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A 33 month old black rhino is seen at a game reserve near Cape Town.
Malawi receives 17 black rhinos from South Africa
16 November 2019, 1:33 PM

Seventeen black rhinos have been released into Malawi’s Liwonde national park after arriving from South Africa as part of conservation efforts aimed at keeping the local population of the endangered species healthy and safe.

By moving the beasts, in one of the biggest international relocations of its kind, conservationists hope to ensure wild black rhinos remain genetically diverse to better fight off disease.

Peter Fearnhead, Chief Executive of African Parks, a private conservation trust that runs game reserves in Malawi, said the relocation also reflected local efforts to keep rhinos and other wild animals safe. Anti-poaching measures in Malawi have included deploying British troops to patrol the reserves.

“Extensive measures to protect these animals include aerial surveillance, daily ranger patrols, and the integration of the most advanced technology to enable live-time tracking,” Fearnhead said.

“With fewer than 5 500 black rhinos remaining in the wild, translocations to well-protected areas are essential for their long-term survival.”

The first translocation of two rhinos from South Africa’s Kruger National Park took place in 1992. The new transfer was organised by wildlife departments in the two countries and WWF South Africa.

The 17 rhinos were captured in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and quarantined for six weeks at Imfolozi Game Reserve, after which they were flown from King Shaka airport in Durban to Lilongwe in Malawi.

Britain’s Prince Harry has been involved in conservation efforts at Liwonde, which lies in Eastern Southern Malawi on the banks of the Shire river.

“This is a great boost to the endangered rhino species, hunted down for its horn,” said Brightson Kumchedwa, director of parks and wildlife in Malawi’s Ministry of Natural Resources.

“For the South African government to release the 17 is a sign of confidence in Malawi’s concerted efforts to greatly improve wildlife security.”

Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, is sworn in to testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump.
Democrats see Trump twitter attack as witness intimidation
16 November 2019, 9:33 AM

President Donald Trump launched a Twitter attack on a former US ambassador to Ukraine on Friday while she was testifying to an impeachment hearing in Congress, in an extraordinary moment that Democrats said amounted to witness intimidation.

Trump blasted Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat, as she explained to the second day of televised impeachment hearings how she had fought corruption in Ukraine and how the Trump administration abruptly removed from her post earlier this year.

Democrats say Yovanovitch was pulled back to Washington to clear the way for Trump allies to persuade Ukraine to launch corruption probes into Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Trump’s pressure on Ukraine is at the heart of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into whether the Republican president misused US foreign policy to undermine one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election.

As Yovanovitch testified, Trump fired off criticism on Twitter in a move Democrats labeled “real-time” witness intimidation.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” Trump asked.

In the most dramatic moment of the public impeachment hearings that began on Wednesday, Representative Adam Schiff, who is chairing the hearing in the House Intelligence Committee, asked Yovanovitch for her reaction to the tweet. She said it was “very intimidating.”

“I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is to be intimidating,” she said.

Schiff replied: “Well, I want to let you know, ambassador, that some of us here take witness intimidation very, very seriously.”

Afterward, Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell, a member of the committee, told reporters the Trump attack could be considered for a separate article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of justice.

‘MORE OBSTRUCTION’

“It’s evidence of more obstruction: intimidating, tampering with the witness’s testimony,” he said.

At the White House, Trump told reporters he did not think his tweets were intimidating.

“I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just as other people do,” Trump said.

Yovanovitch was removed from her post as ambassador to Kiev in May after coming under attack by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, at a time when he was working to persuade Ukraine to carry out two investigations that would benefit the president politically.

Giuliani also was trying to engineer a Ukrainian investigation into a debunked conspiracy theory embraced by some Trump allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 US election.

The main focus of the impeachment inquiry is a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who took office in May, to open the investigations.

Democrats are looking into whether Trump abused his power by withholding $391 million in US security aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Kiev to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump in 2020.

The money, approved by the US Congress to help US ally Ukraine combat Russia-backed separatists, was later provided to Ukraine.

The hearings could pave the way for the Democratic-led House to approve articles of impeachment – formal charges – against Trump. That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to convict Trump and remove him from office. Republicans control the Senate and have shown little support for Trump’s removal.

Many Republicans in Congress say Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine are not impeachable offenses, and the president denies any wrongdoing. Republicans have offered no evidence of corruption by the Bidens.

Yovanovitch said that her removal had undercut confidence in the US diplomatic corps.

“I had no agenda other than to pursue our stated foreign policy goals,” she said. “I still find it difficult to comprehend that foreign and private interests were able to undermine US interests in this way.”

DIPLOMATIC SERVICE

Republican Devin Nunes criticized Democrats for launching the impeachment inquiry, calling it a political exercise based on second- and third-hand hearsay. He noted Yovanovitch was not involved in Trump’s July 25 phone call, or deliberations on the pause in security aid for Ukraine.

“I’m not exactly sure what the ambassador is doing here today,” Nunes said.

During their questioning, Republicans on the panel praised Yovanovitch for her long career of foreign service, a characterization at odds with Trump’s description of her as “bad news” in the call with Ukraine’s president.

Some people in the hearing room applauded when Yovanovitch’s testimony ended after more than four hours.

Two other US diplomats, William Taylor and George Kent, testified on Wednesday, expressing alarm over the pressure tactics on Ukraine by Giuliani.

Taylor is acting US ambassador to Ukraine. His aide David Holmes, who Taylor said overheard a July 26 telephone conversation in which Trump asked about progress in getting the Ukrainians to launch the Biden investigations, appeared before lawmakers in a closed-door session later on Friday.

Democratic Representative Ted Lieu emerged from the session saying there were at least two other witnesses who attended a lunch where Trump was overheard asking about investigations in a cell phone conversation with Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.

“It was very damning for the president,” Lieu told reporters.

Separately, Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone was convicted on all charges on Friday by a federal court jury that found the veteran Republican operative and self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” guilty on seven counts of lying to the US Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

Tunisian President Kais Saied shakes hands with Prime Minister designate Habib Jemli in Tunis, Tunisia, in this handout pictured obtained.
Ennahda’s choice Jemli tapped to be Tunisia PM, faces big challenge
16 November 2019, 9:13 AM

A former junior minister faces the challenge of creating a ruling coalition in economically troubled Tunisia after the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which took most seats in last month’s election, tapped him as prime minister on Friday.

Habib Jemli vowed to be open to all political parties in picking his government. He will have two months to fashion a coalition out of a fractured parliament in which Ennahda, as the largest party, took only a quarter of the seats.

Any new government will need the support of at least two other parties to command even the minimum parliamentary majority of 109 seats needed to pass legislation.

“Efficiency and integrity will be the basis for choosing the members of the government, whatever their affiliations without exclusion to any party,” Jemli, 60, an agricultural engineer, said on Friday.

On Wednesday, Ennahda’s election foe Heart of Tunisia endorsed Ennahda’s veteran leader Rached Ghannouchi as parliament speaker, a sign the two might put aside their earlier hostility and cooperate on a coalition.

Jemli served as a junior minister in the first government formed in late 2011 after the fall of autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali to a pro-democracy uprising. Ennahda also led that government.

Analysts say the new government will need clear political will and strong backing in parliament to push through economic reforms started by the outgoing Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed, who is acting as caretaker during coalition talks.

His cabinet has focused on spending cuts backed by the International Monetary Fund to bring Tunisia’s hefty deficit and public debt under control while raising spending on security to woo back tourists to the North African state.

ECONOMIC CRUNCH

Economic woes – unemployment of 15% nationally and 30% in some cities, inflation of nearly 7% and a weak dinar – have plagued Tunisia since its 2011 revolution, which spawned democracy and sparked the “Arab Spring”.

Those problems, alongside deteriorating public services and a public perception of widespread government corruption, drove voters to reject the political establishment in this autumn’s elections.

“I hope that it will be a new start. After we completed democratic transition, the focus will be on development, fighting against corruption, unemployment and high prices,” Ghannouchi said on Friday.

Public anger may make it harder for a new prime minister to continue to cut spending, and he will be buffeted by the same competing demands to control the deficit while improving services.

President Saied, an independent retired law professor, has already pushed anti-corruption proposals since his inauguration, a program that diplomats have said could win enough public support to buy time for new economic reforms.

Heart of Tunisia, which came second in the parliamentary election, is headed by media mogul Nabil Karoui who was detained for much of the election period on corruption charges, which he denies.

Ennahda, whose own candidate lost to Saied and Karoui in the first round of a separate presidential election, had sworn not to enter into coalition with his Heart of Tunisia party, painting it as part of a corrupt elite.

Sri Lanka People's Front party presidential election candidate and former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa leaves after casting his vote during the presidential election in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankans vote for a new president to heal divisions after Easter attack
16 November 2019, 8:04 AM

Sri Lankans trickled into polling centers early on Saturday to choose a new president for the island-nation still struggling to recover from Easter Sunday attacks on hotels and churches that have heavily weighed on its tourism-dependent economy.

Former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who oversaw the military defeat of Tamil separatists 10 years ago, and government minister Sajith Premadasa are locked in a close fight, politicians and analysts say.

Rajapaksa has vowed to overhaul national security, playing on the fears of the majority Sinhalese Buddhists following the April attacks claimed by Islamic State that killed more than 250 people.

Premadasa has sought to fire up the countryside with promises of free housing, school uniforms for students and sanitary pads for women – touching on a topic rarely discussed in public anywhere in south Asia but which has drawn women to his rallies.

Police said a group of unidentified men opened fire on buses carrying Muslims to a polling station in Anuradhapura district in central Sri Lanka. There were no injuries but witnesses said there were tires burning.

At a polling station in Colombo, M. Gunasekera, a 41-year-old homemaker, said the most important problem was widespread corruption and the lack of accountability of politicians.

About 16 million people are eligible to vote, with the ballot allowing voters to choose up to three candidates in order of preference.

Votes will be counted soon after polling stations close but the results are not expected before Sunday.

Muslims who make up nearly 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population, say they have faced hostility ever since the April attacks.

That division has come on top of long-standing grievances of ethnic Tamils, who say they are still to get justice stemming from the human rights violations during a 26-war civil war with Tamil rebels that ended in 2009.

A Huawei company logo is pictured at the Shenzhen International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province.
Huawei to give staff $286 million bonus for helping it ride out US curbs
12 November 2019, 12:53 PM

Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies said on Tuesday it will hand out $286 million in cash rewards to staff working to help it weather a US trade blacklisting.

The world’s largest telecoms equipment provider has said it has been trying to find alternatives to US hardware after the United States all but banned it in May from doing business with American firms, disrupting its ability to source key parts.

The cash is a mark of recognition for work in the face of US pressure, Huawei’s human resources department said in a notice to staff seen by Reuters. It will also double pay this month for almost all its 190,000 workers, a company spokesman said.

The cash rewards will likely go to research and development teams and those working to shift the company’s supply chains away from the United States, the spokesman said.

Details of Huawei’s plan were first reported by the South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

Many in the US government believe that Huawei’s equipment, particularly its 5G networks, pose a security risk, because of the company’s allegedly close ties to the Chinese government. Huawei has denied the Chinese government plays any role in its operations.

Although granted reprieves from much of the US exclusion, Huawei had been working to find alternatives after it witnessed the crippling effect of US sanctions on its smaller Chinese rival ZTE Corp in early 2017.

The company is also the world’s second largest maker of smartphones and a surge in shipments of devices helped it to report a 27% rise in third-quarter revenue last month.

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