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.

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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.

World News Headlines: 01-03-2018

Germany (DW)

China lands Chang’e 4 probe on ‘dark’ side of moon; The Chinese probe Chang’e 4 has become the first spacecraft ever to make a successful landing on the far side of the moon. The probe includes a rover to study geology and how the moon formed. China’s Chang’e 4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, state broadcaster CCTV reported on Thursday morning. The successful “soft landing” marks a groundbreaking development in space exploration, being the first time that a spacecraft to land on the side of the moon that faces away from Earth. Chang’e 4, which is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, entered its planned orbit to allow the landing on Sunday. It landed in the Von Karman crater, which is in the lunar South Pole’s Aitken Basin, at about 0226 UTC.

Malta opens waters to German NGO rescue boats beset by seasickness closer to shore; Berlin-based Sea-Watch said conditions on the boats had become dangerous, with migrants suffering from severe sea-sickness and post-traumatic stress disorder. The vessels were denied access to ports in Malta and Italy.German migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 sent a desperate plea on Wednesday for a harbor to dock. Conditions aboard the ship have worsened, after 12 days at sea and bad weather conditions on the Mediterranean, Sea-Watch said in a statement posted on Twitter. The Berlin-based NGO vessel rescued 32 migrants on December 22, including four women, three children and four unaccompanied minors, and has not been allowed to reach ports in Malta or Italy. Their extended stay on Mediterranean waters is slowly depleting the ship’s resources and endangering everyone on board, Sea-Watch said.

Taiwan rejects China’s ‘reunification’ proposal; Chinese President Xi says he will “leave no room” for separatist activities, and that Beijing “reserves the option of taking all necessary means,” including the use of force, for the Taiwan “reunification.”Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that the island’s “unification” with China was not possible under the “one country, two systems” model. She, however, agreed to start a dialogue with Beijing as an exchange between two sovereign states. In a televised speech, Tsai reiterated her government’s stance that Taiwan would not accept Chinese President Xi Jinping’s proposal as Taiwan’s public opinion was opposed. “We have never accepted the 92 consensus because, even as per China’s definition, Taiwan is part of the ‘one country, two systems’ model,” Tsai said. “President Xi’s speech shows that our concerns about his intention to unify Taiwan with China are true.” Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, Xi pledged efforts for the peaceful reunification of Taiwan with China, but did not rule out using military force. Xi described reunification under a “one country, two systems” approach that would ensure “the interests and well-being of Taiwanese compatriots.” All people in Taiwan must “clearly recognize that Taiwan independence would only bring profound disaster to Taiwan,” Xi said in his address. “We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities,” he said. “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means.”

FRANCE (France24)

DR Congo blocks RFI transmissions, withdraws journalist’s accreditation; After curbing access to social media and text messaging services, Congolese authorities on Tuesday withdrew the accreditation of RFI’s correspondent in Kinshasa, Florence Morice, and blocked the radio’s transmissions. Government spokesman Lambert Mende accused Morice of violating electoral law and “the code of good conduct for foreign journalists” covering the December 30 elections. Mende said RFI’s broadcasts had been cut off “in all of Congo’s cities”, accusing the radio of spreading rumours about the election results, which are due on Sunday. “We are not going to let a radio station throw petrol on the flames at a time when we are waiting for the compilation of the provisional results,” Mende added. The elections will determine who succeeds President Joseph Kabila, who has been at the helm of sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest country for nearly 18 years. Legislative and municipal elections took place alongside the presidential ballot.

Madagascar police fire tear gas to break up post-election protest; In the run-off vote on December 19, Ravalomanana won 44 percent against the winner Andry Rajoelina on 55 percent, according to provisional results. Thousands of Ravalomanana’s supporters gathered in the centre of the capital Antananarivo but were quickly dispersed by police using tear gas, said an AFP reporter at the scene. “We came to erect a giant screen projecting anomalies in the second-round election but we were fired at with tear gas,” Hanitra Razafimanantsoa, a lawmaker from Ravalomanana’s party, told the media. “Respect our choice, we don’t reserve a fraudulent election,” read protest banners held by Ravalomanana’s supporters, who have vowed to hold daily protests. The country’s Constitutional Court is reviewing a petition filed by Ravalomanana challenging Rajoelina’s victory. It is due to hand down its ruling next week. Ravalomanana has denounced what he called “massive fraud” and urged supporters to “defend” their votes.

Eyeing China, US to hold missile drill in Japan’s Okinawa: report; The US military will this year conduct its first ever missile drill around the Japanese island of Okinawa, according to a report Thursday, as Washington seeks to counter an increasingly assertive China. The US military has told its Japanese counterpart it plans to deploy surface-to-ship missiles in the strategically important Okinawa this year for the first such drill by Japan’s key ally, the Sankei Shimbun reported, without citing sources. The drill would involve a mobile rocket launcher seen as a counter-measure to potential attacks from Chinese surface-to-sea ballistic missiles, the paper said. In recent years, Chinese warships have frequently sailed through waters near Okinawa, where the majority of US troops in Japan are based. Experts say China’s increasingly active maritime activities are part of a plan to establish control of waters within the so-called “first island chain” that links Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines. Some analysts believe Beijing seeks to end US military dominance in the western Pacific by exerting control of the second island chain that links Japan’s southern Ogasawara island chain, the US territory of Guam, and Indonesia. China’s rapid military build-up has unnerved Asian neighbours, with Japan’s defence chief last year saying China had been “unilaterally escalating” its military activities in the previous year. Beijing insists the activities are for self defence.

JAPAN (NHK)

Trump receives letter from Kim Jong Un; US President Donald trump says he has received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and will be setting up a meeting with him “in the not-too-distant future.” Trump revealed this at the year’s first cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Trump said that but for the actions of his administration, there would be a “nice, big fat war” now in Asia. He stressed the results of his efforts that realized the first-ever US-North summit last year and created a “good relationship” with the North leader. He said he is looking forward to meeting again with Kim. In a New Year’s address on state-run TV on Tuesday, Kim said he is ready to meet with Trump again at any time. But he also said that Pyongyang would have no other choice but to seek a “new path” if the US maintains sanctions on North Korea.

Shanahan: US military to focus on China; New acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan says China will remain the US military’s top priority. Shanahan officially took office on Tuesday, replacing James Mattis. US media say he held a meeting with Pentagon officials the following day, in which he said he would stick with current defense strategies focusing on China and Russia. They say Shanahan also told the officials to focus on “China, China, China,” even as the US fights militants in Syria and Afghanistan. Trump has suggested Shanahan could be acting defense secretary for an extended period of time. Shanahan had worked in the private sector and had no military or diplomatic experience when Trump appointed him deputy defense secretary in 2017.
His new role will see him dealing with China and the planned withdrawal of US troops from Syria.

China admits survey activities near Okinotori; China says one of its survey ships recently conducted research activities in waters Japan claims are within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Tokyo lodged a protest, saying the vessel researched waters near the Okinotori Islands without its permission. Japan claims them as its southernmost islands. At a news conference on Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang sought to justify the research around the Okinotori Islands in response to a question from a Japanese reporter. Lu said that according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, “Okinotori reef does not meet the basic requirements to be recognized as island.” He added “the Japanese side unilaterally calls it an island and claims the so-called EEZ and continental shelf, but the Chinese side has never acknowledged that.” The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea requires its signatory nations to obtain a permit before carrying out marine research activities in the EEZs of other countries. The Japanese Embassy in Beijing says it lodged a protest with China after it learned in mid-December that the Chinese ship’s research activities near the islands lacked Japan’s permission.

Xi stresses reunification with Taiwan is the goal; Chinese President Xi Jinping has reiterated that he intends to bring about the “reunification” of China and Taiwan. He indicated Beijing will not rule out the use of force to counter external interference and the island’s moves toward independence. Xi gave a speech in Beijing on Wednesday to commemorate the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan,” which was issued by China 40 years ago, on New Year’s Day in 1979. The Message was a document that urged Taiwan to attain peaceful reunification with mainland China. Xi said it’s a historical and legal fact that Taiwan is part of China and that both sides of the strait belong to one China. He said this cannot be changed “by anyone or any force.” Xi proposed dialogue with political parties and other groups in Taiwan based on the “one China” principle. Xi noted the “one country, two systems” framework, as seen in Hong Kong and elsewhere, is the best approach for reunification with Taiwan. He expressed his willingness to explore how the two sides should be reunified. Xi said China reserves the option to use all necessary measures against Taiwan’s moves toward independence, and against outside forces that interfere with the reunification. The remark is an apparent attempt to counter the current administrations in Taiwan and the United States. Beijing regards Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration as one that leans toward independence.

S.Koreans apply to seize Japanese firm’s assets; Lawyers for South Korean plaintiffs who won damages in a suit against a Japanese steelmaker have applied to seize some of the company’s assets in South Korea. The lawyers said in a statement issued Wednesday that they had filed an application with a court on Monday to seize the assets of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal. South Korea’s top court in October ordered the company to pay damages to four South Korean men who say the firm forced them to work during World War Two. Their lawyers have since urged the steelmaker to accept negotiations to compensate the plaintiffs. But such talks have not taken place. In the statement, the lawyers express strong regret over what they call the company’s insincerity and inhumane attitude. The lawyers say they seek to seize Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal’s shares in a joint venture with South Korea’s largest steelmaker Posco. That’s some 2.34 million shares, or 30 percent stake, in the joint venture. South Korean media report that the shares are worth about 11 billion won, or 9.8 million dollars. A court judgment on the case is expected soon. Japan-South Korea relations are likely to be further strained.

World News Headlines: 01-02-2019

GERMANY (DW)

Brazil swears in far-right President Jair Bolsonaro; Brazil has sworn in former army captain President Jair Bolsonaro, amid tight security. The far-right politician, an admirer of the country’s former military dictatorship, pledged to rid the country of “ideological ties.”Bolsonaro was sworn in as at president on Tuesday, promising to overhaul the country’s economy and bring about sweeping social change. An aficionado of US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro rose to power on a pro-gun, anti-corruption agenda. Speaking in an address to the nation on Tuesday, Bolsonaro said, now that he had taken power, his country had been “liberated from socialism and political correctness.” In an earlier inauguration speech, the 63-year-old former paratrooper had promised to “unite the people, value the family, respect religion and our Judeo-Christian tradition, combat the ideology of gender and preserve our values.”

Dozens massacred by armed men in Mali; Violence between rival and Fulani communities has claimed the lives of more civilians, Mali’s government said. The region has been plagued by ethnic tensions, Islamist militant groups and conflict over resources. In total, 37 civilians belonging to the Fulani ethnic group were killed in an attack on a village in central Mali on Tuesday, the government said. The attackers, “armed men dressed like traditional dozo hunters” according to a government statement, raided the village of Koulogon, located in the central Mopti region. Some of the victims were children. Moulage Guindo, the mayor of the nearby town of Bankass, said the attack occurred around the time of the first call to prayer of the new year. Guindo said the assailants targeted the Fulani part of Koulogon and that the other part of the village is mostly inhabited by Dogon, an ethnic group to which the Donzos are linked.

Germany has big plans for UN Security Council seat; Germany is once again occupying a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. How does it plan to use it — and what is the country’s current involvement in UN missions? German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ business trip to New York in June has borne fruit. He had long been making the case for Germany to have a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the United Nations’ most important body.Germany has a lot of plans it wants to implement over the next two years. At the UN General Assembly in September, Foreign Minister Maas advocated strengthening multilateralism, which has come under pressure from, among other things, the “America First” policies of US President Donald Trump. “The United Nations is at the heart of the multilateral system,” said Maas before departing for New York earlier this year. “We are living at a time when we need more international order, more reliability, more confidence in our common rules. The United Nations is as strong, just and effective as its members make it.”

US support of Israel to continue despite Syria pullout, says Pompeo; The US secretary of state has reassured Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington still supports his country. Pompeo’s comments reflect unease caused by Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw US troops from Syria. A decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria will not affect Washington’s cooperation with Israel over Syria and in efforts to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (top photo) said on Tuesday. “The decision the president made on Syria in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel,” Pompeo said. “The counter-ISIS [“Islamic State,” IS] campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made,” he said.

DR Congo: Internet, SMS shutdown threatens crediblity of election; Internet, SMS messages and media have been restricted for a second day following a chaotic election. The opposition claims the government is committing election fraud. The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government cut internet and SMS services across the country for a second day on Tuesday, further threatening the credibility of a delayed presidential election marred by irregularities and voting problems. The government said it shut down communications for “security reasons” as votes were being tallied from Sunday’s election. In a joint statement, the European Union, the United States, Canadian and Swiss heads of mission in Kinshasa urged the government to immediately restore communications. “We request that the government refrains from blocking means of communication, in particular access to the internet and the media,” they said. They also called on the government to allow the main Congolese election monitoring organizations to have access to voting centers counting ballots. Final results are expected on Sunday. The signal to Radio France Internationale (RFI), one of the most popular news sources in the French speaking country, was also jammed.

FRANCE (France24)

Bolsonaro says Brazil ‘liberated from Socialism’ at inaugural ceremony; Bolsonaro is the latest of several far-right leaders around the world who have come to power on a wave of anti-establishment anger and promises to ditch the status quo. A fan of US President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old longtime congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energised Brazilian conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers’ Party.

Romania takes over EU presidency amid strained relations with Brussels; Brussels is already at loggerheads with the increasingly populist government in Bucharest on multiple fronts and Juncker’s comments highlight some of the strains. Romania will be in charge for the next six months as the European Union faces a series of tricky tests – most notably Brexit, European parliamentary elections, and wrangling over the next budget. The Eastern European nation, which takes the presidency for the first time as it succeeds Austria, has been one of the EU’s most consistently europhile member states since it joined in 2007.

Dozens killed in central Malian region plagued by ethnic violence; Violence between Fulani and rival communities has compounded an already dire security situation in Mali’s semi-arid and desert regions, which are used as a base by jihadist groups with ties to al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group. The government said in a statement that the attackers, who were dressed as traditional Donzo hunters, raided the village of Koulogon in the central Mopti region and that some of the victims were children. Moulage Guindo, the mayor of Bankass, the nearest town, said the attack occurred around the time of the first call to prayer of the new year and targeted the Fulani part of Koulogon. He said another part of Koulogon is mostly inhabited by Dogon, an ethnic group to which the Donzos are linked, less than 1 km (half a mile) away. Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over its north in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year. Islamists have since regained a foothold in the north and centre, tapping into ethnic rivalries to recruit new members.

Centre-left opposition splinters ahead of Israeli election; The announcement means the end of their Zionist Union alliance, which secured the second most seats in the last general election in 2015, but has since slipped in opinion polls. The Zionist Union included Gabbay’s Labour party and Livni’s Hatnuah. It won 24 out of 120 seats in 2015, behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, which won 30. Gabbay’s partnership with Livni, which he inherited from previous Labour leader Isaac Herzog, had been uneasy since he took over the party’s helm in 2017. “I still believe in partnership, in connections, in uniting a large camp committed to change, but successful connections necessitate friendship, upholding agreements and commitment to a course,” Gabbay told a meeting of Zionist Union parliament members.
“That didn’t happen in this partnership,” he said, adding that he believed voters agreed.

JAPAN (NHK)

Emperor greets well-wishers for last time; Emperor Akihito is delivering his annual New Year greetings to the public at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday. It is the last time the Emperor and Empress Michiko will greet well-wishers before he abdicates in April. More than 30,000 people were waiting outside the main gate when it opened at 9:15 AM. The number was far larger than the previous year. The Emperor and other members of the Imperial family waved to the crowd from the palace’s balcony three times before noon. The Emperor said he was pleased to celebrate the New Year with the people under clear skies. He expressed hope that this year will be a good one for everyone. He said he is praying for peace and happiness for people in Japan and around the world. Following his address, many well-wishers expressed words of gratitude for his 30 years on the throne. A 21-year-old man said the Emperor has remained close to the people by praying for the war dead and visiting disaster-hit areas.

Poll: 70% see development in Heisei era; An NHK survey shows that nearly 70 percent of respondents say they saw development in their communities during the 30 years of the current Heisei era. The era began on January 8th, 1989 when Japan’s Emperor Akihito ascended the throne. It will end on April 30th this year, one day before Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the throne at the start of a new era. NHK conducted the survey between September and November last year to find out how people viewed the era. A total of 3,554 people, or 59 percent, responded. Asked about how their communities fared during the period, 67 percent said their regions underwent development while 30 percent said they saw a decline. The survey shows the respondents’ feelings about development are linked to the size of their communities. Of those who live in Tokyo’s 23 wards, 74 percent cited expansion. Elsewhere, the figure was 66 percent in cities except for ones with special designations, and 58 percent in towns and villages. The respondents were divided over the large-scale municipal mergers that were carried out in the middle of the era. The amalgamation saw a decrease in the number of municipalities across the country from about 3,200 to around 1,700. 54 percent expressed appreciation for the measure, while 43 percent opposed it.

Tsai: China’s interference a challenge; Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has said the island faces security risks, especially China’ s attempts to use the openness and freedom of Taiwan’s democratic system to interfere in its politics and society. Tsai said in her New Year speech that dealing with these moves by China has become Taiwan’s greatest challenge. Tsai was referring to the Chinese government’s plan to step up exchanges with municipalities in Taiwan where top posts were elected from the opposition Nationalist Party. Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party suffered a blow in last November’s mayoral and gubernatorial elections. China wants to strengthen ties with new local leaders from the pro-China opposition party on condition that they accept its “one China” principle. Tsai is wary of the move, which seeks to bypass her government.

March held in Hong Kong against political pressure; Thousands of people joined a march in Hong Kong to protest what’s seen as a clampdown by China on pro-democracy groups and activists. A civic group organized the march in central Hong Kong on Tuesday. The group says about 5,500 people took part. Last year, authorities in Hong Kong banned a political organization that called for the territory’s independence from China. They also disqualified five pro-democracy candidates in the Hong Kong assembly and other elections. Protesters said that the high-level of autonomy given to Hong Kong has been threatened. They argued the banning of some candidates from the elections constitutes political repression. They demanded that the right to vote must be returned to people. Tuesday’s marchers included Joshua Wong, who had led major protests in 2014 as the head of a student organization. He warned that many more politicians could be oppressed this year. He said he wants to fight against such circumstances.

China’s economic slowdown continues; A key gauge of China’s manufacturing sector fell for the fourth straight month in December. Data released by the National Bureau of Statistics on Monday shows that the official Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, fell to 49.4. A figure under 50 indicates contraction instead of growth. The December figure is down 0.6 points from November, and is the first contraction since July 2016. The PMI for new export orders fell to 46.6, marking a contraction for the seventh straight month. Investment in infrastructure, which has been the main engine of China’s growth, is stagnant. Sales of new cars this year are expected to be below last year’s figure. That would be the first year-on-year decline in 28 years. The figures show that the economic outlook among manufacturers in China is increasingly bleak against the backdrop of ongoing trade friction with the United States.

World News Headlines: 01-01-2019

                                                                     HAPPY NEW YEAR

GERMANY (DW)

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un calls for end to US-South Korea military drills; In his New Year’s Day speech, the North Korean dictator warned the US not to demand unilateral action. Otherwise they will seek a “new path.” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Tuesday he wanted to continue de-nuclearization discussions with the US, but warned that his patience should not be tested. In his new year speech, he called on the US to halt its joint military exercises with South Korea and to refrain from deploying military assets in the country. He warned that he may have no choice but to seek a new path if Washington “continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure.” “If the US does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world,” Kim said, “we may be left with no choice but to consider a new way to safeguard our sovereignty and interests.”

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro tries to unite the entire right; Brazil is inaugurating President Jair Bolsonaro on New Year’s Day. His administration is a potpourri of conflicting interests. Is this going to work out? Politics without ideologies and party cliques — this was Jair Messias Bolsonaro’s campaign promise. And Brazil’s incoming president has indeed assembled an administration with diverse affiliations. There are seven career politicians in Bolsonaro’s cabinet, seven military men and eight “technocrats.” The most obvious division is between the “Chicago boys” — nicknamed for their affinity for the laissez-faire economists turned out for decades by the University of Chicago — and the military wing, including Bolsonaro himself and his vice president, General Hamilton Mourao. Led by the finance guru, banker and incoming economy minister Paulo Guedes, the classically liberal economists intend to cut state spending as much as they can. Guedes intends to cut subsidies for entrepreneurs, as well as pensions in the public sector. State-owned enterprises are to be privatized. This puts him on a collision course with the military, which does not want to see strategic industries, such as oil production and electricity supply, in foreign hands.

Indonesia: Dozens missing after landslide hits West Java village; On New Year’s Eve, dozens of homes were buried by a landslide in West Java. Scores of people are missing. At least two people are dead and 41 people are missing after a landslide hit the Indonesian region of West Java on Monday. Rescue teams are searching the village of Sirnaresmi in Sukabumi district. The village was hit by a landslide shortly before sunset on New Year’s Eve. Rescuers were hampered by heavy rain, power cuts and rough roads, officials said.

UK brings in boats to patrol English Channel amid migration spike; The UK is withdrawing patrol ships from overseas to deal with a surge in crossings of the English Channel. Opposition politicians accuse the government of pumping up the issue for political gain. Britain will recall two overseas border patrol boats in response to a spike in migrants attempting to cross the English Channel in dinghies, it announced on Monday. “I have taken the decision to redeploy two Border Force vessels — known as cutters — which are currently based abroad to the UK,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement after a government crisis meeting on the issue. The boats will join three other vessels already patrolling the waters. In 2018, 539 people attempted to migrate to the UK on small boats from France, according to the British Home Office, with 80 percent of those occuring the past three months. The majority of people came from Iran.
Most recently, police picked up a group of 12 people from a beach in southwestern England, including two women and a 10-year-old child.

JAPAN (NHK)

Man arrested after driving into pedestrians; Tokyo police have arrested a 21-year-old man for driving into pedestrians on a crowded street on New Year’s Day, injuring eight people. The incident occurred at 10 minutes past midnight on Takeshita Street in Shibuya Ward, a popular shopping street for young people. The man plowed into the pedestrians as he drove in the wrong direction along the street. The victims are aged between their teens and their 50s. One male university student is in a critical condition. The driver was identified as Kazuhiro Kusakabe. He fled the scene but police later arrested him on suspicion of attempted murder of the student. Investigators say the man initially told them he had conducted a terrorist act. They say he later admitted to the attempted murder charge. He then claimed his action was an attack on the system of capital punishment. The street was closed to vehicular traffic at the time. It was bustling with people headed to a major shrine to pray for good luck in 2019.

Japan’s new era to be named on April 1st; NHK has learned that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to have the name of the country’s new era announced on April 1st, after it is approved by the Cabinet earlier in the day. Abe intends to outline his plan at a news conference on Friday. The name of the new era will come into use in the country on May 1st, when Crown Prince Naruhito ascends the throne. Emperor Akihito will abdicate one day before that. The government has been making arrangements based on the assumption that the name of the new era will be published at least one month before the enthronement. The government hopes the timeframe will prevent the change from having a negative effect on people’s lives. A name is chosen to mark a new era every time an Emperor ascends the throne.

 

World News Headlines: 12-31-2018

Germany (DW)

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRANCE (France24)

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

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

JAPAN (NHK)

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

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

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

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

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

World News Headlines:12-30-2018

GERMANY (DW)

Bangladesh heads to the polls amid deep polarization; Voters are casting their ballots in an election that has been tainted by a crackdown on opposition parties and rights groups. The ruling Awami League party is widely expected to retain power amid vote-rigging claims. Voters were lining up at polling stations across Bangladesh on Sunday to cast their ballots in a general election that is widely expected to hand a third straight term to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The election is taking place following a weekslong campaign that was dominated by deadly violence and allegations of a crackdown on thousands of opposition activists. Opposition supporters said their workers faced attacks and intimidation, including shootings and arrests in the run-up to the poll. Authorities have deployed more than 700,000 troops and security personnel to maintain order during the vote. “I will cast my vote no matter what,” Shiuly, a Dhaka-based physiotherapist, told DW on Saturday. The mother of two is wary of a prevailing climate of fear ahead of the polls, but sees casting a ballot as her duty. “The ruling Awami League party has performed well in the past few years. It should have relied on the Bangladeshi people to win another election. Instead, the regime is responsible for creating a sense of fear among the public. Hundreds of people have been arrested, which has damaged the image of the party,” she said. But not many people in the capital, Dhaka, are as determined to vote as Shiuly. Mohammad Rafique, a rickshaw puller in Dhaka’s Farmgate area, said he would monitor the situation on Sunday and then decide whether it was safe enough to head to the polling center.

EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker offers to fast-track post-Brexit talks if UK accepts divorce deal; The UK Parliament is set to vote on a Brexit divorce deal in January. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said both sides could start talks on post-Brexit ties a day after the deal’s approval. The European Union should immediately enter talks on its future relations with the United Kingdom in the event that British lawmakers pass a draft deal on the UK’s exit from the bloc, the head of the EU’s executive has said. “If lawmakers in the House of Commons approve the withdrawal agreement in mid-January, we should begin work the very next day on the future relations between the UK and the EU,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper. Following more than a year and a half of difficult negotiations, the UK Parliament is set to vote on the withdrawal agreement sometime after January 14. Prime Minister Theresa May delayed the vote in early December amid widespread opposition from both pro- and anti-EU lawmakers toward the agreement.

Colombia investigates plot to assassinate President Ivan Duque; Authorities have said an alleged plot to kill the president may involve three Venezuelans who were recently arrested with assault weapons. Ivan Duque has been a vocal critic of his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro.Colombia’s intelligence services have been monitoring chatter for several months about “credible” plans to assassinate President Ivan Duque, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said Saturday in a video message. The possible plot may involve three Venezuelans who were recently arrested with assault weapons, he said, without giving further details. “Intelligence investigations into possible attacks have been going on for several months,” Trujillo said. “Added to that is the recent capture of three Venezuelan citizens found in possession of weapons of war, which further increases concerns.” Two of the Venezuelan men were captured on December 21 on a bus in the northern city of Valledupar, Reuters news agency reported, citing unnamed police and military sources. The third, also armed, was arrested days later. Weapons found on the men included an assault rifle with a telescopic scope as well as a 9-mm mini-Uzi, ammunition and a stun grenade. Security for Duque has been increased with the help of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, Reuters reported.

China orders fresh trial for Canadian drug trafficker; Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was set to begin a 15-year jail sentence for smuggling drugs. But the Canadian could now face the death penalty after a Chinese court ordered a retrial of his 2016 conviction.A Canadian man convicted of drug smuggling in China could face the death penalty after an appeals court found his initial 15-year jail sentence too lenient and ordered a retrial. The case threatens to add further strain to a tense diplomatic standoff between Beijing and Ottawa. Judges on the Higher People’s Court of the northeastern province of Liaoning, near North Korea, said Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s punishment for the 2016 conviction, which also included a 150,000 yuan (€19,000/$21,800) forfeiture, was “obviously inappropriate” given the severity of his crimes. Evidence also showed he was not merely an accomplice but someone who had played an “important role” in smuggling drugs into China, the court added. Authorities have not released any details of the accusations against Schellenberg. Ottawa said it was following the case closely. China permits the death penalty in severe drug trafficking cases. In 2009, it executed Briton Akmal Shaikh for smuggling 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of heroin into the country.

EU, Mercosur aim to make world’s biggest trade bloc by end of 2019; The EU and Japan will soon become the world’s biggest free trade area. But this record might be short-lived with Brussels chasing a deal with South America’s Mercosur, EU’s Cecilia Malmström has said.After the trade deal between the EU and Japan goes into effect on February 1, Brussels will focus on clinching a deal with South American Mercosur group before the end of next year to form an even bigger trading bloc, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told the German DPA news agency on Saturday. The Mercosur trade area includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela with the total population of some 260 million people. Venezuela’s membership has been suspended in 2016 due to issues including its human rights record. If the deal is completed, businesses on both sides of the Atlantic could save billions on tariffs. The EU and Mercosur representatives have been working on a free trade deal since 2000. Earlier this year, Argentina’s foreign minister Jorge Faurie said the accord might be concluded by September, but the talks have seemingly stalled in recent months. One of the reasons for the delay was the victory of far-right Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, EU’s Cecilia Malmström told DPA on Saturday. With Bolsonaro set to take office in January, the outgoing government was unable to make clear commitments on trade.

Serbia: Thousands march against President Aleksandar Vucic for 4th week; Tens of thousands have turned out for a fourth week of anti-government demonstrations in Belgrade. The protesters accuse President Aleksandar Vucic of gagging mainstream media and sidelining critical voices. More than 20,000 Serbs took to the streets in the capital, Belgrade, on Saturday to march against President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party. The protesters, who accuse the president of stifling democratic freedoms, chanted “Vucic thief!” as they marched peacefully through the city center in the fourth such protest in as many weeks. Vucic’s opponents say the president is an autocrat who has imposed tight controls on mainstream media and sidelined critical voices. Vucic has denied the allegations.

Netherlands, German police thwart Dutch ‘terror plot’; Security forces in the Dutch city of Rotterdam and the German city of Mainz have arrested five people suspected of plotting a “terrorist crime.” Rotterdam police are investigating the scale of the terror threat. The Dutch public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation on Saturday into a suspected terror plot in the Netherlands. The counterterrorism Special Intervention Service (DSI) and police initially arrested four people in Rotterdam who were suspected of plotting a “terrorist crime,” police said. Police in the western German city of Mainz later detained a fifth suspect, a 26-year-old Syrian man with no prior criminal record, after searching the apartment where he was found. Police said they sought the suspect’s arrest after receiving an extradition request from Dutch authorities.
“He is strongly suspected of taking part in the preparation for an attack in the Netherlands,” police said.

World News Headlines: 12-28-2018

GERMANY (DW)

Cocaine in Germany: The ‘South American tsunami’; International security agencies likely confiscated more cocaine in 2018 than ever before. German investigators fear a more violent struggle for control of the market among gangs in the future — even in Europe. The Spanish port of Algeciras in April 2018: Investigators regularly find drug shipments here, mainly from South America. Still, what police found hidden between crates of bananas during this particular operation would turn out to be a decisive victory against cocaine smugglers in Europe: Some nine tons of cocaine were confiscated on this day, the largest amount of the drug ever seized in a container in Europe, according to Spain’s interior minister. The street value of the haul was estimated to be roughly half a billion euros.

Germany’s DAX falls to 2-year low; At one point, the Frankfurt stock market plunged 3 percent, with Germany’s two biggest banks taking large hits. In New York, the Dow’s Santa rally continued for a second day, despite weaker consumer confidence.German equities failed to benefit from Wall Street’s bumper post-Christmas rally on Thursday, with the DAX index shedding a hefty 2.4 percent at the close to 10,381 — at one point plunging more than 3 percent. German pharmaceutical, chemical and life sciences giant, Merck, was Frankfurt’s worst performer, seeing a whopping 4.46 percent wiped off the value of its shares. Germany’s biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, along with auto giant Volkswagen, each saw 4 percent declines. The selloff took Germany’s benchmark stock index to a two-year low, a fall of 20 percent since the start of 2018.

France: Former Emmanuel Macron bodyguard under fresh scrutiny; Alexandre Benalla, a former bodyguard for French President Emmanuel Macron, has allegedly been using a diplomatic passport on business trips to Africa. France’s Foreign Ministry is considering legal action.The Elysee Palace has raised concerns over Emmanuel Macron’s disgraced former bodyguard, Alexandre Benalla, and his recent work as a “consultant” in Africa, the presidency confirmed on Thursday. In a strongly worded letter to Benalla dated December 22, Macron’s office chief Patrick Strzoda demanded more details regarding Benalla’s business trips to several African countries and told him not to claim any links to the French government. The sacked security aide was also warned against divulging any confidential information gleaned while working for Macron. “Let us be clear: we forbid you from claiming you have any kind of recommendation or tacit support from the presidency,” Strzoda wrote. He also asked Benalla to provide “all relevant information” regarding his consultancy work. “Whatever Mr. Benalla does, he is neither an official nor an unofficial envoy of the president. If he presents himself as such he is wrong,” the news agency Agence France-Presse quoted the president’s office as saying in a statement.

Former Hitler house owner seeking €1.5 million compensation; The previous owner of Adolf Hitler’s birth home in Braunau am Inn is seeking more than a million euros in compensation payment for the building. Austria seized the property last year and intends to tear it down.

Austria: Monks assaulted at Vienna church in apparent robbery; Police in Vienna are hunting for two people who tied up five monks, injuring one severely. At least one of the assailants apparently asked for money and valuables. Five monks have been assaulted at the Maria Immaculata church in Vienna’s Floridsdorf district, with one suffering head injuries. Two assailants, one armed with a pistol, beat a 68-year-old monk and then overwhelmed four others as they came to help, police spokesman Harald Sörös told Austria’s APA news agency. Police were notified three hours later and found the five clerics — the youngest aged 56 — tied up. They were all taken to hospital. The eldest had suffered head wounds, possibly from a metal bar. A sixth man was also held in an adjacent office but not hurt, police said.

Police clash with protesters in DR Congo over election delay; Parts of Congo hit by a widespread Ebola outbreak will not be able to vote until March. The country, meanwhile, has expelled the EU’s ambassador after Brussels renewed sanctions on 14 Congolese nationals.Congolese police fired tear gas into crowds of protesters and shot bullets into the air in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo on Thursday. Demonstrations have erupted across Congo’s areas hardest-hit by Ebola after the government announced it would delay voting in the country’s upcoming elections in these regions. In Beni, witnesses told the Reuters news agency that demonstrators ransacked an Ebola isolation center and it was possible that some patients had fled. At least six people were arrested in the province of North Kivu, the area most affected by the voting delay. The area is also a stronghold of political opposition to President Joseph Kabila.

FRANCE (France24)

Ten Burkina Faso police officers killed in ambush; “The toll is 10 officers who have lost their lives and three wounded,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that a police convoy from the Toeni region and reinforcements from the Dedougou area had been ambushed. Security minister Clement Sawadogo confirmed the toll on national television, announcing an increase in police and army forces patrolling the area. The officers were attacked while heading to the village of Loroni, near the border with Mali, after a school had been attacked and textbooks torched by armed assailants, a security source told AFP.

Rescue boat set to arrive in Spain with over 300 migrants; The Open Arms is scheduled to dock in the port of Crinavis, in San Roque, just across from Gibraltar near the city of Algeciras, at 8:00 am (0700 GMT). Proactiva Open Arms, the Spanish charity which runs the vessel, tweeted the details on Thursday. Red Cross workers will be on hand to provide food, clothes and medical assistance to the 310 migrants on board, including people from Somalia, Nigeria and Mali.

Volatile DR Congo braces for troubled election; One of the world’s powder-keg countries faces a crunch test on Sunday when Democratic Republic of Congo heads into elections marred by delays, clashes and fears of polling-day chaos. The vote crowns two years of turmoil, sharpening worries that the fragile giant of central Africa may once more spiral into violence. Twenty-one candidates are vying to succeed Joseph Kabila, who aged just 47 has been at the helm for nearly 18 years. If all goes well, one will be sworn in on January 18 — the very first time that the DRC will have achieved a peaceful transition of power since gaining independence in 1960. But the prospects of achieving this have dimmed as concern over the poll’s credibility has risen, along with a diplomatic storm with Europe. Sunday’s election will be the DRC’s first presidential ballot in seven years. It should have been held in 2016 when Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, reached a two-term limit. But he remained in office, invoking a caretaker clause under the constitution. It came at the cost of protests that were bloodily crushed, leaving scores of dead.

JAPAN (NHK)

Heavy snow and blizzards expected; Japanese weather officials say snow is intensifying along the Sea of Japan coast. They are warning of possible transportation disruptions during the year-end holiday season. The Meteorological Agency says heavy snow is expected in mountainous areas in eastern and western Japan. It adds snow may accumulate on the ground in some parts of the Tokai and Kansai regions. Expected accumulations during the 24 hours through Saturday morning are up to 80 centimeters in Niigata Prefecture, 70 centimeters in the Tohoku region, 60 centimeters in the Kanto-Koshin region, and 50 centimeters in the Hokuriku region and Hokkaido. The agency officials say a strong winter pressure pattern will continue until around Sunday. It may bring heavy snow to many areas. Blizzards are also expected, mainly in areas along the Sea of Japan coast in northern Japan and Hokuriku. Maximum wind speeds of 72 kilometers per hour are projected for Hokkaido and Hokuriku, and 65 kilometers per hour for Tohoku, with occasional gusts of up to 108 kilometers per hour. The officials say people should watch out for snow that has piled up on overhead power lines and tree branches, and also be alert for possible avalanches. The poor weather may have already contributed to one death. Local police in Yamagata Prefecture say a 65-year-old man found dead near a snowplow early on Friday might have been caught under a wheel.

Photojournalist Hirokawa apologizes for sex abuse; Renowned photojournalist Ryuichi Hirokawa has apologized after a weekly magazine reported that several women claim he sexually abused them. The Shukan Bunshun weekly says in its latest issue that the women, including those wishing to be photographers, have come forward to accuse him. Hirokawa issued an apology on the website of “Days Japan,” a monthly photo magazine for which he has served as publisher and editor-in-chief. He said he lacked awareness that his actions had hurt the women and apologized. The board of Days Japan has dismissed Hirokawa as representative director after questioning him. Officials say he admitted in part to what the weekly’s article said. The board also posted an apology on the website, saying the journal’s long-time publisher and editor-in-chief had harmed the dignity of the women. Hirokawa gained fame for his coverage of Palestinian refugees, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Five-year sentences sought for ex-TEPCO execs; The court-appointed lawyers, who serve as prosecutors, have demanded five-year prison sentences for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company. They say the executives are responsible for the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The court-appointed lawyers delivered their closing argument at the Tokyo District Court on Wednesday. The defendants are former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former vice president Ichiro Takekuro, and former vice president Sakae Muto. They all pleaded not guilty to charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury. Public prosecutors decided not to indict the three, but an inquest panel, comprised of randomly chosen citizens, decided that the former executives should stand trial. In line with that decision, the men were indicted by court-appointed lawyers in February 2016. The court-appointed lawyers say the defendants were told two to three years before the accident that a massive tsunami could hit the nuclear plant. They also say the defendants did not try to gather information about the potential danger. The court-appointed lawyers indicate that the former executives later claimed that they had not been informed, and that the executives put all the blame on their subordinates.