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February, 2017

 

Australia Is Experiencing An Influx of Chinese Tourists

Sydney Opera House, botanic gardens 1

Australia has been gaining popularity among Chinese visitors, who have surpassed New Zealanders to become the top spenders. [Photo provided to China Daily] The Land Down Under is set to significantly up the number of Chinese visitors since the China-Australia Year of Tourism began on Feb 5. That’s following recently introduced enticements for Chinese to visit… Read More


EU – European Union Protecting Their Steelmakers By Imposing New Duties On Steel Imports

China frets over new EU anti-dumping duties on steel

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China expressed concerns on Tuesday (28 March) over what it said was increasing protectionism after European Union regulators imposed new duties on steel imports from the world’s biggest producer. The European Commission is seeking to protect EU steelmakers while avoiding tensions with Beijing, which it sees as a possible ally against protectionism and climate change.

It imposed definitive anti-dumping duties of between 65.1% and 73.7% on imports of heavy plate non-alloy or other alloy steel from China, confirming provisional tariffs set in October.

China’s Commerce Ministry reacted calling on Europe to treat Chinese companies “fairly and impartially”, adding it was ready to strengthen communication with the EU to tackle issues in the industry.

China’s steel capacity grew in 2016 despite promises of cuts

China increased its steelmaking capacity last year by more than twice Britain’s annual output, a report said on Monday (13 February), despite repeated pledges to cut huge excess in the sector.

The companies named in the Commission’s ruling included Nanjing Iron & Steel Co Ltd, Minmetals Yingkou Medium Plate Co Ltd, Wuyang Iron and Steel Co Ltd and Wuyang New Heavy & Wide Steel Plate Co Ltd.

The EU executive said it acted after an investigation found Chinese companies to be heavily dumping their products on the EU market by selling them at well below half of the price on the producers’ home market. The Commission opened its investigation in February 2016.

“The Commission has responded forcefully and quickly to unfair competition, while at the same time ensuring that the rights of all interested parties have been protected,” the Commission said in a statement.

Eurofer, which represents the European steel sector, said the Commission had found clear evidence of dumping.

“Tens of thousands of steel jobs have been lost in Europe over the past few years, and dumping, particularly demonstrably from China, has been one of the causes,” it said in a statement.

The EU has strengthened its policy against what it considers unfair competition for its steel industry, and said its new approach had allowed it to decide on trade sanctions more quickly than in the past.

EU to boost steel trade defences as imports surge

The European Commission is expected to further strengthen its steel trade defences, possibly as early as October, industry leaders say, as a global trade war in the alloy intensifies and imports keep flooding into the bloc.

The EU currently has an unprecedented number of trade defence measures in place targeting unfair imports of steel products, with a total of 41 anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures, 18 of which are on products coming from China.

“China’s government is focussed on systemically weakening sectors that they have identified in their 5-year plan, with a view to engaging in strategic takeovers of foreign interests,” said Milan Nitzschke, spokesperson for AEGIS Europe, an alliance representing nearly 30 European associations representing a broad variety of manufacturing areas, including traditional industries, consumer branches, SMEs and renewable energy sectors.

The EU has a massive trade deficit with China, it remains for the second year at a record level of more than €170bn, which has led to hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions of euros of investments being lost across the EU.

Court gives green light to duties on solar panels

Also on Tuesday, Europe’s second highest court backed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties imposed by the EU nearly four years ago on imports of Chinese solar panels.

The move by the European Council to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties with an average rate of 47.7% in late 2013 came following a two-year long investigation by the European Commission which found that Chinese solar panels were sold at below market prices.

A group of 26 companies subsequently challenged the decision at the Luxembourg-based General Court. Judges rejected the appeals.

“The General Court confirms the validity of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures for imports of solar panels from China,” the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

Since the 2013 decision, however, the Commission has softened its stance on the issue. Earlier this month, it proposed extending import duties on the panels by a shorter than initially proposed 18 months and eventually phasing them out.

The move underlines its desire to please EU solar panel makers and those benefiting from cheap imports as well as the desire to enlist China as an ally in fights against protectionism and climate change.

[Source: EurActiv.com – Media Relations]

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Syria/Iraq – Update, U.S. Coalition Strikes

U.S., Coalition Strikes Continue Against ISIS in Syria, Iraq

F-16 June 2008

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 28, 2017 — U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria yesterday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today. Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

Coalition military forces conducted 15 strikes consisting of 18 engagements in Syria:

— Near Dayr Az Zawr, four strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed nine oil refinement stills, two barges, a watercraft, a vehicle and an oil tanker truck.

— Near Palmyra, two strikes destroyed five tanks.

— Near Raqqa, nine strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and destroyed two wellheads, two fighting positions, an oil storage tank, an ISIS-held building, an ISIS headquarters, a tunnel, a vehicle and a vehicle bomb.

Strikes in Iraq

Coalition military forces conducted 16 strikes consisting of 81 engagements in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

— Near Baghdad, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS-held building.

— Near Mosul, five strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and an ISIS staging area; destroyed seven mortar systems, four vehicles, four fighting positions, three ISIS-held buildings, two anti-air systems, two rocket-propelled grenade systems, two vehicle bombs, a supply cache, a vehicle bomb facility and an unmanned aircraft control station; damaged six tunnels and six supply routes; and suppressed 21 mortar teams and an ISIS tactical unit.

— Near Qaim, 10 strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed two vehicle bomb factories, two ISIS media facilities, an improvised explosive device factory, a weapons storage facility, an anti-air artillery system, a vehicle, a fuel storage tank, an ISIS staging facility and an ISIS financial facility.
US Navy 040814-F-6740T-124 A pair of F-A-18C Hornets and an F-14B Tomcat fly in loose formation over Iraq

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

These strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The destruction of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria also further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct external operations throughout the region and the rest of the world, task force officials said.

The list above contains all strikes conducted by fighter, attack, bomber, rotary-wing or remotely piloted aircraft; rocket-propelled artillery; and some ground-based tactical artillery when fired on planned targets, officials noted.

Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike, they added. A strike, as defined by the coalition, refers to one or more kinetic engagements that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single or cumulative effect. For example, task force officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIS vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of ISIS-held buildings and weapon systems in a compound, having the cumulative effect of making that facility harder or impossible to use. Strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined, officials said.

The task force does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.

[Source: Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve/U.S. DoD-Media Relations]

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Libya – Thousands of refugee children are being abused, exploited and arbitrarily detained in Libya, UNICEF Report

Refugee and migrant children and women are routinely suffering sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention along the Central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy, UNICEF warned in a new report.

Poursuite de lexode libyen (5631269655)

‘A Deadly Journey for Children: The Central Mediterranean Migrant Route’ provides an in-depth look at the extreme risks facing refugee and migrant children as they make the perilous journey from sub-Saharan Africa into Libya and across the sea to Italy. Three quarters of the refugee and migrant children interviewed as part of a survey said they had experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults at some point over the course of their journey, while nearly half of the women and children interviewed reported sexual abuse during migration – often multiple times and in multiple locations.

Last year, at least 4,579 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean from Libya, or 1 in every 40 of those who made the attempt. It is estimated that at least 700 of those who lost their lives were children.

“The Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe. “The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life. We need safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children that keep them safe and keep predators at bay.”

Recent data in a survey of women and child migrants in Libya during late 2016 reveal the appalling level of abuse along the migration route. At the time of the survey, 256,000 migrants were recorded in Libya, including 30,803 women and 23,102 children – a third of whom were unaccompanied. The real figures, however, are believed to be at least three times higher.

Most children and women indicated that they had paid smugglers at the beginning of their journey, leaving many in debt under ‘pay as you go’ arrangements and vulnerable to abuse, abduction and trafficking.

Women and children also reported harsh and overcrowded conditions, including lack of nutritious food and adequate shelter, in Libyan detention centres run by both Government and armed militias.

“Children should not be forced to put their lives in the hands of smugglers because there are simply no alternatives,” said Khan. “We need to address globally the drivers of migration and work together toward a robust system of safe and legal passage for children on the move, whether refugees or migrants.”

UNICEF has developed a six-point agenda for action for children uprooted, including:

  1. Protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
  2. End the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
  3. Keep families together as the best way to protect children and give them legal status.
  4. Keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services.
  5. Press for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
  6. Promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.

UNICEF is urging governments and the EU to support and adopt this agenda for action.

Since the start of the response in late 2015, UNICEF has continued to respond to the needs of children who are on the move, stranded or seeking asylum in Europe. This includes providing 182,500 refugee and migrant children with a wide range of services. The children’s agency is also expanding its Mediterranean program in Greece and Italy, supporting government efforts to improve reunification and child protection services.

Despite operating challenges in Libya, UNICEF, along with its partners, continues its efforts to address the protection and humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable children in the country, including refugee and migrant children through municipalities with which UNICEF signed memoranda of cooperation in April 2015.

About UNICEF:
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to put children first. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when no children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For more information, contact:
Sophie Aziakou, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 917.720.1397, saziakou@unicefusa.org

[Source: UNICEF-Media Relations]

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In The Current Political Environment Can African American Journalism Stay Relevant,Objective and Credible?

Newsboy selling the Chicago Defender

By Bill Celis, Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion and Strategic Initiatives, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Workers operate the Chicago Defender’s printing press in 1941. Wikimedia Commons Mattie Smith Colin was a seasoned reporter for the Chicago Defender when the newspaper sent her to cover the return of Emmett Till’s body.… Read More


North Korea – Five Security Officials Executed By Anti-Aircraft Gun

The statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill in Pyongyang (april 2012)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un executed five security officials by anti-aircraft gun recently due to “false statements” which were given to the North’s leader and caused him to be enraged. The event was disclosed by the South Korean spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, and discussed in a private meeting with South Korean lawmakers, reported the… Read More


Afghanistan -Taliban Attack In Helmand kills Eleven Policemen

Afghanistan - Helmand Province, Poppy Fields 6

Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan attacked a checkpoint with firearms and hand grenades, killing 11 policemen and confiscating weapons and ammunition. But a provincial official said Tuesday’s attack in Helmand province’s capital Lashkar Gah could be an “insider attack” as one of the guards was still missing. “An investigation is ongoing to find out if someone… Read More


Takata Corporation To Pay $1 Billion In Criminal Penalties

Takata Corporation Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Pay $1 Billion in Criminal Penalties for Airbag Scheme

United States Supreme Court Building on a Clear Day

Tokyo-based Takata Corporation, one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive safety-related equipment, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and was sentenced to pay a total of $1 billion in criminal penalties stemming from the company’s conduct in relation to sales of defective airbag inflators.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge David Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office and Regional Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Ullom of the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Chicago Field Office made the announcement.

“For over a decade, Takata lied to its customers about the safety and reliability of its ammonium nitrate-based airbag inflators,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco.  “Takata abused the trust of both its customers and the public by allowing airbag inflators to be put in vehicles knowing that the inflators did not meet the required specifications.  Today’s sentence shows that the department will work tirelessly to hold responsible those who engage in this type of criminal conduct.”

“We hope that today’s guilty plea and sentence will send a message to suppliers of consumer safety products that they must put safety ahead of profits,” said U.S. Attorney McQuade.

“The commission of fraudulent activity by the Takata Corporation to generate corporate profits jeopardized the safety of American consumers,” said Special Agent in Charge Gelios.  “Today’s guilty plea should reassure American consumers that the FBI and its federal law enforcement partners will aggressively pursue corporations and their employees when they violate federal laws.”

“Today’s sentencing of Takata Corporation for wire fraud related to sales of defective airbag inflators is a clear signal to all whose duty it is to protect the public: your most solemn obligation is to public safety,” said Regional Special Agent in Charge Ullom.  “As is true for Secretary Chao and the Department of Transportation, safety is and will remain the highest priority for OIG, and we remain committed to working with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners in pursuing those who commit criminal violations of transportation-related laws and regulations.”

Takata pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh of the Eastern District of Michigan to a one count criminal information charging the company with wire fraud.  After accepting Takata’s guilty plea, Judge Steeh, consistent with the terms of the plea agreement, sentenced Takata to pay a total criminal penalty of $1 billion, including $975 million in restitution and a $25 million fine, and three years’ probabtion.  Under a joint restitution order entered at the time of sentencing, two restitution funds will be established: a $125 million fund for those individuals who have been physically injured by Takata’s airbags and who have not already reached a settlement with the company, and a $850 million fund for airbag recall and replacement costs incurred by those auto manufacturers who were victims of Takata’s fraud scheme.  A court-appointed special master will oversee administration of the restitution funds.  Takata will also implement rigorous internal controls, retain an independent compliance monitor for a term of three years and cooperate fully with the department’s ongoing investigation, including its investigation of individuals.

According to admissions made during the course of the guilty plea, from 2000 through and including 2015, Takata carried out a scheme to defraud its customers and auto manufacturers by providing false and manipulated airbag inflator test data that made the performance of the company’s airbag inflators appear better than it actually was. Even after the inflators began to experience repeated problems in the field – including ruptures causing injuries and deaths – Takata executives continued to withhold the true and accurate inflator test information and data from their customers.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General investigated the case.  Trial Attorneys Brian K. Kidd, Christopher D. Jackson and Andrew R. Tyler of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys John K. Neal, Erin S. Shaw and Andrew J. Yahkind of the Eastern District of Michigan prosecuted the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance.

[Source: U.S. Department of Justice/Office of Public Affairs-Media Relations]

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‘Russian Information Operations’, The Battle For Your Mind

Information War part of ‘Battle for the Consciousness of the Masses’

Training to storm the Reichstag building, sending three new combat divisions to the eastern border and establishing an “army for information operations”: these are the latest activities of the Russian ministry of defense.

The revelations made by Minister for Defense Sergey Shoigu to Russian MPs last week (24 February) will have serious repercussions in Europe.

Perhaps most surprising of these announcements was the existence of an “information war” unit.

“Propaganda must be intelligent, informed and efficient,” Shoigu told MPs. “The creation of an army for information operations will be much more competent and powerful than the [Soviet] counter-propaganda unit.”

According to Russian cyber security company Zecurion Analytics, cited in the daily Kommersant, this “army” already commands 1,000 digital foot soldiers. Moscow plans to spend around €300m per year on the project, making it the fifth-best funded “military” information unit in the world.

Macron campaign ‘targeted’ by Russian ‘fake news’ and cyberattacks

French presidential favorite Emmanuel Macron is being targeted by Russian media and internet attacks from within Russia with the goal of helping the election campaigns of his pro-Moscow rivals, his party chief said on Monday (13 February).

The expression “information operations”, as used by the Russian authorities, goes beyond the idea of mere propaganda or counter-propaganda. While not explicitly described as such, these operations also include electronic and cyber-warfare, something that has attracted a lot of attention recently, since allegations surfaced about Russian interference in the American election.

In 2014, Moscow published its latest military doctrine, which stressed the need to save money by increasing the efficiency of propaganda. “Information warfare has come to the fore. A battle is underway for the spirit and consciousness of the masses,” said the former chief of staff Yury Baluyevsky.

“A victory in this war would be perhaps more decisive than a victory in a classic war. Even without bloodshed, such a victory would cause a demoralizing and paralyzing shock to the adversary,” he added.

A change initiated in 2015

Once a “silent giant”, the Russian army has changed its communication methods since October 2015, when it began its intervention in Syria. The ministry of defense has since bombarded the media with angry statements about the West and indignant denials of claims it has bombed civilians and hospitals.

In its efforts to amplify its cult of victory, the ministry of defense is keen not to leave the young behind. The ministry has announced the construction, near Moscow, of a replica of the Reichstag building, the emblematic setting for the final victory over the Nazis in 1945.

Commission: Russian propaganda focused on denigrating Merkel

A European Commission official told an audience in the European Parliament on Tuesday (31 January) that in its effort to destabilize the EU, Russian propaganda is focusing on attacking German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“A small-scale copy of the Reichstag building will be constructed in a ‘patriotic’ theme park, so our little soldiers can practice storming the real thing,” Shoigu said. By “little soldiers” he meant the “Youth Army”, founded by his ministry last year to perfect the “patriotic education” of children aged between 7 and 16.

Shoigu ended his talk to MPs with the announcement of the creation of three new army divisions to “protect the country’s western and south-western borders”.

Fake news against fake news

The foreign ministry has also dived head-first into the information war. Its spokeswoman Maria Zakharova last week announced the creation of a page on the ministry’s website collecting the ‘fake news’ spread by Western media about Russia. In the last week, the page has posted five articles stamped with the word ‘FAKE’. No further explanation is given.

Until now, the two prongs of Kremlin communication in the West have been the English-language channel Russia Today (RT) and the multilingual network Sputnik International. The French-language version of RT will be launched to coincide with the French presidential election. According to independent Moscow radio station Echo, RT has just received an additional €20m from the Russian treasury to fund its linguistic expansion.

Russian media have been repeatedly been caught spreading false rumors or entirely fabricated information. Most often these aim to connect Ukraine to Nazism (phosphorus bombs launched on Donbass, false versions of the destruction of flight MH17, a child crucified in the street by the Ukrainian army).

Parliament votes to expand EU units that debunk online propaganda

A fledgling group of 11 diplomats that find and debunk Russian propaganda could be given a bigger staff and deeper pockets, if the European Parliament has its way.

But Europe is also targeted. At the height of the 2105 refugee crisis, Russian TV threw fuel on the fire with repeated reports of the rape of a 13-year-old German-Russian girl by refugees of Arab appearance, before the German press discovered the incident had been fabricated.

Instead of recognizing its mistake, Moscow responded with a statement by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, accusing the German media of trying to keep the story “secret”.

[Source: By Emmanuel Grynszpan | EurActiv.fr | translated by Samuel White/EurActiv.com-Media Relations]

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Why Does The ‘Islamic State’ Feel Threatened By Sufism?

Sufi dancer

By Peter Gottschalk, Professor of Religion, Wesleyan University. On Feb. 16, 2017, a bomb ripped through a crowd assembled at the tomb of a Sufi saint, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in southeastern Pakistan. Soon thereafter, the so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack. In recent times, such attacks have targeted a variety of cherished sites and… Read More


President Donald Trump To Increase Defense Budget

US Navy 080705-N-2735T-946 The Nassau Strike Group (NASSG) transits the Atlantic Ocean. The NASSG is completing their deployment in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility

U.S. President Donald Trump is kicking off the long federal budget process with proposals to increase defense spending, while making cuts to budgets for the State Department and other agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency. Administration officials say the White House is detailing its vision for federal spending in a memo to agencies on Monday.The… Read More


France – Marine Le Pen, Far-Right Presidential Candidate, Strikes Back At Rivals

Lille - Meeting de Marine Le Pen pour les élections régionales, le 30 novembre 2015 à Lille Grand Palais (44)

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has gone on the attack slamming her opponents in the race for the presidency. During a rally in the western city of Nantes she set her sights on her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, accusing him of being out of touch and of being backed by the media. “How can the… Read More