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Protesters take part in a march ahead of June 4 anniversary of military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, in Hong Kong
Protesters take part in a march ahead of June 4 anniversary of military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, in Hong Kong, China May 26, 2019. REUTERS/James Pomfret

May 26, 2019

By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched through central Hong Kong on Sunday as part of annual demonstrations demanding that China be held accountable for its democracy crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square three decades ago.

Human rights groups and witnesses say that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died in the bloodshed as Chinese tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and soldiers fired on student-led democracy protesters, beginning on the night of June 3, 1989.

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China and authorities have refused to accept full accountability or release the death toll.

This year, for the 30th anniversary, censors at Chinese internet companies say that tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

Hong Kong and Macau are the only places on Chinese soil where the event is commemorated each year, while the democratic island of Taiwan also holds public gatherings for the victims.

The Hong Kong demonstrators marched to China’s main representative “liaison” office in the city, where some held up banners while chanting slogans including “the people will not forget”.

Many of the protesters also held up yellow umbrellas, a symbol of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy “umbrella revolution”, while calling for the scrapping of a proposed extradition law that would allow people to be sent to China to face trial.

Lawyers, business people and diplomats have expressed widespread concern that the law could extend China’s control into Hong Kong and undermine the city’s vaunted rule of law.

The umbrellas carried the words “Support freedom. Oppose evil law”.

“The Hong Kong people have not forgotten the event of 30 years ago,” said lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, who heads the city’s main opposition Democratic Party.

“The (Chinese) Communist Party tries to erase those memories. But the Hong Kong people have kept it up and are looking for the day when the dictatorship on the mainland will end.”

Some in the crowds were also from mainland China. Among them was Chen Shen, who said he had watched a documentary on the crackdown and later shared it widely with friends using a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent Chinese censors.

“I felt angry and sad,” he said during the march. “I think Chinese people have the right to know the truth.”

Police estimated that 2,100 people took part in Sunday’s march. An annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

Protesters take part in a march ahead of June 4 anniversary of military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, in Hong Kong
Protesters take part in a march ahead of June 4 anniversary of military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, in Hong Kong, China May 26, 2019. REUTERS/James Pomfret

May 26, 2019

By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched through central Hong Kong on Sunday as part of annual demonstrations demanding that China be held accountable for its democracy crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square three decades ago.

Human rights groups and witnesses say that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died in the bloodshed as Chinese tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and soldiers fired on student-led democracy protesters, beginning on the night of June 3, 1989.

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China and authorities have refused to accept full accountability or release the death toll.

This year, for the 30th anniversary, censors at Chinese internet companies say that tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

Hong Kong and Macau are the only places on Chinese soil where the event is commemorated each year, while the democratic island of Taiwan also holds public gatherings for the victims.

The Hong Kong demonstrators marched to China’s main representative “liaison” office in the city, where some held up banners while chanting slogans including “the people will not forget”.

Many of the protesters also held up yellow umbrellas, a symbol of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy “umbrella revolution”, while calling for the scrapping of a proposed extradition law that would allow people to be sent to China to face trial.

Lawyers, business people and diplomats have expressed widespread concern that the law could extend China’s control into Hong Kong and undermine the city’s vaunted rule of law.

The umbrellas carried the words “Support freedom. Oppose evil law”.

“The Hong Kong people have not forgotten the event of 30 years ago,” said lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, who heads the city’s main opposition Democratic Party.

“The (Chinese) Communist Party tries to erase those memories. But the Hong Kong people have kept it up and are looking for the day when the dictatorship on the mainland will end.”

Some in the crowds were also from mainland China. Among them was Chen Shen, who said he had watched a documentary on the crackdown and later shared it widely with friends using a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent Chinese censors.

“I felt angry and sad,” he said during the march. “I think Chinese people have the right to know the truth.”

Police estimated that 2,100 people took part in Sunday’s march. An annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

Protesters take part in a march ahead of June 4 anniversary of military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, in Hong Kong
Protesters take part in a march ahead of June 4 anniversary of military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, in Hong Kong, China May 26, 2019. REUTERS/James Pomfret

May 26, 2019

By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched through central Hong Kong on Sunday as part of annual demonstrations demanding that China be held accountable for its democracy crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square three decades ago.

Human rights groups and witnesses say that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died in the bloodshed as Chinese tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square and soldiers fired on student-led democracy protesters, beginning on the night of June 3, 1989.

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China and authorities have refused to accept full accountability or release the death toll.

This year, for the 30th anniversary, censors at Chinese internet companies say that tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

Hong Kong and Macau are the only places on Chinese soil where the event is commemorated each year, while the democratic island of Taiwan also holds public gatherings for the victims.

The Hong Kong demonstrators marched to China’s main representative “liaison” office in the city, where some held up banners while chanting slogans including “the people will not forget”.

Many of the protesters also held up yellow umbrellas, a symbol of Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy “umbrella revolution”, while calling for the scrapping of a proposed extradition law that would allow people to be sent to China to face trial.

Lawyers, business people and diplomats have expressed widespread concern that the law could extend China’s control into Hong Kong and undermine the city’s vaunted rule of law.

The umbrellas carried the words “Support freedom. Oppose evil law”.

“The Hong Kong people have not forgotten the event of 30 years ago,” said lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, who heads the city’s main opposition Democratic Party.

“The (Chinese) Communist Party tries to erase those memories. But the Hong Kong people have kept it up and are looking for the day when the dictatorship on the mainland will end.”

Some in the crowds were also from mainland China. Among them was Chen Shen, who said he had watched a documentary on the crackdown and later shared it widely with friends using a virtual private network (VPN) to circumvent Chinese censors.

“I felt angry and sad,” he said during the march. “I think Chinese people have the right to know the truth.”

Police estimated that 2,100 people took part in Sunday’s march. An annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 is expected to draw tens of thousands of people.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

People take pictures of paramilitary officers marching in formation in Tiananmen Square in Beijing
People take pictures of paramilitary officers marching in formation in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

May 26, 2019

By Cate Cadell

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-stocks-tiananmen-idUSBRE8530F720120604, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labor and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilize” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralized under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorized, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

(Reporting by Cate Cadell. Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Source: OANN

Monaco Grand Prix
Formula One F1 – Monaco Grand Prix – Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo, Monaco – May 23, 2019 Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto during practice REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

May 25, 2019

By Alan Baldwin

MONACO (Reuters) – Ferrari messed up on the biggest stage of all on Saturday, leaving local hero Charles Leclerc’s Monaco Grand Prix hopes in tatters.

With the 21-year-old Monegasque demanding answers after being left 16th on the starting grid, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto accepted the sport’s oldest and most successful team had, not for the first time, got their sums wrong.

“It is not a good day for us certainly,” the Italian told reporters in the team’s harbourside hospitality after a session that saw Ferrari’s qualifying blunder broadcast around the world.

“I think we made a mistake. It has been a misjudgment, a wrong evaluation of what we call the cut-off time.”

Leclerc had been told he did not need to do another lap in the first phase of qualifying, Ferrari believing his time was good enough for him to go through and that they could save a set of tyres.

It proved otherwise, with the drop triggered by his own team mate Sebastian Vettel, who had crashed in final practice, putting in a fast lap in the dying seconds to escape the bottom five and top the session.

Leclerc, pushed over the edge into the bottom five, was already in the garage and could do nothing.

“What happened today was the margin that we applied was not sufficient,” said Binotto, explaining that track conditions had improved significantly late in the session and the team’s calculations had not allowed enough for that.

Binotto said that, with dominant Mercedes having won the first five races in one-two formation and running away with both championships for the sixth season in a row, Ferrari had to be bold to close the gap.

“When you need to catch up, you need to take some risks as well,” he said.

“Today we took some risks to perform as well as we could in Q2 and Q3 (the second and third phases) against our competitors,” continued Binotto.

The risk, however, was also of not even getting to the later phases.

“We’ve got the right people,” added Binotto. “We’ve got the right procedures but we need to improve our tools. We are open to new opportunities of looking at what we did and how we may do it differently in the future.”

Leclerc, who had gone into the weekend hoping to become the first Monegasque to stand on his home podium since Louis Chiron in 1950, was stunned by the blunder that left him hoping for rain or chaos.

Monaco is famed as a circuit where overtaking is hard in the extreme, with the showcase race around the tight city streets one of the most watched but often processional and won by the driver on pole position.

“It’s disappointing to be out in Q1 in a Ferrari but even more so at home and even more on a track like this where you can’t overtake,” said the youngster.

“We can’t afford to do these things. It’s just a big, big disappointment.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Fallon)

Source: OANN

Fitness company CrossFit has left Facebook after it deleted a popular group “without warning or explanation” in a move that could indicate mounting backlash against the social media giant over privacy concerns, not to mention censorship concerns as well.

Facebook’s deletion and reinstatement of a meal plan group with 1.65 million users demonstrated to CrossFit Inc. that Facebook was abusing its “significant share of the marketplace of public thought,” according to a Thursday statement.

“CrossFit, Inc., as a voluntary user of and contributor to this marketplace, can and must remove itself from this particular manifestation of the public square when it becomes clear that such responsibilities are betrayed or reneged upon to the detriment of our community,” said CrossFit.

“To this end, all activity on CrossFit, Inc.’s Facebook and Instagram accounts was suspended as of May 22, 2019, as CrossFit investigates the circumstances pertaining to Facebook’s deletion of the Banting7DayMealPlan and other well-known public complaints about the social-media company that may adversely impact the security and privacy of our global CrossFit community.

CrossFit’s landmark statement slammed Facebook’s “de facto authority over the public square” while adding Facebook’s actions should concern anyone “engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion.”

“[The CrossFit community] stands steadfastly and often alone against an unholy alliance of academia, government, and multinational food, beverage, and pharmaceutical companies.”

Moreover, Crossfit outlined Facebook’s known exploitations of people’s private information made possible by its collaborations with “federal authorities and security organizations.”

“Facebook censors and removes user accounts based on unknown criteria and at the request of third parties including government and foreign government agencies,” said CrossFit. “Facebook collects, aggregates, and sells user information as a matter of business.”

“Its business model allows governments and businesses alike to use its algorithmically conjured advertising categories as sophisticated data-mining and surveillance tools.”

Infowars reporter Millie Weaver recounts when she brought her newborn daughter to the hospital over a slight fever and the hospital tired to force her daughter to under go a spinal tap procedure.

Source: InfoWars

Men work on a production line manufacturing robotic arms at a factory in Huzhou, Zhejiang
FILE PHOTO: Men work on a production line manufacturing robotic arms at a factory in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, China January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer .

May 24, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday China aimed to keep value-added taxes for the manufacturing industry at low levels and encourage companies to innovate, in comments coming at a time of a bitter trade dispute with the United States.

Despite a good start in the first quarter, rising external challenges may still destabilize the Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, Li said in a statement on a government website.

While addressing a tax symposium, Li said although cuts in taxes and fees would reduce fiscal revenue, they would boost companies’ investment and confidence, which would in turn create employment and maintain sustainable economic growth.

“Local governments have adequate conditions to overcome difficulties and strike a balance between tax breaks and fiscal balances,” Li said.

Earlier this year, Li said China would cut taxes and fees for companies by nearly 2 trillion yuan ($290 billion) this year to boost slowing economic growth.

On Friday he said China’s economy had been resilient so far and that ample policy tools were available for macroeconomic adjustments.

(Reporting by Min Zhang in Beijing and Lee Chyen Yee in Singapore; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

Men work on a production line manufacturing robotic arms at a factory in Huzhou, Zhejiang
FILE PHOTO: Men work on a production line manufacturing robotic arms at a factory in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, China January 8, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer .

May 24, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday China aimed to keep value-added taxes for the manufacturing industry at low levels and encourage companies to innovate, in comments coming at a time of a bitter trade dispute with the United States.

Despite a good start in the first quarter, rising external challenges may still destabilize the Chinese economy, the second largest in the world, Li said in a statement on a government website.

While addressing a tax symposium, Li said although cuts in taxes and fees would reduce fiscal revenue, they would boost companies’ investment and confidence, which would in turn create employment and maintain sustainable economic growth.

“Local governments have adequate conditions to overcome difficulties and strike a balance between tax breaks and fiscal balances,” Li said.

Earlier this year, Li said China would cut taxes and fees for companies by nearly 2 trillion yuan ($290 billion) this year to boost slowing economic growth.

On Friday he said China’s economy had been resilient so far and that ample policy tools were available for macroeconomic adjustments.

(Reporting by Min Zhang in Beijing and Lee Chyen Yee in Singapore; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Bearded man with IS leader al-Baghdadi's appearance speaks in this screen grab taken from video
FILE PHOTO: A bearded man with Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s appearance speaks in this screen grab taken from video released on April 29, 2019. Islamic State Group/Al Furqan Media Network/Reuters TV via REUTERS.

May 24, 2019

By Lena Masri and Ali Abdelaty

CAIRO (Reuters) – After losing territory, Islamic State fighters are turning to guerrilla war – and the group’s newspaper is telling them exactly how to do it.

In recent weeks, IS’s al-Naba online newspaper has encouraged followers to adopt guerrilla tactics and published detailed instructions on how to carry out hit-and-run operations.

The group is using such tactics in places where it aims to expand beyond Iraq and Syria. While IS has tried this approach before, the guidelines make clear the group is adopting it as standard operating procedure.

    At the height of its power IS ruled over millions in large parts of Syria and Iraq.

    But in March it lost its last significant piece of territory, the Syrian village of Baghouz, and the group has been forced to return to its roots: a style of fighting that avoids direct confrontation, weakening the enemy by attrition and winning popular support.

This attempt to revive Islamic State has so far been successful, analysts say, with many global attacks in recent weeks, including in places never before targeted by the group.

“The sad reality is that ISIS is still very dangerous,” said Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremists. “It has the tools and foundations needed to build insurgencies across the world.”

In a rare video published by IS’s Al Furqan network in April, the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi encouraged followers to fight on and weaken the enemy by attrition, stressing that waging war is more important than winning.

    It was more downbeat than his only other video appearance from the pulpit of the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul in 2014, when he was dressed all in black and sporting a fancy watch.

    In the new video, he sat cross-legged on a mattress as he spoke to three aides. A Kalashnikov rifle rested against the wall behind him — the same type of weapon that appeared in videos of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Baghdadi’s predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who both adopted the guerrilla warfare tactic.

“He appeared as a commander of hardened mujahideen, of an insurgency group, not the pampered leader of a well-off caliphate,” said Katz. “His appearance totally mobilized Islamic State’s supporters all over the world.”

ORGANIZED TACTIC

Hassan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian expert on Islamists, said IS has used guerrilla tactics to temporarily seize towns in order to attract media coverage but also as part of a new strategic approach.

“This kind of war has turned into a strategy for the group,” he said. “At this stage they are using it as a war of attrition, like Baghdadi said in his latest speech.”

In April, IS claimed it had attacked the town of Fuqaha in Libya, killing the head of the town council and setting fire to the municipal guard headquarters. “They seized control of the town for several hours and then returned to their bases safely,” the claim said of the IS fighters.

In recent weeks, al-Naba newspaper, one of IS’s most important media outlets, has published a four-part series titled “The Temporary Fall of Cities as a Working Method for the Mujahideen”.

In the articles, IS urged fighters to avoid face-to-face clashes with the enemy — something the group had previously encouraged.

    The series explained how guerrilla fighters can weaken the enemy without taking losses. It urged the jihadists to seize weapons from victims and grab or burn their valuables.

    Among the goals of hit-and-run attacks, the series said, was to take hostages, release prisoners and seize cash from the enemy.

Other goals were to “secure the needs of fighters” by collecting money, food, medicine and weapons “particularly when it is difficult to secure these needs because (the fighters) are in a weak position,” one of the articles said.

AL QAEDA TACTICS

    These guerrilla warfare manuals are the most detailed IS has published yet, Katz said.

The language is similar to the one used in manuals published years ago by Al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia via its “al-Battar” electronic magazine, which provided military instructions to supporters and cells around the world, she said.

IS’s new manuals show that the group is short on fighters and finances, she added.

    When it lost its territory, IS also lost an important source of income, mainly taxes and oil revenue.

    ”Financially, territorially and militarily speaking, the group is very weak,” said Katz. “That said, ISIS leadership seeks to revive its so-called caliphate, with special attention on areas outside of Iraq and Syria.”

    Although not all of the group’s claims can be confirmed, it has announced some wide-ranging operations.

On April 18, IS claimed its first attack in Democratic Republic of Congo and announced the creation of a “Central Africa Province” of the “Caliphate”. Since then the group has claimed several more attacks in Congo.

    On May 10, IS claimed it had established a province in India. It also said IS fighters had inflicted casualties on Indian soldiers in Kashmir.

The same day, militants on motorbikes stormed a town in northeastern Nigeria and opened fire on residents and soldiers in an attack later claimed by Islamic State.

    IS has claimed more operations in Nigeria and dozens of similar attacks in recent weeks in Afghanistan, Niger, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. In several cases, the group published pictures of bullets, rifles and other weapons it said it had collected from soldiers.

    By striking in a wide range of places, IS is promoting itself and proving it can reorganize and modify its strategy, said Laith Alkhouri, co-founder and senior director at Flashpoint, which monitors militants’ activity online.

“ISIS super-temporarily seizes areas, flexes its muscles, subdues locals, even recruits from amongst them, and taunts governments by exposing security flaws or weaknesses,” he said. “This is a considerably important avenue for ISIS’s growth.”

    Guerrilla war is a less costly way to inflict damage and the group is using the tactic where it wants to expand, such as eastern Afghanistan, northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent and central Africa, he said.

    “The group’s media realizes the importance of highlighting this, not only for boosting the morale of the support base,” Alkhouri said. “But just as importantly for expanding its footprint geographically — effectively setting up and expanding unrest zones around the world.”

(Reporting by Lena Masri and Ali Abdelaty; Additional reporting by Maiduguri newsroom; Writing by Lena Masri; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato speaks at a news conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Health, Labour and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato speaks at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

May 24, 2019

By Leika Kihara and Yoshifumi Takemoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – The fallout from the U.S.-China trade war on Japan’s economy will be a key factor in deciding whether to proceed with a scheduled sales tax hike this year, a senior Japanese ruling party official said on Friday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly said he will go ahead with a twice-delayed increase in the sales tax in October unless the economy is hit by a shock on the scale of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

Katsunobu Kato, head of the Liberal Democratic Party’s general council and a close aide of Abe, said such a crisis was hard to predict, and global growth was likely to rebound later this year.

“If the economy remains in a state it is now, the government will proceed with the tax hike as scheduled,” he told Reuters.

But Kato said the government must scrutinize developments in U.S.-China trade talks and their impact on Japan’s economy, warning that it was “unclear” whether the two countries could narrow differences at a summit scheduled to be held on the sidelines of a Group of 20 leaders’ meeting next month.

“The biggest factor to look out for is the U.S.-China trade friction,” Kato said. “Global economic developments change all the time, so we need to watch out for them.”

A recent mixed batch of economic data has kept alive speculation that Abe could put off the increase in the tax rate to 10 percent from 8 percent, despite repeated assurances by senior government officials.

If the higher levy hurts the economy too much, the government can take steps to prop up growth, Kato said, while adding that in terms of policy tools “unfortunately Japan doesn’t have that many options left.”

The Bank of Japan could be called upon to help revive the economy depending on how severe the shock is, though it was up to the central bank to decide what steps it takes, he added.

“Any policy step would come at a cost, so it will be a decision the central bank makes” balancing the merits and demerits, Kato said.

Kato also said there was no change to the government’s endorsement of the BOJ’s efforts to achieve its elusive 2 percent inflation target.

“We’re not in a stage where the government needs to ask the BOJ to drop its 2 percent inflation target,” Kato said.

Years of heavy money printing have failed to drive up inflation to the BOJ’s target. Prolonged easing, instead, has drawn criticism from financial institutions for narrowing margins, raising calls from some lawmakers to drop the target or make it a less rigid one with room for some allowances.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN


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