Indian journalist condemns Twitter for blocking account after abuse online

February 19, 2019

By Euan Rocha and Aditya Kalra

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – One of India’s best-known women journalists, Barkha Dutt, launched a scathing attack on Twitter Inc on Tuesday for temporarily locking her account after she posted details of men who allegedly stalked and threatened her.

Dutt said some people had posted and circulated her phone number on Twitter, enabling the harassment, which she said included threats of rape and images of genitalia being sent to her phone.

Dutt tweeted some of the threats and images on Monday, and she included phone numbers and names of the men who allegedly threatened her, after which her account was suspended.

She posted her complaint against Twitter in a tweet on Tuesday, after her account was re-activated.

“I would like to place on record my absolute horror and disgust at Twitter’s encouragement of sexual abuse and gender inequality,” said Dutt, a former managing editor at news channel NDTV and a regular columnist with the Washington Post.

Dutt accused Twitter of being “vile enablers of sexual abuse and violence”.

Twitter said it did not comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons and it referred to its rules that users may not publish or post other people’s private information without their express authorization and permission.

“If we identify a Tweet that violates the Twitter Rules, there are a range of enforcement options we may pursue. These include requiring a user to delete a Tweet, and/or being temporarily locked out of their account before they can Tweet again,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said in an email.

The social media platform is already facing scrutiny in India.

Its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has been called to appear before a parliamentary panel this month to discuss initiatives being taken to safeguard citizen’s rights on social media and online news platforms..

The hearing comes soon after the conservative Youth for Social Media Democracy group accused Twitter of left-wing bias and protested outside its office in New Delhi this month.

Dorsey did not appear at a hearing earlier this month.

A person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Tuesday the parliamentary panel had written an email to Dorsey, reiterating its demand that he appear at a Feb. 25 hearing.

Twitter declined to comment on whether Dorsey would attend.

Social media giants in India are being put under greater scrutiny ahead of a general election due before May, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling party are seeking re-election.

Several social media companies are overhauling policies to curb misinformation ahead of the vote.

(Reporting by Euan Rocha and Aditya Kalra; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Chinese government doesn’t get involved in Huawei’s business: German boss

February 19, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – The head of China’s Huawei Technologies in Germany told a German newspaper that the Chinese government does not get involved in the company’s business, adding the firm would work on being open and transparent in the debate about security of mobile networks.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and allegations of enabling state espionage, with the United States calling for its allies not to use its technology.

“The state does not have a stake in Huawei and it keeps out of our business,” Dennis Zuo, the head of Huawei’s German business told Handelsblatt newspaper.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Thomas Seythal)

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China’s top graft buster to go after ‘political deviation’

February 19, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s top anti-corruption body will target “political deviation” this year along with continued efforts to stamp out graft, it said on Tuesday, as part of a long-running campaign to improve discipline in the ruling Communist Party.

President Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping corruption crackdown since coming to power in 2012, vowing to target both “tigers” and “flies”, referring to elite officials and ordinary bureaucrats.

The campaign has led to the jailing or punishment of thousands of officials and also brought down dozens of senior party and military officials.

The anti-corruption effort has not only focused on issues like bribery and using public money to fund lavish lifestyles. It has also taken aim at those whose political loyalty is found lacking or who express doubt in public about party policies.

In comments carried on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission, Wang Ying, deputy head of the inspection team, said this year they will “deepen political inspections” and “uncover political deviation”. She did not elaborate.

Special effort will be made to find problems in the implementation of party policies and major party decisions, as well as rooting out corruption and “undesirable work styles”, Wang added.

The graft watchdog routinely sends out inspection teams to government ministries and provincial governments, which then issue reports detailing problems found and how they intend to rectify them.

China has rebuffed criticism that the campaign is as much about settling political scores as about stamping out genuine criminal acts.

But several high profile corruption cases have made mention of specific political crimes officials were suspected of, along with actual criminal behavior like taking bribes.

Former party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, Sun Zhengcai, was accused by the party of having inflated political ambitions and of damaging the party’s image.

Sun was jailed last year for life for corruption.

Vice President Wang Qishan, a close ally of Xi’s and formally in charge of the war on corruption, wrote in 2017 that the country had to step up vigilance against plots to grab power, as political corruption is the worst form of corruption.

Xi has warned, like others before him, that the corruption problem is so severe it could affect the party’s grip on power.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Darren Schuettler)

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Trade talk optimism helps European shares cling onto October highs

February 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – European shares edged down slightly on Tuesday at the open but clung to highs not seen since October as optimism about Sino/U.S. trade talks helped maintain morale despite a few earnings disappointments such as HSBC’s and BHP Group’s.

At 0829 GMT, the STOXX 600 was down 0.2 percent with most European bourses close to flat.

A new round of talks between the U.S. and China to resolve their trade war will take place in Washington on Tuesday.

Among the stocks in the red and pulling indexes down was HSBC, which reported a disappointing annual profit as higher costs and a stocks rout chipped away at its trading businesses.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded its rating for the stock to ‘neutral’ following the release of its results, saying there is “limited upside” for the share price.

The banking sector fell 0.8 percent.

The session’s top gainer was Germany’s Wirecard, up 7.7 percent. On Monday, Germany’s financial watchdog banned “short” selling of the stock due to volatility following reports in the Financial Times which are now the subject of an investigation by German authorities.

Still in Germany, HeidelbergCement jumped 4.4 percent as it shrugged off concerns about trade wars and a disorderly Brexit to forecast higher demand for cement this year.

(Julien Ponthus, Editing by Helen Reid)

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Ahead of Saudi visit, China seeks ‘deeper trust’ with Iran

February 19, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China wants to deepen “strategic trust” with Iran, the Chinese government’s top diplomat told Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday, days before Saudi Arabia’s crown prince visits Beijing, underscoring China’s difficult Middle East balancing act.

China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil, but it has been trying to raise its profile, especially in the Arab world.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman visited Beijing in 2017, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in China later this week.

However, China has had to walk a fine line, as it also has close ties with Saudi Arabia’s regional foe, Iran.

Meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at a state guest house in Beijing, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi said he had watched Zarif’s Sunday speech at the Munich Security Conference, where he had accused Israel of looking for war.

“I saw on television how you defended the rights of Iran loud and clear at the Munich Security Conference. I think an audience of hundreds of millions of Chinese also watched what you said and you are a famous person now,” Wang said, in brief remarks in front of reporters.

“I would like to take this opportunity to have this in depth strategic communication with my old friend to deepen the strategic trust between our two countries and to ensure fresh progress of the bilateral comprehensive and strategic partnership,” he said.

Zarif is in Beijing accompanying a delegation that includes Iran’s speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, and Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh. Iran was China’s fourth-largest oil supplier last year.

“Our relationship with China is very valuable to us. We consider the comprehensive strategic partnership between Iran and China as one of our most important relations,” Zarif said.

Washington’s major European allies opposed last year’s decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, which includes China and Russia, under which international sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for it n accepting curbs on its nuclear program.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Fireballs and lights: Senegal’s president promises a brighter future

February 19, 2019

By Alessandra Prentice

DAKAR (Reuters) – In a campaign video featuring images of fireballs and flashing lights, Senegalese President Macky Sall is depicted in front of an express train, a motorway, a glass high-rise and then a sports arena.

The video montage, describing Sall as an innovator, visionary and entrepreneur, draws attention to big-ticket construction projects in a $16.5-billion development program which he hopes will win him votes in a presidential election on Sunday.

“It is driving us at great speed into modernity,” Sall said at an inauguration ceremony for the TER high-speed train line which was hastily arranged for last month although the express will not run until at least mid-2019.

“We have chosen to make a technological leap, propelling us directly to the forefront of progress”.

Many Senegalese share that dream, but not all are convinced Sall’s plans will benefit most of them.

Sall, 57, is widely expected to be re-elected. Since he was elected president in 2012, Senegal’s economic growth rate has risen to more than 6 percent, one of Africa’s fastest, and electricity has been extended to thousands of villages in poor areas.

But the coastal West African country of 15 million people has an average income of less than $200 a month — its main exports are cement, fish and phosphates. Horse-drawn carts compete with cars for space on the rubbish-filled streets of the capital, Dakar.

Many of Sall’s showpiece building projects, including Diamniadio — a futuristic city being built from scratch on a patch of semi-desert along the Dakar peninsula — are half finished, with reinforcing bars poking out of concrete shells.

To pay for the projects, Senegal has borrowed on international markets, most recently with a $2.2 billion Eurobond in March last year, and from China.

Western countries, the World Bank and other lenders pledged around $14 billion in loans in Paris last December to fund Sall’s Emergent Senegal Plan.

The IMF has maintained a “low” risk rating on Senegalese debt, but urged it to keep a lid on borrowing. The fund said in January that trying to speed up projects before the election had strained public finances.

Asked whether Senegal had overspent, World Bank Senegal director, Louise Cord told Reuters: “it’s difficult to make these decisions. The biggest decision a government makes is how to allocate its resources,” but that “it’s also important for a country to have a vision of where they want to go.”

But many Senegalese question whether building projects such as a shiny new conference center will benefit the average citizen as much as it will benefit Senegal’s tiny elite.

“Sall has got his priorities all wrong,” opposition candidate Ousmane Sonko, who is popular with Senegal’s chronically under-employed youth, told a rally in December.

“He thinks that a priority for a country as poor as Senegal is to put up buildings at Diamniadio and an overpriced train.”

“A CERTAIN ELITE”

Laying the track for the $1.1-billion, 36-km (22-mile) rail link from Dakar to Diamniadio displaced thousands of people. Many say they have yet to receive promised compensation.

Thirty-four-year-old Cheikh Wane, whose hardware shop was bulldozed, said hundreds of people in his district of Mbao have been waiting for payouts since 2017.

“With this project we have lost jobs. A lot of young people lost out. They are against this project,” Wane said, walking on the tracks where his business once stood.

Diamniadio is meant to free up Dakar’s gridlocked roads by moving the nerve center of the capital, which is home to more than 3 million people, off the spindly peninsula at Africa’s western-most point. Some government buildings have already relocated there. Others will follow.

The government says the made-to-order city will help Senegal become a competitive business hub and predicts its industrial park will create about 50,000 jobs.

Diamniadio’s industrial park opened in December with six foreign companies and one Senegalese firm. Excited by the prospect, fashion entrepreneur Sophie Zinga, 32, applied to build a clothes factory and dressmaking school at the park.

She was turned down.

“It’s a project only for a certain elite, or companies that have a lot of money,” she said. “It’s not something that the Senegalese youth or small and medium businesses have access to.”

Other residents speak more enthusiastically of Sall’s plan.

“What I like best about this project is the sewage system,” said Ibrahima Diouf, 55, a security guard at Diamniadio, pointing at newly laid pipes in a trench. “In the suburbs, it’s a total nightmare … Here, in this new city, it’s like they’re saying ‘Welcome!’.”

(Additional reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro and Diadie Ba, Editing by Tim Cocks and Timothy Heritage)

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Turkish court upholds jail sentences on Cumhuriyet staff: paper

February 19, 2019

ANKARA (Reuters) – A Turkish appeals court upheld a ruling to jail journalists and executives from the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, the paper said on Tuesday, adding that its employees will be sent back to prison to serve the remainder of their sentences.

A court last year sentenced 14 staff of Cumhuriyet – one of the few remaining voices critical of the government – to jail on charges of terrorism and supporting a U.S.-based cleric blamed for organizing an attempted coup in July, 2016.

Human rights organizations have voiced increasing concern about media freedom in Turkey, accusing President Tayyip Erdogan of using the abortive putsch as a pretext to quash dissent.

Cumhuriyet said that an appeals court had found the trial lawful and approved the convictions against its staff. The court’s decision finalizes prison sentences under five years and the rest will now go to a higher court.

Journalists Kadri Gursel and Hakan Kara, cartoonist Musa Kart, lawyer Bulent Utku, and accountant Emre Iper will be sent back to prison to complete their sentences, all of which are less than five years, Cumhuriyet said.

Editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, prominent journalist Ahmet Sik, Hikmet Cetinkaya, Orhan Erinc, Akin Atalay and Aydin Engin will appeal against their sentences, all longer than five years, at a higher court, the paper added.

The staff of Cumhuriyet were charged with supporting the network of Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric Ankara holds responsible for the failed 2016 coup attempt. They have denied the charges.

Since the failed coup, more than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while about 150,000 civil servants and military personnel have been sacked or suspended from their jobs. Widespread operations and arrests are still routine.

Turkish authorities on Tuesday carried out three separate operations against alleged followers of Gulen’s network across the country, ordering the arrests of 311 people.

Authorities ordered the arrests of 53 military personnel from the army, air force and navy, the Istanbul prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The state-run Anadolu news agency said three other operations were underway the coastal province of Izmir and Ankara.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Ruble up on monthly taxes; sanctions and finance ministry in focus

February 19, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian ruble edged up on Tuesday, supported by higher oil prices and month-end tax payments that usually prompt companies to convert their dollars to meet local duties.

At 0739 GMT, the ruble was 0.1 percent stronger against the dollar at 66.20 and had gained 0.2 percent to trade at 74.82 versus the euro.

The ruble is likely to benefit from companies needing to pay up to 1.8 trillion rubles ($27.21 billion) in taxes in February, according to a Reuters survey of analysts.

“We believe exporters will increase their hard currency offer in coming days, ahead of looming taxes,” VTB Capital said in a research note.

The ruble is seen firming into a range of 65-66 versus the dollar in the next few days if there are no negative sanctions-related news or a decline in investor appetite for emerging market currencies, Promsvyazbank said in a note.

The room for rouble gains, however, is limited by concerns about more U.S. sanctions against Moscow.

Last week, the threat of sanctions re-emerged as U.S. policymakers presented a new bill that was a tougher version of the one that failed to pass in Washington last year and included a proposal to impose restrictions on Russia’s sovereign debt.

Yields of Russia’s 10-year indicative OFZ treasury bonds, which move inversely with their prices, jumped to 8.5 percent last week, but soon declined and hovered near 8.28 percent on Tuesday.

Russia’s finance ministry will be in focus later in the day as it will announce details of its auctions of OFZ bonds, the papers at risk of being targeted by the U.S. sanctions.

Oil prices were supportive for Russian assets as Brent crude oil futures hovered around $66.5 a barrel, near the $66.83 level – their highest since November – hit on Monday.

Gains in Russian stock indexes, however, were modest amid sanctions concerns.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was little changed at 1,177.0 points, while the rouble-based MOEX was 0.05 percent higher at 2,473.8 points.

“The Russian market is likely to struggle, once again, for direction today, mirroring the global trend, as investors look for fresh catalysts and wait for a breakthrough in trade talks,” Alfa Bank said in a note to clients.

(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Mark Potter)

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NHL roundup: Blackhawks edge Senators 8-7

February 19, 2019

Alex DeBrincat scored a hat trick as part of a five-point night to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a wild 8-7 win over the visiting Ottawa Senators on Monday.

The offensive barrage started early, as the teams combined for nine goals in the first period. It was the highest-scoring frame in the NHL this season, and the 12th-highest scoring period in league history. Starting goalies Collin Delia of Chicago (three goals on 10 shots) and Anders Nilsson of Ottawa (four goals on 12 shots) were both pulled before the first period was complete.

Chicago’s Patrick Kane recorded a goal and two assists to extend his points streak to 18 games, the longest streak by an NHL player this season. It was also Kane’s 17th straight game with at least one assist, tying him with Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey for the third-longest assists streak in NHL history.

Dylan Strome had a goal and two assists for Chicago. Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and an assist, and Gustav Forsling also scored for the Blackhawks. Colin White and Thomas Chabot each scored twice for the Senators, with White also recording an assist. Mark Stone had a goal and an assist, and Bobby Ryan and Rudolfs Balcers produced a goal apiece.

Lightning 5, Blue Jackets 1

Nikita Kucherov amassed his second five-point game this season as Tampa Bay won its sixth straight, beating host Columbus.

The NHL’s scoring leader with 99 points, Kucherov scored two goals and added assists on all three goals by his teammates. He has collected 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in his past five games.

Brayden Point scored twice in the first 46 seconds of the third period — once on the power play — and had an assist for the Lightning, and Steven Stamkos chipped in with a power-play goal. Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy made 39 saves, losing his shutout bid when Lukas Sedlak scored 1:45 remaining.

Capitals 3, Kings 2

Alex Ovechkin scored his league-leading 41st and 42nd goals of the season as Washington won at Los Angeles.

Pheonix Copley made 26 saves for his second victory in seven days against the Kings. Brett Connolly also scored, and John Carlson had two assists for the Capitals.

Alex Iafallo ended Copley’s bid for his second shutout of the season when he scored with 11:40 left in the third period to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 3-1. Ilya Kovalchuk scored with 28 seconds left, but the Capitals hung on.

Bruins 6, Sharks 5 (OT)

Charlie McAvoy scored the overtime winner as Boston recovered after blowing a three-goal, first-period lead, tying the game late in regulation and then claiming a victory at San Jose.

Tuukka Rask made 33 saves for the Bruins, who have won six consecutive games. Jake DeBrusk had a goal and two assists for Boston, and David Krejci tallied three assists.

Joe Thornton had a hat trick for San Jose. Joe Pavelski added a goal and two assists, and Logan Couture compiled a goal and an assist.

Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 0

Semyon Varlamov made 40 saves, Andrew Agozzino scored his first NHL goal and added an assist, and Colorado beat Vegas in Denver.

Tyson Jost and Matt Calvert also scored to help Colorado end a six-game home losing streak. The shutout was the second of the season for Varlamov and the 25th of his career.

Malcom Subban stopped 35 shots for the Golden Knights, who have lost eight of their past 11 games.

Flames 5, Coyotes 2

Mark Giordano scored a goal and added an assist to reach a career high for points in a season as host Calgary beat Arizona.

Mike Smith made 27 saves for the Flames, who have won two straight games to maintain their hold on top spot in the Western Conference. Giordano, the club’s 35-year-old captain and Norris Trophy contender, now has 57 points on the season, one more than he produced in 2015-16.

The Flames also got goals from Derek Ryan, Austin Czarnik, Michael Frolik and Mikael Backlund, and rookie Rasmus Andersson collected a pair of assists. Conor Garland and Jordan Weal scored for the Coyotes.

–Field Level Media

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Indonesia, South Korea aim to sign trade deal by November

February 19, 2019

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia and South Korea agreed on Tuesday to resume talks on a bilateral trade and investment agreement and aimed to sign a deal by November.

Speaking at a business conference in Jakarta, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said an agreement could boost two-way trade to $30 billion within three years from $20 billion in 2018.

Indonesia had put the negotiations on hold in 2014 due to a change of government in Jakarta and various technical reasons, said Iman Pambagyo, a trade ministry official.

Lukita said Indonesia reopened negotiations to avoid being “left behind”, adding that Vietnam’s trade with South Korea had reached $60 billion.

“South Korea has so much potential for investment and trade,” he said, adding it was the fifth largest foreign direct investor in the Southeast Asian nation.

South Korea was seeking to collaborate in technology and heavy industries, including the chemical and construction sectors, Trade Minister Kim Hyun-chong told the conference.

Indonesia aims to increase exports of agriculture and fishery products, as well as textiles and machinery to South Korea, trade officials said.

(Reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; editing by Darren Schuettler)

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