2019, May, Newsletter

World Newsletter May 22, 2019

World News May 22

BREXIT: PM UNDER FIRE OVER NEW BREXIT PLAN

Prime Minister Theresa May set out on Tuesday a “new deal” for Britain’s
departure from the European Union, offering sweeteners to opposition parties
in her fourth attempt to break an impasse in parliament over Brexit.
Three years since Britain voted to leave the EU and almost two months after
the planned departure date, May is mounting a last bid to try to get the
deeply divided parliament’s backing for a divorce deal and leave office with
some kind of legacy.
The odds do not look good. Despite offering what she described as
“significant further changes”, many lawmakers, hardened in their positions,
have already decided not to vote next month for the Withdrawal Agreement
Bill, legislation that implements the terms of Britain’s departure.
May appealed to lawmakers to get behind her deal, offering the prospect of a
possible second referendum on the agreement and closer trading arrangements
with the EU as incentives.
“I say with conviction to every MP or every party: I have compromised, now I
ask you to compromise,” she said. “We have been given a clear instruction by
the people we are supposed to represent, so help me find a way to honour
that instruction, move our country and our politics and build the better
future that all of us want to see.”
By offering the possibility of holding a second vote on her deal and a
compromise on customs arrangements, May hopes to win over opposition Labour
lawmakers, whose votes she needs to overcome resistance in her own
Conservative Party.
But she has infuriated Brexit-supporting lawmakers, who have described a
customs union with the EU as no Brexit at all.

CHINESE-BUILT DRONES MAY STEAL DATA, WARNS U.S.

Washington has warned that Chinese-made drones could be giving spy agencies
in Beijing “unfettered access” to stolen data, according to a report in
American media.
The Department of Homeland Security sent out an alert on Monday flagging
drones built in China as a “potential risk to an organisation’s
information”, CNN reported.
The U.S. government has “strong concerns about any technology product that
takes American data into the territory of an authoritarian State that
permits its intelligence services to have unfettered access to that data or
otherwise abuses that access,” wrote CNN, quoting the DHS alert.
The warning comes as China’s tech sector attracts unprecedented scrutiny
amid China-US trade war.
U.S. intelligence believes Huawei is backed by the Chinese military and that
its equipment could provide Beijing’s spy agencies with a backdoor into the
communications networks of other countries.
“Safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our
technology has been independently verified by the US government and leading
US businesses,” DJI said in a statement.
“For government and critical infrastructure customers that require
additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or
via the internet,” the company added.

GERMANY WILL DO ITS UTMOST TO PREVENT OIL SHOCK: NEW ENVOY

Germany will do everything to save the nuclear deal with Iran, the new
German Ambassador to India, Walter J. Lindner, told The Hindu on Tuesday.
His statement reflects the official position of Germany, which is working to
prevent a conflict in the Persian Gulf and a consequent oil shock for
nations like India.
“Nuclear rivalry would break out in the West Asian region if the nuclear
deal fell apart. No one wants such a scenario because of the implications
for the world. Germany will do everything in its ability to keep Iran in the
nuclear deal,” said the Ambassador, who submitted his letter of credential
to President Ram Nath Kovind.
Mr. Lindner said Germany, along with other European Union members, supported
India’s plans to counter a possible oil shock in case of increased
volatility in the Persian Gulf.
The Iran issue is likely to figure during the visit of Chancellor Angela
Merkel to India. She will be among the first visitors to the country after
the end of the election.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was among the signatories to a statement
issued after the end of U.S. waivers for oil trade and vowed to stand by
Iran.
However, the Ambassador did not spell out any strategy to deal with U.S.
President Donald Trump’s strategy for increasing pressure on Iran through
renewed sanctions. Mr. Maas had expressed collective “regret” at the
re-imposition of sanctions by the United States.

AUSTRIAN CHANCELLOR KURZ TO FACE NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is set to face a no-confidence vote in
Parliament next week after his governing coalition collapsed over a
corruption scandal.
Speaker Wolfgang Sobotka, a member of Mr. Kurz’s conservative People’s
Party, set a special session of the legislature for Monday. Opposition
parties wanted it held this week, but Mr. Sobotka said he wants to “give
space to the EU election campaign,” the Austria Press Agency reported on
Tuesday. Austria elects European Parliament lawmakers on Sunday.
The Opposition Now party has drawn up a no-confidence motion seeking to oust
Mr. Kurz before an early national election expected in September.
Mr. Kurz called for that election after far-right Freedom Party leader
Heinz-Christian Strache, who was his Vice-Chancellor, resigned on Saturday.
Mr. Strache was shown on video appearing to offer favours to a purported
Russian investor during a meeting two years ago on the Spanish island of
Ibiza.
Mr. Kurz’s party holds only 61 of the 183 seats in parliament. It isn’t yet
clear whether the second and third-biggest parties, the center-left Social
Democrats and the Freedom Party, will vote to remove him, depriving the
32-year-old of the advantage of going into the national election as the
incumbent.
That would leave President Alexander Van der Bellen to name an interim
Chancellor.

SHOE GIANTS URGE TRUMP TO END TRADE WAR

Some of the world’s biggest footwear firms are urging Donald Trump to end
the US trade war with China, warning of a “catastrophic” effect on
consumers.
In a letter signed by 173 companies, including Nike and Adidas, they said
the President’s decision to hike import tariffs to 25% will
disproportionately impact the working class.
They also warn that higher levies threaten the future of some businesses.
“It is time to bring this trade war to an end,” the firms urged.
Mr Trump increased levies on $200bn (£157.3bn) worth of Chinese imports into
the US from 10% to 25% more than a week ago after Washington and Beijing
failed to reach a deal on trade.
China retaliated by announcing plans to raise levies on $60bn of US imports
from 1 June.
The footwear companies that signed the letter, including Clarks, Dr Martens
and Converse, claim that while the average US tariff on footwear is 11.3%,
in some cases it can reach as high as 67.5%.
“Adding a 25% tax increase on top of these tariffs would mean some working
American families could pay a nearly 100% duty on their shoes,” the
companies wrote.
“This is unfathomable.”

FOR GREENER NETHERLANDS, DUTCH ISSUE ‘GREEN BOND’

The Netherlands said it was issuing its first “green bond” on Tuesday,
becoming the first top-rated country to tap into a growing market for
investments in environmental projects.
It is aiming to raise between four and six billion euros ($4.5 billion to
$6.7 billion) up to July 2040, according to HSBC, one of the banks handling
the operation, although the Dutch government did not immediately give a
figure.
“The Netherlands is today the first triple A country to issue a green bond,”
Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Twitter.
The Dutch finance ministry added: “With green bonds we finance green
expenditures and we stimulate the green capital market. A new step towards a
greener economy and a greener Netherlands.”
Climate change and the environment are pressing issues for the Netherlands,
where at least a third of the country lies below sea level.
Analysts said the Netherlands’ first green bond set a high bar for other
countries because of its tough standards.
Green bonds, where governments sell debt specifically earmarked for
environmental projects, launched a decade ago but the overall share of green
instruments in global finance remains small.

AMAZON SET FOR FACIAL RECOGNITION REVOLT

Opposition to Amazon’s sale of its facial recognition technology to US
police forces is set to come to a head at its annual general meeting on
Wednesday.
Shareholders will vote twice on the matter.
First, over whether the company should stop offering its Rekognition system
to government agencies.
And second, over whether to commission an independent study into whether the
tech threatens people’s civil rights.
The votes are non-binding, meaning executives do not have to take specific
action whatever the outcome.
Amazon had tried to block the votes but was told by the Securities and
Exchange Commission that it did not have the right to do so.
“We’re hopeful that we’ll get strong support from other investors and that
will send a signal to the company that they shouldn’t move forward with
sales to governments until or unless they are able to mitigate the risks,”
Mary Beth Gallagher from the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment
told the BBC.
“It could enable massive surveillance, even if the technology was 100%
accurate, which, of course, it’s not.
“We don’t want it used by law enforcement because of the impact that will
have on society – it might limit people’s willingness to go in public spaces
where they think they might be tracked.”

STOP IT! JAPAN ANTI-GROPER APP BECOMES SMASH HIT

A Tokyo police smartphone app to scare off molesters has become a smash hit
in Japan, where women have long run the gauntlet of groping on packed
rush-hour trains.
Victims of groping can activate the Digi Police app, which either blasts out
a voice shouting “stop it” at top volume, or produces a full-screen SOS
message, which victims can show other passengers-reading: “There is a
molester. Please help.”
The app has been downloaded more than 237,000 times, an “unusually high
figure” for a public service app, said police official Keiko Toyamine.
“Thanks to its popularity, the number is increasing by some 10,000 every
month,” Toyamine said.
Victims are often too scared to call out for help, she said. But by using
the SOS message mode, “they can notify other passengers about groping while
remaining silent”.There were nearly 900 groping and other harassment cases
on Tokyo trains and subways reported in 2017, according to the latest
available data from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.
“But it’s the tip of the iceberg,” Toyamine said, with victims often
hesitant to come forward.
Offenders face up to six months in jail or fines of up to 500,000 yen
($5,500 dollars). The potential jail sentence is increased to 10 years if
violence or threats are used.

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