english news

Bitcoin price falls below $6,000 as banker signals crackdown


The price of bitcoin fell below $6,000 (£4,300) for the first time this year as a leading central banker said it posed a threat to financial stability and signalled a global clampdown on the cryptocurrency. The new head of the Bank for International Settlements, Agustín Carstens, said bitcoin had become a combination of “a bubble, a Ponzi scheme and an environmental disaster” that threatened to undermine public trust in central banks. “If authorities do not act pre-emptively, cryptocurrencies could become more interconnected with the main financial system and become a threat to financial stability,” he said, speaking at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany.

“There is a strong case for policy intervention. Appropriate authorities have a duty to educate and protect investors and consumers, and need to be prepared to act.” Carsten, a former governor of Mexico’s central bank, said that despite the meteoric rise of bitcoin, cryptocurrencies were merely “pretending” to be currencies and were “unsafe”, potentially facilitating tax evasion, money laundering and criminal finance.

As the head of the body that represents the world’s central banks, his comments are the clearest sign yet that global regulators are preparing a crackdown on bitcoin, the price of which rose by 900% last year, making it the best performing asset of 2017. It hit a peak of near $20,000 in the week before Christmas.(theguardian)…[+]

Macron to visit Corsica as demands for greater autonomy gain weight


Emmanuel Macron is to make his first visit Corsica on Tuesday as French president amid demands for greater autonomy for the Mediterranean island by nationalists who are in an unprecedented position of political strength.

Macron will set out his “vision of Corsica” in a speech, which comes after electoral gains by the nationalist parties and a street demonstration at the weekend when thousands called on him to properly address the growing demands for more freedoms from Paris. The question of what status should be granted Corsica – an island of 330,000 people that lies closer to Italy than mainland France – has long vexed Paris but has been brushed under the carpet by successive French presidents.

The 40-year Corsican “national liberation” campaign of bombing and violence targeting French infrastructure, ended in 2014 when armed separatists announced an “end to military operations”. But since then, Corsican nationalists seeking greater autonomy from the French state have had their best-ever performance in elections[+]

Dutch divided over law against insulting the king


It may be one of Europe’s most liberal states, but in the Netherlands reverence for the monarchy appears hard to kick. A divide has emerged in the Dutch coalition government over an attempt by one of the ruling parties to scrap a law that makes insulting King Willem-Alexander a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Netherlands is one of the few European countries to retain a law of lèse-majesté, from the Latin laesa maiestatis, meaning injury to the majesty. The last case in the Netherlands was brought in 2016.The Dutch house of representatives is due to debate the issue this week, but differences within the governing coalition have already become evident.

While the Greens, socialists and Labour party are backing the initiative by the liberals in the D66 party, they are facing opposition from the Christian parties in government – the CDA and the more conservative Christian Union. Chris van Dam, an MP in the CDA, told the Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf: “We are talking about the king, our king who cannot defend himself in the public debate.” Under the proposals from D66, Willem-Alexander would still be protected by laws designed to stop speech liable to incite discrimination or hatred.(theguardian)…[+]

Hacking suspect Lauri Love wins appeal against extradition to US


Lauri Love, the British student accused of hacking into US government websites, will not be extradited to face trial in America, the high court has ruled. Lawyers for the 32-year-old, who lives in Suffolk, had argued that he should be tried for his alleged crimes in the UK and that he would be at risk of killing himself if sent to the US. The court accepted both of the main arguments advanced by Love’s lawyers that there was no reason he could not be tried in England and that he might suffer serious damage to his health if he were extradited.There was an outburst of cheering and applause in court when the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, announced his decision. Burnett asked suppor

Announcing his decision preventing extradition, Burnett said: “We emphasise however that it would not be oppressive to prosecute Mr Love in England for the offences alleged against him. “Far from it. Much of Mr Love’s argument was based on the contention that this is indeed where he should be prosecuted. ters to be quiet, saying: “This is a court, not a theatre.”(theguardian)…[+]


ANC leaders meet to decide Jacob Zuma’s fate


Jacob Zuma is fighting for his political survival as pressure mounts on the South African president to resign before a key national address this week. Senior leaders of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) met Zuma over the weekend to ask him to step down. Local media reported that the 75-year-old politician, who is battling corruption allegations, refused.

The party’s national working committee, one of its highest decision-making bodies, will meet on Monday in Johannesburg to consider its next step.

One possibility is that Zuma will be ordered to resign, though this may raise significant constitutional issues. According to ANC rules, all members – even elected officials – fulfil their functions according to the will of the party.

The premature departure of Zuma, whose second five-year term is due to expire next year, will consolidate the power of Cyril Ramaphosa, who was elected leader of the ANC in December. Supporters of Ramaphosa, seen as the standard bearer of the reformist wing of the party, say it is essential that Zuma is sidelined as early as possible to allow the ANC to regroup before campaigning starts in earnest for elections in 2019. Adriaan Basson, a senior South African journalist, wrote: “Zuma has played all his cards and is now at open war with Ramaphosa and his supporters.”

Zuma had led the ANC since 2007 and has been South Africa’s president since 2009. His tenure in both posts has been controversial, with a series of corruption scandals undermining the image and legitimacy of the party that led South Africans to freedom in 1994 and has ruled ever since.(theguardian)…[+]

Nunes memo ‘a political hit job on FBI’ in service of Trump, top Democrat says


A top Democrat in Congress has accused his Republican colleagues of carrying out “a political hit job on the FBI in the service of the president” with the Friday release of a memo assembled by House intelligence committee chair Devin Nunes.

The extraordinary charge, which underscored the rift that has opened between Donald Trump and America’s most powerful law enforcement agency, was delivered on Sunday by Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee.

Schiff told ABC’s This Week that Republican members of the committee had declined to interview FBI officials as they bulldozed forward to release a memo they hoped would discredit the investigation of Trump’s Russia ties. Trump privately hoped the memo, which ties top figures in the Russia investigation to alleged law enforcement malpractice, would give him political cover to make changes in the justice department and potentially short-circuit the Russia inquiry run by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to multiple reports.(theguardian)…[+]

Paris trial sheds light on terrorists’ efforts to hide after attacks


The trial of a drug dealer and slum landlord accused of harbouring two members of the cell that attacked Paris in November 2015 has given a glimpse of the tense five days after the deadliest night in France since the second world war.

The trial of Jawad Bendaoud, which opened last month and is the first linked to the attacks that killed 130 people and injured 500 more, has heard from survivors and victims’ relatives who have told horrific stories of loss and the desire to see justice. Bendaoud has provoked anger from relatives over his behaviour in court, where he has bragged about his criminal activities and sex life. He has also openly fought with his co-defendant and fellow dealer, Mohamed Soumah, who is being prosecuted for failing to alert police about the terrorists’ plot. A third man, Yussef Aitboulahcen, the brother of a woman killed in a raid on the terrorists’ hideout, is also on trial.(theguardian)…[+]

Uma Thurman breaks silence over Harvey Weinstein


Uma Thurman has broken her silence about her experiences with the disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. In an interview with the New York Times, the actor described an attempted sexual assault in Weinstein’s suite at the Savoy hotel in London in the mid-1990s.

Weinstein has been accused of sexual harassment, assault and rape by multiple women. Thurman, the star of movies including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, said last year she would come forward about her experiences with Weinstein when she was ready to do so. Speaking to the New York Times, she said: “It was such a bat to the head. He pushed me down. He tried to shove himself on me. He tried to expose himself. He did all kinds of unpleasant things. But he didn’t actually put his back into it and force me.

“You’re like an animal wriggling away, like a lizard. I was doing anything I could to get the train back on the track. My track. Not his track.”(theguardian)…[+]

Ecuador referendum could buck South America trend by banning re-election


When Ecuadorians vote this weekend on barring former president Rafael Correa from re-election, they will also be choosing whether to buck a trend across South America in which overbearing former presidents just can’t let go of power.After Lenín Moreno was elected Ecuador’s president in 2017 he was expected to keep the seat warm for his predecessor’s return in 2021. Over a decade in power, Correa allied with the leftist governments of Venezuela and Bolivia, ploughed public money into social spending – and also sheltered the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. For half of that period, his vice-president was Moreno.

But since taking office, Moreno – the world’s only wheelchair-using head of state – has made good on his pledge to be his own man. He sacked the former vice-president Jorge Glas, a close ally of Correa who was later sentenced to six years in jail for corruption. He has also repeatedly hinted he wants to remove Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The result has been a bitter feud between former allies. Correa called Moreno a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and returned to Ecuador from his wife’s homeland of Belgium to lead the no campaign against the referendum. Moreno, in turn accused Correa of bugging his office.(theguardian)…[+]

Kenyan rule of law concerns as authorities defy TV ban order


Kenyan authorities defied a court order to lift a ban on three private television stations and briefly detained an opposition figure on Friday, setting the scene for a new confrontation between the judiciary and Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.

Miguna Miguna, who has declared himself a “general” of the opposition’s National Resistance Movement, was detained in a dawn raid on his Nairobi home, and later released on bail of 50,000 Kenyan shillings (£350).

He had stood alongside opposition leader Raila Odinga at a symbolical inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, which was described by government lawyers as an act of treason. Authorities cut live transmission of the country’s top three TV channels to prevent coverage of the ceremony and later declared the NRM an organised criminal group meaning members could face imprisonment up to 10 years. The tensions come three months after Kenyatta won a further five-year term in a rerun that was triggered when the supreme court annulled the result of the presidential election in August because of irregularities.(theguardian)…[+]