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Nissan Chairman Faces Arrest In Japan

Japanese automaker Nissan says it has determined that its chairman, Carlos Ghosn, falsified reports about his compensation “over many years.” The company said its internal investigation also found Ghosn had used company assets for personal purposes.

Japanese media are reporting Monday that Ghosn is being questioned by Tokyo prosecutors on allegations that he underreported his income and that he will likely be arrested.

Ghosn is suspected of failing to report hundreds of millions of dollars in income.

Nissan says Ghosn will be dismissed from the company.

The Ashai newspaper reported that prosecutors have raided Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama.

The Brazilian-born Ghosn, who is of Lebanese descent and a French citizen, was the rare foreign top executive in Japan.

Ghosn was sent to Nissan in the late 1990s by Renault SA of France, after it bought a controlling stake of Nissan. He is credited with rescuing Nissan from the brink of bankruptcy.

In 2016, Ghosn also took control of Mitsubishi, after Nissan bought a one-third stake in the company, following Mitsubishi’s mileage-cheating scandal.

“If he is arrested, it’s going to rock the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance as he is the keystone of the alliance,” said Satoru Takada, an analyst at TIW, a Tokyo-based research and consulting firm.

Shares in Renault fell more than 12 percent in late morning trading in Paris after the news about Ghosn came out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lithuania: Russia’s UBER Could Be Used For Spying

In the Baltic country of Lithuania, there’s growing debate over a Russian-owned taxi ride-sharing service that Lithuanian government officials warn could be spying on users through their smartphones. So, could an ‘app’ be the latest tool in Kremlin hybrid tactics, or has fear of all things Russian gone too far?  From Vilnius, Charles Maynes reports.

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Pence, Xi Sell Competing Views to Asian Regional Economies

The United States and China offered competing views to regional leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Papua New Guinea, trading sharp words over trade, investment, and regional security.  Washington said it can provide a better option for regional allies under is “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” strategy.  as VOA’s State Department correspondent Nike Ching reports, the APEC gathering ended without a formal leaders’ statement.

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British-based Startup ARC Debuts First Motorcycle for $117,000

British-based startup ARC unveiled its first motorcycle model in Milan this week, one being described as fast, advanced and expensive. The so-called Vector costs more than $100,000, but ARC says it’s for good reason. VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo reports.

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Federal Reserve Policymakers See Rate Hikes Ahead, Note Worries

Federal Reserve policymakers on Friday signaled further interest rate  increases ahead, but raised relatively muted concerns over a potential global  slowdown that has markets betting heavily that the Fed’s rate hike cycle will soon peter out.

The widening chasm between market expectations and the rate path the Fed laid out just two months ago underscores the biggest question in front of U.S. central bankers: How much weight to give a growing number of potential red flags, even as U.S. economic growth continues to push down unemployment and create new jobs?

“We are at a point now where we really need to be especially data dependent,” Richard Clarida, the newly appointed vice chair of the Federal Reserve, said in a CNBC interview. “I think certainly where the economy is today, and the Fed’s projection of where it’s going, that being at neutral would make sense,” he added, defining “neutral” as interest rates somewhere between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent.

But that range that implies anywhere from two more to six more rate hikes, and Clarida declined to say how many more increases he would prefer.

He did say he is optimistic that U.S. productivity is rising, a view that suggests he would not see faster economic or wage growth as necessarily feeding into higher inflation or, necessarily, requiring higher interest rates. But he also

sounded a mild warning.

“There is some evidence of global slowing,” Clarida said. “That’s something that is going to be relevant as I think about the outlook for the U.S. economy, because it impacts big parts of the economy through trade and through capital markets and the like.”

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Robert Kaplan, in a separate interview with Fox Business, also said he is seeing a growth slowdown in Europe and China.

“It’s my own judgment that global growth is going to be a little bit of a headwind, and it may spill over to the United States,” Kaplan said. .

The Fed raised interest rates three times this year and is expected to raise its target again next month, to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent. As of September, Fed policymakers expected to need to increase rates three more times next year, a view they will update next month.

Over the last week, betting in contracts tied to the Fed’s policy suggests that even two rate hikes might be a stretch. The yield on fed fund futures maturing in January 2020, seen by some as an end-point for the Fed’s current rate-hike cycle, dropped sharply to just 2.76 percent over six trading days.

At the same time, long-term inflation expectations have been dropping quickly as well. The so-called breakeven inflation rate on Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, or TIPS, has fallen sharply in the last month. The breakeven rate on five-year TIPS hit the lowest since late 2017 earlier this week.

Those market moves together suggest traders are taking the prospect of a slowdown seriously, limiting how far the Fed will end up raising rates.

But not all policymakers seemed that worried. Sitting with his back to a map of the world in a ballroom in Chicago’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans downplayed risks to his outlook, noting that the leveraged loans that some of his colleagues have raised concerns about are being taken out by “big boys and girls” who

understand the risks.

He told reporters he still believes rates should rise to about 3.25 percent so as to mildly restrain growth and bring unemployment, now at 3.7 percent, back up to a more sustainable level.

Asked about risks from the global slowdown, he said he hears more talk about it but that it is not really in the numbers yet.

But the next six months, he said, bear close watching.

“There’s not a great headline” about risks to the economy right now, Evans told reporters. “International is a little slower; Brexit — nobody’s asked me about that, thank you; [the slowing] housing market: I think all of those are in the mix for uncertainties that everybody’s facing,” he said.

“But at the moment, it’s not enough to upset or adjust the trajectory that I have in mind.”

Still, Evans added, the risks should not be counted out: “They could take on more life more easily because they are sort of more top of mind, if not in the forecast.”

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Report: Russia Has Access to UK Visa Processing

Investigative group Bellingcat and Russian website The Insider are suggesting that Russian intelligence has infiltrated the computer infrastructure of a company that processes British visa applications.

The investigation, published Friday, aims to show how two suspected Russian military intelligence agents, who have been charged with poisoning a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury, may have obtained British visas.

The Insider and Bellingcat said they interviewed the former chief technical officer of a company that processes visa applications for several consulates in Moscow, including that of Britain.

The man, who fled Russia last year and applied for asylum in the United States, said he had been coerced to work with agents of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, who revealed to him that they had access to the British visa center’s CCTV cameras and had a diagram of the center’s computer network. The two outlets say they have obtained the man’s deposition to the U.S. authorities but have decided against publishing the man’s name, for his own safety.

The Insider and Bellingcat, however, did not demonstrate a clear link between the alleged efforts of Russian intelligence to penetrate the visa processing system and Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, who have been charged with poisoning Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March this year.

The man also said that FSB officers told him in spring 2016 that they were going to send two people to Britain and asked for his assistance with the visa applications. The timing points to the first reported trip to Britain of the two men, who traveled under the names of Alexander Petrov and Anatoly Boshirov. The man, however, said he told the FSB that there was no way he could influence the decision-making on visa applications.

The man said he was coerced to sign an agreement to collaborate with the FSB after one of its officers threatened to jail his mother, and was asked to create a “backdoor” to the computer network. He said he sabotaged those efforts before he fled Russia in early 2017.

In September, British intelligence released surveillance images of the agents of Russian military intelligence GRU accused of the March nerve agent attack on double agent Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. Bellingcat and The Insider quickly exposed the agents’ real names and the media, including The Associated Press, were able to corroborate their real identities.

The visa application processing company, TLSContact, and the British Home Office were not immediately available for comment.

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South Africa Cannabis Ruling Leads to Pot-Themed Products

Marijuana is getting its time in South Africa’s spotlight after being decriminalized in September.

The landmark constitutional court ruling, which still needs to be translated into law, allows South Africans to legally grow and consume their own cannabis at home.

The ruling explicitly forbids dealing in marijuana products, meaning if you don’t already have it, you can’t buy or sell it.

But the buzz around this long-forbidden plant is sparking a slew of pot-themed products on South African shelves.

Poison City Brewing released a popular cannabis-infused beer right after the court ruling.

“We sold out of our first batch of stock within 10 days of its release, and at the moment we brewed 100,000 liters for the next batch, which we’ve sold out already, so we’ve doubled that to 200,000 liters for the next batch. So it’s absolutely incredible,” said sales manager Natasha Nkonjera.

None of these store-friendly products contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical that causes marijuana’s “dazed and confused” effects, which is still considered a prohibited narcotic.

Cannabis advocate Connor Davis released a hemp-infused gin through his family distillery, Monk’s Gin. He says these novelty drinks are just the start of pot products in South Africa.

“There are over 100,000 products that can come from cannabis,” he said. “The industrial benefits of it — I mean, you can build an entire house from cannabis alone. From the insulation to the actual brickwork to your carpeting, to your linen, everything can be made from hemp. So that has incredible potential.”

South Africa — with its sunny and temperate weather and rich, arable land — has long been one of the world’s top growers and exporters of illegal cannabis.

But, with the change in law, the government’s Department of Trade and Industry is now studying the economic potential of the plant.

Davis says he believes the cannabis industry can help address South Africa’s severe unemployment rates.

“The statistics we have been comparing, from the United States to South Africa, potentially, immediately from day one, we’ve got at least 200,000 jobs to be given in the cannabis industry,” he said.

Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke are longtime marijuana advocates who led the push for South Africa’s landmark ruling. They see a number of commercial uses for marijuana, such as the lucrative beauty market.

“I think the cosmetic potential of cannabis is enormous,” Clarke said. “I use a one-percent THC-infused moisturizer, which is absolutely amazing. And everything from balms for your tattoos to hair products — I think that has got huge potential to try and get rid of as many of the chemicals that we put in our skin and our hair.”

Stobbs is less optimistic about commercialization, but sees marijuana entering the culture in a way it never has before.

“I see quite a scary future. I see different cultures trying to get in on the deal, now that it’s hip to the groove, and not a scaly thing to be doing, smoking skanky joints. And now it’s really hip, and you’ve got beautiful vaporizers and stuff, and epic glass, and Beverly Hills chicks doing it on chat shows,” he said.

But that, Stobbs admits, is the point of legalizing cannabis: Once you plant that seed, it grows like, well, a weed.

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South Africa Cannabis Ruling Leads to Pot-Themed Products

Now that South Africa’s highest court has relaxed the nation’s laws on marijuana, local entrepreneurs are trying to cash in on the popular herb. Among the latest entries to the market: several highly popular cannabis-laced alcohol products, which deliver the unique taste, though without the signature high. Marijuana activists say this could just be the beginning and that the famous plant could do much more for the national economy. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

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Experts: Without Proof of Ownership, Land Laws Worthless

Land laws mean nothing unless communities can prove their ownership, researchers said Thursday, calling for better tools to map the land and stave off conflict over property.

From South Africa to the Amazon rainforest, battles over land and who owns it are unleashing unprecedented conflict and labyrinthine legal cases as governments and companies seek to exploit ever more of the world’s natural resources, from trees to minerals to rubber.

With an estimated 70 percent of the world unmapped, more than 5 billion people lack proof of ownership, according to the Lima-based Institute for Liberty and Democracy.

Laws no safeguard

Speaking at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual two-day Trust Conference, which focuses on a host of human rights issues, experts said the existence of laws in itself was no safeguard against abuse.

South Africa enshrines security of tenure in its constitution but the government rides roughshod over locals by promoting controversial mining deals, said Aninka Claassens, director of the University of Cape Town’s Land and Accountability Research Center.

More than two decades after the end of apartheid, whites still own most of the land in resource-rich South Africa and ownership remains a highly emotive subject ahead of next year’s national election.

“Our constitution means nothing unless people affected can prove their land rights, that’s why recorded rights are so important,” she said. “Mining is destroying livelihoods and land.”

Who owns what, where

Mapping property rights is crucial to understand “who owns what, where and how,” said Anne Girardin, land surveyor at the Cadasta Foundation, which develops digital tools to document and analyze land and resource rights information.

“That allows you to monitor changes in land resources, but also to better protect them,” she added.

More than 200 activists protecting their land and environment were killed in 2017, according to a survey of 22 countries by Global Witness, marking the deadliest year since the human rights group began collecting data.

Better and more coordinated information is needed to ward off more deadly conflicts, the experts said, citing satellite images and smartphones as tools that could document land.

Technology is plentiful but resources are scattered, Girardin said.

“It would take all the land surveyors we have 200-300 years to map the world’s undocumented land, so we need to be more pragmatic and work together,” she said.

Communities document land

Rampant deforestation means communities should rush to document their own land rather than wait for governments to act, said Nonette Royo, executive director of the International Land and Forest Tenure Facility, which helps indigenous people.

“In the world, forest area the size of Belgium disappears every year,” she said.

For Claassens, land rights should be mapped and recorded in accordance with who uses land as well as who actually owns it.

“Who uses the land? Most often, it’s women,” she said, adding that women were often excluded from property records.

Women are key in the fight for land rights from Brazil to Cambodia, often deployed at the frontline to ward off development and protect family plots, fields and villages.

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‘Perfect Time,’ Ethical Businesses Say, to Drive Social Change

Ethically driven businesses are becoming increasingly popular and profitable but they can face threats for shaking up the existing order, entrepreneurs said on Social Enterprise Day.

When Meghan Markle wore a pair of “slave-free” jeans on a royal tour of Australia last month, she sparked a sales stampede and shone a spotlight on the growing number of companies aiming to meet public demand for ethical products.

“Right now is the perfect time to have this kind of business,” said James Bartle, founder of Australia-based Outland Denim, which made the $200 (150 pound) jeans. “There is awareness and people are prepared to spend on these kinds of products.”

Social Enterprise Day

Social Enterprise Day, which celebrates firms seeking to make profit while doing good, is being marked in 23 countries, including Australia, Nigeria, Romania and the Philippines, led by Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), which represents the sector.

Outland Denim is one such company, employing dozens of survivors of human trafficking and other vulnerable women in Cambodia to make its jeans, which all contain a written thank-you message from the seamstress on an internal pocket.

Bartle said he wanted to create a sustainable model that gives people power to change their future through employment.

More companies are striving to clean up their supply chains and stamp their goods as environmentally friendly and ethical, with women and millennials, people born between 1982 and 2000, driving the shift to products that seek to improve the world.

“For-profits create the mess, and then the not-for-profits clean it up,” said Andrew O’Brien, director of external affairs at SEUK, which estimates that 2 million British workers are employed by a social enterprise. “We are an existential threat to that system, by coming through the middle and forcing businesses to change the way they do business.”

Risky business 

Britain has the world’s largest social enterprise sector, according to the U.K. government. About 100,000 firms contribute 60 billion pounds ($76 billion) to the world’s fifth largest economy, SEUK says.

Elsewhere in the world, it can be a risky business.

“I get threats,” said Farhad Wajdi who runs Ebtakar Inspiring Entrepreneurs of Afghanistan, which helps women enter the workforce by training and providing seed money for them to operate food carts in the war-torn country. “I can’t go to the provinces.”

His work has met resistance in parts of Afghanistan, a conservative society where women rarely work outside the home.

“A social enterprise can lead to sustainable change in those communities,” Wajdi said on the sidelines of the Trust Conference in London. “It can propagate gender equality and create friction for social change at a grassroots level.”

Niche? Window dressing?

There is, however, a danger that social enterprise will remain a niche form of business or become window-dressing for firms that just want to improve their public image.

“I don’t want social enterprise to become the next (corporate social responsibility), another (public relations) move,” said Melissa Kim, the founder of Costa Rican-based Uplift Worldwide, which supports social enterprises.

“To me this is just good business, and good sustainable business is not just about the environment and human rights … if you care about your relationships internally and externally you will stay in business.”

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