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US Warns Britain Against China’s Huawei 5G Network

U.S. President Donald Trump has warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “serious consequences” if he allows the Chinese telecom giant Huawei a role in building Britain’s 5G phone network, according to officials on both sides of the Atlantic.The warning follows months of lobbying of Downing Street by top U.S. officials who aim to persuade the British government to shut out the Chinese company on security grounds.Trump told Johnson Friday that giving Huawei, which has ties to Chinese intelligence agencies, the go-ahead will cause a major rift in transatlantic relations and jeopardize intelligence-sharing between Washington and London, according to U.S. officials. They say the decision, expected Tuesday, will also likely impact the prospects for a post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal eagerly sought by Britain to compensate for likely diminished trade with the European Union.U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Saturday dubbed the Huawei deal a threat to “critical” infrastructure. But he indicated that if Downing Street falls into line, the U.S. will “dedicate a lot of resources” to getting a trade deal negotiated and signed by the end of the year.
The Huawei decision is also being watched closely on Capitol Hill.In an unprecedented move, three Republican senators — Tom Cotton, John Cornyn and Marco Rubio — sent a letter to Britain’s National Security Council urging Huawei to be excluded from 5G development. “The company’s actions show a clear record of predatory and problematic behavior,” the senators said, adding it would “in the best interest of the United Kingdom, the US-UK special relationship, and the health and wellbeing of a well-functioning market for 5G technologies to exclude Huawei.”FILE – Signage is seen at the Huawei offices in Reading, Britain, May 2, 2019.US sees Trojan horseFor a year, the Trump administration has been urging Britain to ban the Chinese company from participating in the development of Britain’s fifth-generation wireless network. U.S. officials say there’s a significant risk that the Chinese telecoms giant will act as a Trojan horse for Beijing’s espionage agencies, planting ‘backdoors’ into any equipment supplied to Britain, enabling data to be swept up and intelligence gathered. The U.S. imposed its own trade restrictions on Huawei last year.Huawei vehemently denies that it could be used by Beijing for intelligence purposes, saying that U.S. allegations are “baseless speculation.” The Chinese government says Huawei is a private company and poses no security risk to the West.But Beijing has also made ill-disguised threats, suggesting a decision to ban Huawei could result in Britain being punished when it comes to Chinese trade and investment. Similar warnings have been issued to other Western countries, all of which have been urged by U.S. officials to shun Huawei on security grounds.U.S. lobbying has been especially fierce among members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing pact — the U.S.-led Anglophone intelligence arrangement linking Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain. Australia and New Zealand, although as yet not Canada, have banned Huawei from any role in developing their 5G networks. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to make a last effort to dissuade Johnson during a visit to London this week.In Germany, the Huawei issue has sparked a major division between Chancellor Angel Merkel, who fears Chinese retaliation if Huawei is excluded, and her coalition partners, the Social Democrats, who are opposed to offering Huawei any 5G role. Merkel’s ministries are also deeply split, with the trade and finance ministers backing Huawei’s involvement and foreign and intelligence officials highly skeptical that the risks are worth it.Both the White House and Downing Street have sought to play down talk of a transatlantic rift. In a bland statement Friday, the White House said Trump and Johnson “discussed important regional and bilateral issues, including working together to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks.”FILE – People attend a Huawei Mate20 smartphone series launch event in London, Britain, Oct. 16, 2018.’Next Chinese virus’A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The prime minister spoke to president Trump. They discussed a range of issues, including cooperation to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks.”But behind the scenes, the lobbying has been furious and the issue risks splitting the British cabinet, with several ministers determined to block Huawei, fearing the damage that could be done to Britain’s so-called special relationship with the U.S.The crescendo of the U.S. anti-Huawei campaign has been mirrored in London as it emerged last week that Johnson appeared set to give Huawei the green light, discounting U.S. alarm and prompting growing unease among his own Conservative lawmakers. Some have likened the political damage Huawei is causing to the coronavirus epidemic threatening to spread to the West, saying it is the “next Chinese virus.”If Johnson does give the go-ahead, it would confirm a ‘provisional’ decision made by his predecessor in Downing Street, Theresa May. Last year, she said Huawei should be allowed to build some so-called ‘non-core’ parts of Britain’s future 5G data network.U.S. intelligence officials and their counterparts at Britain’s GCHQ, the eavesdropping spy agency and the country’s largest intelligence service, say restricting Huawei to the non-core ‘edges’ of the new network would make little difference to the security risk.Johnson has come under pressure from British telecom providers and mobile phone companies, which have already been installing Huawei technology to start setting up the new network. They have warned that Huawei offers more advanced, better integrated and cheaper equipment than its commercial rivals, and banning the company would delay the rollout of 5G, costing the British economy billions of pounds. 

New Reports Highlight Russia’s Deep-Seated Culture of Corruption

New reports from Transparency International and the Russian Academy of Sciences on education highlight a pervasive culture of corruption in Russia that persists despite efforts by the government and opposition activists.The country scored 137th out of 180 countries in the FILE – Students walk outside the main building of Moscow State University, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 10, 2015.According to FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks during an annual televised call-in show in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2019.”Where does the money go? To public revenue, to be sure,” Putin added when asked about common bribes. “Of course, officials, and representatives of law enforcement in particular,” he added.While corruption’s full economic effects are difficult to calculate, conservative government estimates put the cost of corruption at $2.5 billion from 2014 to 2017.Entrepreneur’s Rights Commissioner Boris Titov has labeled the issue the “biggest problem” facing Russian entrepreneurial growth.Yet Putin has insisted harsher punishments and “uncompromising efforts” are changing the tide.Among Putin measures lauded by outside experts are e-governance efforts and a public blacklist of government officials fired over a “loss of confidence.”State media portray Putin as something of an anti-corruption folk hero, seemingly alone trying to rein in Russia’s vast network of amoral civil servants.FILE – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as a security officer guards an entrance of his Anti-Corruption Foundation during a raid of its offices, in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 26, 2019.”A real fight against corruption is impossible under Putin. His whole system is built around it,” the organization’s spokesperson Lyubov Sobol told VOA. “Every attempt to really take on corrupt officials has ended in nothing,” she said.Secret European villas, wealthy relatives, and private planes ferrying pet corgies to international dog shows have all been subjects of the foundation’s video investigations in recent years. Another alleges to have uncovered the secret wealth of former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and garnered over 33 million YouTube views.The revelations set off a series of nationwide protests last year and may have played a role in Medvedev’s dismissal in Putin’s Kremlin shakeup last week.FBK was also quick to note that Medvedev replacement Mikhail Mishustin has family holdings that far outstrip his past government salary as Russia’s chief tax officer.Meanwhile, the Kremlin has launched raids and criminal investigations against FBK, moves widely seen as revenge for the organization’s investigations and calls for democratic change.A poll last year by the independent Levada Center found most Russians view anti-corruption crackdowns as aimed at settling political scores.Sobol said the solution is independent judges and a reformed police force, but added, “for that you need political will.”

Italians Vote in 2 Regions; Salvini Eyes Return to Power

Right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini is telling Italians who are voting in two regions to use their ballots to help his anti-migrant party return to national power.
Voting began Sunday morning in Emilia-Romagna, a northern region where the left-wing has held power for decades, and in Calabria, in the south, an area Salvini’s League party once disparaged as unproductive but where it now wants to expand a foothold .
Results, expected early Monday, of the voting for governor and regional legislatures could rock Italy’s squabbling central government in Rome.
Salvini is demanding an early election to end Premier Giuseppe Conte’s coalition government, whose junior partner is the center-left Democrats. If the Democratic Party’s incumbent governor in Emilia-Romagna loses to the League’s candidate on Sunday, the bickering among Conte’s coalition partners could worsen and jeopardize the nearly 5-month-old government’s survival.
The senior party in Conte’s government is the populist 5-Star Movement, which itself is so plagued by infighting and defections that its political leader resigned his post last week.
Salvini in a Facebook post urged Italians as they headed to vote Sunday to “liberate these splendid regions” from the Democrats and “Let’s free the entire country.”
Salvini, who in Conte’s previous government took a hard line against immigration, lost his role as deputy premier and interior minister last year and his right-wing party lost its place in government when he yanked his support from Conte in a failed bid for an early election that Salvini had hoped with make him premier.
Conte then formed a new government with the Democrats, who set aside their deep rivalries with the 5-Stars to replace the League in the national coalition.
Voters could be forgiven if they had the impression Salvini himself was running to be governor of Emilia-Romagna. The League leader campaigned practically daily in the region, especially in the countryside and small towns, considered ripe for a shift toward the right. With his “Italians first” mantra, Salvini dashed from rally to rally, sampling local agricultural products in the region, which is one of Italy’s wealthiest and most productive. He boasted of how, when he was interior minister, fewer migrants, trafficked by Libya-based smugglers, arrived in Italy aboard charity rescue boats.
Opinion polls during the campaign indicated the race for governorship was neck-to-neck.
The League’s candidate is Lucia Borgonzoni, a League politician who as undersecretary for culture in Conte’s first government distinguished herself mainly for complaining that the Louvre in Paris was getting too many loans of Leonardo da Vinci’s artworks for an exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of the Italian Renaissance master’s death.
The Democrats’ candidate is Gov. Stefano Bonacconi, under whose leadership the region’s reputation for a well-run health care system and other local services was reinforced.
But Salvini is banking on voters in Emilia-Romagna viewing Sunday’s ballot as a referendum on Conte’s government and a chance to boost his League’s fortunes. The right-wing League has consistently scored as Italy’s most popular party nationwide in recent opinion polls.
Conte says the outcome of Sunday’s votes won’t affect his determination to continue governing until the next election for Parliament is due in 2023.
Until recent years, the League’s profile was as a northern-based political power, with its leaders depicting the underdeveloped south as a parasitic drain on taxpayers’ money.
But Salvini revamped the image of the League, which had long been called the Northern League, into a nationwide force with rhetoric that blames migrants for crime and the European Union for what he says is infringement on Italy’s sovereignty.
His chief ally, the Brothers of Italy, has its roots in neo-fascism and is growing quickly in popularity.  

Back To The Gates Of Hell: Survivor Prepares For Return To Auschwitz

Hundreds of former prisoners will return to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz Monday to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops, alongside several world leaders. At least 1.1 million people – mostly Jews – were murdered at Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi death camps, between 1940 and 1945. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell traveled to Poland to speak with one survivor as he prepared to return to what many call ‘the gates of hell’.

Dozens Pulled From Rubble as Turkey Quake Toll Hits 35

Rescue teams working through the night pulled 45 people from collapsed buildings, Turkey’s disaster authority said on Sunday, as the death toll from a powerful earthquake in the country’s east rose to 35.Rescuers operating in sub-zero temperatures used drills, mechanical diggers and their bare hands to continue the search for survivors at three sites in Elazig province, where the magnitude 6.8 quake struck on Friday evening.It killed 31 people there and four in the neighboring province of Malatya, and was followed by more than 700 aftershocks, Disaster and Emergency Authority AFAD said on Sunday. More than 1,600 sustained injuries.Broadcast footage showed a 35-year-old woman and her infant daughter emerging from rubble in the Mustafa Pasa district of Elazig, some 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital Ankara.Rescuers who heard their screams took several hours to reach them in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Celsius (24.8°F), state media said. The woman’s husband was among those who died.AFAD said search and rescue operations were still underway at three different sites in Elazig.Other provinces sent thousands of emergency workers to support rescue efforts, which were also supplemented by hundreds of volunteers, officials said. Tents, beds and blankets were provided to shelter those displaced by the quake.AFAD urged residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the potential risk of collapse. It said officials had identified 645 heavily damaged and 76 collapsed buildings in the two provinces.President Tayyip Erdogan said steel-framed houses would be rapidly built in the region to provide housing for displaced residents. Speaking on Saturday during a visit to Elazig and Malatya, he called the quake a test for Turkey.The country has a history of powerful earthquakes. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck Izmit, a city southeast of Istanbul.

Heavy Rain Causes Flooding, Landslides in Brazil; 30 Killed

Two days of heavy rains caused flooding and landslides in southeast Brazil that have killed at least 30 people, authorities said Saturday. Civil Defense officials said 17 people were listed as missing and 2,600 were evacuated from their houses in Minas Gerais state, which had been buffeted by 48 hours of torrential rains. Deaths were reported in the capital of Belo Horizonte and in the state’s interior. On Friday, Belo Horizonte received the greatest quantity of rain ever registered in 24 hours in the city. A view of flooded houses caused by heavy rains in Sabara municipality, Minas Gerais state, Brazil, Jan. 24, 2020. The rains led to flooding and landslides that killed dozens, authorities said Jan. 25.State Governor Romeu Zema will fly over the affected areas on Sunday to evaluate damages. More rain is expected in Minas Gerais as well as other parts of Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The announcement of the deaths came the same day as mourners elsewhere in Minas Gerais observed the first anniversary of a deadly mining dam collapse. 

Thousands Support Venezuela’s Guaido at Madrid Rally 

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido joined thousands of supporters at a demonstration in Madrid on Saturday after arriving in Spain on the last leg of a European tour. Speaking in a central square packed with supporters holding signs calling for “democracy,” Guaido emphasized the importance of international support in unseating Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. “We need the support of the world to fight against the groups operating in Venezuela. We have the opportunity to get Venezuela back because we are together. We can heal Venezuela,” he told a crowd of people waving Venezuelan flags and chanting, “Yes, we can.” “It is the struggle of a whole country in favor of democracy,” he said. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez did not meet Guaido, a decision that angered right-wing opposition parties but was welcomed by Unidas Podemos, the far-left coalition partners of Sanchez’s Socialists. Podemos members have voiced support for Venezuela’s leftist ruling party in the past. Instead, Guaido met Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya as well as Madrid’s mayor and regional president, both from the conservative People’s Party (PP). Guaido’s visit coincided with a political spat in Spain over reports that Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos secretly met a senior Maduro aide who is subject to a European Union travel ban at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Monday. PP leader Pablo Casado criticized Sanchez for not meeting Guaido and called on him to dismiss Abalos. Sanchez told reporters earlier in the day that Spain’s government wanted elections in Venezuela “as soon as possible,” but he criticized Spanish opposition parties for using the crisis in Venezuela “against the government.” He also voiced his backing for Abalos, saying “he put all his efforts into avoiding a diplomatic crisis and succeeded.” Guaido has defied a travel ban to seek support in Europe, where he has spoken at the European Parliament, attended the World Economic Forum in Davos and met with leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson. 

Death Toll From Eastern Turkey Earthquake Climbs to 29

The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey climbed to 29 on Saturday night as rescue crews searched for people who remained trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, officials said. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said at a news conference earlier in the day that 18 people had been killed in Elazig province, where Friday night’s quake was centered, and four in neighboring Malatya. The national disaster agency later updated the total with seven more casualties. Rescue workers search on a collapsed building after an earthquake in Elazig, Turkey, January 25, 2020. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 1,243 people had been injured, with 34 of them in intensive care but not in critical condition. On Saturday afternoon, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the hardest-hit areas and attended the funeral of a mother and son killed in the quake. He warned people against repeating negative'' hearsay about the country being unprepared for earthquakes. Turkish officials and police try to keep warm at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey, Jan. 24, 2020.Emergency workers and security forces distributed tents, beds and blankets as overnight temperatures dropped below freezing in the affected areas. Mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories were opened for hundreds who left their homes after the quake. The earthquake was very severe. We desperately ran out [of our home],” Emre Gocer told the state-run Anadolu news agency as he sheltered with his family at a sports hall in Sivrice. We don't have a safe place to stay right now.'' While visiting Sivrice and the city of Elazig, the provincial capital 565 kilometers (350 miles) east of Ankara, Erdogan promised state support for those affected by the disaster. We will not leave anyone in the open,” the Turkish leader said. Earlier, a prosecutor in Ankara announced an investigation into provocative'' social media posts. Anadolu reported that Turkey's broadcasting authority was also reviewing media coverage of the quake. At least five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Malatya province were destroyed in the disaster, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said. Hundreds of other structures were damaged and made unsafe. Ramazan Emek surveys the damage in Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, where the quake struck just before 9 p.m. Friday local time. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)AFAD reported that 42 people had been rescued as search teams combed wrecked apartment buildings. Television footage showed emergency workers removing a woman from the wreckage of a collapsed building 19 hours after the main earthquake struck. A prison in Adiyaman, 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of the epicenter, was evacuated because of damage, and its more than 800 prisoners were transferred to nearby jails. AFAD said 28 rescue teams had been working around the clock. More than 2,600 personnel from 39 of Turkey's 81 provinces were sent to the disaster site. Unmanned drones were used to survey damaged neighborhoods and coordinate rescue efforts. Our biggest hope is that the death toll does not rise,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said. A calf stands next to its mother, which has a broken leg, in the village of Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, Elazig, Turkey, Jan. 25, 2020. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)Communication companies announced free telephone and internet services for residents in the quake-hit region. Neighboring Greece, which is at odds with Turkey over maritime boundaries and gas exploration rights, offered to send rescue crews to assist the Turkish teams. Erdogan appeared to reject the offer of outside assistance during his visit to the city of Elazig, telling reporters, “Our state does not need anything.” Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines, and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people. A magnitude 6.0 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010. 

Back to Gates of Hell: Survivor Prepares for Return to Auschwitz

Hundreds of former prisoners will return Monday to the Nazi concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz, Poland, alongside several world leaders, to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops.  At least 1.1 million people – mostly Jews – were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps, between 1940 and 1945. Stanislaw Zalewski, 94, is among the former prisoners who will return for the anniversary. He says he keeps his memories locked away – “occasionally letting them out to share the horrors of the past.” Zalewski was 18 when he was arrested for painting Polish resistance symbols on walls in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. After a brutal interrogation, he was imprisoned in Waraw’s Pawiak prison. “About 37,000 of these prisoners were killed and about 60,000 were taken from Pawiak prison to concentration camps,” Zalewski told VOA in a recent interview. “I was among these 60,000. I was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau on October 6, 1943.” Sorry, but your player cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
FILE – Stanislaw Zalewski, pictured at Auschwitz-Birkenau a year ago, is president of the Polish Union of Former Political Prisoners of Nazi Prisons and Concentration Camps. Seventy-five years on, he still struggles to reconcile what happened.As Soviet soldiers began to approach from the east, the Nazis transferred hundreds of thousands of prisoners to other camps on so-called “death marches” or in railroad cattle trucks. Tens of thousands died on the journey. Zalewski was taken to the Mauthausen-Guzen camp in Austria. In May 1945, rumors spread of the Allied advance — and German guards fled. “On May 5, American military vehicles arrived,” Zalewski says, tears welling in his eyes. “Two American soldiers got off. One of them knew some Polish and shouted, ‘You are free!’ It took me 78 days to get from Nuremberg to Warsaw. I arrived in Warsaw on July 22, 1945, wearing USA Army fatigues.” Zalewski is now president of the Polish Union of Former Political Prisoners of Nazi Prisons and Concentration Camps. Seventy-five years on, he still struggles to reconcile what happened. Sorry, but your player cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline. Embed” />Copy“When I say the Lord’s Prayer, there is a phrase: ‘Give us our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.’ I face a dilemma at this point. Can I forgive those who had an inscription that read, ‘God is with us,’ on their belt buckles, who killed people with cold premeditation?” “I put my memories of Auschwitz into a box, I tied it with a string, and threw it into the water,” Zalewski says. “I worked, I started a family, I have a son and grandchildren. When I visit the camp or when we are talking like we are today, I pull out this box, I present its contents to you, and afterwards, I throw it back into the water. There are moments, however, when these memories break into my psyche, causing reflections and questions with no answers. ‘World has not learned’“I am sad because of what is happening in other parts of the world, where people for their own purposes commit armed, violent acts that take the lives of thousands of innocent people. The world has not learned the lesson of what had happened. The world has come full circle, so to speak. This history, this circularity, is powered by people who do not respect the dignity of another human being.”     Zalewski and about 200 fellow survivors will return to the so-called “gates of hell” for the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, still determined to teach the world the lessons of Auschwitz.