Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

Macron is ‘pretty sure Trump will change his mind’ on Paris climate pact

December 12, 2017

AFP

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© Screengrab | French President Emmanuel Macron during his interview on CBS

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-12-12

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday reminded his US counterpart Donald Trump of his responsibility to history over his decision to quit the Paris climate change agreement, in an interview aired on CBS.

 Image result for trump and macron, photos
Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump appeared together in France last July.  Reuters

Speaking on the eve of the One Planet Summit, two years to the day since 195 nations adopted the climate planMacron rejected the idea that Trump could negotiate a fresh deal and termed his withdrawal an “aggressive” maneuver.

The French president said: “I’m sorry to say that, it doesn’t fly, so, so sorry but I think it is a big responsibility in front of the history, and I’m pretty sure that my friend President Trump will change his mind in the coming months or years, I do hope.”

He added: “It’s extremely aggressive to decide on its own just to leave, and no way to push the others to renegotiate because one decided to leave the floor.

“I’m not ready to renegotiate but I’m ready to welcome him if he decides to come back.”

Asked about his relationship with the US president, Macron characterized it as “very direct,” adding he had been frank about his opposition to Washington recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Two years on from the Paris Agreement, Macron will meet with world leaders on Tuesday, this time to talk about money.

Without trillions of dollars of investment in clean energy, the pact’s goal to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels will remain a pipedream, observers and participants have warned.

(AFP)

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Leaders join France’s Macron to discuss climate cash crunch

December 12, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File / by Mariëtte Le Roux | French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with world leaders on Tuesday, two years to the day since 195 nations adopted the climate-rescue Paris Agreement

PARIS (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with world leaders on Tuesday, two years to the day since 195 nations adopted the climate-rescue Paris Agreement — this time to talk about money.Without trillions of dollars of investment in clean energy, the pact’s goal to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels will remain a pipedream, observers and participants warned on the eve of the Paris summit.

Political action “will not be enough if we do not update and reset the global finance architecture and make all development low-emission, resilient, and sustainable,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said.

“We see some movement… but climate consideration must now be part of all private sector decisions,” she said.

After the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015 to cheers and champagne, helped over the finish line by then US president Barack Obama, his successor Donald Trump has cast a long shadow over the process, withdrawing political support and finance.

Money has long been a sore point in the UN climate process, with developing nations insisting on financial assistance to help them make the costly move to less-polluting energy sources, and to shore up defences against climate change-induced superstorms, mega-droughts and land-gobbling sea level rise.

Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax”, announced in June that the United States would pull out of the Paris pact, which had taken nearly 200 nations more than two decades to negotiate.

The US is the only country to reject the agreement.

Trump has also asked Congress to slash the climate research budgets of federal agencies — threatening a loss of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

The Trump administration would also not fulfil US climate finance commitments, including an outstanding $2 billion out of $3 billion it had pledged towards the Green Climate Fund.

“The missing piece of the jigsaw is the funding to help the world?s poorer countries access clean energy so they don’t follow the fossil fuel-powered path of the rich world,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid, which represents poor country interests at the UN climate forum.

– ‘Don’t worry’ –

“This is the missing piece that the One Planet Summit needs to begin to put into place.”

In the absence of former climate champion Obama, American businesses, regions and local government leaders have reiterated their commitment to decarbonisation.

“It doesn’t matter that Donald Trump backed out of the Paris Agreement, because the private sector didn’t drop out, the public sector didn’t drop out, universities didn’t drop out, no one dropped out,” former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, now the face of the R20 network of sub-national climate actors, said in Paris.

“Don’t worry about any of that, we are the subnational level, we’re going to pick up the slack,” he said.

On the eve of the summit, the heads of many of world’s space agencies proposed the creation of a space climate observatory to pool acquired data to share with scientists around the globe, according to a declaration they adopted at their meeting in Paris.

Among the leaders in attendance at Tuesday’s summit will be UN chief Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto, Theresa May of Britain, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Trump was not invited to Tuesday’s gathering, and the US — the world’s biggest historical emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gases — will be represented by an embassy official.

Also absent will be the leaders of major polluters China, India, Brazil, Russia and Canada, as well as Germany’s Angela Merkel among EU members.

Rich nations pledged in 2009 to muster $100 billion per year in climate finance for developing nations from 2020.

On 2015 trends, total public financing would reach about $67 billion by that date, according to a report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The International Energy Agency estimates that investments of some $3.5 trillion per year in the energy sector will be needed to 2050 to stay under the 2 C limit — double current spending.

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by Mariëtte Le Roux

Brazil corruption probe could be in final phase: “It’s essential in 2018 that every voter acts carefully and supports the anti-corruption agenda.”

November 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A leading prosecutor in Brazil’s massive “Lava Jato” corruption probe says next year’s elections will determine the fate of the fight to hold officials accountable, as seen in this protest November 17

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – 

A top Brazilian prosecutor says general elections in 2018 will be the climax of the country’s biggest ever corruption probe, known as Operation Car Wash.

“2018 will be the final battle of Car Wash, because the 2018 elections will determine the future of the fight against corruption in our country,” said Deltan Dallagnol, a central prosecutor in the probe, during a conference Monday in Rio de Janeiro.

The presidency and Congress are up for election in October next year, the first major polls since the Car Wash probe plunged Brazil into political crisis.

Car Wash was launched in early 2014, uncovering a vast web of embezzlement and bribery through the Brazilian government, legislature and corporate world, especially the state oil company Petrobras.

Former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been convicted of bribe-taking and current President Michel Temer is charged with racketeering and bribe-taking. Dozens of lawmakers also face charges or probes.

Although the anti-corruption campaign has been popular with Brazilian voters, lawmakers led by Temer have repeatedly pushed back against prosecutors, arguing that they are on a politicized crusade and have exceeded their authority.

In a joint statement, prosecutors from Rio, Sao Paulo and Curitiba states warned at the conference that “attempts to guarantee impunity for powerful politicians are intensifying.”

“It’s essential in 2018 that every voter acts carefully (voting for) deputies and senators with a clean sheet and committed to democratic and republican values, and who support the anticorruption agenda,” the statement said.

The next batch of congressional deputies and senators “will determine whether there is a retreat in the fight against corruption or if there will be reforms and advances that create a fairer country,” Dallagnol said.

The Car Wash team said that it has so far opened 416 criminal cases and secured sentences against 144 people, totalling 2,130 years prison.

Another prosecutor, Eduardo El Hage, warned that there would be new operations next year.

“We are planning concrete actions,” he said. “It will be a year of a lot of work.”

Cash and history keep Europe as Africa’s prime partner

November 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Patrick FORT | China is leading the charge in foreign investment in African infrastructure. Ivory Coast’s Soubre dam, inaugurated in March, is designed to boost the country’s power capacity by nearly 14 percent. China funded 85 percent of the 500-million-euro cost

ABIDJAN (AFP) – Hard cash but also the intangible ties of history have kept Europe in pole position as Africa’s main partner, even if an influx of Chinese investment is prompting many African countries to look eastward.Successive years of hefty spending, particularly in infrastructure, have propelled China into the continent’s top slot when calculated in terms of individual investor nations.

But a quite different picture emerges when this is seen through a broader prism — the ties between Africa and Europe as a 28-nation bloc.

“Europe is in front, given the shared history,” said Pierre Dagbo Gode, professor of political science at the Felix Houphouet Boigny University of Abidjan.

“Europe is the premier trade partner, the top investor, the top donor,” a European diplomat in Brussels added, speaking ahead of a summit between the EU and African Union in Abidjan on Wednesday and Thursday.

According to the Chinese ministry of commerce, trade between China and Africa was worth $149.2 billion last year — $92.3 billion in exports from China, against $56.9 billion of imports.

That made China, for the eighth year, Africa’s foremost individual trade partner — well ahead of France and Germany.

However, trade between the EU and Africa totalled 286 billion euros in 2015 ($341 billion at current rates) with a 22-billion-euro surplus in Europe’s favour.

Europe also contributed some 21 billion euros in foreign aid — more than the United States and China combined.

“When people say Europe has let China overtake it you have to keep things in perspective,” said an EU diplomat in Abidjan.

Factors such as language, cultural cooperation, university exchanges, a military presence and aid all help to ensure “Europe remains the point of reference” for Africa, the source said.

– ‘Aggressive policy’ –

Even so, Chinese competition is hotting up.

Beijing’s big policy is to mix aid and loans at ultra-low interest rates to muscle in on numerous large-scale projects.

“They have a very aggressive policy, in the good sense of the term, on loans and this seduces states,” said one financial observer in the region.

According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, quoting Fitch Ratings, loans from China to Africa over the past decade amounted to $67.2 billion — a whole $12.5 billion more than those made by the World Bank.

“The aspects which attract Chinese enterprises to Africa are the development potential, resources and the market,” said Xu Tiebing, professor of international relations at the Communication University of China.

“The Chinese government has a South ‘complex’. They think that when the South becomes powerful the world will be more balanced,” added Xu.

– Natural destination –

“China thinks perhaps that as two of the world’s poles of development (Europe and North America) are already in decline, Africa, Latin America and Asia are becoming the natural destination for Chinese investment.

“In the past, China was more concerned by the political angle, but now ascribes greater importance to common development and to mutual advantage,” he said.

A European diplomat commented: “China’s presence and engagement in Africa attracts a lot of attention.

“But China is not the only one massively gearing up its interests in Africa. Look at Japan, India and the Gulf States. There is a multitude of players.”

The so-called BRIC states — Brazil, India, China and Russia — have all gained a foothold on the continent.

Bolstered by its African roots and after first concentrating on fellow Portuguese-speaking countries, Brazil has been extending its influence, although its internal political problems have hampered the process.

Brazil-African trade was worth $12.433 billion ($7.830 billion of that made up of Brazilian exports) in 2016 — but that was well down on the 2013 figure of $28.5 billion.

“With Lula (former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in power 2003-2010), Brazilian-African relations went through a very intensive phase,” explained Pio Penna Filho, a professor of international relations at the University of Brasilia.

After Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) succeeded Lula, Brazil “did not put an end to its African policy but there was a lessening of this intensity,” owing to a political crisis sweeping the Latin American giant, he said.

Africa’s allure for investors is multifaceted. One attraction is the notion that, in many countries, a middle class is rising, providing a potent market for housing, transport, clothing, education and consumer products.

Coupled with that is demography — the continent’s population is expected to roughly double to 2.5 billion by 2050, according to a UN estimate.

But, as Dagbo notes, there is also an age-old view of Africa as a “raw materials zone”, a treasure trove of natural resources that are extracted but not transformed.

As a result, the continent misses out on the added-value part of the processing chain — the extra margin that boosts prosperity and employment.

“An example: Ivory Coast produces two million tons of cocoa yet processes just 20 percent. This is the kind of thing that has to change,” said Dagbo.

by Patrick FORT

Hong Kong, Singapore key centres of trafficking ring sending thousands of Filipino helpers to Russia

November 16, 2017

Senior Philippine official says domestic helpers lured to take up bogus jobs in Russia, Brazil and Turkey

By Billy SK Wong
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 11:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2017, 9:21am

Hong Kong has been a top breeding ground for job recruitment frauds as thousands of Filipino domestic helpers in the city have been trafficked to countries like Russia, Brazil and Turkey for bogus jobs, a senior Philippine official told the Post on Wednesday.

Over 4,000 undocumented Filipinos were currently working in Russia, most of them former Hong Kong domestic helpers transiting through the city, the senior official said, citing statistics from the Philippine embassy in Moscow. He was speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official added that some cases of trafficking from the city to Russia dated back seven years and that Filipinos from other places like Singapore and Taipei were also involved.

Jalilo Dela Torre, labour attaché at the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong, confirmed the situation and said some Hong Kong-registered recruitment agents had promised domestic helpers high-paying jobs in Moscow and lured them into breaking their contracts with employers in the city before arranging flights to Moscow.

“The intermediaries would pocket agency fees of HK28,000 to HK$43,000. Almost all victims would borrow the amount from financial institutions or even loan sharks,” Dela Torre said.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong chairwoman Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said most Hong Kong helpers would get loans to pay agency and training fees totalling up to HK$15,000 when they first came to the city. Victims of human-trafficking were therefore already in debt while the lucrative jobs they were promised never came to fruition, she said.

 Filipino workers sitting on the streets on a Sunday around Hong Kong. Photo: Dickson Lee

The plight of trafficked domestic helpers came to light as Manila imposed a three-week ban on the export of labour by suspending the issue of overseas employment certificates, which are needed by those wishing to work overseas.

The Philippine labour and employment department announced the ban last Friday, citing “persistent reports of illegal recruitment” and “pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on Filipinos.”

Dela Torre said: “When the victims first came to Hong Kong, they probably didn’t have the intention to go to Russia. They were usually approached on Facebook or social media to take up bogus jobs in Russia.”

He said he had recently received complaints from four former domestic helpers from Hong Kong who claimed to have been tricked into working in Russia.

They were usually approached on Facebook or social media to take up bogus jobs in Russia
JALILO DELA TORRE, LABOUR ATTACHÉ AT THE PHILIPPINE CONSULATE IN HONG KONG

Dang, which is not her real name and who is currently in Moscow, was one of the complainants. She told the Post on Wednesday a local employment agent deceived her into going to Russia in 2011 for a domestic helper job that was supposed to pay several times more than she was getting in Hong Kong. But it turned out she only got a job that paid about the same as in the city and therefore fell into debt.

“Even if I want to go back home to the Philippines or to Hong Kong, it’s impossible because we need first to pay all the debts [incurred] in applying to go to Russia,” Dang said.

“That’s why maybe it’s much better for me to stay and work illegally for a few more years until my children finish their studies [in the Philippines] and pay all our debts and save a little money that I can use when I go back home,” she said.

 Dang, as she preferred to be called, said she was deceived into going to Russia for a job that never existed. Photo: Handout

Matt Friedman, the chief executive officer of the Mekong Club, a human-trafficking watchdog, said recruitment agents would fabricate job offers tailored to a victim’s preference.

“They would prey on vulnerable domestic helpers who might want more money or better jobs, for example as a social worker or teacher, ” Friedman said.

“They were made to believe they could easily repay the debts from agency fees … and would eventually be held in a foreign country to repay them.”

“It’s the first time I’ve heard the Philippine consulate confirming the situation … which has been discussed in the NGO community for years,” he said.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong staged a rally outside the Philippine consulate in Admiralty on Wednesday, demanding compensation for outbound workers affected by the labour export ban in their home country.

Balladares-Pelaez said an estimated 75,000 outgoing workers seeking employment worldwide would be stuck in limbo with no income. She accused the Philippine government of seeking to curtail illegal recruitment at the expense of outgoing workers.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said: “Upon receipt of complaints, the Labour Department will [initiate] investigations promptly on suspected overcharging by employment agencies. It will also refer the case to police for investigation on the fraud aspect.”

 http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/community/article/2120103/thousands-hong-kongs-filipino-workers-fall-victim-overseas

Surveillance Cameras Made by China Are Hanging All Over the U.S.

November 13, 2017

Company 42%-owned by the Chinese government sold devices that monitor U.S. Army base, Memphis streets, sparking concerns about cybersecurity

The Memphis police use the surveillance cameras to scan the streets for crime. The U.S. Army uses them to monitor a base in Missouri. Consumer models hang in homes and businesses across the country. At one point, the cameras kept watch on the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

All the devices were manufactured by a single company, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology. It is 42%-owned by the Chinese government.

Hikvision (pronounced “hike-vision”) was nurtured by Beijing to help keep watch on its 1.4 billion citizens, part of a vast expansion of its domestic-surveillance apparatus. In the process, the little-known company has become the world’s largest maker of surveillance cameras. It has sold equipment used to track French airports, an Irish port and sites in Brazil and Iran.

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Hikvision’s rapid rise, its ties to the Chinese government and a cybersecurity lapse flagged by the Department of Homeland Security have fanned concerns among officials in the U.S. and Italy about the security of Hikvision’s devices.

“The fact that it’s at a U.S. military installation and was in a very sensitive U.S. embassy is stunning,” says Carolyn Bartholomew, chairwoman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was created by Congress to monitor the national-security implications of trade with China. “We shouldn’t presume that there are benign intentions in the use of information-gathering technology that is funded directly or indirectly by the Chinese government.”

Some security vendors in the U.S. refuse to carry Hikvision cameras or place restrictions on their purchase, concerned they could be used by Beijing to spy on Americans. The General Services Administration, which oversees $66 billion of procurement for the U.S. government, has removed Hikvision from a list of automatically approved suppliers. In May, the Department of Homeland Security issued a cybersecurity warning saying some of Hikvision’s cameras contained a loophole making them easily exploitable by hackers. The department assigned its worst security rating to that vulnerability.

Hikvision’s heat-mapping technology can be used for crowd counting and data collection.Photo: Hikvision

The artificial-intelligence camera uses facial and behavior-recognition technology.Photo: Hikvision

The concerns about Hikvision are reminiscent of the controversy surrounding Chinese technology giant Huawei Technologies Corp., whose telecom gear was effectively banned in the U.S. after a 2012 congressional report raised fears that its networking equipment could be used to spy on Americans. The company, founded by a former Chinese army engineer, has repeatedly dismissed such concerns.

Hikvision says its equipment is safe and secure, that it follows the law wherever it does business and that it worked with Homeland Security to patch the flaws the agency cited. It says it “cannot in any way access and control the content of the video cameras.” It says the vast majority of its products are sold through third-party vendors, meaning it often doesn’t even know where they wind up. It declined to comment on Ms. Bartholomew’s remarks.

“Hikvision is a business,” said Chief Executive Officer Hu Yangzhong, one of several Hikvision executives interviewed for this article. “It would be impossible for us to add a backdoor to our cameras, as that would damage our business.”

Once the stuff of science fiction, facial-scanning cameras are becoming a part of daily life in China, where they’re used for marketing, surveillance and social control. Video: Paolo Bosonin. Photo: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Vulnerabilities in surveillance cameras have become more of a concern as internet-connected devices become more prevalent. Cameras can be a weak link in an organization’s information-technology network, potentially opening “backdoors”—ways to gain access by bypassing security mechanisms—for hackers, including state-backed ones.

Last year, hackers took control of hundreds of thousands of cameras, including many made by a Chinese rival of Hikvision, to launch a huge “denial of service” attack that security experts said made sites run by Amazon.com Inc., PayPal Inc. and Twitter Inc. unavailable for hours.

Hikvision grew out of a government laboratory started a half-century ago to develop military and industrial technologies. Its largest shareholder is China Electronics Technology Group Corp., or CETC, a state-owned defense and military electronics manufacturer. Its biggest individual shareholder is Gong Hongjia, a Hong Kong billionaire and university classmate of top Hikvision executives. Some executives are Communist Party members also employed by subsidiaries of CETC, according to securities filings in China.

Mr. Gong said in an interview that he provided capital to help found Hikvision in 2001, in an arrangement that gave the government-backed lab a 51% stake. Although the size of that stake has since declined, the government only began to more actively aid the company in the past few years. “The government can’t help you sell in overseas markets,” Mr. Gong said. “That was all thanks to the years the company spent investing in expanding our presence.”

CETC didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Contracts from Chinese government agencies propelled the company’s rise. It helped with security at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2011, the company said the value of contracts for its “safe city” camera project in Chongqing, a large city in China’s southwest, reached $1.2 billion. Its cameras are now ubiquitous on the city’s streets.

Hikvision helped with security at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Contracts from Chinese government agencies propelled the company’s rise.Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

China’s President Xi Jinping, who has made high-tech security a priority, visited the firm’s headquarters in 2015. Since that year, Hikvision has received major loans from two of China’s three policy banks, which finance state development goals.

Zheng Yibo, a Hikvision vice president, says CETC has no role in Hikvision’s day-to-day operations. He declines to say how much revenue comes from the Chinese government, but says its “government-sales portion isn’t high.”

Hikvision’s head of research, Pu Shiliang, holds a leadership position at a Hangzhou laboratory run by the Ministry of Public Security, China’s police force. The lab explores ways authorities can leverage data gathered by the company’s cameras and other sources to improve policing, according to the lab’s website.

Chinese authorities are encouraging new surveillance projects in China to feature artificial-intelligence capabilities, Mr. Pu told an audience in Beijing in September. Scores of high-tech companies have emerged to address the government’s call for more innovative surveillance techniques.

China has been rolling out new technologies to monitor its people in ways that would unsettle many in the U.S. and the West. Unfettered by privacy concerns or public debate, Beijing’s authoritarian leaders have introduced facial-recognition technology and other surveillance measures in a vast experiment in social engineering. Their goal is to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers.

At Hikvision’s Hangzhou showroom, walls are lined with monitors and video cameras that employ artificial intelligence to recognize objects and sounds from afar and to produce visible images despite pollution or darkness. Hikvision’s “Darkfighter” thermal camera enables it to record under ultralow light conditions, the company says. Its “Blazer Pro” server, it says, allows license-plate recognition. It says its dome-shaped “bullet” cameras are explosion-proof, and it offers camera-equipped drones and cameras programmed to alert authorities to large gatherings.

The Darkfighter camera can turn dark into light. This split screen shows the illuminating effect.Photo: Hikvision

‘Defog’ cameras use algorithms to sift through atmospheric interference such as fog or pollution.Photo: HIKVISION

The company’s consumer camera line, called “EZVIZ,” can sync with a smartphone app. One softball-sized device can detect noises—a dog barking loudly or the sound of a door opening—and automatically direct its lens at the source of the disturbance, sending an alert to the phone.

Global sales of surveillance equipment has increased 55% in the five years through 2016, according to consulting firm IHS-Markit. By pricing cameras below those made by Western competitors, Hikvision has become the top seller of surveillance equipment in Europe and No. 2 in the U.S., according to IHS-Markit and other industry analysts. Its cameras frequently are sold without the Hikvision name and are rebranded by U.S. distributors—a frequent practice in the industry.

This year, Hikvision opened research-and-development offices in Silicon Valley and Montreal. It plans to employ 350 people in North America by year’s end and 800 by 2022, the company says.

Its shares have risen sharply since its initial public offering on Shenzhen’s stock exchange in 2010, and they have more than doubled this year, giving the company a valuation of $56 billion, close to that of Sony Corp.

Fort Leonard Wood, an Army base in Missouri’s Ozarks, uses Hikvision cameras in its security system, according to the Chinese company and NexGen Integration, a U.S. company that handled the installations. The base offers basic combat training and includes a school for chemical, biological and nuclear-defense drills.

Fort Leonard Wood, a U.S. Army base in Missouri’s Ozarks, uses Hikvision cameras in its security system.Photo: Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

To win the contract with the Army, Hikvision says, it had to show its cameras could stream at 30 frames per second, providing sufficiently fast motion detection. It custom-built some of the technology to accommodate the base’s limited internet bandwidth.

Chris Nickelson, NexGen’s owner, says none of his customers have raised any issues about Hikvision gear. The army base referred questions to the U.S. Army’s installation management command public affairs office, which said it doesn’t discuss equipment or capabilities, but added that “any equipment or software that goes on a military network is thoroughly tested for security vulnerabilities.”

At the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Hikvision cameras were installed “to monitor nonsensitive electrical closets for theft prevention,” says a State Department spokesperson, referring to closets housing electronics equipment.

Last year, the security-industry trade publication IPVM published a procurement order for several dozen Hikvision cameras, revealing their presence in the Kabul embassy. The government canceled the order in September 2016 and removed the Hikvision cameras already in the embassy.

A State Department official says that was because security officials at the department, who are supposed to be notified of new security-related installations, weren’t given a heads up about the purchase. The department wouldn’t comment on whether security concerns were a factor in the removal of the existing cameras.

In a written statement, Hikvision said it had no knowledge of the Kabul project’s particulars “on the end-user level,” and that “accepting or removing particular products is always at the discretion of the end-user.”

Surveillance equipment and other gear is on display at Hikvision’s office in Hangzhou.Photo: Xinhua/ZUMA PRESS

Shortly thereafter, the General Services Administration removed Hikvision from a list of automatically approved suppliers, companies that make their products in countries that have certain trade agreements with the U.S. The agency says it nixed the firm after it was alerted the products were manufactured and assembled in China, which isn’t on the list. U.S. government agencies that want to buy Hikvision gear can’t go through the GSA system, but have to take extra steps such as showing the items are fairly priced.

Hikvision says its gear was listed on the GSA by two resellers, which it says it hadn’t authorized. Hikvision says it asked the resellers to remove the products from the GSA list.

In January, Italy’s government awarded a $49 million contract to a supplier in a deal that included the installation of Hikvision cameras at some state buildings. The deal was publicly questioned in June by Italian legislator Arianna Spessotto, who said the cameras “could pose a risk to national public security” and asked how the government planned to verify the cameras’ safety.

A spokesman for Italy’s government procurement agency said the supplier “guaranteed a level of security appropriate to the risk,” but that “no one can be absolutely sure that a participating firm has not surreptitiously inserted backdoor devices and security vulnerabilities for malicious purposes.”

Hikvision says the Italian legislator’s concerns about security risk are “totally unfounded and absurd.”

Hikvision cameras are ubiquitous on the streets of Chongqing, a large city in China’s southwest.Photo: Prisma Bildagentur/UIG/Getty Images

Nathan Brubaker, an analyst at U.S. cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc., says the software vulnerabilities identified by the Department of Homeland Security could make those Hikvision cameras prone to a hacking attack similar to the “Mirai” denial-of-service attack on the internet last year.

“Camera security is often poor’’ across the industry, says Marco Herbst, chief executive of Dublin-based Evercam, which develops camera software. “You’re dealing with a device that in many cases is sloppily installed with default passwords that are publicly available on the internet.”

Security experts say backdoors that allow outsiders to bypass security protections are often difficult to identify. Such vulnerabilities can be accidental—the result of flaws in the software’s original design or in updates.

The Hikvision flaws identified by the Department of Homeland Security affected more than 200 camera models and potentially tens of millions of shipped devices, estimates John Honovich, editor of IPVM. They made it possible for outsiders to hack into internet-connected Hikvision cameras in just a few steps, according to Mr. Honovich and FireEye, the cybersecurity firm. Hikvision acknowledged the flaws affected some cameras, but dismisses Mr. Honovich’s assertions as “unfounded insinuations and hearsay.”

Hikvision says it cooperated with the DHS to fix the problem and directed customers to a software fix. “This issue did not cause a noticeable impact on Hikvision’s overseas business,” a company spokeswoman says.

Genetec, a Canadian security company with a U.S. presence, requires customers who want to buy Hikvision cameras to sign a waiver disclaiming Genetec of liability in the event of a security breach. Pierre Racz, the Montreal-based company’s chief executive officer, says concern over cameras made by “companies owned or controlled by the Chinese government” and “Beijing’s reputation for aggressive cyberespionage” led him to require the waiver.

Hikvision says “linking Hikvision with espionage is simply outrageous and completely unfounded.”

Surveillance cameras hung near Tiananmen Gate in Beijing in 2013.Photo: Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Hikvision has been selling cameras to the Memphis police department since 2007. Lieutenant Joseph Patty II, who manages the system, says cameras became more essential after the police department lost 500 officers—about one-quarter of the force—because of budget cuts three years ago. Officers can observe streets from a central command center. Some devices use advanced lighting technology to produce clear images even in the middle of the night.

“We probably make up to 100 arrests every year” because of the cameras, including for car theft, robbery and murder, says Lt. Patty. The cameras have been used to monitor Black Lives Matter protests and recent demonstrations surrounding Memphis’ Confederate monuments, he says.

He says the city started using the cameras long before concerns about hacking came into play. The department uses a decentralized network where cameras aren’t connected to the police mainframe computer, he says.

“At the end of the day, they are the No. 1 camera manufacturer in the world,” says Lt. Patty. “They make a lot of cameras and many people use them, even if they don’t say Hikvision on the product.”

—Liza Lin and Wenxin Fan contributed to this article.

Write to Dan Strumpf at daniel.strumpf@wsj.com

Britain’s Royal Navy “Hollowed Out” in Cost Cuts — Navy will will lose its ability to carry out major amphibious operations

October 26, 2017

Naval officials in Chile and Brazil are reported to be lining up to buy two Royal Navy amphibious landing platform ships

By Ben farmer
The Telegraph

Britain will lose its ability to carry out major amphibious operations under cost-cutting plans being considered to sell off warships, MPs and military leaders have warned.

Naval officials in Chile and Brazil are reported to be lining up to buy two Royal Navy amphibious landing platform ships and Type-23 frigates after UK officials told them they may be put up for sale from next year.

The two nations have been told warships including HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark could be available second hand as a result of cost-cutting plans being considered by the Forces, defence journal Jane’s reported.

Image result for HMS Albion, photos

HMS Albion

The Ministry of Defence strongly denied it would cut the Navy’s overstretched fleet of frigates, and said there had been “no engagement” with Chile or Brazil.

But Naval sources confirmed retiring the two amphibious vessels is  a key plank of cost-cutting proposals drawn up by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir…

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/25/britain-unable-conduct-major-amphibious-operations-proposed/

(Paywall)

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HMS BULWARK

Britain is considering selling frontline warships and has axed two mine-hunting vessels because of a funding crisis, according to recent reports.

The Times and Jane’s Navy International are reporting officials have discreetly advised the Brazilian and Chilean navies that up to five frigates and the Royal Navy’s two amphibious assault ships could be up for sale.

Pressed over what is being considered, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said during a Defence Committee meeting that the option of losing both ships has yet to come to ministers for a decision.

“We have not had any proposals to get rid of either Albion or Bulwark – they have not reached my desk in any shape or form – so this is for the moment, simply speculation,” Sir Michael said.

http://www.forces.net/news/defence-daily-royal-navy-cuts-latest-offensive-supersonic-bloodhound-car-goes-public

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Britain will soon have a ‘third world’ military, former First Sea Lord warns

Former head of navy says there are not enough ships, staff, submarines or missiles

By Rachael Revesz

The Independent
Sunday 17 September 2017 21:53 BST

trident-submarine.jpg

Britain will end up with a “third world military” unless ministers spend more, a former head of the Royal Navy has warned.

Admiral Sir George Zambellas, who retired as First Sea Lord last year, told The Sunday Times that the Navy was “hollowed out” in terms of resources, and he questioned how much more the “post-Brexit Navy” could be stretched in global waters.

Mr Zambellas, who won a Distinguished Service Cross in 2001 for his command of a warship during Britain’s intervention in Sierra Leone, said that after the UK’s 2015 defence review the country had a “choice” to make regarding the future of the Navy.

“You either put more money in or you stop doing serious things and disappear into a Third World nation, security-wise, even though we are spending billions on defence.”

He added that after 37 years of cuts the Navy is “at the bottom of the efficiency barrel and we all know that, because the Navy is so hollowed out.”

Mr Zambellas said the Navy did not have enough missiles, combat surface ships or “integrated support”. He recommended 12 hunter-killer submarines to protect the four submarines carrying the UK’s nuclear deterrent, but only three of the promised seven have been built.

He also questioned the delayed response from the UK after Hurricane Irma ripped through the Caribbean islands, leaving hundreds of UK citizens stranded.

A first ship was stationed nearby and could help but a second ship, HMS Ocean, is not expected to arrive until the end of next week.

During the early 1980s, the UK had 26 submarines – now 10, and 55 frigates and destroyers – now 19, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The UK only has one aircraft carrier, which will be operational in 2020 as it undergoes sea trials.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “Our budget is growing and, for the first time since the Second World War, so is our Royal Navy.

“Our Navy can already carry out all its operational requirements, but with two types of brand new frigates and two huge aircraft carriers in the pipeline, the UK is fulfilling its global maritime role.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-third-world-military-admiral-zambellas-navy-theresa-may-defence-a7952191.html

Brazil’s President Temer to face congressional vote on whether he should stand trial — “He knows how to use the machine and to find the necessary support.”

October 23, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Louis GENOT | The first president in the country to face criminal charges while in office, Michel Temer is accused of obstruction of justice and racketeering

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – He may be Brazil’s most unpopular president in decades and charged with serious crimes, but Michel Temer, the ultimate teflon leader, is expected to breeze through a congressional vote on whether he should stand trial.In Portuguese, Temer means “to be afraid,” but the canny 77-year-old veteran of Brasilia’s notoriously corrupt political scene appears to be full of confidence ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

The first president in the country to face criminal charges while in office, Temer is accused of obstruction of justice and racketeering. He denies any wrongdoing and has argued that the country needs him at the helm to bring in market-friendly reforms after two years of deep recession.

A two-thirds majority is required in the lower house of Congress to have his case sent to the Supreme Court. Just as occurred in August when Congress threw out another charge, his allies are expected to reject the idea.

Constitutional law professor Daniel Vargas is not surprised.

“Temer is a professional in politics. He knows how to use the machine and to find the necessary support,” Vargas said.

Ironically, what makes it easier for Temer is that many of those judging him in the lower house — 185 of the 513 deputies — are themselves targets of anti-corruption probes.

The mentality among those scandal-plagued politicians is clear, Vargas said.

“Temer represents the survival of the old guard,” the analyst added.

“If he falls, who’ll be next?”

Critics say the president is also boosting his chances of survival through blatant vote buying, opening up the budgetary purse to give congress members the projects back in their home states that will help their own causes.

“Despite the damage already suffered by this government, deputies looking for favors can benefit from it,” said Antonio Queiroz, an analyst with DIAP, a congressional watchdog representing trades unions.

– Risky business –

There’s risk for deputies who decide to shore up Temer.

He has record low ratings, with only three percent considering his government “good” or “very good,” according to the latest opinion poll in September.

General elections are scheduled for October 2018 and the mood, analysts say, is already deeply anti-establishment.

However, for Temer, the situation is different, since he is not going to run in the election.

After taking over the presidency in controversial circumstances following impeachment of his leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff last year, he has never had any illusions about his popularity.

The center-right leader from the PMDB party says that he’s there to take the difficult decisions needed to bring discipline and growth back to Latin America’s biggest, but floundering economy.

“Temer simply doesn’t care what the population thinks about him,” Vargas said.

At the same time, the opposition is fragmented and ordinary Brazilians seem too exhausted to bother repeating the huge demonstrations that were common against Rousseff.

“Without pressure from the streets (and) in the absence of a real opposition alternative, the Congress will not go against Temer,” Vargas said.

The reforms have also endeared Temer to the markets and politically powerful lobbies, like the agricultural industry bloc which counts some 200 deputies in the lower chamber.

“Without the support of the markets, Temer would fall in a week,” Queiroz said. “He’s become their tool.”

by Louis GENOT

Accused of corruption, Temer is still Brazil’s president with approval ratings near zero…

October 19, 2017

Michel Temer may escape impeachment, but the ongoing political crisis undermines democracy and opens the door to authoritarian hardliners

Brazilian President Michel Temer attends a celebration of small enterprise at Planalto Palace in Brasilia on 4 October, 2017. He faces charges of corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice.
 President Michel Temer attends a celebration of small business at Planalto Palace in Brasília earlier this month. He faces charges of corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

If Brazil’s recent decline could be plotted in the falling popularity of its presidents, Michel Temer represents the bottom of the curve.

In 2010, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ended his second term with an 80% approval rating. In March 2016 – four months before she was impeached – his protege and successor Dilma Rousseff’s administration had a 10% rating.

Last month, the government of Temer, Rousseff’s former vice-president, plunged to 3% in one poll. Among under 24-year-olds, Temer’s approval hit zero.

Temer has been charged with corruption, racketeering and obstruction of justice. Yet there have been none of the huge, anti-corruption street protests that helped drive Rousseff’s impeachment on charges of breaking budget rules.

And unlike Rousseff, Temer has retained the support of financial markets who like the austerity measures he has introduced, such as privatising government services, a 20-year cap on expenditure and a planned pensions overhaul.

There are signs of economic recovery. But spending has been so pared to the bone that some basic functions of the state are now at risk.

Critics say Temer’s austerity drive hurts the poor more than the rich. According to a survey by Oxfam Brasil, richer Brazilians pay proportionally less tax than the poor and middle classes and the richest 5% earn the same as the rest of the population put together. Yet the highest rate of income tax is just 27.5% .

Markets don’t care much about inequality, but the damaging graft allegations against the president and his allies also threaten to inflict further damage on the country’s institutions.

Temer seems likely to survive this latest crisis – he is expected to win a second vote in the lower house of congress this week on whether to suspend him for a trial – but trust in Brazil’s political leaders has been drastically undermined.

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That lack of trust is feeding support for an authoritarian solution to the crisis – which could have serious consequences in next year’s presidential elections.

The lower house of congress first voted not to suspend the president for a trial after Temer was charged with corruption, shortly after his government agreed to spend $1.33bn on projects in the states of lawmakers who were due to vote, according to independent watchdog Open Accounts.

Many of those lawmakers are allied with powerful agribusiness and evangelical Christian lobbies, and face their own graft investigations. Environmentalists say Temer’s administration is reducing Amazon protection in return for their support.

“Our country has been kidnapped by a band of unscrupulous politicians,” former supreme court justice Joaquim Barbosa said afterwards.

Temer has since been charged with obstruction of justice; along with six leading figures from his party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, he was charged with racketeering.

Janot has also filed charges against Lula, Rousseff and leading members of their Workers’ party – former allies of Temer’s PMDB – and said both parties were part of a criminal organisation that for 15 years had accepted bribes for decisions relating to ports, airports, droughts, oil rigs, tax breaks and hydroelectric plants in the Amazon.

Former prosecutor general Rodrigo Janot – who unveiled the charges against the three former presidents – said Temer’s party abandoned Rousseff’s governing coalition because it had failed to stop the graft investigation, which in turn led to the lower house of congress approving impeachment proceedings.

“All the members of his criminal organisation, independent of the nucleus they belonged to, had a common interest that united them,” Janot wrote. “The maximum, undue economic advantage for themselves and the others, independent of whether such business attended the public interest or not.”

All of the accused have denied the accusations. Temer has said he is the victim of a conspiracy.

As supreme court justice Luís Barroso told foreign journalists recently in Rio, formidable interests are protecting themselves.

“These people are powerful, they have allies, partners and accomplices everywhere, at the highest echelons, in the powers of the Republic, in the press and where one would least imagine,” he said.

But 78% of Brazilians support the graft investigation. And their disillusionment over the way it is playing out at the highest levels opens a dangerous gap for populists and extremists in next year’s presidential elections.

Lula is seeking a return to the presidency in 2018 – and currently leads polling, but he has been handed nearly a sentence of nearly 10 years in prison for corruption and money laundering, and may well be ruled ineligible to stand.

A likely rightwing candidate is João Doria, the flamboyant, multimillionaire mayor of São Paulo. Like Donald Trump, he is a former host of Brazil’s version of the TV show The Apprentice, only assumed power last January, and has no prior administrative experience.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/17/accused-of-graft-popularity-near-zero-so-why-is-brazils-president-still-in-office

Amazon’s Move in Brazil Rattles Some Online Retail Stocks

October 13, 2017

Bloomberg

By Julie Verhage

  • Companies exposed to tech giant’s threat taking a hit
  • Online trader MercadoLibre declines as much as 8 percent

The “Amazon effect” on retailers reaches across borders.

Shares of a several e-commerce companies listed in the U.S. and Brazil are falling on speculation Amazon.com Inc. may soon expand into the South American country. An earlier report by Bloomberg said the tech giant is recruiting for a number of positions in Brazil, leading some to believe it has its sights set on Latin America’s largest market.

The Amazon-led surge in online shopping has been blamed for everything from tepid inflation to a wave of retail bankruptcies in the U.S.

Online trading site Mercadolibre Inc. dropped as much as 9 percent Thursday. Brazil accounted for 54 percent of its total revenue in 2016. Magazine Luiza and online sporting goods retailer Netshoes Ltd. also fell.

Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.
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 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-12/amazon-competitor-stocks-in-brazil-fall-on-expansion-rumors