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Saudi Gazette, Thursday, July 19, 2018

World

First Ethiopia-Eritrea flight in

20 years seals peace deal

Former or not? Polish judge enters Supreme Court at heart of dispute

50 years after Concorde, US start-up eyes supersonic future

Google hit with $5bn

Android fine from EU

ADDIS ABABA —

The first commercial

flights from Ethiopia to Eritrea in

20 years took off early on Wednes-

day, sealing a stunning reconcilia-

tion between the former enemies a

week after they ended their military

standoff.

Families separated from loved

ones by the conflict queued up with

dignitaries to board two Ethiopian

Airlines jets in Addis Ababa — many

of the passengers waving flags and

wearing T-shirts with slogans cel-

ebrating the rapprochement.

Senait Tesfaye said she had not

seen her grandmother Abrehet for

more than two decades. “We have

been longing to see her for all these

years,” she said as she cradled her

three-month-old son Naby.

“He will now get to spend time

with her more than I ever did as a

child. Words cannot express the joy

we feel as a family,” said the 37-year-

old. Abrehet, she said, was deported

to Eritrea alongside tens of thousands

of Ethiopian residents of Eritrean

origin at the start of the conflict.

A Boeing 787 with 315 people on

board and a 737 with 154 passengers

took off under rainy skies landed in

Eritrea’s capital Asmara about one

hour and 25 minutes later.

The flights cemented peace ef-

forts pushed by Ethiopia’s new Prime

Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to

office in April and announced a series

of reforms that have turned politics on

its head in the region.

With the 41-year-old former

intelligence officer at the helm, the

ruling coalition has ended a state of

emergency, released political prison-

ers, restored phone links and an-

nounced plans to partially open up the

economy — including letting foreign

investors take stakes in state-run

Ethiopian Airlines.

The airline — which operates

Africa’s biggest fleet — now stands

to save millions of dollars a year by

using Eritrean airspace instead of tak-

ing circuitous routes to some middle

eastern destinations, its chief execu-

tive, Tewolde Gebremariam, said.

“This is a big occasion for us,” he

said.

In his boldest move, Abiy of-

WARSAW —

Malgorzata Gersdorf,

who the Polish government says is

now retired but who insists her term

as the Supreme Court head runs

until 2020, walked into the court on

Wednesday saying the situation was

“very tense and dramatic”.

Gersdorf is now at the heart of

a rule of law dispute in Poland, the

largest ex-communist member of the

European Union.

She defied new government laws

that the ruling nationalists say mean

she has been dismissed and has no

power to make decisions at the court,

which validates elections in Poland.

Opposition parties, most consti-

tutional experts and the EU’s execu-

tive European Commission say War-

saw’s efforts to push her out amount

to unacceptable political meddling

that undermines the independence

of the judiciary, a basic democratic

standard.

Since winning elections in late

2015, the ruling Law and Justice

(PiS) party has tightened rules

around media, courts and non-gov-

ernmental groups and stands accused

of undercutting key institutions in a

democratic state.

Gersdorf told journalists on

entering the building that she was

coming to work to keep an eye on

the Polish parliament, which is due

to debate on Thursday the latest gov-

ernment amendments to the Supreme

Court laws.

They are aimed at appointing

the new head of the Supreme Court

swiftly. Gersdorf said she had a

negative view of the law.

“I am not fighting for my own

interest, my position or to be left

in peace. Had I wanted to be left in

peace, I would have long given up

this post,” said the defiant judge.

“I am fighting for the country,

for the rule of law, for preserving the

constitution.”

Through a raft of hastily-ap-

proved new laws, PiS has dismissed

many judges in the country’s

Constitutional Tribunal, the National

Judiciary Council and many regular

courts. New ones have been ap-

pointed by the president, a PiS ally,

under revamped procedures that give

the parliamentary majority more say.

Despite street protests and EU

pressure, the overhaul has also given

the justice minister more powers to

name and dismiss judges. Critics

decry the changes as rolling back

democratic standards 30 years after

Poland overthrew communism.

The EU has launched several

legal cases, as well as an unprec-

edented rule of law probe against

Warsaw, which risks losing billions

of euros in funding from the bloc.

Reuters

WEYBRIDGE, UK—

Luxury air travel faster

than the speed of sound: AUS start-up

is aiming to revive commercial super-

sonic flight 50 years after the ill-fated

Concorde first took to the skies.

Blake Scholl, the former Amazon

staffer who co-founded Boom Super-

sonic, delivered the pledge this week in

front of a fully-restored Concorde jet

at the Brooklands aviation and motor

museum in Weybridge, southwest of

London.

Boom Supersonic’s backers include

Richard Branson and Japan Airlines

and other players are eyeing the same

segment.

The company aims to manufacture

a prototype jet next year but its plans

have been met with skepticism in some

quarters.

“The story of Concorde is the story

of a journey started but not completed

— and we want to pick up on it,”

Scholl said. The event coincided with

the nearby Farnborough Airshow.

“Today... the world is more linked

than it’s ever been before and the need

for improved human connection has

never been greater,” Scholl said.

“At Boom, we are inspired at what

was accomplished half a century ago,”

he added, speaking in front of a former

British Airways Concorde that flew for

the first time in 1969.

Boom Supersonic’s aircraft, dubbed

Baby Boom, is expected by the com-

pany to fly for the first time next year.

“If we can’t continue where you left

off, and build on that, then the shame is

on us,” Scholl said, addressing himself

to an audience that included retired

Concorde staff.

“Our vision is to build a faster

airplane that is accessible to more and

more people, to anybody who flies.”

Boom Supersonic is making its

debut at Farnborough and hopes to

produce its new-generation jets in the

mid-2020s or later, with the aim of

slashing journey times by half.

The proposed aircraft has a

maximum flying range of 8,334 km at

a speed of Mach 2.2 or 2,335 km per

hour.

If it takes off, it would be the first

supersonic passenger aircraft since

Concorde took its final flight in 2003.

The Concorde was retired follow-

ing an accident in 2000 in which a

Concorde crashed shortly after takeoff

from Paris, killing 113 people.

Some analysts remain skeptical

over the push back into supersonic.

“Supersonic is not what passengers

or airlines want right now,” said Strate-

gic Aero analyst Saj Ahmed, stressing

that many travelers wanted cheap low-

cost carriers instead.

Ahmed said supersonic jets were

“very unattractive” because of high

start-up development costs, consider-

ations about noise pollution and high

prices as well as limited capacity.

Independent air transport consultant

John Strickland also noted supersonic

travel was unproven commercially.

“Business traffic, on the face of it, is the

most lucrative for airlines,” Strickland

said.

“But if there is an economic down-

turn or something happens where the

market for business class traffic drains

away, then you have nothing else left to

do with that aircraft.

“I think it’s going to be some time

before we see whether it can establish

a large viable market... in the way that

Concorde never managed to do.” These

concerns have not stopped interest from

other players.

US aerospace giant Boeing had

last month unveiled its “hypersonic”

airliner concept, which it hopes will fly

at Mach 5 — or five times the speed of

sound —when it arrives on the scene in

20 to 30 years.

—AFP

UK’s Labour Party hit by

fresh anti-Semitism row

LONDON —

Britain’s main opposition Labour

Party was embroiled in a fresh row on Wednesday

over anti-Semitism within its ranks after its new

code of conduct designed to address the issue

was condemned by Jewish groups and MPs. Labour

leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of allowing

anti-Semitism to spread in the left-wing party.

Labour MP John Woodcock, a prominent critic of

Corbyn, said he was quitting the party over the

issue. Matters came to a head in March when

British Jewish leaders wrote a joint letter claiming

“enough is enough”, and protests were held outside

parliament. In response, Labour drew up a new code

of conduct on anti-Semitism, which was approved

by its governing body on Monday — in the face of

intense criticism from the Jewish community. The

code states explicitly that “anti-Semitism is racism”

and it is “unacceptable”. However, it stops short of

signing up in full to the definition drawn up by the

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Many

British institutions use the full IHRA definition.

Paris police urge women to

report World Cup assaults

PARIS —

Paris’ police chief urged women on

Wednesday to report any cases of sexual assault

during the celebrations of France’s World Cup win,

after dozens of accounts by victims were posted on

social media in recent days. “These cases must be

brought to our attention so that investigations can

be carried out,” Michel Delpuech said on Europe

1 radio. “Our services will obviously pursue any

aggressors without fail if they are identified,” he

said. Reports of forced kisses and groping began

emerging after France won the final against Croatia

on Sunday night, as hundreds of thousands of fans

poured into the streets of Paris and other cities.

Others recounted sexual assaults during the team’s

victory parade down the Champs Elysees avenue on

Monday, eventually using the hashtag #MeTooFoot,

a nod to the Me Too movement that sprang up in the

wake of rape and assault claims against Hollywood

mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Britain expresses concern over

move to ban Hong Kong party

HONG KONG —

Britain expressed concern on

Wednesday after police in Hong Kong sought to ban

a political party which promotes independence for

the city as Beijing ups pressure on challenges to

its territorial sovereignty. The bid to bar the Hong

Kong National Party (HKNP), a well-known but small

group with a core membership of around a dozen,

has been made because it is a potential threat to

national security and public safety, according to

authorities. It is the first time such a ban has been

sought since Britain handed sovereignty of Hong

Kong back to China in 1997 and is the latest move

to stifle any calls for independence, which have

infuriated Beijing. “We note with concern... plans to

prohibit the continued operation of the Hong Kong

National Party,” the British foreign office said in a

statement.

Three killed in helicopter

crash in northeast Thailand

BANGKOK —

At least three people were killed

in a helicopter crash in northeastern Thailand on

Wednesday, officials said. The victims were traveling

to Khon Kaen province in the early morning when

the helicopter crashed before landing. “The flight

was supposed to land in Khon Kaen airport at

9:10am but around 9:00 a.m. we got a report that

the helicopter crashed into a rice field,” Alongkot

Vorakee, a senior official in the province, said. A

fourth body may be recovered as a pilot, co-pilot

and two passengers were believed to be on board.

“The death toll may be four but we can only see

three bodies here, the fourth may be under the

wreckage,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jetmanoon

Sapapairot, a district police official in the area.

Agencies

BRUSSELS —

The European Union

slapped Google with a huge 4.34-bil-

lion-euro fine for abusing the domi-

nance of its Android operating system

on Wednesday in the biggest antitrust

penalty in the bloc’s history.

EU Competition Commissioner

Margrethe Vestager said the US tech

giant illegally used Android’s near-mo-

nopoly to boost usage of its own search

engine and browser.

The decision, which follows a

three-year investigation, comes as fears

of a transatlantic trade war mount due

to President Donald Trump’s decision

to impose tariffs on European steel and

aluminum exports.

“Today the commission has decided

to fine Google 4.34 billion euros ($5

billion) for breaching EU antitrust

rules,” Vestager told a press conference

in Brussels.

“Google has engaged in illegal

practices to cement its dominant market

position in internet search.”

Vestager, who has taken on a string

of Silicon Valley titans as EU antitrust

chief, said Google “must put an effec-

tive end to this conduct within 90 days

or face penalty payments” of up to five

percent of its average daily turnover.

The new sanction nearly doubles

the previous record EU anti-trust fine

of 2.4 billion euros, which also targeted

Google, in that case for the Silicon Val-

ley titan’s shopping comparison service

in 2017.

Google immediately said it would

appeal the fine

“Android has created more choice

for everyone, not less,” Google spokes-

man Al Verney said in a statement. “A

vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation and

lower prices are classic hallmarks of

robust competition. We will appeal the

Commission’s decision.”

Danish former minister Vestager

spoke by telephone with Google chief

Sundar Pichai on Tuesday night to tell

him about the decision in advance.

Vestager said Google had shut out

rivals by forcing major phone makers

including South Korea’s Samsung and

China’s Huawei to pre-install its search

engine and Google Chrome browser,

thereby freezing out rivals.

They were also made to set Google

Search as the default, as a condition of

licensing some Google apps. Google

Search and Chrome are as a result pre-

installed on the “significant majority”

of devices sold in the EU, the European

Commission says.

Google also prevented manufactur-

ers from selling smartphones that run

on rival operating systems based on the

Android open source code, it said.

Google finally gave “financial in-

centives” to manufacturers and mobile

network operators if they pre-installed

Google Search on their devices, the

commission said.

Google provides Android free to

smartphone manufacturers and gener-

ates most of its revenue from selling

advertisements that appear along with

search results.

Under EU rules Google could have

been fined up to 10 percent of parent

company Alphabet’s annual revenue,

which hit $110.9 billion in 2017.

Vestager’s campaign against Silicon

Valley giants in her four years as the

28-nation European Union’s competi-

tion commissioner has won praise in

Europe but angered Washington.

Brussels has repeatedly targeted

Google over the past decade amid con-

cerns about the Silicon Valley giant’s

dominance of internet search across

Europe, where it commands about 90

percent of the market.

As well as the Android and Google

Shopping files, it also has a third

investigation under way, into Google’s

AdSense advert-placing business.

Vestager’s other major scalps

include Amazon and Apple.

The EU ordered Apple in 2016 to

pay Ireland 13 billion euros in back

taxes that the maker of iPhones and

iPads had avoided by a tax deal with

Dublin.

It has also taken on Facebook over

privacy issues after it admitted that

millions of users may have had their

data hijacked by British consultancy

firm Cambridge Analytica, which was

working for Trump’s 2016 election

campaign.

— AFP

Passengers talk inside an Ethiopian Airlines flight who departed from the Bole

International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Eritrea’s capital Asmara on

Wednesday. — AFP

Polish

Supreme

Court Justice

president

Malgorzata

Gersdorf,

center, is

surrounded

by media and

supporters as

she arrives for

work at the

Supreme Court

building in

Warsaw in this

July 4, 2018

file photo. —

AFP

European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager gives a joint

press at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday. — AFP

fered last month to make peace with

Eritrea, 20 years after the neighbors

started a border war that killed an

estimated 80,000 people.

Full-blown fighting had ended

by 2000, but their troops have faced

off across their disputed frontier ever

since.

Abiy has since visited Asmara and

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki re-

opened his nation’s embassy in Addis

Ababa on Monday.

Abiy’s predecessor, former Prime

Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, said

on board one of Wednesday’s flights

that he felt “heartfelt joy”.

“There has been hatred between

us for the last twenty years — now

that has been reversed,” he said.

The countries barred their citizens

from visiting each other during the

conflict. Foreigners wanting to travel

from one country to the other had to

connect in a third country.

— Reuters

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