2019, March, Newsletter

World Newsletter Mar 31, 2019

World News March 31


Afghan vice presidential candidate, former intelligence chief and interior
minister Amrullah Saleh has called for a regional effort to fight terrorism
of the kind represented by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) leader Masood Azhar,
calling it a “venomous arm” of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI).
“…whether China does or doesn’t see him as a terrorist, he is a
terrorist,” Saleh said in an email interview from Kabul, when asked about
China putting a technical hold on a resolution designating Azhar as a global
terrorist by the UN?Security Council’s 1267 sanctions committee that
focusses on the fight against terrorism.
“See, when they attack India or Afghanistan they [ISI] use this tool
[terrorism] and then survive behind deniability themselves. Although it is
not sticking anymore, it is perceived as a second deterrence in the hands of
the Pakistani establishment,” Saleh said.
He quoted former US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen’s
description of the Haqqani network as a “virulent arm” of ISI.
He added: ” I believe the whole infrastructure of terrorism which breeds and
operates out of Pakistan is a virulent arm of ISI. Either we convince
Pakistan to delink itself from them, which is next to impossible, or we work
together to cut this venomous arm.”


On the day that their talks in Hanoi collapsed last month, U.S. President
Donald Trump handed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a piece of paper that
included a blunt call for the transfer of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and
bomb fuel to the United States, according to the document.
Mr. Trump gave Mr. Kim both Korean and English-language versions of the U.S.
position at Hanoi’s Metropole hotel on February 28, according to a source
familiar with the discussions. It was the first time that Mr. Trump himself
had explicitly defined what he meant by denuclearisation directly to Mr.
Kim, the source said. A lunch between the two leaders was cancelled the same
day. While neither side has presented a complete account of why the summit
collapsed, the document may help explain it.
The document’s existence was first mentioned by White House National
Security Adviser John Bolton in television interviews he gave after the
two-day summit. Mr. Bolton did not disclose in those interviews the pivotal
U.S. expectation contained in the document that North Korea should transfer
its nuclear weapons and fissile material to the United States.
The document appeared to represent Mr. Bolton’s long-held and hard-line
“Libya model” of denuclearisation that North Korea has rejected repeatedly.
It probably would have been seen by Mr. Kim as insulting and provocative,
analysts said. Mr. Trump had previously distanced himself in public comments
from Mr. Bolton’s approach and said a “Libya model” would be employed only
if a deal could not be reached. The idea of North Korea handing over its
weapons was first proposed by Mr. Bolton in 2004. He revived the proposal
last year when Mr. Trump named him as National Security Adviser.
The document was meant to provide the North Koreans with a clear and concise
definition of what the United States meant by “final, fully verifiable,
denuclearisation,” the source familiar with discussions said.


Australia pledged on Saturday to introduce new laws that could see social
media executives jailed and tech giants fined billions for failing to remove
extremist material from their platforms.
The tough new legislation will be brought to Parliament next week as
Canberra pushes for social media companies to prevent their platforms from
being “weaponised” by terrorists in the wake of the Christchurch mosque
Facebook said it “quickly” removed a staggering 1.5 million videos of the
white supremacist massacre livestreamed on the social media platform.
A 17-minute video of the March 15 rampage that claimed the lives of 50
people was widely available online and experts said it was easily
retrievable several hours after the attack. “Big social media companies have
a responsibility to take every possible action to ensure their technology
products are not exploited by murderous terrorists,” Prime Minister Scott
Morrison said in a statement.
Mr. Morrison, who met with a number of tech firms on Tuesday said Australia
would encourage other G20 nations to hold social media firms to account.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the new laws would make it a criminal
offence for platforms not to “expeditiously” take down “abhorrent violent
material” like terror attacks, murder or rape. Executives could face up to
three years in prison for failing to do so, he added, while social media
platforms would face fines of up to 10% of their annual turnover.


A political meddling scandal threatening Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s
re-election bid was given fresh impetus on Friday with the release of
messages and a secret recording supplied by his former Attorney-General.
In the 43 pages of documents, Jody Wilson-Raybould seeks to link her
demotion to another portfolio in January to her resistance to allegedly
undue pressure to settle the SNC-Lavalin case – which Mr. Trudeau and his
staff have denied.
And she hints about why, a month later, she resigned from Cabinet, saying
she had decided “that I would immediately resign if the new Attorney-General
decided to issue a directive in the SNC-Lavalin matter.”
Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin was charged in 2015 with corruption over alleged
bribes paid to secure contracts in Libya.
Ms. Wilson-Raybould refused to ask prosecutors to settle, and the trial is
set to proceed.


Ukrainians are heading to the polls on Sunday to vote in the first round of
presidential elections.
Current leader Petro Poroshenko is seeking re-election but the surprise
front runner is comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Both candidates, along with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, have
expressed largely pro-European views during campaigning.
None of the pro-Russian candidates are seen as serious contenders.
If no candidate gets more than 50% on Sunday, the top two will fight it out
in a second round on 21 April.
A total of 39 candidates are on the ballot paper, but only the three
front-runners are considered to have any chance of victory.


Mark Zuckerberg says regulators and governments should play a more active
role in controlling internet content.
In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Facebook’s chief says the
responsibility for monitoring harmful content is too great for firms alone.
He calls for new laws in four areas: “Harmful content, election integrity,
privacy and data portability.”
It comes two weeks after a gunman used the site to livestream his attack on
a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“Lawmakers often tell me we have too much power over speech, and frankly I
agree,” Mr Zuckerberg writes, adding that Facebook was “creating an
independent body so people can appeal our decisions” about what is posted
and what is taken down.
He also describes a new set of rules he would like to see enforced on tech
These new regulations should be the same for all websites, he says, so that
it’s easier to stop “harmful content” from spreading quickly across


In a stunning rebuke of Slovakia’s populist governing party, Zuzana Caputova
– a 45-year-old lawyer, activist and political newcomer – was elected
Saturday as the nation’s first female president.
Riding a wave of popular discontent over widespread corruption but refusing
to engage in personal attacks of her opponents, she vowed to return a sense
of decency to Slovakia’s often toxic political climate. Her sweeping victory
in a runoff election gave hope to opposition parties across the region that
the tide may be turning against the ethnic nationalist and populist
movements that have swept to power in recent years.
“Maybe we thought that justice and fairness in politics were signs of
weakness,” she told a crowd of supporters around midnight. “Today, we see
that they are actually our strengths. We thought that the barrier between
conservative and liberal is unbreakable, but we managed to do it.”
The country’s official statistics office said that with 97 percent of the
vote counted, she led with 58 percent over 42 percent for Maros Sefcovic, a
career diplomat who had the backing of the country’s governing party,


Weeks before a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, a man had
threatened to burn copies of the Koran outside New Zealand mosques, in what
community leaders said was the latest in a long list of threatening
behaviour against religious minorities. Police said they warned a
38-year-old man over the incident, which was unrelated to the Christchurch
attack, but could not say if it was part of a pattern.
That’s because, unlike many Western countries including the United Kingdom
and the United States, New Zealand’s government keeps no comprehensive
record of hate crimes, failing to act on requests to do so from local and
international agencies spanning more than a decade.
“For many years our view has consistently been that this needs to be
prioritised and implemented urgently,” said Janet Anderson-Bidois, Chief
Legal Adviser at the Human Rights Commission, the independent government
agency tasked with protecting human rights. “It is imperative that we have
good data.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ordered a Royal Commission, a powerful
form of inquiry, into the attack.


The Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge were plunged into darkness for
an hour Saturday to raise awareness about climate change and its impact on
the planet’s vanishing biodiversity.
The 13th edition of Earth Hour, organised by the green group WWF, will see
millions of people across 180 countries turn off their lights at 8:30 pm
local time to highlight energy use and the need for conservation.
“We are the first generation to know we are destroying the world. And we
could be the last that can do anything about it,” the charity said.
“We have the solutions, we just need our voices to be heard.” WWF-Australia
CEO Dermot O’Gorman told AFP that “Earth hour still is the world’s largest
grassroots movement for people to take action on climate change”.
“It’s about individuals taking personal action but joining with hundreds of
millions of people around the world to show that not only do we need urgent
action on climate change but we need to be protecting our planet,” he added.
Dozens of companies around the world have said they will join in this year’s
The event comes after some of the most dire warnings yet on the state of
Earth’s natural habitat and species.
WWF’s own “Living Planet” report in October said that 60 percent of all
animals with a backbone -fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals-had
been wiped out by human activity since 1970.
Another dataset confirmed the depth of an unfolding mass extinction event,
only the sixth in the last half-billion years.
Paris’ Eiffel Tower, New York’s Empire State Building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa
and the Acropolis in Athens are among the 24 global landmarks that will take
part in Earth Hour.

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