Prince Harry: ‘Powerful Media’ Is Why He’s Stepping Away

Prince Harry has taken aim at the journalists who have dissected his life since the day he was born as he expressed regret for the way he has had to step down from royal duties.
In a personal speech at referenced his late mother, Princess Diana, who died in a car accident while being pursued by paparazzi, Harry said Sunday he had “no other option” but to step away as he and his wife, Meghan, seek a more peaceful life.
“When I lost my mum 23 years ago, you took me under your wing,” Harry said at a dinner in London for Sentebale, his Africa-based charity supporting youngsters with HIV. “You looked out for me for so long, but the media is a powerful force. And my hope is one day our collective support for each other can be more powerful, because this is so much bigger than just us.”
The comments were Harry’s first public remarks since Saturday night, when his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, announced the terms under which the prince and his wife will walk away from most royal duties, give up public funding and try to become financially independent. The couple are expected to spend most of their time in Canada while maintaining a home in England near Windsor Palace.
The queen’s statement said the agreement, reached after crisis talks, was a “constructive and supportive way forward.”
But Harry’s speech made it clear that the couple had not gotten their wish to be able to carry on with some royal duties while becoming independent.
“Our hope was to continue serving the queen, the Commonwealth and my military associations, but without public funding. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible,” he said.
“For those reasons, it brings me great sadness that it has come to this,” he added. “The decision that I have made for my wife and I to step back is not one I made lightly. It was so many months of talks after so many years of challenges. And I know I haven’t always got it right, but as far as this goes, there really was no other option.”
Harry, 35, has made no secret of his disdain for Britain’s tabloid media in the past, with both he and Meghan filing lawsuits against press outlets last fall. At the time, Harry gave an interview drawing parallels between the treatment of his wife and the media frenzy that contributed to the death of his mother.
Harry praised his grandmother, the queen, and the rest of his family for supporting him and his wife in recent months. He called the decision to change both jobs and continents “a leap of faith” and said he hopes the move will allow him and his family to achieve a “more peaceful life.”
Under terms of the deal announced Saturday, Harry and Meghan will stop using their “royal highness” titles this spring and will lose all access to public funds once they stop carrying out official functions.
Harry opened his speech by noting that many in the audience had watched him grow up and said he wanted them “to hear the truth from me, as much as I can share, not as a prince, or a duke, but as Harry.”
He framed the decision to leave as his own, made on behalf of Meghan and their young son, Archie. He spoke of both during his remarks, telling the audience that eight-month-old Archie had seen snow for the first time a few days ago and “thought it was bloody brilliant.”
He then turned to his relationship with the queen and other members of his family.
“I will always have the utmost respect for my grandmother – my commander in chief – and I’m incredibly grateful to her and the rest of my family for the support they have shown Meghan and I over the last few months,” he said.
Meghan and Archie and the couple’s dogs are already in Canada, and it was not clear how soon Harry would join them or where in Canada they would live. The couple spent the holiday season on Vancouver Island, and Meghan worked for seven years in Toronto filming the TV series “Suits.”
 

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Push for Landmark Paid Family Leave Law in US to Extend Nationwide

For the first time, most of the United States’ 2.1 million federal workers will be eligible to get twelve weeks of paid family leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The new benefit – under the annual National Defense Authorization Act – goes into effect on Oct. 1. Dozens of other countries around the world already offer paid family leave to civil workers. Now advocates are pressing for the law to extend to workers across the U.S. VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo has more.

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Extradition Hearing for Huawei Executive Begins in Canada

The first stage of an extradition hearing for a senior executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei begins Monday in a Vancouver courtroom, a case that has infuriated Beijing, set off a diplomatic furor and raised fears of a brewing tech war between China and the United States.  
Canada’s arrest of chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s legendary founder, in late 2018 at America’s request shocked Beijing.   
Huawei represents China’s ambitions to become a technological power, but has been the subject of U.S. security concerns for years. Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise.  
“This is one of the top priorities for the Chinese government. They’ve been very mad. They will be watching this very closely,” said Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia.  
Washington accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading HSBC Bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.   

In this file photo taken on Nov. 6, 2019, the logo of Chinese telecom giant Huawei is pictured during the Web Summit in Lisbon.Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, denies the allegations. Meng’s defense team has pointed to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump they say suggest the case against her is politically motivated.  
Meng was detained in December 2018 by Canadian authorities in Vancouver as she was changing flights — the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for trade talks.  
Prosecutors have stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider trade dispute, but Trump undercut that message weeks after her arrest when he said he would consider intervening in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with Beijing.   
China and the U.S. reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful resolution of the main U.S. allegation — that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its drive to supplant America’s technological supremacy — could require years of contentious talks. Trump had raised the possibility of using Huawei’s fate as a bargaining chip in the trade talks, but the deal announced Wednesday didn’t mention the company.   
Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for cellphone and internet companies. Washington has pressured other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft.  
“I think this is the beginning of a technological war along ideological fronts,” said Lynette Ong, an associate professor at the University of Toronto. “You are going to see the world divided into two parts. One side would use Chinese companies and the other side would not use Chinese companies because they are weary of the political implications of using Chinese platforms.”
James Lewis at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the U.S. wanted to send a message with Meng’s arrest and that there is good evidence that Huawei willfully violated sanctions.  
“The message that you are no longer invulnerable has been sent to Chinese executives,” Lewis said. “No one has held China accountable. They steal technology, they violate their WTO commitments and the old line is, ‘Oh, they are a developing economy, who cares.’ When you are the second-largest economy in the world you can’t do that anymore.”  
The initial stage of Meng’s extradition hearing will deal with the issue of whether Meng’s alleged crimes are crimes both in the United States and Canada. Her lawyers filed a a motion Friday arguing that Meng’s case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. Canada does not have similar sanctions on Iran.   
The second phase, scheduled for June, will consider defense allegations that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated her rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested.  
The extradition case could take years to resolve if there are appeals. Virtually all extradition request from Canada to the U.S. are approved by Canadian judges.   
In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The two men have been denied access to lawyers and family and are being held in prison cells where the lights are kept on 24-hours-a-day. “That’s mafia-style pressure,” Lewis said.   
China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed and meat. Last January, China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.   
“Canada is fulfilling the terms of its extradition treaty but is paying an enormous price,” said Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “This is the kind of world we’re living in now, where countries like Canada are at risk of getting squeezed in major power contests.”

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China Reports 139 New Coronavirus Cases Over the Weekend

Chinese health officials in Wuhan report 136 new cases of a newly confirmed coronavirus over the past three days – bringing the total number of cases of the potentially deadly virus to nearly 200.
This is a huge and troubling spike in the number of cases in just one weekend.
Most of the confirmed cases are mild, but at least three deaths are reported.
U.S. health officials began screening passengers arriving from Wuhan at three at three airports – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York.
The virus is believed to have started in Wuhan. It belongs to the same family of coronaviruses that includes the common cold as well as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). SARS killed nearly 800 people globally during an outbreak 17 years ago. It also started in China.
 

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Beirut Braces for More Violence, After Night of Riots

Dozens of anti-government protesters gathered in Lebanon’s rainy capital on Sunday, as security forces braced for more rioting after a night of violence left hundreds wounded.
Security forces, including Lebanese military, were heavily deployed across downtown Beirut after the worst violence since the unrest erupted three months ago. They spent the day reinforcing concrete barriers and stringing coils of razor wire across main thoroughfares, ahead of calls from protesters for more rallies.
Lebanon’s public prosecutor ordered Sunday the release of 34 people detained in clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters that wounded hundreds in the capital the previous night.
The public prosecutor said all those detained during the riots would be released except those with other pending cases, the official National State News agency reported.
At least 377 people were injured in Saturday’s clashes, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense. More than 120 of those were treated in hospitals, including a protester who sustained an eye injury, as well as security force members. Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said 142 of its members were injured, including 7 officers, some with serious concussions.
The clashes took place amid a rapidly worsening financial crisis and an ongoing impasse over the formation of a new government. The Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October.
Security forces and the military were girding themselves for more violence, following protester calls for more rallies on Sunday.
Government forces blocked access to some buildings in central Beirut with razor wire, closing off access to areas that included a popular tourist site. Workers also welded fencing together across roadways that lead to Parliament to make it harder for demonstrators to push through.
On the quiet, rainy streets Sunday, shopkeepers, banks and other businesses swept up broken glass and boarded up windows. Workers at one bank took down the large sign with its name to remove any identifier and avoid soliciting anger from protesters, who smashed the windows and the facade of Lebanon’s Banking Association headquarters with metal bars the previous night. The demonstrators widely blame Lebanese financial institutions, alongside government corruption, for the crippling economic crisis.
Nearby soot and ashes still littered the ground where security forces burned the tents of the protesters’ sit-in during the chaotic melee.
Riot police had fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets late into the night Saturday to disperse the thousands of demonstrators. The protesters, who came from the country’s north, east and the capital itself, clubbed security forces with tree branches and metal bars and fired flares and fireworks, while lobbing stones and other projectiles at them.
The clashes also took place on the steps of a mosque downtown. The top Muslim Sunni Fatwa office called it “inappropriate”‘ and said protesters had taken refuge inside the mosque and were taken care of.
The pitched street battles lasted for nearly nine hours, with both protesters and the government trading blame for the violence.
Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said that security forces were ordered to protect peaceful protests. “But for the protests to turn into a blatant attack on the security forces, public and private properties, this is condemned and totally unacceptable,” she tweeted Saturday.
However, Human Rights Watch described the security force response as “brutal“ and called for an urgent end to a “culture of impunity” for police abuse.
“There was no justification for the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon’s riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators in downtown Beirut,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW. “Riot police showed a blatant disregard for their human rights obligations, instead launching teargas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”
The protesters have been rallying against the country’s political elite who have ruled Lebanon since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. They blame politicians for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a country that has accumulated one of the largest debt ratios in the world.
Panic and anger have gripped the public as their local currency, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, plummeted. The Lebanese pound lost more than 60% of its value in recent weeks on the black market. The economy has seen no growth and foreign inflows dried up in the already heavily indebted country that relies on imports for most of its basic goods.
Meanwhile, banks have imposed informal capital controls, limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers.
Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab had been expected to announce an 18-member Cabinet on Friday, but last minute disputes among political factions scuttled his latest attempt.
 

 

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Police Fire Tear Gas to Disperse Thousands in Central Hong Kong

Police fired tear gas on Sunday to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who gathered in a central Hong Kong park, but later spilled onto the streets in violation of police orders.
Out in numbers before the demonstration began, police intervened promptly when the rally turned into an impromptu march. Several units of police in riot gear were seen chasing protesters and several arrests were made.
A water cannon truck drove on central streets, flanked by an armored jeep, but was not used.
Organizers initially applied for a permit for a march, but police only agreed to a static rally in the park, saying previous marches have turned violent.
Once protesters spilled onto the streets, some of them, wearing all-black clothing, barricaded the roads with umbrellas and street furniture, dug up bricks from the pavement and smashed traffic lights.
The “Universal Siege Against Communism” demonstration was the latest in a relentless series of protests against the government since June, when Hong Kongers took to the streets to voice their anger over a now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The protests, which have since broadened to include demands for universal suffrage and an independent investigation into police handling of the demonstrations, had lost some of their intensity in recent weeks.

A man walks past as police use tear gas on protesters calling for electoral reforms and a boycott of the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, Jan. 19, 2020.In an apparent new tactic, police have been showing up ahead of time in riot gear, with officers conducting “stop and search” operations near expected demonstrations.
“Everyone understands that there’s a risk of stop-and-search or mass arrests. I appreciate Hong Kong people still come out courageously, despite the risk,” said organizer Ventus Lau.
On Jan 1, a march of tens of thousands of people ended with police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.
The gathering in the park was initially relaxed, with many families with children listening to speeches by activists.
In one corner, a group of volunteers set up a stand where people could leave messages on red cards for the lunar new year to be sent to those who have been arrested. One read: “Hong Kongers won’t give up. The future belongs to the youth”.
Authorities in Hong Kong have arrested more than 7,000 people, many on charges of rioting that can carry jail terms of up to 10 years. It is unclear how many are still in custody.
Anger has grown over the months due to perceptions that Beijing was tightening its grip over the city, which was handed over to China by Britain in 1997 in a deal that ensured it enjoyed liberties unavailable in the mainland.
Beijing denies meddling and blames the West for fomenting unrest.

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