Gabon erupts in post-election violence


Gabonese mask.

Gabon has long had a deeply corrupt government run by the Bongo family but it has been more peaceful than most African nations. It has become very well known in the rest of the world for its gorgeous national parks designed by American landscape architect John Gwynne.

But now Gabon is also violent, as  protesters clash with police following word of disputed presidential election results.

Violence erupted Aug. 31 after Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya announced the results of Saturday’s vote, which showed that incumbent President Ali Bongo defeated opposition candidate Jean Ping by a tiny margin: Bongo had 49.8 percent of the vote, while Ping, a diplomat and former African Union official, had 48.23 percent.
The opposition asserted that the results were fraudulent and thousands of people took to the streets  in protest. The parliament and some other government buildings were set on fire  as  troops tried to restore order. Shops and businesses were looted.
Ali Bongo’s re-election would extend his family’s half-century rule over the oil-rich nation by another seven years. Bongo succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, in 2009.
To read the CNN story on this, please hit this link.


China building more in South China Sea


Rectangles show disputed areas in South China Sea.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sept. 2 that China is building on another shoal in the South China Sea despite an international court ruling rejecting most of China’s claims in the resource-rich area. The Communist Party dictatorship of President Xi Jinping has been aggressively militarizing parts of the sea.

A U.N.-backed tribunal  has ruled in July that China’s claims to almost all of the strategic sea had no legal basis and  that its construction of artificial islands in disputed waters was illegal.

Mr. Duterte said he received an “unsettling” intelligence report showing China had sent barges to the contested Scarborough Shoal and had appeared to begin construction in the area for the first time.

China has already built artificial islands in the Spratly chain in the South China Sea. The United States  has warned  of unspecified “actions” if Beijing extended its military expansion to the Scarborough Shoal.

To read the Straits Times article on this, please hit this link.

SWIFT reports more hacking of its member banks


SWIFT, the global financial messaging system, has disclosed new hacking attacks on its member banks. The news came as it continues to pressure them to comply with security procedures instituted after  a high-profile $81 million heist at Bangladesh Bank earlier this year.

Reuters reported that in a  letter to clients, “SWIFT said that new cybertheft attempts – some of them successful – have surfaced since June, when it last updated customers on a string of attacks discovered after the attack on the Bangladesh central bank.”

“Customers’ environments have been compromised, and subsequent attempts (were) made to send fraudulent payment instructions,” according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Reuters. “The threat is persistent, adaptive and sophisticated – and it is here to stay.”

“The disclosure suggests that cyberthieves may have ramped up their efforts following the Bangladesh Bank heist, and that they specifically targeted banks with lax security procedures for SWIFT-enabled transfers.

“The Brussels-based firm, a member-owned cooperative, indicated in Tuesday’s letter that some victims in the new attacks lost money, but did not say how much was taken or how many of the attempted hacks succeeded. It did not identify specific victims, but said the banks varied in size and geography and used different methods for accessing SWIFT.”

For more on this story, please hit this link.



A reason for Putin to disrupt U.S. election


A U.S. voting machine.

Russian hackers working at the behest of President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian government have apparently stolen data on thousands of U.S. registered voters.


The Guardian suggests that even if “Russia doesn’t want to help tip the scales in  {Donald] Trump’s favor, there are plenty of other reasons why they might want to interfere with the U.S. political process. As Russian troops amass on Ukraine’s border for a possible new offensive, it is in Russia’s interest to ensure that {Hillary} Clinton is a weak and embattled president, and cyber-attacks are a cheap and plausibly deniable way to do just that.”

Of course, the more political chaos in the U.S., the better for the Russian dictator.

To read The Guardian’s article on this, please hit this link.


U.S. official warns Australia it must choose between U.S. and China


Reuters reported that “A senior U.S. soldier said on Sept. 1 that Australia must choose between a stronger U.S. alliance or closer ties with China, and urged Canberra to take a tougher stance against Chinese claims in the South China Sea.

“The Pentagon, however, disputed the statement by U.S. Army Assistant Chief of Staff Colonel Tom Hanson, saying it did not represent the position of the U.S. government.

“I think the Australians need to make a choice … it’s very difficult to walk this fine line between balancing the alliance with the United States and the economic engagement with China,” Colonel Hanson said on Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio.

“There’s going to have to be a decision as to which one is more of a vital national interest for Australia,” he said, adding that the comments reflected his personal view and were not necessarily that of the U.S. government.

“The idea that Australia, or any country, needs to choose between its longstanding ties to the United States and its emerging links with China presents a false choice,” U.S. Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said. . “Australia has strong, multifaceted ties with its Pacific neighbors, including China, just as we seek the same.”

Colonel Hanson’s comments came after a  parliamentary booklet warned Australian lawmakers to treat Chinese motives in Asia-Pacific region with caution as Beijing moves, many observers think, to establish hegemony in the South China Sea

To read the entire article on this, please hit this link.


Rocky start to Myanmar peace talks


Peace talks aimed at ending decades of strife in democratizing Myanmar (Burma) have been off to a very rocky start because of assorted personal gaffes and organizational incompetence, including scheduling screwups.

To read the full article on this, please hit this link.



Mystery in Uzbekistan


The Guardian writes:  “To most of Uzbekistan’s population, it doesn’t really matter whether the president, Islam Karimov, is alive or dead. What matters more is that the crisis prompted by his poor health is seized upon to demand change for people living under a regime that thrives on corruption.”

Mr. Karimov, 78, who has ruled as a dictator,  has suffered a suspected stroke.

“But parliament has not yet been convened, and in a country where politics takes place behind closed doors, it makes sense that the succession plan follows the same secretive pattern.

“In the short term, it remains to be seen whether Uzbekistan’s presidency will transfer temporarily to the senate speaker and former justice minister, Nigmatilla Yuldashev, ” the news service reported.

To read The Guardian article, please hit this link.


Trump’s surprise trip to Mexico angers many there


Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Mexico on Aug, 31 to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto outraged many Mexicans. After all, this is the man who has characterized the nation as full of drug traffickers and rapists and has proposed  building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexican border if he becomes president.

The trip came as Mr. Trump has sought to modify a bit his demand for a crackdown on illegal aliens.

To read the Bloomberg story on this, please hit this link.


P.M. May emphasizes that Brexit is final


British Prime Minister Theresa May made it clear on Aug. 31 that her Conservative government would not hold a referendum or otherwise back off on the plan, approved by the electorate for the United Kingdom, for her country to leave the European Union.

The Guardian paraphrased her as saying  that much as Britain may want access to the single  European market  but with no free movement of labor, that is not, and never will be, on offer from Brussels.

By promising to push ahead so firmly with no second referendum and no early general election, May has given comfort to the hardline cabinet Brexiteers, the news service said.


To read The Guardian’s article, please this link.

Brazilian president proclaims innocence


Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, at impeachment hearings following corruption charges against her, insisted again on Aug. 29 that she had committed no crime and said she was proud that she’d been “faithful to my commitment to the nation.”

She has been suspended from all official duties and has been replaced, at least for now, by her former deputy, Michel Temer, whom she accuses of stabbing her in the back.
He inherits a tattered economy and ongoing corruption controversies.
To read the CNN article on this, please hit this link.

German official asks Facebook to crack down on hate speech

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere  visited Facebook’s offices in Berlin on Aug. 29 and said that it should do more to keep forbidden content from the social-network platform.

“Facebook should take down racist content or calls for violence from its pages on its own initiative even if it hasn’t yet received a complaint,” Thomas de Maiziere said.

“Facebook has an immensely important economic position and just like every other large enterprise it has a immensely important social responsibility.”

The German government has been critical of Facebook in the past, with political leaders and regulators complaining that it has been too  slow to respond to hate speech and anti-immigrant messages.

To read the news article on this, please hit this link.

U.S., India tighten de-facto defense alliance


The United States and India  agreed Aug 29 to allow the use of each other’s land, air and naval bases for repair and resupply, part of an initiative to tighten their growing de-facto defense alliance to counter  China’s  growing military aggressiveness, especially in the South and East China Seas.

The signing of the agreement will “make the logistics of joint operations so much easier and so much more efficient,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a news briefing with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar.

To read the Reuters article on this, please hit this link.


U.S., Chinese coast guards conducted joint operations

In a rare show of cooperation between the two superpowers,  the U.S. Coast Guard conducted joint operations in the Pacific with its Chinese counterpart this summer, part of annual patrols to deter illegal fishing.

A U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said the USCG Mellon “rendezvoused and conducted a professional exchange” with two Chinese Coast Guard ships.

“The exchange focused on professional goodwill between coast guards,” U.S. Coast Guard District 17 spokesman Lt. Brian Dykens said. He added that the U.S. government has a  “shiprider agreement” with China in which the U.S. Coast Guard vessel works with one or two Chinese Coast Guard ships.

Earlier this week, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said “cooperation between the two countries’ coast guards has deepened through personnel exchanges and joint operations.”

Xinhua also reported that the China Coast Guard plans to expand patrols in northern parts of the Pacific Ocean and deepen cooperation with the U.S. side.

The U.S., Japan and nations on the South China Sea have sought to counter Beijing’s militarized expansion into the South and East China seas.

To read The Japan Times’s story on this, please hit this link.

Bolivia miners kill high government official



In the foothills of the Andes in Bolivia.

On Aug. 26, Bolivian miners  lifted their roadblock where violent protests had taken place this week. This came a day after miners murdered Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes.  President Evo Morales called it a day of “deep pain” for the country.

Mr. Illanes, 56, was killed after being taken hostage by workers who had blocked a major highway in Panduro, around 100 miles from  the capital, La Paz. Officials said he died of blows to the head.

The workers have been demanding more mining concessions with less stringent environmental rules.

President Morales, an ex-coca grower, nationalized Bolivia’s natural-resources sector after being elected in 2006.

At first, he was widely praised for pouring mineral and other commodities profits into welfare programs. But his government has been dogged by accusations of cronyism and authoritarianism in recent years and some labor unions have become angry with him as falling commodity prices have crimped spending.

To read the Reuters story on this, please hit his link.

U.N. panel blames U.K. politicians for upsurge in racist hate crimes around Brexit campaign


A U.N. body called the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination asserts that politicians helped fuel a surge in racist hate crimes during and after Britain’s referendum campaign on whether to leave the European Union.

The panel said many prominent politicians  share the blame for the outbreak of xenophobia and intimidation against ethnic minorities.

“Many politicians and prominent political figures not only failed to condemn it but also created and entrenched prejudices, thereby emboldening individuals to carry out acts of intimidation and hate towards ethnic or ethno-religious minority communities and people who are visibly different,” it said.

More than 3,000 allegations of hate crimes were made to British police – mainly regarding harassment and threats – in the week before and the week after the June 23 vote, up  42 percent from the rate in 2015.

To read the piece on this in The Guardian, please hit this link.

Singapore to block public servants from using the Web


The move is just another sign of how much anxiety is rising around the world about cyberattacks, many of them originating from Russia and other authoritarian governments.

To read the article, please hit this link.