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OpenLedger / Hong Kong: 'I was tear gassed getting my lunch'
« on: November 16, 2019, 03:39:52 am »

"I've been tear gassed a few times, but never when I was outside my office - popping out to get my lunch," says one trader at HSBC.

He is describing the moment this week when Hong Kong's protests came to the central financial district , one of the world's biggest commercial hubs.

He says it was a watershed moment, that's made him and many of his peers question dreamgame their future in the city.

Speaking to the BBC under condition of anonymity, directors at some of the biggest international banks and law firms said they are seeing their business in Hong Kong shrink as the protests continue to escalate.

Financial services make up a fifth of Hong Kong's economy and people come from all over the world to live and work here. Its large expatriate community is attracted by the low taxes, well-paid jobs, stability and high standards of living.

This last week where violence has intensified has made many firms reconsider the safety of their staff in the city.

One hedge fund manager has even been given a panic button app in case of an emergency and plans are in place with his work to evacuate him and his family to another major city "if we were in danger they have a team of people who would get us out".

A banker at HSBC says only half of their staff came in to the office on Friday as people are encouraged to work remotely if they can't get in safely.

Staff are kept closely informed about the situation on the ground according to a BNP Paribas employee "We get regular emails early in the morning and through the day from the business continuity management team - telling us whether it's safe to go into offices - and whether we should go home early."

'Pro-protester or pro-police'
Anecdotally, the political pressure from the Chinese government on banks and law firms is also growing - and it's putting pressure on staff.

Some partners in law firms are being asked to pin their colours to the mast and state whether they support the protesters or the Chinese government before winning business from Chinese firms.

2

Sri Lankans are going to the polls to choose their new leader, seven months after a devastating terror attack killed more than 250 people.

A total of 35 candidates are vying for votes in the presidential election, the third since the end of the country's decades-long civil war in 2009.

The current dreamgame  president, however, is not on the ballot.

Maithripala Sirisena decided against running after coming under criticism following the Easter Sunday bombings.

The attack by Islamic State militants, which targeted churches and top-end hotels, left at least 253 people dead.

The government was forced to later admit it had suffered a "major intelligence lapse", with the defence secretary revealing an Indian intelligence warning from the beginning of the month about planned attacks was not properly shared by the authorities.

Who could be Sri Lanka's next president?
Despite the two-foot long ballot paper to accommodate all the candidates' names, this is an election with two clear frontrunners, one of whom has been accused of human rights abuses during his decade as defence secretary under his brother's presidential rule.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was in power when thousands of people - particularly Tamils - went missing in what have been described as enforced disappearances between 2005 and 2015.

But it is also his role in ending the civil war which boosted Mr Rajapaksa's fortunes after this year's Easter Sunday attacks.

Image copyrightAFP
His tough stance on security impressed many in the country's Sinhalese Buddhist majority following the attack, with supporters choosing to overlook the various allegations against him - including questions over citizenship.

The importance of security to voters has not gone unnoticed by his main rival, fellow frontrunner Sajith Premadasa, who launched his campaign with a promise that if he won, he would hire the army chief who defeated the Tamil Tigers, Sarath Fonseka, to oversee national security.

3
What would you do if your region was burning?

Pack up your possessions and head for safety? Stay and help put the fires out?

Or head into the bush with a packet of matches and start another fire?

Amazingly, in the Australian bushfire season, some people do the latter. So the obvious question is - why?

How many fires are started deliberately?
Two of the most recent studies say there are between 52,000 and 54,000 bushfires in Australia every year.

Dr Paul Read, co-director of Australia's National Centre for Research in Bushfire หวยยี่กี and Arson, puts the figure higher, at "62,000 and increasing".

Of those, 13% are started deliberately, and 37% are suspicious. That means 31,000 Australian bushfires are either arson, or suspected arson, every year.

That figure does not include recklessness or accidents. So a bushfire caused by a barbecue, or a spark from a chainsaw, would be classed as "accidental".

In short, up to 85 bushfires begin every day because someone leaves their house and decides to start one.

Who does that?
Half of bushfires are started by people under the age of 21, Dr Read tells the BBC. That group includes children "playing" with fire, who then lose control, and those with developmental disorders.

It also includes the "truly malicious" who are "developing towards full-blown psychopathy". But perhaps more interesting is the older group.

4
Did President Donald Trump withhold military aid from ally Ukraine for his own political reasons? That is the big question at the heart of the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry.

Ukraine is not in Nato and it has struggled with years of corruption. But its future direction is of geopolitical importance.

Why does Ukraine matter to US?
For much of its 28-year independent history it has been unclear หวยยี่กี whether Ukraine would end up aligned with Russia or the West.

In 2014, that uncertainty appeared to come to an end. After a bloody street revolution, Ukraine's new leaders asserted that the country's future lay with closer association with Europe and the West. Russia was now seen as the enemy and it responded by seizing Crimea and supporting an armed uprising in eastern Ukraine that has so far cost more than 13,000 lives.

Timeline: How Ukraine story unfolded
Under the US Obama administration, Ukrainians' right to decide their own future, and to resist Russian aggression, was defended as an important ideological principle.

That changed when President Trump took office, and Ukraine's government has not been able to rely on America's active support in the same way since.

How much military aid does the US give?
The US has a longstanding relationship with the Ukrainian military and has committed about $1.5bn (£1.2bn; €1.4bn) in aid since 2014.

Much of that has been spent training soldiers and in efforts to modernise the dated way the Ukrainian army is organised and operates.

5
An international inquiry into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 believes high-level Russian officials were directing separatists in eastern Ukraine linked to the attack.

Investigators allege a top aide of President Vladimir Putin was in contact with rebel leaders on a regular basis.

All 298 people on board were killed when a missile struck the plane over rebel-held territory on 17 July 2014.

Russia's foreign ministry has rejected the latest findings.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said international investigators had manipulated the inquiry to suit a predetermined conclusion.

Four charged with murder for downing flight MH17
MH17 plane crash in Ukraine: What we know
The 298 who perished
Investigators have charged four people, including a separatist defence chief. The suspects are due to go on trial, probably in absentia, in April 2020.

What do the investigators say?
The Netherlands-based inquiry team have not linked Russia directly หวยยี่กี to the attack on the plane but they say the phone-taps show contact with two of the four suspects already charged with murdering the passengers and crew.

While MH17 is not mentioned in the phone-taps, provided by Ukraine's SBU intelligence, investigators believe Moscow officials knew what was going on on the ground and had influence over "administrative, financial and military matters" in the separatists' self-styled Donetsk People's Republic (DPR).


Media captionHow does a Buk missile system work?
The inquiry has already said the Bukh Telar missile launch system came from Russia's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade based at Kursk.

They are now appealing for more witnesses to come forward.

Who are the high-level Russians?
The inquiry team names Vladislav Surkov, a former Kremlin strategist and deputy prime minister, and Sergey Aksyonov, the man placed in charge of Crimea when it was occupied and annexed by Russia months before.

They say Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu is also mentioned in several calls.

6
Cambodia's self-exiled opposition leader - who vowed to return home this weekend - has said he was barred from checking-in for a flight from Paris.

Sam Rainsy had planned to return to lead the people's "fight for a better life," describing Prime หวยยี่กี
 Minister Hun Sen as "a brutal dictator".

The country's authoritarian leader has ruled Cambodia since 1985.

Mr Rainsy's party has been dissolved as part of a crackdown on the opposition and he has been in Paris in exile.

"I am extremely shocked because the people need me in Cambodia," Mr Rainsy said at Charles de Gaulle airport after he was turned away at the Thai Airways counter.

He intended to fly to Bangkok and then reach Cambodia, but he claimed the check-in desk "said they have received from very high up the instruction not to allow me to board".

He vowed to get another flight and stick to his plan to make it to Cambodia by Saturday, the country's independence day.

Hun Sen said Mr Rainsy would be arrested should he try to enter the country. He also asked neighbouring countries to bar him from transiting, and advised airlines to not accept him as a passenger.

On Thursday, Malaysia briefly detained Mr Rainsy's deputy Mu Sochua, vice-president of his outlawed party, who hoped to join him in Cambodia.

7
Brazil's top court has voted to overturn a rule about the jailing of criminals - a change which could lead to ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva being freed from custody.

The ruling, announced on Thursday, stipulates that convicted หวยยี่กี
 criminals should go to prison only after they have exhausted their appeal options.

The change could lead to the release of thousands of prisoners, including Lula.

The left-winger led Brazil between 2003 and 2010, but was jailed last year.

He was favourite to win last year's presidential election but was imprisoned after being implicated in a major corruption investigation. The right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro - dubbed the "Trump of the tropics" - went on to win comfortably.

The corruption scandal, known as Operation Car Wash, initially centred on the state-run oil company Petrobras, but subsequently billions of dollars of bribes were uncovered - and dozens of high-profile business leaders and politicians were jailed.

Lula: Saint or sinner?
A quick guide to Brazil's scandals
Lula has consistently denied all the accusations against him and claims they are politically motivated.

Justices voted to reinterpret the country's penal code in a six-five vote issued on Thursday.

It overturns a three-year-old ruling which threatened suspects with immediate prison time before their appeals were exhausted. The measure was seen as helping prosecutors secure convictions and unravel the major corruption probe by encouraging suspects to negotiate plea deals.

Lula's lawyers have already called for his release in response to the judgement.

8
Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg is strongly considering entering หวยยี่กี the race for the US Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

The ex-New York City mayor is concerned the current field of candidates is not good enough to beat Donald Trump in the 2020 election, his spokesman says.

The 77-year-old is expected to file paperwork this week for the Democratic presidential primary in Alabama.

A total of 17 candidates are currently vying to take on President Trump.

Former Vice-President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are the frontrunners.

Some recent opinion polls have suggested that Ms Warren and Mr Sanders - who are regarded as to the left of Mr Biden - might lose against President Trump if either won the party nomination.

Who will take on Trump in 2020?
The key issues for 2020 Democrats
Mr Bloomberg's spokesman said: "We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated. But Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that."

A New York billionaire as president?
So far this is only a single toe entering the water, but it's a significant one. The presence of the former New York mayor and multi-billionaire would set alight the race for the Democratic Party nomination.

The politician closest to Mr Bloomberg's centrist outlook is Joe Biden - but his campaign appears to be fading.

Mr Bloomberg has, I understand, been doing a lot of polling in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

This isn't the first time that he's eyed a run at the presidency, only to eventually decide against.

But in the past he's ruled himself out because he thought Americans wouldn't vote for a billionaire New York businessman. That concern no longer applies.

Who is Michael Bloomberg?
Mr Bloomberg was a Wall Street banker who went on to found the financial publishing empire which bears his name. A philanthropist, he has donated millions of dollars to educational, medical and other causes.

Originally a Democrat, he became a Republican to mount a successful campaign for mayor of New York City in 2001.

He went on to serve three terms as mayor until 2012, rejoining the Democratic Party only last year.

Regarded as a moderate Democrat, he has highlighted climate change as a key issue.

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