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Friday, January 3, 2020

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

World News, World News Updates, World News Headlines, Latest World News, Current Affairs

Death Toll in Indonesia Floods Rises to 43 – With Nearly 400,000 Displaced

Posted: 03 Jan 2020 01:07 AM PST

(JAKARTA, Indonesia) — The death toll from floods in Indonesia’s capital rose to 43 of Friday as rescuers found more bodies amid receding floodwaters, disaster officials said.

Monsoon rains and rising rivers submerged at least 182 neighborhoods in greater Jakarta and caused landslides in the Bogor and Depok districts on the city’s outskirts, which buried a dozen people.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said the fatalities also included those who had drowned or been electrocuted since rivers broke their banks Wednesday after extreme torrential rains throughout New Year’s Eve. Three elderly people died of hypothermia.

It was the worst flooding since 2013, when 57 people were killed after Jakarta was inundated by monsoon rains.

Floodwaters started receded in some parts of the city on Thursday evening, enabling residents to return to their homes.

Wibowo said about 397,000 people sought refuge in shelters across the greater metropolitan area.

Those returning to their homes found streets covered in mud and debris. Cars that had been parked in driveways were swept away, landing upside down in parks or piled up in narrow alleys. Sidewalks were strewn with sandals, pots and pans and old photographs. Authorities took advantage of the receding waters to clear away mud and remove piles of wet garbage from the streets.

Electricity was restored to tens of thousands of residences and businesses.

Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma domestic airport reopened Thursday after its runway was submerged. Nearly 20,000 passengers had been affected by the closure.

The flooding has highlighted Indonesia’s infrastructure problems.

Jakarta is home to 10 million people, or 30 million including those in its greater metropolitan area. It is prone to earthquakes and flooding and is rapidly sinking due to uncontrolled extraction of ground water. Congestion is also estimated to cost the economy $6.5 billion a year.

President Joko Widodo announced in August that the capital will move to a site in sparsely populated East Kalimantan province on Borneo island, known for rainforests and orangutans.

Here’s How 2020 Democrats Are Reacting to the U.S. Assassination of Iran’s Qasem Soleimani

Posted: 03 Jan 2020 12:06 AM PST

(WASHINGTON) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Thursday that President Donald Trump has “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox” with the targeted killing of Iran’s top general in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport.

The former vice president joined other Democratic White House hopefuls in criticizing Trump’s order, saying it could leave the U.S. “on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East.”

The Pentagon said the U.S. military killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in Baghdad Friday at the direction of Trump. The attack is expected to draw severe Iranian retaliation against Israel and American interests. The Defense Department said Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders released a statement saying, “Trump’s dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.”

Democrats acknowledged the threat posed by Soleimani, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling him “a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans.”

However, she added, Trump’s “reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict.”

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang tweeted: “War with Iran is the last thing we need and is not the will of the American people. We should be acting to deescalate tensions and protect our people in the region.”

The attack also drew criticism from Democrats who aren’t running for president. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the administration conducted the airstrike without consultation of Congress or an authorization for use of military force against Iran. She said it “risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence.”

But Republicans on Capitol Hill stood behind Trump. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said: “I appreciate President Trump’s bold action against Iranian aggression. To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more.”

And Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: “America does not and should not seek war, but it will respond in kind to those who threaten our citizens, soldiers and friends — as the President has long promised. De-escalation is preferable and possible — but only if our adversaries choose it.”

Oil Prices Surge After Iranian General Qasem Soleimani’s Assassination

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 11:51 PM PST

Oil jumped close to $70 a barrel after a U.S. airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump killed a top Iranian general in Iraq, intensifying fears of conflict in the world’s most important crude-producing region.

In a turbulent start to the trading day marked by unusually heavy volumes, futures in London and New York surged by more than 4% to levels not seen since the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil production in September. The strike near Baghdad airport killed Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general who led the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force, according to a Defense Department statement.

While no oil installations or production were impacted, the killing of one of Iran’s most powerful generals is a provocation that ratchets up tension between Washington and Tehran, heightening fears of an armed confrontation that could pull in other countries. As focus shifts to how Iran will react, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed that “severe retaliation” awaits the killers of Soleimani, according to a statement.

“This is a seismic event in the region,” said Jason Bordoff, a former Obama administration official who now works for Columbia University. “This is how US-Iran tit-for-tat spirals out of control. Iran’s response will be severe and deadly. And certainly may include escalating attacks on energy infrastructure.”

Crude prices had pared some of their immediate gains by midday in Singapore but remained at the highest levels since September. Brent crude for March settlement was up $1.94, or 2.9%, at $68.19 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange at 7:11 a.m. in London. It earlier jumped as much as 4.4% to $69.16 a barrel.

In New York, West Texas Intermediate for February delivery was 2.9% higher at $62.93 a barrel. The contract earlier advanced as much as 4.4% to $63.84, exceeding September’s levels to the highest since May. Total aggregate volume for Brent and WTI was about 17 times the 30-day average.

Tensions have been building between Washington and Tehran after an Iran-backed Iraqi militia stormed the American embassy in Baghdad to protest deadly U.S. airstrikes earlier this week. Saudi Arabia’s energy facilities as well as foreign tankers in and around the Persian Gulf have been the target of several attacks over the past year — a region that includes OPEC’s five biggest producers.

The U.S. and Iran are already facing off over Trump’s crippling economic campaign against Tehran and suspected Iranian reprisals. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Thursday that America was ready to deploy more force in Iraq after the attack on its embassy.

Soleimani, who led proxy militias that extended Iran’s power across the Middle East, was hit in a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad International Airport, according to a U.S. official. Details remained unclear, but a person familiar with the developments said an Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, was also killed.

The attacks rattled other markets. U.S. equity futures fell and Asian stocks reversed earlier gains as the news broke. Gold and treasury futures climbed with the yen as investors sought safer haven assets.

The strike escalates an already tense three-way situation between the U.S. and major oil producers Iran and Iraq. The two Middle East countries combined pumped more than 6.7 million barrels a day of oil last month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, more than one-fifth of OPEC output.

Energy exports from both countries also rely on the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow and crucial oil and natural gas shipping choke-point that’s always in focus when Middle East tensions flair, particularly with Iran.

“This is more than just bloodying Iran’s nose,” Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiTrader Ltd. said in a note. “This is an aggressive show of force and an outright provocation that could trigger another Middle East war.”

–With assistance from Javier Blas.

Why the U.S. Assassination of Iranian Quds Force Leader Qasem Soleimani Has the U.S. Bracing for Retaliation

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 11:20 PM PST

The assassination by U.S. airstrike of Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani on Friday immediately ignited concern that the asymmetrical warfare he famously championed would not only survive his death but also avenge it.

U.S. military facilities across the Middle East ramped up security as the Pentagon confirmed President Donald Trump had ordered the strike against Soleimani.

The killing was not like other attacks to eliminate enemies of the U.S.—the raids that killed Osama bin Laden or ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Soleimani was a major public figure in Iran, a Major General in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, who was easily the most popular official in an Iranian government that generally is not. Inside Iran, and on social media posts circulated globally, he was the frontman of, as well as chief architect for, Iran’s regional ambitions – in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and, most immediately in Iraq, where he met his end.

“Soleimani was the international face of resistance,” Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement, “and all lovers of resistance will be his avengers.” He promised that “harsh retaliation is waiting.”

After announcing his death, Iranian state television suspended all programming and displayed a photograph of Soleimani accompanied by mournful recitations from the Quran, signaling a major event. State TV also began airing footage of Iranian forces in combat, from the Iran-Iraq War— which Soleimani fought in—to Lebanon and Syria.

A burning vehicle following an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said the U.S. military killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Trump.
Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office/APA burning vehicle following an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said the U.S. military killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Trump.

Soleimani’s death, on a roadway in Baghdad’s international airport, threatened to sharply escalate U.S. hostilities with Iran. The airstrike was Trump’s second military response to Iranian measures that had grown steadily more audacious over the seven months they went unanswered. The current cycle began on Dec. 27, when a sustained rocket attack on a U.S. base in Iraq’s north killed a defense contractor working for the Americans.

Trump blamed the attack on a militia backed by Iran, Kataib Hezbollah, and on Sunday U.S. aircraft hit the militia, killing 24. Two days later, militia backers penetrated the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, burning outbuildings and chanting “Death to America.” In the crowd at the embassy was Kataib Hezbollah founder Abu Madhi Muhandis, who was killed in the strike along with Soleimani.

Soleimani, 62, commanded the Quds Force, the branch of the Revolutionary Guards responsible for operations abroad, from sabotage and terror strikes to supplying militias that operated as Iran’s proxy forces. In Afghanistan, he reportedly advocated cooperation with U.S. forces against the Taliban, a Sunni-fundamentalist group that had been a constant threat to Iran, which sees itself as the leader of the rival Shi’ite sect of Islam. But the tentative alliance did not survive President George W. Bush’s inclusion of Iran in his “axis of evil,” and then the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, which placed more than 100,000 American troops on Iran’s border.

Iran’s evolving response to the invasion may offer a clue to how it will respond to Soleimani’s assassination. At times when the U.S. has showed off military strength, the Islamic Republic has appeared cowed. Within hours of a 2003 U.S .cruise missiles strike on Ansar al-Islam, a Sunni terrorist group in northern Iraq that Iran had found it convenient to aid, Tehran closed the border over which it had supplied arms, and laid very low. And according to published U.S. intelligence estimates, it was after the fall of Saddam Hussein that Iran, apparently intimidated by the U.S. forces next door, abandoned work on an atomic warhead, while continuing the civilian side of its nuclear program.

Gen. Qasem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran in September 2016.
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/APGen. Qasem Soleimani, center, attends a meeting with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guard commanders in Tehran in September 2016.

But when armed resistance rose against the U.S. during the Iraq War, Soleimani’s Quds Force joined the fight. Iran funded and armed militias that shelled American bases and diplomatic installations—and supplied enhanced booby traps capable of penetrating U.S. armor. The so-called EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) were responsible for at least 250 U.S. deaths in Iraq.

Soleimani was never one to hide his light. In 2008, an intermediary delivered a written message to Gen. David Petraeus, who then commanded the Multi-National Forces in Iraq. “General Petraeus,” it read, “you should be aware that I, Qassem Soleimani, control Iran’s policy for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan.”

In the decade that followed, Soleimani was the face of an Iranian regime hugely empowered by the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which first toppled its longtime enemy, Saddam Hussein, then unleashed the electoral power of Iraq’s Shi’ite majority in a democratic system the U.S. established on sectarian lines. With the retreat of the U.S. from the region and the destabilization from the Arab Spring, Iran took advantage of the region’s descent into sectarian camps—Sunni against Shi’a— as national identities crumbled.

Into Syria, Iran sent both its own forces to save President Bashar Assad, and those of Hezbollah, the militia it had set up in Lebanon decades ago. It found a new client in the Houthi rebels of Yemen, who drew regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates into a cruel war. And despite a $1 trillion U.S. investment, and thousands of American lives, Iran remained by far the most powerful country in Iraq.

When the extremist army of ISIS emerged there in 2014, and rolled over Iraq’s army, Soleimani beat the U.S. to the front lines, providing the first arms to the ethnic Kurdish forces who would halt the terrorist’s advance. In Baghdad, the government called for militias to mobilize against ISIS, another windfall for the Quds Force, as most fighters organized by sect. Among the posters published in Iran in the hours after his death was one reading, in English: “General Soleimani, Antiterrorism”

In a Twitter post, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called Soleimani “THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al” and called his assassination an “extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation.”

Iran, of course, had done most of the escalating over the previous year—steadily testing Trump in the realm of asymmetrical warfare as he tightened the screws on Iran’s economy in hopes of forcing Tehran to re-open negotiations on the nuclear agreement Trump had unilaterally quit.

But as Trump declined to react military, Iran’s attacks grew bolder—from attacking oil tankers (“very minor,” Trump told TIME, of one), to shooting down a U.S. drone (Trump ordered an counter-attack, then called it off), to, in September, bombing key Saudi oil facilities. Trump’s first military response came only this week, after the contractor’s death. And events quickly spiraled to an aerial assassination that brought gasps among those who knew Soleimani’s importance to Iran.

In 2017, when TIME included Soleimani on its list of the 100 most influential people, former CIA analyst Kenneth M. Pollack wrote that “To Middle Eastern Shi’ites, he is James Bond, Erwin Rommel and Lady Gaga rolled into one.” Inside Iran, his successes abroad evoke the past glories of the Persian empire that, in its early years, the Islamic Republic worked to downplay, because they predated Islam. But the ayatollahs have lately found an asset in nationalism; another poster memorializing Soleimani labels him “PERSIAN GENERAL.”

So popular was he with the Iranian public that Soleimani was envisioned—at least by some in Tehran—as a figure who might provide much-needed public faith in the regime after the eventual passing of the Supreme Leader, now 80—perhaps by becoming the public face of the Islamic Republic while a new top cleric found his feet. That notion, however real or plausible, was also destroyed on the Baghdad pavement.

“The US,” Iran’s foreign minister declared, “bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

Taiwan Grounds Black Hawk Helicopters After Crash That Killed Top General

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 08:08 PM PST

(TAIPEI, Taiwan) — Taiwan grounded its fleet of Black Hawk helicopters after a crash killed the island’s top military officer and other prominent personnel.

The official Central News Agency said Friday all 52 of the UH-60M aircraft belonging to the air force, army and National Airborne Service Corps have ceased flight operations while they are inspected for any problems with their structural, software, radar and other systems.

The one that crashed Thursday morning in forested mountains outside the capital was a model dedicated to search and rescue and had been delivered in 2018, according to the defense ministry.

The crash killed eight people including former air force Gen. Shen Yi-ming, who had taken over as chief of the general staff in July. Other victims included both pilots, the deputy head of the Political Warfare Bureau and the deputy chief of the General Staff for Intelligence, while two lieutenant generals and a major general were among the five survivors.

Memorial services were being held for those killed, and all three candidates in Jan. 11’s presidential election suspended their campaigns to observe a period of mourning.

The crash, which is under investigation, is not expected to affect the holding of the election but will require an urgent reshuffling of top military staff. Questions have also been raised as to why so many high-ranking officers were aboard a single flight.

Shen, 63, was responsible for overseeing the self-governing island’s defense against China, which threatens to use military force if necessary to annex what it considers part of its territory. He previously commanded Taiwan’s air force, which is undergoing a substantial upgrade with the arrival of the most advanced version of the U.S. F-16V fighter.

President Trump Ordered Strike That Killed Top Iran Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Pentagon Says

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 04:28 PM PST

(BAGHDAD) — The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump.

An airstrike killed Soleimani, architect of Iran’s regional security apparatus, at Baghdad’s international airport Friday, Iranian state television and three Iraqi officials said, an attack that’s expected to draw severe Iranian retaliation against Israel and American interests.

The Defense Department said Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.” It also accused Soleimani of approving the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad earlier this week.

A statement released late Thursday by the Pentagon said the strike on Soleimani “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

A burning vehicle following an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said the U.S. military killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Trump.
Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office/APA burning vehicle following an airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said the U.S. military killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Trump.

The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF, Iraqi officials said. The PMF media arm said the two were killed in an American airstrike that targeted their vehicle on the road to the airport.

Citing a Revolutionary Guard statement, Iranian state television said Soleimani was “martyred” in an attack by U.S. helicopters near the airport, without elaborating.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who was vacationing on his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, but sent out a tweet of an American flag.

Their deaths are a potential turning point in the Middle East and if the U.S. carried them out, it represents a drastic change for American policy toward Iran after months of tensions.

Tehran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone and seized oil tankers. Meanwhile, the U.S. blames Iran for a series of attacks targeting tankers, as well as a September assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry that temporarily halved its production.

The tensions take root in Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, struck under his predecessor.

A senior Iraqi politician and a high-level security official confirmed to The Associated Press that Soleimani and al-Muhandis were among those killed in the attack shortly after midnight. Two militia leaders loyal to Iran also confirmed the deaths, including an official with the Kataeb Hezbollah faction, which was involved in the New Year’s Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

A portrait of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, held at a Baghdad protest against the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen in March 2015.
Thaier Al-Sudani—ReutersA portrait of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, held at a Baghdad protest against the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen in March 2015.

The security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said al-Muhandis had arrived to the airport in a convoy along with others to receive Soleimani, whose plane had arrived from either Lebanon or Syria. The airstrike took place near the cargo area after he left the plane to be greeted by al-Muhandis and others.

Two officials from the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces said Suleimani’s body was torn to pieces in the attack while they did not find the body of al-Muhandis. Asenior politician said Soleimani’s body was identified by the ring he wore.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject and because they were not authorized to give official statements.

As the head of the Quds, or Jersualem, Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani led all of its expeditionary forces. Quds Force members have deployed into Syria’s long war to support President Bashar Assad, as well as into Iraq in the wake of the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, a longtime foe of Tehran.

Soleimani rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of the embattled Assad.

U.S. officials say the Guard under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use especially deadly roadside bombs against U.S. troops after the invasion of Iraq. Iran has denied that. Soleimani himself remains popular among many Iranians, who see him as a selfless hero fighting Iran’s enemies abroad.

Soleimani had been rumored dead several times, including in a 2006 airplane crash that killed other military officials in northwestern Iran and following a 2012 bombing in Damascus that killed top aides of Assad. Rumors circulated in November 2015 that Soleimani was killed or seriously wounded leading forces loyal to Assad as they fought around Syria’s Aleppo.

Earlier Friday, an official with the Popular Mobilization Forces said seven people were killed by a missile fired at Baghdad International Airport, blaming the United States.

The official with the group known as the Popular Mobilization Forces said the dead included its airport protocol officer, identifying him as Mohammed Reda.

A security official confirmed that seven people were killed in the attack on the airport, describing it as an airstrike. Earlier, Iraq’s Security Media Cell, which releases information regarding Iraqi security, said Katyusha rockets landed near the airport’s cargo hall, killing several people and setting two cars on fire.

It was not immediately clear who fired the missile or rockets or who was targeted. There was no immediate comment from the U.S.

The attack came amid tensions with the United States after a New Year’s Eve attack by Iran-backed militias on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The two-day embassy attack which ended Wednesday prompted President Donald Trump to order about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East.

It also prompted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to postpone his trip to Ukraine and four other countries “to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday.

The breach at the embassy followed U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah. The U.S. military said the strikes were in retaliation for last week’s killing of an American contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base that the U.S. blamed on the militia.

U.S. officials have suggested they were prepared to engage in further retaliatory attacks in Iraq.

“The game has changed,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, telling reporters that violent acts by Iran-backed Shiite militias in Iraq — including the rocket attack on Dec. 27 that killed one American — will be met with U.S. military force.

He said the Iraqi government has fallen short of its obligation to defend its American partner in the attack on the U.S. embassy.

The developments also represent a major downturn in Iraq-U.S. relations that could further undermine U.S. influence in the region and American troops in Iraq and weaken Washington’s hand in its pressure campaign against Iran.


Karam reported from Beirut. Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed reporting.

Who Is Carlos Ghosn, the Businessman Who Fled House Arrest in Japan and Turned Up in Lebanon?

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 02:15 PM PST

Auto industry experts say that Carlos Ghosn has a long history of beating the odds. During his tenure as the head of Nissan, he managed to step inside a company entrenched in the insular world of Japanese automakers and lead the company from the brink of bankruptcy to financial success.

Now, Ghosn seems to have pulled off a feat that seems even more improbable: escaping 24-hour surveillance in Japan to fly to Lebanon, apparently to avoid prosecution for alleged financial crimes.

Here’s what you need to know about the strange escape of Carlos Ghosn, the disgraced former head of one of the world’s biggest automobile groups.

Who is Carlos Ghosn?

Carlos Ghosn was long regarded as one of the titans of global auto industry. During his tenure as the head of Nissan and the French automaker Renault, he earned the nickname “Le Cost Killer” for closing factories and laying off employees. But he was credited for modernizing Nissan by bringing it back from the brink of bankruptcy and building what was regarded as the world’s largest automobile group.

Late in his tenure, however, Ghosn, who has French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizenship, reportedly started to butt up against Japanese corporate culture, where CEOs are generally paid less than in other countries and executive humility is valued.

In November of 2018, Nissan announced that an internal investigation into Ghosn and another executive found Ghosn’s compensation had been underreported. There was also evidence that Ghosn committed other misconduct, including personal use of company assets, the investigation found. Japanese authorities arrested Ghosn in Tokyo on Nov. 19 of that year, according to Bloomberg.

What are the charges against Ghosn?

Ghosn faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of financial misconduct.

The indictments against him include accusations that another former executive underreported Ghosn’s income, and that Ghosn transferred an investment loss to Nissan during the 2008 financial crisis, according to the Associated Press.

Ghosn has denied all of the allegations against him. After fleeing the country, he said in a statement that he left because he faced “injustice and political persecution,” according to the Associated Press.

Ghosn also appears to have broken Japanese law by jumping his bail and traveling to Lebanon.

How did Ghosn end up in Lebanon?

It’s not much of a surprise that Ghosn decided to go to Lebanon, a country where he is a citizen and has a home, and that does not have an extradition treaty with Japan. The bigger mystery is how he managed to escape 24-hour manned and video surveillance and travel out of Japan — even after his passports had been revoked.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Ghosn’s associates and his wife, Carole, had worked for months to form a plan to spirit the executive out of Japan. The Journal and other outlets reported that a private jet flew Ghosn from Japan’s Kansai International Airport to Turkey, and he was later moved to Lebanon. Various reports have suggested that he arrived in Lebanon using an ID card, a French passport, or a forged passport.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry says that he arrived in the country legally, according to the Associated Press.

Can Ghosn be deported back to Japan?

After Ghosn fled Japan, Interpol, which fosters international cooperation among police departments, sent Lebanon a “red notice” for Ghosn, meaning he’s wanted for arrest. However, Lebanon is not obligated to send Ghosn back because it doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Japan.

Membership in Interpol is voluntary, and Lebanon doesn’t face any legal ramifications if it decides to ignore the red notice, says Michelle A. Estlund, a lawyer who specializes in Interpol criminal defense work.

“There are countries that don’t take any action, even if they know a person is the subject of a red notice and they know that the person is in their country,” Estlund says. Although ignoring the order may threaten Lebanon’s democratic relationship with Japan, it’s “not going to be penalized by Interpol or part of Interpol” if it chooses not to extradite Ghosn, she adds.

Estlund notes that a country may decide not to extradite someone for a variety of reasons. Extradition can be especially unlikely if officials are concerned that a prosecution may be politically motivated — as Ghosn alleges is the case in Japan.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Lebanese Justice Minister Albert Serhan seemingly cast doubt on whether Lebanon would return Ghosn to Japan. “Lebanese authorities have no security or judiciary charges against him,” Serhan said. “He entered the border like any other Lebanese using a legal passport.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison Greeted With Jeers, ‘Obscene Gestures’ During Tour of Wildfire-Ravaged Town

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 10:00 AM PST

(PERTH, Australia) — Prime Minister Scott Morrison was confronted by angry residents who cursed and insulted him Thursday as he visited a wildfire-ravaged corner of the country.

Locals in Cobargo, in New South Wales, yelled at him, made obscene gestures and called him an “idiot” and worse, criticizing him for the lack of equipment to deal with the fires in town. They jeered as his motorcade drove off. In the New South Wales town of Quaama, a firefighter refused to shake hands with him.

“Every single time this area has a flood or a fire, we get nothing. If we were Sydney, if we were north coast, we would be flooded with donations with urgent emergency relief,” a resident said in Cobargo.

The outpouring of anger came as authorities said 381 homes had been destroyed on the New South Wales southern coast this week. At least eight people have died this week in New South Wales and the neighboring state of Victoria. More than 200 fires are burning in Australia’s two most-populous states. Blazes have also been burning in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

“I’m not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment. And that’s why I came today, to be here, to see it for myself, to offer what comfort I could,” Morrison said, adding, “There is still, you know, some very dangerous days ahead. And we understand that, and that’s why we’re going to do everything we can to ensure they have every support they will need.”

Morrison, who has also been criticized over his climate change policies and accused of putting the economy ahead of the environment, insisted that Australia is “meeting the challenge better than most countries” and “exceeding the targets we set out.”

Local Artist Creates Artwork Depicting Prime Minister Scott Morrison In Hawaii
Jenny Evans—Getty ImagesA mural by artist Scott Marsh depicting Prime Minister Scott Morrison on holiday in Hawaii is seen on Dec.26, 2019 in Sydney, Australia.

Cooler weather since Tuesday has aided firefighting and allowed people to replenish supplies, with long lines of cars forming at gas stations and supermarkets. But high temperatures and strong winds are forecast to return on Saturday, and thousands of tourists fled the country’s eastern coast Thursday ahead of worsening conditions.

New South Wales authorities ordered tourists to leave a 250-kilometer (155-mile) zone. State Transport Minister Andrew Constance called it the “largest mass relocation of people out of the region that we’ve ever seen.”

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a seven-day state of emergency starting Friday, which grants fire officials more authority. It’s the third state of emergency for New South Wales in the past two months. “We don’t take these decisions lightly, but we also want to make sure we’re taking every single precaution to be prepared for what could be a horrible day on Saturday,” Berejiklian said.

The early and devastating start to Australia’s summer wildfires has led authorities to rate this season the worst on record. About 5 million hectares (12.35 million acres) of land have burned, at least 17 people have been killed, and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed.

The crisis “will continue to go on until we can get some decent rain that can deal with some of the fires that have been burning for many, many months,” the prime minister said.

In Victoria, where 83 homes have burned this week, the military helped thousands of people who fled to the shoreline as a wildfire threatened their homes in the coastal town of Mallacoota. Food, water, fuel and medical expertise were being delivered, and about 500 people were going to be evacuated from the town by a naval ship.

“We think around 3,000 tourists and 1,000 locals are there. Not all of those will want to leave, not all can get on the vessel at one time,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Smoke from the wildfires made the air quality in the capital, Canberra, the worst in the world, according to a ranking Thursday.

Prince William Announces Environment Prize, Calls For ‘Decade of Action to Repair the Earth’

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 07:41 AM PST

Prince William has announced a multi-million pound prize for “visionaries” working to solve “Earth’s greatest environmental problems,” from climate change to air pollution. The Earthshot Prize will be awarded to five winners, every year, for the next 10 years. The initiative’s goal is to provide “at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest problems by 2030.”

The prize was designed by and will initially be handled by the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — headed by Prince William and Kate Middleton. More than 60 organizations and experts were consulted in the process; in time, the Earthshot Prize will likely become an independent organization that continues to involve environmental NGOs, according to a press release from Kensington Palace.

This year, the initiative will debut a series of “Earthshot challenges,” according to its website, with a goal of “[seeking] answers to the biggest issues currently facing the planet, including: climate and energy, nature and biodiversity, oceans, air pollution and fresh water.”

The prize aims to encourage transformative environmental solutions — especially for communities most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Earthshot Prize winners will involve a significant cash-prize, as well as public recognition at an annual ceremony. Submissions will be accepted from “individuals, teams or collaborations — scientists, activists, economists, leaders, governments, banks, businesses, cities, and countries,” the press release notes, with a goal of sparking a global movement by inspiring “collaborative projects that would not otherwise have been pursued.”

Read more: Why TIME Devoted an Entire Issue to Climate Change

In a statement, Prince William said that humanity now faces a “stark choice” between maintaining the status quo — which, he argues, will “irreparably” damage the planet — or cultivating innovative solutions. “The next ten years present us with one of our greatest tests, William said, framing the Earthshot Prize as part of “a decade of action to repair the earth.”

The prize is inspired by the concept of moonshots — a phrase first coined in the aftermath of the 1969 lunar landing to refer to pioneering projects and initiatives. “Just as the moonshot that John F. Kennedy proposed in the 1960s catalyzed new technology such as the MRI scanner and satellite dishes, the Earthshots aim to launch their own tidal wave of ambition and innovation,” a press release for the initiative states.

A promotional video for the Earthshot Prize comes narrated by David Attenborough — the British nature documentarian well-known for his distinctive voice. “Ours is a world of wonder. Every day it reminds us of its beauty. It touches us, teaches us and astounds us but it also warns us that what we throw away does not go away, that higher temperatures mean a lot more than longer summers, that we can no longer take life as we know it for granted,” Attenborough says over a montage of different animals — polar bears, fish, butterflies.

In recent years, Attenborough has been an activist for climate change, too — making his case before audiences at the 2018 U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, and at the 2019 World Economic Forum at Davos, in Switzerland. Also in 2019, he narrated Our Planet, a Netflix documentary series that examines the impact of climate change on threatening various environments and wildlife species.

Netanyahu Seeks Immunity From Corruption Charges, Buying Time Until March Elections

Posted: 02 Jan 2020 03:44 AM PST

(JERUSALEM) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday he would seek immunity from corruption charges, likely delaying any trial until after March elections, when he hopes to have a majority coalition that will shield him from prosecution.

Netanyahu was indicted in November on charges of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust. After failing to assemble a governing majority following back-to-back elections last year, he will get a third shot at remaining in office in March.

Read more: ‘Only the Strong Survive.’ How Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu Is Testing the Limits of Power

Wednesday’s announcement essentially turns the upcoming election into a referendum on whether Netanyahu should be granted immunity and remain in office, or step down and stand trial. A recent poll indicated that a majority of Israelis oppose giving him immunity.

In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu repeated his assertion that he is the victim of an unfair conspiracy, lashing out at prosecutors, the media and his political enemies. Claiming credit for a series of economic and security achievements on his watch, he said he would seek to invoke the law that would protect him from prosecution as long as he remains in office.

“In order to continue to lead Israel to great achievements, I intend to approach the speaker of the Knesset in accordance with chapter 4C of the law, in order to fulfill my right, my duty and my mission to continue to serve you for the future of Israel,” he said.

Normally, a request for immunity would need to be approved by the parliament’s House Committee and then submitted to a full vote. But the House Committee doesn’t exist because a government was never formed after September’s election. Court proceedings cannot begin until the question of immunity is settled.

The opposition Blue and White party said it will seek to form the House Committee before the March election to take up the question of immunity. But it remains unclear whether it will be able to move forward. Parliament Speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said he would hold talks on the matter next week.

The Blue and White leader, former military chief Benny Gantz, said it was a “sad day.”

“I never imagined that we would see the day that the prime minister of Israel would avoid standing before the law and the justice system,” he said. “Today it’s clear what we’re fighting for. Netanyahu knows he’s guilty.”

Netanyahu said he was not evading justice and still plans to go to court to fight the “fabricated accusations.”

“The law is meant to ensure that elected officials can serve the people according to the will of the people,” he said.

Should Netanyahu succeed in assembling a 61-seat majority in favor of immunity, he would avoid prosecution.

But that still appears unlikely after the March vote, with most polls predicting another split decision that would leave Likud and Blue and White deadlocked, with neither able to secure a parliamentary majority. The uncertainty means it could be many months before a new government is formed, leaving the question of immunity on hold with Netanyahu remaining in office.

The indictment, on charges of trading political and regulatory favors for positive press coverage and accepting lavish gifts from wealthy supporters, marked the culmination of three long-running investigations. Netanyahu has dismissed the allegations as an “attempted coup” and has vowed to battle them from the prime minister’s office.

Netanyahu is desperate to remain in office while he fights the charges. The powerful position would allow him to rally public opposition to what he says is an unfair witch hunt. He can also use the office to grant political favors to allies who agree to vote in favor of immunity.

The question of immunity is just one of the hurdles Netanyahu faces.

While Israeli law does not require a sitting prime minister to resign after being charged with a crime, it is vague about whether an indicted politician could be tapped to form a new government after new elections.

On Tuesday, Israel’s Supreme Court began discussions on the matter. If the court decides Netanyahu is ineligible, it could potentially bring his three-decade political career to an abrupt end after the March election. The court gave no indication on when it would issue a ruling on the politically sensitive case. Disqualifying Netanyahu would deeply divide the nation and precipitate a legal crisis over separations of power.

The prime minister has long accused judicial and law enforcement officials of trying to drive him from office and repeated his claim Wednesday night that only the voters can choose who will lead the country.

He received a boost last week when he easily defeated a senior Likud member in a primary election for the party leadership. The vote shored up his base, but he faces a much greater challenge going into the general elections.

An opinion poll conducted this week by the iPanel and Midgam research firms found that 51% of respondents oppose granting Netanyahu immunity, with 33% in favor. The poll questioned 507 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Netanyahu has been in power for more than a decade and is Israel’s longest-serving leader. His refusal to make concessions to the Palestinians and his tough stance toward Iran have made him a hero of the political right, which regularly wins more than half the vote.

But after April elections, Avigdor Lieberman, the secular right-wing leader of the Yisrael Beitenu party, refused to join Netanyahu’s coalition. Lieberman has since emerged as a kingmaker, demanding a national unity government with Likud and Blue and White. The three parties held several rounds of talks after September’s vote, but were unable to reach an agreement on a power-sharing deal.

Netanyahu’s legal problems were at the heart of the deadlock. Blue and White refuses to sit in a government led by an indicted prime minister.

The crisis has had little if any impact on daily life, as Netanyahu has continued to lead a caretaker government that provides public services. But the Trump administration has delayed the release of its long-anticipated Mideast peace plan until the political uncertainty is resolved.

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