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Trump 1, free trade 0: G20 nations bows to US pressure




Berlin, March 19: The world’s biggest economies have dropped a long-standing public endorsement of free trade at their first meeting with the US President Donald Trump’s administration.

Finance Ministers and central bank Governors from the G-20 group of leading economies, including the US, China, Mexico, Germany and India, held two days of tough talking in the German town of Baden-Baden.

The formal statement issued after the meeting on Saturday contained only a bland reference to “working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies”, CNN reported.

Conspicuous by its absence was the phrase “we will resist all forms of protectionism” that was contained in the communique from the last meeting of the group in China in July 2016.

It also did not contain a pledge to finance efforts to combat climate change, Efe news said.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, downplayed the content of the statement.

“This is my first G20, so what was in the past communique is not necessarily relevant from my standpoint,” Mnuchin said.

In a press conference afterward, he described the meeting as extremely productive and stressed that Trump’s administration believed in free trade.

However, he added that it was good for the US as long as it was balanced.

He said the US, which since Trump took office has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and called for the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) to be renegotiated, was looking to enter into trade deals that are a “win-win” situation for the parties involved.

The Finance Minister of host Germany, Wolfgang Schauble, said for his part that the negotiations were very difficult but that a door had been left open for future talks.

He added that the final communique contained language that was not very concrete but which reflected the economies’ shared commitment to fair trade, as demanded by the US, and rejection of currency manipulation.

Trump has accused two G20 members, China and Japan, of currency manipulation, while one of his top trade advisers has leveled the same complaint against Germany.

Given the opposition from the US and Saudi Arabia, the G20’s communique also differed from its 2016 statement in that no reference was made to the members’ readiness to finance the battle against climate change.



Israel opens probe into Facebook after data scandal



Cambridge Analytica data scandal

JERUSALEM: Israeli authorities said Thursday (Mar 22) they had launched an investigation into Facebook’s activities following a scandal over the hijacking of personal data from millions of the social network’s users.

Israel’s privacy protection agency “informed Facebook” of the probe after revelations over data transfers from the tech giant to consultant Cambridge Analytica, the agency said.

It said it was also looking into “the possibility of other infringements of the privacy law regarding Israelis”, it said in a statement released by the justice ministry.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper has reported that Israeli hackers offered material to Cambridge Analytica.

But an Israeli justice ministry spokeswoman said the probe did not involve hackers, focusing rather on whether Israeli users’ rights were violated.

Under Israel’s privacy law, personal data may only be used with consent and for the purpose for which it was handed over, the privacy protection agency said.


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Middle East

Loud explosion heard outside busy hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu

Explosion hits busy road outside popular hotel in central Mogadishu.



Somalia Car Bombing

MOGADISHU: 16 people killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack at the entrance of  Wehliye hotel in Mogadishu. Most of the casualties are auto rickshaw drivers and passengers, according to witnesses.

The death toll is expected to rise.

The attacked was claimed by al-Shabab, Reuters news agency reported, citing the armed group’s military operation spokesman.

Al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government, is frequently carrying out attacks in and around the capital.

More to follow.

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Twitter’s chief information security officer quits




San Francisco, March 22: As tech companies reel under mounting pressure to prevent their platforms from data breach and fake news, Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer Michael Coates has decided to quit.

In a tweet on Thursday, Coates who joined Twitter in 2015 announced his departure from the micro-blogging website.

“Twitter has been an amazing ride, but as I mentioned internally a few weeks back, my time is coming to an end. I’m confident to leave the program with an amazing security team,” Coates tweeted.

According to The Verge, Coates’ interim replacement is Joseph Camilleri, a senior manager for information security and risk.

Coates’ departure comes soon after reports surfaced that Facebook’s Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos is planning to leave the company by August.

Facebook is facing the heat after Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting company, was accused of harvesting data of up to 50 million Facebook users without permission and using the data to help politicians, including US President Donald Trump and the Brexit campaign.

Meanwhile, Michael Zalewski, Director of Information Security Engineering at Google, has also announced his departure from that company after 11 years.


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