President Joe Biden has said his predecessor Donald Trump should not be given access to intelligence briefings because of his "erratic behaviour". US President Joe Biden is refusing to give former president Donald Trump access to intelligence briefings. Photo: AFP The US has a tradition of allowing former presidents to be briefed on the nation's security issues - as a courtesy extended by the incumbent. But when asked by CBS News if Trump would receive the same courtesy, President Biden said: "I think not". He cited Trump's "erratic behaviour" as his reason for refusing access. "I don't think there's any need for him to have an intelligence briefing," Biden said in his first sit-down interview since becoming president. He declined to speculate on what his worst fears would be if Trump were allowed to see classified reports, but he suggested the former president could not be trusted to keep confidential information to himself. "What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?" Biden said. The move is the first time a former president has been excluded from the tradition of being granted continued access to the briefings, according to the New York Times. For weeks after the 3 November presidential election, Trump himself broke with tradition by failing to include his successor in security and intelligence briefings. Trump eventually agreed to allow the formal transition process to take place, but his administration was still accused of blocking Biden's access to intelligence. Trump feuded with the intelligence community throughout his four-year presidency and went through six national intelligence directors. He questioned reports by US agencies that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, and assailed intelligence chiefs for being "extremely passive and naive" over Iran. In 2017, he disclosed highly classified information to Russia's foreign minister about an Islamic State operation in what was seen as a breach of trust by many in the US intelligence community. During his CBS interview, Biden was asked about the impeachment trial Trump is facing in the US Senate for his role in the riot at the Capitol in Washington on 6 January. Biden said he "ran like hell to defeat" Trump in the election "because I thought he was unfit to be president", but he would leave the Senate to decide whether the Republican should be barred from ever holding public office again. Fox cancels vocal Trump supporter Lou Dobbs' show US broadcaster Fox has cancelled the TV programme hosted by Lou Dobbs, a vocal Trump supporter who is accused of using his platform to spread baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election. The news emerged a day after Dobbs was named in a defamation lawsuit filed by the voting machine maker Smartmatic. The $US2.7 billion lawsuit claims the presenter was part of a "disinformation campaign" against the company. Fox, which denies the allegations, says the decision to drop Lou Dobbs Tonight was not linked. The veteran financial journalist, 75, has presented Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business Network since 2011. He was also an occasional commentator on Fox News, the conservative channel that has been home to several staunch supporters of Trump. - BBC
The Biden administration has ended the deadlock over the next head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by expressing its “strong support” for Nigeria’s ex-finance minister.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was frontrunner for the role until the Trump administration last October said it wanted another woman, South Korea’s Yoo Myung-hee.
Yoo has now withdrawn her candidacy.
If confirmed in the role, Dr Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman and the first African to lead the WTO.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala on Friday praised her rival for the post and said: “There is vital work ahead to do together.”
A WTO nominations committee in October recommended its 164 members appoint Dr Okonjo-Iweala as a replacement to outgoing chief Roberto Azevedo; a spokesman at the time said all had approved the appointment “except for one”.
President Donald Trump – who had described the WTO as “horrible” and biased towards China – wanted Yoo, South Korea’s trade minister.
Yoo said her decision to withdraw her candidacy was made in “close consultation” with the US. She said: “South Korea will actively contribute to reaching consensus for the next WTO chief and co-operate with her and participate in the WTO reform process.”
The White House congratulated Yoo on her “strong campaign” for the position and for being a “traiblazer” as South Korea’s first female trade minister.
In a statement, it said the “US stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO director general”.
Myanmar's military rulers have shut down the country's internet as thousands of people joined the largest rally yet against Monday's coup. Protesters in Yangon in one of the largest rallies yet against the coup in Myanmar. Photo: AFP A near-total internet blackout is in effect with connectivity falling to 16 percent of ordinary levels, said the monitoring group NetBlocks Internet Observatory. In the main city, Yangon, crowds chanted "Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win". Police with riot shields have blocked the main roads into the city centre. The internet shutdown happened hours after the military blocked access to Twitter and Instagram to stop people mobilising for protests. Facebook had been banned a day earlier. Many users had evaded the restrictions on social media by using virtual private networks (VPNs) but the more general blackout severely disrupted that. Civil society organisations urged internet providers and mobile networks to challenge the blackout order, Reuters news agency reported. Human rights group Amnesty International called the shutdown "heinous and reckless" and warned it could put the people of Myanmar at risk of human rights violations. The military has not commented. It temporarily blocked access to the internet following the coup on 1 February. Rallying 'for future generations' On Saturday morning, protesters - including factory workers and young students - called for the release of those detained by the army, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. They marched through the streets of Yangon as city buses sounded their horns in support. Bystanders flashed the three-finger Hunger Games salute, which has become a symbol of defiance against authoritarianism, while residents clapped or banged pots and pans on their doorsteps. Many households have also been displaying red stickers in their windows in support of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the BBC's Burmese editor Soe Win Than reports. Police with riot shields used barbed wire to block roads and water cannon were put in place in some areas as a precaution, but the demonstration reportedly remained peaceful, with no attempt by protesters to pass police lines. A protester in Yangon flashes the three-finger salute, which has become a symbol of defiance in the region. Photo: AFP Demonstrators gave police roses and bottles of drinking water, calling on them to support the people not the new regime. One female protester, who asked not to be named, said she would not accept the "unjust seizing of power". "Because of military dictatorship, many of our lives have been destroyed," she said, adding: "We cannot allow our future generations to meet the same fate." Speaking from Yangon, Britain's ambassador to Myanmar, Dan Chugg, told the BBC that people were taking to the streets in increasing numbers. "The grief and the sadness of the last few days is gradually turning to anger," he said, adding: "Doctors are refusing to work and civil servants have been refusing to work... There's quite a sense around the country of unhappiness at what's happened - and outrage." Another demonstration took place on Saturday in Myanmar's second city, Mandalay. Myanmar - also known as Burma - has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, and there were no immediate reports of violence after Saturday's protests. More demonstrations were expected to be held later. The military authorities are hunkered down in the capital, Nay Pyi Daw, and have so far avoided direct engagement with the protesters. The BBC's Nyein Chan in Yangon says the Burmese know very well the violent crackdowns that the military is capable of. The country was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011. But now that people have had time to digest what is happening, they are finding different ways to get their voices heard, our correspondent says. Suu Kyi is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. Police documents show she is accused of illegally importing and using communications equipment - walkie-talkies - at her home in the capital. Social media's role as coup unfolded The coup took place as a new session of parliament was set to open, following November's landslide election win by the NLD party. Many Burmese watched the events unfold in real time on Facebook, which is the country's primary source of information and news. But three days later, internet providers were ordered to block the platform for stability reasons. Following the ban, thousands of users were active on Twitter and Instagram using hashtags to express their opposition to the takeover. By 22:00 local time (15:30 GMT) on Friday access to those platforms had also been denied. There was no official word from the coup leaders but AFP reported it had seen an unverified ministry document that said the two social media sites were being used to "cause misunderstanding among the public". A spokeswoman for Twitter said the ban undermined "the public conversation and the rights of people to make their voices heard". Facebook, which owns Instagram, called on the authorities to "restore connectivity". Myanmar at a glance Myanmar is a country of 54 million people in South East Asia which shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos. It was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011, either directly or indirectly, leading to international condemnation and sanctions. Protesters have been calling for the release of those detained by the army, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: AFP Aung San Suu Kyi spent years campaigning for democratic reforms. A gradual liberalisation began in 2010, though the military still retained considerable influence. A government led by Suu Kyi came to power after free elections in 2015. But a deadly military crackdown two years later on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh. It triggered a rift between Suu Kyi and her previous supporters in the international community after she refused to condemn the crackdown or describe it as ethnic cleansing. But she has remained hugely popular at home, shown in her party's landslide win in the November election. - BBC
The new military rulers of Myanmar are ordering mobile operators and internet service providers to block access to Twitter and Instagram in the country until "further notice", Norwegian telecom Telenor says. A night-time street protest organised via social media takes place in Yangon. Photo: AFP The government had already ordered internet providers on Thursday to block Facebook, which counts half of the population of 54 million as users, until this weekend. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology did not immediately answer a request for comment, but said previously it had blocked Facebook for the sake of "stability". Twitter, which is also facing pressure from authorities in India, did not immediately answer requests for comment. A spokesman for Facebook confirmed the block on Instagram. "We urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with family and friends and access important information," he told Reuters. In a statement, Telenor expressed "grave concern" about the directive and said it had challenged its necessity to authorities. Since the ban on Facebook, thousands in Myanmar have flocked to Twitter and Instagram to express their opposition to Monday's takeover by the army and the ousting and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since the coup. Photo: AFP Many people are using social media and pro-democracy hashtags to criticise the army's takeover and call for peaceful protests until the result of November's election, which was won in a landslide by Suu Kyi's party, is respected. The hashtags #RespectOurVotes, #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar, and #SaveMyanmar all had hundreds of thousands of interactions by Friday, according to hashtag tracker BrandMentions. Teachers, students among protesters Meanwhile, teachers and students have joined the protests against Monday's military coup, the BBC reports. Demonstrators at a university in the biggest city, Yangon, chanted support for Suu Kyi and wore red ribbons, her party's colour. Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since Monday, is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. He said he was seeking her unconditional release and that of the president, who was also detained, but he had been unable to meet them. Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, which has plunged the South East Asian country into uncertainty. On Friday afternoon, hundreds of teachers and students gathered outside Dagon University in Yangon, where they displayed the three-finger salute - a sign that has been adopted by protesters in the region to show their opposition to authoritarian rule. University teachers in Yangon make the three finger salute with red ribbons on their uniform during a civil disobedience campaign against the military coup. Photo: AFP They chanted their support for Suu Kyi and carried red flags. "We will not let our generation suffer under this kind of military dictatorship," Min Sithu, a student, told the AFP news agency. There have been a number of demonstrations in different parts of Myanmar - the first large-scale street protests seen in the country since the coup. Residents in some cities, including Yangon, have conducted nightly protests from their homes, banging pots and pans and singing revolutionary songs. There have also been daytime flash mobs. A woman gives the three-fingered salute in Yangon. Photo: AFP About 70 MPs are said to have held an insurgent parliament, to replicate the parliamentary session that was supposed to take place this week. 79-year-old detained In a pre-dawn phone call with BBC Burmese, Win Htein, a 79-year-old patron of the NLD and strong supporter of Suu Kyi, said he was being taken to the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, by members of the police and the military. He said he was being detained under sedition laws - which carry a maximum punishment of life imprisonment - although he was not told the exact charge. "They don't like what I've been talking about. They are afraid of what I'm saying," he said. The military overthrew Suu Kyi's government after it claimed a November election won by the NLD was fraudulent, though the country's election commission said there was no evidence to back up these allegations. The move has been met with global outrage. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden called on the military to "relinquish power" and release detained officials and activists. The US had already threatened severe sanctions on Myanmar. However, the military is seemingly undeterred, continuing down its path of consolidating power and appointing new ministers, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head said. The UN Security Council also called on the military authorities in Myanmar to release Suu Kyi and other detained leaders - but stopped short of condemning the coup. In doing so, it has brought China and Russia behind a call for her release, in what our correspondent has described as a rare show of international unity. - Reuters / BBC