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Briefing :- 14/05/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 14th of May, 2017 :-

1. Macron to take office as French President today :-

Emmanuel Macron will be inaugurated as France’s youngest-ever president on Sunday, facing daunting challenges to rejuvenate the economy and breathe new life into the beleaguered EU.

Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, will take over from President Francois Hollande, the Socialist whose five years in power were plagued by stubborn unemployment and bloody terror attacks, in a ceremony at 0800 GMT.

After ascending the red carpet at the Elysee Palace in central Paris, Macron and Hollande will have a private meeting in the president’s office where Macron will be given the codes to launch France’s nuclear weapons.

Hollande is clearly delighted at the election of the former investment banker, who scored a clear victory over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on May 7. The current president launched Macron’s political career, plucking him from the world of investment banking to be an advisor and then his economy minister.

“I am not handing over power to a political opponent, it’s far simpler,” Hollande said on Thursday. Security will be tight with around 1,500 police officers deployed near the presidential palace and the nearby Champs Elysees avenue and surrounding roads will be blocked off.

At the end of the ceremony, a 21-gun salute will ring out from the Invalides military hospital on the other side of the River Seine. After a formal lunch, Macron will visit Paris’s town hall, a traditional stop for any new French president in his “host” city.

He will be accompanied by his wife Brigitte, his 64-year-old former drama teacher whose romance with the new president, and their 25-year age gap, has already generated media interest around the world.

On Monday, Macron is expected to reveal the closely-guarded name of his prime minister, before flying to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is virtually a rite of passage for French leaders to make their first European trip to meet the leader of the other half of the so-called “motor” of the EU.

Pro-EU Macron wants to push for closer cooperation to help the bloc overcome the imminent departure of Britain, another of its most powerful members. He intends to press for the creation of a parliament and budget for the eurozone.

Merkel welcomed Macron’s decisive 32-point victory over Le Pen, saying he carried “the hopes of millions of French people and also many in Germany and across Europe”.

In June, Macron faces what the French media are calling a “third round of the presidential election” when the country elects a new parliament in a two-round vote. The new president needs an outright majority to be able to enact his ambitious reform agenda.

The year-old political movement “Republique en Marche” (Republic on the Move, REM) that he formed to launch his presidential bid intends to field candidates in virtually every constituency in the country.

It unveiled 428 of its 577 candidates this week, saying it wants to bring fresh faces into the National Assembly lower house of parliament. Macron won one of the most unpredictable French elections in modern history marked by scandal, repeated surprises and a last-minute hacking attack on his campaign.

2. US President calls for tougher sanctions on North Korea after missile test :-

US President Donald Trump is calling for tougher sanctions on North Korea following its latest ballistic missile test.

“Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea,” the White House said in a brief statement.

The missile impacted “so close to Russian soil -– in fact, closer to Russia than to Japan -– the president cannot imagine that Russia is pleased.”

North Korea “has been a flagrant menace for far too long,” the statement read. “South Korea and Japan have been watching this situation closely with us.”

The statement emphasises that the United States “maintains our ironclad commitment to stand with our allies in the face of the serious threat posed by North Korea.”

According to US military sources, the North Korean missile flew for about 700 kilometers, and landed just 70 kilometers from the Russian port of Valdivostok. However, according to the Japanese Defense Authority, the missile reached an altitude of about 2,000 kilometers, which technically means that the missile can successfully reach the US territory of Guam in the Pacific.

3. Pakistan : 10 labourers gunned down near China ‘Belt and Road’ projects near Gwadar :-

Ten labourers were gunned down in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday while working on link roads to connect outlying towns to the country’s $57-billion Chinese “Belt and Road” initiative, security officials confirmed.

The attack on the Pakistani labourers took place some 20 kilometres from the emerging port city of Gwadar in Baluchistan province that forms the southern hub of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

“All the labourers were shot at close range,” said senior levies official Muhammad Zareef, adding that the shooters were travelling on a motorcycle. The levies are a paramilitary force that oversees security in Baluchistan where police jurisdiction is limited to major urban centres.

Gwadar’s deep-water port is the exit point for a planned route from China’s far-western Xinjiang region to the Arabian Sea.

Nadeem Javaid, who advises Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and works closely on the CPEC programme, told Reuters earlier in the week that the Gwadar-Xinjiang corridor should be operational from June next year.

He said Pakistan expects up to 4 per cent of global trade to pass through it by 2020.

Baluchistan, however, has long faced security concerns. Separatist militants in the province have waged a campaign against the central government for decades, demanding a greater share of the gas-rich region’s resources.

Security officials have said previously that militants trying to disrupt construction on the “economic corridor” have killed 44 workers since 2014, all of whom were Pakistani.

Pakistan’s military created an army division in 2015, believed to number more than 10,000 troops, specifically to protect CPEC projects and Chinese workers.

The men killed and wounded on Saturday had been working for the provincial government at two separate construction sites on three kilometres apart along the same road. Two labourers wounded in the shootings were taken to hospital where one of them died from his injuries, Zareef said.

The roads the labourers were working on are not specific CPEC-funded projects, but they are part of a network of connecting roads that are part of the corridor.

No group has admitted responsibility for the shootings but past attacks in the region have been carried out by separatists who view construction projects as a means to take over their land.

The shootings come a day after a suicide bomber targetting a Pakistani senator killed 26 people and injured 40, Baluchistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti said.

Friday’s attack was claimed by Islamic State via its Amaq news agency.

4. Trump could pick new FBI Director by ‘next week’ :-

President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will move quickly to nominate a new FBI director, after he sparked a political firestorm by firing the man investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign.

Trump told reporters he might even be able to make his decision on who should succeed James Comey to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation before he departs on his first foreign trip late next week.

“Even that is possible,” Trump said, speaking on Air Force One before departing for Lynchburg, Virginia, where he delivered a commencement address.

“I think the process is going to go quickly,” he said, adding that the candidates under consideration were mostly well known. “They’ve been vetted over their lifetime essentially. But very well known, highly respected, really talented people. And that’s what we want for the FBI.”

Critics have assailed Trump for abruptly dismissing Comey, who was leading the agency’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and possible ties between Moscow and the Trump presidential campaign.. Russia denies the claims and the White House says there was no collusion.

Democrats cast the decision to fire Comey as an effort to obstruct the FBI’s probe, a charge the White House has denied.

While Democrats have called for an independent special counsel to investigate the Russia matter, most Republicans have said that is not necessary given the FBI probe and investigations in both the House and Senate.

White House officials initially said Trump acted on a Justice Department recommendation, but the president later said he would have fired Comey anyway, calling the former FBI chief a “showboat.”

On Friday, Trump waded back into the FBI controversy, warning Comey against talking to the media and suggesting on Twitter there may be recordings of conversations between them.

Speaking on Saturday to about 50,000 people at Liberty University in Lynchburg, the nation’s largest Christian college, Trump made no mention of Comey or the controversy his dismissal on Tuesday caused. It was Trump’s first public event outside the White House since Comey’s ouster.

A White House official has said Trump is considering 11 people to replace Comey. Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Republican Senator John Cornyn, New York Appeals Court Judge Michael Garcia and former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher will be interviewed on Saturday for the post, an administration official said.

The decision is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, where Republicans have a majority.

At Liberty, Trump peppered his remarks with the kind of anti-establishment rhetoric that fueled his maverick presidential campaign, telling graduates to challenge “entrenched interests.” He thanked the crowd for their support and repeatedly invoked his own unlikely election victory.

“Relish the opportunity to be an outsider,” Trump said. “The more that a broken system tells you that you’re wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead.”

He also had strong words that seemed aimed at critics of his administration.

“No one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done,” Trump said. “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done.”

Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., was a key early supporter of Trump during his campaign and helped rally support among religious conservatives.

5. Global cyberattack used software widely believed to be developed by US National Security Agency :-

A global cyberattack leveraging hacking tools widely believed by researchers to have been developed by the US National Security Agency hit international shipper FedEx, disrupted Britain’s health system and infected computers in nearly 100 countries on Friday.

Cyber extortionists tricked victims into opening malicious malware attachments to spam emails that appeared to contain invoices, job offers, security warnings and other legitimate files.

The ransomware encrypted data on the computers, demanding payments of $300 to $600 to restore access. Security researchers said they observed some victims paying via the digital currency bitcoin, though they did not know what percent had given in to the extortionists.

Researchers with security software maker Avast said they had observed 57,000 infections in 99 countries with Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan the top targets.

The most disruptive attacks were reported in Britain, where hospitals and clinics were forced to turn away patients after losing access to computers.

International shipper FedEx Corp said some of its Windows computers were also infected. “We are implementing remediation steps as quickly as possible,” it said in a statement.

Still, only a small number of US-headquartered organisations were hit because the hackers appear to have begun the campaign by targeting organizations in Europe, said Vikram Thakur, research manager with security software maker Symantec.

By the time they turned their attention to the United States, spam filters had identified the new threat and flagged the ransomware-laden emails as malicious, Thakur said.

Telecommunications company Telefonica was among many targets in Spain, though it said the attack was limited to some computers on an internal network and had not affected clients or services. Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina both said they were also targeted.

Private security firms identified the ransomware as a new variant of “WannaCry” that had the ability to automatically spread across large networks by exploiting a known bug in Microsoft’s Windows operating system.

“Once it gets in and starts moving across the infrastructure, there is no way to stop it,” said Adam Meyers, a researcher with cyber security firm CrowdStrike.

The hackers, who have not come forward to claim responsibility or otherwise been identified, likely made it a “worm,” or self spreading malware, by exploiting a piece of NSA code known as “Eternal Blue” that was released last month by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, researchers with several private cyber security firms said.

“This is one of the largest global ransomware attacks the cyber community has ever seen,” said Rich Barger, director of threat research with Splunk, one of the firms that linked WannaCry to the NSA.

The Shadow Brokers released Eternal Blue as part of a trove of hacking tools that they said belonged to the US spy agency.

Microsoft on Friday said it was pushing out automatic Windows updates to defend clients from WannaCry. It issued a patch on March 14 to protect them from Eternal Blue.

“Today our engineers added detection and protection against new malicious software known as Ransom:Win32.WannaCrypt,” Microsoft said in a statement. It said the company was working with its customers to provide additional assistance.

 

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