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South Korean reporters could face legal steps in Denmark

Author: 
Associated Press | AP
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483552837021324300

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: A judge in Denmark said Wednesday she is strongly considering taking legal steps against South Korean journalists for violating Danish law by filming inside a courtroom the daughter of the impeached South Korean president’s confidante during a detention hearing.
Malene Urup says South Korean reporters filmed and spoke to Yoora Chung on Sunday, hours after her arrest on an international warrant. The interviews eventually were posted on South Korean news media’s websites.
Urup told The Associated Press on Wednesday that reporters were informed in Danish and English “several times” about the ban and asked to delete the videos.
Urup said that she had not decided when or how many would be reported to the police for violating Danish law, adding “we take this very seriously.” The penalty if convicted is a fine.
An eight-minute video of Chung talking to reporters in court was posted on the English-language Korea Times’ website.
Chung is the daughter of jailed Choi Soon-sil, who is suspected of bribery and receiving favors from companies and allowing a friend to manipulate government affairs. Authorities in Seoul are working to extraditing her in connection with a huge corruption scandal.
President Park Geun-hye was impeached last month by lawmakers amid public fury over prosecutors’ allegations that she conspired to allow her confidante to extort companies and control the government.
South Korea had asked Interpol on Dec. 27 to search for Chung because she didn’t return home to answer questions about the scandal. She was arrested in Aalborg, some 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Copenhagen.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that Chung, a former member of the national equestrian team, allegedly took advantage of her mother’s relationship with Park to get unwarranted favors from Seoul’s Ewha Womans University.
Chung is held in detention until Jan.30 — a ruling she appealed but the Western High Court upheld it Tuesday.

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Austria investigates series of New Year’s sexual assaults in Innsbruck

Author: 
Reuters
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483552729601309100

VIENNA: Police in the Austrian city of Innsbruck are trying to identify a group of foreign men believed to have sexually assaulted 18 women during New Year’s Eve celebrations, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
The women have reported that unidentified assailants had groped and tried to kiss them that evening as they stood in or near a crowded central square for a concert and fireworks display. Most described a group of five or six men, the police spokesman said.
In neighboring Germany last year, hundreds of women were sexually assaulted and robbed at New Year’s celebrations in Cologne and suspects were mainly of North African and Arab appearance. Police there said they prevented a repeat of this year by screening 650 mostly North African men on the night.
Anti-immigrant sentiment has boosted support for far-right parties in both Austria and Germany after both countries took in waves of migrants, many of them from the Middle East and North Africa, during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015.
Witnesses in Innsbruck, a city in the Alps in western Austria, said the New Year’s assailants were in their 20s or 30s and had dark complexions, but their nationality was not clear.
“It has definitely been proven that they are foreign,” the spokesman for the police in the western province of Tyrol said, adding witnesses reported they spoke English or poor German. “We are investigating. We have videos of poor quality but we are trying to make the best of them.”
The assaults happened despite a police presence reinforced because of the Cologne assaults and last month’s truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin, the spokesman said.
Roughly 25,000 people gathered in the area of the central Market Square for a concert and fireworks display, visibility was limited, he added.
“We have never seen anything in this form,” he said. “I cannot remember (an attack) of this intensity, on this scale and with this modus operandi.”

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Ukraine moves to blacklist Le Pen over Crimea comments

Author: 
Reuters
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483552427741280800

KIEV: Ukraine indicated on Wednesday it would bar French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen from entering the country after comments she made that appeared to legitimize Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Kiev is nervous about the shifting political landscape in 2017. US President-elect Donald Trump has adopted a friendlier tone toward Russia while another French presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, favors lifting sanctions against Moscow.
Relations between Ukraine and Russia soured after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent outbreak of pro-Russian separatist fighting in eastern Ukraine that has killed around 10,000 people, despite a cease-fire being notionally in place.
Alluding to Le Pen, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said in a statement: “Making statements that repeat Kremlin propaganda, the French politician shows disrespect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and completely ignores the fundamental principles of international law.
“In this regard, we remind that such statements and actions in violation of the Ukrainian legislation will necessarily have consequences, as it was in the case of certain French politicians, who are denied entry to Ukraine,” it said.
Le Pen was quoted by French television as saying Russia’s annexation of Crimea was not illegal because the Crimean people had chosen to join Russia in a referendum, a position Kiev vehemently disputes. The referendum was also declared illegal by the United Nations General Assembly.

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Italy storm after populist head blames fake news on media

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483552111111247500

ROME: Italy’s media and traditional political parties were up in arms Wednesday after the head of the populist Five Star movement accused the country’s journalists of “manufacturing false news.”
Comic Beppe Grillo, founder of the anti-euro movement, lashed out at print and TV journalists, accusing them of fabricating news to keep the Five Stars down.
“Newspapers and television news programs are the biggest manufacturers of false news in the country, with the aim of ensuring those who have power keep it,” he said on his blog on Tuesday.
He called for “a popular jury to determine the veracity of the news published,” and said in cases of fake news “the editor must, head bowed, make a public apology and publish the correct version at the start of the program or on the paper’s front page.”
Grillo said members of the general public “picked at random” would be shown newspaper articles and programs and asked “to determine their accuracy.”
The blog was accompanied by a montage of the banners and logos of Italy’s main newspapers and television news programs.
The media world was enraged. The news director of the private TG La7 channel, Enrico Mentana, said he would sue the comedian, while journalists’ union FNSI slammed the “lynching of all journalists.”
The opposition Five Stars was running neck-and-neck with the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) before Matteo Renzi’s downfall last month and is campaigning hard for the next general election, which could be held in coming months.
What Grillo is proposing “is called Fascism, and those who play it down are accomplices,” PD senator Stefano Esposito said.
The center-right Forza Italia (FI) party, founded by ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, said Grillo wanted a “minculpop 2.0,” a reference to the propaganda and censorship ministry under dictator Benito Mussolini.
Grillo has had a difficult relationship with the media since launching the Five Stars (M5S) in 2009, banning members from appearing on talk shows and giving international media priority over their Italian counterparts at his rallies.
His claim that journalists were to blame for the country’s poor standing on the World Press Freedom Index — where it ranks 77th — was dismissed Wednesday by the editor in chief of the Repubblica daily.

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Trump uses Assange to cast doubt on US intel case on hacking

Author: 
AP
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483542680120361900

NEW YORK: President-elect Donald Trump is using WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to cast doubt on the US intelligence community’s case that Russia was behind hacking of the Democratic National Committee ahead of the 2016 election.
And he’s suggesting that the DNC is to blame for the hacking of its computers and e-mails, including those of top Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta.
Trump continued his tweetstorm Wednesday by arguing the DNC did not have a “hacking defense” and questioning why the Democratic Party had not responded “to the terrible things they did and said.” He appeared to be referring to information in the DNC e-mails that was made public and led to the resignation of the DNC chairwoman and other officials.
“Julian Assange said ‘a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta’ — why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!” Trump tweeted early Wednesday.
It was a striking spectacle for the incoming president to give credibility to Assange, whose organization has been under criminal investigation for its role in classified information leaks. Assange has said his source for the hacked e-mails WikiLeaks published during the campaign was not a government, but his assertion has left open the possibility they came from a third party.
The American intelligence community and Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill insist that Russia was behind the hacks, but Trump has repeatedly dismissed that allegation, challenging the intelligence experts who will help him make the weightiest possible decisions once he becomes president Jan. 20. Trump has insisted that the government doesn’t really know who’s behind the attacks. He has said he’ll release more information this week.
In a series of tweets Tuesday and early Wednesday, Trump wrote without evidence that the timing of an upcoming intelligence briefing on suspected Russian interference in the 2016 election had been delayed. “Perhaps more time needed to build a case.
“Very strange!” he wrote, using quote marks around the word “intelligence.”
Trump’s tweets, in line with repeated criticism of his nation’s intelligence leaders, caused confusion among intelligence officials, who said there was no delay in the briefing schedule.
The fresh clash came as Trump took further steps to fill his Cabinet and key White House positions, with his attention shifting toward the challenges of governing.
Trump’s plans for repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health care law are expected to be the focus as Vice President-elect Mike Pence and secretary of state choice Rex Tillerson meet with top Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Pence issued a direct challenge to Washington Republicans Tuesday: “The president-elect has a very clear message to Capitol Hill. And that is, it’s time to get to work.”
Trump signaled he would not bless all of the GOP’s priorities on Capitol Hill, openly questioning the timing of the House Republican push to gut an independent ethics board just as the new Congress gathered. The House GOP later dropped the effort.
The president-elect promised late Tuesday to hold his first formal news conference since his Nov. 8 election victory next week in New York. He has already waited longer than any other president-elect in the modern era to hold his first exchange with journalists. Most have held such events within days of their elections.
It was unclear if the news conference would be the venue for his delayed announcement on how he plans to avoid potential conflicts of interest involving his businesses after taking office. Transition officials said multiple topics could be covered, but would not specifically say whether they included Trump’s businesses. Trump was supposed to detail the arrangements at a mid-December news conference, but postponed the event.
His Cabinet nearly full, Trump also picked a handful of new White House aides.
Omarosa Manigault, a contestant from the first season of “The Apprentice,” is expected to focus on public engagement in the White House.
Trump also hired Rick Dearborn as a deputy chief of staff and Marc Short as White House legislative director. Both previously served in chief of staff positions on Capitol Hill. The new hires were confirmed by two people familiar with the decision, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the hiring process publicly.
Trump spent time interviewing prospects for the Department of Veterans Affairs as well, including Leo MacKay, a senior executive at a military contractor who previously served in the VA under President George W. Bush.

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Finnish MP fined for anti-Muslim agitation on Facebook

Author: 
Reuters
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483542237020321200

HELSINKI: Lawmaker Teuvo Hakkarainen from the nationalist Finns party was fined on Wednesday for a Facebook post calling for a Muslim-free Finland which a district court said amounted to agitation against an ethnic group. 
Hakkarainen, whose party is part of the country’s coalition government, made the call in a comment on the truck attack in France last July that killed 86 people. Prosecutors said the Tunisian-born driver had radical Islamist views.
“All Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims,” the parliamentarian wrote in the comment.
Central Finland’s district court in Jyvaskyla imposed a 1,160 euro ($1,210) fine for Hakkarainen, who accepted the verdict. Local media quoted his assistant telling the court that the lawmaker was not aware of the legislation in question.
The Finns party said it would next month discuss possible political sanctions for him.
The party, previously known as True Finns, is known for its euroskeptic and nationalist views, but it has toned down its demands after joining Finland’s three-party government in 2015.
Finland has tightened its immigration policies, along with other Nordic countries, after about 32,000 migrants and refugees arrived in the country in 2015.
Thousands of people rallied against ethnic hatred in Helsinki that year after another Finns parliamentarian called in a Facebook post for a fight against multiculturalism.

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EU Commission ‘regrets loss’ of UK ambassador

Author: 
AFP
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483536941879780800

BRUSSELS: The European Commission said on Wednesday it regretted that Britain’s ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers had resigned, just as London prepared to launch fraught Brexit divorce negotiations. 
“We regret the loss of a very professional, very knowledgeable while not always easy interlocutor and diplomat, who always loyally defended the interests of his government,” said Natasha Bertaud, a spokeswoman for the Commission, the EU’s executive arm.
Asked whether the departure of Rogers less than three months before formal Brexit talks are due to start would negatively impact the process, Bertaud said: “Negotiations have not yet started and as you know we are still waiting for the triggering to start those negotiations.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to trigger Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty — the formal divorce clause — by the end of March.
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, meanwhile paid tribute to the veteran British diplomat for his expertise.
“Best wishes to Sir Ivan Rogers, a much respected UK civil servant in Brussels — who knew what he was talking about,” Verhofstadt tweeted.
There was no immediate reaction from the European Council, which groups the 28 EU leaders under EU President Donald Tusk.
Rogers surprised London and Brussels on Tuesday when he announced he was stepping down early, accusing some in the government of “muddle-headed thinking” about Brexit and how difficult it will be to negotiate.
He also exposed the British government’s apparent lack of a plan, saying that “we do not yet know what the government will set as negotiating objectives for the UK’s relationship with the EU after exit.

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Russia offers Philippines arms and close friendship

Author: 
Reuters
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483535875539665700

MANILA: Russia is ready to supply the Philippines with sophisticated weapons including aircraft and submarines and aims to become a close friend of the traditional US ally as it diversifies its foreign ties, Russia’s ambassador said on Wednesday.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has thrown the future of Philippine-US relations into question with angry outbursts against the former colonial power and some scaling back of military ties while taking steps to boost ties with China and Russia.
Illustrating the transformation of Philippine foreign relations since Duterte took office in June, two Russian warships are on four-day visit to Manila this week, the first official navy-to-navy contact between the two countries. 
Russian Ambassador Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev took the opportunity to hold a news conference on board the anti-submarine vessel Admiral Tributs.
He said he understood that the Philippines was intent on diversifying its foreign partners.
“It’s not a choice between these partners and those ones. Diversification means preserving and keeping old traditional partners and getting new ones. So Russia is ready to become a new reliable partner and close friend of the Philippines,” he said.
“We don’t interfere with your relations with your traditional partners and your traditional partners should respect the interest of the Philippines and Russia.”
The Russian navy visit comes less than a month after Duterte sent his foreign and defense ministers to Moscow to discuss arms deals after a US senator said he would block the sale of 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines due to concern about a rising death toll in a war on drugs launched by Duterte.
Khovaev said Russia had a range of weapons to offer.
“We are ready to supply small arms and light weapons, some aeroplanes, helicopters, submarines and many, many other weapons. Sophisticated weapons. Not the second-hand ones,” Khovaev said.
“Russia has a lot to offer but everything will be done in full compliance with international law.” .
He said it was too early to talk about the scope of military cooperation but, in a clear reference to the United States, said old allies should not worry.
“Your traditional partners should not be concerned about the military ties … If they are concerned, it means they need to get rid of clichés,” he said.
Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, head of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, said on Tuesday Russia wanted to hold maritime exercises with the Philippines to help combat terrorism and piracy.
The United States and the Philippines have been holding naval exercises annually but Duterte has decided to reduce the number of exercises and to move naval drills away from the disputed South China Sea, to reassure China, which is suspicious of US military movements in the disputed waters.

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Armed men linked to Muslim rebels free more than 150 from Philippine prison

Author: 
Reuters
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483521653628952800

MANILA: Around 100 armed men with links to Muslim rebels stormed a prison in the southern Philippines on Wednesday, killing a guard and freeing more than 150 prisoners, some of them Islamic militants, officials said.
The Southeast Asian, majority Roman Catholic nation has for decades been plagued by insurgency by Muslim rebels in its southern islands.
The gunmen opened fire at guards at the North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan, prison warden Peter Bongat said on radio. Of the jail’s 1,511 inmates, 158 managed to escape, he said. 
Eight prisoners had since been caught, two had surrendered, while six were killed, according to the office of the president.
Shirlyn Macasarte, acting governor of North Cotabato, said her office had been tipped off about the plan by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to free its members as early as the second quarter of last year.
“They were involved in murders and at the same time I think they have experience in bomb making so we watched them closely,” Macasarte told news channel ANC.
The leader of the attackers, known by the alias Commander Derbie, had links with the BIFF, a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Macasarte said.
Some members of the MILF and BIFF were said to be behind the killing of 44 police commandos in a secret mission two years ago to capture a Malaysian bomb maker with a $5 million bounty from the US State Department on his head.
In 2014, the government signed a peace deal with the MILF, the biggest Muslim rebel group, but clashes still occur with smaller groups.

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Obama moves to stop Trump gutting signature health care law

Author: 
AFP
Wed, 2017-01-04
ID: 
1483512794938703300

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama will make a short but politically charged trip from the White House to Capitol Hill Wednesday, calling allied lawmakers to arms in defense of his signature health care reforms. 
Obama’s eight-year drive to extend medical coverage to tens of millions of Americans will come under sustained assault when President-elect Donald Trump takes office January 20 with Republican majorities in both house of Congress.
In a preemptive strike, the outgoing president will meet Senate and House Democrats, “principally (to) discuss how to counter the stated Republican objective of repealing the Affordable Care Act,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Obama’s rare legislative pilgrimage coincides with a dueling visit to the Congress by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
“We’re focused on repealing and replacing Obamacare,” Pence said Tuesday. “We look forward to legislation that will give us the tools to roll back the avalanche of red tape and regulation that have been stifling American jobs.”
After a crushing election loss, Democrats may have limited options for stalling reforms without significant Republican defections.
They also face criticism that Obama’s reforms have led to rising insurance premiums and a string of technical problems.
But while Republican opposition to Obamacare is clear, their prescription to fix it is not.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has proposed a tax credit system as a possible replacement, but the costs to government and individuals remains vague.
Some Republicans have suggested repealing Obamacare now and replacing it at later, perhaps after the next election.
But the White House is betting that Americans voters will react with fury if Trump moves to strip millions of coverage with no viable alternative.
They are hoping that public outcry could force Trump to confront some of the more ideologically driven reforms proposed by his own party.
The president-elect is seen as highly sensitive about his public standing.
He has been quick to tweet defensively about perceived slights or reminders that despite his electoral college victory in the November elections, his rival Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote by almost three million ballots.
Trump comes to office with 48 percent of Americans polled by Gallup believing he is handling the transition effectively.
That is far less than the 75 percent approval Obama enjoyed at the same point or George W. Bush’s 65 percent.
Republican legislators are eager to take charge after eight years spent fighting against Obama’s policies.
But some are wary that white working class Americans, who delivered them to office, may bear the brunt of any reforms.
Gutting Obamacare could also have knock-on effects for funding health care for retirees, a group essential to the Republican Party’s survival.
In these two issues, Democrats see pressure points they hope to exploit in defense of Obama’s plan.
“It’s not surprising to me that there are some Republicans who are now a little queasy about the prospect of the impact that repealing Obamacare would have on their own supporters,” said Earnest.
“We know there are people all across the country who benefit from this law, who are protected by this law, whose lives have been saved by this law.”
Obama is believed to have put this point directly to Trump when they talked soon after the election.
Privately many Democrats admit their best hope now could be offering Trump some form of political victory, so long as the plan survives more or less intact.

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