Tag Archives: formally

Biden’s presidential transition can formally begin, U.S. agency says

The U.S. federal agency that must sign off on the presidential transition told president-elect Joe Biden on Monday that he can formally begin the transition process.

“I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,” General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy wrote in a letter to Biden.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has yet to concede the election, took to Twitter to say that he is “recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

However, in a series of tweets, Trump also said “our case strongly continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”

Biden transition preparations continue 

Biden has been preparing for the presidency even as Trump attempts to subvert the election results in key states. He has frequent virtual meetings from his home in Wilmington, Del., and a music venue downtown.

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming chief of staff, said Sunday the Trump administration’s refusal to clear the way for Biden’s team to have access to key information about agencies and federal dollars for the transition has taken its toll on planning, including the cabinet selection process.

“We’re not in a position to get background checks on cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day,” Klain told ABC’s This Week.

In advance of this announcement, Biden has been building out his administration.

According to a person familiar with the transition plans, he has chosen former Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen to serve as treasury secretary, a pivotal role in which she would help shape and direct his economic policies at a perilous time.

Biden also plans to nominate Antony Blinken as his secretary of state, longtime diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence and Alejandro Mayorkas as the secretary for the Department of Homeland Security.

Those four nominees will all need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the incoming administration’s effort to combat climate change. Kerry does not require Senate confirmation — nor does Jake Sullivan, another Obama administration veteran tapped by Biden to serve as national security adviser.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

E3 Formally Canceled Due to Coronavirus

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

The E3 game show — formally expected to be held from June 9-11, 2020 — has been canceled. The show drew some 66,000 thousand people to LA last year, including yours truly, but the show’s future had been on the chopping block since prominent sponsors started pulling out.

The announcement is at least well-timed, given that the WHO has now awarded pandemic status to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the illness known as Covid-19. According to StatMeds, there are basically two paths the virus could take.

First, the virus could become more-or-less permanently resident in human populations, with outbreaks occurring throughout the entire year. There are already four known coronavirus infections endemic to human populations. They already cause an estimated 25 percent of all colds. In this scenario, SARS-CoV-2 becomes the fifth known endemic coronavirus. More people die each year from respiratory illness as a result and the virus would probably take 1-2 years to “settle down” as a regular infection.

Second, the virus could become a seasonal affliction. The reason influenza has a winter-spring season is because it doesn’t tolerate heat and humidity well. We don’t know whether Covid-19’s spread is particularly stymied by summer weather. If it is, hotter weather could bring relief but the virus could re-emerge in the October-November time frame. If it manages to establish itself across much of the globe, there’s a high chance of at least a few reservoirs of infection surviving long enough to reinfect people. This depends on how many people the virus infects and how virulent it is. The best-case timeline for a vaccine or treatment is thought to be roughly a year.

Will Covid-19 Kill E3?

Frankly, E3 itself might be a victim of Covid-19. The show has been shrinking for years, and prominent gaming journalist Geoff Keighley announced he wouldn’t be producing E3 Coliseum, after launching the project in 2019. Sony had pulled out of the trade show last year and this year — but of course, this year is a bigger deal, given that the PlayStation 5 ought to be ramping its news cycle by then.

The E3 organizers say in their official statement that “Our team will be reaching out directly to exhibitors and attendees with information about providing full refunds.” They’re also looking for ways to hold a virtual event during the month of June that would showcase games and industry announcements.

The question of whether Covid-19 is going to have an economic impact on the United States is no longer an “if.” At this point, it’s a question of “when?” and “how much?”

Please share the Charmin.

Feature image by Sergey Galyonkin, CC BY-SA 2.0

Now Read:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

E3 Formally Canceled Due to Coronavirus

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

The E3 game show — formally expected to be held from June 9-11, 2020 — has been canceled. The show drew some 66,000 thousand people to LA last year, including yours truly, but the show’s future had been on the chopping block since prominent sponsors started pulling out.

The announcement is at least well-timed, given that the WHO has now awarded pandemic status to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the illness known as Covid-19. According to StatMeds, there are basically two paths the virus could take.

First, the virus could become more-or-less permanently resident in human populations, with outbreaks occurring throughout the entire year. There are already four known coronavirus infections endemic to human populations. They already cause an estimated 25 percent of all colds. In this scenario, SARS-CoV-2 becomes the fifth known endemic coronavirus. More people die each year from respiratory illness as a result and the virus would probably take 1-2 years to “settle down” as a regular infection.

Second, the virus could become a seasonal affliction. The reason influenza has a winter-spring season is because it doesn’t tolerate heat and humidity well. We don’t know whether Covid-19’s spread is particularly stymied by summer weather. If it is, hotter weather could bring relief but the virus could re-emerge in the October-November time frame. If it manages to establish itself across much of the globe, there’s a high chance of at least a few reservoirs of infection surviving long enough to reinfect people. This depends on how many people the virus infects and how virulent it is. The best-case timeline for a vaccine or treatment is thought to be roughly a year.

Will Covid-19 Kill E3?

Frankly, E3 itself might be a victim of Covid-19. The show has been shrinking for years, and prominent gaming journalist Geoff Keighley announced he wouldn’t be producing E3 Coliseum, after launching the project in 2019. Sony had pulled out of the trade show last year and this year — but of course, this year is a bigger deal, given that the PlayStation 5 ought to be ramping its news cycle by then.

The E3 organizers say in their official statement that “Our team will be reaching out directly to exhibitors and attendees with information about providing full refunds.” They’re also looking for ways to hold a virtual event during the month of June that would showcase games and industry announcements.

The question of whether Covid-19 is going to have an economic impact on the United States is no longer an “if.” At this point, it’s a question of “when?” and “how much?”

Please share the Charmin.

Feature image by Sergey Galyonkin, CC BY-SA 2.0

Now Read:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

Myanmar formally accused of genocide in court case filed at The Hague

Myanmar has repeatedly been blamed in the systematic displacement, killing and widespread sexual assault of Rohingya Muslims, but only today has it been formally accused in an international court of acts of genocide.

The case filed at the International Court of Justice at The Hague is the first attempt to work around international inertia around Myanmar’s actions on its own soil, and push through the legal and political obstacles that have so far frustrated calls to exact justice for the hundreds of thousands of victims.

Since violence erupted in Rakhine state in August 2017, several investigations concluded that Myanmar security forces were behind the atrocities that razed dozens of Rohingya villages, displaced more than 700,000 civilians, and killed countless others. 

In August 2018, a UN fact-finding mission declared those acts a campaign of genocide, and called for the prosecution of the military commander and generals in charge for genocide and war crimes.

Still there seemed to be little global appetite for legal action.

Last year, Canada became the first country to call the violence an act of genocide, after Parliament voted unanimously to do so. A campaign followed by senators and dozens of human rights groups — as well as a motion in the Senate — urging the Canadian government to take the genocide accusation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which arbitrates disputes between states. 

But Canada has called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court instead. The Council is the only avenue for putting the matter before the ICC because Myanmar is not a state party to the statues that created the court, which means it’s outside of its jurisdiction.

However, a reference by the Security Council was highly unlikely, at minimum due to China’s opposition.

‘Our moral obligation’

In a novel attempt to get around these challenges, the application Monday by a team of American, Canadian and British lawyers was filed on behalf of the African nation of The Gambia. It is accusing Myanmar of contravening the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which both The Gambia and Myanmar are state parties.

The Gambia is bringing the case forward on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whose leaders voted to proceed with with a legal challenge earlier this year.

“Despite our size, we believe that it is at least our moral obligation,” The Gambia’s justice minister, Abubacarr Tambadou, said in an interview. 

A former prosecutor of genocide cases in Rwanda, Tambadou added that the treatment of Rohingya “illustrates the failure of the international community to prevent genocide.” 


Since violence erupted in Rakhine state in August 2017, several investigations concluded that Myanmar security forces were behind the atrocities that razed dozens of Rohingya villages, displaced more than 700,000 civilians, and killed countless others. (Nahlah Ayed/CBC)

The hope, he said, is that Canada and other countries will intervene in the case.

“This is not just a case legal case; this is about humanity, about us as human beings in this world.”

Typically, nations bringing cases to the ICJ are directly affected by the accusations at hand. That makes Monday’s application an “unprecedented case” under the Genocide Convention of “altruistic litigation, where a country is not directly affected but acts on behalf of the common interest,” says Canadian Payam Akhavan, a former UN prosecutor and McGill law professor, who is serving as legal counsel on the team taking the case forward. 

The Gambia, he added, is showing “moral leadership” where “many other powerful nations have failed to act.”


Canadian Payam Akhavan, a former UN prosecutor and McGill law professor, is seen visiting the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. (Yousuf Tushar)

The application says actions “adopted, taken and condoned” by the government of Myanmar targeted “a distinct ethnic, racial and religious group that resides primarily in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.” 

The acts that were “calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfer, are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part.”

Particularly troubling — and further cementing accusations of genocide — are the widespread reports of systematic and brutal sexual assault perpetrated by uniformed men and their supporters against Rohingya women.

The application quotes the UN’s findings detailing reports of “gang rapes, sexually humiliating acts, sexual slavery and sexual mutilations … ‘perpetrated on a massive scale.'”

The application filed Monday also includes a request for an injunction from the court ordering Myanmar to prevent any further violence.

‘We feel there is a very, very strong case’

Longtime ICJ litigator Paul Reichler, whose Washington firm Foley Hoag has been retained to lead the case, says he hopes an urgent hearing on an injunction would be heard sometime in December.

“You can’t really wait for the end of the lawsuit to gain the protection of the court, because you can win the case, but by that time there may be no Rohingya left,” said Reichler.

There remains at least 600,000 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state where violence and displacement is still ongoing. Last month, the chief of the UN’s fact-finding mission on Myanmar said there is a “serious risk of genocide recurring.”

It could be three or four years before the ICJ rules, says Reichler.

“We feel there is a very, very strong case.”


Border guards in Myanmar watch closely at a no-man’s land between Myanmar and Bangladesh. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

The Rakhine state has been off limits to international investigators, and visits by international politicians or media (including the CBC) are tightly controlled. However, much of the evidence comes from powerful testimony of the displaced, most of whom are now living in horrific camps across the border in Bangladesh.

“All the survivors I spoke with wanted to tell their stories to the world. They wanted some measure of justice,” says Akhavan, who is also counsel to Bangladesh in a separate case against Myanmar related to the displacement of Rohingya.

“It’s difficult ever to do justice for genocide. But some justice is better than none at all.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

Google Formally Claims to Have Achieved Quantum Supremacy

This site may earn affiliate commissions from the links on this page. Terms of use.

Last month, the quantum computing world lit up with the news that Google might have achieved quantum supremacy. A draft version of a paper surfaced on NASA’s website claiming this but was quickly yanked offline. Now, the final version of the same paper has run in Nature, making a formal claim to what had previously been implied by the quick appearance and disappearance of the draft. Google argues that it has achieved so-called quantum supremacy by demonstrating a quantum computer capable of solving a problem no classical computer could compute in a reasonable amount of time.

Is this the moment that quantum supremacy is absolutely without question achieved? According to IBM, no. Here’s what’s going on.

Achieving Quantum Supremacy

To achieve quantum supremacy, Google needs to demonstrate that a quantum computer has performed a series of operations at speeds that classical computers are literally incapable of achieving. There are problems that a modern classical computer couldn’t finish solving using the best-known methods of today before the heat death of the universe.

Scientists, however, have an annoying tendency of finding faster ways to compute workloads by improving the underlying algorithms used to do so. Writing maximally efficient algorithms is an incredibly complex topic, touching on everything from the capabilities of the hardware platform to the language and compiler used to generate the underlying code. Finding new shortcuts and more efficient methods of solving problems is a major way we’ve improved the speed of analyzing complex data in HPC classical computing, over and above the impact of Moore’s Law and other hardware improvements.

Just a few days ago, before Google’s paper was formally published in Nature, IBM put out a paper claiming there’s a way to execute Google’s chosen workload on a classical machine. Google claims that they’ve achieved quantum supremacy because the company’s “Sycamore processor takes about 200 seconds to sample one instance of a quantum circuit a million times—our benchmarks currently indicate that the equivalent task for a state-of-the-art classical supercomputer would take approximately 10,000 years.”

google-bristlecone

An earlier Google quantum chip, Bristlecone.

And here’s IBM:

As we argued in that paper, secondary storage can extend the computational reach of supercomputers for the simulation of quantum circuits… We estimate that on the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, secondary storage allows the simulation of 53- and 54-qubit Sycamore circuits with high fidelity to arbitrary depth… In particular, for 20 cycles of the entanglement pattern ABCDCDAB, which is specifically designed to challenge classical simulation algorithms, we estimate that the computations would take approximately two and a half days.

Google is saying that it achieved quantum supremacy by performing a calculation that cannot be performed on a classical system in a reasonable amount of time. IBM is attempting to short-circuit Google’s ability to claim the quantum supremacy crown by arguing that no, Google didn’t actually achieve quantum supremacy because IBM estimates it could extend a supercomputer in particular ways that allowed it to complete the same computation in 2.5 days.

This is a weak refutation on IBM’s part. For one thing, Google is describing something it has done, while IBM is describing something it has theorized could be done. For another, standing up a quantum computer and saying “We’ve found a way to perform a task vastly more quickly than a classical computer does today,” is still relevant to the larger scope of quantum research and improvement. If the work being done in quantum computing spurs work that leads to more efficient classical computing algorithms, that’s a win-win as far as software development is concerned.

It may be easier to understand the relationship between quantum and classical computing by referring to the very early days of digital computing. While digital computers eventually outstripped analog computers, the earliest digital machines were electro-mechanical, relay-based systems that were much slower than the analog computers of the day. There were some significant digital-analog computer hybrids that took advantage of the best features of both worlds before digital computers completely took over the manufacturing landscape.

If you think about it from this perspective, “digital supremacy” was not a single event. Analog computers improved over the decades they were in use, just as digital computers did, and the best analog systems of say, 1960 were faster and more capable than the best analog computer of 1920. Digital machines improved faster, however, and were capable of addressing a much wider array of problems. Digital computers replaced analog systems over time.

One important distinction between quantum and classical computing as compared with digital versus analog is that no one expects quantum computers to ever replace classical machines. Quantum computers require liquid nitrogen to operate and there’s no way to duplicate that kind of cooling setup in a box you’d put under your desk or drop in a pocket. We’re not looking at the same kind of long-term replacement cycle, in this case, but we should expect that as both quantum and classical computers continue to evolve, classical computers will continue to be capable of addressing tests that they once could not calculate efficiently. Quantum computers, however, will grow their capabilities in these tests in a fundamentally different way.

Quantum computing expert Scott Aaronson makes this point in his blog, writing:

With a 53-qubit chip, it’s perfectly feasible to see a speedup by a factor of many millions, in a regime where you can still directly verify the outputs, and also to see that the speedup is growing exponentially with the number of qubits, exactly as asymptotic analysis would predict.

In other words, even if there’s a clever speedup that can make this specific solution simulatable on a classical computer, the rapid growth in the number of qubits in a universal quantum computer will soon prevent such solutions from working at all. As the number of available qubits increases, the number of problems quantum computing can address also increases.

So. Has Google absolutely achieved quantum supremacy? It looks that way for now, though a lot of very sharp-eyed people are going to be dissecting this paper in the days and weeks to come. But while IBM is trying to argue that they haven’t, I don’t see many scientists echoing that claim. For many years, there were real questions about whether it was possible to build a quantum computer at all. Today, researchers are grappling with how to build machines that can perform useful work. Even if Google’s paper were to be retracted, the question of quantum supremacy seems to very much be a matter of “when,” not “if.”

Now Read:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ExtremeTechExtreme – ExtremeTech

U.K. government formally suspends Parliament for 5 weeks

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has succeeded in his plan to suspend Britain’s rebellious Parliament for five weeks, but he has achieved little else in his first prolonged jousting with legislators determined to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The simmering showdown between Johnson and Parliament over Brexit came to a head as lawmakers delivered three defeats to the government’s plans for leaving the European Union, before being sent home early Tuesday for a contentious five-week suspension of the legislature.

In a session that ran well past midnight, Parliament ordered the government to release private communications about its Brexit plans and rejected Johnson’s call for a snap election to break the political deadlock.

Parliament was then suspended — or prorogued — at the government’s request until Oct. 14, a drastic move that gives Johnson a respite from rebellious lawmakers as he plots his next move.

Opponents accuse him of trying to avoid democratic scrutiny. What is usually a solemn, formal prorogation ceremony erupted into raucous scenes as opposition lawmakers in the House of Commons chamber shouted “Shame on you” and held up signs reading “Silenced.”

Commons Speaker John Bercow expressed his displeasure at Parliament’s suspension, saying “this is not a standard or normal prorogation.”

“It’s one of the longest for decades and it represents an act of executive fiat,” he said.


Pro-Brexit protesters gathered outside Parliament on Monday. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

The prime minister has had a turbulent week since Parliament returned from its summer break on Sept. 3. He kicked 21 lawmakers out of the Conservative group in Parliament after they sided with the opposition, and saw two ministers quit his government — one of them his own brother.

Parliament’s suspension ended a day of blows to the embattled Johnson. First an opposition-backed measure designed to stop Britain from crashing out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a divorce deal became law after receiving the formal assent of Queen Elizabeth. The law compels the government to ask the EU for a three-month delay if no deal has been agreed by Oct. 19.

Johnson says the country’s delayed exit must happen at the end of October, with or without a divorce agreement to smooth the way. But many lawmakers fear a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating, and are determined to stop him.

“I will not ask for another delay,” Johnson said. But he has few easy ways out of it. His options — all of them extreme — include disobeying the law, which could land him in court or even prison, and resigning so that someone else would have to ask for a delay.


Anti-Brexit demonstrators were also out on Monday as the debate over departing the EU raged on. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Legislators also demanded the government release, by Wednesday, emails and text messages among aides and officials relating to suspending Parliament and planning for Brexit amid allegations that the suspension is being used to circumvent democracy.

Under parliamentary rules, the government is obliged to release the documents.

In a statement, the government said it would “consider the implications of this vote and respond in due course.”

Then, early Tuesday, lawmakers rebuffed, for a second time, Johnson’s request for an early election, which he said was “the only way to break the deadlock in the House.”

Opposition parties voted against the measure or abstained, denying Johnson the two-thirds majority he needed. They want to make sure a no-deal departure is blocked before agreeing to an election.

“We’re eager for an election, but as keen as we are we, we are not prepared to inflict the disaster of a no deal on our communities, our jobs, our services, or indeed our rights,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.

Johnson acknowledged Monday that a no-deal Brexit “would be a failure of statecraft” for which he would be partially to blame.

On a visit to Dublin, Johnson said he would “overwhelmingly prefer to find an agreement” and believed a deal could be struck by Oct. 18, when leaders of all 28 EU countries hold a summit in Brussels.

The comments marked a change of tone, if not substance, for Johnson, who is accused by opponents of driving Britain at full-tilt toward a cliff-edge Brexit.

Meanwhile, Bercow, whose control of business in the House of Commons has made him a central player in the Brexit drama, announced he would step down after a decade in the job.


Speaker of the House John Bercow, who will soon leave his post, expressed concern about the prorogation. (Reuters)

The colourful speaker, famous for his loud ties and even louder cries of “Order!” during raucous debates, told lawmakers he will quit the same day Britain is due to leave the EU, Oct. 31.

Throughout the three years since Britain voted to leave the EU, Bercow has angered the Conservative government by repeatedly allowing lawmakers to seize control of Parliament’s agenda to steer the course of Brexit.

He said he was simply fulfilling his role of being the “backbenchers’ backstop” and letting Parliament have its say.

“Throughout my time as speaker, I have sought to increase the relative authority of this legislature, for which I will make absolutely no apology,” he said.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

U.S. formally withdraws from 1987 nuclear pact with Russia

The U.S. formally withdrew from a landmark nuclear missile pact with Russia on Friday after determining that Moscow was in violation of the treaty, something the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

U.S. President Donald Trump made the determination that the U.S. would terminate adherence to the 1987 arms control accord, known as the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), senior administration officials told reporters.

The treaty bans either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe. Washington signalled its intention six months ago to pull out of the agreement if Russia made no move to adhere to it.

“The United States will not remain party to a treaty that is deliberately violated by Russia,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement about the U.S. withdrawal.


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that the U.S. was put in jeopardy by Russia’s non-compliance of the treaty, an accusation that Moscow denies. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

“Russia’s noncompliance under the treaty jeopardizes U.S. supreme interests as Russia’s development and fielding of a treaty-violating missile system represents a direct threat to the United States and our allies and partners,” Pompeo said.

The senior administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Russia had deployed “multiple battalions” of a Russian cruise missile throughout Russia in violation of the pact, including in western Russia, “with the ability to strike critical European targets.”

Russia denies the allegation, saying the missiles range puts it outside the treaty, and has accused the U.S. of inventing a false pretext to exit a treaty Washington wants to leave anyway so it can develop new missiles. 

Russia asks U.S. to refrain from deploying missiles in Europe

In response, Russia said it had asked the U.S. to declare and enforce a moratorium on the deployment of short and intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.

“We have proposed to the United States and other NATO countries that they weigh the possibility of declaring the same kind of moratorium on the deployment of short and intermediate range missiles as ours, like the one announced by Vladimir Putin,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency.


Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has urged the U.S. to put a moratorium on testing new missile systems. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, eliminated the medium-range ground-launched missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

The treaty bans land-based missiles with a range between 500-5,500 kilometres.

Trump has sought to improve U.S. relations with Russia after a chill during the tenure of his predecessor, Barack Obama. He and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone on Wednesday about Siberian wildfires and trade.

Arms control did not come up in the call, the officials said.

European officials have voiced concern that if the treaty collapses, Europe could again become an arena for nuclear-armed, intermediate-range missile buildups by the U.S. and Russia.

Possible trilateral deal with China

The officials said the U.S. was months away from the first flight tests of an American intermediate-range missile that would serve as a counter to the Russians. Any such deployment would be years away, they said.

Trump has said he would like to see a “next-generation” arms control deal with Russia and China to cover all types of nuclear weapons.

He has broached the topic individually with Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, including at the G20 summit in Osaka in June.

China is not a party to nuclear arms pacts between the United States and Russia and it is unclear how willing Beijing would be to be drawn into talks.

China’s foreign ministry has reiterated that the country had no interest in joining such talks.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

Protesters in Hong Kong formally charged with rioting, released on bail

More than 20 protesters accused of rioting were formally charged and released on bail Wednesday related to the mass demonstrations that began in Hong Kong last month.

Standing in a heavy rain, supporters rallied outside the court and chanted “Reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” in what has become a familiar refrain. They are protesting China’s influence in the city, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory with its own laws and legal system.

Forty-four people had been charged with rioting and one other with possessing offensive weapons. The accused set up roadblocks, broke fences, damaged street signs, and attacked police officers with bricks and iron rods, law enforcement said in a statement.

Twenty-three of the 44 appeared in court Wednesday. All were released on bail. They have to hand over their travel documents and are not allowed to go out in the hours from midnight to 6 a.m. Their sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25. It was not clear when the others charged will appear in court.

Rioting carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.

The protesters were detained after clashes with police at an unauthorized protest in the western part of Hong Kong island on Sunday, when police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber bullets to drive back protesters blocking the streets with road signs and umbrellas. Police issued warnings prior to using the tear gas, but protesters stood their ground and threw eggs at the officers.


Protesters brace themselves against the strong wind and heavy rain from Tropical Storm Wipha as they gather outside the Eastern Court in Hong Kong on Wednesday. (Vincent Yu/Associated Press)

The large demonstrations started last month as a movement against now-suspended extradition legislation, and have since grown to encompass broader demands around greater democracy and government accountability.

The protests have been propelled by an underlying distrust for the ruling Communist Party on the mainland, where speech is tightly controlled and dissenters are routinely jailed.

News of the charges prompted quickly organized protests outside two police stations late Tuesday.

Several hundred people gathered in the streets outside the Kwai Chung police station. Some threw eggs at the building, while police used pepper spray to try to disperse them. Some had cordoned off an area at a subway station covered in shattered glass where they said an officer had used a firearm.

Fireworks set off

Fireworks were set off just before 3 a.m. at another police station, injuring six men. Video footage on social media appeared to show a car driving by the Tin Shui Wai police station as fireworks flared where protesters were gathered.


A police officer points a gun toward anti-extradition bill protesters who surrounded a police station in Hong Kong on Tuesday. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Five people were taken to a hospital and the sixth man declined medical treatment at the scene, police said. It wasn’t clear who was responsible.

As the demonstration seeped into the early hours of Wednesday, protesters and supporters remained highly wary of being identified by the authorities and suffering potential retribution at their places of work and study. Volunteers handed out face masks and single-trip subway fare cards that would prevent riders being identified and their trips logged in a central data base, while drivers who had taped paper over their license plates offered rides home.

Hong Kong lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki told reporters that the prosecution of protesters and use of police force will only make the situation worse. He blamed Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

“The origin of all the violence is Carrie Lam and the very controversial extradition bill,” he said, adding “she should come out today to answer to all the requests of most of the people in Hong Kong.”

Kwok also criticized China’s repeated statements supporting police efforts to quell the protests, saying Chinese backing would not heal the city.

Police have been deploying an increasing range of crowd control measures, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, shotgun beanbag rounds and sponge grenades fired from barrel-mounted grenade launchers.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

China formally arrests Spavor and Kovrig, accuses them of spying

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Beijing of not playing by the same rules the large majority of democracies follow after Chinese authorities formally arrested two Canadians, accusing them of crimes related to national security.

Businessman Michael Spavor, who worked with North Korea, and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were picked up separately in December, shortly after Canada arrested Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, and were recently arrested, according to both Chinese and Canadian officials.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a daily news briefing in Beijing on Thursday morning that Kovrig — who now works for the International Crisis Group (ICG) a non-governmental organization which focuses on conflict resolution —  is suspected of gathering state secrets for other countries and Spavor is accused of stealing and illegally providing state secrets, said Lu.

He didn’t say when the men will be formally charged, just that they had recently been arrested.

China has repeatedly demanded Meng, who now faces extradition to the U.S, be released, and has reacted angrily to extradition proceedings against her in a Canadian court.

Under Chinese law, officials can detain people for up to six months, meaning Beijing had until June 10 to act.

“I think one of the things we see increasingly around the world is that the Chinese government is not following the same kinds of rules and principles that the large majority of democracies follow in regards to rules-based order, in regards to international relations,” said Trudeau during a media appearance in Paris Thursday.

When asked if he’ll call Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trudeau said Canada is focused on “things that are going to help the Canadians being detained.”

Global Affairs Canada said Thursday it “condemns their arbitrary arrest as we condemned their arbitrary detention on Dec. 10.”

“We reiterate our demand that China immediately release Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor,” said a spokesperson in a statement.

“Canadian consular officials have made recent consular visits to the two men and will continue to provide consular services to them and their families. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed.”

Questions about the death penalty

Canadian diplomats have been allowed to visit the two men in detention.

China has said it is fully guaranteeing both men’s lawful rights. Kovrig also holds Hungarian citizenship.

China hoped Canada “will not make irresponsible remarks” about China’s law enforcement and judicial proceedings, said Lu.

With their formal arrest, they could soon face trial, though it is unclear when that may be.

Guy Saint-Jacques, one of Canada’s former ambassadors to China, said their fates are likely already sealed.

“Once you are formally accused in the Chinese system, you are found guilty in 99.9 per cent of the cases. What we’ll have to watch now is what is exactly the nature of the accusations and whether the penalty could include the death penalty,” he said. 

“We’re dealing with some very difficult people.” 

While Canada says China has made no specific link between the detentions of the two men and Meng’s arrest, experts and former diplomats say they have no doubt it is using their cases to pressure Canada.

“The Chinese leaders have probably come to the conclusion that the extradition process of Mrs. Meng is going to last likely a long time and therefore they have decided to up the ante,” said Saint-Jacques.


Meng Wanzhou, seen here as she leaves her home in Vancouver last week, was arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Detained for months

In March, China accused the two of involvement in stealing state secrets.

Meng, 47, is the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s billionaire founder, Ren Zhengfei.

She was arrested at Vancouver’s airport on a U.S. warrant and is fighting extradition on charges that she conspired to defraud global banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company operating in Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order barring U.S. firms from using telecom equipment made by companies deemed to pose a national security risk. The order did not specifically identify any country or company, but U.S. officials have previously labelled Huawei a “threat” and lobbied allies not to use Huawei network equipment in next-generation 5G networks.

Meng was released from jail in December on $ 10-million bail and must wear an electronic ankle bracelet and pay for security guards. She has been living in a Vancouver home.

The formal arrests of the Canadians was first reported by the Globe and Mail on Wednesday. 

Another Canadian in China, Robert Schellenberg, was sentenced to death in a drug case following Meng’s detention. His case is being appealed. 

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Canadians thinking of travelling to China should consult with Global Affairs Canada.


Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News

Trump formally nominates U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft for UN post

U.S. President Donald Trump has formally submitted to the Senate the nomination of Kelly Craft to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Craft is currently Washington’s ambassador to Canada. In February, Trump had said he had selected Craft for the UN job.

Craft, a Kentucky native, was a member of the U.S. delegation to the UN General Assembly under president George W. Bush’s administration.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell backed Craft for the post.

As U.S. ambassador to Canada, Craft played a role in facilitating the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, a revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Craft has been ambassador during a low point in relations. Last year, Trump called Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weak and dishonest.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

CBC | World News