World AM News Briefs For Monday, 12 March 2018
Good Morning Australia!! - Putin ordered a passenger plane to be shot down - China's Xi effectively grabs power for life - Civilians don't trust any route out of East Ghouta - And more in your CareerSpot Global News Briefs:
Only two out of the 2,964 delegates at China's largely ceremonial parliament meeting dared to vote against the proposal to scrap presidential term limits, with three more abstaining. It clears the way for Xi Jinping to rule pretty much as long as he wants, instead of being forced to stand down in 2023. This consolidates Xi's power, as he was already head of the military and head of the ruling party - two jobs without term limits. Now the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, Xi praised the vote as the "common will of the party and the people".
Cubans went to the polls on Sunday in a one-party vote, the last step before a new president is selected next month. For the first time since 1959, it won't be a Castro as Raul has decided not to run. Standing in queue to vote in the central city of Santa Clara, the man expected to succeed Raul - First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel - signaled a new openness: "The people will participate in the decisions that the government takes."
Chile's old/new President Sebastian Pinera was sworn in on Sunday, succeeding the great Michelle Bachelet.
The civilian death toll in East Ghouta has soared past a thousand lives lost, with estimates now ranging from at least 1,099 to 1,111 civilians over the past 21 days. "Warplanes covered the sky in Eastern Ghouta yesterday," said local activist Abdelmalik Aboud to al Jazeera, "The shelling was focused on the underground shelters and mosques and the places that people have tried to hide in, due to the constant bombardment," he said of the Syrian government and Russian aerial onslaught. There are also reports of another chemical weapon attack in East Ghouta, targeting the town of Arbin. But advancing Syrian forces are for the most part refusing to allow civilians to leave, not that many see that as an option: "No one feels safe turning themselves over to the regime and hoping they will be treated as a regular citizen again," said local council member Iyad Abdelaziz.
Russia's Defense Ministry claims to have successfully tested a faster-than-sound missile, one of Vladimir Putin's "invulnerable" weapons announced conveniently before the country's presidential election. "A MiG-31 fighter crew of the Russian Aerospace Forces made a training launch of a hypersonic missile of the Kinzhal high-precision air missile system in the predetermined area," the defense ministry said, sharing a video of the launch on Twitter. "The launch was normal; the hypersonic missile hit the preset target on the test site." Last week, US defense officials downplayed the new additions to Russia's arsenal, but the Kinzhal - Russian for "Dagger" - has some defense analysts believing that Moscow has passed the US and China in developing hypersonic weapons.
Not quite sure why Putin would want this out there, but the Russian President says he ordered a passenger plane to be shot down over a suspected hijacking. In a doco called "Putin" (of course) released to Russia social media, the shirtless face-lifted wonder tells reporter Andrey Kondrashov: "I was told: a plane en route from Ukraine to Istanbul was seized, captors demand landing in Sochi," just before the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games. The pilots of the Turkish Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737-800 flying from Ukraine to Istanbul reported that one of the passengers had a bomb - and so Putin ordered the Olympics be protected at extreme cost. Luckily for the 110 passengers and crew, it turned out that the problem was merely a drunk passenger on board, and the plane continued to Turkey. I guess this reckless tough guy talk plays well in Russian elections? And is anyone else thinking of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17getting shot down in Ukraine the very same year?
Stores in Poland were shuttered on Sunday, after the idiotic far right and Roman Catholic church-aligned government ordered a ban on trading on Sunday. Some labor campaigners feel workers were being exploited under the liberal regulations of the post-Soviet era and want people to have a day of rest, but those who consider consumer freedom to be one of the big benefits of the free market era seriously resent the new limits
The Democratic Republic of Congo is increasing taxes on mining firms, and asking demanding to double its cut of royalties. The country is Africa's biggest producer of copper and cobalt, a vital component in mobile phone batteries and other tech products. Mining is the DRC's biggest source of income, with diamond, tantalum, tin, and gold as its most important products.