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    BBC Director-General Tony Hall announced Monday that he will step down from the helm of the U.K. broadcaster in six months after seven years in the job. Hall said he was quitting so that a new leader can oversee a mid-term review of the BBC’s funding in 2022, and a renewal of its governing charter, due in 2027. The announcement comes as the publicly funded BBC is facing intense political and public pressure amid a fast-changing media landscape and viewing habits. It has been criticized by both sides of the Brexit debate over its coverage of the U.K.’s impending departure from the European Union, and some in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government have suggested changing the BBC’s funding model. The broadcaster currently is funded largely through a 154 pound a year ($200 a year) fee paid by every household with a television. It is not state-controlled, though the government sets the terms of the broadcaster's charter, renewed once a decade. In a warning to the organization’s critics, Hall said that “in an era of fake news, we remain the gold standard of impartiality and truth. “What the BBC is, and what it stands for, is precious for this country,” Hall said. “We ignore that at our peril.
  • Heavy snow, rain and gale-force winds lashed many parts of Spain on Monday, killing at least two people and prompting five provinces to go on top emergency alert. The storm forced the closure of Alicante Airport and some 30 roads in the eastern region. A man died Sunday in the northern province of Leon when he was run over by a car as he tried to put snow chains on his own vehicle. A homeless woman was found dead Monday after sleeping outside during the storm in the eastern town of Gandia. The storm damaged property on the seafronts of Gandia and other towns as well, according to news videos and pictures. The bad weather was expected to last until Wednesday.
  • Low interest rates and reduced trade tensions will likely buoy the global economy over the next two years and help nurture steady if modest growth. That's the view of the International Monetary Fund, which foresees world economic growth accelerating from 2.9% last year to 3.3% in 2020 and 3.4% in 2021. The international economy is receiving a significant boost - 0.5 percentage point of growth last year and this year - from central banks’ low-rate policies, the lending organization says in a global outlook report out Monday. The U.S. Federal Reserve, for instance, cut rates three times last year and expects to keep rates low for the foreseeable future. And an interim trade deal signed last week by the United States and China — the world’s two biggest economies — is expected to add 0.2 percentage point to global growth this year by lowering tariffs and improving business confidence. The global economy is rebounding from some temporary stumbles, including a lull in the launch of new technology products and new emissions standards that disrupted car production. Still, the IMF warns that the global economy continues to face an array of risks, including the possibility that trade tensions will escalate again. And many countries aren't benefiting from the modest upswing in growth. Presenting the report at a news conference in Davos, Switzerland, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said that after a slowdown in 2019 there should be 'a moderate pickup in global growth this year and next.” 'We already see some tentative signs of stabilization,” she said. “But we have not reached a turning point yet.” Even in the United States, the IMF foresees growth slowing from 2.3% in 2019 to 2% this year and 1.7% in 2021, partly because the boost that the economy received from President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts has been fading. China's economy will also continue to decelerate, the IMF predicts — from 6.1% last year to 6% in 2020 and 5.8% next year. Though China's economy will likely benefit from the truce with the United States, Beijing continues to manage a difficult transition away from speedy economic growth based on often-wasteful and debt-fueled investments to slower but steadier growth built on spending by the country’s growing middle class. Likewise, Japan’s economic growth, hobbled by an aging workforce, is expected to decelerate from 1% last year to 0.7% this year to 0.5% next year. Collective growth in the 19 countries that use the euro currency is expected to gradually pick up: 1.2% in 2019, 1.3% in 2020 and 1.4% in 2021. The IMF’s global forecast is slightly bleaker than the previous one it issued in October, mainly because of an expected sharp slowdown in India: The world’s seventh-biggest economy is expected to grow 5.8% this year, down from the 7% the IMF had expected in October, and 6.5% in 2021, down from a previously forecast 7.4%. In addition, problems in the financial sector have reduced credit, crimping consumer spending in India.
  • Dozens of people on Monday gathered for a protest in Sarajevo because of dangerously high levels of air pollution in the past few weeks in the Bosnian capital. Some of the participants wore face masks at the rally Monday held outside the building hosting Sarajevo's government. Organizers say they want to encourage people into action and draw public attention to the decades-old problem typical for the city that is squeezed in a deep valley among the mountains. Air pollution measurements in the past weeks have shown that levels of damaging airborne particles have exceeded European Union's safety norms by several times. Local authorities had introduced emergency measures for days last week, urging citizens not to use coal and wood for heating and banning diesel cars. Local head of government Edin Forto told the protesters that the situation can't change in a few months, but will take much longer. He said the citizens, too, should do their part. “A lot of people refuse to change their routine,” he said. “They don't want us to stop the traffic or cancel classes (because of pollution), so we need to work to raise awareness.” Experts say air pollution in the Balkans is heavy because of the use of coal-fueled power plants and old cars and many other factors. In the past week, thick fog added to the problem. A report last year by the U.N. Environment Program said people living in the Western Balkans lose up to 1.3 years of life to air pollution. Experts have warned that these and other environmental setbacks could stall efforts by Bosnia and other Balkan countries to join the EU.
  • Hundreds of disgruntled protesters against the elite World Economic Forum are marching through the Alpine snows toward its annual gathering in Davos, as officials on Monday detailed extra security measures like vehicle checks and webcam shutdowns with U.S. President Donald Trump and other notables set to arrive. Zurich regional police said some 130 attendees who are “protected under international law' - including royalty, presidents and prime ministers - were expected to pass through toward the Davos gathering from Tuesday to Friday. All told, nearly 3,000 leaders from civil society, business, politics and elsewhere from 118 countries are expected as the Forum marks its 50th year. Protesters with the 'Strike-WEF' collective, who began marching toward Davos on Sunday, have taken issue with one security measure: An order from regional police that no more than 300 people can attend a planned protest near the town hall. Authorities insist the square is too small to hold more people. They call such limits anti-democratic. “When they can have space for 3,000 people - the majority of who are the richest people on the planet - but for only 300 among the 99% of the rest of us, it's a joke,” said Payal Parekh, a spokeswoman for the collective. Members of the group and its supporters - some dressed in get-ups like Ronald McDonald outfits - were marching toward Davos but have been barred from the main roads to get there. 'There are ways to get to Davos,” she said. “We are creative and flexible.” Rosalina Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Young Socialists that is helping organize the demonstration in Davos, applauded the idea of having leaders come together, but said they'd failed to help the world over the last half-century. “They say they want to make the world better, but for 50 years they haven't done anything,” she said. Forum organizers have pointed to scores of initiatives like planting trees, enlisting businesses in advocacy programs, and rallying thousands of promising youths to help their communities in scores of countries around the world. The Swiss national authorities were restricting airspace and have authorized up to 5,000 troops to take part in enhanced security. Authorities and Forum organizers have set aside a budget of $9 million for extra security measures during the event. Zurich authorities were boosting security checks of people and vehicles and advising Zurich airport visitors to use public transport for Trump's expected arrival on Tuesday.
  • The German government on Monday downplayed Tunisia's rejection of a last-minute invitation to a weekend conference on Libya that had ruffled feathers in the North African nation. Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted world powers and other countries that have backed one side or the other in Libya's long-running civil war, in a bid to get those who have influence in Libya on the same page. Libya's two main rival leaders also were invited to Berlin, where they held talks with Merkel and her foreign minister ahead of Sunday's conference. Tunisia initially was not invited to the talks about the situation in its neighbor and complained. On Saturday, the Tunisian foreign ministry said it had declined a belated invitation it received Friday, adding that Tunisia was not part of preparatory talks over recent months. “In the course of preparing a conference, it can always happen that a further invitation is extended and it can happen that the (country) invited doesn't consider itself in a position to accept the invitation,” Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Monday. He said Germany talked with U.N. officials and amended the invitations to include Tunisia. “But the most important thing is that it won't — at least if it is up to us — mean any worsening of the German-Tunisian relationship. It is a good relationship,” he said. Participants at the Berlin summit agreed to respect a much-violated arms embargo in Libya, halt military support to the warring parties and push them to reach a full cease-fire.
  • The European Union has set up a 900 million euro ($998 million) budget to help countries hit by humanitarian crises, with Africa getting the largest share of the money. The EU Commission, the bloc's executive arm, said Monday that people in more than 80 countries will benefit from the money in 2020. Some 400 million euros ($444 million) will go to programs developed in Africa, while 345 million euros ($383 million) have been awarded to address crises in the Middle East. A further 111 million euros ($123 million) will be dedicated to programs in Asia and Latin America. “Even though conflict remains the main cause of hunger and displacement, its impact has become seriously worsened by climate change. Europe has a responsibility to show solidarity and support for those in need. Our assistance depends on full humanitarian access so aid organizations can do their lifesaving job,” said Janez Lenarčič, the EU commissioner for crisis management. The EU said the bulk of the 2020 EU aid will support people suffering from the long-term conflict in Congo and malnutrition in the Sahel region, as well as those displaced by violence in South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Lake Chad basin. In the Middle East, the EU said the funding will “address the crisis in Syria and its refugees in neighboring countries, as well as the extremely critical situation in Yemen.
  • Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.” Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used. “There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank. He noted that there's an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the U.S. start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals. Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager. Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use. Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach U.S. authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. “Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch. While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons' which he didn't specify. In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.
  • After years of doubts about its authenticity, experts in Amsterdam have confirmed that a Vincent van Gogh self-portrait was indeed painted by the Dutch master as he recovered in a French asylum from a mental breakdown. Van Gogh Museum researcher Louis van Tilborgh dispelled the doubts Monday, saying the oil-on-canvas painting of the anguished-looking painter was completed in the late summer of 1889 while Van Gogh was at the Saint-Remy asylum in southern France. Questions about the painting rose in the 1970s. The use of a palette knife to flatten brush strokes on Van Gogh's face and what were then considered to be unusual colors in the painting led to speculation about the authenticity of the work, which was bought as a genuine Van Gogh in 1910 by Norway's National Museum. In an attempt to put those doubts to rest, the museum asked the Van Gogh Museum to analyze the painting in 2014. “It feels really reassuring to know that its genuine,” said Mai Britt Guleng of the Norwegian museum. Van Tilborgh said the use of an unprimed canvas and a muddy green color were, in fact, typical of Van Gogh's time in Saint-Remy in 1889. What sets the work apart is Van Gogh's use of a palette knife. “So he has painted it and during the process he suddenly decides that it has to become flat,” Van Tilborgh said. “We tend to think that it has to do with the fact that it's made during a period of psychosis.” Van Tilborgh said Van Gogh used painting as both a way of portraying his mental breakdown and of helping him to recover. “He wanted to say in this picture that he was an ill person and so it's a kind of therapeutic work we tend to think,' he said. 'He was a Protestant and as a Protestant you have to accept the facts of life — if you suffer, you have to face the suffering.” Norway's most famous artistic son, painter Edvard Munch, whose iconic work, “The Scream,” also is a vivid expression of mental anguish, was fascinated by the Van Gogh painting. “He thought it was one of the best of the collection of the national gallery but he also found it scary, because of the gaze from the self-portrait staring back at him,” Guleng said. The painting will remain on display at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam before returning to Oslo in 2021, when the National Museum, currently closed for renovation, reopens in a new building. “When we delivered the painting in ‘14 they warned us and said ’You might not like the results and it might be that we will never find out.'” Guleng said. “So we were very happy when we got the news.”
  • An independent commission established by Myanmar's government has concluded there are reasons to believe that security forces committed war crimes in counterinsurgency operations that led more than 700,000 members of the country's Muslim Rohingya minority to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. However, the commission, headed by a Philippine diplomat, said in a report given Monday to President Win Myint that there is no evidence supporting charges that genocide was planned or carried out against the Rohingya. The Independent Commission of Enquiry announced its findings in a press release posted on its Facebook page. It came just ahead of a decision by the United Nations' top court, scheduled for Thursday, on a request that Myanmar be ordered to halt what has been cast as a genocidal campaign against the Rohingya. The African nation of Gambia brought legal action last year to the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, alleging on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation that genocide occurred and continues. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's top leader, strongly denied wrongdoing by government forces at the initial hearing on the case in December. Monday's report issued by the commission said it found no evidence of genocide. But it went further than any public statements issued by Myanmar's government in suggesting government forces were guilty of major abuses. “Although these serious crimes and violations were committed by multiple actors, there are reasonable grounds to believe that members of Myanmar's security forces were involved' in war crimes, serious human rights violations, and violations of domestic law in 2017, it said. “The killing of innocent villagers and destruction of their homes were committed by some members of the Myanmar's security forces through disproportionate use of force during the internal armed conflict,' it said. But the report points out that the security forces acted in response to deadly attacks organized by Rohingya guerrillas belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army — ARSA. The commission's announcement said it would hand over its 461-page report to be used for investigations and possible prosecutions by Myanmar civil and military authorities. A U.N. team also conducted a major investigation and found grounds for bringing charges of genocide. Its members were not allowed to enter Myanmar. They did much of their work interviewing Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The Independent Commission of Enquiry said its investigators were dispatched to Rakhine State, where the violence occurred, Yangon and the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw “for evidence collection.” But it makes no mention of visiting refugee camps in Bangladesh. The commission is led by senior Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo, and included retired Japanese diplomat Kenzo Oshima, Myanmar presidential adviser Aung Tun Thet and legal expert Mya Theinn, The inclusion of the Myanmar members close to the government raised doubts about its ability to deliver a credible report, especially because separate earlier investigations by the government and military did not yield much trustworthy information.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Police in Fayetteville, North Carolina, said a man broke into a home and forced a woman and a 1-month-old boy into a car at gunpoint, according to WTVD. The home invasion and kidnapping happened Monday at 1:12 a.m. Wani Thomas broke into a home on Tangerine Drive and forced Jasmine Livermore and the baby boy, Nathaniel Thomas, into a vehicle, police said. Authorities are currently searching for all three. Thomas is considered armed and dangerous and last seen wearing a brown jacket with blue jeans. Livermore, 20, was last seen wearing gray pants, a brown shirt and a camouflage jacket. Anyone with information should call Fayetteville police at (910) 676-2597 or Cumberland County Crimestoppers at (910) 483-8477.
  • The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department rescued a man that was stuck in a tree in Atlantic Beach Sunday afternoon.  Video taken from the scene shows a ladder truck ascending into a large oak tree.   JFRD tweeted that the man was rescued from the tree safely and was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries.
  • As many as six people were shot in a violent weekend across Jacksonville. And the common thing in all these cases, no arrests. Two of the shootings happened within a block of each other on Justina Road in Arlington.  A man was sitting at a bus stop by when he was shot by someone in a red SUV on Saturday afternoon.  Hours later a person was shot nearby and hospitalized with injuries.  Late Sunday night a man was shot in the leg on Old Kings near Edgewood. The man was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  On Friday night two men in their 20's were injured in a shooting off Kings Road on the northwest side.  One man was hit in the lower leg and the other was struck in the upper torso. Both were taken to a local hospital for treatment.  JSO says the shooting happened in a Shot Spotter area, and the technology system captured three gunshots.  On Friday around 8pm, a man in his 30’s was shot and killed on Brooklyn Road in the Moncrief area. JSO detectives were trying to locate any witnesses or video surveillance. 
  • Coming off a weekend in the 70's, a strong cold front brought drenching rain on Sunday afternoon, followed by a chill. Action News Jax Meteorologist Corey Simma is tracking temps well below average.  “Mostly sunny and cold with temperatures in the 50’s all day. And then clear and cold Monday night and Tuesday morning with some patchy inland frost”, said Simma.   Tuesday looks to be the coldest day this week, as we’ll struggle to reach 50 degrees. A breeze will keep it feeling even colder. We stay below average on Wednesday, with temperatures only in the 50’s.  The mid-60’s return on Thursday, and on Friday we’ll be near 70 but with scattered showers. 
  • The Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care and Protective Services announced the city of Jacksonville, once again, earned the no-kill designation for the year of 2019. According to Best Friends Animal Society, “A no-kill community is a city or town in which every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within that community has reached a 90% save rate or higher and adheres to the no-kill philosophy, saving every animal who can be saved.'  According to a release put out by the JHS, the save rate for APCS was 90 percent and for JHS it was 95 percent, making a citywide save rate of 93 percent.  In total, 16,874 animals entered the JHS shelters in 2019, which is a significant decrease from 19,366 animals in 2018, according to the JHS.  According to JHS, Jacksonville earned the distinction of being the largest city in the United States to earn a no-kill status. The city has maintained that status until last year when ACPS save rate fell to 86 percent.  “Examining the data and trends in 2017 and 2018 resulted in our renewed focus on cats and kittens in 2019,” said Deisler. “As a community, we had to take a look at ourselves ask – what can we do to save those lives? We knew that with the help of our community, a return to no-kill was possible. We are excited about the results from 2019 and even more excited for 2020. Thank you, Jacksonville!”

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