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Trump to ban Chinese-owned TikTok from US

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President Donald Trump said Friday he will bar fast-growing social media app TikTok from the United States as American authorities have raised concerns the service could be a tool for Chinese intelligence.

US officials and lawmakers in recent weeks have voiced fears of the wildly popular video platform being used by Beijing for nefarious purposes, but the company has denied any links to the Chinese government.

Media reports circulated earlier Friday saying that Trump would require the US operations of the app be divested from its Chinese parent firm ByteDance, but the president announced a ban.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said: “As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States.”

He added he would take action as soon as Saturday using emergency economic power or executive order.

TikTok, especially popular with young audiences who create and watch its short-form videos, has an estimated billion users worldwide.

Queried by AFP, TikTok declined to comment on the reports of the forced sales, saying only: “We are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.

“Hundreds of millions of people come to TikTok for entertainment and connection, including our community of creators and artists who are building livelihoods from the platform.”

The firm this week pledged a high level of transparency, including allowing reviews of its algorithms, to assure users and regulators.

“We are not political, we do not accept political advertising and have no agenda — our only objective is to remain a vibrant, dynamic platform for everyone to enjoy,” TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer said in a post this week.

“TikTok has become the latest target, but we are not the enemy.”

The popularity of the platform surged after ByteDance acquired US-based app Musical.ly in 2017 and merged it with its own video service.

James Lewis, head of the technology policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he believes the security risk of using TikTok is “close to zero” but that ByteDance could face pressure from China to engage in censorship.

“It looks like ByteDance may be getting squeezed by Beijing, so making them divest makes sense,” Lewis said. “They could start censoring stuff.”

Lewis said US authorities under CFIUS have the power to unwind an acquisition previously approved and that similar action was taken in 2019 with the dating app Grindr after it was bought by a Chinese firm.

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Lebanon’s Prime minister Hassan Diab, government resign

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Lebanon’s prime minister Hassan Diab announced his government’s resignation on Monday, saying a huge explosion that devastated Beirut and triggered public outrage was the result of endemic corruption.

The Aug. 4 detonation at a port warehouse of what authorities said was more than 2,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate killed at least 163 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed swathes of the Mediterranean capital, compounding months of political and economic meltdown.

“Today we follow the will of the people in their demand to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster that has been in hiding for seven years,” Diab said in a speech announcing the resignation.

He blamed the disaster on endemic corruption and said those responsible should be ashamed because their actions had led to a catastrophe “beyond description”.

“I said before that corruption is rooted in every lever of the state but I have discovered that corruption is greater than the state,” he said, pointing to a political elite for preventing change and saying his government faced a brick wall on reforms.

While Diab’s move attempted to respond to popular anger about the blast, it also plunged Lebanese politics deeper into turmoil and may further hamper already-stalled talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a financial rescue plan.

The talks, launched in May, were put on hold due to inaction on reforms and a row between the government, banks, and politicians over the scale of vast financial losses.

President Michel Aoun accepted the resignation and asked Diab’s government – formed in January with the backing of Iran’s powerful Hezbollah group and its allies – to stay as a caretaker until a new cabinet is formed, a televised announcement said.

At the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump said the explosion had triggered what he called “a revolution,” but did not comment further.

Ahead of Diab’s announcement, demonstrations broke out for the third day in central Beirut, with some protesters hurling rocks at security forces guarding an entrance leading to the parliament building, who responded with tear gas.

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Poll: Protester killed, dozens wounded in Belarus unrest

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A protester was killed and dozens wounded when police in Belarus used stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas to disperse demonstrators disputing election results, a prominent rights group said on Monday.

The Viasna Human Rights Center said the young male protester suffered a traumatic head injury when he was hit by a police vehicle and medics were unable to save him.

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Lebanon information minister resigns over Beirut blast

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Lebanon’s information minister Manal Abdel Samad on Sunday quit in the first government resignation since a deadly port blast killed more than 150 people and destroyed swathes of the capital.

“After the enormous Beirut catastrophe, I announce my resignation from government,” she said in a statement carried by local media, apologizing to the Lebanese public for failing them.

The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church meanwhile called on the entire government to step down over the August 4 explosion, a blast widely seen as shocking proof of the rot at the core of the state apparatus.

Lebanese protesters enraged by the blast vowed to rally again after a night of street clashes in which they stormed several ministries.

Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai joined the chorus of people pressing Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over a blast he said could be “described as a crime against humanity.”

“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here or a minister to resign there,” Rai said in a Sunday sermon.

“It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”

Rai echoed calls by Diab for early parliamentary polls — a long-standing demand of a protest movement that began in October, demanding the removal of a political class deemed inept and corrupt.

He also joined world leaders, international organizations, and the angry Lebanese public by pressing for an international probe into an explosion authority say was triggered by a fire in a port warehouse, where a huge shipment of hazardous ammonium nitrate had languished for years.

President Michel Aoun on Friday rejected calls for an international investigation, which he said would “dilute the truth.”

At least six lawmakers have quit since the explosion.

Under increased pressure from the street and foreign partners exasperated by the leadership’s inability to enact reforms, Diab’s government is fraying at the edges.

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