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More Than 150 Nations Adopt UN Migration Pact

3 hours 38 min ago
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday migration "should be well managed and safe, not irregular and dangerous" as he praised a group of more than 150 nations for adopting a global pact meant to improve the way the world handles the flow of migrants. Speaking at the opening of a two-day conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Guterres acknowledged the nations — many of them in Europe — that are critical of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. He said those who fear the document would violate national sovereignty by imposing migration policies, or that it would create a recognized right for people to migrate wherever they want, whenever they want, are mistaken. "The Compact only reaffirms that migrants should enjoy human rights, and independently of their status," Guterres said. The Global Compact features 23 objectives, including boosting access to basic services, strengthening anti-smuggling and anti-trafficking efforts, eliminating discrimination, safeguarding conditions that ensure decent work, and facilitating safe and dignified return for those who are sent back home. It is not legally binding. The agreement was negotiated during a two-year process, and the United States was the first country to walk away, deciding in December of last year that the proposed agreement was "inconsistent with U.S. immigration and refugee policies." Then-U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States supports international cooperation on migration issues, "but it is the primary responsibility of sovereign states to help ensure that migration is safe, orderly, and legal." Since then, others have followed citing similar concerns, including Australia, Austria, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and the Dominican Republic. Guterres said Monday that 80 percent of migrants take safe, orderly routes, but that more than 60,000 people have died trying to make dangerous treks across deserts, oceans and rivers or with human smugglers. "But whether their movement is voluntary or forced; and whether or not they have been able to obtain formal authorization for movement, all human beings must have their human rights respected and their dignity upheld," he said. "To deny this, and to vilify any group of people, is the road to dehumanization and horror." The United Nations estimates there are about 258 million migrants in the world — or just over three percent of the world’s population. The world body considers a migrant to be anyone who changes their country, regardless of the reason. It expects the number of migrants to increase due to factors such as population growth, trade, rising inequality and climate change.

Huawei Executive Due in Canadian Court For Bail Hearing

5 hours 36 min ago
The chief financial officer for Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies is due back in a Canadian courtroom Monday for a hearing on whether she should be granted bail while awaiting possible extradition to the United States to face fraud charges. Canadian prosecutors have so far argued Meng Wanzhou should remain in custody until her extradition hearing. Her lawyers say she should be freed on bail due to health issues. China summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing on Sunday to lodge a "strong protest" over Meng's arrest, calling it "extremely bad" and demanding the U.S. cancel its extradition request linked to allegations that she broke U.S. laws prohibiting trade with Iran. Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned U.S. ambassador Terry Branstad a day after calling in Canadian envoy John McCallum to protest Meng's arrest, at the U.S.'s behest, at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1. The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that Le told Branstad, "The actions of the U.S. seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty." Beijing urged the United States to "take immediate measures to correct wrong practices, and revoke the arrest warrant against the Chinese citizen." Meng, if convicted in the U.S., faces up to 30 years' imprisonment, with a Canadian prosecutor alleging at a court hearing Friday in Vancouver that she committed fraud in 2013 by telling financial institutions that China's Huawei was not tied to a Hong Kong-based company, Skycom, which was allegedly selling U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran. ​"Skycom was Huawei," the prosecutor alleged. Meng's lawyers denied the fraud allegation, saying Huawei had divested its interests in Skycom. Her bail hearing is resuming Monday. News of the arrest of the 46-year-old Meng, along with the uncertain state of trade negotiations between China and the U.S., the world's two biggest economies, roiled international stock markets last week, with investors facing substantial losses across the globe. Meng's arrest occurred on the same day U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were meeting in Buenos Aires over dinner to reach a 90-day truce on tit-for-tat tariffs the two countries have been imposing on exports of $300 billion of goods to each other.  But White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News on Sunday that Trump did not know about the arrest as he met with Xi. "He didn't know," Kudlow said. "I'll just state that unequivocally. He learned way later." The economic adviser said he could not guarantee that Meng won't be released as part of ongoing U.S. trade talks with Beijing. He described the case against Meng as a "law enforcement issue." "I don't know how it's going to turn out...It seems to me there's a trade lane...and there's a law enforcement lane," Kudlow said. "They're different channels, and I think they will be viewed that way for quite some time." While Meng was arrested the same day at the Trump-Xi meeting, the warrant for her arrest was issued in the U.S. on Aug. 22, with the Canadian prosecutor saying that a Canadian justice issued a warrant when Meng's travel plans became known.

Japanese Economy Experiences the Worst Downturn in Four Years

5 hours 39 min ago
Japan's economy contracted 2.5 percent in the third quarter of this year, July-September, which marks the worst downturn in the past four years.  The revised data released Monday was more than double the initial estimate of a 1.2 percent contraction. The slide is in part driven by a series of natural disasters that hit Japan, which forced factories to cut production, and contributed to lower consumer demand and corporate investment. To a lesser extent, the U.S.-China trade dispute has had its impact on Japanese economy.  The adjusted gross domestic product, the total value of a nation's goods and services, also dipped 0.6 percent in the third quarter compared to the previous one, according to the data released from the Cabinet Office. Economists, however, say that the setback for the world's third-biggest economy is likely temporary.

Why One Philippine Island Can’t Get Enough of Martial Law

6 hours 15 min ago
Martial law seldom excites people who live under it. Ukrainians were nervous when an order took effect last month, against a growing threat from Russia, to let the military mobilize citizens, ban mass gatherings and take private property. In Thailand, a youth group protested in September against localized martial law requiring that all vehicles and firearms be registered, the follow-up to an ambush against law enforcement. But as the southern Philippine island of Mindanao looks likely to enter a second full year of martial law in January, many there feel thankful. Authorities on Mindanao have enforced curfews and road checkpoints since May 2017 to squelch decades of violence by Muslim rebels. They’ve done most of it without disrupting common people’s daily lives. Now, many on the island of 21 million people welcome a 2019 extension as a way to keep peace long term. “As far as Mindanao is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reaction to that. People prefer it, as a matter of fact,” said Rhona Canoy, president of an international school and part of a political family in the Mindanao city Cagayan de Oro. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week asked Congress to extend martial law through 2019 at the request of the armed forces. The military said the extension would help curb terrorism and reported high levels of public support. “We have received overwhelming positive feedback, not only on our efficient implementation of martial law, but also its impact to security, local economy, and governance and well-being of local communities,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement last month. A fixture since the battle of 2017 Martial law this year stopped any large-scale resurgence of Muslim rebels after a they were routed in a civil war in 2017. The authorities had legal freedom to track rebel movements via interrogation and stop them from entering the cities. The government first ordered martial law in May 2017 to help troops and police beat the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group for control of Marawi. Fighting in that Mindanao city lasted five months and killed about 1,100 people. Outside Marawi, much of Mindanao has seen little change under martial law aside from quick, pro forma vehicular stops or curfew orders. Rebels there believe the Philippine Catholic majority has taken an unfair share of resources despite five centuries of Muslim settlement. Rebel-linked violence has killed about 120,000 people in Mindanao and adjacent Sulu Sea since the 1960s. Sporadic violence Troops believe Islamic State was behind the Marawi insurgency and worry the international terrorist group still has people on the island. This year has been marked by sporadic terrorist acts. In the industrial port city Cagayan de Oro, random security checks have become more common this year amid fears of religiously-motivated attacks, Canoy said. “There’s recent violence going on, pockets of it,” she said. In June, a suspected member of the Maute Group was arrested in Cagayan de Oro, domestic media reported. The following month a suicide bomber, possibly from abroad, killed 11 people in Mindanao by blowing up a van. “We have to think what would happen if the army wasn’t there and they didn’t have the legitimacy (and) tools to implement the type of surveillance, that’s the real question to ask,” said Enrico Cau, associate researcher at the Taiwan Center for International Strategic Studies. “The people of Marawi and all the communities, they need stability so in order to have stability, you need control.” Opponents outside Mindanao When martial law first took effect in 2017, citizens worried it would bring back the harsher measures taken by authoritarian former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 to stop plots against his government. Opponents outside Mindanao still fear Duterte wants to extend martial law across the Philippines, a democratic archipelago of 102 million people, to control the illegal drug trade and advance his economic agenda. Duterte’s government is “using martial law as its vehicle to suppress opposition to big mining, plantation, energy and other projects which have significant U.S. and other foreign investments,” the advocacy group Bayan Mindanao said in a statement December 6. Today's opposition comes largely from leftist groups, said Herman Kraft, political science professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman. “If you’re talking about actual evidence of human rights violations being perpetrated, I think there’s less of those that can actually be pointed to,” he said. “I’m not saying that they have completely disappeared, but there’s less of it that’s been going on over the past few years.”

Nissan Motor and its Former Chairman Indicted

6 hours 29 min ago
Tokyo prosecutors have formally indicted former Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn, another Nissan executive and the Nissan Motor Corporation itself for underreporting about $44 million of Ghosn's income in financial filings, Japanese media reported Monday. Additional reports say Ghosn and the other executive will be rearrested on new charges of underreporting an additional three years of income, through March of this year. The new arrest warrant allows authorities to keep the two men in detention and question them further. Ghosn, 64, has been in detention since his arrest on November 19 on suspicion of conspiring to understate his compensation by about 50 percent over five years between 2010 and 2015. The other Nissan executive, Greg Kelly, 62, is suspected of having collaborated with Ghosn. Kelly's attorney in the U.S. said he is asserting his innocence. Ghosn has not commented. The general prosecutor’s office did not immediately confirm the reports by Kyodo News agency and other media. They were due to brief media later in the day. Under Japanese law, Monday was the deadline that prosecutors could hold Ghosn and Kelly before either charging or re-arresting them. A further arrest would have allowed them another 22 days of questioning.

Report: North Korea’s Kim Unlikely to Visit Seoul This Year

13 hours 11 min ago
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is unlikely to visit Seoul in the final three weeks of this year, South Korean TV channel YTN said on Monday, citing an unidentified official in the South Korean presidential office. There had been speculation about whether Kim would visit Seoul before the end of the year after Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed to the trip during their September summit in Pyongyang.

China Summons US Ambassador to Protest Tech Executive's Arrest in Canada

21 hours 55 min ago
China summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing on Sunday to lodge a "strong protest" over the arrest of a Chinese technology executive in Canada and Washington's demand that she be extradited to the United States to stand trial on fraud charges. China called the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, telecom giant Huawei Technologies's chief financial officer, "extremely bad" and demanded that the U.S. cancel its extradition request linked to allegations that she broke U.S. laws prohibiting trade with Iran. Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned U.S. ambassador Terry Branstad a day after calling in Canadian envoy John McCallum to protest Meng's arrest, at the U.S.'s behest, at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1. The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that Le told Branstad, "The actions of the U.S. seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty." Beijing urged the United States to "take immediate measures to correct wrong practices, and revoke the arrest warrant against the Chinese citizen." Meng, if convicted in the U.S., faces up to 30 years' imprisonment, with a Canadian prosecutor alleging at a court hearing Friday in Vancouver that she committed fraud in 2013 by telling financial institutions that China's Huawei was not tied to a Hong Kong-based company, Skycom, which was allegedly selling U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran. "Skycom was Huawei," the prosecutor alleged. Meng's lawyers denied the fraud allegation, saying Huawei had divested its interests in Skycom. Her bail hearing is resuming Monday. News of the arrest of the 46-year-old Meng, along with the uncertain state of trade negotiations between China and the U.S., the world's two biggest economies, roiled international stock markets last week, with investors facing substantial losses across the globe. Meng's arrest occurred on the same day U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were meeting in Buenos Aires over dinner to reach a 90-day truce on tit-for-tat tariffs the two countries have been imposing on exports of $300 billion of goods to each other. But White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News on Sunday that Trump did not know about the arrest as he met with Xi. "He didn't know," Kudlow said. "I'll just state that unequivocally. He learned way later." The economic adviser said he could not guarantee that Meng won't be released as part of ongoing U.S. trade talks with Beijing. He described the case against Meng as a "law enforcement issue." "I don't know how it's going to turn out...It seems to me there's a trade lane... and there's a law enforcement lane," Kudlow said. "They're different channels, and I think they will be viewed that way for quite some time." While Meng was arrested the same day at the Trump-Xi meeting, a warrant for her arrest was issued in the U.S. on Aug. 22, with the Canadian prosecutor saying that a Canadian justice issued a warrant when Meng's travel plans became known.      

Arrest in Murder Detailed in Australian True-Crime Podcast Series

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 19:08
Australian police have charged a retired teacher with the murder of his wife, whose disappearance in 1982 has been featured in a globally popular crime podcast. Lynette Dawson went missing 36 years ago from her home in Sydney.  Her husband at the time, Chris Dawson has previously denied killing the mother of his two children, saying she abandoned the family for a religious group.   A podcast produced by The Australian newspaper called 'The Teacher's Pet,' has brought global attention to the case. It has been downloaded more than 28 million times since it began running in May.   There have been two separate inquests into Lynette Dawson's disappearance. Both concluded that she was killed by a known person.'  In 2003, a coroner determined that her husband, a former teacher and rugby player, had sex with teenage students during their marriage. A 16-year old girl moved into the Dawson family home just days after Mrs. Dawson vanished.   It is reported that new testimony from the schoolgirl led to this week's arrest. The New South Wales state police commissioner, Mick Fuller, said fresh evidence has been crucial. "They were predominantly statements from witnesses that helped us tie pieces of the puzzles together. No doubt it will be a voluminous brief with [an] enormous amount of evidence and obviously there are a number of witnesses that will be called." Experts say that the popularity of investigative podcasts can give justice to the voiceless' or be a hindrance to a police inquiry if the material is not balanced and impartial. Chris Dawson's lawyers say media coverage is likely to taint the case against him. Australian police deny the huge interest surrounding the 'Teacher's Pet' podcast led to Mr. Dawson's arrest following a three-year reinvestigation of the case. The 70-year suspect remains in custody.  The body of his former wife has never been found.

World Marks Anti-Corruption Day

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 16:00
Corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations, which is marking International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday. "Corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune," the United Nations said. The cost of $2.6 trillion represents more than 5 percent of global GDP. The world body said that $1 trillion of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes. Patricia Moreira, the managing director of Transparency International, told VOA that about a quarter of the world's population has paid a bribe when trying to access a public service over the past year, according to data from the Global Corruption Barometer. Moreira said it is important to have such a day as International Anti-Corruption Day because it provides "a really tremendous opportunity to focus attention precisely on the challenge that is posed by corruption around the world." ​Anti-corruption commitments To mark the day, the United States called on all countries to implement their international anti-corruption commitments including through the U.N. Convention against Corruption. In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said that corruption facilitates crime and terrorism, as well as undermines economic growth, the rule of law and democracy. "Ultimately, it endangers our national security. That is why, as we look ahead to International Anticorruption Day on Dec. 9, we pledge to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide," the statement said. Moreira said that data about worldwide corruption can make the phenomena understandable but still not necessarily "close to our lives." For that, we need to hear everyday stories about people impacted by corruption and understand that it "is about our daily lives," she added. She said those most impacted by corruption are "the most vulnerable people — so it's usually women, it's usually poor people, the most marginalized people in the world." The United Nations Development Program notes that in developing countries, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance. What can be done to fight corruption? The United Nations designated Dec. 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day in 2003, coinciding with the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Corruption by the U.N. General Assembly. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness about corruption and put pressure on governments to take action against it. Tackling the issue Moreira said to fight corruption effectively it must be tackled from different angles. For example, she said that while it is important to have the right legislation in place to curb corruption, governments must also have mechanisms to enforce that legislation. She said those who engage in corruption must be held accountable. "Fighting corruption is about providing people with a more sustainable world, with a world where social justice is something more of our reality than what it has been until today," she said. Moreira said change must come from a joint effort from governments, public institutions, the private sector and civil society. The U.S. Statement Department said in its Friday statement that it pledges "to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide." It noted that the United States, through the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, helps partner nations "build transparent, accountable institutions and strengthen criminal justice systems that hold the corrupt accountable." Moreira said that it is important for the world to see that there are results to the fight against corruption. "Then we are showing the world with specific examples that we can fight against corruption, [that] yes there are results. And if we work together, then it is something not just that we would wish for, but actually something that can be translated into specific results and changes to the world," she said. VOA's Elizabeth Cherneff contributed to this report.  

Bilby Back in Australian Wild for the First Time in a Century

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 15:59
For the first time in more than a century, bilbies are running wild in Australia’s most populous state. Bilbies were once widespread across much of Australia, but were last recorded in the wild in New South Wales state in 1912. Every year bilby populations continue to fall, and conservationists fear the small marsupial could become extinct because of predators, fires and land clearing. Experts say the bilbies are “barely hanging on” in small, isolated pockets. In northern New South Wales state, environmentalists are celebrating what they are calling a historic moment. Thirty bilbies from a captive breeding program have been released into a large predator-free enclosure near the town of Narrabri, 500 kilometers north of Sydney. Without the protection of a 32-kilometer fence, experts say, they probably would not survive. Historic moment Tim Allard is the chief executive of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, which is involved in the project. He says the release of these iconic animals is a historic moment. “Bilbies only really survive behind fenced areas,” he said. “There are some remaining wild bilby populations, but they get predated upon heavily by feral cats and foxes. Behind a large-scale fenced area is really the only way of ensuring their survival. “Well, the point of doing these projects is to return the bush to what it used to be before Europeans turned up, before feral predators such as cats and foxes were introduced,” Allard continued. “So in the not-too-distant future, you will be able to go inside the fenced area and it will be like stepping back in time before Europeans turned up. You will have populations of bilbies, bandicoots, bridled nail-tail wallabies. It will really be a very special experience.” Protecting biodiversity Bilbies are known for their long rabbitlike ears and large hind legs. They are small nocturnal, burrowing animals that grow to about 2.5 kilograms. They eat plant roots, ants, beetles and spiders. Australia has one of the world’s worst rates of mammal extinctions, and the bilby project is seen as a vital part in protecting the nation’s fragile biodiversity. It is estimated that 1 million birds in Australia are killed each day by predators, including feral cats, wild dogs and foxes.

Girls’ Deaths Alert Cambodia to Human Cost of Economic Migration 

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 12:30
Ol Thida and her husband were sure they had no choice but to leave their tiny rural village. They couldn’t find work anywhere nearby. They owned almost nothing, not even the plot of land their palm-thatched hut was built on. They owed a microfinance institution $250, a debt whose principal never seemed to shrink, no matter how much of their spare cash they forked over to the bank. They were desperate to meet the deadline for repayment at the end of the year. So Ol Thida’s husband, Prak Chea, left for Thailand to work as a laborer on a cassava farm and send his wages home. He told her to stay home to care for their two daughters and meager property: a few pots and pans, a few cows. He would send money home. ​Left for Phnom Penh But the debt was not getting smaller, despite the remittances. All Ol Thida could do for income was make baskets and catch fire ants to sell at the local market. Both of these brought paltry sums. She did not have the sewing skills to work at a garment factory. So she, too, decided to migrate. She left for Phnom Penh in October to look for a job as a waitress. “I couldn’t even make 10,000 riel [$2.50] for my family,” said the 34-year-old mother of two. “How could I stay here?” Her daughters, 7-year-old Meta and 14-year-old Leakhena, were growing up and would need more than she could provide if she stayed in the village. Once in Phnom Penh, she could send money home to them. She arranged for the girls to sleep at her sister’s nearby home. She would call them every day on her sister’s phone, and Leakhena would cook meals for Meta in the family’s own hut. It was a risk, but seemed like the best option in a life of bad options. ​Tragedy strikes But the family’s new life quickly descended into tragedy. Three days after she left for the capital city, on Oct. 18, Ol Thida called home as usual, but her sister couldn’t find the girls. Family members began searching for them, but they weren’t in any of the usual places: not in the hut, not in the rice field where they worked every day. In despair, Ol Thida consulted a fortuneteller in the capital, who insisted the girls were in the hut. The search party returned to the house and opened a box in the hut that was used to store clothes. Inside were the bodies of Leakhena and Meta. The older child had been raped and strangled; the younger had been beaten. A 25-year-old neighbor was arrested the next day for the crime. Chhum Poy was a distant relative; the girls had called him “uncle.” He confessed to police that he had taken advantage of their being home alone to drop by the hut and rape Leakhena. He admitted to strangling her, then beating and smothering Meta since she had witnessed the attack. “The phone fell from my hand when I heard they were killed,” Ol Thida said. She said she would not have dreamed her children were in danger of a violent crime in their tiny hometown, much less from a man they were so familiar with. “I had never thought about rape in this village,” Ol Thida said. ​Systemic problem Meta’s and Leakhena’s deaths caught the public imagination and were widely discussed by Cambodians on social media, with many people blaming Ol Thida for leaving her children alone, or lamenting the decline of morality in Cambodian society. But the truth is that there is a more systemic problem. Stories like this are becoming more common in Cambodia, as migration from rural areas to Phnom Penh and Thailand is increasing rapidly, said Chhan Sokunthea, the head of the children’s rights unit at local rights group Adhoc. The Cambodia Rural Urban Migration Project (CRUMP) found that the population of the capital city of Phnom Penh more than doubled from 1998 to 2012, from 567,860 to 1,237,600 residents, with an average annual of growth rate of about 8 percent. Cambodians also seek work in other countries such as South Korea and Malaysia. “National police reports provide figures on movement out of home villages on a monthly basis,” the report said. “The reports capture the number of people who leave home villages in search of work. … According to this information, migration almost doubled from 2014 to 2015, with reports showing 450,845 people migrating or leaving villages in November 2015, compared with 241,375 people in November 2014. The Cambodian government receives information about migration from Thailand. According to a census conducted by the Thai government in March 2015, there were more than 450,000 migrants from Cambodia working illegally in Thailand. This demographic shift means that some villages are primarily populated by children, the elderly, and men who are unemployable because they use drugs or struggle with mental illness. But children are still expected to do traditional forms of labor, such as collecting forest products and herding cows, that bring them into remote parts of the countryside. In Phsar commune alone, more than 500 people, mostly men and women in the prime of life, have migrated away from the countryside to work, according to Bin Sophan, the commune chief. The suspect in the girls’ murder was not one of them. He used drugs and alcohol and did not work steadily, Bin Sophan said. ​Those at greatest risk Chhan Sokunthea said children from poor families whose parents were migrants were at greatest risk of physical and sexual abuse. Nhep Sopheap, secretary-general at the Cambodia National Council for Children (CNCC), a government body, said she was “very concerned” about the effects on children of poverty and migration. She said the rape of children was of particular worry. “We still have limited awareness in the countryside,” she said, adding that Cambodia was working on drafting a child protection law that dealt specifically with crimes against children and would fill gaps in the Criminal Code. “Rape and sexual abuse remain a threat to the well-being of children in Cambodia, despite significant progress being made by the government to improve the protection of children from harm,” said Bunly Meas, a communications specialist at UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s agency, which has been working with the Cambodian government on the law. “It is important for parents and caregivers to ensure that young children are never left home alone as this exposes them to various forms of neglect and harm,” he added. “Children should be supervised at all times.” The CRUMP survey found that of domestic migrants who left children behind, 82.4 percent left their children with grandparents, usually a grandmother whose average age is 62.4 years, and who circumstances are “difficult.” Researchers found that families headed by grandparents alone struggled to consistently provide, according to the executive summary of a joint study by CNCC and UNICEF Cambodia. Many of the grandmothers told researchers they found the child care overwhelming.  “This little one is so active, I can never leave her alone,” one woman said. “I am too old to watch her properly, she is too active.” But hiring a child-minder is impossible for families like Ol Thida’s, where the exigencies of eking out a living are in direct conflict with their children’s needs. ​Donations to mother Amid the social media frenzy over the girls’ deaths, Cambodians sent Ol Thida thousands of dollars in donations. Bun Rany, the wife of Prime Minister Hun Sen, promised to build her a house and gave her $5,000 through the Cambodian Red Cross. She also helped organize a new job for her at a garment factory, inspecting buttons. The rest of the donated money is being held by local officials, who say Ol Thida is not responsible enough to keep it herself, but have promised to use the funds to buy the family a plot of land and a motorbike. With cruel irony, the loan has finally been paid off — but too late. As she spoke to a journalist one day recently, Ol Thida was lighting incense to pray to the spirits of her daughters at a makeshift shrine she had set up in her hut. “It was my mistake to leave my children alone, but this was because of the difficulties of my life,” she said. “Now I can’t even work properly — I am like a crazy person. I am suffering like the death to lose my two lovely daughters.” Then she addressed her dead children. “Please don’t be unfortunate, like you were in this life!” she pleaded with their souls.  

Malaysia Muslims Rally to Keep Privileges

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 10:38
Tens of thousands of Malaysian Muslims rallied Saturday in Kuala Lumpur against any attempt to strip the ethnic Malay majority of its privileges, in the first massive street gathering since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance won a historic vote in May. The rally, backed by the country’s two largest opposition Malay parties, was initially aimed at protesting a government plan to ratify a U.N. treaty against racial discrimination. Critics allege that ratifying the treaty would end Malay privileges under a decades-old affirmative action policy. The plan to ratify was eventually abandoned, but organizers decided to proceed with what they called a “thanksgiving” rally. Rare racial clashes Racial clashes have been rare in multiracial Malaysia since deadly riots in 1969. A year later, Malaysia instituted a preferential program that gives Malays privileges in jobs, education, contracts and housing to help narrow a wealth gap with the minority Chinese. Ethnic Malays account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s 32 million people, with large Chinese and Indian minorities. Saturday’s rally came less than two weeks after more than 80 people were arrested in a riot at an Indian temple in a suburb outside Kuala Lumpur. The government was quick to stress that the violence was the result of a land dispute and was not a racial riot. Still, the government warned Saturday’s rally-goers not to make any provocative statements that could fan racial tensions. Mahathir said the government allowed the rally as part of democracy, but warned against any chaos. The rally was held under tight police security, but ended peacefully after rain started to fall. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been charged with multiple counts of corruption, was among opposition lawmakers at the rally. In the streets, 55,000 Police said there were at least 55,000 people on the streets. Many wore white T-shirts and headbands with the words “Reject ICERD,” referring to the U.N. treaty, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The protesters gathered at three locations before marching to a nearby historic square, chanting “Long live the Malays” and “Crush ICERD.” “Yes, we did not ratify ICERD, but we are still here to say that we are still against it,” said shopkeeper Rosli Ikhsan. “Even if the government has said they won’t endorse it, we are still protesting with all our might from all of Malaysia.” Mahathir’s new government won a stunning victory in a May 9 general election amid anger over a massive corruption scandal involving Najib and his government, but many Malays still support Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organization, and the Malaysian Islamic Party, which controls two of the country’s 13 states. Some analysts say Najib and his party were using the rally to shift attention away from corruption charges against Najib, his wife, his party’s president and former government officials. “For me, ICERD is bad,” university student Nurul Qamariah said at the rally. “It’s bad because it will erode the position of Malays. This is a country for Malays. We want Malays to be superiors, but why do these people want to make Malays the same level as Chinese and Indians?”

China to Canada: Free Huawei CFO or Face Consequences

Sun, 12/09/2018 - 09:45
China warned Canada on Saturday that there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.'s chief financial officer, calling the case "extremely nasty."    Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's global chief financial officer, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company's links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions. The executive is the daughter of the founder of Huawei.    If extradited to the United States, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, a Canadian court heard on Friday, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge.    No decision was reached at the extradition hearing after nearly six hours of arguments and counterarguments, and the hearing was adjourned until Monday.    In a short statement, China's Foreign Ministry said that Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng had issued the warning to release Meng to Canada's ambassador in Beijing, summoning him to lodge a "strong protest."    Adam Austen, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said Saturday that there was "nothing to add beyond what the minister said yesterday."    Freeland told reporters on Friday that relationship with China was important and valued, and Canada's ambassador in Beijing has assured the Chinese that consular access will be provided to Meng.  Good relationship   When asked about the possible Chinese backlash after the arrest of Huawei's CFO, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday that Canada had a very good relationship with Beijing.    Canada's arrest of Meng at the request of the United States while she was changing planes in Vancouver was a serious breach of her lawful rights, Le said.    The move "ignored the law, was unreasonable" and was in its very nature "extremely nasty," he added.   "China strongly urges the Canadian side to immediately release the detained person, and earnestly protect their lawful, legitimate rights, otherwise Canada must accept full responsibility for the serious consequences caused."    The statement did not elaborate.    "There will probably be a deep freeze with the Chinese in high-level visits and exchanges," David Mulroney, former Canadian ambassador to China, said on Friday. "The ability to talk about free trade will be put in the icebox for a while. But we're going to have to live with that. That's the price of dealing with a country like China."    Trump-Xi meeting Meng's arrest came on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump met in Argentina with China's Xi Jinping to look for ways to resolve an escalating trade war between the world's two largest economies.    "We are tracking the developments of this case and refer you to the filings in the Supreme Court of British Columbia," said a U.S. State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity.    The news of Meng's arrest has roiled stock markets and drawn condemnation from Chinese authorities, although Trump and his top economic advisers have played down its importance to trade talks after the two leaders agreed to a truce.    A Huawei spokesman said on Friday that the company had "every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach the right conclusion." The company has said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and other regulations.  

Australia Passes World’s First Encryption-Busting Law

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 16:28
Security agencies will gain greater access to encrypted messages under new laws in Australia. The legislation will force technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections to allow investigators to track the communications of terrorists and other criminals. It is, however, a controversial measure. Australian law enforcement officials say the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage hamper their efforts to track the activities of criminals and extremists. End-to-end encryption is a code that allows a message to stay secret between the person who wrote it and the recipient.  PM: Law urgently needed But a new law passed Thursday in Australia compels technology companies, device manufacturers and service providers to build in features needed for police to crack those hitherto secret codes. However, businesses will not have to introduce these features if they are considered “systemic weaknesses,” which means they are likely to result in compromised security for other users. The Australian legislation is the first of its kind anywhere. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new law was urgently needed because encoded messaging apps allowed “terrorists and organized criminals and … pedophile rings to do their evil work.” Critics: Law goes too far However, critics, including technology companies, human rights groups, and lawyers, believe the measure goes too far and gives investigators “unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.” Francis Galbally, the chairman of the encryption provider Senetas, says the law will send Australia’s tech sector into reverse. “We will lose some of the greatest mathematicians and scientists this country has produced, and I can tell you because I employ a lot of them, they are fabulous, they are well regarded, but the world will now regard them if they stay in this country as subject to the government making changes to what they are doing in order to spy on everybody,” he said. Galbally also claims that his company could lose clients to competitors overseas because it cannot guarantee its products have not been compromised by Australian authorities. Tech giant Apple said in October that “it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.” The new law includes penalties for noncompliance.

China Exports, Imports Weaken Ahead of US Talks

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 15:54
China’s export growth slowed in November as global demand weakened, adding to pressure on Beijing ahead of trade talks with Washington. Exports rose 5.4 percent from a year ago to $227.4 billion, a marked decline from the previous month’s 12.6 percent increase, customs data showed Saturday. Imports rose 3 percent to $182.7 billion, a sharp reversal from October’s 20.3 percent surge. That adds to signs a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy is deepening as Chinese leaders prepare for negotiations with President Donald Trump over Beijing’s technology policy and other irritants. Exports to US rise Chinese exports to the United States rose by a relatively robust 12.9 percent from a year ago to $46.2 billion. Shipments to the U.S. market have held up as exporters rush to fill orders before additional duty increases, but forecasters say that effect will fade in early 2019. Imports of American goods rose 5 percent to $10.7 billion, down from the previous month’s 8.5 percent growth. China’s politically volatile trade surplus with the United States widened to a record $35.5 billion. Trump agreed during a Dec. 1 meeting with this Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to postpone tariff hikes by 90 days while the two sides negotiate. But penalties of up to 25 percent imposed earlier by both sides on billions of dollars of each other’s goods still are in effect. Companies and investors worry the battle between the two biggest economies will chill global economic growth. Chinese economy cools The Chinese economy grew by a relatively strong 6.5 percent from a year earlier in the quarter ending in September. But that was boosted by government spending on public works construction that helped to mask a slowdown in other parts of the economy. An official measure of manufacturing activity fell to its lowest level in two years in November. Auto sales have shrunk for the past three months, and real estate sales are weak. Chinese leaders have responded by easing lending controls, boosting spending on construction and promising more help to entrepreneurs who generate the state-dominated economy’s new jobs and wealth. But they have moved gradually to avoid reigniting a rise in corporate and local government debt that already is considered to be dangerously high. Tariffs The Trump administration imposed 25 percent duties on $50 billion of Chinese goods in July in response to complaints that Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Washington also imposed a 10 percent charge on $200 billion of Chinese goods. That was set to rise to 25 percent in January but Trump postponed it. Beijing responded with tariff hikes on $110 billion of American goods. Trump has threatened to expand U.S. penalties to all goods from China. Washington, Europe and other trading partners complain plans such as “Made in China 2025,” which calls for creating Chinese global champions in artificial intelligence, robotics and other fields, violate Beijing’s market-opening obligations. Trump said Beijing committed to buy American farm goods and cut auto import tariffs as part of the tariff cease-fire. Chinese officials have yet to confirm details of the agreement. China’s Commerce Ministry expressed confidence the two sides can reach a deal during the 90-day delay. That indicates Beijing sees resolving the conflict as too important to allow it to be disrupted by last week’s dramatic arrest in Canada of an executive of Huawei Technologies Ltd., one of China’s most prominent companies, on accusations of violating trade sanctions on Iran. Big trade disputes Private sector analysts say that there is little time to resolve sprawling conflicts that have bedeviled U.S.-Chinese trade for years. That suggests Beijing will need to find ways to persuade Trump to extend his deadline. Also in November, China’s exports to the 28-nation European Union rose 11.4 percent over a year earlier to $35.9 billion, down from October’s 12 percent growth. Imports rose 13.2 percent to $24.4 billion. China’s trade surplus with the EU widened by 6.4 percent over a year earlier to $11.5 billion.

Fighter Pilot Who Died in Crash Off Japan Is Identified

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 10:57
The U.S. Marines have identified a fighter pilot who died after his jet collided with a refueling aircraft during training off Japan’s coast, leaving five other Marines missing and one rescued. Two pilots were flying an F/A-18 Hornet that collided with a KC-130 Hercules about 2 a.m. Thursday. The other pilot was rescued and the crew of the refueling plane is missing. The Marine Corps identified the dead crew member as Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28, of Miramar, Florida. He served with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242, stationed on Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi, Japan. “The Bats are deeply saddened by the loss of Captain Jahmar Resilard. He was an effective and dedicated leader who cared for his Marines and fellow fighter pilots with passion,” Lt. Col. James Compton, commanding officer of the squadron, said in a statement. “His warm and charismatic nature bound us together and we will miss him terribly,” he added. The Marines said that the two planes were involved in routine training, including aerial refueling, but that it was still investigating what caused the crash. President Donald Trump tweeted that his thoughts and prayers were with the Marine Corps crew members involved in the collision. He thanked U.S. Forces in Japan for their “immediate response and rescue efforts” and said, “Whatever you need, we are here for you.” The crash is the latest in recent series of accidents involving the U.S. military deployed to and near Japan. Last month, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea southwest of Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, though its two pilots were rescued safely. In mid-October, a MH-60 Seahawk also belonging to the Ronald Reagan crashed off the Philippine Sea shortly after takeoff, causing nonfatal injuries to a dozen sailors. More than 50,000 U.S. troops are based in Japan under a bilateral security pact.

US, China Look to Limit Impact of Tech Head's Arrest 

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 09:12
With many questions still unanswered, governments in both the United States and China appear to be working to limit the fallout from the arrest of a top Chinese technology executive and its possible impact on trade negotiations.  News of the detention in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, tech giant Huawei's chief financial officer, rocked markets across the globe. Many were quick to voice concern that the move could derail trade talks, and it came as both sides were hailing last weekend's meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and China's Xi Jinping as a "big success."  So far, Trump and his administration have been strangely quiet on the topic, analysts said.  Christopher Balding, a China scholar at Fulbright University Vietnam, said that from China's perspective, Meng's arrest was a political escalation and the Trump administration seemed to understand that.  "I think it is going to be very important that they say that these are the relevant laws, that they try to remove politics from this as much as possible, whatever the exact specifics of the case are," Balding said.  "Even if this was completely and entirely divorced from anybody in the Trump administration, Beijing is going to receive it as a significant political escalation," he said.   Ming Xia, a professor of political science and global affairs at City University of New York, said Meng's arrest was another example of how members of Trump's trade team know how to use very sharp, pinpoint moves to teach China a lesson.  "This is one of the U.S.'s many tactics and tools used in its trade war with China to maximize its gains. The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, I believe, should be seen in the context of the Sino-U.S. trade war," Ming said.  For now, both sides have expressed their confidence that the agreement reached last week was a good one and their hope that it will be a success. How Meng's case will play out remains to be seen.  China has demanded the chief financial officer's release and labeled her detention a "gross violation of human rights." Huawei has said "the company has been provided with little information regarding the charges and it’s not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng."  At a hearing Friday in Vancouver, a Canadian prosecutor argued that Meng — who has spent most of the past week at a women's detention facility in a suburb of Vancouver — should be denied bail pending possible extradition to the United States because she was a flight risk.   SkyCom A prosecutor disclosed that Meng was wanted by the United States for allegedly deceiving financial institutions about the relationship between Huawei and another tech company, SkyCom, based in Hong Kong, that is alleged to have sold U.S.-manufactured technology to Iran, in violation of U.S. trade sanctions.  A judge is to rule on the bail request Monday. Reports from Reuters have previously suggested that over the past decade, Huawei has struck deals to resell embargoed technologies, owned by U.S. companies including Hewlett-Packard, to sanctioned telecom operators in Iran.  Chinese state media have argued that the United States was abusing the law to hurt Huawei's international reputation. However, concerns about Huawei have been growing for quite some time. Many view Huawei as a national security and privacy threat due to its close links to the Chinese government.   On Friday, there were reports that Tokyo appeared to be the latest country that plans to ban the purchase of Huawei products.  Earlier this week, Britain's BT Group announced that it was removing Huawei Technologies equipment from 3G and 4G networks as well as banning it from core parts of the coming 5G network. Australia and New Zealand also have similar bans in place regarding fifth-generation networks.  On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a federally appointed monitor at HSBC Holdings flagged suspicious transactions in Huawei accounts. That information was passed on to federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York, the Journal report said.  Regardless of what violations might have occurred, it makes sense to go after Meng, CUNY'S Ming said.  "As the company's vice president and chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou would have been the one who signed off on all documents," Ming said.  'Moral support' for Huawei What China might do in response remains unclear. State media have suggested that society should offer Huawei some "moral support," such as buying the company's products.  Some have noted that U.S. tech executives would be wise to avoid traveling to China over the next two weeks, out of concern that they might get caught up in the tug of war over Huawei.    Fulbright University Vietnam's Balding said the concerns make sense but added that China has also been getting very savvy at how it responds, finding more discreet ways to get even.     "Maybe they will just hack an American tech firm and take their IP [intellectual property] or something like that," Balding said.   "To bring a trumped-up charge [against a U.S. tech executive], I think, would be very embarrassing for China internationally and really just reveal its true colors more." 

Pope Unlikely to Visit North Korea Next Year, Vatican Says

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 08:36
In what appeared to be a setback for Seoul's diplomacy to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and nudge North Korea into embracing openness, the Vatican said Friday Pope Francis is unlikely to visit North Korea next year. The possibility of the landmark visit was raised when South Korean President Moon Jae-in, during a private meeting with the pope in October, conveyed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's desire for a papal visit to the isolated country. The Vatican responded positively, saying a formal invitation from North Korea was necessary.  Given the necessary preparations and the pope's busy schedule, however, the visit is not likely to come next year, according to a Vatican official who asked to remain anonymous.   "I don't see it happening in 2019 … too many other trips on the schedule, or in the plans. And they are all easier than N. Korea!" the official said in an email message sent to VOA's Korean Service. Inter-Korean relations North and South Korea have held three summits this year amid a diplomatic thaw. Moon sees the possible visit as an opportunity to enhance cooperation and engagement with the North.   No pontiff has ever visited North Korea and such a visit could be contentious for the pope. North Korea often has been condemned as one of the worst human rights violators in the world. Robert Gallucci, chief U.S. negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, cautioned against a possible papal visit to the North. "He might legitimize a regime which is quite insensitive to human rights issues in its own country," Gallucci said during a recent interview with VOA. Concern over human rights Roberta Cohen, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Human Rights under the Carter administration, said the pope should raise the issue of religious freedom in the North, if such a visit takes place.       "The pope needs to be raising the question of religion and freedom of expression, and also the release of Christians from prisons," Cohen said. North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but open religious activity is not allowed, according to human rights groups and defectors.  Since 2001, the United States has designated North Korea as a "Country of Particular Concern" for religious freedom.   

Top Democrat: Moscow Has Closed Cyber Gap With US

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 05:07
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee warns the United States is being outgunned in cyberspace, already having lost its competitive advantage to Russia while China is rapidly closing in. "When it comes to cyber, misinformation and disinformation, Russia is already our peer and in the areas of misinformation or disinformation, I believe is ahead of us," Senator Mark Warner told an audience Friday in Washington. "This is an effective methodology for Russia and it's also remarkably cheap," he added, calling for a realignment of U.S. defense spending. Warner, calling Russia's election meddling both an intelligence failure and a "failure of imagination," strongly criticized the White House, key departments and fellow lawmakers for being too complacent in their responses. As for China, Warner called Beijing's cyber and censorship infrastructure "the envy of authoritarian regimes around the world" and warned when it comes to artificial intelligence, quantum computing and 5G mobile phone networks, China is "starting to outpace us on these investments by orders of magnitude." In contrast, the Democratic senator laid out a more aggressive approach in cyberspace, with the United States leading allies in an effort to establish clear rules and norms for behavior in cyberspace. He also said it was imperative the U.S. articulate when and where it would respond to cyberattacks. "Our adversaries continue to believe that there won't be consequences for their actions," Warner said. "For Russia and China, it's pretty much been open season." Warner also delivered a stern message to social media companies. "Major platform companies — like Twitter and Facebook, but also Reddit, YouTube and Tumblr — aren't doing nearly enough to prevent their platforms from becoming petri dishes for Russian disinformation and propaganda," he said. "If they don't work with us, Congress will have to work on its own." The Trump administration unveiled a new National Cyber Strategy in September, calling for a more aggressive response to the growing online threat posed by other countries, terrorist groups and criminal organizations. "We're not just on defense," National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters at the time. "We're going to do a lot of things offensively, and I think our adversaries need to know that." Top U.S. military officials have also said their cyber teams are engaging against other countries, terrorist groups and even criminal organizations on a daily basis. Warner on Friday praised elements of the new strategy, particularly measures that have allowed the military to respond to attacks more quickly. But, he said, on the whole it is not enough, pointing to Trump's willingness to "kowtow" to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their Helsinki Summit over Moscow's election interference efforts. "No one in the Trump administration in the intel [intelligence] or defense world doesn't acknowledge what happened in 2016," he said. "But the fact that the head of our government still [finds] it's hard to get those words out of his mouth, is a real problem."

Australia Anti-Encryption Law Rushed to Passage 

Sat, 12/08/2018 - 05:00
A newly enacted law rushed through Australia's parliament will compel technology companies such as Apple, Facebook and Google to disable encryption protections so police can better pursue terrorists and other criminals.      Cybersecurity experts say the law, the first of its kind globally, will instead be a boon to the criminal underworld by undermining the technical integrity of the internet, hurting digital security and user privacy.      "I think it's detrimental to Australian and world security,'' said Bruce Schneier, a tech security expert affiliated with Harvard University and IBM.      The law is also technically vague and seems contradictory because it doesn't require systematic weaknesses — so-called "back doors'' — to be built in by tech providers. Such back doors are unlikely to remain secret, meaning that hackers and criminals could easily exploit them.    Back doors were central to a 1990s U.S. effort to require manufacturers to install a so-called "Clipper chip" into communications equipment so the government could listen in on voice and data transmissions. U.S. law enforcement officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are again pushing for legislation that would somehow give authorities access to secure communications.    The Australian bill is seen by many as a beachhead for those efforts because the nation belongs to the "Five Eyes'' security alliance with the U.S., Britain, Canada and New Zealand.      "There is a lot here that doesn't make any sense,'' Schneier said of the Australian bill. "This is a technological law written by non-technologists and it's not just bad policy. In many ways, I think it's unworkable.''    A leading figure in cryptography, Martin Hellman of Stanford University, said it appears the bill would "facilitate crime by weakening the security of the affected devices.''  Blow against 'evil work'   The law won final legislative approval late Thursday, parliament's final session of the year. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was urgently needed.    "This was very important legislation to give police and security agencies the ability to get into encrypted communications,'' he told Nine Network television. "Things like WhatsApp, things like that which are used by terrorists and organized criminals and indeed pedophile rings to do their evil work.''    He noted that the opposition Labor Party "had to be dragged to the table'' and backed the legislation as an emergency measure out of concern extremists could target Christmas-New Year crowds.    Labor lawmakers said they want amendments passed when parliament resumes in February. Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he supported the current bill only because he could not "expose Australians to increased [national security] risk.''    Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, noted during hearings that extremists share encrypted messages that Australia's main secret service cannot intercept or read.    President Morry Bailles of the Law Council of Australia, a leading lawyers group, criticized the bill's swift parliamentary journey though lawmakers knew "serious problems exist'' with giving law enforcement "unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications.''    Australian law enforcement officials have complained that the growth of end-to-end encryption in applications such as Signal, Facebook's WhatsApp and Messenger and Apple's iMessage could be the worst blow to intelligence and law enforcement capability in decades. Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said it hampers criminal investigations at all levels.  Apple argument   But Apple, in comments filed with parliament in October, argued that "it would be wrong to weaken security for millions of law-abiding customers in order to investigate the very few who pose a threat.''    The company's iPhones, because of their strong encryption, are bulwarks of national security around the globe and help protect journalists, human rights workers and people living under repressive regimes.    "The iPhone is national security infrastructure right now,'' said Schneier. "Every Australian legislator uses the systems and devices that that law will target, and making them insecure seems like a really bad idea.''    Apple also complained in October that the bill was "dangerously ambiguous.''    One apparent contradiction confounds technologists. The legislation says the government "must not require providers to implement or build systemic weaknesses in forms of electronic protection ('back doors')'' but also says it can "require the selective deployment of a weakness or vulnerability in a particular service, device or item of software on a case-by-case basis.''    Technologists say that the mathematics underlying encryption and the way it’s encoded into software make it impossible to decrypt a single user's communications without affecting all users.    Eric Wenger, director of cybersecurity and privacy policy for the U.S. technology giant Cisco Systems, warned during debate on the bill that Australia could be at a competitive disadvantage if its data were not regarded as secure.    Australia was a major driver of a statement agreed to at the Group of 20 leaders' summit in Germany last year that called on the technology industry to provide "lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information'' needed to protect against terrorist threats.