2019, March, Newsletter

World Newsletter Mar 29, 2019

World News March 29


President Donald Trump has said that Google is totally committed to the US
military as he met the Internet giant’s Indian-American CEO Sunder Pichai at
the White House, days after he accused the tech company of helping China and
its army.
Trump, who has been at loggerheads with several big companies, earlier this
month said, “Google is helping China and their military, but not the US”.
On Wednesday, after a meeting with Pichai at the White House, the US
President said: “Meeting ended very well”.
“Just met with @SundarPichai, President of @Google, who is obviously doing
quite well,” he said.
Pichai “stated strongly that he is totally committed to the US military and
not the Chinese military”, Trump said.
“Also discussed political fairness and various things that @Google can do
for our country. Meeting ended very well!” said the President.
There was no immediate tweet from Pichai.
However, a Google spokesperson said that the company is pleased to have
productive conversations with the President.


A Maltese special operations team seized a tanker on Thursday that had been
hijacked by migrants it rescued at sea, and returned control to the captain
who was sailing toward a Maltese port with the migrants and crew, armed
forces said.
The migrants would be turned over to police for investigation, armed forces
Authorities in Malta and Italy said the migrants had hijacked the cargo ship
on Wednesday after it rescued them in the Mediterranean Sea and forced the
crew to put the Libya-bound vessel on a course north toward Europe.
Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said the Turkish oil tanker El
Hiblu 1 had rescued about 120 people and described what happened as “the
first act of piracy on the high seas with migrants” as the alleged
It had been heading toward Italy’s southernmost island of Lampedusa and the
island of Malta when Maltese forces intercepted it.
The captain had told Maltese armed forces he was not in control of the
vessel “and that he and his crew were being forced and threatened by a
number of migrants to proceed to Malta.” A patrol vessel stopped the tanker
from entering Maltese waters, they said.
The special team that restored control to the captain was backed by a patrol
vessel, two fast interceptor craft and a helicopter.
There was no immediate word on the condition of El Hiblu 1’s crew.


Iceland’s budget carrier WOW Air said it had ceased operations and cancelled
all flights on Thursday, stranding thousands of passengers.
The collapse of the troubled airline, which transports more than a third of
those travelling to Iceland, comes after buyout talks with rival Icelandair
collapsed earlier this week.
“All WOW Air flights have been cancelled. Passengers are advised to check
available flights with other airlines,” the carrier said in a statement.
“Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares,
in light of the circumstances. Information on those airlines will be
published, when it becomes available.”
Iceland’s government said it estimated that 4,000 travellers were stranded,
including around 1,300 currently in transit.
At Reykjavik airport, hundreds of passengers were stranded as 30 WOW Air
flights to Paris, New York, Montreal were cancelled.
On Monday WOW Air said it was in talks to restructure its debt with its
creditors after Icelandair ended brief negotiations over buying a stake in
the no-frills airline.


MPs will be asked to vote again on Brexit on Friday but only on part of the
deal negotiated with the EU.
They will vote on the withdrawal agreement on the Irish “backstop”, divorce
bill and citizens’ rights.
But it will not amount to a third “meaningful vote” on the deal, as it will
not include a vote on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
Amid anger from MPs, Andrea Leadsom said it was “crucial” if the UK wanted
to secure a Brexit delay until 22 May.
MPs will be debating the motion on the day the UK was supposed to leave the
European Union – 29 March.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Theresa May was essentially
asking MPs to turn it into a game of two halves – just voting on the first
part of the deal which sorts out the UK’s departure and leaving the longer
term part for the next few weeks.
But it is still not certain it will get through – both Labour and the
Democratic Unionist Party say they will vote against the withdrawal
agreement on Friday.


The United States has bypassed the United Nations Security Council 1267
Sanctions Committee by directly filing the draft resolution to blacklist
Jaish-e-Mohammad Masood Azhar with the council, China alleged on Thursday.
“The US has bypassed the 1267 committee and has directly filed the draft
resolution with the security council. This is not in line with the
resolution of the issue through dialogue and negotiations,” Chinese Foreign
Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing here, Geng said that the “move”
had reduced the authority of the committee as a main anti-terrorism body of
the security council. “This is not in line and is not conducive to the
solidarity and will only complex the issue. We urge the US to act cautiously
and avoid forcefully moving forward this resolution draft,” he said.
“This is in line with the rule of procedures of the committee and there are
some precedent cases of such technical holds. The listing of Masood Azhar
involves a series of complex factors and China has also been working to seek
proper resolutions through dialogue and consensus. The security council
should act in a prudential way to play a constructive role and create
necessary time and space for the relevant parties to conduct dialogue and
negotiations,” Geng added.
Asked whether China has ever blocked actions to add Azhar to the sanctions
list, Geng said, “At the committee of 1267, China has never done that. No.”
However, he added, China has never denied such a draft. “We just put forward
a hold,” he said.


Even as unofficial results of the Election Commission showed that Thailand’s
pro-army Palang Pracharat Party won the general elections – the first since
a military coup in 2014 – controversy shrouded the counting of votes after
nine people were arrested for spreading “fake news” on Facebook.
The Palang Pracharat Party garnered 8.4 million ballots while the Pheu Thai
Party, whose elected government was toppled in the coup, got 7.9 million
votes, Reuters quoted Krit Urwongse, deputy secretary-general of the
Election Commission, as saying.
The nine people who were arrested had claimed on Facebook that two election
commissioners had been sacked and 600,000 illegitimate ballots were mixed
into the vote count. They face up to five years in jail and a $3,100 fine.
The people were charged under the draconian Computer Crimes Act “for sharing
or passing false information”, AFP quoted Siriwat Deephor, a spokesman for
the Computer Crime Suppression Division Police, as saying.
Even as unofficial results of the Election Commission showed that Thailand’s
pro-army Palang Pracharat Party won the general elections – the first since
a military coup in 2014 – controversy shrouded the counting of votes after
nine people were arrested for spreading “fake news” on Facebook.
The Computer Crimes law gives broad powers to crack down on online content
and to target regime critics. “They confessed and said they didn’t know that
it was fake news,” he said.
However, amid mounting allegations over election irregularities by the
Opposition, the Election Commission said it would stagger announcements of
the official results, claiming “human error” in calculating ballots in some
In order to appoint a prime minister, the winning party must clinch more
than half of the 750 seats in the combined lower and upper houses.
But all 250 seats in the upper house are military-appointed, according to a
charter passed by the junta, meaning non-aligned parties need a higher
number of votes to control the government.


A Pakistani minister has branded the US ambassador to Kabul a “little pygmy”
in a high-level diplomatic Twitter row that erupted over ongoing peace talks
between Washington and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The furore underscores the delicate balance of regional tensions as the US
steps up a push to find a way out of Afghanistan, more than 17 years after
the invasion.
It began after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan reportedly suggested an
interim government in Afghanistan to help smooth the talks process, making
the comment during a briefing with local reporters on Monday.
Mr. Khan’s comments caused uproar in Afghanistan, which has long held
neighbouring Pakistan’s shadowy intelligence services responsible for
supporting and training the Taliban.
Kabul recalled its ambassador on Tuesday, and the Pakistani foreign office
tried to downplay Mr. Khan’s comments on Wednesday, saying they had been
reported “out of context… leading to an unwarranted reaction”.
But shortly after US ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass issued a tweet
rebuking Mr. Khan while alluding to his past as captain of Pakistan’s World
Cup-winning cricket team and numerous cheating scandals in the sport
involving Pakistani players.
“Some aspects of #cricket apply well in diplomacy, some do not.
@ImranKhanPTI, important to resist temptation to ball-tamper with the
#Afghanistan peace process and its internal affairs. #AfgPeace,” the tweet
Pakistanis outraged at the snub to their leader from a foreign envoy in
another country took to Twitter in response — including Mr. Khan’s minister
for human rights, Shireen Mazari.
“Clearly you little pygmy your knowledge of ball tampering is as void as
your understanding of Afghanistan and the region! Clearly in your case
ignorance is certainly not bliss! Another sign of Trumpian mischief a la
Khalilzad style!” she wrote, referring to the US envoy leading the peace
talks, Zalmay Khalilzad.


At his first political rally since the end of the Russia collusion probe,
President Donald Trump on Thursday accused backers of the investigation of
trying to overturn the 2016 election and attempting “illegally” to claim
Declaring the country “hurt” by the probe, Trump called his opponents
“losers” and celebrated the fact the investigation had come to a close.
“After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is
finally dead. The collusion delusion is over,” he told a crowd of thousands
at a Grand Rapids arena.
“The Russia witch hunt was a plan by those who lost the election to try and
illegally regain power by framing innocent Americans – many of them, they
suffered – with an elaborate hoax,” he said.
With that cloud largely lifted, Trump has let loose, calling out those who
supported the investigation and referring to evil acts of treason by his
Trump revisited that theme at the rally, knocking the media and Democrats
and calling for accountability.
“These are sick people and there has to be accountability because it’s all
lies and they know it’s lies,” Trump said.

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