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Do Korea talks put initiative back with Seoul and Pyongyang?

North and South Korea have held talks for the first time in over two years. DW spoke with Patrick Köllner from the GIGA Institute for Asia Studies about the outcome of the discussions and if any changes can be expected. DW: The fact that representatives from North and South Korea have sat together at a table and held talks could already be considered a successful step in relations. Now that the meeting is over, what outcomes did it bring? Patrick Köllner: First off, it was agreed at Tuesday's talks that North Korea will participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. This also guarantees that the games will be peaceful and quiet. This is of the utmost importance for the South Korean government. It is also expected that family reunions between the North and South will resume after being suspended for several years. Trust-building measures could also emerge in the form of talks between the two countries' militaries. Read more: North, South Korea agree to discuss military following Olympics talks Those are the tangible results - but what in your opinion is the most important message that can be read between the lines after the meeting in Panmunjom? One important message is that North and South Korea, the most important actors in the middle of this conflict, have actually managed to begin talking again. The initiative is once again with Seoul and Pyongyang. The last year was characterized overall by North Korea's armament efforts and the resulting reaction from the United States and the international community. It is crucial that the two Korean governments communicate because this conflict primarily affects 50 million Koreans. Do you think anything surprising happened during the meeting, or did the talks go as expected? The talks went positively in the sense that North Korea, after everything that we know, did not insist that planned military exercises between the US and South Korea be called off. The exercises, which were planned directly after the games, were postponed, but not cancelled. Requiring they be called off would most likely have led to the talks collapsing. Read more: What to expect from North and South Korea meeting ahead of Winter Olympics US wants North Korea to give up nuclear weapons as pre-condition of talks What were the goals and background agenda for each side during the talks? North Korea, of course, continues to follow the strategic aim of putting a wedge in the alliance between Washington and Seoul. But South Korea certainly knows this, and this alone doesn't exclude the possibility of reintroducing increased economic cooperation between the two Koreas. The drive to increase economic cooperation has been put on ice for the past few years because of North Korea's nuclear weapons testing. Even deliveries of humanitarian aid from South Korea were reduced. North Korea has an interest in once again promoting economic cooperation. South Korea has an interest in not letting important discussions about developments on the Korean Peninsula bypass Seoul. The positions of both sides seem incompatible. The North wants to keep its nuclear program and the South wants a nuclear weapon-free peninsula. How much maneuvering room do negotiators on each side have? Negotiations are complicated by the fact that possibilities for compromise are limited by the international sanctions regime hung on North Korea. Of course, South Korea cannot come out with its own measures that violate these sanctions. US interests in the background also complicate matters, and there is always the need to coordinate with Washington in addition to Seoul and Pyongyang. But trust-building measures could be possible, especially with the military. South Korean humanitarian aid could also be increased. These small steps could be the basis of talks on larger issues, which could also include the US and the question of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. Read more: North Korea reopens hotline to South to talk Olympics Interceptions cut off another source of North Korean fuel After today's talks, is it too early to hope for an overall relaxation of tensions? We need to keep in mind that the discussions did not change the fundamental constellation of issues. North Korea's weapons program continues and Kim Jong Un promised in his New Year's address to increase weapons production. Big challenges remain. But there are also positive takeaways – especially the fact that diplomacy is once again playing a role. We have spent the past year considering the possibility of military action. It is really a positive development to see examples of diplomacy. Professor Patrick Köllner is director of the GIGA Institute of Asian Studies in Hamburg. The interview was conducted by Esther Felden.

North and South Korea have held talks for the first time in over two years. DW spoke with Patrick Köllner from the GIGA Institute for Asia Studies about the outcome of the discussions and if any changes can be expected. DW: The fact that representatives from North and South Korea have sat together at a table and held talks could ... Read More »

Fired Google employee James Damore files reverse discrimination lawsuit

The ex-employee, who notoriously posited that "biological causes" explained why many of Google's senior staff were male, now argues that he was unfairly dismissed. He's the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit. A former Google engineer who was fired over a memo he wrote about the company's hiring quotas, filed a lawsuit against the US tech giant on Monday, alleging it discriminates against men, conservatives and Caucasians. James Damore was dismissed in August for violating Google's code of conduct, after he posted an internal memo saying that fewer women than men worked in the tech industry because of biological differences. Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai told employees in a note that portions of the anti-diversity memo "violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace." Read more: Google fires employee behind 'gender stereotypes' memo The 161-page class action lawsuit claims Google "ostracized, belittled and punished" him and others "for their heterodox political views, and for the added sin of their birth circumstances of being Caucasians and/or males." Google "employs illegal hiring quotas to fill its desired percentages of women and favored minority candidates, and openly shames managers of business units who fail to meet their quotas — in the process, openly denigrating male and Caucasian employees as less favoured than others," the lawsuit said. Read more: Google faces class action gender pay discrimination lawsuit The lawsuit was filed in a court in Santa Clara, in California's Silicon Valley. Damore is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which has also been filed on behalf of other people who could be categorized into three "subclasses of individuals" that Google discriminated against, Damore's attorney, former Republican Party official Harmeet Dhillon, said in a Monday press conference posted on Facebook. The three subclasses are conservatives, Caucasians and men. Read more: Women getting ripped off: In Germany, pink razors cost more "All three subclasses happened to James because he is all of those three, but I want to be very clear that the lawsuit classes include women, they include people of colour who happen to fall into one of those three classes," Dhillon said. She added that Google had retaliated against Damore for "raising workplace issues" and in doing so violated provisions of California and federal law relating to discrimination. Women have 'more neuroticism' In Damore's memo, he wrote that "the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes … These differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership." Damore said women displayed "extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness" and "higher agreeableness … This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading." He also said women exhibited "more neuroticism," with higher anxiety levels and lower stress tolerance. "This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs," Dalmore wrote. At the press conference, Damore defended the comments made in the memo. "There is definitely a lot of discrimination in that certain programs are not open to certain people," he said. "I believe the document I wrote and the comments that were shared showed that this was a common experience," he added. Read more: Asia-Pacific women 'under-represented' in leadership roles Google's new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, Danielle Brown, responded to Damore's document in a memo to Google employees, saying, "Like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender." "Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul," she said.

The ex-employee, who notoriously posited that “biological causes” explained why many of Google’s senior staff were male, now argues that he was unfairly dismissed. He’s the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit. A former Google engineer who was fired over a memo he wrote about the company’s hiring quotas, filed a lawsuit against the US tech giant on Monday, alleging ... Read More »

Africa’s football marred by politics

Africa has many good footballers, but because of the key role played by politics, national teams are performing way below their potential. Lack of trust among stakeholders has hampered progress, said coach Volker Finke DW: Mr. Finke, for several years you worked as a trainer in Africa. How do you assess the situation and development of football on the continent? Volker Finke: For more than 20 years it has been repeatedly said that "It will not be long before Africa catches up in terms of infrastructure, there are better training opportunities and African teams can achieve success in major tournaments." But so far this has not happened. When you look behind the scenes, the reasons are always the same: organization and infrastructure. Can you explain that in more detail? Football is a reflection of social and political conditions. There is usually no transparency. Many of the financial resources that are initially made available disappear. As a result, for example, the training pitches are in such poor condition that you would rather not let the players train on them so they don't hurt themselves. Bonuses are not paid, and there's no trust between the government, the association and the players. These are the reasons why I do not believe that an African team will get very far at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Read more: What are Africa's chances for the 2018 World Cup? So that means the problems in football are not very different from those in politics. What would have to happen so that African teams can celebrate success at an international level? In my experience, the biggest difficulties come in the final stages of preparations, even though there are smaller problems during qualification stages as well. When you qualify, the fight for big budgets begins. As a rule, in African countries, everything that has to do with the national football team is paid for by the government. The federations do not have enough sponsors and other sources of income to pay the coaches and players' bonuses. As soon as the government provides the money for a big tournament, everybody wants to have a big slice of it. Then a large part of the funds simply disappears. Once the government disburses the money to those responsible for the team, the many people who deal with the cash all feel they have the right to siphon off something before it is sent on. There are things I have experienced over and over again. For example, after three to four days in training camp, suddenly the hotel closes its doors because the bill has not been paid. Or the bus will not come to the training camp because there is no money to buy fuel. And these are not isolated cases. I flew to Brazil with Cameroon two-and-a-half days later than planned because the payment arrangements were not yet sorted out and the team did not want to set out before things were negotiated. Every country that qualified for Brazil received $8 million (€6.7 million). The government should set up a new transparency program so that this money is used for good preparation comparable to the kind the competition from Europe enjoys. Trust between players, federations and the government needs to be built up. But I find it hard to believe that this is possible. There has been much talk in recent years of corruption in the football world. Several officials from the World Football Federation FIFA were arrested. The longtime association president, Sepp Blatter, had to resign. The lack of transparency at the international level is hardly helpful for the development in Africa ... Civil society in Asia and Africa has not developed in the same way as in Europe. In many countries, there are no functioning democratic structures and no separation of powers. Blatter and company built up their power using these countries. Anyone who sends payments to the right functionaries can be sure that the 54 African countries are on their side. In FIFA, each of the more than 200 members has one vote — but very few national associations come from democratic countries. Football officials there are often expected to use their positions to raise money. We in Europe call that corruption. If you know Africa well, you might say: Everyone takes their share. What does the lack of transparency in the associations mean when working as a trainer? One works largely next to the sports field. You have to find out quickly how certain hierarchies function: Who is being sponsored by whom? To whom do you have to talk before dropping a player from the list? But at the same time, you have to be careful that you do not get caught up in dependencies. When you give priority to one player, others come who are being backed by someone else. I myself was 50 percent diplomat, 50 percent football coach. It is crucial whether you get a team together that actually acts as a team. This cannot be done overnight. And you also have to have the backing of the association when certain players are sometimes not invited. How is African football doing from a sporting perspective? In the five big leagues of Europe — England, Spain, France, Germany and Italy — players of African descent regularly make a decisive impact on the games. Ivory Coast, for example, has produced some of the best players in the world in recent years. But it's always about things other than team performance. It's about things like the fight between the players Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba with their respective followers. One striking thing is that among the five African teams that have qualified for the World Cup in Russia, three are from North Africa. There are never as many football talents in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco as in West Africa. Ghana, Cameroon and Ivory Coast have the better player material without any ifs and buts. But the North Africans are more organized and structured, for example, in associations' work or training camps. In my opinion, these are the reasons why they have prevailed over the more talented teams from West Africa. Volker Finke trained for almost 16 years SC Freiburg in the 1st and 2nd Bundesliga. From 2013 to 2015 he was the national coach of Cameroon and led the team to the World Cup tournament in Brazil. Today he works in coach education in Japan, Europe and Africa.

Africa has many good footballers, but because of the key role played by politics, national teams are performing way below their potential. Lack of trust among stakeholders has hampered progress, said coach Volker Finke DW: Mr. Finke, for several years you worked as a trainer in Africa. How do you assess the situation and development of football on the continent? ... Read More »

Egypt’s Coptic Pope shuns US VP Mike Pence over Jerusalem

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America's move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it "excused itself from hosting Mike Pence" when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump's decision "at an unsuitable time and without consideration for the feelings of millions of people." Egypt's Coptic Church said it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric Ahmed al-Tayeb also refused to meet Pence. Egyptian Coptic Christians, the largest religious minority in the region, make up about 10 percent of the country's 93 million people. Solidarity from non-Muslim Arabs The Coptic Pope's refusal to host Pence is largely symbolic but significant because it demonstrates the Arab solidarity for Palestinians irrespective of religious affiliations. Trump's decision to move US embassy to Jerusalem has not only been criticized by Muslim countries; Germany, China and Russia are among scores of nations that have slammed the US president over the policy U-turn. The status of Jerusalem has been a key stumbling block during previous peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, in particular regarding the question of how to divide sovereignty and oversee holy sites. Read more: Jerusalem: Three things to know Intifadas: What you need to know While Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a majority of the international community rejects that claim, saying the city's status should be settled in peace talks with the Palestinians. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Saturday it would take several years before the US opens an embassy in Jerusalem. Anger against US Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will also not participate in a planned meeting with Pence later this month. "There will be no meeting with the vice president of America in Palestine," Majdi al-Khaldi, a Palestinian diplomatic adviser, told AFP news agency. "The United States has crossed all the red lines with the Jerusalem decision," he added. Washington had warned Thursday that cancelling the meeting would be "counter-productive" for peace in the region, but Abbas has been under tremendous pressure to assert over the Jerusalem decision. Jibril Rajoub, a senior member of Abbas' Fatah party, said Pence was "not welcome in Palestine." Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urged protesters Saturday to remain calm over Trump's recognition of Jerusalem. "The fate of Jerusalem cannot be left to an occupying state that usurped Palestinian lands since 1967 with no regard to law and morality," Erdogan said, adding that reactions to the situation should be within democratic and legal scope. Protests and airstrikes Palestinian protests against Trump's announcement continued on Saturday also. On Friday, at least two people were killed and 760 were injured in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli airstrikes killed at least two people on Saturday after targeting military facilities in the Gaza Strip allegedly linked to the armed wing of the Islamist group Hamas. Militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip launched missiles into Israel on Friday amid mass protests and clashes against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital earlier this week. There have been Palestine solidarity rallies in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan and Turkey. Read more: Palestinian youth fight to defend right to Jerusalem as capital The militant al Qaeda network urged its supporters the world over to target key interests of the US and its allies, in response to Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Coptic Christian Pope has cancelled a meeting with the US vice president in Cairo, protesting against America’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Palestinian leader Abbas also snubbed Mike Pence. In a statement released on Saturday, the Coptic Church said it “excused itself from hosting Mike Pence” when he visits Egypt, citing US President Donald Trump’s decision “at ... Read More »

Greek terrorist returns to jail, happy and healthy after 2-day leave

Convicted assassin Dimitris Koufodinas' freedom frolic sparked international and domestic outrage. Koufodinas was a member of the radical left-wing November 17 movement that carried out nearly two-dozen murders. A notorious Greek assassin is back behind bars after 48 hours of freedom that sparked international outrage. Dimitris Koufodinas, dubbed the "Poison Hand," returned to the Korydallos prison Saturday morning, 90 minutes ahead of his 12 noon deadline. Accompanied by his wife and son, he appeared relaxed and waved to the media. He said through his lawyer that he used the time outside of jail to reconnect with his family and work on plans for a beekeeing business, which he used as a front during his years as a hit man. The 59-year-old is serving 11 life sentences plus 25 years for his role in 11 of 23 assassinations carried out by the now-defunct extreme left-wing militant group November 17. Read more: A new generation of Greek terrorists The group's presence first became known in late 1975 after they murdered Richard Welch, the CIA's station chief in Athens. British military attache Stephen Saunders was the group's last victim, in 2000. For 25 years the group carried out a series of assassinations that included diplomats and officials from the United States, Great Britain, Turkey and Greece. All three foreign countries condemned Greece for granting Koufodinas the two-day leave. US ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt said it was an insult to victims and their families. "I add my voice to those from across Greece's political spectrum deploring prison council decision to release a convicted terrorist, murderer & N17 leader," Pyatt said on Twitter. In a Greek-language tweet, British ambassador Kate Smith likewise expressed London's "profound disappointment" and added that the embassy "shared" the pain of the victims' families. And the Turkish foreign ministry said the decision had displayed "tolerance to a bloodthirsty terrorist" in "sheer disrespect to the memory of our martyred diplomats." Book was a best seller The November 17 group also targeted Greek officials. The country's opposition parties have slammed the politically left government of current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for being soft on extremist left-wing militants. They also noted that Koufodinas had never shown remorse. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece's main opposition leader, whose sister's husband was among November 17's victims, said, "I speak as a shocked citizen who is witnessing this country's biggest terrorist, a remorseless murderer, given leave from prison." In 2014, another jailed former November 17 member, Christodoulos Xiros, took advantage of his prison leave to go on the run. He had been planning terrorist attacks when police recaptured him a year later. The liberal daily newspaper Kathimerini said Saturday that Koufodinas was able to secure leave because the Tsipras government had modified a law regarding conditional release. Koufodinas is a former mathematician. He was convicted for the murder of Saunders in addition to the deaths of a US military attache, a US airman and two Turkish diplomats, among others. Koufodinas was arrested in 2002 but not before evading capture for several months by camping out on a secluded beach after other members of the group had been arrested. He subsequently turned himself in. November 17 was named after an anti-junta student uprising. While in prison Koufodinas, wrote a best seller on his life inside the extremist group.

Convicted assassin Dimitris Koufodinas’ freedom frolic sparked international and domestic outrage. Koufodinas was a member of the radical left-wing November 17 movement that carried out nearly two-dozen murders. A notorious Greek assassin is back behind bars after 48 hours of freedom that sparked international outrage. Dimitris Koufodinas, dubbed the “Poison Hand,” returned to the Korydallos prison Saturday morning, 90 minutes ... Read More »

Kenya election: Petition filed challenging Kenyatta victory

An ex-politician has filed a petition at the Kenyan Supreme Court challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in last month's election. The move is just the latest legal battle in a drawn-out process. Former Kenyan politician Harun Mwau on Monday filed a petition at the Supreme Court in a bid to have the October 26 polls annulled. Mwau's petition was filed before a Monday deadline set by the constitution and opens the door to other legal challenges to the election. Kenyatta secured a second five-year term with 98 percent of the vote. Turnout was a mere 38.8 percent. Among other things, the petition contests the inclusion of a minor candidate who had been declared bankrupt in the poll, and also asserts that the electoral commission should have conducted fresh nominations ahead of the vote after a first presidential election in August was annulled. The August election was voided on the basis of "procedural irregularities." Prolonged election season Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who lost the August vote, boycotted October's election, saying the election commission needed first to implement reforms to make it fair. The disputes surrounding the elections has caused disruption to Kenya's economy, one of the strongest in Africa. Kenya's government has been accused by rights groups in the country of trying to intimidate those who could file legal challenges against the recent election result. Observers expect a large number of legal disputes after a petition to delay the election on the eve of the vote could not go ahead because the Supreme Court could not reach a quorum. Kenyatta has said he will accept court decisions on the challenges "no matter what [the] outcomes." Read more: In Kenya, politics split on ethnic divide

An ex-politician has filed a petition at the Kenyan Supreme Court challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in last month’s election. The move is just the latest legal battle in a drawn-out process. Former Kenyan politician Harun Mwau on Monday filed a petition at the Supreme Court in a bid to have the October 26 polls annulled. Mwau’s petition was filed ... Read More »

Fiji sees threat of coming climate exodus

The South Pacific island state of Kiribati is in danger of disappearing into the sea. Its government decided to buy land in Fiji to protect its residents from rising sea levels. Bastian Hartig paid a visit. "All that land," says Sade Marika as he makes a long, sweeping gesture with his arm, "belongs to Kiribati." The area that the thin man on the hill points out stretches from the South Pacific, a few kilometers off in the distance, to the mountain tops that scrape the sky about the same distance away in the other direction. A dense forest stretches between them. The area is more than 2,000 hectares (50,000 acres). The tiny island state of Kiribati purchased the property on the much larger and, above all, higher island of Fiji, three years ago. Residents on Fiji's coast are affected by rising sea levels, but those living in the interior of its two main islands – the volcanic mountains of which rise 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) above sea level – are not. Everything in the Kiribati atoll, on the other hand, is near the coast, with no part of any of its islands more than a few meters above sea level. Life for the island state's 115,000 residents is becoming increasingly difficult. The rising ocean is not only forcing people together on less and less land, it is also increasing the salinity of their drinking water. The forward-thinking president The coming disaster forced Kiribati's then president, Anote Tong, to take action back in 2014. It was his administration that purchased the piece of property that Sade Marika is now standing on. Marika is the village leader of the 270 resident community of Naviavia, just a few hundred meters down the dusty, red sand path that we are standing near. This is an idyllic corner of the world, framed by coconut palms on one side and a crystal clear rivulet on the other. It is very peaceful. A few men have gathered to chat, standing on the narrow path that winds its way through the village. Birds chirp all around and children are waiting for dinner as a dozen young men play rugby – Fiji's national sport – on the village sports field. These people are all the descendants of slaves that their former British overlords brought here from the Solomon Islands in the 19th century to work on cotton plantations. Naviavia's future, however, is uncertain. The tiny community lies right in the center of an area that now belongs to the country of Kiribati. And Kiribati has big plans for the area. "We were told that they want to farm here, planting mainly manioc (taro) and yaqona (the root from which kava is made)," explains Sade Marika. For the economic development of Kiribati When I ask Reteta Rimon, Kiribati's ambassador to Fiji, about the plan, I find that it is only half of the story. "We are still in the planning phase," says the elegant lady, on the sidelines of a preliminary meeting in Fiji's third-largest city, Nadi, ahead of the global climate summit in Bonn. "It has yet to be determined exactly what will be done with the land but whatever is done it will be used to benefit the economic development of Kiribati." The possibilities here are many and go far beyond farming. "There are also musings about expanding our fishing sector," says Rimon. The 33 islands and atolls that make up Kiribati are spread over an area of 5.2 million square kilometers (2 million square miles), the area is also home to the richest tuna fishing in the Pacific Ocean. To date, Kiribati has profited little from that fact. It leases out its own fishing licenses but most of the profits go to others and Kiribati residents scrape together an existence from shoreline fishing. "Our current government is planning to build up a new, open sea fishing fleet," explains Reteta Rimon. "Furthermore we want to start up a fish processing industry." That will require space and a lot of fresh water, things that Kiribati itself does not have. It also lacks other resources, like wood and stone. But all of those things do exist on the 20 square kilometers that surround Naviavia. Thus, sooner or later, the villagers will get new neighbors – even though no one knows just how many will come from Kiribati and when. Ex-President Anote Tong once said that if necessary all of Kiribati's residents could be sheltered on Fiji. But Reteta Rimon can't see that happening, "Kiribati is our home, we don't want to abandon it." Coming to grips with a new reality People in Naviavia express cautious optimism. "Here in the Pacific we are all somehow similar," says Efraimi Tangenagitu. The small, stout man stands in front of his wood and sheet metal hut. "I don't think we'll have any problems." But as he says this, his warm round face betrays a certain inner tension. When the plans were presented to the villagers they were by no means excited about the prospects. There were worries about whether they would be able to live together, simply because both peoples speak different languages. But now, no one really wants to talk about all that. People here say it is a done deal and they do not want to do anything to damage relations with their future neighbors before they even arrive. Kiribati also seems interested in cultivating good relations. The president himself visited the village to assure residents that they had nothing to fear. In Naviavia, residents have decided to accept this new reality – for they really have no other choice. No one ever asked them if they were in favor of selling off the land. The property itself belongs to the Anglican church, which simply allows villagers the right to use it. The village now has 120 hectares to use as it sees fit. Village leader Sade Marika says he wants to concentrate on the positive side of the situation. "They promised us that we would be included in the economic development of the country," he says, adding that he hopes Kiribati's plans will also mean jobs for Naviavia residents. The only thing that is certain here, is that lives will be fundamentally affected by climate change. In Naviavia, residents are determined to make the best of it. They have no other choice.

The South Pacific island state of Kiribati is in danger of disappearing into the sea. Its government decided to buy land in Fiji to protect its residents from rising sea levels. Bastian Hartig paid a visit. “All that land,” says Sade Marika as he makes a long, sweeping gesture with his arm, “belongs to Kiribati.” The area that the thin ... Read More »

Thailand to introduce facial and fingerprint scans for SIM cards nationwide

In a bid to combat electronic fraud, Thailand is making biometric checks mandatory for all those obtaining new SIM cards. Authorities say the data will be kept "private and safe." People in Thailand who want to obtain a new SIM card will be required to undergo facial or fingerprint scans as of December 15, the country's telecoms regulator said on Monday. The nationwide rollout of the system follows a successful trial run since June in the capital, Bangkok, and Thailand's restive south, where separatist insurgents have carried out many bomb attacks using mobile phones to trigger the explosive devices, the regulator said. However, regulatory official Takorn Tantasith said biometric registration was being introduced nationwide mainly to enhance mobile banking security. "This is not aimed at tracking users, but enhancing security, especially in the case of mobile payments, " Takorn said. "You can rest assured that all personal data will be kept private and safe," Takorn added. Matching fingerprints Currently, SIM cards for post-paid accounts are registered on purchase, while pre-paid cards require no identification when they are bought. The new system will require the biometric scans for both types. Takorn said Thai nationals buying a new SIM card would have their fingerprints matched against data stored on their national identification cards. Facial scans might alternatively be used to verify identity, if the respective service center or retailer had the necessary equipment. Foreigners buying SIM cards in Thailand will have their faces scanned and matched against their passport photographs. Those who already have SIM cards will not be subjected to the scans. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all have similar biometric systems in place.

In a bid to combat electronic fraud, Thailand is making biometric checks mandatory for all those obtaining new SIM cards. Authorities say the data will be kept “private and safe.” People in Thailand who want to obtain a new SIM card will be required to undergo facial or fingerprint scans as of December 15, the country’s telecoms regulator said on ... Read More »

Trump’s upcoming Asia trip: Japan proposes plan to counter China

Tokyo aims to team up with the US, India and Australia to promote free trade and defense and security cooperation - but also to contain Beijing's aggressively expansionist policies. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo. At the summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Hamburg in July, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated that Tokyo would be willing to take part in Beijing's ambitious "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) economic development plan. The Japanese leader's decision was apparently prompted by concerns that domestic firms would miss out on lucrative construction projects as the modern-day "Silk Road" project spread into Southeast Asia, the Central Asian republics, the Middle East and beyond. Just three months later - and after conservatives at home raised their eyebrows at such close cooperation with a government that they perceive as taking every opportunity to belittle Japan - Foreign Minister Taro Kono has announced that he intends to use the upcoming visit of US President Donald Trump to propose what might very easily be perceived as an alternative to China's OBOR initiative. Four-way dialogue In an interview with Japan's Nikkei economic daily on Wednesday, Kono said Tokyo wanted to set up top-level dialogue between Japan, the US, India and Australia in order for the four powers to promote free trade and cooperation in defense and security throughout the South China Sea, across the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa. Kono added that he had offered collaborative roles to other nations - he mentioned both France and the UK as potential future contributors - and the plan is clearly designed to act as a counterweight to the massive economic and military might that Beijing continues to build. "We are in an era where Japan has to exert itself diplomatically by drawing a big strategic picture," Kono said, adding that "Free and open seas will benefit all countries, including China and its 'Belt and Road' initiative." Despite the claim that the Japanese-led initiative will equally assist China's ambitions, there is little disguising the fact that Tokyo is trying hard to build unity among nations both big and small to resist Beijing's advances. There has been concern in Japan for some years about the way in which China is exercising its economic and military muscle, but that was put into very clear focus in 2015, when China ignored international protests and occupied a series of uninhabited atolls and coral reefs in the South China Sea. Read more: South China Sea dispute - Long way ahead for China, ASEAN Unilateral occupation The islets have been variously claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, and the international community condemned Beijing's decision to unilaterally occupy, develop and militarize the territories. Today, it appears unlikely that Chinese troops can be removed from the islands, and Japan fears that Beijing will use similarly high-handed economic and military tactics to achieve its aims elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. "This proposal, as I see it, is very positive for Japan, but also for the US, India and Australia," said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University. "And later, when it is more fully formed, it can be a good thing for all the countries of Southeast Asia as well. "It is important that we have an alternative to the ideas of China because countries might join their plan and Beijing could very easily change those plans to better favor themselves," he told DW. "China is so big and powerful that not many other nations can stand up to them. I believe there is a risk involved for any country that places all its eggs in one basket and works solely with China," he said, adding that he was confident that Beijing's actions in the South China Sea would not have won Beijing many new fans. Shimada believes an alliance that brings together Japan, India, Australia and the US will have a better track record and reputation in the international sphere. Garren Mulloy, a defense expert and associate professor of international relations at Japan's Daito Bunka University, is confident that Australia and India will be keen to be involved in the initiative as they too look to counter China's aggressive expansionist policies in areas that are an immediate threat to their own security. "Australia and Japan, in particular, feel let down by Trump after he pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and they have been seeking a 'third forum' through which they can join together and regain the initiative," he told DW. Largest trading partner China is Australia's biggest trading partner and there has been heavy investment in Australia by Chinese companies in recent years. One of the most contentious deals was the leasing of the harbor in Darwin, northern Australia, to a Chinese company, with many critics of the deal saying it makes no sense to give away the nation's strategic infrastructure assets to a rival. The Pentagon was also unhappy with the deal as Darwin serves as a key naval facility for the US navy and its Marine Corps. On the other hand, Mulloy said, the "Belt and Road" initiative would appear to have limited value to Canberra, so an alliance with Japan, India and the US would be a more logical step. Similarly, India has been watching China's growing investment in Sri Lanka, where Beijing's funds have paid for a major new port facility that has already had Chinese warships visit. And while Mulloy believes an alternative to China's plans could be beneficial to the region, he says the nations that opt to participate will not be able to afford to invest as much as China has already sunk into its vision for a 21st century Silk Road.

Tokyo aims to team up with the US, India and Australia to promote free trade and defense and security cooperation – but also to contain Beijing’s aggressively expansionist policies. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo. At the summit of the leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Hamburg in July, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated that Tokyo would be ... Read More »

In Kenya, politics split on ethnic divide

When Kenyans cast their ballots to pick the president, the roles played by ethnicity and tribalism are likely to be decisive. A youth alliance armed with a hashtag is hoping to end tribalism and its legacy in politics. Every Thursday the hashtag #TribelessyouthKE trends on Twitter and other social media platforms. It is an initiative launched by young Kenyans who are tired of tribal politics. They hope to change Kenya's long history of going back to ethnic groups during election years. "I believe young people have the power because we make up the biggest number now, at 64 percent of general voters," Wanjiku Kihika, the founder of the Tribeless alliance said. Read more: Kenya election: From 'fair and peaceful' to democratic crisis "We have an influence of over 3.5 million young people on Twitter and other social media. We also carry out grassroot drives to sensitize young people to shun tribalism and vote wisely," she told DW, adding that the movement is about "embracing each other's diversities." Kihika said that although politicians are not keen to tackle tribalism since it plays to their advantage, the new generation will ultimately break the chains of tribalism. "The only tribes we have in Kenya are the rich and poor," she said. Kenyan politics have been characterized by ethnic tensions since independence in 1963. But it was not until 2007 that the demons of tribalism really flared up after the hotly disputed national elections which left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands others internally displaced. The clashes mainly between the larger ethnic tribes, the Kikuyus, Luos and Kalenjins, erupted after Mwai Kibaki from the Kikuyu community was declared the winner amidst accusations of rigging and electoral manipulation. Analysts such as Brian Wanyama say ethnicity per se has never been the problem. The dilemma arises when politicians use ethnicity for their personal gain and create a divide which breeds tribalism. Colonialism and tribal divide Tribalism in Kenya dates back to the colonial era. From 1920 to 1963, Kenya was under the rule of the British who used the divide and rule method of governing. For years they played one community against another, in particular, the Kikuyus and Luos whom they considered a threat owing to their big numbers. Read more: Kenya: Uncertainty over election fuels fears of clashes "In the traditional society the issue of belonging to a tribe was not a big issue until and during the fight for independence," Nairobi-based analyst Brian Wanyama told DW. The first two political parties before and during independence Kenya - the Kenya Africa National Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) - propelled current tribal politics in the country. KANU was a Kikuyu and Luo alliance party while KADU was comprised of other small tribes who feared domination by KANU. KADU was founded by Daniel Arap Moi, a Kalenjin from Rift valley. President Jomo Kenyatta (father of incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta) was accused of sidelining the Luos, in particular Jaramongi Odinga( father of current opposition leader Raila Odinga) in favor of Moi who who succeeded him in 1978 as the second president of Kenya. During his period in office until 2002, Moi was accused of perpetuating the politics of divide and rule. His presidency was also marked by tribal animosities. The major outbreak of clashes happened in 1992 in the Rift valley's Molo region which left 5,000 people dead and another 75,000 displaced.The conflict was primarily between Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities. Land ownership and disputes were cited as some of the key reasons for the conflict. Bad legacy lives on Though regional conflict among tribes was still in existence, it was not until the advent of multi-party politics in 1992 that it really became evident. Major parties were already divided along tribal lines. For example, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD-Kenya) was associated with the Luhya tribe, the Democratic Party (DP), with the Kikuyu, the Labour Democratic Party (LDP), with the Luo, while the Kalenjin tribe supported then ruling party KANU. Presently, voting in Kenya whether parliamentary, civic or presidential, is almost entirely along tribal lines. In the political sphere, leaders appeal to people of their own tribes when they want support, they also use their tribes as leverage when they bargain for positions and favors in government. The 'big five’ tribes have influenced who is elected, owing to their numerical advantage. According to Kenya's National Bureau of Statistics, the largest native ethnic groups are the Kikuyu (6,622,576), the Luhya (5,338,666), the Kalenjin (4,967,328), the Luo (4,044,440) and the Kamba (3,893,157). The majority of Luos support opposition leader Raila Odinga, the Kambas are behind Kalonzo Musyoka. The Kalenjins back Deputy President William Ruto, while the Kikuyus support President Uhuru Kenyatta. Analyst Wanyama said it is no wonder that political elites are accused of playing the game of ethnic divide to get elected, since "elections were never based on issues, ideologies or principles." Fighting tribalism Attempts to slay the dragon of tribalism in Kenya have not been easy. Commissions have been formed, songs composed, and wars fought. The Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission was formed in 2008 after the 2007 post-election violence. It concluded that ethnic conflicts mainly stem from land inequality and regional imbalances. A second commission, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, is still working on ending the divisions between Kenyans. In its view, the solution is to address economic equality and opportunities for all, regardless of tribal affiliations. "The appointments in government parastatals reflect a deliberate effort to favor certain ethnic lines," Wanyama said. Since independence, leaders often filled the civil service and state-owned institutions with members of their ethnic group, and those from ethnic communities viewed as being supportive of the ruling regime. The cabinets of presidents Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, and Mwai Kibaki all had a disproportionate numbers of members from their respective tribes. "Tribalism is to blame for many ills in our country today, like corruption, ethnic clashes and underdevelopment. People must be given jobs based on their skills and training, not tribes" Wanyama said. Time for change Experts are now warning that Kenya is on the wrong track as it votes in a repeat presidential election. As in the past, political alliances have been made along ethnic lines. The Jubilee alliance of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto is backed by the Kikuyus and the Kalenjins. The opposition National Alliance (NASA) is no different. It is a union of tribes led by Raila Odinga (a Luo from western Kenya), Moses Wetangula (a Luhya from western Kenya) and Kalonzo Musyoka from the Kamba tribe. Mass registration drive rallies have been ethnically politicized. Even when politicians return to their backyard for rallies, they have no clear agenda other than playing the usual tribal cards. "The tribal card is being played behind the scenes. It's not being amplified as such but politicians are harping on tribal arithmetic to gain control and get political mileage," Wanyama said.

When Kenyans cast their ballots to pick the president, the roles played by ethnicity and tribalism are likely to be decisive. A youth alliance armed with a hashtag is hoping to end tribalism and its legacy in politics. Every Thursday the hashtag #TribelessyouthKE trends on Twitter and other social media platforms. It is an initiative launched by young Kenyans who ... Read More »

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