The Hill Talk’s Glance at the Globe

China expresses doubts over U.S. debt:  Senior Chinese officials are reported to have stated Beijing is weighing the slowing or stoppage of the purchase of U.S. Treasury notes, in part for what China expects to be a tense year in 2018 over trade with the U.S.

Doubling from a decade ago, China owns approximately $1.2 trillion in U.S. debt.

Following the report, the U.S. dollar tumbled, but a spokesperson with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange told reporters the news was either attributed to a misquote or simply “fake news.”

Audio captures Israeli PM’s son boasting over father’s influence in gas deal:  In an embarrassing gaffe caught on audiotape, the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yair, is heard bragging to an acquaintance over the elder Netanyahu’s effect on a natural gas venture.

According to an audio recording obtained by Israel’s Channel 2 television, Yair Netanyahu is heard telling an acquaintance, Ori Maimon, the son of a stakeholder in energy giant Isramco, of his father’s role in facilitating a $20 billion natural gas agreement in Israeli parliament.

On tape, allegedly recorded in 2015 by a security aide to the younger Netanyahu, Yair is heard telling Maimon:  “Bro, my dad now arranged for you a $20 billion deal and you can’t spot me 400 shekels?” as the pair stood outside an exotic dance club.

Netanyahu, who has been dogged by two corruption probes, released a statement dismissing the tape’s release as part of a “witch hunt,” and denying he has a relationship with energy mogul Kobi Maimon.

Yair apologized for his language, but claims the recording was obtained illegally. According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu’s son will not accompany his parents on an official state trip to India this week.

Improvised drones attack Russian base in Syria:  The Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) announced Tuesday two bases at Khmeimim and Tartus had been the target of a swarm of drones Russian officials originated from Turkish-backed rebels in Idlib Governorate.

The attacks come in the wake of a New Year’s Eve mortar attack on the Russian air base at Khmeimim, in which two Russian servicemen were killed and seven Russian aircraft were destroyed.

The Russian MOD revealed several of the drones were destroyed by ground fire or disabled by Russian cyber personnel.  No casualties were reported.

991 drone swarm attack russia 2

(courtesy Russian Ministry of Defense)

Images released by the Russian MOD illustrate crudely-manufactured aerial drones constructed of wood and held together with tape.  The drones were equipped with small explosive devices.

UK’s May appoints top minister for Northern Ireland:  UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed Tory MP Karen Bradley to the post of Northern Ireland secretary of state on Monday.  Bradley’s appointment fills the role after former minister, James Brokenshire, resigned for health reasons in early January.

A strong supporter of the Brexit movement, Bradley has represented the Staffordshire Moorlands constituency since 2010.  Similarly, Bradley served as secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport in May’s cabinet.

Bradley assumes the position at a time in which Northern Ireland has struggled in the aftermath of a power-sharing collapse in 2017.

Iran bans English in primary schools:  Following a call to halt a “cultural invasion” from the West, Iranian officials have opted to end the instruction of the English language to students enrolled in primary schools.

The ban will affect both government and non-government schools.

Explaining the decision, Supreme Education Council secretary Mehdi Navid-Adham told state-run IRIB news the teaching of foreign languages “is not recommended by any means” and instruction of English outside of schools hours would be deemed a “violation.”

India places dozens of satellites in orbit:  From the Satish Dhawan Space Center on Friday, the Indian Space Research Organisation reported it had achieved its 100th successful satellite launch.  A Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, the Indian rocket carried two weather satellites, one microsatellite and one nanosatellite.

In addition to its own cargo, the Indian vehicle carried 29 other satellites for placement in orbit from the U.S., Canada, Finland, France, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

One day prior to the launch, Pakistan expressed disapproval over India’s launch and use of satellites it claims serves military and civilian purposes.  The “dual nature” of the orbiter, Pakistan says, “can negatively impact the regional strategic stability.”

 

[Nikkei Asian Review] [AP via Chicago Tribune] [Times of Israel] [TASS] [Belfast Live] [Euro News] [The Hindu Businessline]