of the allegations. Five years on, the officers’ trial will take place just steps from the alleged scene of the crime, in the courthouse adjacent to the storied 36, quai des Orfèvres, an address synonymous in France with popular crime fiction and the real-life home for more than a century to Paris’s judicial police, who investigate major crimes. Those offices, on the Ile de la Cité near Notre-Dame, were relocated to northern Paris in 2017. On the night of April 22, 2014, Canadian tourist Emily Spanton made the acquaintance of a group of off-duty police officers at Le Galway, a quayside Irish pub across the Seine from the headquarters where they worked. After midnight, a pair of officers from the elite anti-gang brigade invited a heavily inebriated Spanton back to the office for a late-night tour. One of the policemen, Antoine Q., ferried the then-34-year-old over by car while a second, Nicolas R., joined them on foot. The daughter of a Toronto police officer, Spanton would later tell investigators, “I had had a lot to drink. I couldn’t see myself going back to the hotel in that state and I thought that, going to a police station, I’d feel safer.” But the Canadian visitor would exit the building at around 2am in tears, barefoot and no longer wearing her tights, alleging she had been raped by four policemen, an account she later revised to at least three.

Opposition leaders Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade barred from Senegal’s presidential race; Khalifa Sall, a former mayor of Dakar who bears no relation to President Sall, and Karim Wade, the son of former President Abdoulaye Wade, were jailed for graft and corruption in 2018 and 2015 respectively. Under Senegalese law, the sentences effectively ended their chances of running in the Feb. 24 poll and the Constitutional Council confirmed this outcome on Monday.
The opposition says the sentences were part of the president’s plan to silence popular opponents so he can secure a second mandate, charges the ruling party denies.

Ex-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn suffers ‘harsh treatment’ in jail, says wife; Japanese authorities have charged Ghosn with under-reporting income and aggravated breach of trust for temporarily transferring personal investment losses to Nissan in 2008. In a nine-page letter to Kanae Doi, the rights group’s Japan director, Carole Ghosn asked it to “shine a light on the harsh treatment of my husband and the human rights-related inequities inflicted upon him by the Japanese justice system”. Ghosn was in charge of an alliance that included Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors and France’s Renault, until his November arrest and removal as chairman of the automakers sent shockwaves through the industry.

JAPAN (NHK)

JOC chief denies 2020 Games graft allegation; The chief of the Japanese Olympic Committee has denied French allegations of bribery in connection with Tokyo’s successful bid to host the 2020 Games. JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda held a news conference in Tokyo on Tuesday. French prosecutors said on Friday that an investigating judge placed Takeda under formal investigation last month to determine whether to open a trial. The probe is focusing on more than two-million dollars in payments made by Tokyo’s bid committee to a company in Singapore in 2013. Takeda read out a statement that said a JOC panel had concluded in 2016 that the payments were for consulting services and that the contract was legitimate under Japanese law. He said the panel also confirmed that he was unaware of links between the Singapore firm and the son of the former chief of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack. Diack was a member of the International Olympic Committee when Tokyo was bidding for the Games. Takeda said he was interviewed by the French investigative judge last month and asserted his innocence. He said he will do his best to clear his name by cooperating with the French authorities. About 100 members of the Japanese and foreign media attended the news conference which ended in less than 10 minutes with no questions taken. The JOC abruptly announced the briefing earlier Tuesday, citing the ongoing French probe.

Seko: Japan to support Saudi economic reforms; Japan’s trade minister says his country will continue supporting Saudi Arabia’s economic reforms to maintain a stable supply of crude oil. Hiroshige Seko sat down with Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet members on Monday, including Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih and Economy and Planning Minister Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri. They were in the United Arab Emirates’ capital of Abu Dhabi, which is hosting a fair showcasing renewable energy. The officials discussed oil exports to Japan from its biggest supplier, Saudi Arabia. They also talked about Japan’s continuing support for the Middle Eastern country’s economic reforms aimed at reducing its reliance on oil exports. Seko said, “We think stability in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding area is meaningful to Japan as the country depends highly on energy from this region. Japan will continue supporting Saudi Arabia’s reforms.” Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih stressed that support from Japanese companies will be essential for the reforms. US and European investments in Saudi Arabia have slowed following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October last year. Japan has asked Saudi officials for transparency in the case.

Tokyo court to decide on Ghosn’s bail; A court in Tokyo is expected to decide as early as Tuesday whether to grant former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn bail. Ghosn has been charged with aggravated breach of trust and with violating a financial law by underreporting his compensation. It’s alleged Ghosn inappropriately transferred funds from a Nissan subsidiary to a Saudi Arabian businessman’s company after the man helped Ghosn cover personal investment losses. Ghosn denied the charges. His defense team has already filed a bail request with the Tokyo District Court. In Japan, suspects in cases involving a special investigation squad of prosecutors tend to be detained for a long time — as long as they refuse to admit charges — because of concerns they could destroy evidence. Even if granted bail, they are often released with conditions aimed at preventing them from fleeing and concealing evidence. Greg Kelly, a former Nissan representative director who was indicted alongside Ghosn, was granted bail in a rare court decision last month. But the court imposed a ban on him travelling abroad, as well as restrictions on where he can live. Sources say Ghosn hopes to return to France but he will promise to appear in Japanese court if requested.

Police detain 7 for trafficking babies in China; Chinese police have detained at least seven people on suspicion of trafficking babies. Police found three men in a vehicle with a newborn baby girl with the umbilical cord still attached at a highway tollgate in China’s inland area last month. The men initially told police that they found her in a park the day before. But they admitted to trafficking after investigators found records of exchanges on a mobile phone owned by one of the men on the baby’s price and size. Police also detained four other people in connection with the case. Investigators say the suspects have traded at least four babies, including a three-day-old one, for about 12,000 dollars. Child trafficking cases are rampant in China’s rural regions amid a shortage in the labor force and in children who can succeed the family business. The US State Department placed China in the worst category in its 2018 report on human trafficking.

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World News Headlines: 01-13-2019

GERMANY (DW)

Police in western Germany launch massive raids against criminal clans; More than 1,300 police officers were deployed in coordinated raids against family crime syndicates across northwestern Germany. The raids are focused on shisha bars, cafes and gambling venues. German police launched simultaneous raids in six cities across the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Saturday evening, with some 1,300 officers sweeping shisha bars and other venues in Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg, Bochum, Recklinghausen and Gelsenkirchen. Authorities said they were targeting family crime clans of Arabic background in the northwestern state. According to the mass-circulation Bild daily, police are focusing on the Arabic crime syndicates, especially those with Lebanese background. Police spokesman Oliver Peiler told reporters that the coordinated raids started at 9 p.m. local time (2000 UTC). “As we do quite often, tonight we are checking numerous shisha-bars (…) because the shisha bars act as sanctuaries for members of these family clans,” he said. Clans also use shisha bars, cafes, and gambling venues for money laundering and other illegal business activities, according to media reports. Police in Essen tweeted that a man has been detained carrying €9,000 ($10,322) in cash.

CDU to review Angela Merkel’s migration policy since 2015 crisis; CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wants a “comprehensive review” of Germany’s immigration system. Contradicting Angela Merkel, the new party leader said scrutiny of the fateful year of 2015 was necessary. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor at the helm of the Christian Democrats (CDU) has told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the party will scrutinize the chancellor’s migration policy since the beginning of the migration crisis in 2015. “We will look at the entire immigration issue, from the protection of the external border to asylum procedures and integration, from the perspective of effectiveness” Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said. Kramp-Karrenbauer, who replaced Merkel as CDU leader in December, said the party would review the immigration system at a planned workshop in February. The European Union’s border protection agency, Frontex, and Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees would take part in the talks to examine “where and what needs to be improved,” she added.

US Ambassador Richard Grenell threatens German firms over Russian pipeline; The US ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, has sent threatening letters to German companies working on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, according to a German newspaper. Grenell reportedly warns of possible sanctions. German companies building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia received letters from US Ambassador Richard Grenell warning them of “a significant risk of sanctions” if they did not pull out of the project, Germany’s mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag has reported. The large pipeline is set to deliver gas from northwestern Russia to northern Germany under the Baltic Sea and effectively double the amount of gas Germany imports from the country. The US opposes the project over fears that the gas link would tighten Russia’s control of Europe’s energy supply and diminish the importance of gas transit countries such as Ukraine. US companies are also keen to sell gas obtained by fracking to many European countries.

Germany: Man stabs pregnant woman, kills unborn child; The 25-year-old pregnant woman was stabbed during a hospital stay. The perpetrator, an Afghan asylum-seeker, was visiting the woman when the two got into a “violent argument.” An altercation between a pregnant woman and man in the western German town of Bad Kreuznach near Mainz ended with the man stabbing the woman and killing her unborn child. The incident took place on Friday at a hospital, where the 25-year-old Polish woman was staying. Police said the man was a 25-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker, who had come to the hospital to visit the woman. The man stabbed the woman repeatedly after they got into what police described as a “violent argument.” The woman suffered life threatening injuries and had to undergo emergency surgery. Although she survived the attack and her condition is stable, the unborn baby died from its injuries. The attacker surrendered to police at a train station shortly after fleeing the scene. He was arrested and taken into custody. Bad Kreuznach’s public prosecutors office has sought the cooperation of the criminal police of Mainz to carry out an investigation. For now, the man’s motive is unknown.

Serbia: Protesters gather for sixth weekend of anti-Vucic demonstrations; Thousands of people marched against the rule of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic for the sixth week in a row, rallying in Belgrade and other major cities. Protesters accuse him of corruption and stifling the media. Some 40,000 people took part in the protests in Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad, and several smaller cities, organizers said on Saturday. The authorities did not immediately confirm the count. In Belgrade, protesters carried a banner showing a bloodied shirt, an allusion to the unsolved assault on leftist leader Borko Stefanovic in November. An umbrella of opposition parties, the Alliance for Serbia, suspect President Aleksandar Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of involvement in the assault. The ruling party rejects the claims. Demonstrators called for protecting media freedoms, ending the country’s hostile environment for journalists and opposition figures, and transparency from the government as it seeks to settle outstanding disputes with neighboring Kosovo.

FRANCE (France24)

Top Yemen brass injured in rebel drone strike dies: medics; A high-ranking Yemeni intelligence official injured in a Huthi rebel drone attack on the country’s largest air base died of his wounds on Sunday, medical sources said.
Intelligence Brigadier General Saleh Tamah was wounded on Thursday in a strike on a military parade in Al-Anad air base, in government-held Lahij province some 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Yemen’s second city Aden. Medical sources told AFP that Tamah underwent several surgeries in a hospital in Aden but died Sunday morning. At least seven loyalists — including Tamah — were killed and 11 injured in Thursday’s incident, which threatens to hamper United Nations-led peace efforts. Among those injured were Yemen’s deputy chief of staff Saleh al-Zandani, senior army commander Fadel Hasan and Lahij governor Ahmad Abdullah al-Turki. Turki and Zandani were transported to Saudi Arabia for treatment, a Yemeni official told AFP. The UN voiced alarm on Friday following the attack and urged “all parties to the conflict to exercise restraint and refrain from further escalation”. At talks in Sweden last month, the UN brokered several agreements between the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government seen as the best chance of ending nearly four years of devastating conflict. The warring sides agreed on truce deals for the key rebel-held aid port of Hodeida and battleground third city Taez.

Italian ex-militant Battisti detained in Bolivia: official; Cesare Battisti, an Italian sought by Rome for four murders attributed to a far-left group in the 1970s, has been detained in Bolivia and will be extradited to Brazil, a senior aide to Brazil’s new president said Sunday. Battisti was detained late Saturday in Bolivia “and will be soon brought to Brazil, from where he will probably be sent to Italy to serve a life sentence,” tweeted Filipe G. Martins, a senior aide on international affairs to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Italy has repeatedly sought the extradition of Battisti, who has lived in Brazil for years under the protection of former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, now in prison for corruption. During Brazil’s recent presidential campaign, the far-right Bolsonaro — who took office on January 1 — vowed that if elected he would “immediately” extradite Battisti. In mid-December Brazil’s outgoing president, Michel Temer, signed an extradition order for Battisti after a judge ordered his arrest. By then the Italian ex-militant was nowhere to be found. Battisti was arrested in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Brazilian Federal Police sources told Brazilian media.

China will tackle US trade dispute in 2019: minister; China will work to straighten out trade frictions with the US this year, the country’s commerce minister told state media, following talks with US negotiators this week. A large US delegation ended a three-day visit to Beijing Wednesday in the first face to face trade talks since President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in December pledged a three-month truce in the escalating tariff spat. China said the talks had “laid the foundation” to resolve mutual concerns on trade. “We will properly handle the China-US economic and trade frictions” this year, commerce minister Zhong Shan said, according to a Saturday report by state media outlet Xinhua. Zhong said Beijing will also promote outside investment, work to pass a foreign investment law and improve its dispute resolution system, Xinhua reported. China’s policymakers have long promised a more open and free market with better protections for foreign investors, but officials have been slow to make good on those pledges — leading the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China to coin the term “promise fatigue”. Zhong said China’s negative list — which restricts investment in certain industries — will be further slimmed down, while Beijing also intends to expand economic sectors open for foreign investment without the need for a Chinese joint-venture partner. The minister specifically outlined a push for foreign investment in manufacturing, high-tech industries and investment in China’s inner regions — pledges which are similar to promises made last year.

JAPAN (NHK)

21 dead in coal mine collapse; 21 workers died when a tunnel collapsed in a Chinese coal mine on Saturday. The mine is located in Shaanxi Province. 87 miners were working there at the time of the accident.66 were rescued. Officials are looking into what caused the accident. Chinese coal mines are known for their unsafe working conditions. Authorities say nearly 400 miners died in accidents in 2017.

 

World News Headlines: 01-12-2019

BREAKING NEWS: Syria: Israeli missiles hit Damascus airport warehouse: Canada: Deadly double-decker bus crash in capital Ottawa

Germany books €11.2 billion budget surplus; Higher than expected tax revenue and lower spending have led to the surplus, the fifth in as many years. Still, no one is rushing to invest the extra cash, something critics say is desperately needed. Even though Germany had taken in more in taxes and spent less than expected, resulting in a budget surplus of €11.2 billion ($12.8 billion), German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz warned, “The good times in which the state keeps taking in more taxes than expected are coming to an end.” Extreme-right defectors deal a blow to Germany’s far-right AfD; The far-right Alternative for Germany may be unravelling at the edges after a disgruntled member struck off on his own. That’s bad news for the populists ahead of key elections, says DW political analyst Jefferson Chase. There is now even more right-wing alternative to the Alternative for Germany (AfD). On Thursday, the former party leader in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg, resigned his party membership. Only hours later, the far-right hard-liner announced that he is forming a party of his own, the “Aufbruch deutscher Patrioten” (Uprising of German Patriots), to compete with the AfD. Poggenburg was one of the more extreme nationalist and xenophobic leaders within the AfD, which twice censured him for using language reminiscent of right-wing extremism. He has close ties to the radical Identitarian and Pegida movements. And for much of his career he was also an ally of Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who is regarded as one of the main motors behind the AfD’s ethnic-nationalist hard-line wing and who has often been accused of anti-Semitism. In 2016, Poggenburg became the leader of the opposition in the Saxony-Anhalt regional parliament, but he stepped down last year from that position and as regional party leader following controversial anti-Turkish remarks. The emblem of Poggenburg’s new party, a blue cornflower, has been criticized for having right-wing extremist and Nazi connotations.

French police brace for ninth ‘yellow vest’ weekend protests; Across France, 80,000 police officers are being mobilized for the ninth weekend of nationwide street protests. President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a three-month public debate have done little to assuage anger. More than 5,000 police officers are expected to be on the streets of the French capital on Saturday to monitor the ninth weekend of street protests by the ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) movement. Nationwide, national police chief Eric Morvan told France Inter radio that he expected turnout to be similar to protests in mid-December, when more than 60,000 took to the streets across the country. The protests, named after the high-visibility jackets French drivers carry in their cars, have repeatedly witnessed clashes between demonstrators and police since they began in November in response to a fuel tax hike.

Syria: Israeli missiles hit Damascus airport warehouse; Syrian air defenses shot down most of the incoming missiles, but one reportedly hit a warehouse at Damascus airport. Israel has vowed to prevent Iran from setting up permanent military bases in Syria. Syrian air defenses shot down missiles fired by “Israeli military planes” at around 11.00 p.m. local time (2100 UTC), Syria’s official SANA news agency reported, citing a military source. “Only a ministry of transport warehouse at Damascus international airport was hit,” SANA said. Israel has previously carried out missile strikes against what it says are Iranian military targets and arms stores within Syria that are linked to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group. Israel says it would not allow Iran, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad, to set up military bases in Syria. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor confirmed the missile attack, saying at least two Israeli rockets hit the outskirts of the airport.

Venezuela’s opposition leader says he’s ready to replace Nicolas Maduro; Juan Guaido said the constitution granted him the power to head a transitional government. The opposition is reportedly planning to extend an olive branch to the regime’s army defectors. The leader of Venezuela’s opposition-run National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has said that he could temporarily replace Nicolas Maduro as president. Guaido said Maduro, who has overseen a severe economic and political crisis since assuming office in 2013, lacked legitimacy and that the country’s constitution permitted the head of the legislature to fill in a presidential vacancy. Maduro effectively replaced the National Assembly in 2017 by creating a rival Constituent Assembly that he filled with loyal supporters. The opposition leader’s remarks came a day after Maduro was sworn in for a second presidential term following his controversial electoral win last year. The opposition boycotted the vote, which the United States, European Union and Organization of American States dismissed as fraudulent.

Canada: Deadly double-decker bus crash in capital Ottawa; The bus hit a shelter in wintry conditions at the start of the afternoon rush hour in the Canadian capital. There were multiple injuries on the crowded bus, some of them fatal. The westbound 269 bus to Kanata hit the shelter at the busy transit station in the west end of Ottawa just before 4 p.m. local time (2100 UTC) on Friday. In cold, wintry conditions, part of the upper right side of the double-decker was removed. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said 23 people were injured in the crash, some of them critically. Three people died; two were believed to have been on the bus, and one person was waiting on the platform. The bus could have been holding as many as 90 passengers. The city’s police chief Charles Bordeleau said the bus driver was arrested at the scene and taken in for questioning. “An investigation is now underway on the cause of the collision,” Bordeleau said.

Colombia: Protesters call for chief prosecutor to resign; Nestor Humberto Martinez’s links to Brazilian giant Odebrecht have damaged his reputation. Critics say he is riddled with conflicts of interest and should step down. Thousands of Colombians have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez. He has been accused of withholding information on Colombia’s links to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht. Odebrecht has been at the center of one of the biggest transnational corruption scandals in Latin America’s recent history. The firm is reported to have paid some $800 million (€698 million) in bribes to politicians in 10 different countries in exchange for government contracts. Protesters gathered outside Martinez’s office in Bogota, carrying flashlights to “shine a light” on what they called the country’s corrupt institutions. Demonstrations against Martinez also took place in Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and other cities, Colombian broadcaster Caracol reported.

FRANCE (France24)

Sudan police fire tear gas at protestors amid call for week of action; Crowds chanting “freedom, peace, justice” demonstrated in two areas of Khartoum and in Omdurman just across the Nile, witnesses said. They were quickly confronted by volleys of tear gas from riot police. Video footage from Sudan purportedly showing worshippers chanting anti-government slogans inside a Khartoum mosque spread online on social media later Friday. The footage could not be independently verified. Friday’s protests came after organisers called for nationwide demonstrations over the next week demanding Bashir’s resignation. Protests that first erupted on December 19 over a government decision to triple the price of bread have swiftly escalated into broader demonstrations widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule in his three decades in power. “We will launch a week of uprising with demonstrations in every Sudanese town and village,” the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said.

Myanmar court rejects Reuters reporters’ appeal against 7-year sentence; Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar’s progress towards democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates. “It was a suitable punishment,” said High Court Judge Aung Naing, referring to the seven-year prison term meted out by the lower court. The defence has the option of making a further appeal to the country’s supreme court, based in the capital Naypyitaw. “Today’s ruling is yet another injustice among many inflicted upon Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. They remain behind bars for one reason: those in power sought to silence the truth,” said Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler in a statement. “Reporting is not a crime, and until Myanmar rights this terrible wrong, the press in Myanmar is not free, and Myanmar’s commitment to rule of law and democracy remains in doubt.”

Mood of revolt in Serbia as anti-Vucic protests grow; Major opposition protests in Serbia have been relatively rare over the past decade, but the icy January air has ushered in a swelling mood of revolt. Since last month, thousands of demonstrators have rallied each Saturday through Belgrade’s frozen streets against President Aleksandar Vucic, accusing him of stifling media freedoms and cracking down on the opposition. This Saturday, for the sixth time in a row, the marchers will against hoist up their flags and banners in a united display of discontent against Vucic’s increasingly controversial rule. “Dictator!” cried the crowd at a recent demonstration in the capital. More than a dozen people carried a giant banner reading: “Stop bloody shirts” — a reference to opposition politician Borko Stefanovic’s bloodstained shirt after he was beaten up last November. It was that incident that triggered the first protests. The assault was reminiscent of the violent attacks on political opponents in the 1990s under the rule of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

JAPAN (NHK)

Japan, France ministers ‘concerned’ about China; The foreign and defense ministers of Japan and France have expressed strong concern about China’s maritime assertiveness. They have agreed to establish a dialogue framework to boost maritime cooperation. The ministers met at a naval facility in the northwestern French city of Brest on Friday. This is the fifth so-called “two-plus-two” meeting between Japan and France. It brought together Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, as well as French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly. The ministers expressed strong concern about China’s increasing maritime activities in the East and South China Seas. They agreed to strongly oppose unilateral actions that raise tensions. The ministers also agreed to launch a working-level maritime dialogue framework to improve collaboration between Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and French military units stationed on islands in the South Pacific. Delegates to the dialogue will comprehensively discuss matters in such fields as national security, science, technology, environment, and energy. The Japanese and French governments say they will hold the first session of the dialogue by the end of the year. The ministers agreed that Japanese destroyers will hold a joint exercise with France’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle when the latter operates in the Indian Ocean. Japan announced last month that it would withdraw from the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling. The ministers confirmed that France will keep Japan’s stance in mind and that both countries will continue to exchange opinions on sustainable maintenance and preservation of whale stocks.

Ghosn suspected of receiving additional funds; Nissan Motor’s former chairman Carlos Ghosn reportedly received compensation of more than nine million dollars from an affiliated company without the knowledge of other board members. Sources say an in-house probe by Nissan revealed that Ghosn allegedly received the money in 2018 as compensation from Nissan-Mitsubishi B.V. in Holland. Nissan President Hiroto Saikawa and Mitsubishi Motors CEO Osamu Masuko are board members of the holding company, but they were reportedly not notified of the payment. The sources say neither Saikawa nor Masuko received similar payments from the Dutch firm. They say the in-house probe revealed that one of Renault’s nine executives also received unreported compensation from another holding company, Renault-Nissan B.V. Nissan and Mitsubishi are considering disclosing the findings of the investigation when it is complete.

12 civilians killed in jihadist attack in Burkina Faso; Twelve civilians were killed on Thursday during a jihadist attack in the north of Burkina Faso, which has been battling a wave of Islamist violence, officials said Friday. The west African country declared a state of emergency in several provinces at the end of last year and on Thursday replaced its army chief as it struggled to put a stop to a spate of such attacks. In the latest violence, gunmen attacked a village market in broad daylight, the security ministry said in a statement issued late Friday. “Around 30 armed individuals perpetrated… a terrorist attack in the village of Gasseliki,” it said, giving a toll of 12 dead and two wounded. “A barn, a cart and six shops were also set alight,” it added. A local source told AFP that the attackers “ransacked stores and opened fire on people who had gathered for the weekly market”.

 

World News Headlines:01-11-2019

BREAKING NEWS: Taiwan’s premier and cabinet resign

GERMANY (DW)

Germany, Greece put tension in rearview mirror during Angela Merkel’s visit; Merkel and Tsipras discussed Greece’s return to economic stability as well as immigration and Macedonia. Protests, banned in hopes of avoiding scenes like during her last visit, were quelled by police using tear gas.German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Athens on Thursday to meet with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, her first such trip in four years. Her 2014 visit was marred by massive protests, as many Greeks held her responsible for the hardships they endured as part of austerity measures imposed during the European debt crisis. Speaking after their Thursday evening meeting, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said: “The stereotype of the lazy Greek and the strict German are over. We are entering a new era. Cooperation between Berlin and Athens will be decisively important in the coming years.” Asked if she thought Greece would return to the global financial market, Merkel replied, “Yes, of course, my visit and my work aim at helping Greece get back on its feet so that it can finance itself on the open market.”

Hungary’s Viktor Orban pushes for anti-migrant bloc to counter France and Germany; Hungary’s Viktor Orban hopes a right-wing alliance can help gain an anti-migrant majority in the European Parliament. The alliance was pitched by Italy’s Matteo Salvini, whom Orban described as a “hero.” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday pledged his full support for an Italian-Polish initiative to form a right-wing alliance for European Parliament elections due in May. Orban said Hungary’s goal was to gain an anti-immigrant majority in the European Parliament that he hoped would spread to the European Commission, and later, as national elections change the EU’s political landscape, the European Council.

Egypt confirms second missing German also detained; Weeks after the 18-year-old’s disappearance in Luxor, Egypt has admitted it is detaining a second German citizen. The two men’s dual citizenship has made it difficult for them to receive German consular visits. One day after the German Foreign Ministry said that 26-year-old Mahmoud Abdel Aziz is being held by Egyptian authorities, it confirmed that a second man, 18-year-old Isa El Sabbagh is also being held in Cairo. The men, who were traveling separately, have one thing in common: they hold German and Egyptian passports, as their mothers are German and their fathers Egyptian. Mystery has surrounded the disappearances of the young men, who each traveled to Egypt to visit family. Mahmoud Abdel Aziz of Göttingen was detained at Cairo airport on December 27 and Isa El Sabbagh of Giessen at Luxor airport on December 17.

Romania’s EU presidency overshadowed by corruption cases; The east European state’s six-month presidency starts as its most power politician Liviu Dragnea sues the European Commission over fraud accusations. EU auditors say more needs to be done to fight fraud. Romania took control of the Council of the EU’s rotating presidency on January 1 and will be responsible for ensuring the continuity of the EU’s work until June. The former Soviet state only joined the EU in January 2007 and has been at odds with Brussels regarding the rule of law, separation of powers and corruption. This week, the country’s most powerful politician Liviu Dragnea, brought a case to the European Court of Justice in relation to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) claim that €21 million ($24.15 million) was fraudulently paid to Romanian officials from 2001-2012. The payments involved a road construction firm called Tel Drum and last November, investigative journalists in Romania claimed they found documents which linked Dragnea to Tel Drum. Dragnea was also head of a county council in the south of Romania at the time. Anti-corruption prosecutors in Romania are investigating if Dragnea set up an organized crime group with other officials and forged documents to illicitly obtain EU funds. The 56-year-old Dragnea is banned from political office because of a conviction for vote-rigging, but he still plays a major role in the country’s political life as leader of the Social Democratic Party.

Who is Felix Tshisekedi, DR Congo’s president-elect?; The wildcard opposition candidate has seemingly prevailed in last month’s chaotic election. The son of a political legend, the relatively inexperienced leader has much to prove. After weeks of uncertainty, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi has been declared president-elect of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Speaking to the press early on Thursday morning, a visibly exhausted but happy Tshisekedi acknowledged his own surprise at the recent turn of events: “Nobody could have imagined such a script would seal the victory of an opposition candidate.” He went on to thank the electoral commission and express his hope that he could be a “president for all Congolese” as his supporters took to the streets in celebration. Few had predicted that Tshisekedi would emerge victorious from last month’s polls to replace outgoing President Joseph Kabila. Government-pick Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary represented continuity with the Kabila regime, while the other vocal opposition figure, Martin Fayulu, was chosen by by the major opposition candidates to run on a unity ticket. But it is Tshisekedi who is set to become the new leader of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country — barring any possible challenges to the result. The head of one of the DRC’s oldest opposition parties, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), brings with him promises of change and a deep family legacy.

FRANCE (France24)

DR Congo’s Catholic Church says its election tally shows different winner; In a pre-dawn announcement, the election commission named Tshisekedi, son of the country’s late veteran opposition leader, as provisional winner of the bitterly-contested December 30 vote – a surprise result his main opponent promptly denounced as an “electoral coup”. Just hours later, the Church said election results tallied by its 40,000 observers scattered across the country showed a different winner, without specifying who. “We see that the result of the presidential election as published by CENI (the electoral commission) does not correspond with the data collected by our observer mission from polling stations and counting centres,” said Father Donatien Nshole, spokesman for the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), which represents the country’s Catholic bishops.

Trial opens of Frenchman accused in Brussels Jewish museum attack; Mehdi Nemmouche, 33, who was in court, faces a life sentence if convicted of the killings in the Belgian capital on May 24, 2014, following his return from Syria’s battlefields. Both Nemmouche and Nacer Bendrer, a fellow Frenchman aged 30 who allegedly supplied the weapons, were due to hear the 200-page charge sheet against them in the first two days of the trial being held in a Brussels criminal court under heavy security. Accompanied by two police officers in balaclavas, Nemmouche sat down in the dock wearing an orange sweater.

Venezuela’s Maduro starts new term shunned by international community;
The country’s pro-government Supreme Court, which has largely supplanted the opposition-run Congress, swore him in following a welcome with a symphony orchestra and cheering supporters waving miniature Venezuelan flags. The ceremony contrasted with the harsh realities that face the former bus driver turned socialist leader, including hyperinflation, severe food and medicine shortages and an exodus of millions of citizens seeking to escape the hardship.
Before he had even completed his inaugural speech, the United States accused him of “usurping power,” and Paraguay announced it was cutting diplomatic ties – a symbol of the growing diplomatic isolation that he will face in the new term.

JAPAN (NHK)

Sources: Nissan considered paying Juffali directly; Japanese prosecutors are expected to soon indict former Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn on another charge — aggravated breach of trust. Friday is the last day of Ghosn’s detention period. Ghosn is suspected of paying about 15 million dollars to a company run by Saudi businessman Khaled Al-Juffali for helping him with credit guarantees needed for his personal investment losses. He was served a fresh warrant last month on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust. The money was allegedly paid through Nissan Motor Middle East, a subsidiary of the automaker. Four payments were allegedly made to a company owned by Juffali between 2009 and 2012 as sales promotion and other costs. Sources say Nissan itself considered paying the money to Juffali directly instead of to his company. But the money was eventually sent to his company after in-house inspections. Former executives of the subsidiary have told Tokyo prosecutors that payments to Juffali were a given. They say even though Nissan did not have any business with Juffali’s company, the money was paid as environmental research, sales promotion, or other expense items. Sources say there are in-house notes that logged developments leading up to the payments. A lawyer for Ghosn says his client said Juffali set up meetings with influential people in the Middle East to encourage investment in Nissan. He says the former chairman also paid Juffali 2.8 million dollars the year before he asked for the Saudi Arabian’s help with credit guarantees. The lawyer says Ghosn denies the charges, adding that the payments to Juffali were legitimate.

Taiwan’s premier and cabinet resign: Taiwan’s premier and entire cabinet have resigned. The move follows a November trouncing in local elections for the pro-independence ruling Democratic Progressive Party. In Taiwan, it is not unusual for the premier and cabinet to quit after big election losses. Taiwanese media reported President Tsai Ing-wen had asked for Premier William Lai to continue in his post following the electoral defeat, but she finally accepted his resignation in the New Year. Tsai appointed former ruling party chairperson Su Tseng-chang as a replacement. Announcements for the new cabinet are expected soon. Tsai is about a year away from facing an election herself, and there’s mounting criticism over her reform agenda. Her time as president has also seen a decline in relations with Beijing, which views the island as part of its territory under the so called “One China” principle.

Chinese VP calls for cooperation; China’s vice president has called for Beijing and Washington to use dialogue to resolve differences and deepen cooperation. Wang Qishan’s comments came during a reception to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the 2 countries. He said, “The two sides must respect each other’s sovereignty, security and development interests, and persist in appropriately handling and dealing with disputes through dialogue and consultation.” The Xinhua news agency says hundreds of people from both countries attended the event at the Great Hall of the People. Wang has previous experience negotiating trade issues with the US. His speech comes amid an ongoing trade war between the 2 countries. Officials met this week in an attempt to iron out their differences.

US, China to hold ministerial-level talks: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says his country and China will hold ministerial-level trade talks this month.
Mnuchin said on Thursday that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will most likely visit Washington later in January. He said America’s ongoing partial government shutdown would have no impact on the visit. The United States agreed at a summit meeting last month to postpone tariff hikes on Chinese imports during negotiations until March 1st. Trade officials from both sides met for three days of talks in Beijing this week. The talks appear to have achieved some progress on measures to reduce the US trade deficit. But an NHK reporter in Washington says tough negotiations lie ahead in the upcoming ministerial-level talks, with divisions remaining over China’s alleged violations of intellectual property rights and other issues.

(Reuters)

Tens of thousands march in Argentina against Macri’s austerity; LIMA (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Argentines marched through Buenos Aires on Thursday carrying torches, in the first of a series of planned protests against President Mauricio Macri’s austerity program and the soaring cost of public services. Macri slashed subsidies for public utilities and other services to reduce the country’s chronic fiscal deficit, pushing electricity and gas rates up more 2,000 percent since the start of his term, according to estimates by local media. Rates are expected to increase even more this year. “People can’t make ends meet. All the measures taken by the government go against workers,” Pablo Moyano, a leader of a union of truck drivers, said during the protest.
Weekly demonstrations are planned through early February, increasing pressure on Macri to solve the country’s economic crisis ahead of a presidential election late this year. Last year, when the economy contracted, inflation neared 50 percent and the peso lost close to 50 percent of its value, Macri reached an unpopular deal with the IMF for a $57 billion lifeline in exchange for a commitment to cut the deficit. The protesters on Thursday, who witnesses estimated numbered at least 20,000, carried effigies of Macri and signs that read “Enough of the Macri/IMF austerity program” as they marched past the city’s obelisk monument toward Congress.

Social media giants plan push-back on India’s new regulations: sources; NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Global social media and technology giants are gearing up to fight sweeping new rules proposed by the Indian government that would require them to actively regulate content in one of the world’s biggest Internet markets, sources close to the matter told Reuters. The rules, proposed by the Information Technology ministry on Christmas Eve, would compel platforms such as Facebook, its messaging service WhatsApp and Twitter to remove unlawful content, such as anything that affected the “sovereignty and integrity of India”. This had to be done within 24 hours, the rules propose. The proposal, which caught many holidaying industry executives off guard, is open for public comment until Jan. 31. It will then be adopted as law, with or without changes. The move comes ahead of India’s national election due by May and amid rising worries that activists could misuse social media, especially the WhatsApp messaging service, to spread fake news and sway voters. Industry executives and civil rights activists say the rules smack of censorship and could be used by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to increase surveillance and crack down on dissent. Social media firms have long battled efforts by governments around the world to hold them responsible for what users post on their platforms.

World News Headlines: 01-10-2019

GERMANY (DW)

Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi wins DR Congo presidency, says commission; Felix Tshisekedi has won Congo’s presidential election, the election commission has announced. Tensions were high ahead of the delayed results from the long-anticipated vote to replace President Joseph Kabila. The election to replace the Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila became a race between his chosen successor Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister, and main opposition candidates Martin Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager, and Felix Tshisekedi, the son of late opposition figure Etienne Tshisekedi. Early Thursday, the electoral commission announced that Tshisekedi had won. He received more than 7 million of the 18 million votes cast (38 percent), the commission said.

Italy’s Matteo Salvini woos Poland’s populists; A “new European Spring” to replace the “French-German axis” has been coined by Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini while visiting Polish populists. His foray precedes the EU’s parliamentary election in May. Euroskeptic Salvini vowed Wednesday to create a “new equilibrium,” with Italy and Poland as the “protagonists” of a “new European Spring” based on “true Christian values” via a 10-point program that had still not been fully defined. Salvini’s “spring” terminology was reminiscent of 2010, when the Arab Spring began in Tunisia and spread during 2011 to Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, often ending in repressive regimes and brutal warfare.

EU Medicines Agency makes Brexit move to Amsterdam; The agency will move into temporary offices while its new headquarters are being built. It is the second EU agency to leave Britain as a result of the UK’s pending divorce from the bloc.The Netherlands rolled out the orange carpet for European Medicines Agency Executive Director Guido Rasi on Wednesday, presenting him with a pair of clogs to mark his agency’s relocation from London to Amsterdam. The EMA’S new €300 million ($346 million) headquarters is currently under construction, so its 900 employees will first work out of temporary offices near the city’s main train station until November. The EMA, which is the EU’s regulatory agency for the quality and safety of medicine, was forced to move as a result of Brexit. Amsterdam beat out Milan in a tiebreak vote to host the agency in November 2017. The EMA is the second EU agency to make such a move. The European Banking Authority has relocated to Paris as a result of Brexit as well.

Australia: Man arrested over suspicious parcels sent to embassies; Police have arrested a man after suspicious packages were received by numerous foreign embassies and consulates across Australia. Affected countries included Germany, the US and UK. he 48-year-old suspect was arrested at his home in Shepparton, in the southern state of Victoria, federal and state police said in a joint statement on Thursday. Numerous diplomatic missions in the Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra received suspicious packages this week, with several consulates and embassies temporarily evacuated or put on lock-down on Wednesday.

Russian activist Oyub Titiev: One year behind bars in Chechnya; Oyub Titiev of the Russian human rights organization Memorial was arrested in January 2018 on drug charges. Still imprisoned one year later, his colleagues say the allegations are entirely fabricated. Oyub Titiev became head of Memorial’s Grozny office in 2009, succeeding Natalia Estemirova, who was kidnapped and murdered. As a leading human rights activist, Titiev urged that kidnappings, acts of torture and killings reportedly perpetrated by Chechen security agencies be thoroughly investigated. He also called for inquiries into war crimes perpetrated during both Chechen wars. Moreover, Titiev was engaged in humanitarian work, including rebuilding schools in the mountainous regions of Chechnya.

Brexit endgame: May suffers fresh defeat in parliament; British Prime Minister Theresa May has suffered another setback in parliament. UK lawmakers voted to force her government to come up with an alternative plan for leaving the European Union if, as expected, her current Brexit deal is rejected.

Atheism grows in Turkey as Recep Tayyip Erdogan urges Islam; More and more Turks are turning to atheism. That could very well have to do with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly theocratic politics, observers say. According to a recent survey by the pollster Konda, a growing number of Turks identify as atheists. Konda reports that the number of nonbelievers tripled in the past 10 years. It also found that the share of Turks who say there adhere to Islam dropped from 55 percent to 51 percent. “There is religious coercion in Turkey,” said 36-year-old computer scientist Ahmet Balyemez, who has been an atheist for over 10 years. “People ask themselves: Is this the true Islam?” he added. “When we look at the politics of our decision-makers, we can see they are trying to emulate the first era of Islam. So, what we are seeing right now is primordial Islam.” Balyemez said he grew up in a very religious family. “Fasting and praying were the most normal things for me,” he said. But then, at some point, he decided to become an atheist.

Syrian Kurds capture German, seven other foreign ‘Islamic State’ fighters; The group of eight fighters included a German and a 16-year-old American. The US-backed Kurds are battling a last pocket of Islamist militants in eastern Syria. Representatives from the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is part of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) battling “Islamic State” (IS) in Syria, announced Wednesday that they had captured eight foreign nationals fighting among IS’s ranks. SDF official Redur Xelil said: “The group was preparing to carry out terrorist attacks against the SDF. Also, we believe that the group was behind some of the attacks carried out against the SDF in recent days.” Among those captured were a 31-year-old German , reportedly from Dortmund, and a 16-year-old American. Other fighters captured were Russian, Ukrainian, Kazakh, Tajik and Uzbek nationals. German prosecutors reportedly knew of the Geman, identified as Lukas G. in line with German privacy laws, as having been radicalized in Dortmund. Der Spiegel news magazine reported that security agencies lost track of him and that he traveled to Syria in 2014, according to information provided to the Federal Criminal Police (BKA). Prosecutors started an investigation into G. in October 2016, suspecting him of being a member of a foreign terrorist organization. Officials at the time had no indication G. had a high position within IS.

FRANCE (France24)

Spain’s far-right Vox to back conservative bid to govern in Andalusia; The conservative Popular Party (PP) and centre-right Ciudadanos, which together have 47 seats in the 109-seat regional parliament in Andalusia following a December 2 election, needed the support of Vox to form a coalition government which would oust the Socialists from power in the region after 36 years. The vote in the regional parliament on the formation of a new government could take place on January 16. “Vox and the Popular Party agree to support during the first vote in parliament the candidate (for the head of the government of Andalusia) proposed by the Popular Party,” the two parties said in a statement.

China factory gate inflation dives as trade war rumbles on; The cost of producing goods in China’s factories slowed sharply in December, a sign demand remains weak as the US trade war drags on, while consumer inflation also flagged, official data showed Thursday. The producer price index (PPI) — an important barometer of the industrial sector that measures the cost of goods at the factory gate — rose 0.9 percent on-year in December, compared with a 2.7 percent rise the previous month. The reading marks the lowest growth since September 2016, and fell short of forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. A slowdown in factory gate inflation reflects sluggish demand, while a turn to deflation could dent corporate profits. It “may enter negative territory very soon given the negative sequential growth it already recorded”, Goldman Sachs economists forecast. “This disinflation is reflected already in the industrial profit data, which entered negative territory,” they wrote in a research note. The consumer price index (CPI) — a key measure of retail inflation — rose 1.9 percent, compared with 2.2 percent in November. “Both readings fell short of market forecasts,” said Nomura economist Lu Ting. “Rapidly falling inflation, especially factory-gate PPI inflation, is further evidence that China?s economy is slowing at a worrying pace. Slumping PPI inflation suggests corporate earnings will almost surely continue to fall in coming months.” Lu said the PPI was expected to turn negative, which would put “further downward pressure on China’s growth”.

JAPAN (NHK)

Moon looks to resume inter-Korean projects; South Korean President Moon Jae-in has expressed willingness to resume inter-Korean economic projects. Moon addressed the public on Thursday ahead of his New Year’s press conference. He stressed that the dramatic improvement in inter-Korean relations was achieved by his administration. Moon said the South Korean people opened up the path of peace last year. He said they became the main players in the issues on the Korean Peninsula and took control of their own fate. The South Korean president expressed hope that the second US-North Korea summit will be held soon. Moon also referred to a comment that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made in his New Year address. Kim said he is ready to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex and Mount Kumgang tours without conditions. Moon said problems have been resolved between the two Koreas towards resuming these projects and he suggested pushing for the lifting of international sanctions. He said South Korea will cooperate with the international community, including the United States, to quickly resolve the remaining issue of sanctions. His remarks underscore the difference in South Korea’s position from the United States and Japan, which say they will keep sanctions in place unless North Korea takes concrete steps for denuclearization.

Xinhua: Kim eager for 2nd summit with Trump; China’s state-run Xinhua news agency says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to work toward a good result at a second summit with US President Donald Trump. Kim was visiting China through Thursday. He held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday and Wednesday in Beijing. In an initial report on the content of meetings, Xinhua said Xi told Kim he supports a second US-North Korea summit. The Chinese leader reportedly indicated his hope that Pyongyang and Washington would meet each other halfway and resolve their concerns through dialogue. Kim was quoted as saying Pyongyang will continue to seek denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and try to resolve outstanding issues through dialogue and negotiation. Kim reportedly called on other countries to respect any reasonable concerns his country has, and to address them proactively so a comprehensive resolution to issues concerning the Korean Peninsula can be reached. Kim’s trip to China was his fourth as North Korea’s top leader. Observers say Kim wanted to bolster ties with China, his country’s main supporter, as preparations take shape for a second summit with Trump. They say China wanted to show off its close ties with the North, and to highlight its own profile. State-run China Central Television aired footage on Wednesday showing Kim visiting a pharmaceutical company in Beijing to see the production of traditional Chinese medicine. Kim was seen with a product in hand, listening to the explanations of employees.

Iran says it has detained US citizen; Iran’s Foreign Ministry says the country has arrested an American citizen, named Michael White, in the eastern city of Mashhad. Foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Qassemi made the announcement on Wednesday. He said the case is under investigation. But he didn’t reveal details, such as when and on what charges White was detained. The New York Times reports that his mother says the man is a US Navy veteran and has not returned to the US after visiting his Iranian girlfriend. She said White should have boarded a flight in July last year to leave Iran. The US State Department says in a statement that it is aware of the reports of White’s alleged detention, but would not comment further due to privacy concerns. The incident comes amid rising tensions between the two countries. President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing pressure by imposing sanctions on Iran. Observers say the detention of the US citizen could escalate the confrontation.

US group: N.Korea may be enriching uranium; A US research group says North Korea may be operating its uranium enrichment facility at the Nyongbyon nuclear site. The 38 North group on Wednesday released its analysis of satellite images of Nyongbyon. In a photo taken on December 19th, there is no snow on the roof of a building that’s believed to house centrifuges. The group says this indicates the building is emitting heat, suggesting the uranium enrichment facility is in operation. Previous analyses show repair work for a reactor cooling system at the site. The latest images confirm the work is ongoing. North Korea said at the inter-Korean summit in September last year that it is ready to shut down the Nyongbyon nuclear site if the US takes reciprocal steps. Observers say the North aims to maintain its nuclear development capability while keeping a close eye on the US.

World News Headlines: 01-09-2019

GERMANY (DW)

British PM Theresa May loses vote on no-deal Brexit powers; The UK Parliament has narrowly approved a bill that would limit government tax-raising powers in the event of a no-deal scenario. The government said it would make no difference to Britain leaving the EU on March 29. Lawmakers in the British House of Commons have voted 303-296 to back a Finance Bill amendment that would prohibit government spending on no-deal measures that Parliament does not authorize. The result is a setback for Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, which would have its tax-raising powers trimmed in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on March 29. Twenty members of May’s Conservative Party are understood to have voted against the government. “This vote is an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit,” said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party. “It shows that there is no majority in Parliament, the Cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement.” The government has played down the importance of the defeat, saying it would address taxation issues as the need arose. “This amendment does not change the fact that the UK is leaving the EU on …29 March, and it will not stop the government from collecting tax,” a government spokesman said. “We will work with Parliament to make sure that the tax system works smoothly in all Brexit scenarios.”

Outrage in Germany after brutal attack on AfD lawmaker Frank Magnitz; Was the brutal attack on AfD lawmaker Frank Magnitz a politically motivated attack, or even an attempt on his life? Some of his fellow party members believe so and blame their political foes for stoking hatred. Monday’s attack on Bremen’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Frank Magnitz is not the first time the far-right populist party has been targeted in the northern German city. In the past, windows have been smashed and a car vandalized. Yet the brutal beating of Magnitz does mark a new level of violence in Bremen. The 66-year-old Magnitz, who remains hospitalized, was reportedly set upon by masked assailants, who struck the parliamentarian in the head with an object. When Magnitz went to the ground, the attackers apparently continued beating him. Passersby ultimately came to his aid.

German hacker behind massive political data leak identified; German authorities say a 20-year-old, acting alone, was behind a huge leak of personal data concerning leading politicians and celebrities. The man has confessed, but questions remain about German cybersecurity. Germany’s investigative police force, the BKA, has arrested the hacker responsible for what some have called one of the largest data leaks in Germany’s history. The 20-year-old from the western German state of Hesse could now face charges of stealing and illegally publishing private data. “The suspect was questioned on January 7 by the responsible prosecutor and BKA officials,” the BKA announced in a statement. “He extensively confessed to the accusations against him and provided helpful information beyond his own crimes.” According to the BKA, the suspect said he was acting alone, and there are no indications of anyone else or any foreign state being involved. The BKA said the suspect had indicated he was motivated by “anger at the public statements of the politicians, journalists and public figures concerned.” The published material included personal data from Chancellor Angela Merkel and other political leaders, celebrities and journalists. Hundreds of politicians from all political parties except the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) were affected. But BKA President Holger Münch said authorities were not treating the hack as a political crime and that the suspect had no known ties to right-wing extremism in Germany. The BKA said the suspect’s apartment had been searched on Sunday, after which he was taken into custody. The home of a 19-year-old man in Heilbronn, a town north of Stuttgart, who had contact with the hacker was also searched. He is cooperating with authorities as a witness.

Germany charges Syrian for killing that sparked Chemnitz violence; A Syrian asylum-seeker has been charged with manslaughter over a killing that triggered violent protests and clashes with police. But German authorities said one of the main suspects is still on the loose. German prosecutors on Tuesday formally charged a Syrian asylum-seeker with manslaughter and serious bodily harm in the killing of a German-Cuban citizen, which triggered violent protests in Chemnitz. Prosecutors said Alaa S. had fatally stabbed the man in his arm and chest, along with another alleged perpetrator, identified as Farhad A. Iraqi asylum-seeker Farhad A. fled after the attack and remains at large. But German authorities have issued an international arrest warrant for his arrest. Prosecutors said more than 100 witnesses were questioned through the investigation into the attack. They were able to determine that the incident began when Farhad A. engaged in an argument with the victim, after which he stabbed the man. Alaa S. later joined in.

EU sanctions Iran over thwarted attacks on European soil; Brussels has backed sanctions against Iran for its involvement in assassination attempts in France and Denmark. For some European governments, the measures are long overdue. The EU on Tuesday approved sanctions against an Iranian ministry and two Iranian nationals for their involvement in thwarted assassination attempts in France and Denmark. For months now, EU countries have been pressuring Brussels to enact disciplinary measures against Tehran for what they describe as hostile actions committed by a state actor.

What was announced: 1)The EU targeted Iran’s Intelligence and Security Ministry and two Iranian nationals. 2)The sanctions mean the ministry and individuals’ assets were frozen. Travel bans have also been imposed. 3)Two Iranian diplomats were expelled from the Netherlands in 2018, not for their direct involvement but “as a clear signal” that Iran’s probable involvement is unacceptable. 4)The disciplinary measures do not stem from nor impact the Iran nuclear deal.

Poland, Italy forge populist alliance ahead of European Parliament elections; Italy’s Matteo Salvini and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski share a similar brand of nationalist politics. As the two meet in Warsaw, they are hoping to create a united conservative bloc for the European Parliament elections. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is set to meet Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), in Warsaw on Wednesday. Ever since Italy’s populist coalition government, comprised of the right-wing League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement, took power last year, it has represented a natural ally for Kaczynski and his fellow Central European populist leaders At a meeting in August 2018, Salvini praised right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for erecting barbed wired fences along his country’s border with Serbia and Croatia. And Orban, in turn, views the anti-immigrant Salvini as a “hero and like-minded ally” for his efforts to stop refugees accessing Italy via the Mediterranean. Italy’s government has alleged that migrants spread diseases in Europe — a claim that Kaczynski himself made four years ago during an election campaign. And Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte agrees with his conservative Czech counterpart Andrej Babis, who promised his compatriots the country would not accept any refugees in order to protect “European civilization.”

Germany pledges full EU support for Ireland over Brexit; German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has reiterated that the EU finds a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland “unacceptable.” He warned of “serious damage” in the event of a no-deal scenario. Speaking alongside his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney, on Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the EU would not accept a hard border between Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Maas pledged the EU’s full support for the Republic of Ireland in the face of increasing uncertainty ahead of a fast-approaching deadline for Britain’s exit from the European Union. The border issue is one of the most contentious in the Brexit negotiations.

FRANCE (France24)

UN under attack? World body hit hard after US pullback; The year 2019 started off at the United Nations with Somalia brazenly kicking out the UN envoy, followed soon after by Guatemala ditching a UN-sponsored anti-corruption commission. After a tough year that saw the United States, the UN’s top financial backer, cut funding, pull out of the Human Rights Council and scrap UN-backed agreements, the United Nations is taking more hard hits. Some UN watchers are questioning whether the global organization created at the end of World War II to safeguard world peace is facing a slow demise, increasingly under attack by governments with nationalist agendas. Nearing the half-way mark in his five-year tenure, UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned that multilateralism is under fire at a time when the world needs it most. Leading the anti-UN charge is President Donald Trump whose America-First approach to foreign policy has emboldened other governments to thumb their noses at the United Nations, analysts say. “The UN is having a nerve-wracking start to 2019,” said Richard Gowan, senior policy fellow at UN University. While the United Nations may not be on the brink of total collapse, “the Trump administration’s attitude encourages others to defy the UN,” he said. On Monday, the new envoy for Syria, Geir Petersen of Norway, took up his post as the UN’s fourth peace broker, but the United Nations has been sidelined by Russia and Iran in its efforts to end nearly eight years of war. Peacekeeping — at the heart of the UN’s security approach — is under serious financial strain after the United States announced plans in late December to further cut back its budget contribution.

Mexico probes state oil company’s ex-security chief for fuel theft; Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is waging a major crack-down on fuel theft, announced Tuesday an investigation into the former security chief of state oil company Pemex. Army general Eduardo Leon Trauwitz, the man who was charged with fighting the large-scale tapping of Pemex’s pipelines by Mexican gangs, is under investigation for involvement in the multi-billion-dollar criminal industry he was supposed to fight. “He’s on a list of people who are being investigated in relation to this, although there is nothing definitive yet,” Lopez Obrador told a press conference. Fuel-theft gangs have turned illegal taps of Pemex’s oil and gas pipelines into a massive black-market industry that cost the country an estimated $3 billion last year — a problem Lopez Obrador has vowed to fight head-on. However, his crackdown sparked a backlash this week as tighter controls on fuel deliveries led to shortages at service stations and stoked widespread anger among consumers.

Botched coup signals Bongo’s weakened grip on Gabon; While the rapid failure of Monday’s coup in Gabon highlighted the plotters’ lack of preparedness and support, analysts say the attempt alone signals mounting frustration with a government weakened by President Ali Bongo’s secretive medical leave. Gabonese security forces foiled an attempted military coup on Monday, killing two suspected plotters and capturing seven others just hours after they took over state radio and urged the people of Gabon to “rise up” against the Bongo family’s 50-year rule. Government spokesman Guy-Bertrand Mapangou announced the deaths and arrests after mutinous soldiers briefly seized the radio station in the capital, Libreville, and broadcast a message saying Bongo, who suffered a stroke in October, was no longer fit for office. “The situation is under control,” Mapangou told FRANCE 24, describing the botched coup as a “flash in the pan” and its perpetrators – who referred to themselves as the Patriotic Youth Movement of the Gabonese Defence and Security Forces – as a “fictitious group” led by a “complete unknown”.

Madagascar court confirms Rajoelina presidential win; “Andry Rajoelina is declared the elected president of the republic,” said Judge Jean-Eric Rakotoarisoa, triggering celebrations among Rajoelina supporters gathered in the capital Antananarivo. In the run-off vote on December 19, Rajoelina took 55.7 percent and Marc Ravalomanana won 44.3 percent, according to the final results. Ravalomanana had complained of widespread fraud and petitioned the Constitutional Court.

JAPAN (NHK)

Ghosn ‘wanted Nissan to pay $28 mil. to Saudi man’; NHK has learned that former Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn allegedly tried to loan millions of dollars of company funds to a Saudi businessman as part of his efforts to obtain a credit guarantee for his financial deals. Sources say Ghosn initially told Nissan to extend a loan of 28 million dollars to Khaled Al-Juffali after a bank requested additional collateral for losses the former chairman had incurred from currency swap contracts. The sources say an internal document substantiates this. But the loan wasn’t made because Nissan officials were skeptical about the transaction. Juffali reportedly sent 28 million dollars of his own money to a foreign bank to help Ghosn get the guarantee. Ghosn is accused of arranging an illicit payment of about 15 million dollars from a Nissan subsidiary to a company owned by the businessman. Ghosn told a court hearing on Tuesday that the businessman was a longtime partner of Nissan and denied that the payment was illegal. He said it was an appropriate reward approved by the relevant divisions, not a token of thanks for help in connection with the swap deals, as prosecutors say.

Thai protests mount over possible election delay; Demonstrators rallied across Thailand on Tuesday to protest a possible postponement by the military-led government of the country’s general elections. Students and other activists gathered in the capital Bangkok, Chiang Mai and three other cities to protest the government’s delay in announcing the elections. Thailand’s military-led interim government said last week that it was considering delaying elections planned for February to hand over power to a civilian administration. The military has led the country since a coup in 2014. On Tuesday, interim Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha responded to reporters’ questions about the voting schedule. He said the king has yet to give his approval. The government has suggested that it may delay the elections to avoid a conflict with an upcoming royal coronation. In Bangkok, about 200 students marched outside a train station, chanting slogans and banging on drums. A 26-year-old woman watching the demonstration said the possible delay makes her feel like she is being lied to by the government.

South Korean President shakes up top aides; South Korean President Moon Jae-in has announced a new line-up of close aides. It’s being seen as an attempt to tackle falling approval ratings. South Korea’s presidential office said on Tuesday that Moon has decided to replace the Chief Presidential Secretary. Noh Young-min, ambassador to China, will now fill the role. Noh is a former lawmaker who served as a senior official in both of Moon’s presidential election campaigns. The president has also replaced his top secretary for political affairs, and his senior secretary for public relations. Moon’s support rating once briefly topped 80-percent after he took office in May 2017. It’s since plummeted to the 40-percent level. The public has grown frustrated about his economic policies– and a minimum wage hike drew opposition from smaller firms. Improved relations with North Korea were considered the key to boosting the government’s approval rating. But… there has been no major progress on the issue of denuclearizing the North.

World News Headlines: 01-08-2019

GERMANY (DW)

Attackers knock Bremen AfD leader Frank Magnitz unconscious in street; Police have launched an investigation after the Bremen state chairman of the far-right Alternative for Germany was attacked by three masked men. Frank Magnitz was knocked unconscious with a piece of wood. Police are looking for three men who attacked and injured Frank Magnitz, party leader of the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the city state of Bremen. A police report said the incident happened on Monday afternoon, near Bremen’s Goetheplatz. Magnitz, a member of Germany’s lower house of parliament, was attacked by three masked men, AfD party officials said in a statement. Magnitz had left a New Year reception hosted by local newspaper the Weser-Kurier shortly before. He was knocked unconscious with a piece of wood and kicked in the head as he lay on the ground, the party said. A construction worker was said to have intervened and stopped the attack. The 66-year-old Magnitz was reported to be in hospital, having sustained “severe” injuries.

Guatemala pulls out of UN-backed anti-corruption commission; The decision comes after more than a year of tension between the government and the UN-sponsored anti-corruption group. The independent body is investigating top officials and people close to President Jimmy Morales. Guatemala will end a UN-sponsored anti-corruption commission, which has been investigating high-ranking members of the country’s government and President Jimmy Morales’ campaign financing. For more than a decade, the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) has had the power to conduct independent investigations in cooperation with the country’s prosecutors. Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel announced Guatemala would abruptly pull out of the CICIG eight months earlier than expected after meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday. “Therefore we reported to the secretary-general that within 24 hours the agreement [establishing the CICIG] will be terminated by the Guatemalan government,” she said. Jovel accused the CICIG of overreaching its authority and interfering in Guatemala’s sovereignty.

Taiwan arrests BASF staff for selling secrets to China; Taiwan police have arrested at least six people for passing trade secrets to a Chinese company. Beijing has come under increased criticism for failing to stop intellectual property theft. Taiwanese authorities on Monday announced they had arrested six current and former employees of German chemicals giant BASF for passing trade secrets to a Chinese company. The Taiwan Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) said engineers were involved in a plot “to leak crucial technology and manufacturing processes … to make illegal profits.” The engineers had received at least $1.3 million (€1.1 million) out of nearly $6 million offered by China-based Jiangyin Jianghua Microelectronics Materials Co., said CIB director Lu Sung Hao.The engineers, including at least one senior manager, are suspected of selling the Jiangsu-based company electronic manufacturing processes to build a chemicals plant in mainland China. BASF said that only one of the engineers arrested in Taiwan was still an employee and that their contract had been suspended for now. “We have taken immediate steps to support the investigation led by local law enforcement officials and protect the relevant information,” said BASF.

Germany investigates disappeared citizens in Egypt; Two German nationals have disappeared in Egypt, one after encountering authorities at Cairo airport. The German government said it had been investigating the “separate cases” for days now. The German Foreign Ministry on Monday said two German men with dual citizenship have disappeared in Egypt. “There are two separate cases of German citizens who have been reported missing,” said a ministry spokesman. “We have been dealing with them for a few days now and we are taking both cases very seriously.” One of the men, an 18-year-old from the central city of Giessen, is believed to have disappeared before he was scheduled to take a domestic flight from Luxor to Cairo, according to his father. “It has been three weeks and there is no trace,” the man’s father told German news agency dpa. “Nobody knows if he is still alive.” The other man, a 23-year-old from Göttingen, was detained at Cairo airport while attempting to enter the country. His current location is unclear, but dpa reported that he may be held in “the headquarters of the intelligence agency,” citing contacts on the ground.

Brazil: Bolsonaro smear prompts environment agency chief resignation; Suely Araujo accused far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of making “baseless accusations” about the agency’s budget. Bolsonaro wrote in a tweet that the environmental agency “financially violated” Brazilians. The head of Brazil’s environment agency has quit following the latest attack against the agency by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Suely Araujo resigned from IBAMA after Bolsonaro republished a tweet from his environmental minister criticizing the agency’s decision to spend more than 28 million reais ($7.7 million, €6.7 million) on rental patrol trucks. “We’ve had a system created mainly to financially violate Brazilians without the slightest care,” Bolsonaro wrote in the tweet.

France plans tougher laws to counter yellow vest protests; France has said it plans to ban participation in unauthorized demonstrations in an effort to counter the ongoing yellow vest movement. The government is scrambling to put an end to the increasingly violent protests. France plans to introduce tough legislation to ban unauthorized demonstrations and sanction rioters in response to violent yellow vest protests, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced.
Eight weeks into demonstrations that have led to riots and clashes with police in Paris and other cities, the French government is struggling to deal with the leaderless movement that has become increasingly radicalized.

JAPAN (NHK)

Ghosn denies allegations; Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn has denied an aggravated breach of trust charge against him in his first court appearance since he was arrested almost two months ago.

Japan FM hints at countering S.Korea asset seizure; Japan’s foreign minister says the government is considering necessary measures in case a Japanese firm is impacted by a wartime labor lawsuit in South Korea. Taro Kono was speaking to reporters during a visit to India. A group of South Korean plaintiffs who won the suit against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal applied to the court last week to seize some of the company’s assets in lieu of compensation.Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the move “extremely regrettable” when he appeared in an NHK program on Sunday. He said he has instructed relevant ministries to study specific counter-measures in accordance with international law. Kono said the Foreign Ministry is closely coordinating with other government offices to prevent the Japanese company from being treated unfairly. He urged the South Korean side to quickly handle the matter.

Harajuku attacker had 100 liters of kerosene; A man arrested in Tokyo after plowing his car into crowds in the early hours of New Year’s Day bought nearly 100 liters of kerosene before the attack. Kazuhiro Kusakabe, 21, from Neyagawa in Osaka Prefecture, rammed his rental car into pedestrians on Takeshita Street in the Harajuku district. Nine people were injured, including a 19-year-old university student who is in a critical condition. Tokyo Metropolitan Police arrested Kusakabe on suspicion of attempted murder. Officers also discovered a high-pressure water sprayer with an ignition tool attached to the nozzle inside the car. The suspect told police that he planned to set fire to nearby Meiji Shrine after dispersing kerosene with the high-pressure sprayer. The historic shrine would have been packed with New Year visitors at the time. However, he said he drove into Takeshita Street instead after failing to carry out his initial plan. The police later found the suspect had rented the car in Osaka on December 30th and bought nearly 100 liters of kerosene. Tokyo police suspect he planned an indiscriminate attack by spraying crowds with kerosene before setting fire to them using the modified device as a flame projector.

N.Korean leader visiting China; Media reports say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is visiting China. China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, says Kim is in China from Monday to Thursday at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
North Korea’s ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said in Tuesday’s edition that Kim left Pyongyang on Monday afternoon on a special train. It says Kim is accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol Ju. A front page photo shows the couple being seen off by officials. NHK confirmed a heavy police presence at a train station in China’s northeastern border city of Dandong in Liaoning Province on Monday evening. Security was also stepped up at a bridge between the two countries. This is Kim’s fourth visit to China — Pyongyang’s key backer. The previous trips were made last year. The North Korean leader marks his birthday on Tuesday. He is expected to hold talks with Xi on the denuclearization — an issue that has made little headway between North Korea and the United States.

Fire breaks out at Cambodia casino building; A fire has broken out at a building that houses a casino in Cambodia, reportedly leaving several people injured. The country’s state-run media said the blaze engulfed the 18-story building in the city of Poipet, near the border with Thailand, on Monday night. The injured are reported to be receiving treatment at a hospital. A woman who works in the neighborhood told NHK that a majority of visitors to the casino were from China. She said that many tried to flee the building after the fire broke out, with some climbing to the rooftop asking for help. She added the building was recently completed. Poipet boasts a number of casinos for foreigners and is a popular destination for Chinese tourists.

World News Headlines: 01-06-2019

GERMANY (DW)

Brazil troops deployed to stop gang attack violence; A special deployment of Brazil’s elite National Police Force has begun patrolling Ceara state in a bid to stop a major spike in violent gang attacks. The violence is a test for newly-elected President Jair Bolsonaro. Troops from Brazil’s National Police Force are being deployed in the northeastern state of Ceara with orders to end a wave of violent attacks by criminal gangs against banks, buses and shops, local officials said Saturday. Close to 300 members of the force arrived in the state capital, Fortaleza, and more than 10 other cities across Ceara on Friday in a bid to halt the rampage which has spiked over the past four days, national Public Security Secretary Guilherme Teophilo said, according to the government news agency Agencia Brasil. Brazilian media have shown security footage of service stations being torched by gang members in Fortaleza. Troops were deployed after Justice Minister Sergio Moro concluded Ceara police were overwhelmed. More than 50 suspects have been arrested since the violence broke out. The deployment is the first test for President Jair Bolsonaro and his strict law-and-order platform since he took office last Tuesday. While the trigger for the wave of violence is still being investigated, officials suspect the vicious attacks were ordered by organized crime gangs in retaliation for government plans to impose tighter controls in the state’s prisons, according to intelligence reports published in local media. Changes are set to include blocks on mobile phone signals and an end to a policy of separating prisoners according to gang membership.

Venezuela congress names new leader, calls Nicolas Maduro illegitimate; The new leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly has called Nicolas Maduro a dictator whose legitimacy has run out. Juan Guaido also said congress aimed to restore constitutional order.Venezuela congress names new leader, calls Nicolas Maduro illegitimate The new leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly has called Nicolas Maduro a dictator whose legitimacy has run out. Juan Guaido also said congress aimed to restore constitutional order. “We reaffirm the illegitimacy of Nicolas Maduro,” Guaido told lawmakers and foreign diplomats in attendance to show solidarity with the embattled legislative body. “As of January 10, he will be usurping the presidency and consequently this National Assembly is the only legitimate representative of the people.” Guaido called the Socialist president a dictator who has plunged the oil-rich country into economic and social misery, adding that Venezuela was living through a “dark but transitional” period in its history. He told lawmakers that opposition politicians have been jailed, driven into exile or killed.

Serbia: Thousands resume rallies against President Aleksandar Vucic; Protesters have braved a blizzard to demonstrate for a fifth week against President Aleksandar Vucic. Media freedom, an end to attacks against journalists and the opposition and electoral reform are among their demands. Several thousand people marched in the Serbian capital Saturday braving snow and freezing temperatures for the fifth consecutive weekend of street protests against populist President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Some 15,000 demonstrators marched through the center of Belgrade, stopping in front of the offices of the state broadcaster RTS, which is firmly under Vucic’s control, before making their way to the presidency building. Loudspeakers played recordings of the president’s broken promises, while demonstrators blew whistles and jeered. Marchers also carried banners which read “We are the people,” “Stop the treason, defend the constitution and back the people” and “Down with the thieves.

German cyber defense body defends itself over massive breach; Hundreds of German public figures and politicians had their personal data and documents stolen by hackers. The cyber defense office had known about isolated cases for weeks, but said it only connected the dots on Friday. Germany’s Federal Office for IT Safety (BSI) has said that it had only become aware of a massive data breach affecting hundreds of lawmakers on Friday, several weeks after a lawmaker had told BSI officials about suspicious activity on personal accounts. “Everybody assumed it was an isolated case,” the BSI said. “Only by becoming aware of the release of the data sets via the Twitter account ‘God’ on January 3, 2019, could the BSI in a further analysis on January 4, 2019 connect this case and four other cases that the BSI became aware of during 2018,” it added. BSI head Arne Schönbohm said Friday that the agency had spoken with “some lawmakers” affected by the breach in early December. The statement prompted outrage among other hacking victims, who assumed BSI had known about the issue and failed to inform them.

FRANCE (France24)

Ukrainian church granted independence from Russian church; The decree, granting “autocephaly”, was signed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at a service with the head of the Ukrainian church Metropolitan Epifaniy and President Petro Poroshenko in St George’s Cathedral in Istanbul. “I want to thank the millions of Ukrainians around the world who responded to my appeal to pray for the church to be established,” Poroshenko said at a ceremony accompanied by solemn liturgical singing. “I want to thank the generations of Ukrainians who dreamed…and finally God sent us the Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” he told the congregation in the crowded church.

Thousands protest against Hungary’s ‘slave’ labour law; Opposition groups have staged several rallies in the past weeks in the Hungarian capital and other cities against what they said was an authoritarian rule of conservative nationalist Viktor Orban. Saturday’s rally, organized by opposition parties, trade unions and civic groups, mainly targeted the new labour law dubbed by critics as “slave law”. The protesters marched in snowfall from the historic Heroes Square to the parliament building on the bank of the Danube river, carrying banners such as “Sweep away the regime”.

JAPAN (NHK)

Japan’s Coast Guard to increase patrol vessels; Japan’s Coast Guard plans to add five more large patrol boats to its fleet to boost security. Coast Guard officials say a total of 70 Chinese vessels entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea in 2018. The number is 38 fewer than the previous year. Japan controls the islands. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. China and Taiwan claim them. And North Korean vessels have repeatedly conducted illegal fishing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Japan Sea off the coast of the Noto Peninsula. The Coast Guard gave warnings to a total of 1,624 North Korean squid fishing boats last year. Also 225 wooden boats which are believed to be from North Korea drifted to shores of Japan — the largest number ever. The five vessels will be added to the existing 62 large patrol boats. The officials say that they hope to be able to handle the situation even if multiple events happen concurrently in the waters around the country.

China’s population likely to shrink from 2030; China’s population, the world’s largest, is expected to start shrinking in 2030 after reaching a peak a year earlier. The state-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences made the projection in a report on the country’s population and labor. The report says that the population is expected to grow from 1.39 billion at the end of 2017 to a peak of about 1.44 billion in 2029. The paper also says that China will likely see continuous negative growth from 2030 with the population standing at about 1.36 billion in 2050 and some 1.25 billion in 2065. The projections are based on an assumption that the current birthrate of about 1.6 births per woman will rise to 1.7 or higher because of the end of the one-child policy 3 years ago. The report says that if the birthrate remains flat, the population will start to decrease in 2027, and decline to about 1.17 billion in 2065. Under the new Chinese policy, married couples are now allowed to have two children.

Firms launch credit scoring services; An increasing number of firms are introducing credit scores as part of financial and other services. A credit score represents the creditworthiness of an individual given as a number. It is based on an analysis of various personal information, such as settlements for online shopping and cashless payments, as well as loans taken. The messaging app provider LINE will launch a financial service, issuing credit scores based on data on its approximately 78 million users. The company will use the score to determine the interest rate and credit limit appropriate for an individual, so that the firm will be able to better respond to user demand for medical fees and other expenses. Telecom operator NTT Docomo will launch a business in March that will provide financial institutions with individuals’ credit scores based on telephone fee payment history and how they use the service. Yahoo Japan will also conduct a trial in which it will provide companies with credit scores set by analyzing its users’ information, including their online shopping records and search history. In China, the use of such credit scoring systems is spreading, with people who have higher scores treated favorably in real estate transactions or job hunting.

World News Headlines: 01-05-2019

GERMANY (DW)

Angela Merkel and hundreds of German politicians hacked; German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other senior politicians were reportedly hit by a data hack, with some of their letters, contact details and party memos leaked on Twitter. Germany’s digital defense body is “intensively” investigating the apparent data leak that saw data of hundreds of politicians from across the political spectrum being published online, a spokesman for the Federal Office for IT Safety (BSI) said on Friday. “Hacking attack against politicians: The BSI is currently intensively probing the issue in close cooperation with other federal institutions,” the BSI said on Twitter, adding that “according to what we know so far” the government’s confidential networks were unaffected.

Paul Whelan: Is American held in Moscow really a US spy?; The facts surrounding the arrest of US citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow remain murky. But rumors suggesting he was arrested so he could be exchanged for alleged Russian spy Maria Butina are growing louder.Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claims to have caught Paul Whelan red-handed. The former US Marine, arrested in Moscow last Friday, is said to have received a USB stick with sensitive information on it from Russian agents who met him at the Metropol Hotel — just down the street from both the Kremlin and the FSB headquarters. Russian news agency Rosbalt, citing Moscow security circles, has claimed Whelan received a classified list of names from a Russian citizen, though those claims have yet to be independently verified. Whelan is currently in detention, awaiting trial on charges of espionage. Russian intelligence services have publicly stated that in the event of a guilty verdict, Whelan faces between 10 and 20 years in prison.

A German right to work from home in your pajamas?; Around 40 percent of Germans want to be able to work occasionally from home. German lawmakers want to make it mandatory for employers to offer workers the option of a home office. Germany’s Labor Ministry wants to require employers to allow staff to work from home, Ministry Secretary Björn Böhning said in an interview with Der Spiegel. According to the German news magazine, Böhning is planning an initiative compelling German companies to either allow their employees to work from home or justify why it is not possible.

US deploys troops to Gabon over possible DR Congo violence; Concerns are mounting that violence will erupt in DR Congo over last Sunday’s contested election. The vote was marred by delays, irregularities and voting problems. US President Donald Trump deployed 80 US military personnel to Gabon in response to possible violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo following a disputed election. In a letter to Congress, Trump said the troops were sent in response to “the possibility that violent demonstrations may occur” in DR Congo in reaction to the December 30 elections. The combat troops and supporting military aircraft would provide security to US citizens, personnel and diplomatic facilities in the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, should the need arise. “Additional forces may deploy to Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the Republic of Congo, if necessary for these purposes. These deployed personnel will remain in the region until the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo becomes such that their presence is no longer needed,” the letter stated.

Venezuela: Lima Group refuse to recognize Maduro mandate; Latin American governments have urged Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, not to take the oath of office. The Lima bloc have said they will not recognize his new term because last year’s election was “illegitimate.” The Lima Group of Latin American countries on Friday urged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to abstain from being sworn in for a second term he won in elections widely condemned as illegitimate, and cede power until new elections can be held. The bloc said in a statement that they would not recognize Maduro’s socialist government after a meeting in the Peruvian capital to discuss how to step up international pressure on the Maduro regime. The meeting discussed Venezuela’s crisis ahead of Maduro’s plans to be sworn in on January 10. Mexico also partook but didn’t sign the statement.

Italian mayors rebel against Salvini migrant laws; Several left-wing mayors in Italy have refused to obey the “anti-migrant” policies of interior minister, Matteo Salvini. The right-wing leader has spearheaded a move to tighten asylum laws. The mayors of several Italian cities on Friday said they were refusing to obey Italy’s new anti-migrant law. The so-called Salvini decree strips humanitarian protection for migrants not approved for refugee status, but who cannot be deported. The left-wing “rebel” mayors condemned the new legislation — which makes it easier to expel new arrivals and limits residence permits — as unconstitutional. The “Salvini decree” also abolished humanitarian protection permits granted to people who didn’t qualify for asylum, but for whom it was too dangerous to return home. Italy was the only EU member state offering the two-year permits which allowed vulnerable people to live in state-run reception centers and access training and educational programs and find work.

France to tackle English Channel migrant crossings; Hundreds of people have tried to cross the English Channel from France to the United Kingdom in recent weeks. The crossings have caused a headache for the UK government. France will increase police patrols and surveillance along its northern coast to tackle an uptick in the number of people trying to illegally cross the English Channel to the United Kingdom, France’s interior ministry said on Friday. More than 500 people, many of whom are from Iran, tried to cross the Channel in 2018, with most crossings occurring in the past two months. Under pressure to find a solution, the UK has stepped up marine patrols along its Channel coast. “It’s in our interest, as well as the United Kingdom’s, to do everything to prevent new networks (of people smugglers) developing, which would likely attract irregular migrants to our shores again,” the French Interior Ministry said.

FRANCE (France24)

Taiwan president calls for international support to defend democracy; Tsai’s comments came days after Chinese President Xi Jinping said nobody could change the fact that Taiwan was part of China, and that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should seek “reunification”. “We hope that the international community takes it seriously and can voice support and help us,” Tsai told reporters in Taipei, referring to threats by China to use force to bring Taiwan under its control. If the international community did not support a democratic country that was under threat, “we might have to ask which country might be next,?” Tsai added. Taiwan is China’s most sensitive issue and is claimed by Beijing as its sacred territory. Xi has stepped up pressure on the democratic island since Tsai from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party became president in 2016. President Xi said on Wednesday that China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful “reunification” with the island. In response, Tsai has said the island would not accept a “one country, two systems” political arrangement with China, while stressing all cross-Strait negotiations needed to be carried out on a government-to-government basis. Tsai on Saturday also urged China to have a “correct understanding” of what Taiwanese think and said actions such as political bullying were unhelpful in cross-strait relations.

International pressure mounts on DR Congo as election deadline loom; Expectations are mounting that electoral overseers will delay publication of provisional results due by Sunday — a move likely to add to tensions in the notoriously unstable country. “The Democratic Republic of Congo is at a historic moment toward a democratic transition,” the European Union said. It called on the authorities “to ensure the upcoming results conform with the Congolese people’s vote”.

JAPAN (NHK)

Thai junta: General election may be delayed; Thailand’s military government says it is considering delaying a general election scheduled for February by about a month to avoid potential conflicts with the upcoming royal coronation. On Tuesday, Thailand’s royal palace announced that King Maha Vajiralongkorn will be officially crowned in coronation ceremonies from May 4th through the 6th. The king ascended to the throne after the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej died in October of 2016. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam noted on Friday that if the poll is held in February, the inauguration of parliament would overlap with the coronation and related events in May. The military government says the election commission will make a formal announcement on the election date. Major political parties and civic groups are reacting sharply to the possible delay. The military junta, which has been in power since a coup in May of 2014, has repeatedly delayed the election.

Ghosn set to make court appearance; Former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn is set to appear in a court in Tokyo to hear the reason for his detention. NHK has learned that Ghosn’s lawyer filed a request with the Tokyo District Court on Friday for the legal step. The court is required to hold an open hearing within 5 days of such an application in principle. The detainee is allowed to state his opinions. Ghosn’s lawyer says the former Nissan chairman intends to appear in court. Ghosn was served a fresh arrest warrant on December 21st on suspicion of aggravated breach of trust. He allegedly had a Nissan subsidiary illicitly channel about 15 million dollars to a firm run by a Saudi Arabian businessman. The Saudi is said to have helped Ghosn obtain credit guarantees to cover his personal investment losses.

China to cut bank reserve requirement ratio; China’s central bank has announced more monetary easing in the form of cutting the minimum reserve level for commercial banks by a total of one percentage point. The People’s Bank of China said on Friday that reductions by 0.5 percentage points will be made on January 15th and again January 25th. The reserve requirement ratio refers to the percentage of cash that financial institutions are required to place in the central bank as reserves, against the amount of deposits they hold. Lowering the ratio is expected to boost lending. Bank officials say the measure will unleash 800 billion yuan, or about 116 billion dollars, into the market and effectively increase loan funding sources of small and private businesses. The announcement comes as concerns are growing over the effects of the trade conflict with the United States on the country’s economy. The Chinese government is stepping up support efforts. At the Central Economic Work Conference in December, Chinese leaders indicated their intention to enact further monetary easing measures.

World News Headlines: 01-04-2019

GERMANY (DW)

German government cagey on spy cooperation in Pinochet’s Chile; The German Foreign Ministry has refused to shed light on the BND’s cooperation with the CIA to aid General Augusto Pinochet’s brutal regime in Chile. The vague responses have outraged the German Left party.The German government has offered only cagey responses to questions about cooperation between the German secret service, the BND, and military dictatorships in Chile and Greece in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The socialist Left party’s Jan Korte submitted 68 questions to the German Foreign Ministry late last year, and the incomplete answers he got irritated the Bundestag member so much that he filed an official complaint about the noncooperation of the government. “These answers are an unparalleled insult,” he told DW. “And, by the way, that is no way to treat the parliament.” The Foreign Ministry did admit that the administration of Chancellor Willy Brandt knew in advance about the imminent putsch being planned by Chilean military leaders under General Augusto Pinochet in September 1973, but offered few details on exactly how. Otherwise, the government largely refused to answer any key questions about the cooperation between the CIA (which actively supported Pinochet’s coup) and the BND, citing “the good of the state” as the main reason. “The release of information related to the cooperation with foreign security forces would breach the strict and unlimited confidentiality that forms the basis of all intelligence cooperation,” according to the government. The questions that remained unanswered include: When and in what way was the BND active in Chile? Did the CIA inform the BND about the putsch, which the US had supported both financially and actively through its intelligence agency? Was the BND involved in any way with the CIA operations in Chile? What was the central element of German foreign policy in Chile, if not human rights?

Racist or Islamist — lone-wolf attackers show similar patterns; There has been speculation as to what led a man to drive into a group of foreigners in Germany’s Ruhr region. Criminologist Britta Bannenberg says terrorists and those who run amok are similar, whatever their ideology. A 50-year-old German man, Andreas N., deliberately drove his car into groups of foreign-looking people on New Year’s Eve – first in Bottrop and then in Essen – before police could apprehend him. He injured eight people during the rampage. Currently, he is in police custody. Authorities assume his actions were racially motivated. Moreover, the welfare recipient and Essen resident is said to be mentally ill. Deutsche Welle: Seemingly racially-motivated car attacks recently carried out by a 50-year-old German man in Bottrop and Essen have captured the attention of authorities and citizens alike. What might have driven the perpetrator to carry out his New Year’s Eve attacks? Britta Bannenberg: We will have to wait before we can say with certainty. But initial indications point to a typical behavioral pattern. Young perpetrators are different from older ones, for instance. And there are a number of distinctive features among older perpetrators.

Explosion outside AfD office in eastern Germany; An explosion occurred outside of the AfD’s Döbeln office in eastern Germany. Investigators are looking into whether the attack was politically motivated. Authorities said “an unknown substance was detonated” in front of the building housing the offices of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Saxon city of Döbeln on Thursday at around 7:20 p.m. local time (620 UTC), police said. Doors and windows on the building housing the AfD office as well as two neighboring buildings. Parked cars were apparently also damaged but no injuries were reported. The police did not give information with regard to possible suspects for the attack. Saxony’s State Office of Criminal Investigation were investigating suspicions that the crime was politically motivated.

Ireland to seek emergency EU help in case of no-deal Brexit; Irish PM Leo Varadkar says he’s “given up speculating” on whether the UK will strike a deal with the EU. His agriculture minister insists Ireland would need “mega money” from the EU to cope with a no-deal Brexit. The Irish government could be forced to ask the European Union for hundreds of millions of euros of economic aid, should Britain crash out of the bloc without a deal. That was the assessment of Irish Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, as he was asked what would happen if a no-deal Brexit were to become a reality. Ireland, which relies heavily on its fishing and farming sector, would be the EU member most exposed to the economic dangers of a no-deal scenario. “I think nobody wants to talk about it right now because there is still a hope and expectation that a level of sanity will prevail,” Creed told the Irish Independent newspaper on Thursday. However, Creed said he acknowledged that the odds on Britain crashing out of the EU had shortened considerably in the past weeks. Such a move could see problems for Irish farmers in accessing the UK market as before. “I think we would get help. It’s all about the level of help,” Creed said.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro begins starts firing ‘left-wing’ public servants; President Jair Bolsonaro has authorized the dismissal of civil servants who don’t share his government’s far-right ideology. The sweep will target officials deemed sympathetic to Brazil’s centrist and left-wing parties. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration on Thursday launched a purge of government officials who don’t share its far-right ideology. Bolsonaro authorized the dismissal of some 300 officials on temporary contracts. The government “will clean the house,” Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni told a news conference after a Cabinet meeting headed by Bolsonaro, who took office this week. “It’s the only way to govern with our ideas, our concepts and to carry out what Brazil’s society decided in its majority,” said Lorenzoni, who is seen as the second most powerful member of the executive after Bolsonaro. The sweep will target officials who are seen as sympathetic to the centrist and left-wing parties that have ruled Brazil since 1985, when the country got rid of military dictatorship.

Interpreters make really lousy spies’; Poland’s state prosecutor wants the question the former interpreter of European Council President Donald Tusk. Can or should interpreters be compelled to reveal secret information? DW sat down with one with find out. It has been almost nine years since a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and high-ranking military officers crashed near the Russian city of Smolensk, killing all 96 people on board. The Polish Law and Justice Party (PiS) is convinced the crash was the result of an assassination plot and reopened its investigation in 2017. European Council President Donald Tusk, who was Polish prime minister at the time, has become the focus of the administration’s investigation. State prosecutors accuse him of treason and want to know what he and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about after the crash. The administration also wants to interrogate Magdalena Fitas-Dukaczewska, who was present at the meeting as an interpreter. In a report for the German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk she said she would not testify, even if the government absolved her from her obligation to maintain confidentiality. She says to do otherwise would destroy her credibility as well as that of her colleagues.

FRANCE (France 24)

Asylum-seeking’ N. Korea envoy from diplomatic family, says defector; A North Korean diplomat in Italy said to be seeking asylum is from a “prestigious diplomatic family” with both his father and father-in-law having worked in Pyongyang’s foreign ministry, according to a senior defector. Jo Song Gil, the North’s acting ambassador to Rome, went into hiding with his wife in November and is seeking asylum, according to Seoul’s intelligence authorities. It would be the first high-profile defection of a North Korean diplomat since 2016 when the then deputy ambassador to London, Thae Yong Ho, switched sides to settle in Seoul. Thae said Jo is the son of a late former diplomat, while his father-in-law served as ambassador to Thailand in the 1990s and once handled diplomatic protocol for the ruling Kim family at the foreign ministry. “I worked with Jo in the same department at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry for so long but never imagined that he would seek asylum,” Thae told Seoul’s Channel A. “The news shocked me. “I also worked for years with his father-in-law, a well-known, veteran diplomat in Pyongyang who also served as consul-general in Hong Kong in the 2000s,” Thae added in the interview late Thursday. Jo’s wife graduated from Pyongyang’s prestigious medical school, with both families enjoying privileged lives as members of the North’s “wealthy, prestigious elite”, according to Thae. The couple have one child, he added.

13 Canadians held in China since arrest of Huawei executive: official; Thirteen Canadians have been detained in China following the arrest on December 1 of a senior executive from Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei, Ottawa said Thursday, with eight subsequently released. Global Affairs Canada spokesperson Guillaume Berube confirmed the detentions to AFP, adding the figures excluded Hong Kong. The thirteen include former diplomat Michael Kovrig and consultant Michael Spavor, arrested on December 10, for activities said to threaten national security, as well as Sarah McIver, who was subsequently freed and returned to Canada. There are approximately 200 Canadians overall who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions and continue to face ongoing legal proceedings, and the number has remained relatively stable in recent years. By way of comparison, there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the US. Some observers believe the detentions of Kovrig, who works for the International Crisis Group, and Spavor, who is frequently consulted on matters linked to North Korea, were retaliatory actions following the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who faces extradition to the United States. Washington has accused her of fraud for helping evade US sanctions against Iran. She was later released on bail pending her extradition hearing. Backed by the US and several European countries, Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland has repeated called for the immediate release of Kovrig and Spavor, whose arrests Ottawa has termed arbitrary.

DR Congo’s Catholic Church urges ‘truth’ amid tense presidential vote count; However, the church did not say which candidate had won. A senior church body, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), said “data in its possession from vote counting reports […] points to one candidate as president.” It called on election overseers “to publish the election results in keeping with truth and justice”. The remarks came after the head of the country’s electoral commission said it may have to postpone publication of provisional results from the December 30 election, which are due on Sunday.

Bolsonaro says open to US military base in Brazil; Bolsonaro, who took power on Tuesday, said that Russia’s support of President Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorship” in neighboring Venezuela had significantly ramped up tensions in the region and was a worrying development. Asked by the SBT TV network in an interview taped on Thursday if that meant he would allow U.S. military presence in Brazil, Bolsonaro responded that he would certainly be willing to negotiate that possibility. “Depending on what happens in the world, who knows if we would not need to discuss that question in the future,” Bolsonaro said.He emphasized that what Brazil seeks is to have “supremacy here in South America.” The far-right leader is upending foreign policy dating back over a decade, which saw the leftist Workers Party emphasizing South-South relations and sometimes tussling on the international stage with the United States. Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former Army captain and admirer of both Brazil’s 1964 to 1985 military dictatorship and U.S. President Donald Trump, has quickly deepened ties with the Unites States and Israel. Bolsonaro’s national security adviser, retired Army General Augusto Heleno, confirmed earlier on Thursday that the president wants to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but that logistical considerations were standing in the way. Heleno did not elaborate. But the country’s powerful agriculture sector is opposed to moving the embassy from Tel Aviv and angering Arab nations that buy billions of dollars worth of Brazilian halal or “permissible” meat each year.

Peru attorney general reverses decision on Odebrecht probe; The prosecutors, Rafael Vela and Jose Domingo Perez, had recently drawn up a plea deal with Odebrecht that committed the Brazilian construction company to providing evidence on some $30 million in bribes it says it paid to local politicians in Peru. The two are celebrated as anti-graft crusaders by many Peruvians for going after high-profile politicians, including four former presidents and opposition leader Keiko Fujimori. But late on Monday, Chavarry announced he was removing Vela and Perez from the case for exceeding their authority. By Wednesday, after protests and waves of criticism, Chavarry signed a resolution reappointing them to their posts, saying other prosecutors had declined to replace them.

JAPAN (NHK)

Nikkei plunges during opening session; The Tokyo Stock Exchange reopened for the first time this year with investors jittery following Wall Street’s plunge. In early trading hours, the benchmark Nikkei Stock Average briefly dropped over 3 percent. Industry executives attended an opening ceremony at the exchange. Women dressed in kimono rang a bell and officials clapped their hands to mark the start of the year’s trading. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said, “We are committed to the ongoing efforts to break Japan out of deflation, and will fully prepare for economic and fiscal management.” The Nikkei ended Friday morning’s session at 19,407 points. It down 607 points, or 3 percent, from the close of the previous year. The index briefly dropped 3.7 percent, or more than 700 points, in the morning session. In New York, the Dow ended the day down 2.8 percent on Thursday after IT giant Apple cut its earnings estimate for the last quarter. Apple’s share price plunged more than 10 percent from the previous close. On the foreign exchange market, investors continued to buy the yen as a safe haven currency. Market players say investors are more risk-averse after Apple’s announcement.

Huawei to invest $2 billion to improve credibility; The CEO of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei says the company will invest two billion dollars over the next five years to bolster cyber-security. In his letter to 180,000 employees, Ren Zhengfei said the company’s top priority is strengthening the security, resilience, and privacy of its products. He said the company will allocate two billion dollars for engineering trustworthy telecom infrastructure products. Huawei products are being squeezed out of the United States and Australia due to concern over national security risks. Ren’s letter was apparently designed to highlight the firm’s effort to improve the credibility of its products.

Cross-strait tension over African swine fever; Taiwanese authorities say a dead pig found on a beach on an island near mainland China tests positive for African swine fever. They say the pig originated in mainland China. The carcass was found on a beach in Kinmen County on Monday. Taiwanese officials say they have determined that the carcass drifted across the narrow strait between the Chinese mainland and the Kinmen islands. They say a DNA test detected traces of the strain of the African swine fever virus found in affected pigs in mainland China. They also note that lots of garbage from mainland China washes up on Kinmen’s beaches constantly. The officials say they informed Beijing of the infected pig and urged it to bring the epidemic under control. They accuse Beijing of not sharing enough information. Outbreaks have been confirmed at more than 100 locations across China. The disease kills many infected hogs within a few days. It causes a high fever and other symptoms. The virus does not affect humans.

S.Korea to release footage of radar incident; South Korea’s defense ministry says it is preparing to release a video clip to counter Japan’s allegation that a South Korean warship locked its fire-control radar onto a Japanese patrol plane. South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo spoke of the plan at a regular news conference on Thursday. The remarks follow the Japanese government’s release of video footage taken from the patrol plane. Choi said the South Korean video clip would show what’s problematic with the Japanese footage. She said the video would also pose questions for Japan to answer. The spokesperson says the clip does not include the footage of the Japanese patrol plane taken from the South Korean destroyer. The South Korean defense ministry has alleged that the warship never targeted its weapons radar at the Japanese plane. On Wednesday, Seoul demanded that Japan apologize for what Seoul calls a threatening low altitude flight. South Korea’s presidential office announced that the National Security Council held a meeting on Thursday to discuss the issue. It said the council discussed the seriousness of the incident in which a Japanese patrol aircraft staged a close flyby at a low altitude while the South Korean ship was rescuing a drifting North Korean fishing boat. It said the council members agreed to take necessary measures based on accurate facts.

M 5.1 quake hits Kumamoto Prefecture; A strong earthquake has hit western Japan. It registered an intensity of 6-minus on the Japanese seismic scale of zero to seven in the town of Nagomimachi in Kumamoto Prefecture. There is no danger of tsunami. Japan’s Meteorological Agency says the quake occurred at around 6:10 PM on Thursday. It first estimated the magnitude at 5.0, but later revised the figure to 5.1. The agency says the focus was about 10 kilometers underground in the Kumamoto region. Jolts were felt across much of the Kyushu, Chugoku and Shikoku regions. The quake registered 5-minus in Kumamoto City’s Kita ward and in the town of Gyokutomachi in Kumamoto Prefecture. It is the first time a quake registering 6-minus or stronger has hit Kumamoto Prefecture since the major quake on April 16th of 2016.