UN Tries to cut Numbers at EU-funded Migrant Center in Libya

The U.N. refugee agency plans to cut the number of migrants staying at an overcrowded transit center in Libya’s capital, a spokesman said Saturday.

Libya is a major waypoint for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

“The situation is very difficult, and we do not have the resources” because the center in Tripoli is at about twice its capacity, with some 1,200 migrants, Charlie Yaxley, a UNHCR spokesman, told The Associated Press.

The UNHCR has asked those refugees not registered with the agency to leave the European Union-funded Gathering and Departure Facility, offering an assistance package that includes cash for an initial two months.

“You will not be considered for evacuation or resettlement if you stay at the GDF,” the agency warned the migrants, according to a document obtained by the AP. It added that those seeking registration with the agency could only do so “outside” the facility.

The UNHCR said it would phase out food distribution for the unregistered migrants, including dozens of tuberculosis patients, from Jan. 1.

Yaxley said the agency also offered to facilitate returning the migrants to their home country or to a country they previously registered as asylum-seekers.

Migrants, however, decried the move, fearing they would end up at detention centers or at the mercy of human traffickers.

“The migrants are reluctant and have their concerns about leaving the GDF,” one person seeking shelter at the facility said, who spoke on condition of anonymity for his safety. The surrounding areas of Tripoli have seen heavy fighting between armed factions since April.

The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter, launched an offensive to capture the capital city in April, clashing with an array of militias loosely allied with the U.N.-supported but weak government there.

The fighting has stalled in recent weeks, with both sides dug in and shelling one another along Tripoli’s southern reaches. They have also carried out airstrikes and drone attacks.

In July, an airstrike hit a detention center for migrants outside Tripoli, killing more than 50 migrants held there. The Tripoli-based authorities blamed the LNA for the airstrikes. The LNA, however, said it was targeting a nearby military site, not the detention center.

After the airstrike, hundreds of former detainees made their way into the GDF, the agency said. They were followed by another group of around 400 people from Abu Salim detention center in late October, as well as up to 200 people from urban areas, the UNCHR said.

The gathering point, which was opened a year ago, has capacity for around 600 people.

“We hope that the GDF will be able to return to its original function as a transit facility for the most acutely vulnerable refugees, so we are able to evacuate them to safety,” said UNHCR’s Chief of Mission for Libya Jean-Paul Cavalieri.

There are some 40,000 refugees and asylum-seekers living in urban areas across Libya, some of whom are extremely vulnerable, face abuse in militia-run detention centers, and are in desperate need of support, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Separately, the Libyan coast guard said Saturday it intercepted at least 205 Europe-bound migrants off the western town of Zawiya. The African migrants, who included 158 men, 33 women and 14 children, were given humanitarian assistance and were taken to the detention center in Tajoura.

Libya’s detention centers are rife with abuse and Europe’s policy of supporting the coast guard has come under growing criticism.

Climate Activists Invade East German Coal Mines in Protest

Climate activists protested at open-pit coal mines in eastern Germany, pouring onto the premises to urge the government to immediately halt the use of coal to produce electricity.

The news agency dpa reported that police estimated more than 2,000 people took part Saturday at sites near Cottbus and Leipzig and that some of the demonstrators scuffled with police. Three officers were reported slightly injured at the Janschwaelde mine near Cottbus. The mine operators, Leag und Mibrag, filed police reports asking for an investigation and possible charges.

Burning coal releases carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed by scientists for global warming. The German government plans to end the use of coal by 2038 and spend 40 billion euros ($44 billion) on assistance for the affected mining regions.

Commonwealth, AU, OIF Call for Peace and Unity in Cameroon

Three international organizations have ended an official visit to Cameroon with a call for efforts to restore security, justice and the conditions for the resumption of normal life in English-speaking northwest and southwest regions of the country hit by the separatist crisis that has killed over 3,000 people. The Commonwealth, African Union, and International Organization of La Francophonie delegation says it is convinced dialogue remains the preferred path for peace to return, but that the government should start implementing the recommendations of the last major national dialogue it organized. Some, however, have been critical of government efforts.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, says after exchanging views with Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, representatives of the main political parties, religious leaders, youth representatives and a cross-section of Cameroonians,  the organizations are convinced that there is a yearning for peace to return to the restive English-speaking regions.

Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat delivers a speech during the African Union (AU) summit at the Palais des Congres in Niamey, Niger, July 7, 2019.
FILE – Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat delivers a speech during the African Union (AU) summit at the Palais des Congres in Niamey, Niger, July 7, 2019.

He says they noted that a majority of Cameroonians welcomed the convening of the Grand National Dialogue from September 30 to October 4,  in which Cameroon’s government  consulted with political party leaders, activists, opinion leaders, traditional rulers, lawmakers and clergy, and are anxiously waiting for the government to implement its recommendations.  Those recommendations include establishing some sort of special status for the minority English-speaking regions, to be considered by the country’s parliament.  It also backed enforcement of the constitutional language giving English and French equal status and saying they must be used in all public offices and documents.  It also backed continuing the process of decentralization by giving more powers and resources to local councils.  

Mahamat participated in the tripartite mission with  International Organization of La Francophonie Secretary General Louise Mushikiwabo and Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland to encourage national peace efforts.

Mahamat said after their meetings in Yaounde, they observed that a large majority of Cameroonians supported the convening of the major national dialogue and believe it aided their quest for peace.  He said they were convinced that dialogue remains the only path to peace, and asked the government to implement the recommendations of the national dialogue.

After the national dialogue, hundreds of prisoners were freed when Biya ordered a halt to court proceedings against them, saying he was implementing the recommendations of the dialogue.

However, Albert Mvomo, an official of the opposition Cameroon United Party, says Biya’s government has not been doing enough to solve the crisis. He says the AU, OIF and Commonwealth delegation should have proposed sanctions to force Biya to solve the crisis.

He says the three organizations, like any international organization, should force the government in Yaounde to solve the crisis in the English-speaking regions through economic and diplomatic sanctions. He says Cameroon’s government shows no serious sign of wanting to stop the crisis.

Mvomo said the growing number of displaced people in towns and villages in the French-speaking regions showed the government has not been doing much to stop the separatist conflicts.

Simon Munzo,  an Anglophone leader who took part at the national dialogue, says while some recommendations would require legislation, Cameroon should have started showing serious signs that it wants peace to return by restoring public infrastructure and villages and towns destroyed by the fighting for the population to return.  

“We expect the government to maintain the momentum through the implementation of the recommendations of the dialogue,” said Munzo. “Some of them require legislation. Others do not, for example rebuilding schools and bridges and all of that. You do not need legislation for that except in terms of budgeting. Now, there are other aspects that will require modifying the constitution.”

Separatists have insisted on social media that they do not recognize the outcome of the national dialogue and will be ready to negotiate with the Yaounde government only on the terms of the separation of the English-speaking and French-speaking parts of Cameroon.

US Border Agents Rescue Migrants From Flooded Drainage Pipe

U.S. border protection officials in San Diego said Friday that 20 people had been rescued from flooded drainage pipes west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. 

A Border Patrol agent found three people trying to enter the United States illegally late Thursday near a drainage tube about 3 kilometers west of the port of entry, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Border Patrol’s parent agency.

In a release, CBP said the three people told agents there were people trapped inside the drainage tubes, with water rising because of heavy rain in the area. 

After a search, local emergency officials aided CBP agents in recovering 17 people, sending seven of them to a nearby hospital for medical care.

About an hour later, three more people were discovered in the drainage tubes and were taken into custody. One was sent to the hospital.

CBP said it apprehended 15 men, three women and one juvenile male from Mexico, and one Guatemalan man. It said all would be processed for illegally entering the United States. 

Twitter CEO Pledges to Live in Africa for Several Months in 2020

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey has wrapped up of a trip to Africa by pledging to reside on the continent next year for up to six months. 

Dorsey tweeted this week: “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020.”

The CEO of the social media giant did not say what he planned to do on the African continent.

Twitter, which is based in San Francisco, did not offer more details on Dorsey’s plans. 

On Dorsey’s recent trip, he visited entrepreneurs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. 

Dorsey, 43, co-founded Twitter with several other entrepreneurs in 2006. He ran the company until he was ousted in 2008 but was brought back seven years later to again lead the platform.

Dorsey also co-founded the payment processing app Square and is also CEO of that operation. The tech exec holds millions of stock shares in both companies, and Forbes estimates his net worth at $4.3 billion.

Twitter, along with other social media companies, has faced criticism of its handling of misinformation and has come under scrutiny ahead of next year’s U.S. presidential election. Dorsey announced in October that Twitter would ban political advertisements on the platform. 

Міжбанк: гривня йде на новий рекорд щодо долара

На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку короткочасне посилення долара знову змінилося послабленням американської валюти. Як повідомляє сайт Finance.ua, станом на 13:25 котирування становили 23 гривні 94–96 копійок.

Опівдні посилення гривні частково відбив Національний банк України у своєму довідковому значенні курсу 23 гривні 98 копійок, що на 6 копійок менше за офіційний курс на 29 листопада і є повторенням зафіксованого раніше цього тижня рекордного за 46 місяців значення.

«Торги по долару ближче до обіду на піку активності. Йдуть операції по лотах до 1 мільйона доларів при зростанні пропозиції валюти в останні 30 хвилин сесії, що поки не відбилося на котируваннях», – вказують фахівці сайту «Мінфін».


Надмірне посилення гривні щодо долара є не менш небезпечним, ніж стрімка девальвація національної валюти. Зокрема, посилення понад рівень, закріплений у розрахунках уряду, ставить під загрозу виконання дохідної частини державного бюджету. Саме через це НБУ, викуповуючи надлишок пропозиції долара, намагається не допустити більшого посилення гривні.

Botswana Drought Makes Wasteland of Harvests, Livestock

Southern Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts in years, with more than 40 million people expected to face food insecurity because of livestock and crop losses. Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe have declared it an emergency.

In semi-arid Botswana, the farmers are reeling after the worst drought in a decade wiped out entire harvests and left the land littered with dead livestock.

Two thirds of the crops planted last season failed, while Ngamiland, a rich beef producing region, has recorded nearly 40,000 cattle deaths.

Rancher Casper Matsheka says there was no food or water, so his animals starved to death.

“The goats died, as well as the cattle, as you can see the carcasses all over. We were really affected. If only the government could subsidize the prices of feed and vaccines for the livestock during such times,” he said.

Cattle and hippos wallow in the mud in one of the channel of the wildlife reach Okavango Delta near the Nxaraga village in the…
Cattle and hippos wallow in mud in one of the channels of the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta near Nxaraga village in the outskirt of Maun, Sept. 28, 2019. Botswana government declared this a drought year because of no rainfall throughout the country.

Nor has the drought sparred wildlife.

National parks authorities have resorted to feeding starving hippos while hundreds of elephants have died.

Environmental nongovernment organization, Kalahari Conservation Society’s Neil Fitt says competition for food and water has increased the risk of human-wildlife conflict.

“The livestock are now putting pressure on the wildlife areas, so the wildlife are also getting pressure on their areas, and that is where the conflict zone is,” he said. “Why I am bringing this up? The… interconnected with the drought is this wildlife-human conflict.”

In Botswana, where drought is frequent, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said the government plans to stop calling it an emergency and instead make drought relief part of the national budget.

“Government has taken a decision to develop a Drought Management Strategy, which would classify drought as a permanent feature in our budget plans, rather than an emergency,” he said. “The strategy will be completed before the end of the financial year.”

Acting director of Meteorological Services Radithupa Radithupa says a robust strategy is needed to deal with the recurring droughts.

“We are looking at climate change as an impact now, we are seeing the impact now in terms of heating, the dry spells and the excessive rains. Therefore, we really need to adapt as a nation,” Radithupa said.

Meanwhile, a forecast for rain has raised hopes among farmers and ranchers for recovery and that this season of severe drought won’t be a total loss.

Tibetan Man Dies After Self-immolation Protest Against  China

A former Buddhist monk has died in eastern Tibet after setting himself on fire this week to protest China’s repressive rule, a spokesperson for the monastery told VOA Tibetan Service.

Yonten, a 24-year-old former monk at Kirti Monastery in Amdo Ngaba, in the western China province of Sichuan, carried out his self-immolation Tuesday in Meruma township, spokesperson Kanyag Tsering said.

He said China had imposed restrictions in the area, including cellphone use, slowing the gathering and dissemination of information about the incident.

“We have no further information on whether the body of the deceased has been handed over to the family or not since all channels are now blocked,” the monastery said in a statement.

There have been 156 self-immolations across Tibet over the past decade, 44 of which took place in Amdo Ngaba.

Once a monk, Yonten later disrobed and settled as a nomad. Meruma township has been the scene of multiple self-immolation protests, most recently in March 2018.

In a statement, Free Tibet communications manager John Jones said, “Yonten lived his life under occupation. In his 24 years, he would have seen Chinese police and military suppress protests in his homeland, seen his culture, language and religion come under attack, seen people he knew arrested and made to disappear. Tibetans today grow up in a world of injustice.”

China maintains it has worked to modernize Tibetan society since “liberating” Tibetans in 1950.

NATO at 70: Internal Tensions, External Threats as Leaders Set to Gather

NATO leaders are preparing to gather in London for a two-day meeting Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the alliance, but growing tensions among members could overshadow the celebrations.

The war in Syria and the ongoing Russian threat will serve as the backdrop to the summit. Fellow NATO members the United States and Turkey came close to confrontation in northern Syria last month, rattling the alliance.

“The position of Turkey in the North Atlantic alliance is a difficult one,” said Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute in London in an interview with VOA this week.

“Turkey’s decision to become involved in military operations in the Middle East against the wishes of most of its allies, including the United States, [and] Turkey’s decision to buy Russian military equipment … [are] riling with many countries in Europe.”

NATO members say it’s better to have Turkey inside than outside the alliance.

“NATO is about European security, it’s not about coordinating policies in the Middle East,” Eyal said.

Where American troops once kept the peace, Russian forces now patrol northern Syria. The U.S. withdrawal has fueled concerns over America’s commitment to NATO. French President Emmanuel Macron recently called the alliance “brain dead” and urged Europe to create its own security architecture. 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Nov. 28, 2019.

The comments elicited a sharp rebuke from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg this week.

“European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity. We need both. And we have to also understand that, especially after Brexit, the EU cannot defend Europe,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Europe still sees Russia as the biggest threat following its 2014 forceful annexation of Crimea and ongoing campaigns of espionage, cyberwarfare and disinformation.

European concerns over the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, on collective defense, are not borne out by facts on the ground, Eyal said.

“The reality is the Pentagon’s spending in Europe is increasing, the number of U.S. troops is increasing.”

The deployment of U.S. troops in Europe is seen differently in Moscow.

“Some of the Eastern European nations are trying to get American boots on the ground despite the fact that Article 5 should cover their security, which suggests that they trust the United States more than they trust NATO,” Andrey Kortunov of the Russian Council on International Affairs in Moscow told VOA in a recent interview.

U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded that European NATO members “share the burden.” Germany on Wednesday pledged to meet the NATO defense spending target of 2% of GDP, but only by the 2030s.

“The U.S. president should be credited with actually banging the table hard enough for the United States to be heard,” Eya said, “This is, and it’s important sometimes to repeat the cliché, the most successful alliance in modern history.”

NATO will hope that is cause for celebration as leaders gather for its 70th anniversary.

НБУ послабив курс гривні щодо долара на 5 копійок

Офіційний курс гривні 29 листопада знизиться на 5 копійок – такі дані Національного банку України.

Офіційний курс у п’ятницю становитиме 24 гривні 5 копійок порівняно з 23,98 гривні 28 листопада.

Курс щодо євро також послабиться: з 26,40 гривні 28 листопада до 26,45 наступного дня.

Вдень 28 листопада Національний банк України опівдні встановив довідкове значення курсу 24 гривні 4 копійки за долар, це на 6 копійок більше за офіційний курс на 28 листопада.


Курс на міжбанківському ринку увечері 28 листопада становить 23,98 гривні при купівлі і 24 при продажу.

Раніше цього тижня експерти прогнозували, що вже цього тижня «загальний позитивний настрій щодо зміцнення гривні видихнеться як за рахунок нівелювання чинника аукціону по ОВДП, так і за рахунок зростання попиту на валюту перед закінченням місяця і скорочення її пропозиції через надходження основних сум відшкодувань ПДВ експортерам». Експерти припускають, що долар «відштовхнеться від дна», і ринок піде вгору.

Надмірне посилення гривні щодо долара є не менш небезпечним, ніж стрімка девальвація національної валюти. Зокрема, посилення понад рівень, закріплений у розрахунках уряду, ставить під загрозу виконання дохідної частини державного бюджету. Саме через це НБУ, викуповуючи надлишок пропозиції долара, намагається не допустити більшого посилення гривні.

China Summons US Ambassador to Protest Bill on Hong Kong Human Rights

China summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing Thursday to “strongly protest” President Donald Trump’s signing of bills on Hong Kong’s human rights.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told Ambassador Terry Branstad the move constituted “serious interference in China’s internal affairs” and described the action as a “serious violation of international law,” a statement from the foreign ministry said.  He urged Washington to refrain from implementing the bills to “avoid further damage” to U.S.-China relations.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sunrise, Fla., Nov. 26, 2019.

Trump Wednesday signed two separate bills backing pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong, despite a trade deal in the balance and threats from Beijing.

The House and Senate passed both bills last week nearly unanimously.

One law requires the State Department to certify annually that China allows Hong Kong enough autonomy to guarantee its favorable trading status. It threatens sanctions on Chinese officials who do not.

The second bill bans the export of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and other non-lethal ammunition to Hong Kong police.

It was not immediately clear if Trump’s decision might disrupt negotiations at easing the bilateral trade dispute. China’s foreign ministry said it will take “firm countermeasures” if the United States keeps interfering in Chinese affairs.

Hong Kong’s government expressed “extreme regret,” saying the U.S. moves sends the “wrong message” to the protesters.

But Trump, appearing on the U.S. cable news network Fox News late Tuesday, called Chinese President Xi Jinping “a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy.”

“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a later statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences, leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all.”

Trump had twice called the large street protests in Hong Kong “riots” — a word the protesters say plays into the hands of Chinese authorities.

But Trump took credit for thwarting Beijing’s threat to send in 1 million soldiers to put down the marches by saying such a move would have a “tremendous negative impact” on trade talks.

Protester holds U.S. flags during a demonstration in Hong Kong, Nov. 28, 2019.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong police entered Polytechnic University on Thursday after a two-week siege and said they were searching for evidence and dangerous items such as petrol bombs, according to the assistant commissioner of the police.

Police officials said they were not searching for any protesters that may be still holed up on campus.

Protests erupted in Hong Kong in June over the local government’s plans to allow some criminal suspects to be extradited to the Chinese mainland.

Hong Kong withdrew the bill in September, but the street protests have continued, with the demonstrators fearing Beijing is preparing to water down Hong Kong’s democracy and autonomy, nearly 30 years before the ex-British colony’s “special status” expires

Some of the protests have turned violent, with marchers throwing gasoline bombs at police, who have responded with live gunfire.


Iran Condemns Burning of Its Consulate by Iraqi Protesters

Iran on Thursday condemned the burning of its consulate in southern Iraq hours earlier, which came amid an escalation in Iraq’s anti-government protests that erupted nearly two months ago.
Violence across southern Iraq had continued throughout the night, with security forces killing 16 protesters and wounded 90 since Wednesday. Protesters closed roads while a large number of police and military forces were deployed across key oil-rich provinces. Protesters had set fire to the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Najaf late Wednesday. The Iranian staff were not harmed, and escaped out the back door.
Anti-government protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of being hopelessly corrupt, and has also decried Iran’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.
At least 350 people have been killed by security forces, which routinely used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds, sometimes shooting protesters directly with gas canisters, causing several fatalities.
Separately, the U.S. Embassy denounced a recent decision by Iraq’s media regulator to suspend nine television channels, calling for the Communications and Media Commission to reverse its decision. Thursday’s statement from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also condemned attacks and harassment against journalists.
Local channel Dijla TV had its license suspended on Tuesday, and its office was closed and its equipment confiscated, according an official from one of the channels under threat. Other channels have been asked by the regulatory commission to sign a pledge “agreeing to adhere to its rules,” said the official, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s coordinated bombings in three Baghdad neighborhoods, which killed five people. That was the first apparent coordinated attack since anti-government protests began. The bombings took place far from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of weeks of anti-government protests that have posed the biggest security challenge to Iraq since the defeat of IS.
Tehran called for a “responsible, strong and effective” response leadership to the incident from Iraq’s government, said Abbas Mousavi, a foreign ministry spokesman, in statements to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.
Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the torching of the consulate, saying it was perpetrated by “people outside of the genuine protesters,” in a statement, adding that the purpose had been to harm bilateral relations between the countries.
One demonstrator was killed and 35 wounded when police fired live ammunition to prevent them from entering the Iranian consulate building. Once inside, the demonstrators removed the Iranian flag and replaced it with an Iraqi one, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with regulations.
A curfew was imposed in Najaf after the consulate was burned. Security forces were heavily deployed around main government buildings and religious institutions on Thursday morning. The province is the headquarters of the country’s Shiite religious authority.
The consulate attack comes after days of sit-ins and road closures with protesters cutting access to main thoroughfares and bridges with burning tires. Protesters have also lately targeted the state’s economic interests in the south by blocking key ports and roads to oil fields.
In the oil-rich province of Nassiriya, sixteen protesters were killed overnight and 90 wounded by security forces who fired live ammunition to disperse them from a key bridge, security and medical officials said Thursday. Demonstrators had been blocking Nasr Bridge leading to the city center for several days. Security forces moved in late Wednesday to open the main thoroughfare. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
In Basra, security forces were deployed in the city’s main roads to prevent protesters from staging sit-ins, with instructions to arrest demonstrators if they tried to block roads.
Basra’s streets were open as of Thursday morning, but roads leading to the two main Gulf commodities ports in Umm Qasr and Khor al-Zubair remained closed. Schools and official public institutions were also closed.
Protesters had brought traffic in the oil-rich province to a halt for days by burning tires and barricading roads.

Time Running Out on North Korea’s Deadline to US on Nukes

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump have signaled their affection for each other so regularly it might be easy to miss rising fears that the head-spinning diplomatic engagement of the past two years is falling apart.
Pyongyang has issued increasingly dire warnings to Washington to mind a year-end deadline to offer some new initiative to settle the nations’ decades-long nuclear standoff.
Failure could mean a return to the barrage of powerful North Korean weapons tests that marked 2017 as one of the most fraught years in a relationship that has often been defined by bloodshed, deep mistrust and regular threats.
As the deadline approaches, and as the North’s propaganda machine cranks up its warnings, here’s a look at how high-stakes diplomatic wrangling in one of the most dangerous corners of the world might play out:
North Korea has previously issued deadlines it doesn’t follow through on as a way to try to get what it wants in negotiations.
But despite the usual skepticism, there are signs that Pyongyang means business this time.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency has reported that Seoul is taking the year-end deadline seriously and is working on “contingency plans” with the United States, which has been trying, and failing, to get North Korea back into serious talks before time runs out.
The chief U.S. nuclear negotiator warned recently that the North could turn to provocations if the deadline is unmet.
When diplomacy broke down at a Trump-Kim summit last February after North Korea didn’t win broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities, it began staging a series of short-range weapons tests. On Thursday, North Korea fired two projectiles likely from a multiple rocket launcher, South Korea’s military said, the first such major weapons test in about a month.
The North has also suggested it will not hold another summit with Trump unless it gets something substantial for its efforts.
“The U.S. only seeks to earn time, pretending it has made progress in settling the issue of the Korean Peninsula,” Kim Kye Gwan, a senior adviser to the North’s foreign ministry, said last week. “As we have got nothing in return, we will no longer gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of.”
If North Korea makes the determination that it can win little from Trump, amid congressional impeachment proceedings and 2020 presidential election jockeying, it might return to the nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests that made 2017 such a dangerous year.
Some outside observers, however, believe that Kim, despite his frustration with the Trump administration, has yet to give up on negotiations that have won a level of U.S. engagement that has eluded North Korean leaders for decades.
“As we enter 2020, the strategic window to make some kind of compromise with the U.S. will close rapidly, making sanctions more permanent” and hampering Kim’s promise of economic relief for his people, according to Stephen Robert Nagy, an Asia expert and professor at the International Christian University in Tokyo.
Kim may also try to further bolster ties and secure aid from China, North Korea’s most important ally and economic lifeline, and Russia while testing shorter-range missiles, according to Moon Seong Mook, an analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul.
But more powerful tests aren’t out of the question.
If the North decides to give up on talks and launches an ICBM, for instance, it will most likely be at “a time that would inflict the biggest pain on Trump,” said Go Myong-Hyun, an analyst at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
Sue Mi Terry, a former senior CIA analyst on Korea, wrote earlier this month that amid unrealistic expectations in Pyongyang, the U.S. might have “only two bad options” _ give the North massive sanctions relief up front in return for little in return, or watch Pyongyang return to more powerful weapons tests after the expiration of the year-end deadline.
“The North Koreans’ plan is to stall: show up, talk, break off talks,” Terry wrote. “And while they play this game, they are improving and expanding their nuclear and missile programs.”
Christopher Hill, chief U.S. negotiator with North Korea in the George W. Bush administration, said he feels that Pyongyang is “going to really press (Trump) to get something by the end of the year.”
“And if the Trump administration holds firm, then they’re going to have to recalibrate. And they will recalibrate, because they know they need Trump,” Hill said.
Moon Jae-in, the liberal South Korean president who has held summits with Kim and who yearns for deeper engagement, might be the last best hope for diplomacy, according to Robert Kelly, a Koreas expert at South Korea’s Pusan National University.
Moon, Kelly wrote, must strike “a deal which re-engages Trump’s interest at a busy time for him and finally pulls a concession out of the North which is meaningful enough to silence the growing chorus of conservative criticism in Seoul and Washington, yet simultaneously offers North Korea enough to halt its countdown.“
But, Kelly added, “it is unclear if Moon or anyone can thread such a narrow needle.”

Міжбанк: долар розвернувся і знову дорожчає

На українському міжбанківському валютному ринку змінився тренд. Після посилення гривні щодо долара до рекордного за останні 46 місяців значення (23 гривні 98 копійок за долар) американська валюта частково відіграє втрачені позиції.

Як повідомляє сайт Finance.ua, станом на 12:30 котирування склали 24 гривні 4–6 копійок за долар.

Національний банк України опівдні встановив довідкове значення курсу 24 гривні 4 копійки за долар, це на 6 копійок більше за офіційний курс на 28 листопада.

«Торги по долару продовжують залишатися малими за обсягами на 12:00, але спекулянти вже починають поступове розхитування котирувань», – відзначають фахівці сайту «Мінфін».

Раніше цього тижня експерти прогнозували, що вже цього тижня «загальний позитивний настрій щодо зміцнення гривні видихнеться як за рахунок нівелювання чинника аукціону по ОВДП, так і за рахунок зростання попиту на валюту перед закінченням місяця і скорочення її пропозиції через надходження основних сум відшкодувань ПДВ експортерам». Експерти припускають, що долар «відштовхнеться від дна», і ринок піде вгору.

Надмірне посилення гривні щодо долара є не менш небезпечним, ніж стрімка девальвація національної валюти. Зокрема, посилення понад рівень, закріплений у розрахунках уряду, ставить під загрозу виконання дохідної частини державного бюджету. Саме через це НБУ, викуповуючи надлишок пропозиції долара, намагається не допустити більшого посилення гривні.

3 Injured in Texas Petrochemical Plant Blast

At least three workers were injured in an early morning explosion on Wednesday that sparked a blaze at a Texas petrochemical plant, the latest in a series of chemical plant accidents in the region.

An initial explosion at a TPC Group complex in Port Neches, Texas, was followed by secondary blasts, shattering windows, blowing locked doors off their hinges and prompting officials to evacuate homes within a half-mile radius of the facility, which about 90 miles east of Houston.

Toby Baker, head of the state’s pollution regulator, criticized the “unacceptable trend of significant incidents” in the region and pledged to review the state’s compliance efforts.

The fiery blast follows others at petrochemical producers and storage facilities in Texas. A March blaze at chemical storage complex outside Houston burned for days and was followed a month later by a fire at a KMCO LLC plant northeast of Houston that killed one worker and injured a second. A fire at an Exxon Mobil Corp chemical plant in Baytown, Texas, in July injured 37.

People more than 30 miles away from the complex, which supplies petrochemicals for synthetic rubber and resins and makes a gasoline additive, were shaken awake by the 1 a.m. CT (0700 GMT) explosion, sources familiar with the fire-fighting and rescue operations said.

Some homes close to the plant sustained heavy damage and local police were going door-to-door to check if residents were injured, said the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

One of the three wounded workers was flown by helicopter to a Houston hospital’s burns unit, the sources said.

Peyton Keith, a TPC spokesman, said fire officials were determined to let the fire in a butadiene processing unit burn itself out, and were focused on keeping the flames from spreading. He could not say when the fire could be extinguished.

All three of the workers taken to hospital were treated and released.

There was no immediate information on possible emissions from the blaze, pollution regulator Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said. No impacts to water were reported.

The plant employs 175 people and routinely has 50 contract workers on site. The company said the explosion occurred in a processing unit.

“We cannot speak to the cause of the incident or the extent of damage,” the company said.

TPC processes petrochemicals for use in the manufacture of synthetic rubber, nylon, resins, plastics and MBTE, a gasoline additive. The company supplies more than a third of the feedstock butadiene in North America, according to its website.

“Right now, our focus is on protecting the safety of responders and the public, and minimizing any impact to the environment,” TPC Group added.

US Judge Delays Sentencing of Former Trump Adviser Flynn

A U.S. judge on Wednesday delayed the planned Dec. 18 sentencing hearing of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, but did not set a new date.

Judge Emmett Sullivan had been expected to put off sentencing after both Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents, and the United States filed a joint motion to request the delay, citing the expected December release of the Justice Department inspector general’s report on the origins of investigations into alleged Russian election interference. The inspector general said last week he expects to release the report on Dec. 9.

“The parties expect that the report of this investigation will examine topics related to several matters raised by the defendant,” they wrote in the joint filing.

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to agents about his 2016 conversations with Sergey Kislyak, then-Russian ambassador to the United States. The retired Army lieutenant general is one of several Trump aides to plead guilty or be convicted at trial in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Turkish Ally Accused of Widespread Rights Abuses in Syria

The New York-based Human Rights Watch claims it has “damming evidence” showing the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army is engaged in summary executions, pillaging, seizing properties, and preventing the return of people to their homes.

“Turkey is turning a blind eye to the reprehensible behaviors displayed by the factions it arms,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “So long as Turkey is in control of these areas, it has a responsibility to investigate and end these violations.”

In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province,…
In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Oct. 20, 2019.

Last month Turkish forces and the SNA launched an offensive in northeast Syria against Syrian Democratic Forces, which are made up mainly of the Kurdish militia the YPG.

Ankara considers the YPG terrorists, but the militia was a crucial ally of Washington’s military effort against Islamic State.

HRW cites evidence that the SNA executed prisoners, seized the homes of local Kurds, and engaged in indiscriminate shelling of civilians.

The case of Hevrin Khalaf, a prominent women’s rights activist, is highlighted. In October, Khalaf was executed after her car was stopped by a militia affiliated with the SNA.

HRW also says social media postings of videos put up by the militia appear to show the execution of women prisoners.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. Erdogan says Turkey…
FILE – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 6, 2019.

Ankara has so far not responded to the HRW report. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has praised the SNA for its “sacrifices” in Syria.  

Turkey is facing growing international criticism for its use of militias, which critics claim have links to radical Islamic groups, a charge denied by Ankara.

“The problem is that those people are radicals in terms of their ideology, this is criticized by the western world,” said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

“But Turkey has done it in the last eight years, so this is a choice by the president. He takes the risk. He lets them fight on the side of the Turkish army. We will see if it’s like a hand grenade exploding in his hand or it will strengthen his position,” Bagci added.

The SNA force is around three times larger than Turkish armed forces engaged in northern Syria. Ankara’s reliance on the SNA comes as its armed forces are facing an unprecedented number of simultaneous military commitments.

FILE – A Turkish army tank is driven to its new position on the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Oct. 8, 2019.

“The Turkish army is already strained,” said retired Turkish general Haldun Solmazturk, who now heads the Ankara-based 21st Century Turkish Institute. “From Iraq to Idlib to eastern Mediterranean Cyprus. An additional burden will have some serious impact on the Turkish army to meet all these challenges.”

The SNA has also taken the brunt of casualties. As of November 15, 224 killed and 692 injured compared to Turkish forces casualties of 11 dead and 90 wounded. Some analysts claim the relatively low number of Turkish deaths is a reason why the operation continues to enjoy strong domestic support among the Turkish public.

Ankara’s heavy use of SNA forces made up of mainly Syrian Arabs is also widely seen as a tactic to dispel allegations Turkish forces are invading another country.

Analysts point out, given that Turkey once ruled the region when it was the Ottoman Empire, Arab nations remain nervous about any irredentist Turkish aspirations. The Arab League has strongly condemned the Turkish operation.

Ankara insists it is committed to Syria’s territorial integrity.

“Our operations in northern Syria aim to clear terrorists from their strongholds, create safe conditions for the return of refugees robbed of their homes & lands,” tweeted Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish president’s communications head.
“Kurdish groups have forced many Arabs from their homes in areas under their control in northern Syria,” said former Turkish ambassador Mithat Rende. “These towns and cities controlled by Kurds are Arab towns with Arab names, with Kurdish minorities.”

Erdogan claims up to two million Syrians who fled to Turkey to escape the civil war will be returned to a so-called “safe zone,” that is being created in northern Syria along the Turkish border.

The Turkish president is looking to the international community for funding to pay $20 billion for the building of hundreds of thousands of new homes in the “safe zone.”  

Next week Erdogan will press his case when he is scheduled to hold a meeting with French, German, and British leaders on the sidelines of the London NATO summit.
“We invite the international community to support us in helping our Syrian brothers and sisters to safely return to areas where they can live in peace regardless of their religious and ethnic identities,” tweeted Altun Wednesday.

However, the actions of SNA forces are seen as fueling accusations Ankara is seeking to remove local Kurdish populations and replace them with Arabs considered more sympathetic to Turkey.

“There weren’t many mistakes by the Turkish army, but there was a tactical mistake when it comes to public diplomacy in the communication,” said former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen who served widely in the region. “It’s a fact some of these militias have committed crimes, and this is being used against Turkey, that it’s involved in ethnic cleansing.”

Ankara vehemently denies any intention that it’s seeking demographic changes in Syria. However, the latest findings by HRW can only add to questions over Turkey’s plans for a safe zone and mass return of Syrians.

“Executing individuals, pillaging property, and blocking displaced people from returning to their homes is damning evidence of why Turkey’s proposed ‘safe zones’ will not be safe,” said Whitson.



Долар другий день тримається нижче від рівня 24 гривні

На українському валютному ринку 27 листопада відбуваються незначні коливання після посилення національної до рекордного за останні 46 місяців рівня. Національний банк України опівдні оприлюднив довідкове значення курсу 23 гривні 98 копійок, це повторення офіційного курсу на сьогодні.

На міжбанківському ринку також змін небагато. За даними сайту Finance.ua, станом на 12:20 котирування склали 23 гривні 97–99 копійок за долар.

Фахівці сайту «Мінфін» вважають, що вже цього тижня «загальний позитивний настрій щодо зміцнення гривні видихнеться як за рахунок нівелювання чинника аукціону по ОВДП, так і за рахунок зростання попиту на валюту перед закінченням місяця і скорочення її пропозиції через надходження основних сум відшкодувань ПДВ експортерам». Експерти припускають, що долар «відштовхнеться від дна», і ринок піде вгору.

Anti-Semitism Complaint Spurs University of North Carolina to Update Policies

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has agreed to expand its anti-bias training and expressly forbid anti-Semitism in campus policies as part of an agreement with the U.S. Education Department following complaints about a March conference featuring a rapper accused of anti-Jewish bias.

The university announced the changes Monday after reaching a resolution with the department’s Office for Civil Rights. The deal puts an end to the inquiry without any admission of wrongdoing on the school’s part, and without any official finding from the department on the allegation of illegal discrimination.

Interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz reiterated that the university will not tolerate any form of harassment, and he encouraged students and faculty to report any problems.

“I reaffirm the university’s commitment to creating a place where every member of our community feels safe and respected and can thrive in an environment free from anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination and harassment,” Guskiewicz wrote in a letter that was sent across campus Monday.

Under the agreement, the university must add a statement to its policies saying that anti-Semitic harassment is prohibited and may violate federal law. The school’s current rules prohibit discrimination based on religion or ethnic ancestry but do not specifically address anti-Semitism.

The school is also required to add a new section on anti-Semitism to existing training programs for students, faculty and staff. And for each of the next two academic years, the university must hold at least one campus meeting to discuss any concerns about anti-Semitism or other forms of harassment.

A Nov. 6 letter from the Education Department says the provisions detailed in the agreement will “fully resolve the issues giving rise to the complaint.”

‘Heartbroken and deeply offended’

The agency opened a civil rights investigation after receiving a complaint about a March academic conference titled “Conflict Over Gaza: People, Politics and Possibilities.” The event included a Palestinian rapper who performed a song that some critics called anti-Semitic. The university’s chancellor said the performance left him “heartbroken and deeply offended.”

Two weeks after the conference, anti-Semitic flyers were found on campus warning of an “evil Jewish plot to enslave and kill,” according to the Education Department. The complaint argued that the school’s support of the conference amounted to discrimination against students of Jewish descent. It said the flyers were further evidence of a “hostile environment” created by the event.

FILE - In this July 16, 2019, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room…
FILE – Education Secretary Betsy DeVos listens during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, July 16, 2019.

On April 15, U.S. Rep. George Holding, a North Carolina Republican, wrote a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos raising concerns that the conference was supported with federal grant funding. He described the rap performance as “brazenly anti-Semitic.”

In response, DeVos ordered a separate investigation examining the organization behind the conference, the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies, which is housed at UNC and jointly operated with Duke University.

Grant money

That inquiry, which is still ongoing, aims to determine whether the consortium is properly using a federal grant that’s awarded to dozens of universities to support foreign language instruction. The Duke-UNC consortium received $235,000 from the grant last year.

An Aug. 29 letter from the department threatened to cut the program’s grant funding, saying the consortium offered too many classes on art, film and culture and not enough on Middle Eastern languages. It also said the program promoted “positive aspects” of Islam but not other religions.

Officials at UNC rebuffed the claims, saying the program has hosted events including a visit to a Jewish center to explore Jewish traditions, and presentations on Christianity in Lebanon. The school also said it ranks among the top in the nation in enrollment of students studying the Arabic, Turkish and Urdu languages.

Still, the school agreed to review the program’s activities and document how its expenses relate to the goals of the federal grant.

In October, the department agreed to release grant money to the program for next year, but a department spokeswoman on Tuesday said future funding beyond that could be in question.

The inquiry has provoked a wide outcry from academic groups and free speech advocates who call it a threat to academic freedom. Two Democrats in Congress have asked DeVos to provide information on the inquiry, saying it’s dangerous to tie federal funding to specific curriculum demands.

The Middle East Studies Association recently called the investigation “an unprecedented and counterproductive intervention into academic curricula.” But in a response to the group, Robert King, the assistant secretary for postsecondary education, said the department has a duty to make sure grants are being used for their intended purpose.

“Federal grants are not blank checks from public coffers,” he said, “and the department intends to ensure that taxpayer funds are spent in alignment with Congressional directives.”

Settled Refugees Help Newcomers Adjust to Life in America

Many new refugees in America experience culture shock when they first arrive in the United States.  Many have to deal with a new language, culture, and even holidays. But settled refugees can play a big role in helping new arrivals adapt to life in the U.S. One example is the Ethiopian Community Center, which hosts a Thanksgiving meal every year for new refugees.  VOA’s Shahnaz Nafees has more on the event.

Bride Price Custom Honored in Nigeria, Despite Concerns

Critics say the widespread African tradition of giving cash and gifts to a bride’s family before marriage, known as a “bride price,” degrades women by putting a required, monetary value on a wife. In Nigeria, the financial pressure in a recent case ended in suicide, underscoring those concerns. But supporters of the bride price tradition uphold it as a cherished cultural and religious symbol of marriage, as Chika Oduah reports from Yola, Nigeria.

НБУ: курс гривні щодо долара – найвищий у 2019 році

Гривня оновила річний максимум щодо долара, свідчать дані на сайті Національного банку України.

На 27 листопада офіційна вартість долара встановлена на рівні 23 гривень 98 копійок. До цього річний максимум був зафіксований 30 вересня, коли долар коштував 24 гривні 8 копійок.

Востаннє курс долара був нижчим психологічної позначки в 24 гривні 15 січня 2016 року.


Мінфін: у жовтні Україна витратила понад 28 мільярдів гривень на державний борг

У жовтні Україна витратила понад 28 мільярдів гривень на державний борг та його обслуговування, повідомило Міністерство фінансів України.

«У жовтні витрати державного бюджету з погашення державного боргу склали 21,2 млрд грн, з обслуговування – 7,1 млрд грн», – розповів Мінфін.

За даними відомства, через невелику девальвацію гривні фактичний стан державного боргу виглядає наступним чином: сума в еквіваленті у доларах США зменшилась на 1,35% (у порівняні з вереснем), або на $1,13 млрд, – до $81,83 млрд. Сума боргу в національній валюті зросла на 2,37%, або 47,4 млрд грн, – до 2 045,4 млрд грн.

Нацбанк: 20 грудня в обіг введуть монети номіналом 5 гривень

20 грудня в обіг введуть монети номіналом п’ять гривень та оновлені банкноти номіналом 50 гривень, повідомив Національний банк України.

У регуляторі зазначили, що завершують перехід на оновлений банкнотно-монетний ряд гривні, «який містить надійніші та захищеніші від підробок банкноти, забезпечує зручність готівкових розрахунків та економію коштів для держави».

«Для цього в обіг буде введено монети номіналом 5 та 10 гривень, які поступово замінять паперові банкноти. Водночас буде запроваджено оновлені банкноти номіналом 50 та 200 гривень з удосконаленою системою захисту, які своїм дизайном наслідують банкноти нового покоління гривні», – розповіли в НБУ.

Оновлені банкноти по 200 гривень мають з’явитися в обігу 25 лютого 2020 року. У середині наступного року в обіг введуть монети по 10 гривень.

У Нацбанку наголосили, що заміна банкнот номіналами 5 та 10 гривень на монети пояснюється тим, що це дасть змогу державі заощадити близько 1 мільярда гривень, адже тривалість життя монет є значно вищою, ніж тривалість життя банкнот дрібних номіналів.

У 2018 році НБУ ввів в обіг монети номіналом 1 і 2 гривні.

Israeli Attorney General: Netanyahu Can Stay on as PM

Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mandelblit says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can stay on as head of government even after he was indicted last week for alleged corruption.

Although Cabinet ministers are required to step down after an indictment, the laws about a prime minister are not explicit.

Mandelblit says Netanyahu can stay in office unless he is convicted and all his appeals are exhausted.

Netanyahu is facing pressure from the opposition to resign after Mandelblit announced his indictment last week.

Netanyahu is charged with allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, cigars, champagne, and jewelry from billionaire friends in exchange for personal favors, including helping one wealthy friend get favorable newspaper coverage.

He also is accused of doing favors for a newspaper editor so the prime minister himself would receive positive stories.

In this Nov. 20, 2019 photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an extended meeting of the right-wing bloc members at the Knesset, in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has vowed not to resign, calling the indictment a “coup” bent on toppling a right-wing government.

Mandelblit, who was appointed by Netanyahu, denied any political motivation, saying he acted strictly according to the law.

Netanyahu’s legal woes comes as Israeli voters face the possibility of a third general election this year.

Neither Netanyahu or his centrist political rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a government after two previous inconclusive votes.

Gantz has ruled out a power-sharing government with Netanyahu.

His Blue and White party issued a statement saying “A prime minister up to his neck in corruption allegations has no public or moral mandate to make fateful decisions for the state of Israel.”

A majority of the Israeli parliament has until December 11 to throw its support behind Netanyahu, Gantz, or anyone else to form a government.

If not, another general election will be held.

Turkish Riot Police Break Up Women’s Protest

Turkish riot police used force to break up a march by thousands of women calling for what they call an “end to impunity” for men guilty of violence against women.

Police stopped more than 2,000 from marching up Istikal Street in Istanbul’s main shopping district.

Police fired pepper spray at the protesters with some witnesses reporting the use of tear gas and plastic bullets. No casualties or arrests were reported.

March organizers say they are tired at what they believe are the relatively light sentences handed out to husbands and boyfriends who murder or abuse women.

Women at the front of Monday’s march spread out a banner reading “We cannot tolerate the loss of one more woman.”

A Turkish women’s rights group says nearly 380 women have been killed so far this year.

A Turkish court recently sentenced a man to life in prison for slashing his ex-wife’s throat in front of their 10 year-old daughter in August.

The murder was caught on video and sickened nearly everyone who saw it.

Lebanese Millionaire Donates Hitler’s Hat to Israeli Group

A Lebanese-born business tycoon says he is donating Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi memorabilia he won at an auction to an Israeli Jewish group to keep the stuff out of the hands of neo-Nazis.

Abdallah Chatila, who made his fortune in diamonds and Swiss real estate, paid $660,000 for the items last week.

He says he bought the the hat and memorabilia intending to destroy it, but decided it was better to hand it over to the Keren Hayeson-United Israel Appeal.

Along with the Nazi dictator’s hat, the items include a silver plated edition of “Mein Kampf,” and a typewriter used by Hitler’s secretary.

Although Chatila says some Lebanese are criticizing him for helping the so-called enemy, his act was totally non-political. He said he “wished to buy these objects so that they could not be used for the purpose of neo-Nazi propaganda.”

The European Jewish Association, which had originally protested the auction, is now applauding Chatila.

“Such a consequence, such an act of selfless generosity to do something that you feel strongly about is the equivalent of finding a precious diamond in an Everest of coal,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin wrote in a letter to Chatila.

It is unclear what the Jewish group plans to do with the objects.

How ‘Harriet’ Advances Slavery Narrative on Large Screen

Feature films on slavery have been part of Hollywood since the beginning of the film industry in United States. However, only recently, movies on slavery have been told from the perspective of the slaves, and now, with the film “Harriet” from the perspective of a female slave.  “Harriet”, the latest of antebellum dramas, focuses on Harriet Tubman a female runaway slave.  Tubman played a significant role in the so called “Underground Railroad”, a human network helping enslaved African – Americans to flee to free American states and Canada. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Nations Aim for Inclusive Trade; Vietnam Uses Small-Business Loans to Get There

When politicians try to win votes by blaming foreigners for stealing jobs, economists say they ignore technology, which is what is really replacing many of these jobs. However the issue remains that many workers and small businesses do not benefit from foreign trade as much as corporations do, and that is something Vietnam hopes to fix.

Hanoi is trying to avoid the mistakes of the U.S., Britain, and other countries where lower income citizens felt left behind by global trade, and one part of its approach is to focus on small business loans. Vietnam hopes to make loans available to family businesses and other small businesses, which in many cases do not have the right connections or the expertise to get these loans.

Last week the State Bank of Vietnam cut interest rates in an effort to encourage banks to lend to the less advantaged. The central bank said short term loan rates for small and medium size businesses would decrease to 6% from 6.5%. This decreased rate also applies to other priority areas, such as agriculture, high tech businesses, and supporting industries.

That last category, which can include small businesses, is important because Vietnam hopes to get more domestic companies to supply to foreign ones. That would get them involved in foreign trade, thus spreading the benefits of trade more widely across the Southeast Asian nation.

“Local producers and suppliers urgently need efficient financing to support their trade cycles with global partners,” Julius Caesar Parrenas, who coordinates a financial forum under an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business organization, said. He added that there is a need to establish a finance ecosystem for “emerging markets like Vietnam, where trade is growing.”

Much of Vietnam has prospered from foreign trade, but the government wants that prosperity to be spread out more evenly. (VOA/Ha Nguyen)

Organizations like his should provide “government agencies with good insight to improve an effective regulatory framework for supply chain finance in Vietnam,” Ha Thu Giang, who is deputy director of the credit policies for economic sectors department at the State Bank of Vietnam, said.

The government is also working with donor agencies to increase accessibility of loans. It worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Hanoi, for instance, to have a guide published this year that helps small businesses find sources of financing.

Advocates say financing is needed because small business sometimes do not have the capital needed to expand, or to tide them over so they can cover the cost of meeting large orders and wait for payment. However critics caution that too much focus on financing is risky, and that small businesses are right to worry about taking on more debt than they can handle.

The private sector is interested in lending to Vietnam’s mom and pop businesses too. Validus Capital is a peer-to-business lending platform based in Singapore that expanded to Indonesia and Vietnam this year.

“We want to provide growing SMEs [small and medium enterprises] faster access to zero-collateral financing,” Vikas Nahata, who is co-founder and executive chairman of Validus Capital, said.

A lot of nations say they want “inclusive trade” so that less advantaged people do not feel left out of the benefits of globalization. For Vietnam, small business loans are one way to get there.

dmnsa • правдаua • купуй! • sellines • meneedit