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South Korea’s ex-top prosecutor to challenge Moon’s party in 2022 presidential election

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November 5, 2021

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s main opposition party on Friday chose a former top prosecutor as its presidential candidate, hoping to ride voter anger over rising home prices and corruption scandals involving President Moon Jae-in’s party to victory in a 2022 election.

Yoon Seok-youl, who served as prosecutor-general until March after being appointed by Moon in 2019, was picked at a party convention to represent the People Power Party in the March 9, 2022 presidential election.

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The conservative opposition is looking to regroup after breaking up in disarray in the wake of the 2017 impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye and capitalise on public discontent with Moon’s policy failures and scandals.

Yoon, 60, will compete against Lee Jae-myung, 56, the nominee of Moon’s progressive ruling Democratic Party and a former governor of the country’s most populous province of Gyeonggi. Moon cannot run for re-election under the constitution.

“I feel solemn responsibility and a heavy sense of mission about changing the government, rather than joy,” Yoon said in his acceptance speech, vowing to promote conservative unity and broaden his support base.

Yoon secured 47.85% of the votes of party members and the public in a three-round primary, winning a tight race with Hong Joon-pyo, a five-term lawmaker and 2017 presidential candidate who finished with 41.50% of votes.

Yoon had the backing of party insiders despite being a political novice. He had topped polls even before launching his presidential bid in late June, thanks in part to his image as a staunch prosecutor and high-profile investigations into corruption scandals involving Park and Moon aides.

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As prosecutor-general, Yoon took flak from Moon’s followers for indicting Cho Kuk, a key presidential aide and former justice minister, on several charges including bribery and document fraud. But that move fuelled public support for Yoon, prompting People Power to court him.

BOOSTING SUPPORT, POLICY

But Yoon’s popularity has sagged in recent months as he showed a lack of policy understanding and political experience, and became embroiled in scandals of his own – including murky ties to an anal acupuncturist and corruption allegations involving his family.

The presidential race will be a tough fight.

A Gallup poll released on Friday showed that People Power’s ratings hit the highest level since 2016, and 57% of the respondents said an opposition candidate should win, seeing the election as a chance to deliver judgment against Moon.

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But on the question of who would make the best president, Lee led the pack with 26%, followed by Yoon with 24% and Hong with 15%.

Lee had been a party outsider often critical of Moon, which was once deemed a liability in the face of establishment Democrats. But as Moon’s popularity plunged, that image gave a boost to Lee, alongside his aggressive COVID-19 pandemic response and populist economic agenda including a push for universal basic income.

Yoon has vowed to retake power by widening party support groups beyond old conservatives and Christians, and courting younger, centrist voters who have emerged as a key bloc.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Michael Perry)

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Three missionaries released in Haiti following October kidnapping

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December 7, 2021

By Katharine Jackson

(Reuters) – Three missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti in October have been released, the U.S. State Department and the Ohio-based missionary group that organized the group’s trip to the Caribbean nation said on Monday.

“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement.

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U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday confirmed the release, adding that the United States is continuing to work to secure the release of the others.

Haitian National Police spokesman Garry Desrosiers said the three were released on Sunday night. He declined to give additional details, citing the security of the remaining hostages.

Sixteen Americans and one Canadian, including five children, were abducted after visiting an orphanage. The incident has highlighted Haiti’s dire kidnapping problem, which has worsened in recent months amid economic troubles and political upheaval.

Two other ministry group members were released last month.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson in Washington; Additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Susan Heavey and Matthew Lewis)

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Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defence minister

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December 7, 2021

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – An appeals court in the Netherlands rules on Tuesday in a case alleging war crimes against Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is blamed by a Dutch Palestinian for the loss of six relatives in an Israeli air strike on Gaza in 2014.

Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules. His case was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020.

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Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed.

But the lower court ruled that the principles of universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility, but not in civil cases.

Ziada appealed, arguing that universal jurisdiction should be applied in civil cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law. He asked the appeals judges to reverse the decision, which effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.

Gantz, a career soldier turned politician, was commander-in-chief of the Israeli armed forces during a war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the incident took place.

About 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed, up to 1,500 of them civilians, in the conflict, according to U.N. figures. Ziada said he lost relatives when his family home in Gaza was bombed during a June 2014 Israeli air strike. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.

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Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, regarded by the West as a terrorist organization. Israel says Hamas puts civilians in harm’s way by deploying fighters and weaponry inside densely populated areas of Gaza. 

    Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes in the 2014 conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 2014 by both Israeli defence forces and Palestinian armed groups.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague with additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Mark Heinrich)

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Global finance system partly to blame for inequality – World Bank’s Malpass

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December 7, 2021

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President David Malpass on Monday said fiscal and monetary policies were operating in “uncharted territory” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and may be contributing to a sharp rise in global inequality and poverty.

Malpass told a roundtable hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang the number of people in extreme poverty had increased by over 100 million since the beginning of the pandemic even as global spending has increased to an all-time record.

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Advanced economies have rebounded, while the poorest countries had seen only a weak rebound, or none at all, he said. This was causing “tragic reversals” in median incomes, women’s empowerment and nutrition, he said, and inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, and high energy prices were aggravating these trends.

“Part of the inequality problem is global finance itself and the unequal structure of the stimulus,” Malpass said, noting that prevailing sovereign debt, fiscal and monetary policies were adding to inequality.

Malpass said monetary policy in the advanced economies had long focused on reserve requirement ratios and limited growth in bank reserves to achieve stability in currencies and prices, an approach still used by China.

Other major central banks had switched to a “post-monetarism system” of using very large amounts of excess bank reserves to purchase and hold long-duration bonds and other assets, which he said provided price support for a highly select group of assets.

That approach, he said, excluded small businesses and developing countries, while restraining policy through regulation of liquidity and bank capitalization ratios.

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Fiscal policy was also channeling resources to narrow groups within major borrowers, while leaving others behind, and sovereign debt policies were contributing to inequality.

Malpass repeated his call for greater transparency in debt contracts and a freeze in debt payments for countries with unsustainable debt. He said creditors should move away from collateral and escrow arrangements.

“As one of the largest creditors of developing countries, China’s active participation and strong voice in debt reduction efforts are very much needed and would benefit all participants by encouraging sustainable investment and debt,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio)

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