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Is the ICO going soft on the ‘out of control’ adtech industry?

On Friday the Information Commissioner’s Office’s lead investigator on real-time bidding, executive director for technology and innovation Simon McDougall, signalled that the body would not bring enforcement action against Google and the Interactive Advertising Bureau. 

The ICO warned it would use its regulatory powers against those in the adtech industry that “ignored the window of opportunity to engage and transform”, but he accepted moves by the IAB to educate the industry on special category data (which contains sensitive information about internet users), and that Google will remove content categories and improve its auditing process. 

This is despite the ICO confirming last November that special category data, which includes information about users such as their sexual orientation or political affiliation, was being directly processed without explicit consent. 

Google and the IAB are responsible for the standards that underpin RTB, the programmatic ad tech market in which ad impressions are sold within nanoseconds based on the data held about web users. Sensitive category data, such as political beliefs and reproductive health, are tracked and broadcast via RTB, but Google and the IAB say these categories are not tracked against individual people. 

The ICO is the UK’s watchdog for Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and has the power to fine companies up to 4% of their global turnover for serious data breaches. However, such sanctions are normally imposed on individual companies. Taking action against the entire system of open-market bidding for ad impressions is a much larger and complicated undertaking.  

McDougall’s article last week prompted outcry from the privacy experts that lodged complaints about RTB well over a year ago, such as the Brave browser’s chief product officer Johnny Ryan and UCL lecturer Michael Veale, who said: “When an industry is premised and profiting from clear and entrenched illegality that breaches individuals’ fundamental rights, engagement is not a suitable remedy. The ICO cannot continue to look back at its past precedents for enforcement action, because it is exactly that timid approach that has led us to where we are now.”

Privately, industry sources have suggested that the ICO has opted for the “middle of the road” option. This is despite industry warnings last May that the regulator would start to show its teeth as the GDPR had then been in force for one year. 

Ryan tells Campaign that the industry has been aware of these issues for years and it is no excuse for the ICO to continue dragging its feet on enforcement, given that it received formal evidence of “incontrovertible wrongdoing” 16 months ago. 

“The [ICO] blog post says ‘we’re seeing genuine engagement from the industry, the IAB and Google’. That’s patently a misinterpretation of what we’re seeing… this is the biggest data breach the UK has ever had. 

“We expected when they announced what they were doing [in their report findings update in November] – that step would be banning processes and maybe fines (although fines are less important than the processes themselves). We thought they would go into ad exchanges and demand management platforms and demand the deletion of data. They have the power to do that.” 

Ryan warns that Brave and its fellow complainants are now considering legal action, as well as other options that would “compel the regulator to enforce the law”. 

“This industry has known about this for so long. I used to be a member of IAB Tech Lab and was saying this from the inside,” he adds.

He also rejects the idea that the ICO is compromising because the harm associated with such a widespread data breach is massive and the ad tech players involved are operating without proper checks and balances. 

“We’re at this moment that is similar to other industries: it’s like the medical industry was in the Middle Ages – there was nothing, people in barber shops with rusty blades. Then the enlightenment happens and in the 1800s there are standards and guilds, you have sanitation and electricity. Now if you want to operate on someone, you have to do it in a hospital – if haven’t got a hospital you can go away – tough. It’s called professionalisation.”

The ICO’s response to these criticisms, meanwhile, is framed as a reminder that this is a complex issue.

McDougall tells Campaign: “There are thousands of companies involved in the adtech eco-system and at this stage the issues raised involve the entire industry. We stand ready to deal with the problems but it is a hugely complex area. As a pragmatic regulator, we have a duty to build a thorough and robust case for any regulatory action we may decide to take, and all of this takes time. 

“We are using the intelligence gathered throughout last year to develop an appropriate regulatory response and we continue to investigate real-time bidding. It may be necessary to take formal regulatory action and we will continue to progress our work on that basis.”

Meanwhile the IAB UK says it is “pleased” that the ICO is recognising the work that the industry had done to date and the further work to which it has committed.

Christie Dennehy-Neil, head of policy and regulatory affairs at the IAB UK, says: “We have made good progress, but what matters now is the outcome. Implementing the actions outlined in our response to the ICO needs our members and the wider industry to work with us and be willing to take action where necessary to deliver meaningful change. We look forward to continuing to engage with the ICO as this process develops.” 

The apparent change in tone from the ICO also surprises Damon Reeve, chief executive of the Ozone Project, the digital publishing joint venture representing major UK news publishers Reach, News UK, The Guardian and Telegraph Media Group. 

Reeve tells Campaign: “We expected a slightly firmer position from the ICO… What was missing from Simon’s blog post was anything of real substance. There’s been a lot of discussion and maybe they’re looking to see more action off the back of that.

“It doesn’t really change anything that we’re already on the path to doing. At Ozone we are being fairly proactive in the decisions we’re making to reduce the risks around the processing of data.”

Reeve agrees about the need for a balanced approach: “The right thing for them to do is facilitate change through those organisations. If everyone is in good faith doing the right thing, that must be the best way for them to move in the right direction. Unless individual companies are being fraudulent and going against the industry grain, it makes sense to support competition through that process.”

However, there may be events going on behind the scenes of the ICO that are having an impact on this investigation. 

Last week the law firm Mishcon de Reya spotted that the watchdog had effectively decided to delay imposing £282m worth of fines on Marriott and British Airways. The US hotel chain and UK airline had both been found to have committed significant data breaches in 2018 under the GDPR and had been fined £99m and £183m respectively.

Mishcon’s data protection adviser, Jon Baines, told The Register that he suspected both companies had deployed similar legal arguments to Facebook when it fought back against a Cambridge Analytica-linked fine and ended up being fined £500,000

The suspicion is that the ICO’s internal procedures are being challenged and it could be that the watchdog is not feeling as confident as it was last June, or is simply too stretched in terms of its resources to fight so many battles at the same time.

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CountingWorks PRO Announces the 2019 TaxBuzz Top 100 Tax Professionals & CountingWorks Top 100 Cloud Accounting Experts


CountingWorks PRO Announces the 2019 TaxBuzz Top 100 Tax Professionals & CountingWorks Top 100 Cloud Accounting Experts – Global Investing Today – EIN News

























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Davos 2020: Trump rejects ‘prophets of doom’ at climate-focused WEF

US President Donald Trump dismissed the concerns of environmental activists as “pessimism” in a speech to political and business leaders at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

Climate change and global warming are topping the agenda at this year’s annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, with activists at odds with businesses and governments about how to tackle the issue.

What Trump said:

  • The US leader dubbed climate activists “prophets of doom” and rejected their warnings, saying: “Fear and doubt is not a good thought process.”
  • Despite concerns about emissions, Trump praised the US as one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas.
  • He announced that the US would be joining the WEF’s one trillion trees initiative.
  • When asked about his stance on climate change by reporters ahead of his speech, he said: “I’m a big believer in the environment. The environment is very important to me.”

  • Much of Trump’s speech focused on praising his administration’s domestic economic policies, saying that by rolling back regulations, prosperity “would come thundering back at record speed.”
  • “A nation’s highest duty is to its own citizens,” he said. “Only when governments put their citizens first, will they be invested in their national futures.”

Read more: Social entrepreneurs meet at World Economic Forum in Davos

Greta: ‘Basically nothing has been done’

Following Trump’s speech, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg criticized world leaders and business executives for failing to meet their climate targets.

“Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight. The facts are clear but they are still too uncomfortable for you to address,” she told a panel.

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” Thunberg said, echoing her remarks from her WEF appearance last year.

At a panel just before Trump arrived, Thunberg emphasized that moderate changes will not be enough to slow the impact of climate change.

“We are all fighting for the environment and climate. If you see it from a bigger perspective, basically nothing has been done. It will require much more than this. This is just the very beginning,” she said.

Read more: Davos medical tourism sparks alarm about corporate culture

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the 2020 WEF (Reuters/D. Balibouse)

‘There is a difference between being heard to actually leading to something,’ Thunberg said at the start of the WEF

Who else will be there? Over 50 heads of state and government will be in attendance along with over 3,000 other attendees. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to speak on Thursday. Following in Thunberg’s footsteps, other young activists are also taking part this year, including South African climate activist Ayakha Melithafa, Irish teen scientist Fionn Ferreira.

What to look out for: It will be the first time that Trump meets with the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The US leader has repeatedly clashed with the EU over trade and tax policies. It also remains to be seen whether businesses will back up their pledges on climate change with concrete action.

What is Davos? It’s the 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum this year, which was launched by German economist Klaus Schwab. The meeting takes place at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, drawing world leaders, business executives, academics, charity heads and celebrities. The conference is used to hold bilateral meetings, make business deals or to try and impact the global agenda. The meeting this year runs from January 21 – 24.

rs/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Davos 2020: Trump rejects ‘prophets of doom’ at climate-focused WEF

US President Donald Trump dismissed the concerns of environmental activists as “pessimism” in a speech to political and business leaders at the start of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos on Tuesday.

Climate change and global warming are topping the agenda at this year’s annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, with activists at odds with businesses and governments about how to tackle the issue.

What Trump said:

  • The US leader dubbed climate activists “prophets of doom” and rejected their warnings, saying: “Fear and doubt is not a good thought process.”
  • Despite concerns about emissions, Trump praised the US as one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas.
  • He announced that the US would be joining the WEF’s one trillion trees initiative.
  • When asked about his stance on climate change by reporters ahead of his speech, he said: “I’m a big believer in the environment. The environment is very important to me.”

  • Much of Trump’s speech focused on praising his administration’s domestic economic policies, saying that by rolling back regulations, prosperity “would come thundering back at record speed.”
  • “A nation’s highest duty is to its own citizens,” he said. “Only when governments put their citizens first, will they be invested in their national futures.”

Read more: Social entrepreneurs meet at World Economic Forum in Davos

Greta: ‘Basically nothing has been done’

Following Trump’s speech, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg criticized world leaders and business executives for failing to meet their climate targets.

“Unlike you, my generation will not give up without a fight. The facts are clear but they are still too uncomfortable for you to address,” she told a panel.

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” Thunberg said, echoing her remarks from her WEF appearance last year.

At a panel just before Trump arrived, Thunberg emphasized that moderate changes will not be enough to slow the impact of climate change.

“We are all fighting for the environment and climate. If you see it from a bigger perspective, basically nothing has been done. It will require much more than this. This is just the very beginning,” she said.

Read more: Davos medical tourism sparks alarm about corporate culture

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the 2020 WEF (Reuters/D. Balibouse)

‘There is a difference between being heard to actually leading to something,’ Thunberg said at the start of the WEF

Who else will be there? Over 50 heads of state and government will be in attendance along with over 3,000 other attendees. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to speak on Thursday. Following in Thunberg’s footsteps, other young activists are also taking part this year, including South African climate activist Ayakha Melithafa, Irish teen scientist Fionn Ferreira.

What to look out for: It will be the first time that Trump meets with the new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The US leader has repeatedly clashed with the EU over trade and tax policies. It also remains to be seen whether businesses will back up their pledges on climate change with concrete action.

What is Davos? It’s the 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum this year, which was launched by German economist Klaus Schwab. The meeting takes place at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, drawing world leaders, business executives, academics, charity heads and celebrities. The conference is used to hold bilateral meetings, make business deals or to try and impact the global agenda. The meeting this year runs from January 21 – 24.

rs/rt (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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Source: Deutsche Welle: DW.com – Business
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Bangladesh: Police officials sentenced to death for PM Hasina rally shooting

A Bangladesh court sentenced to death five former police officials on Monday for shooting dead 24 people in an anti-government protest, led by then-opposition leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina , 31 years ago.

A special court  in Bangladesh’s southeastern city of Chattogram sentenced the punishment to the officers for their involvement in the 1988 Chattogram massacre, officials confirmed Monday.

Bangladhesh’s Criminal Investigations Department had charged eight policemen with murder but three of the defendants died during the trial.

Judge Mohammed Ismail Hossain announced the verdict with four of the defendants present, prosecution lawyer Shibu Prakash Biswas said. One defendant was on the run, he added. The court cross-examined a total of 56 witnesses. 

Read more: Opinion: Bangladesh’s missed chance to become a functional democracy 

1988 massacre

Hasina’s Awami League party organized a rally on January 24, 1988 against then- military dictator Hussain Muhammad Ershad. She had been touring Chattogram to mobilize support against Ershad. 

From her truck, Hasina led a procession surrounded by her supporters.  According to the prosecution, the target was to assassinate Hasina, but she was saved  by her supporters’ “human shield” when the shooting began. 

At least 24 people were killed and more than 200 others injured as police opened fired at the rally.

After the shootings, the bodies were cremated at a local crematorium regardless of their religious identities. The families of the dead were not permitted to see them. 

Hasina survived the attack unharmed. 

Ershad ruled Bangladesh for almost nine years until he was overthrown in an uprising in 1990. 

Read more: Could political talks help free Bangladesh’s ex-Premier Khaleda Zia?

Political bickering

Political disputes delayed the legal proceedings of the decadeslong case.

A case was filed in 1992 when former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia took office. The case, however, was shelved for several years because Hasina is her political rival. 

Hasina rose to power in 1996 when Zia’s five-year term ended and a probe began into the Chattogram massacre. 

According to Hasina’s Awami League party, the now-prime minister has survived at least 19 attempts on her life since her return from exile in 1981, following the assassination of her father and Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. 

mvb/ng (AP, dpa)

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Myanmar panel: No evidence of genocide against Rohingya

An independent commission appointed by Myanmar’s government said Monday that war crimes were likely committed against the Rohingya ethnic minority by Myanmar security forces during counterinsurgency operations. 

The “Independent Commission of Enquiry,” (ICOE) was formed in 2018 in response to international calls for accountability from Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis.

Although the ICOE statement implies that Myanmar’s security forces are guilty of major abuses, which is more direct than previous public statements by Myanmar’s government, the panel said there is “no evidence” of genocide.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh in 2017. More than 900,000 Rohingya continue to live in refugee camps in southern Bangladesh. 

The UN has said Myanmar’s military operations targeted Rohingya areas, with gang rapes and mass killings and destruction of villages carried out with “genocidal intent.”

A statement released by the ICOE said the “killing of innocent villagers took place during an “internal armed conflict” provoked by Rohingya attacks on police outposts. It said the response was “disproportionate” but did not amount to genocide. 

Read more‘I left my body there’: A displaced Rohingya woman’s story

“War crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law took place during the security operations …  There are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar’s security forces were involved.”

ICJ to rule on Myanmar genocide 

In November, the Gambia filed a case with the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Myanmar of an “ongoing genocide” against the Rohingya, and urging the court to take emergency measures. The ICJ in The Hague will issue a decision on the request Thursday. 

Myanmar’s leader,  Aung San Suu Kyi, has strongly denied wrongdoing by government security forces at the initial hearing on the case in December.

The ICOE report says that although killings and acts of displacement took place, they were not committed “to destroy the Muslim or any other community in northern Rakhine State.” 

“There is insufficient evidence to argue that the crimes committed were undertaken with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group for the international crime of genocide,” the statement said. 

Read moreOpinion: Foreign aid is a hindrance to Rohingya repatriation

A UN team also conducted an investigation and found grounds for bringing charges of genocide. However, the UN team was not allowed to enter Myanmar, and relied on interviews with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. 

The ICOE said it collected evidence in Rakhine State, Yangon and Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw, but did not mention visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh. 

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US: Thousands gather for Virginia gun rights rally

While state authorities braced for potential violence, thousands of American pro-gun activists, militia members and white supremacists descended on Virginia’s capitol building on Monday to protest proposed restrictions on gun ownership.

Many of the activists, clad in camouflage and waving flags with messages of support for US President Donald Trump, arrived several hours before the gathering’s official start.

Masses of protesters chanted “We will not disarm,” in unison, while other attendees wore stickers saying “Guns save lives” and displayed pistols and rifles in the streets.

Read more8 facts about gun control in the US 

The rally saw a heavy police presence, with both uniformed and plainclothes officers. Those wanting to enter the rally grounds at Virginia’s Capitol Square had to pass through a single security screening and leave their guns outside.

The gathering which was organized on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday marking the legacy of the African-American civil rights leader, also fell on Virginia’s “Lobby Day,” an annual event which allows citizens to meet with state legislators.

Touting the Second Amendment

Activists gathered from across the United States to argue that their constitutional rights were being infringed upon by a proposed package of eight bills to change Virginia state firearms laws, including a bill to limit handgun purchases to one per month, a law to require background checks on all firearms purchases and transfers, bans on guns from certain events and public spaces, and a ban on assault rifles.

People take part in a rally against the Virginia Democrats' plan to pass legislation limiting gun ownership, at the state capitol building in Richmond, Virginia on January 20. (Reuters/L. Millis)

Pro-gun activists are concerned about plans to limit gun use and ownership in Virginia

Read moreNew Zealand plans further tightening of gun laws

Opponents of the proposed measures argue that Democrat-led Virginia is infringing on their rights, while those who arrived from outside of the state fear that if the proposed measures are accepted, they could set a precedent for other states to limit firearm ownership.

DW’s correspondent Oliver Sallet tweeted that another core pro-gun argument is that guns save lives by acting as deterrents to violence. 

Read moreShooter carries out deadly attack in US state of Virginia 

Trump also weighed in ahead of Monday’s rally, tweeting on Friday, “Your 2nd amendment is under attack … They will take your guns away!”

Fears of violence

Although the activists said they wanted to carry out a peaceful protest, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a temporary state of emergency in the days leading up to the rally, issuing a ban on all weapons, including guns from the gathering at Capitol Square. Virginia governor cited “credible, serious threats” of violence as the reason for the state of emergency.

Read more: Gun control protests across the US demand action from Congress

Meanwhile, Virginia Delegate Lee Carter said he would spend Monday in an “undisclosed location” after receiving threats from pro-gun activists.

“I ain’t interested in martyrdom,” he tweeted.

While the pro-gun rally takes place every year, it drew considerable attention this year following the arrest of three members of a small neo-Nazi group, who authorities said hoped to start a race war through violence at the gathering.

The arrest ignited fears that the event could turn out similarly to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, North Carolina, in which a man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, fatally injuring 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. However, Monday’s gathering ended peacefully.

The rally, organized by the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, has in past years only drawn a few hundred firearms enthusiasts who gather to listen to speeches made by a few Republican lawmakers.

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lc/ng (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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Explained: Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou US extradition trial

Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, is set to appear in a Canadian court on Monday, hoping to fight extradition to the US. The high-profile hearing being held in Vancouver comes after the eldest daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei was arrested as she made a stopover in Vancouver en-route from China to Mexico in 2018.

What are the allegations against Meng Wanzhou?

  • The US wants Meng to stand trial in the US on charges of fraud. The US government says she lied to bank HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with its Hong Kong subsidiary Skycom, which is accused of secretly doing business in Iran. 
  • From 2010 to 2014, HSBC and a US subsidiary are said to have cleared more than $100 million worth of Skycom-related transactions through the US, which would violate US-imposed sanctions on Iran.
  • According to court documents, Meng told HSBC executives in 2013 that Huawei no longer owned Skycom and she had resigned from Skycom’s board.
  • The US justice department said that there is evidence Meng “deceived HSBC in order to induce it to continue to provide banking services to Huawei.” 

Why is Meng Wanzhou heading to court in Canada?

Meng was arrested in Canada in December 2018, at the request of the US. The US has an extradition treaty with Canada, but according to the treaty, people can only be extradited if the offense for which extradition is sought is found to be a crime in both countries.

Meng does not want to be extradited to the US to stand trial so she is going to court on Monday, hoping to prove that the US charges of fraud would not stand up in Canada and are politically motivated.

Meng says her conduct was not illegal in Canada. Her defense team plans to use comments by US President Donald Trump to prove this. Canada does not have sanctions on Iran, but fraud is a crime in both the US and Canada.

Meng Wanzhou's family mansion in Vancouver, with a security guard outside

Meng Wanzhou has been living in a family-owned mansion in Vancouver since her arrest in 2018

How did China react?

China has repeated calls for the release of Meng ahead of Monday’s hearing. It views the arrest of Meng as a political matter, and part of wider US attempts to stifle China’s technological growth.

Geng Shuang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman on Monday told reporters during a daily briefing that Meng’s case was “a serious political matter.”

“The US and Canada are abusing their bilateral extradition treaty,” added Geng.

Meng’s arrest in 2018 plunged China and Canada into a diplomatic row. In a move widely seen as responding to Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadians and hit Canadian agricultural exports to China with restrictions.

People protest Mengs arrest outside the Vancouver Supreme court

China is angry about Meng’s arrest and has repeatedly called for her release

Is there a wider political context to the arrest?

Huawei has been targeted by the US government and law enforcement. The US has been vocal in pressuring countries to limit use of Hauwei’s technology, particularly as countries begin to roll out 5G internet networks.

US President Donald Trump has said more than once that he might be willing to release Meng in exchange for concessions on trade.

Last month, Canadian President Justin Trudeau told French-language network TVA that he asked Trump to hold off signing a complete trade agreement with China if it did not “settle the questions of Meng Wanzhou and the two Canadians.”

Just last week, China and the US signed a phase one trade deal, following a damaging trade war between the two superpowers.

What happens next?

The initial hearing is expected to last five days but it could take months or even years until a decision is reached. If the US accusations are found to also be a crime in Canada, it will proceed to the next phase in June, when defense arguments that authorities conspired to detain Meng as part of a “covert criminal investigation” would be heard.

Later in the year, the court is also scheduled to weigh evidence in the US fraud case. Any appeals risk drawing out the proceedings for years.

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Norway government collapses over IS spouse repatriation spat

Norway’s right-wing Progress Party pulled out of the governing coalition on Monday after the government chose to repatriate a woman charged with supporting terrorist groups while she was in Syria.

Finance Minister Siv Jensen announced the move at a press conference, saying that it had become too difficult to get enough of her populist party’s policies through government.

“I brought us into government, and I’m now taking the party out,” Jensen told a news conference.

The move means that Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg no longer has a parliamentary majority.

Shortly after the announcement, Solberg said she intends to stay in office as the head of a minority government, although the situation is likely to make it more difficult for her to govern.

Norway’s constitution does not allow for early elections, with the next parliamentary vote due to take place in September 2021.

Read more: As IS crumbles, Syrian Kurds want Germany to take back foreign fighters

Collapse over woman’s return

Last week, Norway’s Cabinet decided to allow the woman to return to Norway with her two children so that her 5-year-old son could receive medical treatment. The three had been living in the Kurdish-controlled al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

The woman, who left Norway in 2013, was arrested upon her return on suspicion of being a member of the militant “Islamic State” (IS) group.

The woman’s lawyer says she denies the charges against her and will cooperate fully with police.

The Progress Party offered to help the woman’s children, but sought to block the government from providing assistance to adults seeking to return to Norway after marrying foreign fighters or joining Islamist groups abroad.

Countries across Europe have been struggling with whether or not to allow their citizens who left to join the fight in Syria or marry IS militants to return home. In November, Germany repatriated a woman suspected of being an IS member along with her three children.

Finland’s government recently reached a compromise on the issue, deciding to look at each case individually.

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China to ban single-use plastic bags and straws

China, one of the world’s biggest producers of plastic waste, is set to introduce a ban on all non-degradable plastic bags and single-use straws in major cities.

As part of a plan to drastically reduce plastic pollution, China’s government said the production and sale of disposable foam and plastic tableware, often used for takeout, and single-use plastic straws used in the catering industry will be banned by the end of the year.

Disposable plastic products should not be “actively provided” by hotels by 2022.

The changes were outlined in a document released on Sunday by China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the Environment Ministry. The changes are part of a move to achieve a 30% reduction in non-degradable, disposable tableware for takeout in major cities within five years.

Postal delivery outlets are also targeted in the new guidelines with a ban on non-degradable plastic packaging and disposable plastic woven bags by the end of 2022.

Chinese bottle recycle workers

China produced 210 million tonnes of plastic waste in 2017

China tackles pollution concerns

China produced 215 million tonnes of trash in 2017, according to World Bank figures, which warns that could soar to 500 million tonnes annually by 2030. However recently Beijing has taken environmental issues more seriously.

The UK announced last year it would implement a nationwide ban on plastic straws, drinks stirrers and plastic cotton-buds from April 2020. The ban would not apply to people who have medical needs or disabilities, with bars, cafes and restaurants able to provide them on request. 

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