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China would rather see TikTok US close than a forced sale: Sources
11 September 2020, 8:12 PM

Beijing opposes a forced sale of TikTok’s US operations by its Chinese owner ByteDance, and would prefer to see the short video app shut down in the United States, three people with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

ByteDance has been in talks to sell TikTok’s US business to potential buyers including Microsoft and Oracle since US President Donald Trump threatened last month to ban the service if it was not sold.

Trump has given ByteDance a deadline of mid September to finalise a deal.

However, Chinese officials believe a forced sale would make both ByteDance and China appear weak in the face of pressure from Washington, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

ByteDance said in a statement to Reuters that the Chinese government had never suggested to it that it should shut down TikTok in the United States or in any other markets.

Two of the sources said China was willing to use revisions it made to a technology exports list on Aug. 28 to delay any deal reached by ByteDance, if it had to.

China’s State Council Information Office and its foreign and commerce ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment sent after working hours.

Asked on Friday about Trump and TikTok, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing that the United States was abusing the concept of national security, and urged it to stop oppressing foreign companies.

CLASH BETWEEN POWERS

Reuters has reported that TikTok’s prospective buyers were discussing four ways to structure an acquisition from ByteDance.

Within these, ByteDance could still push ahead with a sale of TikTok’s US assets without approval from China’s commerce ministry by selling them without key algorithms.

ByteDance and its founder Zhang Yiming have been caught in a clash between the world’s two preeminent powers.

Trump last month issued two executive orders that require ByteDance to sell TikTok’s US assets or face being banned in the country, where the app is hugely popular among teenagers.

US officials have criticised the app’s security and privacy, suggesting that user data might be shared with Beijing. TikTok has said it would not comply with any request to share user data with the Chinese authorities.

Beijing has said it firmly opposes Trump’s executive orders and on August 28 moved to give itself a say in the process, revising a list of technologies that will need Chinese government approval before they are exported. Experts said TikTok’s recommendation algorithm would fall under this list.

Chinese regulators said last week the rules were not targeted at specific companies but they reaffirmed their right to enforce them.

‘Wonder Woman’ movie sequel delayed two months to December
11 September 2020, 7:56 PM

The Warner Bros movie studio on Friday postponed the debut of superhero sequel “Wonder Woman 1984” until Christmas Day as many theaters remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The film starring Gal Gadot had been scheduled for release in cinemas on October 2 but will now debut on December 25. It was the next big-budget Hollywood movie slated for theaters.

Movie studios have been shuffling their schedules for months as the industry tries to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced theaters around the world to shut their doors in March.

Cinemas have slowly reopened with capacity limits, and moviegoing is rebounding in countries such as China, the world’s second-largest film market. But in the United States, theaters remain closed in major moviegoing hubs including Los Angeles and New York.

Warner Bros., owned by AT&T Inc, tested the market with the release of Christopher Nolan’s thriller “Tenet” in late August. The movie, which cost more than $200 million to produce, had generated global ticket sales of $146.2 million through last weekend.

Conservative leader Boris Johnson listens during a televised debate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ahead of general election in London.
UK PM Johnson appeals to party for support over controversial bill
11 September 2020, 7:49 PM

Prime Minister Boris Johnson appealed to lawmakers in his Conservative Party on Friday to back a trade bill his government has admitted would break international law, saying it was needed to protect Britain.

Johnson’s decision to proceed with his planned Internal Markets Bill has plunged trade talks with the EU into crisis and has prompted concern among some Conservatives, who fear that Britain’s reputation would be damaged if it is seen to break the Brexit divorce treaty signed in January.

In a video conference with his lawmakers, Johnson explained the reason for the bill which he said would protect Britain’s economic and political integrity, according to two of those who were on the call.

Johnson asked the lawmakers to back him, saying “Let’s not go back to those miserable squabbling days of last autumn”, a reference to last year’s bitter divisions over the Brexit divorce deal which saw some Conservatives quit the party and others thrown out because of their opposition.

One of the lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Johnson’s message had been well received.

Earlier, Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister would reiterate Britain’s commitment to implementing the Northern Ireland protocol of the divorce deal but also explain the internal markets bill to protect the British province.

“He will also be setting out that as a responsible government we must provide a safety net which removes any ambiguity and ensures that the government can always deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland,” the spokesman said.

Some senior Conservatives, including former prime ministers Theresa May and John Major, along with figures who have been strong supporters of Brexit, have denounced the plan to override part of the divorce deal, saying it could damage Britain’s international standing.

Regional party wins vote in Ethiopia’s Tigray, challenging federal government
11 September 2020, 7:35 PM

The regional ruling party has won a landslide election victory in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, officials said on Friday, as a confrontation looms with national authorities who have branded the vote illegal.

The dominant Tigray’s People Liberation Front (TPLF) won 152 out of 190 seats in the polls for the regional legislature, electoral commission spokesman Abdel Guesh said.

Tigray pressed on with the vote this week, in a direct challenge to the federal government which has said it was postponing all regional and national elections until at least next year because of the pandemic.

The decisive win will strengthen the TPLF’s hand as it confronts Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who is struggling to hold together a fractious federation that stitches more than 80 ethnic groups into Africa’s second-most populous nation.

But the vote also saw off a more immediate threat to the country’s unity – the TPLF won a decisive victory over a party calling for Tigray to split away from Ethiopia altogether.

Abiy denounced the election but has not said how he will respond, beyond ruling out using force. The federal government supplies about half of the region’s budget.

Tigrayan leaders dominated the national coalition that took power in 1991 until Abiy’s appointment in 2018. They have said Abiy is trying to illegally extend his term and some have accused him of persecuting Tigrayans.

Abiy has overseen sweeping democratic reforms since taking power, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for making peace with neighbouring Eritrea. But he has also faced increasing internal challenges from a slew of regional leaders.

“The (TPLF) has been the strongest critic of Abiy’s leadership, and this is likely to intensify after consolidating its power,” said Will Davison, the Ethiopia analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank.

“However, the TPLF landslide means that Tigrayan secessionists did not make major gains, and it is now clearer than ever that the federal government has to deal with the TPLF if it wants to discuss issues stemming from its position that the election was unlawful.”

From The Desk of the President
7 September 2020, 3:33 PM

Dear Fellow South African,

A year ago, almost to the day, thousands of women, men and children marched to Parliament to protest against a spate of rapes and killings of women and girls.

At the time, the nation was reeling from the murders of Uyinene Mrwetyana, Leighandre Jegels, Jesse Hess and a number of other women who had lost their lives at the hands of brutal men.

From all social backgrounds, young and old, students and working women, the peaceful protesters held aloft placards that read ‘Enough is Enough’ and ‘Am I next?’. The anguish and the anger was palpable that day. As I received their clearly articulated demands, it was clear to me that we needed to act urgently and with determination. It was important to me that I did not respond with hollow words and empty promises.

I committed to marshal the substantial resources of the state to tackle gender-based violence and femicide. I gave an undertaking that we would review our laws around gender-based violence. One of the key demands made by many women’s organisations was that the laws of our country should be tightened on granting bail to suspects and enforcement of long sentences for offenders.

I concluded that the struggle to end gender-based violence needed a multipronged strategy that should be led by the President and enlisted government to act. The Cabinet agreed to allocate resources and commit to a plan of action. A few days later, I called a joint sitting of Parliament, where we announced a R1.6 billion Emergency Response Action Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide.

Over the six months of its implementation, public spending in various government departments was reprioritised to support interventions for care and support for survivors, for awareness and prevention campaigns, to improve laws and policies, to promote the economic empowerment of women, and to strengthen the criminal justice system.

And now we are on the cusp of the most far-reaching legislative overhaul in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide.

Over the past week, three key Bills relating to gender-based violence have been introduced in Parliament. Through the introduction of these Bills, we are honouring the promise we made to the protestors last year and to all the women of this country.

The three amendment Bills are designed to fill the gaps that allow some perpetrators of these crimes to evade justice and to give full effect to the rights of our country’s women and children.

The sad reality is that many survivors of gender-based violence have lost faith in the criminal justice system.

Difficulties in obtaining protection orders, lax bail condition for suspects, police not taking domestic violence complaints seriously and inappropriate sentences have contributed to an environment of cynicism and mistrust.

These Bills, once finalised, will help to restore the confidence of our country’s women that the law is indeed there to protect them.

The first is the Bill to amend the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act. This creates a new offence of sexual intimidation, extends the ambit of the offence of incest, and extends the reporting duty of persons who suspect a sexual offence has been committed against a child.

It expands the scope of the National Register for Sex Offenders to include the particulars of all sex offenders. Until now, it has only applied to sex offenders convicted of sex crimes perpetrated against children or persons with mental disabilities. The time an offender’s particulars must remain on the register has been increased, and those listed on the register will have to disclose this when they submit applications to work with persons who are vulnerable. The Bill also makes provision for the names of persons on the National Register for Sex Offenders to be publicly available.

The Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill tightens, among others, the granting of bail to perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide, and expands the offences for which minimum sentences must be imposed.

People are angry that many perpetrators of such serious crimes are exploiting legal loopholes to avoid imprisonment and are frustrated that sentencing is often not proportionate to the crimes. The amendments impose new obligations on law-enforcement officials and on our courts.

When a prosecutor does not oppose bail in cases of gender-based violence, they have to place their reasons on record. Unless a person accused of gender-based violence can provide exceptional circumstances why they should be released on bail, the court must order their detention until the criminal proceedings are concluded.

In reaching a decision on a bail application, the courts are compelled to take a number of considerations into account. They include pre-trial reports on the desirability of releasing an accused on bail, threats of violence made against a survivor, and the view of the survivor regarding his or her safety.

When it comes to parole, a complainant or a relative of a deceased victim must be able to make representation to the parole board.

Given the unacceptably high levels of intimate partner violence in our country, we have tightened the provisions of the Domestic Violence Act.

Domestic violence is now defined to cover those in engagements, dating, in customary relationships, and actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationships of any duration. The Bill also extends the definition of ‘domestic violence’ to include the protection of older persons against abuse by family members.

Complainants will be able to apply for a protection order online. To prevent a scenario where perpetrators can hide past histories of domestic violence, an integrated repository of protection orders will be established.

The proposed amendments also oblige the departments of Social Development, Basic Education, Higher Education and Health to provide certain services to survivors where needed and to refer them for sheltering and medical care.

The circumstances under which a prosecutor can refuse to institute a prosecution when offences have been committed under the amended Act or to withdraw charges when it involves the infliction of bodily harm or where a weapon was used to threaten a complainant have been limited.

In perhaps the most groundbreaking proposed amendment to the Act, if someone has knowledge, reasonable belief or suspicion that an act of domestic violence has been committed against a child, a person with disability or an older person and fails to report it to a social worker or police officer they can be fined and even imprisoned.

Similarly, failure by a member of the SAPS to comply with their obligations under the Act will be regarded as  misconduct and must be reported to the Civilian Secretariat for Police Service.

The law is the one sure protector of all of society, but especially its most vulnerable. When diligently and fairly applied, it is the most powerful guarantor of justice.

The women of South Africa have had enough of lukewarm actions that do not address one of the most fundamental rights of all – to live in freedom from fear.

These proposed amendments are an appropriate response to a groundswell of dissatisfaction at the way survivors of gender-based violence have been treated by the criminal justice system in the past.

This government and its partners will make good by the women of South Africa. We will not let them down.

That we have reached this point is thanks to committed and principled activism.

The task before us now is to bring our collective efforts to bear by taking an active part in the public participation process towards finalising the Bills.

Let us now work together to see this process through, for the protection of the women and children of today and of tomorrow.

Best regards,

Weather

 

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