Six In The Morning Thursday 11 July 2019

Iranian boats ‘tried to intercept British tanker’

Iranian boats tried to impede a British oil tanker near the Gulf – before being driven off by a Royal Navy ship, the Ministry of Defence has said.

HMS Montrose moved between the three boats and the tanker British Heritage before issuing verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, a spokesman said.

He described the Iranians’ actions as “contrary to international law”.

Iran had threatened to retaliate for the seizure of one of its own tankers, but denied any attempted seizure.

Boats believed to belong to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) approached the British Heritage tanker and tried to bring it to a halt as it was moving out of the Gulf into the Strait of Hormuz.

Mali crisis worsens as hundreds of thousands flee militia attacks

More than 200,000 people have been displaced since start of 2019 and about 600 killed

Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing their homes in Mali, where deadly attacks on villages are destabilising an already critical situation in the country’s centre.

More than 200,000 people have fled since the start of the year, almost six times the number that were displaced in the same period last year, according to the Rapid Response Mechanism, a tracking and alert system that helps humanitarian organisations respond to vulnerable people.

Nearly 600 civilians were killed in the first half of 2019, most of them in the central region of Mopti, where villagers including many women and children have borne the brunt of gruesome attacks attributed to ethnic militias.

US launches investigation into France’s plan to tax tech companies

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered an investigation into France’s planned tax on technology companies, a probe that could lead to the United States imposing new tariffs or other trade restrictions.

“The United States is very concerned that the digital services tax which is expected to pass the French Senate tomorrow unfairly targets American companies,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement announcing the investigation.

The move gives Lighthizer up to a year to investigate if France‘s digital-tax plan would hurt U.S. technology companies.

‘Be better than North Korea’: Amal Clooney warns Australia on press freedom

By Nick Miller

 Australia risks setting a bad example for oppressive regimes and could put journalists all over the world in more danger unless our government pays more than “lip service” to press freedom, a global conference attended by Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been warned.

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, recently appointed the UK’s first Special Envoy on Media Freedom, told the inaugural Defend Media Freedom conference in east London that the recent ABC newsroom raid was an example of global challenges to freedom of speech.

Conspiracy theorists, far-right agitators head to White House with social media in their sights

President Donald Trump is scheduled to host several right-wing internet personalities at an event Thursday that the White House said was intended to “share how they have been affected by bias online.”

Trump and other Republican politicians have recently amplified attacks on social media companies for what they see as unfair censorship directed at conservatives. Trump has repeatedly decried “censorship” of users who have been banned from social media for breaking terms-of-service agreements on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Some users have had their accounts terminated by social media platforms for operating fake accounts or directing hate speech at other users.

JAXA says space probe landed on asteroid to get soil sample

Japan’s space agency said data transmitted from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft indicated it successfully landed on a distant asteroid Thursday and completed its historic mission of collecting underground samples that scientists hope will provide clues to the origin of the solar system.

Hayabusa2 had created itself a landing crater in April by dropping a copper impactor. Thursday’s mission was to land inside that crater and collect underground samples that scientists believe contain more valuable data.

Hayabusa2 is the first to successfully collect underground soil samples from an asteroid and comes ahead of a similar mission planned by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration team at another asteroid.