News Briefs – December 4, 2019

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China to suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong over new law

China said Dec. 2 it will suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong and sanction a range of pro-democracy non-governmental organizations in retaliation for Congress’ passage of legislation supporting human rights in the semi-autonomous territory.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated Chinese accusations Monday that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “seriously interfered” in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, and appeared to back up China’s threats that the U.S. would bear the costs of the decision.
Along with suspending visits by official U.S. military ships and aircraft, Hua said China would sanction organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, and others that she said had “performed badly” in the Hong Kong unrest. AP
 

NASA locates debris from India moon lander that crashed

NASA said Dec. 3 that it has found the debris from India’s moon lander, which crashed on the lunar surface in September.
The U.S. space agency released a photo showing the site of the lander’s impact and the debris field, crediting an Indian engineer for helping locate the site.
The engineer, Shanmuga Subramanian, said he examined an earlier NASA photo to locate the debris.
The space agency said in a statement that Subramanian first located the debris about 750 meters (half a mile) northwest of the main crash site.
“It took days of work to find the crash site,” Shanmugham said. “I searched around the north of the landing spot and found a small little dot. When I compared it to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images of the site from the last nine years, I located the debris and reached out to NASA.”
The 33-year-old engineer announced his discovery on Twitter on Oct. 3, after which NASA performed additional searches in the area and made an official announcement.
The space agency said that after receiving Subramanian’s findings, its team “confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images.” AP
 

Lawmakers will quiz new FAA chief over review of Boeing jet

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration will face questions next week from a congressional panel about the agency’s review of the Boeing 737 Max, which has been grounded since two crashes that killed 346 people.
The House Transportation Committee said Dec. 2 that FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson will testify at a hearing Dec. 11.
It is taking much longer than Boeing expected to update the Max’s flight software and computers and put together a pilot-training course. It’s not clear whether the company can meet its goal of resuming deliveries of the plane this month.
Dickson said last week that the FAA will handle the review of all Max jets built since the grounding — estimated to be more than 300 planes — rather than delegating some of that work to Boeing employees. AP
 

WTO panel: EU fails to end illegal subsidies for Airbus

A World Trade Organization panel ruled Dec. 2 that the European Union has not complied with an order to end illegal subsidies for plane maker Airbus, which prompted the Trump administration to impose tariffs on nearly $7.5 billion worth of EU goods in October.
In its ruling, a WTO compliance panel found that the EU had not taken sufficient steps to end harm to Boeing, the major rival to Europe’s Airbus. The EU is expected to appeal, though the United States is on the cusp of preventing the WTO’s appeals court — the Appellate Body — from ruling on any new appeals.
Responding to the ruling, the EU’s executive Commission faulted the panel for making “a number of serious legal errors in its assessment of EU compliance,” and said its recommended ways of compliance would be “very problematic for a larger part of the WTO membership.”
“The European Commission will decide on its course of action in light of this assessment, including the possibility of bringing an appeal in order to have these legal errors corrected,” it said in a statement.
The commission also alluded to a decision expected next year by a WTO arbitrator in a case of illegal U.S. government support for Boeing, which could give the EU authorization to slap tariffs on U.S. goods.
The Airbus case centers on so-called “launch aid” from the EU that WTO judges ruled had dented impeded sales for aircraft from Boeing in the twin-aisle and very large aircraft markets.
In May last year, the Appellate Body agreed that the EU and four of its member states — Britain, France, Germany and Spain — had failed to abide by an earlier compliance panel ruling. The EU insisted in subsequent arguments that the subsidies had been lifted, and that proper steps were taken to remove the subsidies’ harmful impact on Boeing.
A final resolution could be made more difficult because the WTO’s appellate body, which has final say in trade dispute cases, is set to become unable to hear new cases starting next week.
Under WTO rules, the Appellate Body must have at least three members, and the terms of two of its three members are set to expire Dec. 11. The United States has singlehandedly blocked any new appointments, alleging that the body’s members have overstepped WTO rules and draw excessive salaries and perks, among other things.
It is unclear whether the Appellate Body’s three members will continue to work on outstanding cases after the two terms expire. Sometimes, its judges work on pending cases even after their terms expire. AP

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