World Newsletter

20th Aug 2019

The UK government has said EU free movement rules will end immediately if  there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.  Theresa May had considered phasing out the rules if the UK leaves the EU  without an agreement, but those plans have now been dropped.  The change would affect the rights of EU citizens who arrive in the UK from  November onwards.  A Lib Dem MP has criticised the move as "irresponsible and reckless".  Under Mrs May, two options had been considered to prolong the rules, which  allow EU nationals to live and work freely in other countries in the bloc,  under no deal.  One option was for the rules to be extended until January 2021, and another  was to allow EU citizens to stay for three months before applying for a  longer stay.  Those plans have been dropped by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in favour of  a new approach to be set out at a later stage.  Speaking on Monday, Mr Johnson said the UK would not "become hostile to  immigration," but it would be "democratically controlled" after Brexit.  The Home Office said EU citizens currently living in the UK would still have  until December 2020 to apply for the right to remain under its settled  status scheme.  "Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October when the  UK leaves the EU, a spokesperson said.  "After Brexit the government will introduce a new, fairer immigration system  that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather  than where they come from."  A Downing Street spokeswoman added that "tougher criminality rules" for  those coming to the UK will be introduced.  PAKISTAN'S CHIEF OF ARMY STAFF GENERAL BAJWA GETS THREE-YEAR EXTENSION  Pakistan Prime Minister Office on Monday announced that Chief of Army Staff  General Qamar Javed Bajwa will get a three year extension "from the date of  completion of current tenure". The announcement said the decision "has been  taken in view of the regional security environment". Gen. Bajwa's original  term was to end in November after serving as Army chief for three years. He  will remain as Army chief till November 2022.  Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry told The Hindu  that the extension shows the seriousness of the situation on the borders.  "Gen. Bajwa is considered a man of peace but at the same time, he is a  no-nonsense person; his tenure and background knowledge brings a lot of  substance on the table." Mr. Chaudhry believes the history of the  subcontinent "can be reshaped in these three years".  Dr. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, an academic and Leftist politician, said the  extension underscores the fact that the Army is Pakistan's most powerful  institution. "On the surface, the Prime Minister is making this decision but  in practice, this is a question of the Army's own internal decision-making  or what it wishes to be. From the outside, it is impossible for us to know  whether there is any dissent within the institution on this front and one  can only conjecture about that but the truth is that once such a decision is  made and the Army chief is given an extension in tenure, then one assumes  this reflects some kind of coherent will within the institution itself for  continuity." Mr. Akhtar added that he doesn't think the regional security  situation is the real issue. "The real issue is the internal power dynamics  in Pakistan and the fact that the Army wants its chief to continue."  According to senior analyst Irshad Bhatti, this is a "timely and a good  decision". "If you look at Pakistan internally - be it the economy, fight  against terrorism or accountability, it is pertinent for the Army to stand  behind the government."  MACRON, PUTIN OPTIMISTIC ON UKRAINE, CLASH ON SYRIA  French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir  Putin, both expressed hope on Monday that the election of Volodymyr  Zelenskiy as Ukrainian leader had boosted chances of ending a long-running  conflict in eastern Ukraine - a conflict Macron described as an "irritant"  in EU-Russia relations.  Speaking at a press conference at his summer residence in southern France,  Macron said he wanted to attend a summit with the leaders of Ukraine,  Russia, and Germany - the so-called Normandy format - soon to try and  resolve the conflict in which more than 13,000 people have died.  "There is a real opportunity to put an end to the conflict that has been  going on for five years," he told reporters, saying there had been "real  changes" since Zelenskiy came to office in May.  Putin, in his turn, said there were "grounds for cautious optimism"  regarding chances of peace in eastern Ukraine. Moscow has come under  frequent criticism from the EU and other international entities for its  involvement in the conflict. Russia denies any direct participation.  Willing to return to G8  Their talks come just days before the French president hosts G7 talks in  Biarritz. Russia was thrown out of what was the Group of Eight (G8) leading  economies in 2014 after Moscow annexed Ukraine's peninsula of Crimea in an  internationally condemned move that came shortly before the conflict pitting  Russian-backed forces against government troops in Ukraine's Donbass region.  Putin indicated on Monday that Russia would be prepared to rejoin if  invited. "We would not refuse, he said, adding that "any contacts with our  partners, in any format, are useful."  Macron said, however, that "a return to the Group of Eight as well as a  return to fully normalized relations with the European Union requires a  solution to the Ukraine question." The two leaders were less in agreement  over Syria, with Putin defending Moscow-backed Syrian military action  against what he called "terrorists" in Idlib province, while Macron spoke of  children being killed by bombs.  AFGHANISTAN: SERIES OF BLASTS WOUND DOZENS ON INDEPENDENCE DAY  A series of bombings struck restaurants and public squares on Monday in the  eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, wounding at least 66 people, officials  said, as the country marked the 100th anniversary of its independence.  No group claimed responsibility for the 10 bombs but both Islamic State (IS)  and the Taliban militants operate in the area.  IS claimed responsibility for a weekend bomb attack on a wedding reception  in the capital, Kabul, that killed 63 people and wounded nearly 200.  The Jalalabad bombs were planted near a market where hundreds of people had  congregated after attending Independence Day events. Senior health official  Fahim Bashari said at least 66 people were wounded, including 20 children  enjoying the public holiday.  President Ashraf Ghani, in an Independence Day address in Kabul, called on  the international community to stand with Afghanistan to eradicate the  militants' "nests".  "Our fight against the Daesh will continue," he said, referring to IS. "The  Taliban have laid the foundation for such brutal killings."  RELATIONSHIP WITH PAKISTAN IMPROVED AFTER AID CUT: DONALD TRUMP  US President Donald Trump has said the US' ties with Pakistan have improved  after he cut USD 1.3 billion in security assistance to Islamabad for not  doing enough to rein in terror groups operating in the country.  President Trump announced last year that the USD 1.3 billion aid to Pakistan  would remain suspended till the country did not act against militant safe  heavens inside its territory.  In his first tweet of the year last year, Trump said US had "foolishly"  given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years,  and got "nothing but lies and deceit" in return.  In September, the Trump administration cancelled USD 300 million in military  aid to Islamabad for not doing enough against terror groups active on its  soil.  "I cut back USD 1.3 billion a year to Pakistan. When I cut it back, I have a  better relationship with - as you know, we have a great relationship. Prime  Minister came in," Trump told reporters at Bedminster in New Jersey on  Sunday.  "We have a great relationship with Pakistan now. We had a really good  meeting," Trump said, referring to his meeting with Khan.  "So, what happened: I cut back USD 1.3 billion. We have a better  relationship now," he said, arguing that foreign aid has little relevance to  a relationship with a country.  DONALD TRUMP SEEKS TO SUE GOOGLE FOR 'MANIPULATING VOTES' IN 2016 ELECTIONS  US President Donald Trump on Monday sought to sue multinational technology  company Google for allegedly manipulating up to "16 million votes" in favour  of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 elections.  The election results had surprised many as Ms. Clinton was tipped to win by  the media and pollsters.  "Wow, Report Just Out! Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million  votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election! This was put out by a Clinton  supporter, not a Trump Supporter! Google should be sued," Mr. Trump tweeted.  "My victory was even bigger than thought!" he said.  Mr. Trump was apparently referring to the work of Robert Epstein, a  researcher with the California-based American Institute for Behavioural  Research and Technology.  Epstein had testified in a Senate hearing in June that his research shows  Google's search results pushed at least 2.6 million people to vote for  Clinton in 2016.  Google CEO Sundar Pichai was asked about Epstein's work last year when he  testified before a House panel and said the company had investigated it and  pointed to issues with the study's methodology.  In a statement on Monday, a Google spokesperson called Epstein's claim  "debunked", pointing out it has been circulating for three years.  "This researcher's inaccurate claim has been debunked since it was made in  2016," the spokesperson said.  "As we stated then, we have never re-ranked or altered search results to  manipulate political sentiment. Our goal is to always provide people with  access to high quality, relevant information for their queries, without  regard to political viewpoint," the spokesperson said. In 2017, Google dismissed Epstein's research as "nothing more than a poorly  constructed conspiracy theory".  HONG KONG PROTESTS: TWITTER AND FACEBOOK REMOVE CHINESE ACCOUNTS  Twitter and Facebook have taken steps to block what they described as a  state-backed Chinese misinformation campaign.  Twitter said it removed 936 accounts it said were being used to "sow  political discord in Hong Kong".  The network said the accounts originated in mainland China and were part of  a coordinated attempt to undermine the "legitimacy and political positions  of the protest movement".  Facebook said it had, after being tipped off by Twitter, removed "seven  Pages, three Groups and five Facebook accounts."  "They frequently posted about local political news and issues including  topics like the ongoing protests in Hong Kong," said Nathaniel Gleicher,  Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy.  "Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their  identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the  Chinese government."  "Based on our intensive investigations," the firm said in a statement, "we  have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed  operation.  "Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a  coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests."  It added: "We will continue to be vigilant, learning from this network and  proactively enforcing our policies to serve the public conversation." 

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