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Top Democrat: Moscow Has Closed Cyber Gap With US

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 05:07
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warns the United States is being outgunned in cyberspace, already having lost its competitive advantage to Russia while China is rapidly closing in. "When it comes to cyber, misinformation and disinformation, Russia is already our peer and in the areas of misinformation or disinformation, I believe is ahead of us," Senator Mark Warner told an audience Friday in Washington. "This is an effective methodology for Russia and it's also remarkably cheap," he added, calling for a realignment of U.S. defense spending. Warner, calling Russia's election meddling both an intelligence failure and a "failure of imagination," strongly criticized the White House, key departments and fellow lawmakers for being too complacent in their responses. As for China, Warner called Beijing's cyber and censorship infrastructure "the envy of authoritarian regimes around the world" and warned when it comes to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and 5G mobile phone networks, China is "starting to outpace us on these investments by orders of magnitude." In contrast, the Democratic senator laid out a more aggressive approach in cyberspace, with the United States leading allies in an effort to establish clear rules and norms for behavior in cyberspace. He also said it was imperative the U.S. articulate when and where it would respond to cyberattacks. "Our adversaries continue to believe that there won't be consequences for their actions," Warner said. "For Russia and China, it's pretty much been open season." Warner also delivered a stern message to social media companies. "Major platform companies — like Twitter and Facebook, but also Reddit, YouTube and Tumblr — aren't doing nearly enough to prevent their platforms from becoming petri dishes for Russian disinformation and propaganda," he said. "If they don't work with us, Congress will have to work on its own." The Trump administration unveiled a new National Cyber Strategy in September, calling for a more aggressive response to the growing online threat posed by other countries, terrorist groups and criminal organizations. "We're not just on defense," National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the time. "We're going to do a lot of things offensively, and I think our adversaries need to know that." Top U.S. military officials have also said their cyber teams are engaging against other countries, terrorist groups and even criminal organizations on a daily basis. Warner on Friday praised elements of the new strategy, particularly measures that have allowed the military to respond to attacks more quickly. But, he said, on the whole it is not enough, pointing to Trump's willingness to "kowtow" to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their Helsinki Summit over Moscow's election interference efforts. "No one in the Trump administration in the intel [intelligence] or defense world doesn't acknowledge what happened in 2016," he said. "But the fact that the head of our government still [finds] it's hard to get those words out of his mouth, is a real problem."

Australia Anti-Encryption Law Rushed to Passage 

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 05:00
A newly enacted law rushed through Australia's parliament will compel technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections so police can better pursue terrorists and other criminals.      Cybersecurity experts say the law, the first of its kind globally, will instead be a boon to the criminal underworld by undermining the technical integrity of the internet, hurting digital security and user privacy.      "I think it's detrimental to Australian and world security,'' said Bruce Schneier, a tech security expert affiliated with Harvard University and IBM.      The law is also technically vague and seems contradictory because it doesn't require systematic weaknesses — so-called "back doors'' — to be built in by tech providers. Such back doors are unlikely to remain secret, meaning that hackers and criminals could easily exploit them.    Back doors were central to a 1990s U.S. effort to require manufacturers to install a so-called "Clipper chip" into communications equipment so the government could listen in on voice and data transmissions. U.S. law enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are again pushing for legislation that would somehow give authorities access to secure communications.    The Australian bill is seen by many as a beachhead for those efforts because the nation belongs to the "Five Eyes'' security alliance with the U.S., Britain, Canada and New Zealand.      "There is a lot here that doesn't make any sense,'' Schneier said of the Australian bill. "This is a technological law written by non-technologists and it's not just bad policy. In many ways, I think it's unworkable.''    A leading figure in cryptography, Martin Hellman of Stanford University, said it appears the bill would "facilitate crime by weakening the security of the affected devices.''  Blow against 'evil work'   The law won final legislative approval late Thursday, parliament's final session of the year. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was urgently needed.    "This was very important legislation to give police and security agencies the ability to get into encrypted communications,'' he told Nine Network television. "Things like WhatsApp, things like that which are used by terrorists and organized criminals and indeed pedophile rings to do their evil work.''    He noted that the opposition Labor Party "had to be dragged to the table'' and backed the legislation as an emergency measure out of concern extremists could target Christmas-New Year crowds.    Labor lawmakers said they want amendments passed when parliament resumes in February. Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he supported the current bill only because he could not "expose Australians to increased [national security] risk.''    Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, noted during hearings that extremists share encrypted messages that Australia's main secret service cannot intercept or read.    President Morry Bailles of the Law Council of Australia, a leading lawyers group, criticized the bill's swift parliamentary journey though lawmakers knew "serious problems exist'' with giving law enforcement "unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.''    Australian law enforcement officials have complained that the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook's WhatsApp and Messenger and Apple's iMessage could be the worst blow to intelligence and law enforcement capability in decades. Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said it hampers criminal investigations at all levels.  Apple argument   But Apple, in comments filed with parliament in October, argued that "it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.''    The company's iPhones, because of their strong encryption, are bulwarks of national security around the globe and help protect journalists, human rights workers and people living under repressive regimes.    "The iPhone is national security infrastructure right now,'' said Schneier. "Every Australian legislator uses the systems and devices that that law will target, and making them insecure seems like a really bad idea.''    Apple also complained in October that the bill was "dangerously ambiguous.''    One apparent contradiction confounds technologists. The legislation says the government "must not require providers to implement or build systemic weaknesses in forms of electronic protection ('back doors')'' but also says it can "require the selective deployment of a weakness or vulnerability in a particular service, device or item of software on a case-by-case basis.''    Technologists say that the mathematics underlying encryption and the way it’s encoded into software make it impossible to decrypt a single user's communications without affecting all users.    Eric Wenger, director of cybersecurity and privacy policy for the U.S. technology giant Cisco Systems, warned during debate on the bill that Australia could be at a competitive disadvantage if its data were not regarded as secure.    Australia was a major driver of a statement agreed to at the Group of 20 leaders' summit in Germany last year that called on the technology industry to provide "lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information'' needed to protect against terrorist threats. 

Chinese Tech Executive Appears in Canadian Court

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 04:28
A top Chinese technology executive facing charges in the United States related to business dealings with Iran made a court appearance Friday in Canada, where her arrest this week rocked financial markets around the globe.  In a packed courtroom in Vancouver, a Canadian prosecutor argued that Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei, should be denied bail pending possible extradition to the United States because she was a flight risk. She has spent most of the past week at a women's detention facility in a suburb of Vancouver.  The prosecutor disclosed that Meng was wanted by the United States for allegedly deceiving financial institutions about the relationship between Huawei and another tech company, SkyCom, based in Hong Kong, that is alleged to have sold U.S.-manufactured technology to Iran, in violation of U.S. trade sanctions.  The arrest of Meng in Vancouver, at the request of the United States, surprised financial markets after Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a trade truce last weekend in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Stocks plummeted Thursday after news came out of Meng's arrest, which followed months of already shaky markets affected by the U.S.-China trade war.  Trump sounded a note of optimism on Friday about the trade talks with China, tweeting that "China talks are going very well!"  The U.S. and Canadian governments have so far said little about the Meng case. But China has demanded her release, saying she violated no laws in Canada or the United States.   Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in China's People's Liberation Army. Chinese state media have argued that the United States is abusing the law to hurt the company's international reputation.  However, concerns about Huawei have been growing for some time. Since 2012, the U.S. government has raised alarm about suspicions that Huawei's hardware may have a technical backdoor that could be used by the Chinese government to gather intelligence.  Huawei has denied that its products pose any security risk and says it is a private company.  

US Locks in Duties on Chinese Aluminum Sheet Imports

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 00:44
 The U.S. International Trade Commission said on Friday it made a final determination that American producers were being harmed by imports of common alloy aluminum sheet products from China, a finding that locks in duties on the products. The ITC determination means that duties ranging from 96.3 percent to 176.2 percent previously announced by the U.S. Commerce Department would be put in place for five years. The department said last month the products were being subsidized and dumped in the U.S. market. The decision marked the first time that final duties were issued in a trade remedy case initiated by the U.S. government since 1985. Usually, trade cases are launched based on a complaint from a U.S. producer or group of producers. The Trump administration has promised a more aggressive approach to trade enforcement by having the department launch more anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases on behalf of private industry. In 2017, imports of common alloy aluminum sheet from China were valued at an estimated $900 million. The flat-rolled product is used in transportation, building and construction, infrastructure, electrical and marine applications. U.S. aluminum industry firms, including Aleris Corp , Arconic Inc and Constellium NV, testified in the case last year about what they termed a surge in "low-priced, unfairly traded imports."

New Zealand Minister Says Greenhouse Emissions to Rise

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 21:59
New Zealand has set itself apart from neighboring Australia by declaring climate change a top priority. But despite some lofty goals, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise in the South Pacific nation and could do so for years to come. And the country faces some unusual challenges with half of those emissions coming from farm animals. New Zealand Climate Change Minister James Shaw, who will travel to Poland on Sunday to attend U.N. climate talks, said in an interview with The Associated Press that he expects emissions to peak by 2025 and only then start to decline. "We have not bent the curve," he said. Under the terms of the Paris climate agreement, New Zealand is supposed to reduce its emissions by 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. Is it possible? "Well, we're a long way off to tell you the honest truth," Shaw said. He said the biggest challenge is cars and trucks. "Our transport emissions have gone up 24 percent in the last decade," he said. "For every electric vehicle that we import, we import 24 Ford Rangers." New Zealand's liberal government has promised to plant 1 billion trees over the next 10 years, and intends to pass legislation next year requiring the country to become carbon neutral by 2050. But vital details of the law are still being negotiated, including whether the country will be able to trade carbon credits overseas. "We've got an aversion to using international credits before we've really exhausted all of the domestic options," Shaw said. "But we could see the possibility that a future government might need to have that option open." Shaw said research indicates it is possible for New Zealand to become carbon neutral within its own borders, although it will be challenging. Also at stake is the degree to which farmers will be affected. Agriculture is a vital industry in New Zealand, and the human population of 5 million is dwarfed by the country's 10 million cows and 27 million sheep. The animals add to nitrous oxide emissions and release methane gas. But just how to classify methane remains contentious. It's a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but also disappears from the atmosphere much more quickly. Shaw said New Zealand has taken a more bipartisan approach to climate change than in Australia, where he said successive leaders have failed on the issue. He said part of the problem is that Australia has a long history with industries such as coal mining. "It's deeply rooted in people's sense of self and culture," he said. "So when you talk about the need to make that transition, even over quite long timelines, it meets with resistance." Shaw said New Zealand doesn't face the same existential threat from rising seas as some of its low-lying Pacific neighbors such as the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, although the nation would still be severely affected. "If you look at where New Zealanders live, most of us live very close to the sea," he said. "And our largest cities have significant infrastructure quite close to the shoreline."

Rebels Demand Indonesia Negotiate on Papua Independence

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 21:12
Rebels in Indonesia's troubled Papua province demanded Friday that the government hold negotiations on self-determination for the province and warned of more attacks. Sebby Sambom, spokesman for the West Papua National Liberation Army, the military wing of the Free Papua Movement, said in a telephone interview they attacked a government construction site last weekend because they believe the project is conducted by the military. "Trans-Papua road projects are being carried out by Indonesian military and that is a risk they must bear," Sambom said. "We want them to know that we don't need development, what we want is independence." Indonesia's government, which for decades had a policy of sending Javanese and other Indonesians to settle in Papua to dilute the number of indigenous people, is now trying to spur economic development to dampen the separatist movement. Local media have reported that army engineers are involved in several sections of a trans-Papua road network that will connect cities and districts in the province. "Our leaders have declared a war zone since last year and warned that the trans-Papua road construction should be stopped, but Indonesia has ignored it," Sambom said. He called for the government to agree to peace talks similar to ones that led to another province, Aceh, becoming semiautonomous, or a "real referendum" on independence as occurred in the former Indonesian territory of East Timor. "If Aceh and East Timor can get that opportunity, why don't we?" said Sambom, who said he was speaking from an area near the border with neighboring Papua New Guinea. Papua is a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea. A declaration of independence from Dutch rule on Dec. 1, 1961, was rejected by the Dutch and later by Indonesia. An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region. It was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many. Following Sunday's attack, security forces have retrieved the bodies of 16 workers employed by PT. Istaka Karya, a state-owned construction company, to build bridges on a section of the trans-Papua road, Papua police spokesman Suryadi Diaz said. Authorities believe the armed group killed 19 construction workers, based on the accounts of survivors. They have rescued 24 survivors, including seven workers, and are searching for two missing workers and the bodies of three others. A soldier at a military post near the site was also killed by the armed group. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered the military and police to arrest the perpetrators of the worst separatist attack during his administration and said he will not tolerate "armed criminals" in Papua or the rest of the country. He said the attack will not dissuade his government from continuing to develop Papua, including the 4,600-kilometer (2,875-mile) trans-Papua road, which his administration has claimed is widely supported by local people. The road, which will stretch from Sorong in West Papua province to Merauke in Papua province, is expected to be completed next year and help boost economic development in both provinces. National police chief Tito Karnavian on Wednesday estimated the strength of the armed group at not more than 50 people with about 20 weapons, and said more than 150 police and soldiers have been sent to restore security in Nduga district, a stronghold of the separatists. Sambom, however, claimed the rebels have 29 operational area commands in Papua, each with 2,500 members. "We vow to intensify our fight for independence with guerrilla hit-and-run attacks," he said.

Seoul Creates a New Cycle of Waste

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 14:25
In South Korea’s capital of Seoul, there’s a waste problem. In April, the metropolitan area had an overabundance of plastic and vinyl waste because companies charged with recycling those materials refused to collect them because of low returns. As a result, the untreated recycled goods were piled throughout Seoul’s residential areas. Discussions and consultations were held between officials and the companies, and after roughly two weeks the refuse was removed. But longer term, the problem remains unsolved, despite some innovative efforts to deal with the waste. Officials have turned to “upcycling” to resolve the situation and address future concerns. Limits to recycling The Seoul Upcycling Plaza (SUP), a five-story building in Seongdong-gu, is home for the process of collecting, sorting, breaking down products into reusable raw materials and selling “upcycled goods.” There are 35 upcycling social enterprises that have been chosen after a competition to begin this process. “There is a certain limit in recycling; break, grind the material and recycle it,” said SUP director Yoon Dayyoung. “It is necessary to upcycle that creates new value to the disposal so people can take benefits.” Seoul plans to recycle more than 70 percent of its plastics by 2030. To this end, the official said, “We will supply dismantled raw materials that can be used for producing upcycle goods to the citizens via Material Bank. People can find more than 400 [types] of materials and be able to purchase it for their purpose.” New business opportunities The majority of companies moving into the upcycling business are craft studios that produce specialty items with the collected materials. These include origami kits made from used milk packs, plates derived from flattened wine bottles and accessories using discarded banners. Visitors can buy products or, if they choose, participate in producing the items. An onsite service center also repairs broken electronic devices with components taken from other machines that are no longer functional, thus extending the life of original materials and reducing waste. Onlookers in this area will see not only local brands, but also well-known imports. Is it enough? Despite the efforts of those in the upcycle sector, the concept does not yet appear to have enough momentum to be sustainable. Many of the studios and suppliers produce the upcycled products manually and don’t have enough manpower for production on a large scale. In addition, some people are disappointed by the fact that upcycled products are not as inexpensive as initially hoped. But at Touch4Good, which upcycles banners and billboards into fashionable handbags and accessories, Park Mi-hyeon says it’s important to think about the process properly. She says that upcycling is more akin to creating craft or custom goods rather than mass producing items. Park has been running various upcycling projects since 2008 and operates the material research institute for upcycling. According to Park, most upcycling material has to be manually sorted, and the procedure to refurbish it is also done by hand. “If you consider upcycling simply as a commodity, you cannot fully appreciate its value. This process enhances the value of the goods,” Park said. She asserts there is a great deal of potential in the upcycling market in South Korea and points to the more than 200 companies operating in the sector. ​Stop the waste However, environmental experts suggest it is more significant to reduce the amount of plastic being used than to develop upcycling. Even the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency has a web page devoted to reducing, reusing, and recycling waste. In Seoul, to encourage reducing waste, Starbucks, the American coffee chain, has eliminated the use of plastic straws and replaced them with paper alternatives. Other restaurants have also done away with plastic straws and have encouraged patrons to bring in their own or are using metal or bamboo straws instead. In terms of reducing waste, other eateries have banned plastic straws and are encouraging the use of personal mugs instead of disposables. Single-use plastic bags are also banned in supermarkets. “Korea has too many people for its limited land space; hence disposal, incineration, and landfill, those measures cannot be the alternative option in Korea,” said Hong Su-yeol, the head of Resource Recycling Consulting. “Moreover, even in the case of upcycling, it still less than perfect as the processing capability is limited.” Hong added, “It is hard to raise the rate of recycling more than 90 percent in near future. For the pending issues, we need to introduce some means like usage ban and regulation.” Seoul also plans to regulate the use of disposable products in the public sector from 2020 to cut the consumption of disposable products.

If Brunei Takes China’s Energy Deal, Neighbors May Follow

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 13:40
Brunei, an oil-rich nation in Southeast Asia, watched with near horror as world energy prices fell from 2014 to 2016. Reserves were running out. Its lifeblood of 80 years at stake, the tiny, wealthy country is looking for other sources of prosperity. China is offering to be a source, and it’s China that stands to prosper politically. Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to support joint exploration with Brunei for oil and gas, likely in a rectangular block of the South China Sea extending from the Bruneian coastline on the island of Borneo. That’s Brunei’s exclusive economic zone, but China says some of it falls under its flag. A deal would help Beijing by showing skeptics in Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam that ties with China pay off despite sovereignty disputes like who should rule Brunei’s exclusive economic zone. “China’s saying, ‘We’re promoting joint development, we’re willing to cooperate, it’s win-win for everybody,’” said Carl Thayer, professor emeritus with the University of New South Wales in Australia. Without a better name around Southeast Asia, China risks more pressure from an alliance including Australia, India, Japan and the United States. Those countries, more militarily powerful as a unit than China, want Beijing to quit expanding control in the disputed sea over objections from smaller Asian governments whose economic zones overlap Chinese claims. ​Brunei as a model China has invested about $4.1 billion in Brunei. There’s an energy equipment service contract, to start, and Chinese companies built a 2,680-meter-long sea bridge. One offered $79 million worth of bonds earlier this year to fund a petrochemical plant. A $3.4 billion oil refinery is in the planning stages. “Any deal that China has with ASEAN would be a good role model. It’s like the onion skin being peeled off one by one and it makes (a) good business case for China that they are interested in the commercial part of it,” said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school. ASEAN refers to the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “For Brunei the good thing is they don’t have to fend off China,” he said. Energy makes up some 60 percent of the Bruneian GDP. The economy shrank 2.5 percent in 2016 before rising 1.3 percent last year along with world energy prices, but much of the undersea fuel near Brunei’s coasts is tapped out. Brunei keeps quiet about the sovereignty problem with China even as fellow Southeast Asian states Vietnam and Malaysia, under new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, speak out. China takes Brunei’s silence as goodwill and a vote for more ties with China’s $12 trillion economy, the world’s second largest. In late November the Chinese president met Brunei’s Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah in the Southeast Asian leader’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan. The leaders agreed to “support relevant enterprises of the two countries to cooperate in the areas of maritime oil and gas resources,” China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported Nov. 20. Brunei has just 430,000 people but sits on 1.5 billion barrels of crude oil reserves plus 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas beneath the seabed, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Philippines may be next for a China deal. In November Manila and Beijing signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes a process to do joint offshore oil and gas exploration. Malaysia leads in the South China Sea with access to reserves of 5 billion barrels of crude oil and 80 trillion cubic feet of gas. Search for equity Whether other countries trust China as an energy exploration partner depends on how a Brunei deal takes shape. It should be done under the laws of both sides and international agreements, South China Sea analysts say. “You have to find out under whose law, under whose jurisdiction this kind of joint exploration (takes place),” said Termsak Chalermpalanupap, a fellow with the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “In the past, it was always under Chinese law, under Chinese jurisdiction, which implied that everything in the South China Sea belongs to China. That’s the main objection.” A deal with Brunei consistent with a China-ASEAN maritime code of conduct would help Beijing’s cause, said Carl Baker, director of programs with the think tank Pacific Forum CSIS in Honolulu. The code, still being negotiated, would spell out how to avoid mishaps despite sovereignty issues. China might also consider deferring its claims, he said. China, backed by Asia’s strongest armed forces, has upset the other five maritime claimants by building up small islets for military use and passing coast guard ships through disputed tracts. “If China could convince Brunei to undertake joint exploration in a disputed area, it would certainly help set a precedent for others,” Baker said.

New Zealand China Scholar 'Targeted' by Beijing

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 08:43
An academic who has been exposing the back-door methods of the Chinese seeking to influence New Zealand politics as well as the country's media and universities says she is being targeted and harassed by Beijing. Professor Anne-Marie Brady has asked for government protection after suffering what she describes as a yearlong campaign of intimidation by Beijing, saying she fears for her security and the safety of her family. And more than 150 China experts from universities and think tanks around the world are supporting her appeal for protection, urging New Zealand's government to assign a security detail to Brady, an expert in Chinese politics at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. "Brady has become the target of a series of incidents which, taken together with attacks from party-directed media, are consistent with an intimidation campaign," the experts say. "New Zealand authorities have been less than forthcoming in their support for a prominent scholar targeted by a foreign power, at times even adopting a dismissive posture — an attitude appreciated by PRC [China's] state media." Ugly tactics Last February, Brady's home and university office were broken into, and laptops and a thumb drive containing her research were stolen. Last month, the tires on her car were tampered with and a mechanic warned her if she had stopped at high-speed, the car would have spun out of control. Brady says she was targeted after the publication of her "Magic Weapons" study detailing Beijing's influence on public life in New Zealand. She told an Australian parliamentary committee earlier this year that China was seeking to infiltrate New Zealand party politics, media and education in a bid to shape public opinion, warning both Australia and New Zealand appear to have been singled out as "test zones" for China's "covert, corrupting and coercive activities." New Zealand's police and intelligence service are investigating the break-ins and car tampering. Brady says she has made multiple requests for protection. Police officials say they have some "positive lines of inquiry," and Interpol is now involved but declined to comment further. Attempts to influence In her study, Brady says China has an integrated global strategy "to guide, buy or coerce political influence abroad ... on a larger scale than that being carried out by any other nation" with efforts underway to infiltrate political and foreign affairs circles as well to utilize the Chinese diaspora in order to "turn them into propaganda bases for Beijing." Chinese populations can sometimes be used as a cover for intelligence activities, she warned. "China's foreign influence activities have the potential to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the political system of targeted states," she wrote. She says Chinese President Xi Jinping "has led a massive expansion of efforts to shape foreign public opinion in order to influence the decision-making of foreign governments and societies." The title of her study, "Magic Weapons," is a reference to the description Xi Jinping gave for using individuals and organizations outside China to promote the interests of the Communist Party. Shortly before Brady's study, Yang Jian, a New Zealand member of parliament born in China, was accused of having links to Chinese intelligence and failing to reveal a decade he spent teaching at China's top linguistics academy for military intelligence officers. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she "supports and defends the legal right to academic freedom," but has declined to comment further on Brady's claims of a harassment campaign before police have concluded their investigation. China responds The Chinese embassy in New Zealand says Beijing has not been targeting Brady. And it says Beijing isn't involved in any hostile acts against the country. "Speculations on China's role in New Zealand politics are totally groundless," it said in a statement. But academics, rights activists and journalists have maintained a drumbeat of support for Brady. In their open letter, the China experts from around the world say under Xi Jinping's rule domestic repression has increased, "as illustrated by the fate of hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists rounded up." They say China scholars overseas are also being targeted. "Another form of this escalation are the unprecedented attacks on foreign scholars and researchers of contemporary China, be it in the form of Cultural Revolution-style in-class harassment for their views and opinions, denial of visas, threatened or actual libel suits or, in some cases, detentions during research visits in mainland China," it says. China's expanding influence has prompted the alarm of several Western governments and their spy agencies. In June, Australia's parliament approved new national security legislation, following disclosures of Beijing-linked political donations. New Zealand has also been rocked by a political donations scandal. In October, the Trump administration sharpened its criticism of Chinese interference in the United States, issuing warnings about Chinese influence in American higher education. "Beijing provides generous funding to universities, think tanks and scholars, with the understanding that they will avoid ideas that the Communist Party finds dangerous or offensive," U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech at the Hudson Institute in Washington. "China experts in particular know that their visas will be delayed or denied if their research contradicts Beijing's talking points," he said. The Chinese government has denied the accusations.

China's Huawei, a Big Tech Seller Globally, Runs Afoul of US

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 07:59
The recent arrest of a top Huawei executive in Canada has put a spotlight — again — on the Chinese telecommunications giant. Huawei (pronounced Wah Way) is little known inside the U.S. except as a target of U.S. security agencies. Yet the Chinese telecommunications firm recently passed Apple as the No. 2 seller of smartphones worldwide after Samsung and is in a race with other telecom firms to build out the next generation wireless network, known as 5G. What is Huawei? Huawei, based in Shenzhen, is a Chinese telecommunications equipment and hardware firm, the largest supplier of networking equipment used by communications firms. It has more than 150,000 employees and has stood out from other Chinese tech firms because of its large presence outside of China. In addition to selling laptops and TVs, it is the leading smartphone maker in its home market and is increasingly selling its high-end phones ($600-$800) in countries across Africa and Asia. But it is nearly locked out of the U.S. market. What are the U.S. government concerns? Since 2012, the U.S. government has raised the alarm on suspicions that Huawei's hardware may have a technical backdoor that could be used by the Chinese government to gather intelligence. This concern has only increased in the race between the two countries to create the 5G network, which will provide faster internet technology. Huawei has denied that its products pose any security risk and says it is a private company. This week Canadian authorities, at the behest of the United States, arrested the firm's chief financial officer over allegations that the company has done business with Iran, in violation of U.S. trade sanctions. What has the U.S. done to limit Huawei? This year, the FBI and CIA were among federal security agencies that warned U.S. consumers not to buy phones built by Huawei or its affiliate Honor branded phones that were sold in Best Buy and on Amazon's online site. More recently, the U.S. has lobbied countries not to buy Huawei products. New Zealand and Australia announced they were banning their wireless carriers from using Huawei's equipment. BT, a United Kingdom telecommunications group, said it would not buy equipment from Huawei as it builds its 5G network. And AT&T didn't go through with a deal with the Chinese smartphone giant to sell its phones to U.S. consumers. What might happen next? It's unclear if Huawei can keep growing if it doesn't gain a foothold in the U.S. consumer market. And, as China and the U.S. race to build the 5G network, there will be more scrutiny of the Chinese telecom firm. But one observer says the tensions between the two countries are bigger than the 5G race. "These huge Chinese tech companies are bulking up and they are getting into everything," said Rebecca Fannin, founder and editor of Silicon Dragon, a media and events group covering the tech industry worldwide. "They are innovating fast, sometimes faster than U.S. firms, and there are growing tensions over that issue, which is going to be more pronounced as it goes forward."

China Demands Release of Telecom Executive Arrested in Canada

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 05:52
China is demanding Canada immediately free a top executive of a giant telecom firm arrested last Saturday on a U.S. warrant. The charges against Meng Wanzhou are unclear. But Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper says she is suspected of trying to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran — something U.S. officials have been suspecting about her company, Huawei, for the last two years. Police arrested Meng at the Vancouver airport. She faces possible extradition to the United States after a bail hearing on Friday. A Chinese statement said Meng did not break any U.S. or Canadian laws and that Beijing expected Canada to "immediately correct the mistake" and release her from custody. Meng was arrested on the same day President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the G-20 summit in Argentina and announced a 90-day truce in their trade war. U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told National Public Radio that he knew of Meng's pending arrest in advance and was unclear whether Trump knew of it when he met with Xi.  Bolton added that the suspected theft of U.S. intellectual property by Chinese firms will be a major part of trade talks with China. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has been having his own trade troubles with China, said he also knew in advance about the arrest. But he called it a judicial matter and said politics had nothing to do it. Meng is Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of the company's founder.  Huawei is the world's largest supplier of equipment used by telephone and internet providers, and the world's third-biggest manufacturer of smartphones. The Trump administration said that not only do Huawei and other Chinese firms have an unfair advantage on the world market because of government subsidies, but they are also possible national security threats from suspected spying.  The U.S. nearly put another large Chinese firm, ZTE, out of business earlier this year when it banned the company from using U.S. technology. Officials discovered ZTE was selling its products with U.S. technology to Iran and North Korea.  ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine and replace its entire board of directors.

Air New Zealand Workers Plan Strike on Busiest Travel Day of Year

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 05:10
Employees at Air New Zealand are planning to go on strike just four days before Christmas, the company said in a statement, a move that could affect thousands of customers in the peak travel season. Unions served notice to the airline of the planned total strike by almost 1,000 employees following a pay dispute. The company said the strike would take place on Dec. 21, its busiest travel day of the year, with almost 42,000 customers booked to travel on domestic and international flights potentially facing cancellations. The unions also warned of further industrial action. The flag carrier airline of New Zealand was notified of the strike by the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association (AMEA) and E tu, which represent the company's aircraft maintenance engineers, aircraft logistics and related staff. This standoff comes after a schoolteachers' and nurses' strike over pay issues, just over a year after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party formed a coalition government, promising to pour money into social services and rein in economic inequality. The airline said the average income of the workers planning to strike was NZ$115,000 ($79,085), what it said was more than double the average wage in New Zealand. It said the group had so far rejected proposals for an immediate 2 percent pay hike followed by further 3 percent increase after a year, with another pay review in mid-2021. They have also declined a proposal to standardize overtime pay to 150 percent of regular pay rate and a corresponding $6,400 one off payment to address the change in rate, it said. "The news is extremely disappointing and it appears the engineers are deliberately using Kiwi families' much anticipated Christmas holidays as a bargaining chip," the company's general manager of aircraft maintenance division, Viv de Beus, said. "We remain committed to working closely with the engineers' unions to reach a reasonable agreement and avoid strike action if at all possible." Customers booked to travel on the regional turbo-prop aircraft fleet will not be affected as this fleet is maintained by a separate work group, the company said.

US Priest Accused of Abusing Altar Boys in Philippines 

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 03:42
Philippine immigration authorities say they have arrested an American Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting altar boys in a remote central town in a case one official described as "shocking and appalling."    Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said Thursday that the Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, who has been indicted in Ohio for alleged illicit sexual conduct in the Philippines, was arrested in a church in Naval on the island province of Biliran.    Each of the 50 counts is punishable by up to 30 years in prison upon conviction, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said Thursday at a news conference in Cincinnati.    Federal court records do not show an attorney for Hendricks who could comment on the charges.  Ohio warrant   An Ohio court had issued a warrant for the arrest of Hendricks, 77, who has been living in the Philippines for 37 years, Sandoval said, adding that the U.S. criminal case stemmed from complaints from Filipino minors who were allegedly victimized in the Philippines.    There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Embassy, Philippine Catholic Church officials or Hendricks, who was flown to Manila and detained in an immigration cell.    In a case Sandoval described as "both shocking and appalling," the suspect allegedly abused victims who served mostly as altar boys in Naval.   Glassman said they believe Hendricks lived with multiple boys and molested victims both alone and with others at his residence. Victims told investigators that Hendricks would kiss them, touch their genitals and initiate oral and anal sex. One reported more than 40 sexual encounters with the local parish priest.  "The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them," Sandoval said by telephone. U.S. authorities provided information about the alleged sexual assaults to the Philippine government, she said.    The victims were reportedly warned they would be locked up in jail if they told anyone about the abuses, she said.    Glassman said 10 people had come forward with their statements. Of the five interviewed, the youngest was 7 years old at the start of the alleged abuse.   The U.S. Embassy may revoke Hendricks' passport to help Philippine authorities immediately deport the priest, the immigration bureau said in a statement.    Hendricks is "a fugitive from justice that poses a risk to public safety and security," Sandoval said. "We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children. People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines."    Glassman said that he wants to prosecute the case in Ohio, but his office is still coordinating with Philippine officials to determine which jurisdiction will proceed first.  Others abused?   He added there's reason to believe others have been abused by Hendricks, whose travel records show he returns to the U.S. for several months each year. Glassman said Hendricks has a residence in the Cincinnati area.      The Archdiocese of Cincinnati listed Kendricks as a "missionary in Asia" on its website, but has since issued a statement saying he "is not, nor has ever been, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati."    Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Michigan and Ohio, pleaded with other apparent victims to come forward. He said the allegations against a man he described as holding "one of the highest positions of public trust" were very disturbing.    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the dominant Catholic Church and its priests over such abuses, saying he himself along with other students were sexually molested by an American priest in high school.    In separate speeches Wednesday, the volatile leader claimed almost 90 percent of Catholic priests were homosexual, and he also urged Catholics to "kill your bishops. They are useless fools. All they do is criticize."      "I'm telling you, the most hypocritical institution in the entire Philippines is the Catholic Church, and the pope knows that," Duterte said.    A Catholic priest and Duterte critic, Amado Picardal, said the president's remarks on the church may be aimed at diverting public attention from his widely criticized deadly war on drugs, the government's failure to stop the smuggling of illegal drugs into the country, continuing poverty, corruption and other issues.    He said Duterte may also feel threatened by the Catholic Church, which played a role in the ouster of two Philippine presidents, including the 1986 overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.    "Many people believe that his controversial statements are simply a way of diverting the people's attention from the real issues raised against him," Picardal said. 

After Huawei Arrest, White House Sticks With Hard Line on Trade Talks

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 03:15
Top White House officials are continuing to take a hard line on U.S.-China trade talks, even after the arrest of a prominent Chinese tech executive that some fear could derail a trade truce between Washington and Beijing. In an interview with VOA, White House trade and economic adviser Peter Navarro repeatedly refused to comment on the record about the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, whose company is at the heart of trade tensions between the U.S. and China. But Navarro said that the Trump administration is "asking not demanding" that China make fundamental changes to its economy. "What we're demanding is that China obey the rules of the international road and become a fair actor in international trade," Navarro said. "And surely that will require a restructuring of the model that's now predicated on state-owned enterprises, protectionism, (and) mercantilism." Navarro remains optimistic that the U.S. and China will be able to reach an agreement before 90 days, after which U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will expand tariffs on Chinese imports. But he also said China has a "very long history" of not living up to its trade promises. "This is going to be a tough negotiation," Navarro said. "The biggest problem will be the ability to actually verify things rather than just being strung along, because we've seen that movie before." Huawei arrest Meng was arrested in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities on the same day U.S. and Chinese officials held talks at the G-20 in Argentina that resulted in the three-month truce. The arrest, which was first reported late Wednesday, raised concerns the trade truce could be derailed. Markets ended lower in Asia and were down on Wall Street following the news. Huawei, which sells more smartphones than Apple, is viewed by many as a national security and privacy threat due to its close links to the Chinese government. U.S. and Canadian officials haven't said what charges Meng faces, but the U.S. Justice Department is investigating whether Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran. Gao Feng, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Commerce, also attempted to tamp down concerns, saying the China and U.S. delegations are in "smooth communication and good cooperation." "We are full of confidence that China and the U.S. can reach an agreement within 90 days," the spokesman said Thursday. Investor concerns Following the G-20 talks, the U.S. and Chinese delegations released significantly different accounts of what was agreed upon. After stock markets tumbled on fears the U.S.-China truce was collapsing, U.S. President Donald Trump sent several tweets Wednesday that were widely seen as an attempt to calm investor fears. "Not to sound naive or anything, but I believe (Chinese) President Xi (Jinping) meant every word of what he said at our long and hopefully historic meeting," Trump said. But it's unclear the extent to which Beijing is prepared to give into U.S. requests, which even Navarro admitted amount to a fundamental restructuring of China's economy. "Yeah, they're going to have to restructure. Now that doesn't mean they lose face with their own people. The fact is their own people should welcome that because if you have a more democratic market in some sense ... that will be a good thing for China, as well," Navarro said. Those comments were similar to that of National Security Adviser John Bolton, who told NPR on Thursday that the trade negotiations could "have potentially profound impact on their political structure, as well." Chinese officials have given no indication they are willing to change their economic or political system as a result of U.S. demands. Progress will only be harder to achieve after the Huawei arrest, says Dali Yang, a political science professor at the University of Chicago and senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "Huawei is considered the star of China's innovation-based technological development. If the arrest leads to the crippling of Huawei as was the case with (Chinese telecom giant) ZTE, it will threaten to stoke the fires of nationalism in China, which in turn would make it difficult for the Chinese leadership to make compromises in the trade talks," he said. Patrick Cronin with the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, agrees that Xi may use the Huawei episode to stall progress in trade talks. "Damage may be minimized if a clear legal basis for (the arrest) emerges. However, even then, what Washington sees as an action against a company will be seen by Beijing as an action against the (Chinese Communist Party)." Already, some U.S. lawmakers take the view that there is little difference between the Chinese Communist Party and some of the country's major companies. Senator Mark Warner tweeted Thursday that "There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government ... and Huawei ... is no exception."

US Intelligence Not Shocked North Korea Upgrading Missile Bases

Fri, 12/07/2018 - 00:30
North Korean efforts to upgrade and expand a long-range missile base come as no surprise to U.S. intelligence officials, who have long been wary of promises by Pyongyang to denuclearize. New satellite imagery shows what appears to be improvements to the Yeongjeo-dong missile base, a facility located in North Korea’s mountainous interior, as well as work on a new facility, Hoejung-ri, 11 kilometers (seven miles) away. "Our analytical line has not changed” a U.S. intelligence official told VOA, when asked about the images. “North Korea has a big job to do. Until it has fully panned out and they have done their part, we have to be skeptical” The images, obtained by CNN, indicate North Korea began building a large, underground facility in 2017 and that construction was still ongoing as of August of this year. Researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, who analyzed the satellite imagery, said this is the first time the Hoejung-ri site has been publicly identified, describing the work being done there as “significant.” The researchers said given the work that has been done and the site’s location, the bases could be in line to receive North Korea’s newest long-range missiles, some of which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads and of reaching the United States. "Whatever [North Korean leader Kim Jong Un] says about his desire for denuclearization, North Korea continues to produce and deploy nuclear armed missiles," the Middlebury Institute’s Jeffrey Lewis told CNN.   Since their historic meeting in Singapore this past June, U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed hope that he and Kim can come to an agreement to denuclearize North Korea.   Trump also has repeatedly expressed a fondness for the North Korean leader, both on Twitter and in private. Following the recent G-20 meeting in Argentina, South Korean Moon Jae-in told reporters that Trump has “very favorable” views toward Kim and that he “likes him." “[Trump] asked me to tell Chairman Kim that he wants to implement the rest of their agreement together and he will fulfill Chairman Kim's wishes," Moon added. But despite the meetings and ongoing talks, many in Washington remain skeptical of the North Korea’s seriousness. Trump and other administration officials have said sanctions against North Korea should remain in place until a deal is finalized. Top U.S. intelligence officials have been even more wary. "We're certainly in a better place than we were in 2017 because of the dialogue we've established between our two leaders, the president and Kim Jong Un," CIA Director Gina Haspel told an audience at the University of Louisville this past September, but noted getting a deal done would be a difficult sell. "The regime has spent decades building their nuclear weapons program," she said. "The North Koreans view their capability as leverage and I don't think that they want to give it up easily." U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has likewise questioned Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearize. “I put commitment in parentheses,” he told an intelligence and security conference this past September. "Absent mechanisms for the on-the-ground verification by inspectors, we cannot confirm that North Korea has taken any other denuclearization steps at this time,” he said.

World Stocks Plunge on Concerns Over US-China Trade Relations

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 23:13
U.S. stocks fell sharply again Thursday, following steep drops on Asian and European markets, with investors worried about the fate of trade negotiations between the United States and China, the world's two biggest economies. Stock indexes in New York dropped 1.5 percent or more in early trading, following plunging losses on Tuesday. The U.S. markets were closed on Wednesday for the national day of mourning honoring the late President George H.W. Bush. The U.S. losses followed declining markets in Asia, where the Nikkei closed off nearly two percent, with European indexes dropping nearly three percent in afternoon trading. The wide rout was partly fueled by the arrest of a key executive of telecom giant Huawei Technologies, whose apprehension in Canada could threaten the recent truce in the trade war between the U.S. and China. Canadian officials announced Wednesday that Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of the company's founder, was detained in Vancouver last Saturday on suspicion of trying to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. She now faces a bond hearing Friday, pending possible extradition to the United States to face criminal charges. Her arrest came on the same day U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached an agreement on a 90-day truce on their tit-for-tat tariff hikes in order to forge a new trade pact. But since then, there have been mixed signals from Trump. He rattled markets on Tuesday, declaring himself "a Tariff Man," signaling he would impose more levies on Chinese exports if the two countries did not reach a trade agreement. Trump said China is planning to resume buying U.S. soybeans and natural gas, which he said confirms his claims China had agreed to start "immediately" buying U.S. products.

Philippines Arrests US Priest Accused of Abusing Altar Boys

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 21:51
Philippine immigration authorities say they have arrested an American Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting altar boys in a remote central town in a case one official described as "shocking and appalling." Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval said Thursday the Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, who has been indicted in Ohio for alleged illicit sexual conduct in the Philippines, was arrested in a church in Naval town on the island province of Biliran. An Ohio court had issued a warrant for the arrest of 77-year-old Hendricks, who has been living in the Philippines for 37 years, Sandoval said, adding that the U.S. criminal case stemmed from complaints from Filipino minors who were allegedly victimized in the Philippines. There was no immediate reaction from the U.S. Embassy, Philippine Catholic church officials or Hendricks, who was flown to Manila and detained in an immigration cell. The suspect allegedly abused seven victims, who served mostly as altar boys in Naval, in 50 counts of molestation in his residence in a case that's "both shocking and appalling," Sandoval said. "The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them," Sandoval said by telephone. U.S. authorities provided information about the alleged sexual assaults to the Philippine government, she said. The victims were reportedly warned they would be locked up in jail if they told anyone about the abuses, she said. "Several of his victims have come forward with their statements," Sandoval said. The U.S. Embassy may revoke Hendrick's passport to help Philippine authorities immediately deport the priest, the immigration bureau said in a statement. Hendricks is "a fugitive from justice that poses a risk to public safety and security," Sandoval said. "We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children. People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines." Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at the dominant Catholic church and its priests over such abuses, saying he himself along with other students were sexually molested by an American priest in their high school days. In separate speeches Wednesday, the volatile leader claimed almost 90 percent of Catholic priests were homosexual and also admonished Catholics to "kill your bishops, they are useless fools. All they do is criticize." "I'm telling you, the most hypocritical institution in the entire Philippines is the Catholic church and the pope knows that," Duterte said. A Catholic priest and Duterte critic, Amado Picardal, said the president's remarks on the church may be aimed at diverting public attention from his widely criticized deadly war on drugs, the government's failure to stop the smuggling of illegal drugs into the country, continuing poverty, corruption and other issues. He said Duterte may also feel threatened by the Catholic church, which played a role in the ouster of two Philippine presidents, including the 1986 overthrow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. "Many people believe that his controversial statements are simply a way of diverting the people's attention from the real issues raised against him," Picardal said.

US Trade Deficit Hits 10-Year High on Record Imports

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 21:23
The US trade deficit hit a 10-year high in October as Americans used a stronger dollar to snap up record imports, the government reported Thursday. The result showed the trade gap has continued to swell despite the punitive tariffs imposed this year on allies and adversaries alike by US President Donald Trump, who has focused intently on the subject with the goal of reducing the deficit. Amid Trump's high-stakes trade war with Beijing, the total trade gap rose 1.7 percent to $55.5 billion, driven by all-time high imports, according to the Commerce Department. The gap in goods trade with China likewise continued to expand, rising two percent to $38 billion, seasonally adjusted, as key exports like soybeans fell. The October figure handily overshot analyst expectations, and could confirm weaker economic growth in the final quarter of 2018. Americans bought more medications and imported autos while also taking more vacations, benefiting from the stronger US currency. Travel by Americans also rose by $200 million, driving up US services imports to a record $46.9 billion. The deficit in goods also was the highest on record at more than $78 billion, as US imports of goods and services hit a high as well, rising 1.5 percent to $266.5 billion. Auto imports — another subject on which Trump is battling European leaders — likewise hit their highest level ever, at $31.8 billion. From January to October, the total trade deficit rose more than 11 percent compared to the same period last year, and the gap in September was $555 million bigger than initially reported. Long-suffering soy exports, victim of China's retaliatory tariffs since July, fell by another $800 million in October while exports of aircraft and parts, also sensitive to trade relations, fell $600 million. Meanwhile, there were declines in imports of computers and telecommunications equipment but not enough to offset the strong gains in pharmaceutical and auto imports for the month.

China Demands Canada Release Huawei Executive

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 18:46
China on Thursday demanded Canada release a Huawei Technologies executive who was arrested in a case that adds to technology tensions with Washington and threatens to complicate trade talks. Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, faces possible extradition to the United States, according to Canadian authorities. The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing law enforcement sources, said she is suspected of trying to evade U.S. trade curbs on Iran. The timing is awkward following the announcement of a U.S.-Chinese cease-fire in a tariff war over Beijing’s technology policy. Meng was detained in Vancouver on Saturday, the day Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met in Argentina and announced their deal. Stock markets tumbled on the news, fearing renewed U.S.-Chinese tensions that threaten global economic growth. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.5 percent and the DAX in Germany sank 1.8 percent. A Chinese government statement said Meng broke no U.S. or Canadian laws and demanded Canada “immediately correct the mistake” and release her. Beijing asked Washington and Ottawa to explain the reason for Meng’s arrest, said a foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He said arresting her without that violated her human rights. But the Ministry of Commerce signaled Beijing wants to avoid disrupting progress toward settling a dispute with Washington over technology policy that has led them to raise tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s goods. China is confident they can reach a trade deal during the 90 days that Trump agreed to suspend U.S. tariff hikes, said a ministry spokesman, Gao Feng. Huawei Technologies Ltd., the biggest global supplier of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has been the target of deepening U.S. security concerns. Under Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of its technology. The United States sees Huawei and smaller Chinese tech suppliers as possible fronts for spying and as commercial competitors. The Trump administration says they benefit from improper subsidies and market barriers. Trump’s tariff hikes on Chinese imports stemmed from complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology. But American officials also worry more broadly that Chinese plans for state-led creation of Chinese champions in robotics, artificial intelligence and other fields might erode U.S. industrial leadership. “The United States is stepping up containment of China in all respects,” said Zhu Feng, an international relations expert at Nanjing University. He said targeting Huawei, one of its most successful companies, “will trigger anti-U.S. sentiment.” “The incident could turn out to be a breaking point,” Zhu said. Last month, New Zealand blocked a mobile phone company from using Huawei equipment, saying it posed a “significant network security risk.” The company was banned in August from working on Australia’s fifth-generation network. On Wednesday, British phone carrier BT said it was removing Huawei equipment from the core of its mobile phone networks. It said Huawei still is a supplier of other equipment and a “valued innovation partner.” The Wall Street Journal reported this year U.S. authorities are investigating whether Huawei violated sanctions on Iran. The Chinese government appealed to Washington to avoid any steps that might damage business confidence. Huawei’s biggest Chinese rival, ZTE Corp., was nearly driven out of business this year when Washington barred it from buying U.S. technology over exports to North Korea and Iran. Trump restored access after ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, replace its executive team and embed a U.S.-chosen compliance team in the company. Huawei is regarded as far stronger commercially than ZTE. Based in Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, Huawei has the biggest research and development budget of any Chinese company and a vast portfolio of patents, making it less dependent on American suppliers. Its growing smartphone brand is among the top three global suppliers behind Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. by number of handsets sold. Meng was changing flights in Canada when she was detained “on behalf of the United States of America” to face unspecified charges in New York, according to a Huawei statement. “The company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng,” the statement said. A U.S. Justice Department spokesman declined to comment. Huawei said it complies with all laws and rules where it operates, including export controls and sanctions of the United Nations, the United States and European Union. Meng’s arrest also threatened to inflame disagreements over Iran and Trump’s decision to break with other governments and re-impose sanctions over the country’s nuclear development. Geng, the foreign ministry spokesman, said China objects to unilateral sanctions outside the United Nations. China has said it will continue to do business with Iran despite the possible threat of U.S. penalties. Meng is a prominent member of China’s business world as deputy chairman of Huawei’s board and the daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese military engineer. Despite that, her arrest is unlikely to derail trade talks, said Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “I think too much is at stake for Xi Jinping. He desperately wants a settlement,” said Lam. Longer term, however, the case will reinforce official Chinese urgency about developing domestic technology suppliers to reduce reliance on the United States, said Lam. Trump has “pulled out all the stops” to hamper Chinese ambitions to challenge the United States as a technology leader, Lam said. That includes imposing limits on visas for Chinese students to study science and technology. “If the Chinese need further convincing, this case would show them beyond doubt Trump’s commitment,” said Lam. David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said U.S. and Canadian business executives could face reprisals in China. “That’s something we should be watching out for. It’s a possibility. China plays rough,” Mulroney said. “It’s a prominent member of their society and it’s a company that really embodies China’s quest for global recognition as a technology power.”

Australian Court Tosses Catholic Cleric’s Abuse Conviction

Thu, 12/06/2018 - 17:12
An Australian court Thursday overturned the conviction of a former archbishop who had been the world’s most senior Catholic cleric held guilty of concealing child sex abuse, saying prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Judge Roy Ellis ruled in favor of an appeal by Philip Wilson, the former archbishop of Adelaide and a former president of the Catholic Church’s top body in Australia, against his conviction in May, court documents show. “The appeal is upheld,” read a summary of the decision emailed to Reuters by a court spokeswoman. “The conviction and the orders of the local court are quashed.” Ellis delivered the decision at Newcastle District Court in New South Wales, freeing Wilson, 68, from detention for a year at his sister’s home, as an alternative to prison, after his conviction for failing to disclose to police abuse by a priest. The judge held that prosecutors failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Wilson had been told of the accusations, and that if he had been told, that he was sufficiently convinced of guilt, but failed to act. At trial, Wilson had said he could not remember the accusations being raised with him in 1976. “I’m not up for talking,” Peter Creighton, an altar boy at the time of the alleged abuse, who said he had raised the issue with Wilson, told reporters outside the court, as he held back tears. The Adelaide archdiocese said it welcomed the conclusion of a process that had been long and painful for all concerned. “We now need to consider the ramifications of this outcome,” its administrator delegate, Father Philip Marshall, said in a statement that gave no further details, but added the survivors of child sexual abuse “are in our thoughts and prayers.” Wilson had been accused of covering up the abuse, by Father James Fletcher, after being told about it in 1976 by two victims, one of them an altar boy who allegedly told him in the confessional. Lawyers for Wilson had maintained he did not know Fletcher had abused a boy. Fletcher was found guilty in 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse and died in jail in 2006, following a stroke.