20 February 2018


North Korea warns US against ruining rapprochement with South

KONFRONTASI-North Korea says the United States will be responsible for the potential ruining of a recent rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul if America resumes its military drills with South Korea.

Washington and Seoul have agreed to put off joint military exercises involving tens of thousands of troops from the US and South Korea until after the February 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympic Games — being hosted by Seoul.

Bangladesh says to meet with Myanmar on Rohingya trapped at border

KONFRONTASI-Representatives from Bangladesh and Myanmar will meet on Tuesday to discuss the repatriation to Myanmar of more than 6,500 Rohingya Muslims trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between the two countries, Bangladeshi officials said.

“It is about taking them back to Myanmar,” Relief and Refugee Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam, told Reuters on Monday. “They are on the zero line and actually on the Myanmar side.”

However, several officials contacted in neighboring Myanmar said they were not aware of plans for a meeting, which Kalam said would take place on the “zero line” near a place called Gundum.

A spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which will not be involved in the talks, said the agency was concerned the Rohingya may be forcibly returned to Myanmar without due consideration for their safety.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state and crossed into Bangladesh since last August, when attacks on security posts by insurgents triggered a military crackdown that the United Nations has said amounts to ethnic cleansing, with reports of arson attacks, murder and rape.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar denied the charge and says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against “terrorists” it blames for the attacks on the security forces.

The vast majority of Rohingya who fled are in camps at Cox’s Bazar on the southern tip of Bangladesh, but several thousand who arrived in a buffer zone along the border are now stuck.

Bangladesh security forces have been instructed not to let these Rohingya cross the border, and many of them have said they would rather stay there to avoid becoming refugees in Bangladesh.

The no-man’s land, which is about the size of 40 soccer pitches, used to be an area of paddy fields, but is now dotted with the tarpaulin and bamboo shacks of displaced Rohingya.

Brazil to set up ministry of public security

KONFRONTASI-Brazilian President Michel Temer has announced a plan to set up a ministry in his government to deal with public security.

Temer told the media on Sunday that the plans are meant to coordinate efforts for battling violent crimes across Brazil.

“We must join forces to combat crime,” said Temer in Rio de Janeiro after discussing with local authorities a decree that has placed the military in charge of the state's security operations.


Oxfam sex abuse criticism disproportionate, chief executive says

KONFRONTASI- Oxfam’s chief executive said criticism of the charity following a sex abuse scandal had been disproportionate, according to comments published on Saturday.

In an interview with British daily the Guardian, Mark Goldring again apologized over allegations of sexual abuse by Oxfam staff in Haiti, which broke last week and have shaken the whole aid sector.

“(But) the intensity and ferocity of the attacks makes you wonder, what did we do? We murdered babies in their cots?,” he was quoted as saying.


U.S. charges Russians with 2016 U.S. election tampering to boost Trump

KONFRONTASI-A Russian propaganda arm oversaw a criminal and espionage conspiracy to tamper in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to support Donald Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton, said an indictment released on Friday that revealed more details than previously known about Moscow’s purported effort to interfere.

The office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies, including St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency known for its trolling on social media. The official who oversees Mueller’s work said the investigation was not finished.

The court document said those accused “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The indictment said Russians adopted false online personas to push divisive messages; traveled to the United States to collect intelligence, visiting 10 states; and staged political rallies while posing as Americans.

In one case, it said, the Russians paid an unidentified person to build a cage aboard a flatbed truck and another to wear a costume “portraying Clinton in a prison uniform.”

The surprise 37-page indictment could alter the divisive U.S. domestic debate over Russia’s meddling, undercutting some Republicans who, along with Trump, have attacked Mueller’s investigation.

“These Russians engaged in a sinister and systematic attack on our political system. It was a conspiracy to subvert the process, and take aim at democracy itself,” said Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The indictment is silent on the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin, which Mueller is investigating.

In a tweet on Friday, Trump gave his most direct acknowledgement that Russia had meddled in the election, which he has frequently disputed.

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!” Trump wrote.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denounced the allegations as “absurd” and ridiculed the notion that so few Russian nationals could undermine U.S. democracy.

“13 against the billions’ budgets of the secret services?” she asked in a Facebook post.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declined to comment on Saturday on the U.S. indictments, telling a security conference in Munich that U.S. Vice President Michael Pence and others had raised questions about the investigation.

“You may publish anything you want to. So until we see the facts, everything else is just blather,” Lavrov said.

The accused Russians are unlikely to be arrested or appear in a U.S. court on the charges, which include conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud, bank fraud and identity theft, as there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Russia.

Israel rushes to take action as BDS bites deeper

KONFRONTASI - Israel is planning to step up its crackdown on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by defining stricter regulations against those who support the pro-Palestine campaign.

To contain some of the damage, the regime is preparing a blacklist of individuals and companies that have sided against Israel in order to deny them tax breaks and participation in tenders, Israeli media reported Thursday.

Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is expected to approve the new regulations over the next few days.


Gaza's only power plant stops working over fuel shortage

KONFRONTASI-The sole electricity plant in the Gaza Strip has stopped working because of a lack of fuel as concerns grow over worsening humanitarian conditions in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Mohammed Thabet, spokesman for Gaza's energy distribution company, said on Thursday that it was informed by the energy authority that the power station had stopped functioning at midnight because of the lack of fuel.

Ramaphosa elected president of South Africa

KONFRONTASI-Cyril Ramaphosa was elected as South Africa’s president in a parliamentary vote on Thursday after scandal-ridden Jacob Zuma reluctantly resigned on orders from the ruling African National Congress.

South Africa’s main stock market index jumped nearly 4 percent, putting it on track for its biggest one-day gain in more than two years as investors welcomed Zuma’s resignation after nine years in office plagued by corruption allegations.

Lebanese presidency denies U.S. Secretary of State kept waiting at palace

KONFRONTASI-The Lebanese presidency denied that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been kept waiting ahead of a meeting with President Michel Aoun on Thursday at the presidential palace, where he sat for several minutes before his Lebanese counterpart greeted him.

Television footage showed Tillerson sitting in a room alongside an empty seat before Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil walked in and shook his hand.


Trump greatest danger to US, not Russia or China: Analyst

KONFRONTASI-The "greatest danger" to the United States comes from President Donald Trump and his grand plan to expand the US military industrial complex, says an analyst.

“The biggest danger to the United States is not Russia, or China, or North Korea or Iran. The biggest danger to the United States is the corporate system and its puppet Donald Trump,” Rob Kall, executive editor at OpedNews.com. told Press TV.