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Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said Tuesday that it was right that big companies are scrutinized and that his firm would respond to any new regulations by finding new ways to please its customers.

Bezos was speaking in Berlin, where he received an award from German media company Axel Springer, and was responding to a question about how seriously he took recent criticism of Amazon by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“All large institutions should be scrutinized or examined,” Bezos said. “It is not personal.”

“We have a duty on behalf of society to help educate any regulators without cynicism or skepticism,” he added. “We will work with any set of regulations that we are given. … We will follow those rules and find a new way to delight customers.”

Trump has said he would take a serious look at policies to address what he says are the unfair business advantages of Amazon, accusing the firm of not operating on a level playing field and not paying enough sales tax.

“We humans, especially in the Western world, especially inside democracies, are wired to be mindful of big institutions. … It doesn’t mean you don’t trust them or they are evil or bad,” Bezos said.

Amazon has also come in for criticism elsewhere over its tax policies and treatment of warehouse staff, with hundreds of European workers protesting on Tuesday outside the building where Bezos was speaking over pay and conditions.

“I’m very proud of our working conditions and I’m very proud of the wages we pay,” Bezos said. “We don’t believe we need a union to be an intermediary between ourselves and our workers.”

Post ownership

Bezos also defended his ownership of The Washington Post, which Trump has called the “chief lobbyist” for Amazon. The Post is privately owned by Bezos, not Amazon.

Bezos said the need to scrutinize large organizations was one of the reasons that the Post’s work was so important, adding he had no problem with the newspaper pursuing critical reporting about Amazon and said he would never meddle in the newsroom.

“I would be humiliated to interfere,” he said. “I would turn bright red. I don’t want to. It would feel icky, it would feel gross.

“Why would I? I want that paper to be independent.”

Bezos, the world’s richest person with a fortune of more than $100 billion, added that he was not interested in buying other newspapers, despite receiving monthly requests to bail out other struggling media organizations.

He said he would keep liquidating about $1 billion of Amazon stock a year to fund his Blue Origin rocket company, saying he hoped to test a tourism vehicle with humans at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

Asked about the scandal over the alleged misuse of the data of nearly 100 million Facebook users, Bezos said Amazon had worked hard on security: “If you mistreat your data, they will know, they will work it out. Customers are very smart.”

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President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the United States stood with the people of Armenia on Armenian Remembrance Day — the 103rd anniversary of the start of the massacre of Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

“As we honor the memory of those who suffered, we also reflect on our commitment to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated,” Trump said in a White House statement. “We underscore the importance of acknowledging and reckoning with the painful elements of the past as a necessary step towards creating a more tolerant future.”

Trump also said he deeply respected the “resilience” of the Armenian people, who he said built new lives in the United States and made countless contributions to the country.

By the time the forced deportation and massacre of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire ended in the early 1920s, more than 1.5 million people were dead.

Like his predecessors in the White House, Trump stopped short of calling the Armenian massacre a genocide.

Historians regularly use the term when writing about the killings. But U.S. ally Turkey denies there was any deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing. Turks say Armenians died during the upheaval of World War I, including the Russian invasion.

Turkey also contends that far fewer than 1.5 million Armenians died.

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British officials presented their plans to ensure 3 million European Union citizens can be granted rights to remain in Britain after Brexit, but their presentation in Brussels on Tuesday left EU lawmakers worried the system won’t work.

Some said new revelations about efforts to deport people who came from the Caribbean decades ago undermined trust in British promises, so a deal to phase out EU court protection for Europeans in Britain after eight years should be reviewed.

At a practical level, MEPs emerging from a closed-door Home Office briefing in the European Parliament wondered about those unable to use the proposed smartphone application to claim their “settled status” — and said they were told the government’s app won’t work fully on Apple’s widely used iPhones.

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister who leads the EU legislature’s Brexit coordinating panel, said after the presentation that his group would write to the government and EU Brexit negotiators and list its concerns. EU lawmakers must ratify a treaty to avoid legal chaos when Britain leaves the EU in March.

“After the Windrush scandal … there is a lot of anxiety [among] our EU citizens living in Britain that they could have the same experience,” Verhofstadt told reporters, referring to revelations this month about moves to deport people who came to Britain from the Caribbean as children in the 1950s and ’60s.

Free, quick, simple

The system for registering for lifetime rights for Europeans who arrived in Britain while it was an EU member should be free, the MEPs said, and must also be quick, simple and confer rights immediately rather than make people wait for confirmation.

Verhofstadt said they were also looking for assurances about how people could apply who could not use a smartphone.

Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said the British authorities needed to build trust and show they had administrative resources to make the registration system work next year. Users of iPhones, she said, would be unable to use the Home Office app to scan their digital passport chips in order to apply for residence. Then, she said, they might have to mail in their passports.

Catherine Bearder, a lawmaker from Britain’s anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, said Home Office staff had suggested people borrow other types of smartphones in order to register.

Britain’s interior ministry said in a statement that technology would play a role in the registration process, but that it would also make “nondigital” routes available to applicants.

Its minister, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, was quoted by the Financial Times this week as saying the system for EU citizens would be as easy as setting up an online shopping account.

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U.S. President Donald Trump officially welcomes French President Emmanuel Macron with an arrival ceremony Tuesday at the White House before the leaders hold official talks and attend a state dinner.

The ceremony is set to include nearly 500 service members from all five branches of the U.S. military, while Trump’s first state dinner will feature entertainment by the Washington National Opera company. 

Tuesday’s bilateral meeting comes with several issues of global importance confronting the governments of both countries, including the war in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program and Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports.

Trump takes great pride in his friendship with Macron, which is one of the reasons he invited the French president to be his guest for the first state visit of a foreign leader in his administration.

“This visit is very important in our current context, with so many uncertainties, troubles, and at times, threats,” Macron said upon arriving in Washington.

Macron will likely use part of his White House talks to try and persuade Trump not to pull out of the six-nation nuclear deal with Iran. Trump has constantly called it a bad agreement. He faces a May 12 deadline to again waive economic sanctions against Iran as part of the agreement.

Iran would regard the reimposition of sanctions as killing the deal and threatens to restart its nuclear program.

Macron has said he knows the deal with Iran is not perfect but said there is no “Plan B.”

Trump also has until May 1 to waive tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports or face a possible trade war.

The French president will also likely talk to Trump about what Macron said is the importance of U.S. forces remaining in Syria. Trump has talked about withdrawing Americans from northern Syria. Macron said that would increase the risk of giving up Syria to the Assad regime and Iran.

Shortly after his arrival in Washington Monday, Macron and his wife, Brigitte, along with Trump and first lady Melania Trump, planted a young tree on the South Lawn of the White House. It came from the Belleau Wood, where more than 9,000 American Marines died in a 1918 World War I battle on French soil. 

The Macrons and Trumps also took a helicopter tour of famous Washington tourist attractions before touching down at Mount Vernon, the 18th century estate of America’s first president, George Washington, where they had dinner.

Macron will address Congress on Wednesday before heading back to Paris.

 

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From the streets of the Armenian capital to think tanks across the Atlantic, activists and experts alike grappled with implications of Monday’s shock resignation of Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan after 11 straight days of protest over the former president’s new political appointment.

“Proud citizens of the Republic of Armenia, you have won!” protest leader Nikol Pashinyan announced to thousands celebrating Sargsyan’s resignation in Yerevan on Monday.

Sargsyan, who was elected prime minister by parliament on April 17—some eight days after his two-term presidency ended—had previously said he would not seek to become prime minister after newly implemented constitutional changes, which he championed during his presidency, made the office of prime minister more powerful than that of the president.

When parliament convened for last week’s vote, tens of thousands of protesters had already amassed in Yerevan’s Republic Square, upset at Sargsyan’s violation of his own pledge, claiming the shift threatened to make the 63-year-old leader for life.

Calling the rare populist political victory a “purely Armenian velvet revolution”—a reference to the 1989 protests that ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia—Pashinyan himself had particular reason to celebrate. The 42-year-old opposition lawmaker had been arrested shortly after a private Sunday meeting with Sargsyan, which was organized with the aim of peacefully ending the protests.

Sargsyan walked out when Pashinyan said he came to discuss his resignation, to which the prime minister responded, “This is blackmail.”

Within hours of Pashinyan’s late-Sunday jailing, however, it was announced that he and other demonstrators detained or arrested during the protests would be released.

Early Monday came Sargsyan’s official statement, declaring “Nikol Pashinyan was right. I was mistaken. … I am giving up the post of the country’s prime minister. … The movement in the streets is against my tenure. I comply with your demand.”

On Monday evening, Armenians still reeling from the dramatic turn of events reacted with everything from smug determination to exuberant optimism to deep skepticism.

“We were certainly expecting this outcome, we knew the protests would have this result!” said one man who appeared to be in his 30s who, like others, refused to share name. “There were no other options. Good for everybody!”

“Has anyone even seen the video of him resigning? We don’t believe it, and we won’t believe it until we see it,” said another man, surrounded by a group of fellow revelers. “We were certainly hoping for it, but it’s unbelievable.”

Armenian officials say parliament has accepted the resignation and now have seven days to put forward the name of a new prime minister. In the meantime, former Armenian prime minister Karen Karapetyan, an ally from Sargsyan’s ruling pro-Russian Republican Party, was named acting prime minister.

Sargsyan’s allies remain in key positions in the government and it remains unclear whether his resignation will herald any real change.

According to one young Armenian demonstrator, Sargsyan’s his resignation alone represents a political benchmark for the small southern Caucuses nation.

“I know that after this, Armenian people understand that they can [bring about political change],” she told VOA’s Armenian Service. “If after this the country gets into this type of neglected situation again, the people will rely on this event to know that we are powerful and able to change things.

“And we won’t have this type of situation again in our country,” she said.

Some experts, however, aren’t so sure.

“Because Armenia and Russia have a military alliance, there are 3,000 Russian troops in Armenia itself … there is no ‘will Armenia go in a different direction?’” Yuval Weber of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington told VOA.

“Armenia is set with Russia in order to help defend itself against Azerbaijan and to maintain its control over Nagorno-Karabakh,” he added, referring to a mountainous part of Azerbaijan run by ethnic Armenians who declared independence during a conflict that broke out as the Soviet Union crumbled in 1991.

“Any leader of Armenia has to essentially be pro-Russian.”

Other experts, however, suggested the unexpected resignation—especially how quickly it came to pass—may indicate a broader political sea-change in the tiny nation of 3 million.

“What surprised me is not the fact that there were protests, but how quickly they became large-scale and the fact the former Prime Minister Sargsyan has actually resigned,” said Paul Stronski, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former National Security Council staffer during the Obama administration.

“I am surprised at the success of the protest movement has so quickly galvanized the government, the establishment, and convinced Sargsyan that it was time to go,” he added. “Even the opposition Armenian politicians didn’t see this as a move that would lead to a clear change of leadership.”

“This regime that was based on fear of people to speak out and protest, is coming to an end,” said Gevorg Ter-Gabrielyan, an analyst with the Yerevan-based Eurasia Partnership Foundation, which is supported in part by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Sargsyan’s resignation, he said, is just the first move in a broader political shift.

“It happened despite all political prognoses that democracy has left post-Soviet countries,” he said in an interview with VOA’s Russian Service. “Armenia just demonstrated that people have voice and power. The historic importance of this event is enormous—it is not just a local Armenian issue. The most important is the possibility of peaceful and democratic change of power. We did not let one more regime in post-Soviet bloc become everlasting.”

Responding to the latest developments, a State Department spokesman thanked Sargsyan “for his many years of service and his contributions to the strong U.S.-Armenia partnership.” “We expect the democratic process to determine his successor will be conducted in a transparent manner, consistent with Armenia’s laws and international obligations, and we look forward to working closely with the new government,” the official added.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was “very attentively observing what is happening in Armenia,” which was once a Soviet satellite country that has retained close ties to Moscow.

This story originated in VOA’s Armenian Service. Anush Avetisyan of VOA’s Russian Service contributed original reporting.

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The European Union’s justice commissioner said on Monday she will visit Malta in the coming weeks to look at its anti-money laundering moves and check on how an investigation is going into the murder of an investigative journalist.

Her visit will increase pressure on the EU member after the European Parliament expressed “serious concerns” about police independence and international money-laundering on the island in a resolution adopted last year.

The resolution was adopted after Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, an anti-corruption campaigner, was killed in October by a car bomb. 

Commissioner Vera Jourova said she planned to go to Malta by June to discuss “several” open issues with the authorities.

The parliamentary body of the Council of Europe, a European human rights watchdog, also said on Monday it would monitor the investigation, adding it was crucial to bring to justice not only the perpetrators but also those who ordered the killing.

These decisions came as a group of local and international media groups, including Reuters, began following up stories covered by Caruana Galizia, in an initiative called the Daphne Project.

Malta, together with other EU states, faces a sanction procedure for its delay in adopting new EU rules against money laundering.

Jourova said she wanted to address this issue in her forthcoming visit and also the strengthening of the Maltese agency to tackle money laundering, the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit.

“I of course want to inquiry about the state of play in the investigation on the murder of Madame Galizia,” Jourova told a news conference in Brussels.

Three people have been charged so far for the murder but police have not yet identified who ordered the killing.

“This investigation is not just about bringing to justice the people who have actually made the bomb, and made the explosion that killed Daphne. This is also about uncovering who gave the order to do that,” commission vice president Frans Timmermans said, speaking at the news conference with Jourova.

“We will keep pushing the Maltese authorities,” he said.

Jourova also said she will discuss Malta’s program to sell citizenship to wealthy individuals.

Timmermans insisted that EU passports can be sold only to individuals who have a clear “demonstrable” link to an European Union country.

“This is a question that, I think, can be raised with the Maltese authorities when discussing the passport scheme,” he said.

The commission forced Malta in 2014 to amend its scheme so that only people who had effectively resided on the island for at least 12 months could obtain citizenship, but the country has since allowed foreigners to buy passports with laxer requirements, the Daphne Project consortium found.

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Kate, the wife of Britain’s Prince William, has given birth to a baby boy.

The couple’s third child weighed 3.8 kilograms.

“The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news,” Kensington Palace said in a statement. “Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well.”

Prince William and Kate have been married since 2011. They have two other children: Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, who turns 3 next week.

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A Belgium court has handed down sentences of 20 years in prison for two men found guilty of attempted terrorist murder of police in connection with a March 2016 shootout in Brussels.

Neither of the men —  Salah Abdeslam and Sofien Ayari — was in court Monday to hear the ruling.   

Abdeslam is in a French prison awaiting trial for his role in the Islamic State attack on Paris in November 2015.

Prosecutors say he is the lone survivor of the IS suicide squad.

While neither man appeared in court to hear his sentence, tight security measures were in place inside and outside Brussels’ ornate palace of justice.

 

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