2019, February, January`, Newsletter

World News Issue Jan 29, 2019

World News Jan 29

US-TALIBAN DEAL BEING GREETED WITH CAUTION

Afghanistan has known so many false starts that when US Special Envoy to
Kabul Zalmay Khalilzad declared Sunday that a six-day round of direct talks
between the US and Taliban in Doha has led to a “framework” for a peace
agreement, there was more caution than optimism all around.
The broad contours of the framework are said to be: a commitment by the
Taliban not to allow terrorists (read IS, an addition to the existing mix)
to use Afghan territory to mount attacks on the US and its allies; an
agreement by the US to pull out troops, but contingent on what remains a
stumbling block — a Taliban agreement to talk with the Afghan government,
and to a permanent ceasefire.
Khalilzad himself struck a note of caution by underlining that the
“framework” had to be fleshed out in the coming rounds.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who addressed the nation Monday after being
briefed by Khalilzad, cautioned against rushing into a deal. “We want peace
quickly, we want it soon, but we want it with prudence. Prudence is
important so we do not repeat past mistakes,” Ghani said. He asked the
Taliban to engage with the Afghan government directly.

US FILES CHARGES AGAINST CHINA’S HUAWEI AND CFO MENG WANZHOU

The US Justice Department has filed a host of criminal charges against
Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.
The charges against the world’s second largest smartphone maker include
accusations of bank fraud, obstruction of justice and theft of technology.
The case could ratchet up tensions between China and the US, and impact the
firm’s global expansion efforts.
Both Ms Meng and Huawei deny the allegations.
Ms Meng was arrested in Canada last month at the request of the US for
allegedly evading sanctions on Iran.
“For years, Chinese firms have broken our export laws and undermined
sanctions, often using US financial systems to facilitate their illegal
activities. This will end,” said US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
The indictment alleges Huawei misled the US and a global bank about its
relationship with two subsidiaries, Huawei Device USA and Skycom Tech, to
conduct business with Iran.
US President Donald Trump’s administration has reinstated all sanctions on
Iran removed under a 2015 nuclear deal and recently imposed even stricter
measures, hitting oil exports, shipping and banks.
A second case alleges Huawei stole technology from T Mobile used to test
smartphone durability, as well as obstructing justice and committing wire
fraud.

INDIAN-AMERICAN SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS BEGINS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN

Kamala Harris, a U.S. Senator from California of African and Indian descent,
officially launched her 2020 presidential campaign on Sunday from her
hometown of Oakland.
Speaking in front of the Oakland City Hall, with over 20,000 people in
attendance — a larger crowd than former President Barack Obama had at his
campaign launch in 2007 — Ms. Harris projected herself as a candidate of the
people.
“I walked into the courtroom for the very first time and said the five words
that would guide my life’s work, ‘Kamala Harris, for the people’,” she said
, speaking of her early days as a public prosecutor 30 years ago. Those five
words flashed across screens at Sunday’s rally and now constitute her
campaign slogan for 2020.
Shortly after announcing her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last
week, Ms. Harris had declared that she had raised $1.5 million within the
first 24 hours.
A child of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Ms. Harris was, in 2010, the
first woman of African and Indian descent to become California’s
Attorney-General, and, in 2016, the second African-American woman in the
U.S. Senate.
Early on in her speech, Ms. Harris invoked memories of her mother, Shyamala
Gopalan, a biologist who immigrated to the U.S. from Chennai. “My mother
used to say, ‘Don’t sit around and complain about things, do something’,”
Ms. Harris said.
Her parents, both active in the Civil Rights Movement, had met at the
University of California, Berkeley. “[W]e were taught to see a world, beyond
just ourselves. To be conscious and compassionate about the struggles of all
people.”
At various points during her speech, Ms. Harris took on the Donald Trump
administration and its narratives about America. “[W]e are at an inflection
point in the history of our world… we are at an inflection point in the
history of our nation. We are here because the American dream and our
American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before,” she
said.

GUAIDÓ CALLS FOR NEW ANTI-MADURO PROTESTS

Venezuelan Opposition leader Juan Guaidó called on Sunday for two new
protests, in an effort to push the military to turn against President
Nicolás Maduro.
In a video posted on Twitter, Mr. Guaidó said the first of the nationwide
strikes, on Wednesday from noon to 2:00 p.m. (1600-1800 GMT), would be one
“to demand that the armed forces side with the people”.
EU calls for election
The second, on Saturday, will be a “big national and international rally to
back the support of the European Union and the ultimatum” from Britain,
France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands that they would
recognise Mr. Guaidó as interim President unless Mr. Maduro calls elections
by February 3.
The EU was more vague, saying it would take “further actions” if elections
were not called in the coming days, including the issue of recognition of
the country’s “leadership”. Australia, meanwhile, said it “recognises and
supports” Mr. Guaidó as interim President pending elections. And Italy
called for “a rapid return to democratic legitimacy”.

JAPAN PM VOWS TO STEP UP CHINA TIES BUT BOLSTER DEFENSE

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on Monday he will further expand
his country’s already improving ties with China but said Japan still needs
to bolster its defense capability as far as space amid concern about Chinese
military activity and uncertainty over North Korea’s denuclearization.
In a policy speech to Parliament, Mr. Abe omitted references to South Korea,
which he had routinely mentioned as Japan’s most important neighbor, as
Tokyo tries to distance itself amid escalating spats over history and
alleged incidents between the two defense forces.
Mr. Abe said Japan-China relations have returned to “normal” since he
visited Beijing in October and he now wants to further promote their
cooperation in trade and other areas.
“Japan-China relations have fully returned to a normal orbit,” Mr. Abe said.
“I will elevate it to a next level by deepening exchanges in every area in
all levels.”
Mr. Abe said he seeks to achieve unresolved postwar legacies during his
leadership settling island disputes and signing peace treaty with Russia and
normalizing relations with North Korea, while cooperating with other
countries toward achieving the North’s nuclear and missile program
abandonment.

GREECE TO ISSUE 5-YEAR BOND “IN NEAR FUTURE” – BOURSE FILING

Greece will return to bond markets with a five-year issue “in the near
future, subject to market conditions”, authorities said on Monday.
The sovereign has mandated BofA Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs International
Bank, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley and SG CIB as joint lead managers
for the transaction, according to a regulatory filing to the stock exchange.

‘EMOTIONAL BREAKDOWN’ OF PILOT CAUSED NEPAL CRASH

An “emotional breakdown” by the pilot caused a deadly plane crash in Nepal
last March, a government investigation concluded, in the worst aviation
accident in the Himalayan nation for decades. The March 12 flight from Dhaka
crash-landed at Kathmandu airport and skidded into a football field where it
burst into flames, killing 51 people on-board.
“The probable cause of the accident is due to disorientation and a complete
loss of situational awareness in the part of crew member,” the report said.
The investigation concluded that there was clear evidence the pilot in
command, Captain Abid Sultan, was harbouring “severe mental stress” and was
upset after a woman co-worker had questioned his reputation as a good
instructor.
According to the report, Sultan talked non-stop and smoked throughout the
short flight from Dhaka to Kathmandu, as he tried to impress upon the junior
co-pilot his competence and proficiency. “One of the reasons could be him
trying to prove… he is a very competent pilot and would be able to safely
land the aircraft in any adverse situation,” the report said.

RARE TORNADO RAVAGES HAVANA, AT LEAST THREE KILLED

A rare tornado ripped through three working-class districts of Havana around
midnight, leaving at least three dead and 174 people injured, state-run
media reported.
This was the first twister to hit the Cuban capital in decades.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel tweeted damage was extensive as he toured one of
the hardest hit districts, confirming photos and videos of the damage posted
on social media.
Pictures of destroyed housing, cars and small trucks turned upside down and
rubble strewn streets were posted on Twitter under the hash tag
#Havanatornado, along with a shot of the huge twister touching down in the
city.
The reports of deaths and injuries were preliminary as rescue workers combed
through damaged buildings in the blacked-out neighborhoods where much of the
housing is dilapidated.

UK PARLIAMENT’S BREXIT COMMITTEE SAYS NO-DEAL CANNOT BE GOVT POLICY

Britain’s government cannot have a “managed no deal” as its policy for
leaving the European Union and parliament must be able to extend the
negotiating period with the bloc, a committee of British lawmakers said on
Monday.
“Having taken a wide range of evidence on the implications of a no deal
Brexit, the committee is clear that this cannot be allowed to happen,”
Hilary Benn, chairman of parliament’s Brexit committee, said.
“MPs (lawmakers) must be able to vote on extending Article 50 if Parliament
cannot reach agreement on a way forward before March 29,” Benn said after
the committee published its response to May’s defeat on her Brexit deal by
230 votes in parliament two weeks ago.

DONALD TRUMP WARNS EUROPEANS AGAINST TRYING TO EVADE IRAN SANCTIONS

The Trump administration is closely eyeing efforts in Europe to set up an
alternative money payment channel to ease doing business with Iran without
running afoul of US sanctions.
The White House is putting the Europeans on notice, saying that if they try
to do an end-run around US sanctions on Iran, they will be subject to stiff
fines and penalties.
A spokeswoman for the European Union says preparations for the alternative
system are “at an advanced stage” and could be announced “very soon.”
In an effort to get ahead of any announcement, a senior administration
official told The Associated Press on Friday that the US will fully enforce
its sanctions and hold anyone accountable for undermining them. The official
spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue.

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