Democracy, DPRK style: North Korea holds election
Pyongyang: North Koreans went to the polls on Sunday for an election in which there could be only one winner. Leader Kim Jong Un’s ruling Workers’ Party has an iron grip on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the isolated, nuclear-armed country is officially known. Every five years it holds an election for the rubber stamp legislature, known as the Supreme People’s Assembly.
The exercise has all the trappings of votes elsewhere, from electoral rolls to sealed ballot boxes to scrutineers for the count.
But in keeping with one of Pyongyang’s most enduring slogans — “Single-minded unity” — there is only one approved name on each of the red voting slips. With portraits of the leader’s father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung looking down on every ballot box, voters lined up to drop their slips inside.
There is a pencil in the panelled voting booths for anyone who might wish to register dissent by crossing out a candidate’s name. But no one does. By 6pm, the official KCNA news agency reported, all electors in all constituencies had voted, “except for those abroad or working in oceans”.
“Our society is one in which the people are gathered around the respected Supreme Leader with a single mind,” election official Ko Kyong Hak told AFP outside a polling station at the 3.26 Pyongyang Cable Factory., Participation in the election was a citizen’s obligation, he said, “and there are no people who reject a candidate”. An editorial in the Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling party, reinforced the message.
Voters “should cast approval ballots with their loyalty to the party and the leader, absolute support to the DPRK government and the will to share their destiny with socialism to the last”, it said. Soviet-style Communist states had a long tradition of holding general elections even if the ruling party ignored its own rules about holding regular congresses — something the North skipped for more than 30 years.
Malaysia deports 7 for alleged ties to terrorists
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian police say six Egyptians and a Tunisian man believed to be linked to an African-based terror group have been detained and deported.
National police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun says one of the Egyptians and the Tunisian national are suspected members of Ansar Al-Sharia Al-Tunisia, which is based in North Africa and listed as a terrorist group by the UN. Fuzi said in a statement Sunday the two were detained in 2016 for trying to illegally enter an African country.
He said they used fake passports to enter Malaysia in October last year and were planning to sneak into a third country to launch attacks. Fuzi said five other Egyptians and two Malaysians were detained last month for providing food, shelter, air tickets and employment for the two suspected terrorists.
In another case, a Malaysian man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of posting offensive social media posts against Islam, police said. The 22-year-old Facebook account user, identified as “Ayea Yea,” pleaded guilty to 10 charges in a Kuala Lumpur court, CNN reported.
Cyber attack on energy facility due to blackout: Maduro
Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro alleged that one of the country’s energy facilities came under a cyber attack on Saturday (local time), leading to the disruption of efforts in restoring electricity supply across the Latin American nation.
Venezuela, which is currently in the throes of a political crisis, experienced an almost total blackout last week which left 22 out of the 23 states in the country without electricity. Maduro accused the opposition, led by Juan Guaido, of orchestrating the attack on Venezuela’s power supply system.
22 terrorist training camps active in Pakistan: Indian official
Washington: As many as 22 terrorist training camps, including nine of Jaish-e-Mohammed are active in Pakistan, but no action is being taken against them, a senior Indian official said here on Thursday, warning that New Delhi will carry out operation similar to that of the Balakot airstrike if there is an act of terrorism coming from across the border.
In a pinpointed and swift air strike that lasted less than two minutes, India pounded JeM’s biggest training camp in Pakistan on February 26, killing up to 350 terrorists and trainers who were moved there for their protection after the February 14 attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in which 40 soldiers were killed. The JeM claimed responsibility for the Pulwama strike. Pakistan is a “global epicentre of terrorism and it needs to take verifiable and credible steps against terrorist organisations and terrorists”, said the official on condition of anonymity.
The official also accused Pakistan and its leadership of being in denial mode and trying to create a war hysteria kind of situation between the two nuclear-weapon states. “As many as 22 terrorist training camps, including nine of JeM are still being run in Pakistan and there has been no action against them,” the official said. The Balakot airstrike conducted by India was a counter-terrorism operation, which was well within the international laws. However, a day after on February 27, Pakistan attacked Indian military installation with as many as 20 fighter jets, the official claimed.
“Instead of taking action against terrorist groups, Pakistan escalated the situation and indulged in war hysteria by doing things like declaring emergency in Karachi, blocking air traffic and creating rumours, which is part of its familiar pattern,” the official said, adding, “India on the other hand exercised restraint.” Islamabad now bears the responsibility to end terrorism, the official said and warned that “India will carry out retaliatory counter-terrorism operation like the one on February 26, deep inside Pakistan, anytime there is an act of terrorism coming from across the border”.
Referring to the recent actions taken by Pakistan against several terrorist groups, the official said that these actions are “nothing unusual” as the country takes such steps after every terrorist strike in India. “These actions”, the official described, “are a revolving door policy, under which house arrest of terrorist leaders simply means keeping them in luxurious accommodation”. They are released once the situation becomes normal, the official said.
But after the Pulwama attack, India has set “a new normal”. “For every terrorist attack coming from across the border, India will retaliate and there will be a price that the neighbouring country would have to pay.” Accusing Pakistan of being a state sponsor of terrorism, the official said there is a feeling in India that Islamabad is unlikely to stop funding terror activities “unless the cost of it is too heavy for it to pay”.
Asserting that India has the right to self-defence, the official told reporters that New Delhi by successfully carrying out strikes inside Pakistan “has been able to call the Pakistani bluff” on the nuclear front. “This will not work in the future,” the official said and warned Pakistan that “there will be reprisal” for every act of terrorism. Responding to a question, the official said India has given to the US details of the violation of the end user agreement by Pakistan when it used F-16 fighter jets and advanced missiles against India on February 27.
India, the official said, is very closely engaged with the US and has support of the Trump administration. The official also said India is opposed to any IMF bailout packages to Pakistan. Pakistan has received as many as 21 bailout packages, including seven in the recent past, from the IMF. However, none of them have been able to address the economic woes of Pakistan because the money intended to improve the economy and developmental purposes have been diverted for non-civilian means.
Huawei sues US government, saying ban on its equipment is unconstitutional
SHENZHEN, CHINA: Chinese telecom giant Huawei said Thursday it was suing the United States for barring government agencies from buying the telecom company's equipment and services. Huawei said the suit was filed in a US District Court in Plano, Texas, challenging a 2019 US defence bill that prevents US government agencies from buying Huawei equipment and services, as well as working with third parties that are Huawei customers.
The lawsuit is Huawei's latest attempt to fight back against US warnings that the company could serve as a Trojan horse for China's intelligence services. "The US Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products. We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort," Huawei's rotating chairman Guo Ping said in a statement. "If this law is set aside, as it should be, Huawei can bring more advanced technologies to the United States and help it build the best 5G networks."
The United States says Huawei equipment could be manipulated by China's Communist government to spy on other countries and disrupt critical communications.
Washington is urging governments to shun the company just as the world readies for the advent of ultra-fast 5G telecommunications, an advancement that Huawei was expected to lead and which will allow wide adoption of next-generation technologies like artificial intelligence. Huawei has responded with an aggressive PR campaign to counter the US warnings, with reclusive founder Ren Zhengfei denying the fears in a series of foreign media interviews.
The charm offensive went into another gear Wednesday as Huawei welcomed news organisations on a tightly guarded tour of its massive production lines and research and development facilities in southern Guangdong province. Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, Ren's daughter, faces potential extradition from Canada to the United States over charges of Iran sanctions violations. The US Justice Department accuses Huawei and Meng of circumventing US sanctions against Iran. Two affiliates also have been charged with stealing trade secrets from telecommunications group T-Mobile.
Meng faces a May 8 hearing in Vancouver, where she was arrested while changing planes. Two Canadians have been detained in China in suspected retaliation over her arrest.
(This story has not been edited by The News India staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
See pics: Wreckage of downed Pakistani Air Force jet F-16 seen in PoK
Islamabad: Wreckage of the F-16 Pakistan Air Force jet, which was shot down by the Indian Air Force on Wednesday, was seen being inspected by Pakistan military officers in PoK, sources said. Sources added that Commanding Officer of Pakistan’s 7 Northern Light Infantry inspected the site along with other officials.
Ministry of External Affairs had yesterday said that against this Counter Terrorism action that India took against a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Balakot, Pakistan has responded on Wednesday morning by using its Air Force to target military installations on the Indian side. Due to our high state of readiness and alertness, Pakistan’s attempts were foiled successfully.
“The Pakistan Air Force was detected and the Indian Air Force responded instantly. In that aerial engagement, one Pakistan Air Force fighter aircraft (F-16) Â was shot down by a MiG 21 Bison of the Indian Air Force. The Pakistani aircraft was seen by ground forces falling from the sky on the Pakistan side,” MEA said.
“In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts,” it added.
Donald Trump in ‘no rush’ as formal nuclear talks open with Kim Jong Un
Hanoi: US President Donald Trump said he was in “no rush” to secure a deal over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme as he kicked off formal talks Thursday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The two men who once traded personal insults and threats of destruction are holding their second meeting in eight months, with analysts warning it needs to produce more concrete progress than their initial historic get-together in Singapore. The Singapore summit resulted in cozy images, but only a vague commitment from Kim to “work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”. Diplomacy has since stalled amid disagreements on what that actually means.
But as they sat down for Thursday’s formal discussions in Hanoi, Trump said success would come over a “longer period of time”. Multiple sanctions have been imposed on the North because of its weapons programmes and tensions soared in 2017 before a wave of detente. For his part, Kim said there were “people who hold a sceptical view of our meeting” but he pledged to seek “great, ultimately good results”.
“I think watching us have a great time will be like watching a scene from a fantasy movie,” said the North Korean leader. The two men have again displayed outward signs of an unlikely diplomatic bromance in Hanoi, clasping hands and appearing to share jokes when they first met. On Wednesday, Trump described Kim as a “great leader” and said his country had “tremendous economic potential, unbelievable, unlimited” as he vowed to help North Korea achieve those goals.
They had a “candid and honest dialogue” during their one-on-one meeting, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said Thursday. And over dinner, it added, “sincere and deep opinions were exchanged with a view to making comprehensive and epoch-making results”. The state-run Rodong Sinmun newspapers plastered photographs of their handshake over its front page, one of them appearing to show Trump bowing slightly as he took Kim’s hand featuring prominently.
It was a far cry from the height of missile-testing tensions in 2017 when Trump slammed Kim as “rocket man” and the younger man branded the American president a “mentally deranged US dotard”. The summit was “pageantry for Trump and brings Kim more credibility on the world stage as a responsible, rational actor”, the Stimson Center’s David Kim told AFP. “But I would define success in terms of outcomes. A decent outcome if we can get some concrete and verifiable commitments toward denuclearisation,” he said, although the US would have to “trust but verify”.
But scandal back home in Washington threatens to distract Trump with his former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen calling him a “racist” and a “conman” during a congressional hearing. The president already showed he had the testimony at the back of his mind when he tweeted about it before his first meeting with Kim, saying Cohen — who has been sentenced to three years in jail — was “lying in order to reduce his prison time”. Kim is looking for relief from biting sanctions for his deeply impoverished country, as well as security guarantees for him and his regime.
One carrot could be a declaration to end the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with an armistice not a formal peace treaty. Asked about that before Wednesday’s dinner, Trump merely replied: “We’ll see.” Also mooted is the possibility of opening liaison offices, the first step on the road to normalising diplomatic relations. In return, Kim might pledge to destroy North Korea’s decades-old Yongbyon nuclear complex, which has long been at the heart of Pyongyang’s atomic development but remains shrouded in secrecy — and North Korea has promised to mothball it twice before.
In the run-up to the Hanoi summit, however, Trump already appeared to lower expectations for the outcome, saying he was content if North Korea continued its pause in nuclear and missile testing. In Vietnam, Trump has frequently pointed to the recent history of the host country — once a war-torn foe of the United States, now enjoying an economic boom with growth of more than seven percent.
Hailing Kim as a “friend”, he said North Korea could enjoy an “AWESOME” future if it gave up its nuclear weapons, but most analysts say that outcome is extremely unlikely. Flag-waving crowds have welcomed the leaders in Hanoi. “I hope North Korea will be in a better economic situation so that people there suffer less,” office worker Nguyen Thi Hong told AFP. “North Korea should learn from Vietnam.”
Indo-Pak tension: Pakistan airspace to remain closed today
Islamabad: All international and domestic flights operations across Pakistan stand suspended on Thursday, said the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Quoting Pakistan’s aviation agency, ARY News also reported that the flight operations would remain shut until further notice.
“NOTAM is still in place & airspace over #Pakistan remains closed. Apology for an earlier tweet that indicated the partial opening of our airspace for commercial aviation. Any further information will be shared accordingly,” the CAA tweeted early on Thursday.
Airlines like Qatar Airways issued a statement on Wednesday wherein it asserted that due to the ongoing situation on the India-Pakistan border, its flights to the airports in Faisalabad, Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and, Sialkot stand temporarily suspended.
On Wednesday, flight operations across eight airports in India – Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Jammu, Shimla, Dharamshala, Kullu and Leh – were shut briefly. Operations later resumed in all the airports. Meanwhile, Air Canada has temporarily suspended its flight services to India, after Pakistan’s decision to shut its airspace.
These measures come in the wake of an Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being captured by the Pakistani army on Wednesday when the Pakistan Air Force violated the Indian air space. Fighter jets from the Indian Air Force repulsed the morning raid launched by Pakistani F-16 fighter jets which prevented damage on Indian troop positions or infrastructure.
India has since sought the immediate and safe return of the personnel, strongly underlining that “no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody.” On Tuesday, India launched an anti-terror strike against a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, in which a large number of terrorists have been killed by the Indian Air Force, according to Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale.
The air strike was carried out in the aftermath of the February 14 terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district, which claimed the lives of over 40 CRPF personnel. Pakistan-based JeM staked responsibility for the attacks, which have been widely condemned by the international community. There has been mounting global pressure against Pakistan to stop providing support and a safe haven to terrorists ever since.
2019 Lok Sabha elections will be most expensive in Indian history, says US expert
Washington: The upcoming general elections in India will be the most expensive in Indian history and perhaps one of the most expensive ever held in any democratic country, a US-based expert has said. The Election Commission of India is soon expected to announce its schedule for the polls to be held to elect 543 members of the Lok Sabha.
“The combined US presidential and congressional elections in 2016 cost USD 6.5 billion. If the 2014 Lok Sabha elections cost an estimated USD 5 billion, there is little doubt the 2019 election will easily surpass that – making India’s elections the world’s most expensive,” Milan Vaishnav, senior fellow and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think-tank told PTI.
“The uncertainty associated with the coming election -polls suggest a narrowing gap between the BJP and the opposition – only provides more fodder for an arms race in spending,” he said.
Vaishnav has emerged as an authoritative voice on Indian elections, in particular, the funding aspects of it, over the years.
“While the outcome of the next general election is up in the air, one attribute about it is already well known: it will be the most expensive general election in Indian history and perhaps one of the most expensive ever held in any democratic society,” Vaishnav wrote in an op-ed for Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a top American think-tank.
Noting that the 2014 general elections costed USD 5 billion, Vaishnav said it was not inconceivable that overall expenditure will double again this year.
“The exorbitant cost of Indian elections has become a cardinal fact of the Indian political economy that is widely acknowledged and lamented – including by politicians and their donors. But it is not simply the material outlays that grab one’s attention, it is the manner in which the money flows,” he said.
Vaishnav rued that in India there is virtually zero transparency when it comes to political contributions. It is next to impossible to either identify who has donated money to a politician or party or to figure out from where a politician has obtained his or her campaign funds, he said.
Very few donors are willing to disclose their political giving for fear of retribution should their preferred party not come to power, he noted.
The system of electoral bond, brought in by the current government, has not helped either, he argued. The system lacks transparency, he said.
Whoa! World’s largest bee spotted for the first time since 1981
Washington: A team of researchers spotted the world’s giant bee which is as big as a human thumb, in Indonesia for the first time since 1981, the media reported on Friday.
The team — natural history photographer Clay Bolt, entomologist Eli Wyman, behavioural ecologist Simon Robson and ornithologist Glenn Chilton — made the stunning “rediscovery” of the elusive critter and took the first photos and video of a living Wallace’s giant bee on January 25, CNN reported.
The team has spent years studying the bee and slogged around in humid Indonesia forests for days before stumbling upon one.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies this species as “vulnerable” due to mining and quarrying. Only two other people have been documented to have seen the Wallace Bee in person before. The first was British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who discovered the giant bee in 1858 while exploring the tropical Indonesian island of Bacan, and entomologist Adam Messer who became the second in 1981.
The team went from termite nest to nest in the forests of remote islands known as the North Moluccas, photographer Bolt said. They had some information about the bee’s habitat and behaviour from Messer’s paper, and they examined satellite imagery to become familiar with the terrain.
The team also knew that the giant bee tended to be found in the lowland forest and tree-dwelling termite nests. However, deforestation in Indonesia has ramped up in the past decade to pave way for agriculture which has resulted in the shrinking of the bee’s natural habitat.