China Has a Worrying Habit of Making Business Leaders Disappear
Sherisse Pham, CNN
A top executive suddenly dropping off the radar would be alarming for any company. But in China, it’s become a disturbingly familiar situation. The latest example is Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of a major insurance company that owns the Waldorf Astoria in New York and recently held talks with the Kushner family over a Manhattan office tower. He is reported to have been detained by authorities on Friday as part of a government investigation. His company, Anbang Insurance Group, said in a short statement that Wu “cannot perform his duties due to personal reasons.” His abrupt absence follows a string of cases in recent years in which business leaders were unceremoniously yanked from their duties by authorities, leaving employees and shareholders in the dark. The driving forces appeared to be Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption as well as government investigations into China’s stunning stock market crash in the summer of 2015.
Nearly 14,000 Companies in China Violate Pollution Rules
Edward Wong, THE NEW YORK TIMES
Environmental inspectors in northern China have found that nearly 14,000 companies, or 70 percent of the businesses they examined, failed to meet environmental standards for controlling air pollution, according to a state news agency report. The inspectors working for the Ministry of Environmental Protection came up with those results after two months of work across 28 cities in northern China, said Xinhua, the state news agency. The companies and industries varied widely, including businesses such as wool processing and furniture production. More than 4,700 companies were in unauthorized locations, lacked the proper certificates and failed to meet emissions standards, said the report. Even though Chinese leaders have vowed to crack down on polluters, the factories continue to contribute to severe levels of air, water and soil pollution. Chinese citizens cite the country’s widespread pollution as one of the issues of greatest concern to them.
The Cuban Visa Business: Murky But Profitable
Abel Fernandez, THE MIAMI HERALD
Regardless of any changes within the labyrinth of details about travel to Cuba there is one document that remains largely unexplained: the Cuban entry permit, known as visa or tourist card, that all non-Cuban visitors are required to buy. The visa is literally a card where visitors write their names and other personal information. It is valid for only one entry, costs $50 if bought from the Cuban Embassy in Washington and an extra $20 if purchased by mail. But the card is also sold at varying prices by the dozens of travel agencies and airlines that handle tickets to Cuba. The Cuban entry permits are totally separate from the US government requirement that passengers to Cuba fill out a questionnaire and check off one of the 12 allowed categories for travel to the island, such as educational or religious. Tampa resident Elaine Martínez, 34, said the Cuban visas are so expensive “it’s an abuse.”
South Korean Officials Find Drone Along Border With North Korea
Guy Taylor, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A suspected North Korean spy drone flew more than 100 miles into South Korea and snapped photos of the recently deployed US anti-ballistic missile system before circling back and crashing on the southern side of the fortified border that divides the Korean peninsula. Defense officials in Seoul said the small unmanned craft was equipped with a 64-gigabyte memory chip and a camera made by the Japanese tech giant Sony, and was similar in size to other North Korean drones recovered after crashing in the South in 2014. The discovery coincides with concern in Washington over Pyongyang’s drone operations following recent warnings by a high-level North Korean defector, who claimed the Kim Jong-un regime has a fleet capable of being armed with chemical and biological weapons, and of avoiding radars, including the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. Tuesday’s development suggests the North Koreans may have closely monitored the deployment with drones.
North Korean Soldier Defects To South By Crossing Heavily Fortified DMZ
Yoo Kyong Chang, STARS AND STRIPES
A North Korean soldier defected to the South on Tuesday after crossing the heavily fortified border that divides the two countries. It was the second defection via the Demilitarized Zone in less than a year. It’s a dangerous journey as the area, which is about 160 miles long and two and a half miles wide, is dotted with landmines. The soldier is being questioned to find out what caused him to flee to South Korea and how he made it over, the official said, adding no gunfire was exchanged. While South Korean officials have reported an increase in the number of overall defections from the North, military defections remain relatively rare. Another North Korean soldier defected across the DMZ last September. In all, only five to ten North Koreans have used that route to cross to the South since 2010.
Center For a Free Cuba Petitions Trump to Dismantle Obama’s Cuba Policies
Mimi Whitefield, MIAMI HERALD
The Center for a Free Cuba sent a letter of gratitude to President Donald Trump Wednesday for his decision to come to Miami and said it was pleased that he would soon begin the “dismantling of Barack Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime.” The president is scheduled to announce his new Cuba policy in Miami on Friday. The exact direction that policy will take is unclear but it is expected to roll back some Obama-era executive orders that made it easier to travel to the island and do business with Cuba. The message that the center wants to get across is that “Cuba is a lot more than a tourism destination,” said Calzon. “Cuba is 11 million souls 90 miles from the United States who are denied the most basic and elemental human rights.” Calzon said current policy is the result of executive orders issued by Obama and secret negotiations with the Cuban government instead of strict adherence to the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (also known as Helms-Burton).
Venezuela’s Slide Into Chaos Is Splintering The Chávez Movement
Joshua Partlow and Rachelle Krygier, THE WASHINGTON POST
For more than a dozen years, Hugo Chávez led a socialist-inspired movement that transformed Venezuela, winning one presidential election after another with the support of an army of red-shirted “chavistas.” But four years after Chávez’s death, the movement he founded is splintering, with current and former government officials, as well as residents of poor neighborhoods that were once adamantly pro-government, turning on his successor, Nicolás Maduro. The criticism from Maduro’s former allies has helped to energize a protest movement that has drawn demonstrators onto the streets almost every day for two months. The participants are angry at what they call Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule and a severe economic crisis.
Venezuelan General Quits Over Constituent Assembly Plan
A Venezuelan top general who resigned last week has revealed his reasons for stepping down. The head of Venezuela’s National Defense Council, Alexis López Ramírez, said he had resigned over President Nicolás Maduro’s plans for a constituent assembly. The general said he did not agree with the way the assembly was convened and how its members would be selected. His resignation amid a political crisis has caused waves in Venezuela. Most recently, jailed opposition leader Leopoldo López published a video message on Twitter calling on the military to rebel. But so far there has been very limited dissent within the armed forces. When news of the renunciation of Gen López filtered through on Monday, speculation therefore was at fever pitch about what had triggered it.