Troops to move to Poland
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that Washington plans to move some troops from Germany to Poland, speaking as he hosted Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House. “We are going to be reducing our forces in Germany” from 52,000 to 25,000 troops, Trump said after an Oval Office meeting with Duda. “Some will be coming home and some will be going to other places. Poland would be one of those other places.” Duda called it a “very reasonable decision” and said he had asked Trump not to withdraw US troops from Europe “because the security of Europe is very important to me.” Asked what kind of a message the redeployment sends to Russia, Trump said: “I think it sends a very strong signal.”
Gems fetch US$3.3m
A hand-miner became an instant millionaire after selling the two of the largest tanzanite gems ever discovered to the government. The central bank paid Saniniu Laizer 7.7 billion shillings (US$3.3 million) for the stones, which weighed 9.2kg and 5.8kg. Laizer, clad in the traditional red and white checkered robes of the Maasai community, received the payment at a ceremony in the northeastern Manyara region and broadcast on national television on Wednesday. President John Magufuli said that the purchase from Laizer was vindication of reforms to the mining industry that the government has implemented since he came to power in 2015. The changes include the introduction of centers where small-scale miners can trade their finds.
Groups worry for democracy
More than 500 political and civil society leaders, Nobel laureates and rights groups, yesterday warned that some governments were using the COVID-19 pandemic to “tighten their grip on power,” undermining democracy and civil liberties. In an open letter signed by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Shirin Ebadi, Lech Walesa and Jose Ramos-Horta, and actor Richard Gere, among others, the authors called the ongoing pandemic a “formidable global challenge to democracy.” They wrote: “Democracy is under threat, and people who care about it must summon the will, the discipline, and the solidarity to defend it.”
Fishing boat boarded
Pirates allegedly kidnapped five citizens and a Ghanaian after boarding their fishing vessel off the coast of Benin, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Maritime Bureau said yesterday. The Ghanaian-flagged Panofi Frontier with 30 crew onboard was attacked on Wednesday about 60 nautical miles (111km) south of Benin’s capital, Cotonou, they said.
Authorities have formally arrested two detained activists, relatives and fellow campaigners said yesterday. Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜) and Xu Zhiyong (許志永) attended a meeting involving lawyers and human rights advocates in December last year, many of whose attendees have since been detained. Ding, a disbarred Beijing-based lawyer previously jailed for protesting against official corruption, is accused of “inciting subversion of state power,” said his wife, Luo Shengchun (羅勝春). “My greatest hope now is that Jiaxi can meet his lawyer and to see that he is well.”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big