Tag: world

Lebanon’s Bassil Criticises Hariri Efforts to Form Government | World News

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Christian politician Gebran Bassil criticised Sunni former prime minister Saad al-Hariri on Tuesday for putting himself forward to lead a government that would champion a French initiative to resolve the country’s deep economic crisis.

Hariri has begun consultations with the president, parliamentary speaker and Lebanese political blocs about forming a government that would implement President Emmanuel Macron’s roadmap for reforms and unlock international aid.

He has said his mission was to form a six-month government of technocrats to rapidly carry out the reform plan set out in Macron’s initiative.

“We were not aware, and nobody informed us, that President Macron had appointed a high commissioner… to Lebanon, and made a prefect for us to oversee his initiative and the extent of its implementation,” Bassil said in a speech to supporters.

“Whoever wants to head a government of technocrats has to be a technocrat himself,” said Bassil, who heads Lebanon’s biggest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement. A former foreign minister, Bassil is also President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law.

Aoun will hold formal consultations on Thursday about nominating a prime minister to form a new government to replace Hassan Diab’s cabinet, which resigned two months ago after a powerful explosion damaged much of Beirut and killed 200 people.

Diab’s nominated replacement has been unable to form a government after the powerful Shi’ite group Hezbollah and its political allies insisted on nominating the finance minister.

Lebanon is suffering its worst financial collapse since a 1975-1990 civil war. Foreign donors have made clear there will be no fresh aid unless Lebanese leaders launch reforms to tackle graft and improve governance, and engage in IMF negotiations.

(Reporting by Samia Nakhoul and Ellen Francis, writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Indonesia Islamic Groups, Students Join Movement to Scrap Jobs Law | World News

By Yuddy Cahaya Budiman and Agustinus Beo Da Costa

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Wearing white Islamic garb and waving red and white Indonesian flags, more than 1,000 protesters from Islamic and student groups gathered in the world’s most populous Muslim nation on Tuesday to show discontent over a divisive new jobs law.

Conservative Islamic groups are among the latest to join the volatile street demonstrations, during which police fired tear gas on Tuesday to try to break up crowds, as pressure mounts on the government to repeal a law they say undermines labor rights and environmental protections.

The country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, is among its opponents and says it favours conglomerates while “trampling” on the rights of working-class Indonesians.

Hamdan, a 53-year-old teacher who goes by one name, said he would keep protesting until the law was repealed.

“People can’t go out, some people can’t even eat and unemployment is still high,” he told Reuters in Jakarta. “Even my son still can’t find a job.”

Protests against the so-called omnibus law took place in multiple locations involving thousands of Indonesians last week, some of which saw streets blocked, tyres burned and rocks hurled, leading to more than 6,000 people being detained.

“The bill will definitely affect myself, my job, my relatives, my friends and everything,” said engineer Rafi Zakaria, 30.

“It doesn’t only affect labourers. Our students here joined the protest because they’re concerned about their parents’ jobs.”

The law, designed to reduce red tape and attract investors, has yet to be published and the unofficial versions circulating in the media and online have led to speculation and confusion.

Deputy house speaker Achmad Baidowi told Reuters the law would be sent to the president and made public on Wednesday.

The government is standing by the legislation and President Joko Widodo has blamed the public outcry on disinformation. Indonesia’s defence minister has blamed the demonstrations on “foreign interference”.

“There are those who do not want to see Indonesia as conducive to investors, and want to always benefit from that,” the ministry spokesperson, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, said, without elaborating.

(Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Martin Petty)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Malaysia’s Anwar Meets King in Bid to Form New Government | World News

By EILEEN NG, Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR (AP) — Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met the nation’s king Tuesday in a bid to form a new government after claiming he had secured a majority in Parliament.

Anwar said he would present the monarch with “strong and convincing” documentary evidence of the support he has from lawmakers, which would allow him to unseat Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

But he did not speak to reporters gathered at the gate after spending about an hour at the palace, and instead his party said he will hold a hold a news conference “regarding an important announcement post-audience with His Majesty.”

Muhyiddin, who took power in March after securing enough support in Parliament to unseat Anwar’s reformist alliance, has dismissed Anwar’s claim to a majority. Muhyiddin currently boasts a slim two-seat majority and has been grappling to maintain support amid infighting in his coalition.

Allies in Muhyiddin’s ruling coalition have denied supporting Anwar, and branded Anwar a “desperado” for seeking to wrest power as the country struggles with the coronavirus.

The audience with the king was slated three weeks ago, but postponed as the king was hospitalized. Anwar has been tight-lipped and said he would only reveal details after meeting the king.

“I frankly do not think it will be a smooth and easy ride for Anwar. For one, even if the king is convinced of Anwar’s command of parliamentary majority, the king still has the alternative constitutional option of dissolving the parliament,” said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Oh, a Malaysian, said support for Anwar could also have waned as Muhyiddin’s camp may have lured back defectors in the past three weeks.

Before leaving home Tuesday morning, Anwar tweeted a picture of himself and his wife. “Hopefully it will be a smooth affair today,” he wrote.

Anwar’s Alliance of Hope was elected in 2018 but collapsed after Muhyiddin withdrew his party and tied up with opposition parties to form a Malay-centric government in March. Then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned in protest, saying he wouldn’t work with parties accused of corruption that he ousted in the 2018 polls.

If Anwar succeeds, it will mark a dramatic comeback after his roller-coaster political journey since the 1990s.

Once a high flyer in the ruling party, Anwar was convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle with Mahathir in 1998. He was imprisoned for a second time for sodomy in 2014.

Anwar and his supporters have long denied the sodomy allegations, saying they were concocted to destroy his political career.

Rather than give up, Anwar ended his feud with Mahathir from his prison cell to forge a the Alliance of Hope, which in the 2018 polls defeated the coalition that had led Malaysia for 61 years.

Mahathir became premier a second time. Anwar was freed with a royal pardon days after the polls and was Mahathir’s designated successor before their alliance fell apart.

Copyright 2020 The Associated

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Thai Government Says ‘Can Handle’ Student-Led Protest | World News

BANGKOK (Reuters) – The Thai government said on Monday it was not concerned about a student-led demonstration on Wednesday as protest leaders sought to escalate their push to demand a new constitution and oust Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

During three months of protests, anti-government activists have also broken a taboo by calling for reforms of the powerful monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is “enthroned in a position of revered worship” according to the constitution.

Protesters, who drew tens of thousands of people to a demonstration last month, said they planned to gather on Wednesday at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument before moving to Government House and would camp there overnight.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters that he did not expect huge turnout.

“We’re prepared and not worried,” he said. “I think we can handle it.”

The protest leaders, organising under the new banner of the People’s Movement, said their focus would be a call for constitutional changes before a parliament sitting on Nov. 1.

“We also want to oust Prayuth,” said Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, one of the leaders, adding that she expected even more people than at last month’s protest in Bangkok.

Protesters say the constitution was engineered to ensure that Prayuth, who first seized power in a 2014 coup, continued in office after an election last year. He says the election was fair.

Some protesters also want a reduction in the king’s powers to reflect Thailand’s status as a constitutional monarchy.

Raising the prospect of an encounter between the king and the protesters, his motorcade is due to pass Democracy Monument on Wednesday as he presides over a ceremony at a royal temple during a rare visit to Thailand.

Police said they would urge protesters to choose another location or at least clear the way for the motorcade.

Arnon Nampa, another of the protest leaders, said last week that demonstrators would not obstruct the motorcade but would show a three-finger salute – a symbol of resistance – if it passed by.

(Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Report card: Jacinda Ardern’s government graded on the past three years | World news

When Jacinda Ardern took over leadership of New Zealand’s Labour party less than two months before the 2017 election she had the country’s social woes firmly in her sights, blaming nine years of a National party-led government for child poverty rates and housing unaffordability. Ardern promised a government of transformation, pledging to do better on the climate crisis, tackle mental health and suicide rates, and build tens of thousands of new homes.

Her ability to respond in a crisis – such as the Christchurch terrorist attack in March 2019, the deadly volcanic eruption at Whakaari, and Covid-19 – is well-documented and has drawn global praise. But domestically, she has had a political coalition as well as a pandemic to manage: Labour has been in power along with the Greens and New Zealand First.

She promised a strong and empathetic government and a “fairer, better New Zealand”. How has her government performed on its promises of sweeping change? The Guardian asked two experts or political commentators in each field for their assessments.

The environment

Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (Kāi Tahu), a climate justice advocate, and co-founder of social impact agency Activate

Grade: C+

Her introduction was strong with Ardern proclaiming climate change her generation’s “nuclear-free moment”, but unfortunately, getting climate change on the agenda is not the same as getting outcomes. The Green party seems to be the one diligent student dragging the group across the finishing line with an ambitiously named but otherwise lacklustre Zero Carbon Act; and the government as a whole routinely ignores those communities actually at the frontline of climate and environmental destruction in favour of keeping in with the agricultural and business sectors. The one thing they have going for them is that the previous National government didn’t even turn up to class.

David Cormack, a former head of policy and communications for the Green party and co-founder of a public relations firm

Grade: B-

Passing the zero carbon bill and creating a pathway to get agriculture included in the emissions trading scheme are successes that should be praised; however the compromises with National, the centre-right opposition party, that resulted in a watered down bill has now been shown to be pointless, with National’s leader Judith Collins vowing to repeal parts of it. They should’ve just gone for it. Transport emissions are still a massive work in progress.

The Cosseys Dam in the Hunua Ranges



Auckland has suffered the worst reported drought in a quarter of a century. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Housing

Shamubeel Eaqub, a housing economist with Sense Partners

Grade: B

Housing affordability worsened: median house price has risen from 6.3 times the median household income at the last election to 6.9 now. During the previous nine years (under National) it rose from 5.5 to 6.3. The nine years before that (under Labour) it went from 3.9 to 5.5. The government did some long-term things, like building more state houses and delivering reforms on rental rules, and some ineffective things like a ban on foreign buyers. They get an F for their

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“I wish for a more inclusive society,” says Hichki director Siddharth P. Malhotra, who wants to make the world a happier place with his brand of cinema : Bollywood News

With his critically acclaimed superhit Hichki, Siddharth P. Malhotra has established himself as a film-maker who has a distinct voice in Bollywood. The director is celebrating his birthday with his parents today and he spoke to us on his career milestone moments. Read on…

"I wish for a more inclusive society," says Hichki director Siddharth P. Malhotra, who wants to make the world a happier place with his brand of cinema

What has been your career milestone moments and how does Hichki fit into those moments particularly?

My career milestone moments, I think I started with TV. My TV milestones, I created some kind of pathbreaking TV which I am still known for, Sanjivani or Dil Mil Gaye or Ek Haazaron main Meri Behna Hai or Ek Hasina Thi, Dil Dosti Dance these were shows which created a new niche and are still remembered including the new ones which I’ve created now, so I did a comical take on Naagin called the Ichhapyaari Naagin, so I think career milestones moments, I got to work with Sooraj Barjatiya, as a associate director in Vivah, I got to work with Karan in Kal Ho Na Ho, I got to direct We are Family so that was a milestone moment when you get to direct Kajol and Kareena in one film with Arjun, for Karan Johar. Karan is someone I’ve always looked upto.

How does Hichki fit into these moments – Hichiki is basically about befriending your tourette, and when I’m saying tourette, all of us have Tourette. Tourette’s are our weak points, are thoese points which people don’t really want to look at and accept . After We are Family didn’t do well, I went through a pretty dark phase in my life, a phase where I almost attempted suicide twice. At that point, Hichki was the only film I wanted to say and no one was letting me say it. Everybody wanted to change the script, somebody wanted Tourettes out of the film, somebody wanted 9F out of the film, no one was seeming to get it and what was happening is that everytime I would leave that script and do something else, I would come back to Hichki. And then one day how Naina Mathur in the film got this class, I got Aditya Chopra in my life. He came into my life, he heard the script, he said I’ve not seen We are Family but the way you’ve narrated Hichki, I’m pretty sure you will make a good film out of this, and please dont change anything and make the film you want to make. Those were music to my ears. Looking back, Hichki actually made me understand and accept myself and befriend my tourettes and also find my voice as a director .

You gave India a sensitive, progressive, inclusive film with Hichki – do you wish for a more inclusive society on your birthday?

I really wish for a more inclusive society in every way. May it be gender, may it be religion, I really believe in the triumph of Human Spirit. There is nothing bigger than humanity

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Fear sets in that Boris Johnson’s Brexit government is ill equipped to handle a pandemic | World

However, this reliance on (and success of) his Brexit persona, as opposed to his previous incarnation as the liberal-conservative Mayor of London, means that combative, confrontational style of politics is a must in the DNA of any government he leads.

Observers fear that taking this flavor of politics from the campaign trail to government might make central government too thinly stretched and chaotic for handling the dovetailed crises of a pandemic and Brexit.

CNN reached out to Downing Street but a spokesperson declined to comment on the record.

Constant source of controversy

There is an immediate concern that the government’s single-mindedness on Brexit has in itself hampered its handling of the pandemic. “This government doesn’t want to be seen to need the EU in any sense, which, in my view, resulted in its choice not to participate in joint procurement schemes at the start of the pandemic,” says Menon. Earlier in the crisis, the UK opted not to work with the EU in its vaccine scheme or its ventilator procurement program.

Others suspect that Johnson’s personal investment in Brexit takes up crucial government resources. “On one hand, you have a pandemic which you could not plan for … on the other you have Brexit, which you campaigned (for) and won on and you need to give it attention if it’s going to end well,” says Salma Shah, a former Conservative government adviser.

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Open Society to Increase Commitment to Global COVID-19 Response – World

NEW YORK—As COVID-19 continues to devastate communities around the world, the Open Society Foundations today announced $70 million in global investments, focused on providing immediate relief for vulnerable communities and pushing back against government encroachment on political freedoms.

The new commitment supports work by an array of local partners in Africa, Asia, Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa. This follows on an initial emergency funding package of $130 million announced in April, bringing the total Open Society investment to combat COVID-19 around the world to $200 million.

Open Society’s funding will include support to organizations helping those hit hardest by the pandemic, including refugees, domestic and care workers, and others left behind by inadequate government responses. The support will also strengthen humanitarian responses in countries from El Salvador to Myanmar, support credible reporting on the crisis by independent media in local languages, and promote access to accurate information about public health and community safety.

“COVID-19 continues to ravage countries around the world, hitting hardest in communities with the least resources as a result of prolonged and entrenched inequities,” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Open Society Foundations. “Too often, governments are slow to act in this pandemic, to protect those who need it most, and this pattern of inaction is longstanding. We see the terrible toll this virus has taken and are redoubling our efforts to help the global community adapt, and to seize this moment for change.”

The regional funding plans reflect an intensive ground-up effort by Open Society’s local national and regional foundations to identify priority goals, recognizing that in addition to the health care crisis, oppressive lockdown measures and economic shutdowns are causing as much hardship as the virus itself. The plans also reflect a response to the way that the pandemic is highlighting and aggravating preexisting racial, gender, and socioeconomic inequalities across the globe.

Both Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, have become centers of the pandemic, with numbers rising in several countries. Open Society’s regional strategy focuses on countering populist narratives and authoritarian power grabs in Brazil and El Salvador, as well as addressing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on populations already experiencing structural inequalities, such as women, people of African descent, residents of favelas and peripheral communities, and indigenous peoples.

In Asia, meanwhile, much of Open Society’s support will strengthen informal worker organizing to demand protection now and into the future. Using a multi-country approach, Open Society will advance workers’ collective influence on global supply chains and in sectors that rely on large numbers of informal and migrant labor, such as domestic workers and those in the hospitality, construction, and garment industries.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, Open Society will support urgent humanitarian relief and advocacy for access to critical services for refugees; internally displaced persons; and migrants in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. Open Society will also contribute to longer-term work on conflict accountability, the Syrian refugee crisis, and the protection

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Explainer: Indonesia’s Jobs Law Endangers Environment, Say Activists, Investors | World News

By Fathin Ungku, Gayatri Suroyo and Bernadette Christina

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Environmentalists in Indonesia are calling for the reversal of a controversial law aimed at job creation because it is seen favouring business interests at the expense of the environment and labour.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest producer of palm oil and nickel ore for electric vehicle batteries, has forests bigger than any outside the Amazon and Congo, and environmentalists say the country’s abundant natural reserves could be exploited under the new law.

The reforms are contained in a so-called “omnibus” bill of changes in more than 70 laws, which allowed parliament to vote in a single swoop and pass the measure on Monday.

Thousands of people took to the streets of cities across Indonesia over the past three days, part of protests and national strikes against the law.

The government says the law is needed to improve the investment climate and create jobs in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. It says the environment will be protected.

Here are some of the changes to environmental rules:

AMDAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL PERMITS

The new law merges the approval of business permits with environmental permits.

To get an environmental permit under the previous legislation, companies exploiting natural resources had to produce an AMDAL – a study to assess the impact investments have on the environment and local communities.

The new AMDAL process has removed a requirement for companies to consult environmental experts by only allowing “directly impacted communities” to give input for the assessment.

“Sure, it (AMDAL) is still there, but it is weakened,” Asep Komaruddin, a senior forest campaigner at Greenpeace, told Reuters.

Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar says undermining environmental laws will now incur more risk to a company as its business permit would also be on the line.

The previous law required Indonesian islands have a forest cover of at least 30%. This requirement has been removed, raising concerns that palm oil plantations and mining companies could sharply step up land clearance.

The law risks provinces like Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra, home to massive palm oil plantations, losing natural forests within 20 years, environmental group The Sustainable Madani Foundation said.

“Losing forests is more than just losing tree cover,” said Teguh Surya, the foundation’s executive director.

“(It also means) increasing intensity of forest fires, floods and landslides, harvest failures, a lack of clean water”.

Bambang Hendroyono, an environment ministry official, said the previous 30% threshold was “unscientific” and would be replaced by new metrics.

The new law calls for minimum forest areas to be based on “geophysics”, and “socioeconomic conditions”, but does not provide any specifics.

PENALTIES FOR FOREST FIRES, DUMPING TOXIC WASTE

In previous regulations, companies were responsible for environmental damage in their concessions, even if there was no proof that the company was at fault.

This is known in legal terms as “strict liability”.

Environmentalists say the wording of the section is vague under the new law and proof of wrongdoing is now required to prosecute the company.

Officials

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Relatives Accuse Hong Kong Government of Lying Over Surveillance of Detainees | World News

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Relatives of some of the 12 Hong Kong activists arrested by Chinese authorities at sea more than six weeks ago as they tried to flee by boat to Taiwan have accused the Hong Kong government of lying over the circumstances surrounding their capture.

The 12, who are accused of crimes tied to anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year, are being held in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen after mainland authorities intercepted their boat and accused them of illegal border crossing.

China’s foreign ministry has called them “separatists”.

The families said they had obtained the flight path of a Hong Kong government plane showing it was surveilling the boat the 12 were in, which led them to suspect local authorities helped Chinese officials.

They did not say how they obtained the data.

“Explain whether the police have deployed fixed-wing aircraft for aerial surveillance; give a full account of the conspiracy to send the 12 Hong Kongers to China,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said this week she would not comment on the “actual operational details except to reinforce … that the police has absolutely no role to play in this particular case.”

The father of detainee Cheng Tsz-ho, 18, held up a placard outside Government Flying Service headquarters that read: “Government lied, return my son back to me.”

The wife of detainee Wong Wai-yin, 30, displayed a sign that said: “Give me the truth, release my husband.”

The detainees case has grabbed international headlines and human rights groups have raised concerns. The families say the detainees have been denied access to independent lawyers.

More than a dozen police stood guard as the relatives staged a peaceful protest, with live television footage showing some being stopped and searched by officers.

The Hong Kong government has said it cannot interfere on the detainees’ behalf and they must face legal proceedings in China before they can come home, though it says it is willing to provide “feasible” assistance to their families.

(Reporting By Jessie Pang; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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