Category Archives: Entertainment

US General: Google’s Work in China Benefiting China’s Military

The United States’ top general said on Thursday that the Chinese military was benefiting from the work Alphabet Inc’s Google was doing in China, where the technology giant has long sought to have a bigger presence.

“The work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefiting the Chinese military,” Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

“We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing that there is that indirect benefit,” he said.

“Frankly, ‘indirect’ may be not a full characterization of the way it really is, it is more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.”

Last year Google said it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.

In June, Google said it would not renew a contract to help the U.S. military analyze aerial drone imagery when it expires, as the company sought to defuse an internal uproar over the deal.

At the same time, Google said it has “no plans” to relaunch a search engine in China, though it is continuing to study the idea.

During the hearing, Republican Senator Josh Hawley sharply criticized the tech company, referring to it as “a supposedly American company.”

Technology companies have recently been a favorite target of many members of the U.S. Congress, who have criticized them over a wide range of issues such as privacy, work in China and allowing foreign meddling in U.S. elections.

Lawmakers and Google employees have raised concerns the company would comply with China’s internet censorship and surveillance policies if it re-enters the Asian nation’s search engine market.

Asked about Dunford’s comments, Google referred to previous statements.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has previously said the company has invested in China for years and plans to continue to do so, but that the company also was continuing to work with the U.S. government on projects in health care, cybersecurity and other fields.

Source: Voice of America

Chaos, Gridlock a Daily Ordeal for Manila’s Long-suffering Commuters

It’s 3.30 a.m. in the Philippines and much of San Jose Del Monte is fast asleep.

Flashlight in hand, street sweeper Alejandro Galasao, 58, navigates a labyrinth of alleys to a main road to catch a bus to the capital Manila 30 km (18.6 miles) away.

He has to wake up in the middle of the night for a job that doesn’t start until 6 a.m.

Traffic is so bad in Manila that if he leaves any later, there’s no way he will clock in on time.

“If I go to work at rush hour, it would take me three hours,” Galasao told Reuters. “This is the only job I know. Even if I find something else, I doubt I would earn any better.”

Metro Manila, a sprawl of 16 cities fused together by outdated infrastructure, is creaking under the weight of millions of vehicles, owing largely to economic growth of more than six percent a year since 2012.

Urban rail coverage is limited, trains are prone to breakdowns and queues spill onto streets where exhaust fumes are intoxicating.

Quality of life is poor for many urban Filipinos, who spend a chunk of their day commuting.

Janice Sarad works at a bank head office and leaves home four hours before work starts in Bonifacio Global City, a Manila business hub.

On a typical day, Sarad, 22, takes a train, a bus and two passenger jeeps to get to work.

“In the morning, it’s even more difficult to commute because the pressure not to be late is there. You really have to fight your way in,” she said.

Heavy Toll

A 2015 survey by GPS-based navigation app Waze found that Manila had the world’s worst traffic congestion, partly due to a tripling of annual car sales from a decade ago.

Oliver Emocling, 23, rides the train, but queues are so long that he arrives late often, and has been docked wages as punishment.

“When I get home, it’s already 10 p.m.,” said Emocling, who works at a magazine. “I could be using that time to sleep more, rest more. Instead, my time gets wasted.”

The daily loss of business in Manila due to traffic woes has risen to 3.5 billion pesos ($67.2 million) in 2017 from 2.4 billion pesos ($46.1 million) in 2012, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said that fixing Manila’s traffic wasn’t easy, adding that it was the only campaign promise he had failed to deliver.

He recently approved a law that encourages companies to support more employees to work from home.

The government is making some headway on an $180 billion program to modernize roads, railways and airports, including a subway system which was set to begin construction at the end of February.

However, the building works are exacerbating snarl-ups.

Ferdinand Tan, a 53-year-old wealth coach, lets his staff work from home and has modified his van to cope with traffic, turning it into a mobile office with a power supply, computer and even a foot massager.

“No one can really solve the traffic. So instead of complaining about it, I try to maximize (the time),” he said. “I use unproductive time to be productive.”

Source: Voice of America

More Women Winning Seats in World Parliaments

GENEVA The Inter-Parliamentary Union finds more women around the world are winning seats in their national parliaments, with the best gains being made in countries that have well-designed quota systems.

The report finds women’s representation in national parliaments rose by nearly 1 percentage point last year to 24.3 percent. This may seem a modest increase, but this figure indicates an ongoing upward trend of women’s participation in politics since the 1995 World Women’s Conference in Beijing. At that time, only 11 percent of women were in parliament. Their share has now more than doubled.

IPU Secretary-General Martin Chungong says he also is heartened by the greater diversity in the makeup of women’s representation in parliament.

We are seeing more women of native origin,” he said. “We are seeing more women of color coming into parliaments around the world. And if we take the United States, for instance, we saw a noticeable improvement in parliamentary diversity, with Native Americans making inroads into parliament, women of color increasing their share of parliamentary representation. And we even see the entry into parliament of two Muslim women. Chungong notes the United States shot up in the global rankings of women parliamentarians from 137th position in 2017 to 79th place last year. The survey finds women now occupy about one-quarter of all seats in both houses of Congress. As in previous years, Rwanda continues to hold the top spot in the rankings with more than 61 percent of women parliamentarians. Two other African countries, Namibia and South Africa, are in the top 10.

The IPU finds 65th-ranked Djibouti made the most dramatic gains regionally and globally among lower and single chambers. It says the share of women in parliament rose from nearly 11 percent to more than 26 percent.

The report says the Americas continue to lead all regions in terms of the average share of women in parliament with 30.6 percent. This contrasts with the Middle East and North Africa, with the lowest regional average of slightly more than 18 percent female parliamentarians.

Source: Voice of America

China’s Huawei Sues US Government Over Ban

BEIJING Chinese tech giant Huawei has sued the U.S. government, arguing that legislation Congress passed last year restricting its business in the United States is “unconstitutional.”

The case, which analysts see more as a public relations move, is the latest in an intensifying effort by the telecommunications company to fight U.S. security concerns that Huawei argues are unfair and unfounded.

In its lawsuit, Huawei argues that Section 889 of the National Defense Authorization Act violates the constitutional principles of separation of powers and due process. By singling out the company and punishing it without a trial, the company also argues that the law violates the Constitution’s the bill of attainder clause. Section 889 bans federal agencies and their contractors from purchasing equipment and services from Huawei as well as another Chinese telecom company ZTE. President Donald Trump signed it into law last year.

“This ban is not only unlawful but also harms both Huawei and U.S. consumers,” Huawei’s rotating chairman, Guo Ping, told reporters Thursday in Shenzhen. “This section strips Huawei of its due process, violating the separation of powers principles, breaks U.S. legal traditions, and goes against the very nature of the constitution.”

Guo said that Huawei was left with no choice but to take legal action, noting that neither lawmakers nor the government had shown any proof to date to back up concerns the company is a security concern.

On Thursday, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, but said the government needs to be vigilant when making procurement decisions.

“The United States advocates for secure telecom networks and supply chains that are free from suppliers subject to foreign government control or undue influence, which would pose risks of unauthorized access and malicious cyber activity,” said Palladino in response to questions posed by VOA during a briefing.

“We believe that these risks posed by vendors subject to extrajudicial or unchecked compulsion by foreign states that do not share our values need to be weighed rigorously before making procurement decisions on these technologies,” he added.

Huawei’s chief legal officer, Song Liuping, said the company has no choice but to defend itself and try to clear its name.

“Section 889 is based on numerous false, unproven, and untested propositions. Contrary to the statutes’ premise, Huawei is not owned, controlled, or influenced by the Chinese government,” Song said.

That, however, is a central point of the debate over Huawei: how much a security threat the company is? And is it really independent from China’s authoritarian government?

That debate is heating up at a crucial time as countries across the globe are preparing to roll out next generation mobile communications networks or 5G, an area where Huawei is a global leader. At the press conference, Huawei officials argued repeatedly that the ban would cut off Americans from its advanced technology. They also gave assurances again that the company would never install backdoors into their equipment and that it puts the security concerns of its customers first.

Some countries, including the United States, Australia, and New Zealand believe Huawei is a security threat and have already banned the company from their roll outs of next generation mobile communications networks.

Others, including Britain, Canada, and Germany, are still weighing a decision. At the same time, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is in Canadian custody and is facing extradition to the United States to face charges of alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

With Huawei fighting a battle on multiple fronts, the lawsuit is as much about public relations as it is an effort to clear itself of accusations that it is a security threat.

Legal analysts said it is unlikely the case will even go to trial.

“As a PR matter, this is brilliant, the fact that we are just talking about this now, tells you this is a great PR move, as a legal matter, this is a reach, to put it charitably,” said law professor David Law of Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Hong Kong. “I just can’t see how a federal district judge in Texas is going to let this go to trial much less hand Huawei a win.”

The case could put more pressure on the U.S. government to disclose more evidence to support its claims about the alleged security threat the company poses, according to some legal analysts. That could help Huawei in the process, said the Taiwan Bar Association’s Calvin Yang.

“I think this is a move that carries more political weight than any litigation significance,” Yang said, adding that the company’s case was more about challenging the legitimacy of U.S. accusations. “It’s using judicial procedure to force the federal government to provide more evidence to support its allegations of so-called backdoors in Huawei’s equipment.” Some legal analysts have noted that Huawei’s case is similar to the legal battle Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky lost late last year. Kaspersky challenged a ban on the use of its software on U.S. government networks. A U.S. federal appeals court ruled in the government’s favor in November.

Whether that will figure into the Huawei case if it goes to trial is too early to tell, legal analysts note.

When it comes to national security concerns, they add that courts are unlikely to probe too deeply into those questions.

Source: Voice of America

Jailed Vietnamese Activist Goes on Hunger Strike Over Beatings by Police

A Vietnamese activist serving a seven-year prison term for his role in protesting a chemical waste spill three years ago on Vietnam’s coast has entered the seventh day of a hunger strike calling for police officers and prison guards who assaulted him to be punished.

No action has been taken on petitions written by Nguyen Van Hoa denouncing his treatment, Hoa’s sister Nguyen Thi Hue told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on Thursday, two days after visiting Hoa at An Diem prison in south-central Vietnam’s Quang Nam province.

Hoa is now demanding that an investigation be carried out into beatings he received in detention in 2017 and later in 2018, when he was brought from prison to testify in the trial of another detainee, Hue said.

The officers responsible for the abuse must then be prosecuted, and written apologies presented for his treatment in custody, the petitions demand, with copies addressed to authorities in Nghe An province, Nghe An’s Ha Tinh district, and the Supreme Procuratorate in the capital Hanoi.

Hoa has vowed to continue his strike until his demands are met, Hue said.

Hoa, aged 22, was jailed by the People’s Court of Ha Tinh in Nghe An province on Nov. 27, 2018 after filming protests outside the Taiwan-owned Formosa Plastics Group steel plant whose spill in 2016 killed an estimated 115 tons of fish and left fishermen and tourism industry workers jobless in four central provinces.

He was arrested on Jan. 11 for abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state under Article 258 of the Penal Code, but the charges against him were upgraded in April to the more severe “conducting propaganda against the state” under Article 88.

Held for nine days at the Ha Tinh police station following his arrest, Hoa was hung by his hands and beaten by eight police officers, who also threw water in his face, one of Hoa’s petitions says, listing the names of the officers who attacked him.

On Aug. 18, 2018, after being brought to testify at another activist’s trial in Nghe An, Hoa was taken by police guards to an isolated room where he was again beaten and verbally abused, with guards from the team transferring him from his prison to the court taking part, Hoa’s petition reads.

Hoa’s petition notes that physical abuse in custody is prohibited by Vietnam’s own constitution and laws, and by the U.N.’s International Convention on Civil and Political and Rights.

Plea for help

Speaking to RFA on Thursday, Hoa’s sister Hue said she has contacted the U.N. Committee Against Torture, asking for their intervention in her brother’s case, saying that prison officials at An Diem may never have allowed Hoa’s petitions to be sent.

Hoa has asked his family to visit him in prison as soon as possible in March, and he has also asked for a Catholic priest to come to perform a blessing, Hue said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that police brutality is systemic in Vietnam, whose own Ministry of Public Security has admitted that 226 suspects and inmates died in police stations and detention facilities throughout the country between October 2010 and September 2014.

Prominent blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Mother Mushroom and one of the best-known of Vietnam’s roughly 130 political prisoners before her release into exile last year, had documented 31 cases of mysterious deaths in police custody before being imprisoned for her online writings criticizing the government.

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