China bans online retailers from selling the Bible
Online retailers in China are no longer allowed to sell the Christian Bible, reports the New York Times, as the Chinese government continues its crackdown on religion and the influence of Christianity in the country.
Why it matters: Censorship has always been an issue in China and it continues accelerate, especially within its digital borders, as President Xi Jinping consolidates his power. The government’s efforts to ban online sales of the Bible serve as the latest example of Xi’s attempts to assert his control over what he sees as promoting China’s traditional values.
Deadly clashes and simmering hostility in Kashmir
At least 20 soldiers, civilians and insurgents were killed and 200 wounded this week in clashes between Indian troops and Kashmiris who had taken to to the streets to protest Indian rule. Stones were hurled at the soldiers, who responded with live rounds and iron pellets.
The big picture: This was the deadliest outbreak of fighting the region has seen this year, but Kashmiris have lived in the heart of the India–Pakistan conflict since the two countries — with Kashmir caught in the middle — split in 1947. Now, they’ve built up more than half a century of distrust, and Kashmir remains one of the most hotly-contested territories in the world.
Yulia Skripal: "My strength is growing daily"
Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned along with her ex-spy father, Sergei, in a nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom, said that she has been awake for over a week and that her "strength is growing daily," according to a statement released by the Metropolitan Police. There is still no official word on her father’s condition.
Yes, but: Russian state TV aired an unverified recording of a phone call today alleged to be between Yulia and her cousin, Viktoria Skripal, per TASS. In the recording, a woman identified as Yulia tells her cousin that Sergei is "alright" and "everyone is recovering."
Lula ruling: Brazil’s ex-president and 2018 frontrunner can be jailed
After a marathon session, Brazil’s Supreme Court rejected a plea from former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to remain free while he appeals his conviction for corruption by a 6-5 margin. That means Lula, who left office in 2011 with sky-high approval ratings and currently leads the polls as a candidate in Brazil’s October presidential election, may begin his 12-year sentence in the coming days.
The big picture: Politics in Brazil, the world’s fifth most populous country and the ninth largest global economy, have been engulfed by corruption scandals. Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, was removed from office in 2016 amid corruption allegations while sitting president Michel Temer has faced similar claims.
Russian bid for joint investigation into spy poisoning rejected
An international chemical weapons watchdog has rejected Russia’s proposal for a joint investigation into the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent, the BBC reports. Russia reportedly acknowledged in a press conference following the vote that the poisoning was a "terrorist attack."
Why it matters: Russia lost the vote by a 15-6 margin, while 17 member states abstained. It’s another rejection of Moscow’s claims of innocence in the attack, which led some two dozen countries to expel Russian diplomats, though China and Iran were among those backing Russia’s motion.
Movie theater to open in Saudi Arabia for the first time in 35 years
The Financial Times reports that AMC has signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to bring movie theaters to the kingdom for the first time since a cinema ban was applied 35 years ago. Per the FT, the plan is to open "30-40 cinemas in approximately 15 cities in Saudi Arabia over the next five years," and have 50-100 theaters open by 2030 in around 25 cities.
The big picture: The deal will allow the first AMC theater to open on April 18, FT reports. This joins a number of other reforms in Saudi Arabia, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pushes to attract international favor for Saudi Arabia.
China needs seat at the table with U.S., Koreas during nuclear talks
In agreeing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, President Trump may have believed that he could strike a deal to finally denuclearize the regime. After Kim’s surprise meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, however, Trump may now have to rethink his strategy.
Likewise, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s hope for a trilateral summit between the two Koreas and the United States, which would undermine China’s influence, has also turned out to be nothing more than a pipe dream.
Why it matters: Despite recent tensions, China remains North Korea’s most important ally and has a clear role to play in addressing its nuclear program.
The high stakes of a U.S. withdrawal from Syria
President Trump surprised allies, adversaries, and even some advisers last Thursday when he said the U.S. would be pulling out of Syria “very soon.” The clearest indications of what happens next came in statements today from Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
The bottom line: Sanders confirmed that the Trump administration is taking the idea of pulling out of Syria seriously — but said the anti-ISIS fight isn’t finished yet, and there are no immediate plans to withdraw. That shows "the president’s top military advisers … have succeeded — at least for now — in persuading an impatient commander in chief not to order a quick withdrawal," per the NY Times.
Canada has pulled off a brain heist
Seoul-born Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a professor at Brown University known for her work on fake news, is moving to Canada. So is Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a Harvard chemistry professor working on quantum computing and artificial intelligence.
What’s going on: They are among 24 top academic minds around the world wooed to Canada by an aggressive recruitment effort offering ultra-attractive sinecures, seven-year funding arrangements — and, Chun and Aspuru-Guzik said in separate interviews with Axios, a different political environment from the U.S.
Analyst: Trump tweets may trigger foreign scrutiny of Amazon
Trump’s attacks on Amazon are likely to put the company under added tax scrutiny by foreign governments, according to a report by Wells Fargo.
Why it matters: Ken Sena, a senior analyst with the bank, said Trump’s multi-day Twitter rant regarding retail closures and his "perceptions of Amazon tax evasion stand to play well to some foreign and state governments who conceivably share the president’s concerns."
Economist: Trump trade war will cost 190,000 jobs
In addition to the multi-day bloodbath on Wall Street, the U.S.-China tariffs war will cost 190,000 American jobs thus far and shave a smidgen of GDP growth from the economy, projects Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.
What they’re saying: For months, President Trump has continued to gripe about the cost to U.S. workers of the U.S.-China trade imbalance. But, if Zandi is more or less right, the tit-for-tat trade attacks that he set off last week will cut close to a month’s average growth in U.S. jobs, and 0.14% from this year’s growth in GDP. "And the economic costs will mount quickly if the back-and-forth tariff hikes continue," he tells Axios.
Indonesia declares state of emergency amidst worsening oil spill
Indonesia declared a state of emergency after an oil spill near the coast of the island Borneo ignited and killed at least four people over the weekend, BBC reports.
The details: The cause of the spill is still unknown. Hundreds of people have reported "difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting" since the fires started, per BBC. A spokesman for the environmental group Greenpeace, Arifsyah Nasution, told CNN the Indonesian government is "late to mitigate the impact of this incident." Per BBC, authorities said that "the risk of further fires is increasing."
White House: Fight against ISIS in Syria coming to "rapid end"
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday the "military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed." An announcement on America’s future military involvement in Syria will be made “relatively soon,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, per the AP.
The big picture: If the U.S. pulls out, it would likely be a gift to Iran, Syria, and Russia, which have been backing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. It would also raise security concerns for Israel, which has called for stronger action to counter Iran’s presence and influence in Syria.
Iran cyberespionage strengthens in quality, quantity
The U.S. recently indicted members of an Iranian government contractor for hacking universities and companies to steal research. Cybersecurity firm Mandiant, which highlighted Iran as a growing force in 2017 in an annual report released today, has seen an uptick in believed government affiliated Iranian hackers stealing intellectual property from businesses.
Why it matters: Once among the world’s most amateurish cyber-powers, Iran has become a mature, aggressive player in digital espionage.
Europe’s illiberal state: Hungary’s Orban set to win fresh term
This Sunday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is set to win another term in national elections, giving him a fresh mandate to advance his project of building what he calls an “illiberal” state at the heart of Europe.
Why it matters: Over the past eight years, Orban’s democratically-elected governments have, in fact, behaved less and less democratically — steadily centralizing power, eroding the independence of the courts, the media, and even cultural institutions.
After China retaliates, Trump claims there’s no trade war
China strikes back at U.S. tariffs
China has responded to the Trump administration’s plan to slap tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, retaliating with a list of similar duties on key U.S. imports that has stocks tanking on the news.
Affected items include: Autos, chemicals, planes, soybeans and whiskey.
2018: The year of the strongman
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi have extended their presidencies through sham elections, China has scrapped term limits to allow Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has bolstered his popularity with a military offensive in Syria. Even Nicolas Maduro, despite a crippling financial crisis, has maintained his grip on power in Venezuela.
The big picture: 2018 has been a good year to be a strongman. Will that luck run out?
McMaster blasts Putin in last speech as national security adviser
Speaking at an Atlantic Council event celebrating the U.S.-Baltic partnership, outgoing national security adviser H.R. McMaster denounced Vladimir Putin over what he called Russia’s efforts to "undermine our open societies and the foundations of international peace and stability.“
Between the lines: McMaster’s was some of the most blistering rhetoric toward Putin thus far from the Trump administration, and included an acknowledgement that the West has "failed to impose sufficient costs" on the Kremlin. It came in his last speech before being replaced by John Bolton.
U.S. proposes 25% tariffs on Chinese goods
The details: The U.S. Trade Representative said the new rounds of tariffs would target products "that benefit from China’s industrial plans while minimizing the affect on the U.S. economy." 1,300 industries could be subjected to a 25% tariffs, include aerospace, information and communication technology, robotics, and machinery. The Chinese embassy in Washington “strongly condemns” the proposal, saying in a statement: "China is not afraid of and will not recoil from a trade war. … If a trade war were initiated by the U.S., China would fight to the end to defend its own legitimate interests with all necessary measures"
via Axios http://bit.ly/2nsh1qB
April 5, 2018 at 10:54AM