Brazil OKs Amended Bill on Car-hailing Apps After Uber Lobbying

Brazil’s Senate approved a weaker version of a hotly disputed bill to regulate car-hailing services like Uber Technologies Inc. on Tuesday after the U.S. company’s chief executive  warned it could make its business unworkable in the country.

Dara Khosrowshahi, who held talks with senior Brazilian officials in the capital Brasilia, had called on senators to remove rules in proposed legislation that would require Uber drivers to be licensed with their local municipalities, like taxis, and to use their own cars.

Uber has said that, if the bill was approved in its original form, it would undermine its ability to operate in Brazil, its second-biggest market, by making it too expensive and bureaucratic for many of its drivers.

That would harm the livelihoods of the 500,000 people driving for the company in Latin America’s largest economy, according to Uber.

Following an appeal by Khosrowshahi for greater dialogue and more sensible regulation, senators agreed to amendments dropping requirements that drivers own their cars and have the same red number plates used by public transport vehicles like taxis.

However, lawmakers kept rules that make drivers subject to local city authorities for licensing, taxes and other rules. The bill must return to the lower house for final approval.

The regulatory crackdown in Brazil comes after authorities in London decided not to renew Uber’s operating license last month and highlights the legal threats mounting against its fast-growing foreign operations.

Khosrowshahi struck a conciliatory tone in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, suggesting Uber was open to finding compromise with local lawmakers, a break in style with his pugnacious predecessor, Travis Kalanick.

“In the past we were a bit aggressive, but we have to understand that it’s not just about what we want and reach compromises,” Khosrowshahi told O Estado de S. Paulo. “We are not against regulation. Regulating services like Uber is totally appropriate.”

However, after talks with Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles, the executive said the future of the ride-hailing app in Brazil depended on the decisions made in Brasilia.

Uber, Taxi Drivers Protest

Hundreds of taxi and Uber drivers lined up on opposite sides of the esplanade in front of Brazil’s Congress to demonstrate for and against the bill.

Uber’s executive spokesman for Brazil, Fabio Sabba, told Reuters he was punched in the face by a taxi driver as he gave a media interview inside the Senate building.

Taxi drivers bused into Brasilia by unions said Uber’s lower fares had cut their income by almost half.

“Uber is destroying our age-old profession with unfair competition,” said Antonio Barbosa, who traveled 26 hours from the northern state of Bahia to protest.

In a study issued hours before the Senate was due to vote, Brazil’s antitrust regulator CADE found that car-hailing apps had improved the market for individual passenger transport by increasing competition. CADE said apps like Uber, Cabify and 99 should lead to less regulation rather than more.

In recent days, car-hailing companies such as Uber and Cabify had urged Brazilians by WhatsApp and social media to press their senators to vote against the measure, which was authored in the lower house by a congressman from the leftist Workers Party backed by taxi cooperatives and unions.

Cabify said the Senate had listened to the outpouring of messages on social media and 825,000 signatures handed in to Congress opposing the original bill.

“The amendments have brought a more balanced bill,” Cabify said in a statement.

Immigrants From Honduras, Nicaragua Face US Deadline

Immigrants from Honduras and Nicaragua who have Temporary Protected Status in the United States will learn by Monday whether that status is to be extended.

If the Department of Homeland Security does not extend TPS for the two countries by November 6, permission to live and work in the U.S. will expire for thousands of Hondurans and Nicaraguans on January 5.

Honduras and Nicaragua became TPS-designated countries in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch cut a swath of devastation through them. In Honduras, “the hurricane killed 5,657 people and displaced approximately 1.1 million people,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says on its website. The storm also destroyed about 70 percent of the country’s infrastructure.

Nicaragua fared no better. USCIS says 3,045 people were killed and 885 were reported missing.

“Landslides and floods destroyed entire villages and caused extensive damage to the transportation network, housing, medical and educational facilities, water supply and sanitation facilities, and the agricultural sector,” the agency says.

Since then, TPS status has been renewed several times for the two countries on the ground that they were racked by subsequent environmental disasters and had not fully recovered from Mitch.

Miami immigration attorney Stephanie Green told VOA’s LatAm service the main argument for renewal this time around was economic. “The economy of those countries is not strong,” she said. “They’re among the poorest countries in the hemisphere.”

Meant to be temporary

The Trump administration has indicated it will take a harder line on TPS than previous ones. TPS allows citizens of countries hit by natural disasters or war to live and work in the U.S. until their homelands have recovered.

“We’re looking at the fact that TPS means temporary,” DHS spokesman David Lapan said about two weeks ago. “It has not been temporary for many years, and we have created a situation where people have lived in this country for a long time.”

In September, acting DHS Director Elaine Duke ended TPS status for Sudan, while extending it for South Sudan.

In May, then DHS Secretary John Kelly extended TPS status for Haiti for only six months, not the year Haiti’s government had requested.

Kelly indicated another extension was unlikely. He said the six months “should allow Haitian TPS recipients living in the United States time to attain travel documents and make other necessary arrangements for their ultimate departure from the United States, and should also provide the Haitian government with the time it needs to prepare for the future repatriation of all current TPS recipients.”

Haiti’s TPS designation expires in January, and DHS will have to decide on an extension by a November 23 deadline. “They usually decide on extensions right before a reregistration period occurs. If you get a work permit that’s good for a year, maybe three months before the work permit expires, they’ll decide whether they are going to extend TPS or not,” Green said.

According to the Congressional Research Service, about 50,000 Haitians have TPS status as well as 57,000 Hondurans and 2,550 Nicaraguans.

After TPS

To people who have lived and worked in the U.S. for years, returning home could be a shock.

“None of the countries that currently have TPS in this hemisphere are ready to receive all of the people that might be returned,” Green said. “They don’t have the resources. They don’t have the employment. They don’t have the housing. They don’t have medical facilities. They don’t have educational facilities.”

Yet, going home voluntarily may be the best of the choices available to people who lose TPS status. If they try to stay in the U.S., they do so without “legal authority to be here,” Green said.

And anyone who participated in TPS would be easy for immigration officials to track down, simply because of all the information they would have provided on their TPS applications.

“They want to know your name, your date of birth. Of course, they want to know your country of birth. They want to know your telephone number. They want to know where you work. They want to know where you were educated. They want to know everything about you. And, yes, they will have all of your information,” Green said.

She added, “They are already deporting thousands of people. There is nothing to stop them from deporting thousands more.”

After Honduras and Nicaragua, TPS for El Salvador expires March 9. El Salvador got a TPS designation after earthquakes in 2001. The Congressional Research Service said 195,000 Salvadorans have TPS. A decision on whether to extend the program is due January 8.

Ten countries currently have TPS benefits: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Nepal and Yemen.

VOA’s Latin American service contributed to this report.

Ukraine Official: US Should Demand Access to Yanukovych in Manafort Case

A top Ukrainian official says Russia should provide U.S. investigators with access to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia after his rule was toppled in Ukraine’s Maidan revolution of 2014.

Dmitry Shymkiv, the deputy head of the administration of President Petro Poroshenko, said access to Yanukovych could prove vital to an understanding of the work done for Ukraine by indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Shymkiv, whose role is similar to that of deputy chief of staff in the United States, spoke to VOA in response to comments made Tuesday by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said Washington should further investigate Ukrainian links to Manafort.

Kyiv “has information” about the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Lavrov told a news briefing, according to reports by Russian news outlet RIA.

U.S. investigators probing Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election — which Moscow denies having made — charged Manafort and a business associate on Monday with conspiracy to launder money and other crimes. The charges, some going back more than a decade, center on Manafort’s work in Ukraine, specifically for Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions.

Yanukovych, who fled to Crimea just before it was annexed by Russian forces in February 2014, was not seen again until he held a news conference three weeks later in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

Ukrainian TV channel TSN has reported that Yanukovych lives in the Rostov region, although Russian officials have never confirmed this.

“We need to understand … how all of the [ties between Manafort and top Ukrainian officials] took place,” said Shymkiv, secretary of the National Reform Council to the president of Ukraine and deputy head of Poroshenko’s administration.

Russia, however, has not cooperated with a Ukrainian government arrest warrant for Yanukovych, who stands accused of the “mass murder of peaceful citizens” during the uprising against his administration. Similarly, Shymkiv suggested in a Skype interview with VOA’s Ukrainian service, Russian officials would be unlikely to accommodate a U.S. request for Yanukovych to testify in the Manafort trial.

“I believe Yanukovych should be interrogated by the U.S. government, but I don’t think the Russians would let the Americans do that,” he said, laughing. “But it is absolutely a valid claim, because Yanukovych was the leader of Ukraine’s oligarchical structure, the leader of the corrupted vertical that was built in Ukraine since his rise to power in 2012 and up to the 2013 revolution of dignity.”

In his remarks Monday, Lavrov suggested that the charges over Manafort’s work for Ukraine indicated that the U.S. investigators had so far been unable to make a case against Russia, which has been the main focus of the probe headed by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“He has been working for several months. Accused two former Trump campaign managers of what they were doing on behalf of Yanukovych. Even though they were looking for a Russian trace,” Lavrov said, according to the Russian news outlet Sputnik International.

Lavrov also hinted at a Ukrainian role in last year’s U.S. presidential election, saying Ukrainian officials “can say a lot about their position toward the candidates during the 2016 presidential campaign.”

Shymkiv said U.S. investigators should explore whether Manafort was connected to the confiscation of revenue from some Ukrainian businesses while he was serving as a consultant to Yanukovych’s party.

“There was very aggressive behavior toward Ukrainian business people, and there was a strong extraction of money from different industries, so [Yanukovych] should be interrogated in this case, or at least be a subject of the case, because Paul Manafort was hired by the Party of Regions, which represented Mr. Yanukovych,” said Shymkiv.

Ukraine focus on lobbying

Asked for his reaction to the Manafort indictment, Shymkiv, who is tasked with overseeing post-Maidan reforms under Poroshenko’s administration, said that while U.S. news coverage has been dominated by the money-laundering and tax-evasion charges, Ukrainians are focused on U.S.-based lobbying groups in the employ of various Ukrainian politicians.

“[The Manafort trial] puts a significant light on a lot of lobbying activities in the U.S. from international governments or some political forces,” he said. “We’ve seen many Ukrainian politicians hiring lobbyists for different activities — creating, for example, fake hearings in the Congress.

“We appreciate American journalists who investigated it and showed how fake it is. But it is important that through the interrogation of Manafort by U.S. law enforcement agencies, we might get some additional insight into corruption practices, or other similar activities, which were happening in Ukraine during the Yanukovych regime,” Shymkiv added. “This can help Ukrainian law enforcement agencies build stronger cases on convicting some Ukrainian individuals.”

Ukrainian prosecutors, he noted, are willing to remain in touch with U.S. Justice Department officials.

“As this Manafort case evolves, there will be more stories and more disclosures taking place,” he said.

Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign manager for about two months in the summer of 2016, was forced to resign after reports surfaced about his financial relationship with Yanukovych.

This story originated in VOA’s Ukrainian service.

Trump Administration to Defend Cuba Embargo at UN, Reversing Obama

The Trump administration will defend America’s decades-old economic embargo on Cuba in a United Nations vote this week, the State Department said Tuesday, in a reversal from the Obama administration that reflects deteriorating U.S.-Cuban relations.

Every year the U.N. votes to condemn the embargo, and for years the U.S. predictably voted “no.” But last year, under President Barack Obama, the U.S. abstained for the first time, as Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro moved forward with the historic warming of relations.

A “no” vote Wednesday from U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley will return the United States to a place of extreme isolation within the global community over its policy toward Cuba, potentially undermining the Trump administration’s broader goals for engagement with Latin America. The U.S. embargo on Cuba is almost universally opposed throughout the world.

The vote comes as an ongoing crisis over U.S. government workers in Havana harmed by invisible “health attacks” has created a new rift between the U.S. and Cuba, putting the restoration of ties in jeopardy. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert did not mention the attacks in announcing the “no” vote, instead emphasizing the need to promote rights and democracy in Cuba.

“For far too long, Cuba has engaged in human rights abuses — human rights abuses that perhaps past administrations have turned and looked the other way,” Nauert said. Still, she said the U.S. would continue pursuing engagement with the island that advances American interests.

Proponents of improved ties with Cuba had urged the Trump administration to abstain instead of voting “no.” In a letter to President Donald Trump on Tuesday, 10 Democratic senators said U.S. international credibility would suffer if it continued pushing an “outdated” policy seen as harmful to the Cuban people.

“Reflexive and baseless, and a regrettable mistake,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a prominent voice on U.S.-Cuba relations, after the planned “no” vote was announced.

General Assembly resolutions are nonbinding and unenforceable. But the annual exercise has given Cuba a global stage to demonstrate how little support America’s commercial, economic and financial embargo enjoys.

Unpopular stance

The yearly vote condemning the U.S. embargo has reliably passed overwhelmingly. Voting “no” means the U.S. will once again be pitted against almost every other nation.

In 2015, the last year that the U.S. voted “no,” close ally Israel was the only country to join in opposition, leading to a 191-2 vote to condemn the embargo — the highest number of votes ever for the measure. The United States lost its only other ally in the vote, Palau, in 2013, when the Pacific island nation abstained rather than joining the U.S. in voting “no.”

Since taking office, Trump has taken steps to partially roll back the rapprochement with Cuba, but has preserved many other changes put in place by Obama. Yet Cuba has complained bitterly about the U.S. response to the health attacks, which has included pulling most American diplomats out of Havana and suspending visa processing for Cubans at the embassy there.

“To Cuba, it is unacceptable and immoral that the U.S. government has decided to take political decisions that harm the Cuban people,” he said.

Havana attacks

At least 24 U.S. government workers and their spouses are “medically confirmed” to have been affected by the unexplained attacks in Havana, the State Department has said. The victims suffered a range of medical conditions including permanent hearing loss and mild traumatic brain injury, known as concussion.

Cuba vehemently denies any knowledge of involvement. The U.S. has not blamed Cuba for perpetrating the attacks and says it doesn’t know who is responsible, but has nonetheless faulted Castro’s government for failing to keep American diplomats safe in his country.

The Cuban Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the planned U.S. “no” vote.

In late 2014, Obama and Castro announced plans to restore relations, and the following year embassies were re-opened in Washington and Havana more than half a century after ties were cut in 1961.

Although the Obama administration eased travel and commerce restrictions on Cuba, allowing direct commercial flights between the countries to resume, Obama was unable to persuade Congress to repeal the formal embargo. The Republican-led Congress has continued to support the far-reaching sanctions.

The Obama administration’s decision last year to abstain rather than vote “no” was cheered in the 193-member General Assembly. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, said the United States remained opposed to some of the Cuban government’s practices and policies but was pursuing a new approach to engagement with the island.

US Social Media Giants Pledge to Combat Foreign Disinformation

Attorneys for Twitter, Facebook and Google on Tuesday told U.S. lawmakers that Russian entities used their platforms to sow discord and disinformation during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, but downplayed the magnitude of those efforts.

“Foreign actors used fake accounts to place ads in Facebook and Instagram that reached millions of Americans over a two-year period,” Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said, testifying before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. “Many of these ads and posts are inflammatory. Some are downright offensive.”

Sean Edgett, Twitter’s acting general counsel, said the company studied all tweets posted from Sept. 1 to Nov. 15, 2016, and found that election-related content posted by automated Russian troll accounts “was comparatively small.” He said the Russian troll accounts made up “around 1/100th of a percent of total Twitter accounts” during the time studied.

“Twitter believes that any activity of that kind — regardless of magnitude — is unacceptable and we agree we must do better to prevent it,” he said.

Twitter has taken action against the suspected Russian trolls, suspending 2,752 accounts and implementing new dedicated teams “to enhance the quality of the information our users see,” Edgett said.

Facebook, meanwhile, said it would hire more people to vet and, when necessary, remove content, and verify and publish the identities of election advertisers.

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate requiring some of the very steps technology giants say they are implementing on their own.

“These platforms are being used by people who wish us harm and wish to undercut our way of life,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

“It shouldn’t be news to anyone that Russia interfered in the election,” said California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. “What is really staggering and hard to fully comprehend is how easily and successfully they turned modern technologies to their advantage.”

The social media attorneys said Russian trolling campaigns consistently sought to rile up Americans, first in a way damaging to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. After the election, they said, Russian efforts appeared aimed at sowing doubts about the legitimacy of Republican Donald Trump’s victory at the polls — a point seized upon by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

“Russia does not have loyalty to a political party in the United States; their goal is to divide us and discredit our democracy,” Grassley said.

Representatives from the same social media companies testify Wednesday before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. 

VOA’s Joshua Fatzick contributed to this report.

Britain Accelerates Brexit Plans; Talks Also to Speed Up

Britain is accelerating preparations for “all eventualities” when it leaves the European Union, but both sides are hopeful an agreement on stepping up talks to unravel more than 40 years of partnership will be sealed soon.

With only 17 months remaining until Britain’s expected departure, the slow pace of talks has increased the possibility that London will leave without a deal, alarming business leaders who say time is running out for them to make investment decisions.

British and EU negotiators met in Brussels on Tuesday to try to agree a schedule for further divorce talks, with an initial proposal from the bloc to hold three more rounds before the end of the year not winning instant approval from London.

The pressure has spurred the British government to step up its Brexit plans, employing thousands more workers and spending millions to make sure customs posts, laws and systems work on day one of Brexit, even without a deal on a future relationship.

At a meeting with her ministers Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May was updated on plans for the tax and customs authority to add 3,000 to 5,000 workers next year and for spending of 500 million pounds ($660.45 million) for Brexit.

Domestic preparations

“Alongside the negotiations in Brussels, it is crucial that we are putting our own domestic preparations in place so that we are ready at the point that we leave the EU,” May’s spokesman told reporters.

“The preparatory work has seen a significant acceleration in recent months. Departments are preparing detailed delivery plans for each of the around 300 programs underway across government.”

May wants to silence critics in her ruling Conservative Party who are pressing her to walk away from talks, which have faltered over how much Britain should pay to leave the bloc.

Brexit campaigners are demanding that Britain leave with no deal if the talks do not move on beyond a discussion of the divorce settlement on a so-called Brexit bill, EU citizens rights and the border with EU member Ireland by December.

Brexit minister David Davis said Tuesday that he thought Britain would agree on some kind of basic deal with the European Union, even in the “very improbable” eventuality that they failed to agree on a trade deal.

Better tone

In a sign that an improved tone between the two sides, struck at a summit earlier this month, was continuing, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reaffirmed his message in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, that he was ready to “speed up negotiations.”

May’s government has also long said it would welcome an acceleration in the talks. But the sides have yet to agree on how to do that following a top-level meeting in Brussels on October 19-20.

Barnier has proposed three rounds — one that did not take place last week, and two more in the weeks starting November 16 and December 4. London prefers continuous talks.

“We are ready to accelerate, but we must have something to talk about,” said an EU official.

This was what Britain’s Oliver Robbins and Barnier’s deputy, Sabine Weyand, were seeking to agree on in Brussels on Tuesday.

Before leaving the EU, May faces a struggle to get parliamentary support for a law to sever political, financial and legal ties with the bloc — the EU Withdrawal Bill, for which lawmakers have proposed hundreds of amendments.

Asked whether May was preparing to offer a concession over a final vote on any deal struck with the EU, her spokesman said there was “lots of speculation in relation to Brexit.”

“We’ve always said that we’ll do whatever is necessary,” he said.

Mexico GDP Shrinks Amid NAFTA Uncertainty, Disasters

Mexico announced Tuesday that its economy shrank 0.2 percent in the third quarter compared with the previous period amid uncertainty related to renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement and local slowdowns caused by natural disasters.

 

Alfredo Coutino, Latin America director at Moody’s Analytics, said the contraction came after Mexico posted GDP gains of 0.7 percent and 0.6 percent in the first two quarters and confirms an expected deceleration in the second half of 2017.

 

“Investment decisions were affected by uncertainty over the possibility that NAFTA negotiations would break off,” Coutino wrote in a report. He added that monetary tightening and high inflation “restrained consumption,” while “activity was partially interrupted in cities affected by the two earthquakes in September and the hurricanes that struck the southern part of the country.”

 

The government’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography reported the contraction and said that GDP for the third quarter was 1.7 percent higher than in the same period last year.

 

Coutino forecast that Mexico’s economy will grow about 1 percent in the fourth quarter and hit about 1.8 percent on the year, down from 2017 and short of target.

 

You Can Stymie the iPhone X Face ID – but it Takes Some Work

Apple is offering a nifty way to unlock its new iPhone X — just stare at it.

Face ID, Apple’s name for its facial-recognition technology, replaces the fingerprint sensor found on other models.

How well does it work — not just technically, but in everyday use? After all, it’s much easier to align your finger with the sensor than to align your face with the phone.

The iPhone X costs about $1,000 — $300 more than the iPhone 8. Advance orders began this past Friday, and Apple is now giving delivery times of five to six weeks. Apple says it will have limited supplies at stores for same-day pickup on Friday, but you’ll have to get there early.

Better face detection

Many rival Android phones already use facial-recognition technology. Samsung also has an unlock feature that scans your iris. But the systems can be tripped with something as simple as eyeglasses.

While Android largely bases its match on a two-dimensional camera shot of you, the iPhone X goes 3-D. During setup, the iPhone guides you to rotate your head so it gets a more complete picture of you — analyzing some 30,000 points on your face, to be specific. So if you’re wearing glasses, the iPhone can still recognize you using other parts of your face. Same goes for wearing a hat.

And Apple’s system continually learns. Each time you use your face to unlock the phone, it automatically keeps tabs on small changes, such as growing a mustache or simply getting older. With Android, you have to go into the settings to teach the phone’s face recognition to get better.

There are limits. If you shave your beard, it’s too big of a change for the iPhone X to be sure it’s you. You’ll need a passcode, but the phone should remember you the next time .

Recognizing you

I tested the iPhone X against Samsung’s iris scanner on the Galaxy Note 8 and face systems on Google’s Pixel 2 and LG’s V30 phones. V30 improves upon the standard Android technology in asking you to turn your head slightly during the setup, though in practice the Pixel was far better at recognition.

Only the iPhone and the Pixel recognized me with standard eyeglasses — important, as I expect the same performance with or without spectacles. That said, Face ID unlocked with just one of the two sunglasses I tried; the other was too big.

Costumes and disguises also challenged Face ID. A Santa hat was OK, but a Santa beard wasn’t. Nor did it like funny glasses and a fake nose. Winter clothing was fine, as long as the scarf wasn’t covering too much of my face.

Face ID worked better than expected in bright sunlight — not every time, but enough to be satisfying. It also worked in the dark, thanks to the use of infrared sensors rather than just the standard camera. That’s important when you wake up in the middle of the night and must absolutely check Facebook or Tinder. For those keeping score, the Pixel worked in sunlight, but not in the dark; it’s the reverse for Samsung. Samsung also worked with the Santa beard, as it’s focused on your eyes.

The iPhone also unlocked after getting a haircut.

I didn’t try to fool the iPhone into unlocking with someone else’s face. I’m sure hackers will spend the coming weeks trying. Apple says Face ID could be unreliable with twins and other siblings who look like you, as well as for children under 13 — though young children don’t really need a $1,000 phone. Give them a $200 iPod Touch — or better yet, a book to read.

No more fingerprint

The home button is gone to increase screen space. Others that have done this have moved the fingerprint scanner to the back. Apple ditches it completely, so Face ID is the only alternative to a passcode. The Olsen twins, among others, will face a hardship.

It’s also tougher to check Facebook during a meeting without getting busted by the boss. You can casually unlock a phone with your fingerprint under the table. It’s much more conspicuous to stare at a screen, especially because your face should ideally be 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) away.

Besides unlocking the phone, you can use Face ID to confirm app purchases and log into banking apps. You can also confirm Apple Pay transactions. You don’t have to twist your head awkwardly for facial authorization while the phone is laying sideways on a payment terminal, either. With the iPhone X, you authorize Apple Pay before tapping. It was much faster than fingerprint when paying for lunch.

Bottom line is Face ID works fairly well — though keeping the fingerprint option would have been nice.

 

 

Colombia Authorizes Air Raids Against Dissident FARC, Crime Gangs

Colombia’s armed forces have been authorized to launch air raids against crime gangs and FARC members who have refused to adhere to a peace accord with the former guerilla group and instead chose to continue drug trafficking and other criminal activity, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

As many as 1,000 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have not abided by the terms of last year’s peace agreement with the government, preferring instead to remain armed, fight the government, and profit from illegal drugs and mining.

The conflict has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions since it began in 1964.

The executive order allows troops to conduct bomb attacks against FARC dissidents and crime gangs from airplanes and helicopters, and shields the military from criminal prosecution, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Raids can only be carried out if civilians are not close by.

Air raids were the most effective weapon in the government’s fight against the FARC, pushing fighters deep into inhospitable jungle and killing high-level rebel commanders.

That strategy also has been used against the National Liberation Army (ELN), now the biggest active guerrilla group in Colombia, which is in peace talks with the government. The two sides began a bilateral cease-fire in October.

More than 11,300 members of the FARC, including fighters, urban militia and prisoners, are in the process of being incorporated into society after the group handed in its weapons to the United Nations and formed a political party.

Ousted Catalan Leader in Brussels as Spain Seek Charges

Spain’s High Court Tuesday called for ousted Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont to appear in court on Thursday morning.

Spanish prosecutors announced plans to seek sedition, rebellion and embezzlement charges against Puigdemont and his colleagues, who are currently in Brussels “for safety purposes and freedom”.

Puigdemont said Tuesday he would not be seeking asylum in Belgium. He and 13 members of his sacked administration were called to appear in court at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

Chief prosecutor Jose Manuel Maza said Monday he would seek to charge the leaders of Catalonia who led a push to secede from Spain. It is up to a court to decide whether to move forward with the charges, which could bring lengthy jail terms, including up to 30 years for rebellion.

A disputed Catalonian referendum on October 1 ended with a vote for the autonomous region to break away from Spain.

The government in Madrid rejected the secession push, and after Catalan lawmakers declared independence last week the central government asserted control over the region and dissolved the local parliament.

New elections are set for December, and Catalonia’s separatist party announced it would field candidates.