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  • US to ask NATO to pay more to protect Saudi Arabia from Iran

    Golocal247.com news

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he will urge allies later this week to contribute more to the defense of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region to counter threats from Iran. The plan is part of a broader U.S. effort to get NATO allies to take on more responsibility for Gulf security. The U.S. has already agreed to send three Patriot missile batteries, dozens of fighter jets and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:43:07 -0400
  • The Latest: US official: Kurds say border pullout complete

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    A senior Trump administration official says Syrian Kurdish-led forces have withdrawn from an area in northern Syria that Turkey wants cleared of Kurdish fighters. The five-day pause in Turkey's invasion of northeastern Syria was negotiated by Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:32:24 -0400
  • Mnuchin, Kushner to Attend Saudi Arabia ‘Davos in Desert’ Forum

    (Bloomberg) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, plan to travel to Saudi Arabia for an annual investment forum being held next week.They plan to stop first in Israel, according to people familiar with the matter. They’re departing this weekend and will be joined by Brian Hook, a U.S. State Department special representative for Iran.The investment forum, called the Future Investment Initiative, is a the three-day confab, known as “Davos in the Desert.” Held in Riyadh Oct. 29 to 31, the meeting is set to attract some of Wall Street’s top dealmakers, as well as representatives from major institutional investors across the globe.The Treasury Department declined to comment.Mnuchin last year boycotted the investment meeting after Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents in Turkey. The Treasury chief still traveled to Riyadh in October 2018, meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince.The CIA has concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s murder, according to the Washington Post. Saudi Arabia’s reputation abroad has also taken a hit since the 2018 killing and the arrest of prominent women’s rights activists accused by authorities of undermining state security.(Updates with Khashoggi details in fifth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net;Nick Wadhams in Washington at nwadhams@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Joshua GalluFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:25:31 -0400
  • Russia, Turkey hold talks on future of border region

    Golocal247.com news

    As the leaders of Russia and Turkey sought to work out the fate of the Syrian border region, the United States ran into a new hitch in getting its troops out of Syria, with neighboring Iraq's military saying Tuesday that the American forces did not have permission to stay on its territory. The Iraqi announcement seemed to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who a day earlier said the forces leaving Syria would deploy in Iraq to fight the Islamic State group. The conflicting signals underscored how the United States has stumbled from one problem to another in getting its troops out of Syria after President Donald Trump abruptly ordered their withdrawal.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:12:30 -0400
  • 7,000 Syrian refugees arrive in Iraq in 7 days: UN

    Golocal247.com news

    Over 7,100 refugees arrived in Iraq from Syria within seven days, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday, as Turkish forces targeted Kurdish regions after the U.S. withdrew troops. A majority of the people -- three out of four -- are women and children, including unaccompanied minors, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said at a press briefing in Geneva.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:09:49 -0400
  • Johnson Threatens to Pull Deal and Seek Election: Brexit Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened to scrap his attempt to pass a Brexit deal and move straight to an election, if members of Parliament defeat him tonight and vote for another delay.The premier will find out Tuesday evening whether he has any chance of getting his deal through the U.K. Parliament -- and whether he can do it ahead of his Oct. 31 deadline.His moment of truth will come at around 7 p.m. in London, with what’s known as the Second Reading vote -- on whether Parliament agrees with the general principles of the bill. There will then be another vote immediately afterward on his proposed fast-track timetable for passing the law.Follow developments as they happen here. All times U.K.Key Developments:House of Commons now debating the so-called Second Reading of the Brexit bill -- essentially the general principle of the agreementPrime Minister said a vote for his deal will unleash a “tide” of investment into Britain and warned he will scrap the draft law and push for an election if MPs vote against his fast-track timetableCommons votes on the second reading at 7 p.m. and then immediately on the proposed fast-track timetableThe pound fell by as much as 0.5% to $1.2891Read more: Northern Irish Loyalists Warn of ‘Angry’ Backlash to Brexit DealDUP’s Wilson Attacks Johnson’s Deal (5 p.m.)Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party tore into Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement. “I don’t believe we should be voting for this bill tonight,” he began. His primary objection is that the deal treats Northern Ireland -- a red line for his party -- and referring to the premier’s assurances on how measures applying to the province could be temporary, said: “The prime minister thinks I can’t read the agreement.”“We will be left in an arrangement whereby EU law on all trade, goods, will be applied to Northern Ireland,” he said.House of Commons Speaker John Bercow then interrupted Wilson before he could finish and confirm he’ll be voting against the deal -- but it didn’t sound good for the government.Letwin Backs Down on Timetable (4.15 p.m.)Oliver Letwin, one of the former Conservative MPs who has been such a thorn in Boris Johnson’s side, is now trying to help. “Getting seriously worried,” he said on Twitter, arguing that it would be a disaster if the bill were pulled. Instead, he said it was “the least of the evils” to back down in the face of Johnson’s threat and accept the accelerated timetable “whatever we really think of it.”Labour MPs Propose Referendum Amendment (3:40 p.m.)Phil Wilson, a Labour MP who put his name to an amendment calling for a confirmatory public vote on any Brexit deal earlier in the year, told Bloomberg he’d proposed it again. “We have put the amendment down because we genuinely believe in 2016 people voted to leave but they didn’t vote on how to leave,” he said.Labour to Whip Against Bill, Timetable (3:25 p.m.)The opposition Labour Party will whip its members of Parliament to vote against the second reading of Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill, and also to oppose the accelerated timetable -- the so-called program motion -- the premier proposes to debate the legislation, two people familiar with the matter said.But in the chamber of the House of Commons, party leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested that rebels won’t be punished with expulsion from the party -- as Johnson did to his own Conservative rebels last months. Asked by Jim Fitzpatrick, who has repeatedly rebelled on Brexit matters, for assurance that such a punishment wouldn’t be meted out, Corbyn declined to give it, but at the same time, suggested rebels will be safe.“I believe in the powers of persuasion,” Corbyn said. “And tonight, I would like to persuade my honorable friend come with us vote against this bill and vote against the program motion.”Can Johnson Even Call An Election? (3:10 p.m.)It’s all very well for Boris Johnson to threaten an election (see 2:45 p.m.), but if it were in his power to call one, Britain would have already voted. Johnson tried twice at the start of September to get one, failing both times because under the law, two thirds of MPs have to vote for an early election for one to happen.That means that as before, Johnson would still need the opposition Labour Party’s agreement, and that’s far from certain, even though leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he’d support one if it weren’t for the risk of a no-deal Brexit.In theory, Johnson could change the law to set another election date. That would require only a simple majority -- though he doesn’t have one of those, either.Barnier to Lead New EU Task Force (3 p.m.)The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, already has his next job lined up -- even though the U.K. is still navigating its withdrawal. The European Commission on Tuesday announced Barnier as head of the EU’s new Task Force for Relations with the U.K.The task force will coordinate work on “strategic, operational, legal and financial” issues related to Brexit, according to an emailed statement from the commission. It will also “be in charge of the finalization of the Article 50 negotiations, as well as the commission’s ‘no-deal’ preparedness work and the future relationship negotiations with the U.K.”What Exactly Is Johnson’s Election Threat? (2.45 p.m.)Boris Johnson’s election threat was carefully constructed. Here is it is full:“I will in no way allow months more of this. If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead gets its way and decides to delay everything until January or possibly longer, in no circumstances can the government continue with this. It is with great regret bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election.”The “until January” part of that could be significant. Johnson was required by law to seek a delay of Brexit until Jan. 31 if he was unable to get a deal done -- but the EU isn’t obliged to offer that long. If they offered a shorter period, perhaps Johnson is hinting he wouldn’t go through with his threat to pull the bill.Practically, given the time it would take to hold an election -- at least five weeks -- and the uncertainty around the outcome, it would be risky for the EU to offer a shorter delay. In that scenario, the U.K. could easily find itself on a course out of the door without a functioning government at all.Johnson Threatens Election If MPs Block Timetable (2:26 p.m.)Boris Johnson confirmed earlier reports he will indeed pull his Brexit bill if MPs reject the government’s accelerated timetable this evening.When asked by the SNP’s David Linden, Johnson told MPs that if the motion proposing a fast-track timetable is voted down, “the bill will have to be pulled” and “we will have to go forward to a general election.”Kinnock Proposes Single Market Amendment (2 p.m.)Labour MP Stephen Kinnock proposed an amendment to the bill which seeks to ensure the U.K. stays aligned with the EU single market after it’s left the EU.In an interview with Bloomberg, Kinnock said businesses have raised concerns that the EU would never do a free trade deal with a country that had diverged from its rules and regulations to become “Singapore on Thames.”The amendment proposes the government will work toward close alignment with the single market, “dynamic” rights and protections for workers and the environment, and to participate in EU agencies.Kinnock said the amendment has been proposed for debate and potentially voting on Tuesday or Wednesday.PM ‘Will Ditch Bill’ if Defeated on Timetable (1:45 p.m.)The prime minister may have the votes to get his deal approved but faces a major battle to convince MPs to rush the law through Parliament in just a few days. If they refuse his request for a speedy timetable, Johnson has little chance of meeting his goal of getting Brexit done by Oct. 31.The premier’s team hit back, with one senior government official in Johnson’s office saying he will abandon the bill entirely if he loses the vote on the fast-track timetable motion on Tuesday.The official said the prime minister will ditch the bill if Parliament votes again for a delay and the EU offers an extension to the Brexit deadline to Jan. 31. The official said the government will pull the Bill, there will be no further business for Parliament, and the Johnson will move to trigger an election before Christmas.The official’s comments may put more pressure on MPs to agree to the accelerated timetable ahead of the vote. The pound fell by as much as 0.5% to $1.2891, a fresh low for the day.Johnson: Back Brexit Deal to ‘Heal’ Britain (1:30 p.m.)Johnson opened the debate in Parliament on his deal, calling on MPs of all parties to back his Withdrawal Agreement Bill so that voters can focus on domestic priorities instead of Brexit.Passing the bill later Tuesday will allow the nation to “turn the page and allow this parliament and this country to heal,” Johnson said. A vote to support the new Brexit agreement would provide a “shot in the arm” for the British economy and unleash a “tide” of investment, he said. The premier was replying to a question on why the government hasn’t provided economic impact assessments of his deal.Johnson to Make Case for Fast Timetable (1 p.m.)Boris Johnson will be making the case for a three-day timetable for his Brexit bill to pass through the House of Commons when he opens the debate shortly, according to a U.K. official, though the prime minister won’t say what he’ll do if MPs vote against the accelerated schedule.But precedent suggests the bill could be pulled. According to the official, since so-called program motions were introduced in the 1980s, there is only a single example -- in 2011 -- of one being voted down. That bill was withdrawn, the official said.Johnson to Open Debate on Brexit Bill (12:30 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson will open the main debate on his Brexit legislation in the House of Commons, his spokesman told reporters, with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland making closing remarks at about 6:30 p.m.Voting down the timetable -- known as the program motion -- for the three-day passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons would have “serious implications,” spokesman James Slack said, declining to say what the government plans to do in that scenario, including whether the Brexit bill would be pulled.“If the program motion is passed, we have a clear path to leave on Oct. 31,” Slack said. “If it’s not passed, there’s no guarantee the EU will grant an extension.”Brexit May Tie N. Ireland to EU Forever: Judge (12:25 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal could permanently bind Northern Ireland to European Union law, according to an Irish judge at the bloc’s second-highest court, who suggested the accord may eventually bring the people of the island of Ireland together.Johnson’s agreement would have “very long-term consequences for the continued separation of Northern Ireland from Ireland,” Judge Anthony Collins said at an event in Brussels late Monday. That’s because EU law and practice would continue to be applied, which will aid the economic development of the region, he said.Boles Proposes Amendment to Extend Transition (11:15 a.m.)Former Conservative MP Nick Boles, who now sits as an independent in Parliament, has proposed an amendment that would force the government to seek an extension of the Brexit transition period to Dec. 2022 if it hasn’t agreed a trade deal with the European Union by the deadline at the end of next year.The amendment reflects unease among MPs that the government’s legislation creates a potential new cliff edge in Dec. 2020, when the U.K. could still face trading on no-deal terms with the EU if the government doesn’t reach a trade agreement. Labour’s Hilary Benn said on Twitter the draft law gives Parliament no say if the government doesn’t propose an extension -- and Boles’s amendment seeks to address that.Labour Party ‘Outraged’ at Government’s Timetable (11 a.m.)The main opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said the Labour Party is “outraged” at the government’s accelerated timetable for debating its Brexit bill, but stopped short of saying the party would oppose what it sees as an “artificial” deadline. She told the BBC a decision would be made at a shadow cabinet meeting later on how to vote on Tuesday.Government Hints It Will Pull Bill If MPs Amend It (8.30 a.m.)Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC radio the government will not accept any amendments to the Brexit bill that “compromise the integrity of the deal we have secured from the EU,” implying the government will pull the bill altogether and seek a general election if MPs change Johnson’s legislation to include a second referendum or to keep the U.K. in the EU’s customs union.Labour has repeatedly voted down Johnson’s attempts for a general election, arguing an extension must be agreed with the European Union first.Juncker Expresses Brexit Regret (8:25 a.m.)For the European Union, Brexit has been a “waste of time and a waste of energy” when the bloc should have been doing other things, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.Standing with EU Council President Donald Tusk before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Juncker said the EU has done all in its power to prevent a no-deal Brexit. He reiterated that the European Parliament -- which has a veto over the Brexit deal -- would only be able to ratify the deal after the British Parliament. That’s a potential spanner in the works when it comes to Boris Johnson’s ambition to leave the bloc on Oct. 31.EU’s Tusk Still Consulting on Delay (8:20 a.m.)EU Council President Donald Tusk said the situation on Brexit is complicated by the events in the House of Commons on Saturday, and a delay will depend on what the U.K. Parliament “decides or doesn’t decide.” Tusk is still consulting the EU’s 27 leaders on how to respond to Boris Johnson’s extension request, he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.MPs Have Time to Scrutinize Deal: Government (8:10 a.m.)Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News there will be “sufficient” time for members of Parliament to go over the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and that the “vast majority” know where they on Brexit.But MPs from across the House of Commons are threatening to vote against Boris Johnson’s accelerated timetable for his Brexit plan, arguing three days of debate is not enough for proper analysis of the 110-page piece of legislation.Former Conservative Cabinet minister Rory Stewart, who now sits as an independent, told BBC radio Parliament should have “normal time” to discuss the bill, highlighting concerns from voters who wish to remain in the European Union and a lack of trust in Johnson’s government.Johnson: Get Brexit Done and Move On (Earlier)On the eve of the votes, the prime minister appealed to members of Parliament to back his deal and push it through the House of Commons.“We have negotiated a new deal so that we can leave without disruption and provide a framework for a new relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation,” Boris Johnson said in an emailed statement.“I hope Parliament today votes to take back control for itself and the British people and the country can start to focus on the cost of living, the NHS, and conserving our environment,” he said. “The public doesn’t want any more delays, neither do other European leaders and neither do I. Let’s get Brexit done on Oct. 31 and move on.”Earlier:Boris Johnson Finally Gets to Put His Brexit Deal to the VoteBrexit’s Big Winner So Far Is Boris Johnson: Clive CrookFacebook Pledges Tighter Scrutiny for Next U.K. Election\--With assistance from John Ainger, Robert Hutton, Aoife White, Stephanie Bodoni, Ian Wishart and Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net;Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 12:04:11 -0400
  • Libya armed groups ignore laws of war in Tripoli: Amnesty

    Golocal247.com news

    Amnesty International accused both sides in the fight for Libya's capital of "utter disregard" for the laws of war, in a report released Tuesday citing possible war crimes. "Warring parties in the ongoing battle for Tripoli have killed and maimed scores of civilians by launching indiscriminate attacks and using a range of inaccurate explosive weapons in populated urban areas," the rights watchdog said. The forces of east Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take Tripoli in April, but met fierce resistance from forces loyal to the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:52:25 -0400
  • UK's Johnson threatens election if MPs derail Brexit timetable

    Golocal247.com news

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatened Tuesday to abandon ratifying his Brexit deal and instead seek an early election if MPs defy his timetable to get the agreement passed in time to leave the EU on October 31. The Conservative leader was speaking ahead of two crucial votes in the House of Commons that will determine if Johnson can fulfil his "do or die" promise to deliver Brexit at the end of next week. Britain is entering a cliffhanger finale to a drama sparked by the 2016 referendum vote on whether to leave the EU, which has plunged the country into three years of political turmoil.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:49:09 -0400
  • Lebanon PM seeks foreign support for reforms amid protests

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    Lebanon's embattled prime minister sought international support Tuesday for economic reforms announced a day earlier, which were intended to pacify massive protests calling for his government to resign. Saad Hariri hopes the reform package will increase foreign investments and help Lebanon's struggling economy. Lebanon's biggest demonstrations in 15 years have unified an often-divided public in their revolt against status-quo leaders who have ruled for three decades and brought the economy to the brink of disaster.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:45:00 -0400
  • Northern Irish Loyalists Warn of ‘Angry’ Backlash to Brexit Deal

    (Bloomberg) -- Northern Irish loyalists vowed to resist what they see as the economic reunification of Ireland implicit in Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, warning of civil disobedience on the streets of Belfast that risks tipping over into violence.In London on Tuesday, Parliament will vote on the general principles of Johnson’s accord with the European Union, which binds Northern Ireland tightly to the bloc to avoid the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit.“You are going to have an organic explosion of anger” if Johnson’s deal is passed, Jamie Bryson, who has emerged as a de-facto spokesman for loyalists, said in an interview. “We are going to have a difficult position to prevent loyalists taking to the streets and we would hope that would be peaceful. But you are asking people to go along with surrendering their country -- it is not going to happen. It’s a very fluid situation and it wouldn’t take much to spark it off.”The Democratic Unionist Party is opposed to the deal, suggesting it weakens Northern Ireland’s place in the union. The U.K. effectively split Ireland in 1921 to placate a largely Protestant, unionist majority in the north in the face of increasingly demands from the Catholic-dominated south for independence from Britain.“If this goes ahead we are into an economic United Ireland, the whole basis of the Union is gone, it’s weakened,” Bryson said. “It is going to have to be resisted.”Still, other forces in unionism cautioned against inflaming the situation. The Orange Order, which celebrates Northern Ireland’s place in the U.K., said it’s not the time for widespread protest which could paralyze the region, Reuters reported.“There is a feeling people need to do something but I would be encouraging people that it isn’t a case for street protest at this time,” Orange Order Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson told Reuters.Bryson said all sides want to avoid a return to violence.“There’s a danger if you get a massive amount of people on the streets,” he said. “Violence would be foolish but I can’t predict the future.”Meanwhile, in Dublin, Sinn Fein suggested a vote on a uniting Ireland could take place sooner rather than later. The U.K. government can only call a unification referendum when it considers it likely a vote would be carried. “Germany was reunified in in one year,” Michelle O’Neill, leader of the party’s Northern Irish wing, said in a speech on Tuesday. “In less than one year, and that’s something for everybody to think about. Sometimes events can over take you.” To contact the reporter on this story: Rodney Edwards in London at redwards102@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Dara DoyleFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:41:34 -0400
  • Trump hints at 'incredible' trade deal with North Korea

    President Trump wants more than just a nuclear agreement from North Korea.Trump spent more than an hour during a Monday Cabinet meeting spinning on everything from how he "captured" ISIS to how he doesn't believe in part of the Constitution. But buried in those talks was another, lesser discussed implication: That Trump is working on a trade deal with North Korea.After railing about health care at the end of the Monday remarks, Trump snuck in an unexpected mention of international trade deals. "These trade deals are incredible," Trump said. "Whether it's North Korea, South Korea -- probably, something is going to be happening with North Korea too," he continued, and then added some more vague claims: "There's some very interesting information on North Korea. A lot of things are going on. And that's going to be a major rebuild at a certain point."Trump's North Korea suggestions were obviously light on the details, and after mentioning the "rebuild," he moved on to talk South Korea and China. So it's unclear if a deal is really in the works, or if Trump was just stumbling through the region on his way to discuss South Korea.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:28:00 -0400
  • Egypt arrests 22 for planned protest over grisly murder case

    Egypt says it has arrested nearly two dozen people for allegedly trying to incite protests over a grisly murder that's shocked the country. Earlier this month, a teenage boy fatally stabbed another boy who was defending a girl from sexual harassment. The killing of Mahmoud el-Banna has stunned Egypt.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:25:23 -0400
  • Taliban say new intra-Afghan peace talks to be held in China

    Golocal247.com news

    The Taliban say a fresh round of intra-Afghan peace talks is to be held in China next week. Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban's political office in Qatar, said Tuesday that the talks are planned for Oct. 28 and 29. A day earlier, the U.S. State Department said its peace envoy started a fresh round of talks with European, NATO and U.N. allies about ending the war.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:22:52 -0400
  • Iraq: American troops leaving Syria cannot stay in Iraq

    Golocal247.com news

    U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, Iraq's military said Tuesday as American forces continued to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey's invasion of the border region. The statement appears to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has said that under the current plan, all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:21:32 -0400
  • Turkey's Halkbank could face fine for failing to appear in U.S. court: prosecutor

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    A U.S. prosecutor on Tuesday called Turkey's Halkbank a "fugitive" after it failed to make an initial court appearance in a criminal case accusing it of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Lockard said at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan that prosecutors had served a summons on the bank's U.S. lawyer, and that the bank was "in contempt" for not appearing. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is presiding over the case, said the bank would get another two weeks.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:12:42 -0400
  • Iranian beauty queen pleads for asylum in the Philippines

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    An Iranian beauty queen is seeking asylum in the Philippines, fearing for her life after Tehran demanded her extradition for a crime she claims she did not commit.  Bahareh Zare Bahari, who represented Iran at the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant in Manila, and who has studied dental medicine in the Philippines since 2014, has been held for six days at the country’s Ninoy Aquino airport after Iran slapped an Interpol Red Notice on her for alleged assault.  In a series of messages, the distraught Ms Bahari told the Telegraph that the case was a “big lie,” adding that she believed she was being targeted for her political activism and outspoken support of women’s rights. If she was deported to Iran, “they will kill me,” she said.  Markk Perete, undersecretary at the Philippine department of justice, said that “the only reason she was held at the airport -  and we really don’t call it detention -  it is really restraining her from entering the Philippine territory, is only because of that Red Notice issued against her.” He added that the request had been made “presumably on account of a pending criminal case against her in Iran, and this case was filed by an Iranian national against her in relation to an assault that happened presumably here in the Philippines.” Bahareh Zare Bahari, who is studying dental medicine, is an outspoken advocate for women's rights Credit: Facebook However, Mr Perete said that the Philippines was unaware of this allegation, and that an earlier accusation of commercial fraud against her had been dismissed.  There were no criminal cases pending against Ms Bahari, he confirmed. “We don’t have any cause for refusing her entry for violation of our laws.” Ms Bahari’s asylum plea is now being considered by the justice department, with the help of a lawyer.  Meanwhile, the dental student is confined to Terminal 3’s transit area awaiting her fate. “There is no updating, no information about the reason why [they] keep me here so long,” she said.  She believes her political statement at the pageant - waving a poster of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled former crown prince, and one of the foremost critics of Iran’s Islamic government - made her enemies in Tehran.  Mr Pahlavi's name has been invoked by some Iranian groups who have called for a return of the monarchy to deal with corruption and poor economic conditions. “I used his photo on stage to be [the] voice of my people because all news and media are ignoring my people,” she said.  Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called for “a fair and impartial hearing of her claim” in Manila.  “It’s absolutely critical the Philippines provides Bahareh Zare Bahari with support, including access to legal counsel, to compile and file her asylum application,” said Phil Robertson, HRW deputy Asia director.  “While waiting for the details to become clear, there should be no action under Iran’s Interpol red notice, especially since under Interpol rules a red notice is null and void if the person named in the notice is found to be a refugee fleeing from the state that issued it.”

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:11:46 -0400
  • 'America is running away': Syrian withdrawal turns chaotic

    Golocal247.com news

    The crowd hurled potatoes that thudded on the sides of the hulking U.S. armored vehicles. "What happened to Americans?" one man shouted in English up at the sole U.S. soldier visible on the back of a vehicle. It was yet another indignity in a U.S. withdrawal that has been carried out over the past two weeks with more haste and violence than expected — and which may now be partially reversed.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 11:09:30 -0400
  • Hungary's Orban Gave Trump Harsh Analysis of Ukraine Before Key Meeting

    Golocal247.com news

    WASHINGTON -- Just 10 days before a key meeting on Ukraine, President Donald Trump met, over the objections of his national security adviser, with one of the former Soviet republic's most virulent critics, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and heard a sharp assessment that bolstered his hostility toward the country, according to several people informed about the situation.Trump's conversation with Orban on May 13 exposed him to a harsh indictment of Ukraine at a time when his personal lawyer was pressing the new government in Kyiv to provide damaging information about Democrats. Trump's suspicious view of Ukraine set the stage for events that led to the impeachment inquiry against him.The visit by Orban, who is seen as an autocrat who has rolled back democracy, provoked a sharp dispute within the White House. John Bolton, then the president's national security adviser, and Fiona Hill, then the National Security Council's senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, opposed a White House invitation for the Hungarian leader, according to the people briefed on the matter. But they were outmaneuvered by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who supported such a meeting.As a result, Trump at a critical moment in the Ukraine saga sat down in the Oval Office with a European leader with a fiercely negative outlook on Ukraine that fortified opinions he had heard from his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and from President Vladimir Putin of Russia repeatedly over the months and years.Echoing Putin's view, Orban has publicly accused Ukraine of oppressing its Hungarian minority and has cast his eye on a section of Ukraine with a heavy Hungarian population. His government has accused Ukraine of being "semi-fascist" and sought to block important meetings for Ukraine with the European Union and NATO.Ten days after his meeting with Orban, Trump met on May 23 with several of his top advisers returning from the inauguration of Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The advisers, including Rick Perry, the energy secretary; Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine; and Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, reassured Trump that Zelenskiy was a reformer who deserved U.S. support. But Trump expressed deep doubt, saying that Ukrainians were "terrible people" who "tried to take me down" during the 2016 presidential election.Orban's visit came up during testimony to House investigators last week by George P. Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine policy. The meeting with Orban and a separate May 3 phone call between Trump and Putin are of intense interest to House investigators seeking to piece together the back story that led to the president's pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.Kent testified behind closed doors that another government official had held the two episodes up to him as part of an explanation for Trump's darkening views of Zelenskiy last spring, according to a person familiar with his testimony. A third factor cited to him was Giuliani's influence.Kent did not have firsthand knowledge of either discussion, and it was not clear if the person who cited them did either. But two other people briefed on the matter said in interviews that Orban used the opportunity to disparage Ukraine with the president. The Washington Post first reported on the meeting with Orban and the call with Putin.It would not be surprising that Putin would fill Trump's ear with negative impressions of Ukraine or Zelenskiy. Putin has long denied that Ukraine even deserved to be a separate nation, and he sent undercover forces into Crimea in 2014 to set the stage to annex the Ukrainian territory. Putin's government has also armed Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, fomenting a civil war that has dragged on for five years.But allowing Orban to add his voice to that chorus set off a fight inside the West Wing. Bolton and Hill believed that Orban did not deserve the honor of an Oval Office visit, which would be seen as a huge political coup for an autocratic leader ostracized by many of his peers in Europe.Mulvaney, however, had come to respect Orban from his time as a member of Congress and his involvement with the International Catholic Legislators Network, according to an administration official close to the acting chief of staff. Orban has positioned himself as a champion of Christians in the Middle East, a position that earned him Mulvaney's admiration, the official said.Another official pushing for the Orban visit was David B. Cornstein, the United States ambassador to Hungary, who sidestepped the State Department to help set up a White House meeting, according to a person familiar with the matter. An 81-year-old jewelry magnate and longtime friend of Trump's, Cornstein told The Atlantic this year that the president envied Orban. "I can tell you, knowing the president for a good 25 or 30 years, that he would love to have the situation that Viktor Orban has, but he doesn't," Cornstein said.The Oval Office meeting with Trump took place just four days after Giuliani told The New York Times that he would travel to Ukraine to seek information that would be "very, very helpful to my client" and three days after Giuliani canceled the trip in response to the resulting criticism.In moves that have disturbed democracy advocates and many U.S. and European officials, Orban's government has targeted nongovernmental organizations, brought most of the news media under control of his allies, undermined the independent judiciary, altered the electoral process to favor his party and sought to drive out of the country an American-chartered university founded by billionaire George Soros.Orban's government has pressured Ukraine over what it says is discrimination and violence against ethnic Hungarians living in the western part of the country.Orban's efforts to undermine Ukraine in Europe drew enough concern among U.S. officials that Volker, while the State Department special envoy, visited Budapest and other places to meet with Hungarian officials to encourage them to talk with their counterparts in Kyiv to resolve their differences.Mulvaney's role in facilitating Orban's visit adds to the picture of the acting chief of staff's role in the Ukraine situation. It was Mulvaney who conveyed Trump's order suspending $391 million in U.S. assistance to Ukraine at the same time the president was trying to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden.At a briefing last week, Mulvaney denied that the aid was held up to force Ukraine to investigate Biden but confirmed that one reason it was frozen was to make sure Ukraine investigated any involvement with Democrats in the 2016 presidential campaign. After a resulting furor, Mulvaney then sought to take back his comments, denying any quid pro quo.Bolton and Mulvaney also clashed when it became clear Mulvaney was facilitating Sondland's role in pressing Ukraine. "I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," Bolton told Hill, according to her testimony to House investigators.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 10:57:03 -0400
  • EU sets up team under Barnier for post-Brexit UK ties

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    The European Commission said Tuesday that its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will head a new team to guide future relations with Britain after it leaves the EU. Britain is due to leave the union on October 31, but will remain in a transitional relationship for at least 14 months while Brussels and London negotiate a trade deal. Barnier's "Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom" will be a merger of his team that negotiated the withdrawal agreement and the EU's "Brexit preparedness" team.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 10:19:56 -0400
  • EU team to start work on post-Brexit ties with UK on Nov 16

    The European Commission team in charge of negotiating the divorce deal for Britain's withdrawal from the EU will become the "Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom" and is due to start work on Nov. 16, the Commission said on Tuesday. The task force will begin its work regardless of developments in the United Kingdom, the Commission said. The task force, which will continue to be headed by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, will finalise the divorce talks, be in charge of the Commission's preparations for a "no-deal" and the future relationship with the UK.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:58:52 -0400
  • Johnson’s First Battle With MPs: The 2020 Trade Cliff Edge

    (Bloomberg) -- As Boris Johnson prepares for a knife-edge vote on his Brexit deal tonight, the big question dogging some of the waverers is: how do we stop another no-deal cliff edge a year from now?According to the bill, published late on Monday, Britain will have until 2020 to sign a trade agreement with the European Union. But if that doesn’t happen, and the two sides fail to agree to extend the transition period, the country could still crash out of the EU.The decision to extend lies in the hands of ministers rather than parliament -- something that the MPs who have thus far managed to take the Oct. 31 cliff edge off the table are desperately seeking to prevent. At the same time, that same threat might well have convinced some of the hardest Brexiteers to swing behind the Johnson deal. Lawmakers vote tonight on whether they agree with the general principles of the bill, and then on Johnson’s plan to fast-track the law through parliament. If that second vote fails, opponents to Johnson’s plan are likely to pounce.Former Conservative MP Nick Boles, who now sits as an independent in Parliament, has proposed an amendment that would force the government to seek an extension of the transition period to Dec. 2022 if it hasn’t agreed a deal with the EU by the deadline at the end of next year.Even if he succeeds in getting his Brexit deal through Parliament, Johnson may find that reaching a trade deal in less time than it took to negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement won’t be easy. EU members states all have their own axes to grind -- France, for example, wants access to British waters for its fishermen -- and may demand a high price from Johnson.To contact the reporter on this story: Edward Evans in London at eevans3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Harris at hharris5@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:56:17 -0400
  • Hillary Clinton's attacks on Tulsi Gabbard are embarrassing

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    It’s sad that instead of doing something useful with her post-political career, Clinton has decided to lob ludicrous accusations at younger Democrats‘Even though Gabbard may be a flawed messenger, the message itself is correct: we no longer need to hear what Hillary Clinton thinks about anything.’ Photograph: Richard Drew/APHillary Clinton has kept a relatively low profile since her embarrassing 2016 election defeat, popping up only occasionally to make out-of-touch elitist comments that confirm why she lost. So it was somewhat surprising to hear her weigh in on the 2020 Democratic primary with a truly bizarre comment about (of all people) Tulsi Gabbard.Clinton accused the Hawaii congresswoman of being groomed by outside forces, saying: “I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate … She’s the favorite of the Russians.” There is some dispute about whether Clinton meant it was the Russians or Republicans who were pushing a third-party Gabbard candidacy, but a Clinton spokesman asked about the comments replied “if the nesting doll fits”, clearly implying it was dastardly Russians.Gabbard immediately hit back hard, calling Clinton (accurately) “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic party for so long”. While hosts of The View backed up Clinton, calling Gabbard a “useful idiot”, others such as the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend’s mayor, Pete Buttigieg, suggested that Clinton ought to have had some evidence before implying something so outrageous about a Democratic elected official.But it was typical Clinton. Paranoia about Russian influence has been ubiquitous among the Clinton set since 2016, in part because it helps to explain how the loss to Donald Trump wasn’t really Clinton’s fault. Liberals in the media like Rachel Maddow openly admit to having an obsession with Russia, and end up seeing the hands of Vladimir Putin on everything. Clinton herself has had trouble coming to terms with her loss. Even though accounts from inside the campaign confirm that Clinton barely knew why she was running for president, couldn’t craft any kind of message, and made laughably overconfident decisions about where to campaign, her campaign memoir was less a mea culpa than a j’accuse. It pointed fingers at Sanders and James Comey, and ended up sounding a lot like the Onion’s parody title: We All Made Mistakes But You Made Most Of Them.Years later, Clinton has learned seemingly nothing. Elsewhere on the podcast episode in which she made the accusations against Gabbard, Clinton blames fake news, foreign interference and voter suppression for undermining democracy and keeping Democrats out of power. Those are factors, but the big one is the one that Gabbard herself identified: the “rot that has sickened the Democratic party for so long”. Clinton practiced a corrupting and duplicitous form of politics that made many would-be Democratic voters feel completely unrepresented by the party. But instead of spending her time in the woods doing some soul-searching, Clinton has evidently spent it cooking up new conspiracy theories about the all-powerful Putin.Tulsi Gabbard is completely right about what Clinton represents. Clinton was the Democratic party at its absolute worst: pro-war, pro-Wall Street, self-enriching, inept, devoid of any transformative vision and contemptuous of ordinary people. It’s very clear that Sanders would have been the smart choice in 2016, and Gabbard was one of the few Democratic officials to recognize that at the time and endorse him. Actually, that was courageous of her – most Democratic officials, even those whose politics should have aligned them more closely with Sanders than Clinton, were too timid to buck the establishment and risk their career by potentially getting on the wrong side of an incoming Clinton administration.That’s not to say that Gabbard herself should be the future of the Democratic party. Far from it: while Gabbard has made a big deal of her anti-war stance, she has embraced the vicious Indian nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, and been far more hawkish and softer on torture than she would like progressive voters to believe. Her willingness to criticize the “rot” in her own party may make Gabbard a refreshing presence on the debate stage, but no serious leftist can support someone who spent the Obama years echoing Republican talking points about “radical Islam”. She’s still no “useful idiot”, and even with her flaws she is preferable to truly intolerable candidates like Buttigieg and Joe Biden. If we were (God forbid) somehow faced with the choice between Tulsi Gabbard and Amy Klobuchar, the country would be far better off in Gabbard’s hands.Even though Gabbard may be a flawed messenger, the message itself is correct: we no longer need to hear what Hillary Clinton thinks about anything. Her kind of politics is, thankfully, a relic of history, and we have moved on. It’s sad that instead of doing something useful with her post-political career, Clinton has decided to lob ludicrous, borderline defamatory, accusations at younger Democratic women who were less wrong than Clinton was about dozens of issues. Fortunately, hardly anybody is listening any more. * Nathan Robinson is the editor of Current Affairs and a Guardian US columnist

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:56:14 -0400
  • UK's Labour wants Brexit extension before it will back early election - source

    Britain's Labour Party will only back an early election if an extension long enough to allow for a snap poll is agreed with the European Union and a no-deal Brexit is off the table, a source in the opposition party said on Tuesday. Labour has long said it wants a new election, but has so far refused to support Prime Minister Boris Johnson's calls for one because the opposition party fears he might lead Britain out of the EU without a deal. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there would need to be an extension long enough to hold a new election for the prime minister to get Labour's support for a snap poll.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:51:37 -0400
  • Rights group: Possible war crimes in fight for Libya capital

    A leading rights group on Tuesday said it has evidence of potential war crimes by Libyan factions fighting a months-long battle for Tripoli, the capital. London-based Amnesty International said its investigation showed that the warring parties have killed and maimed scores of civilians, with both sides having launched indiscriminate attacks and using inaccurate explosive weapons in populated urban areas. Forces loyal to Khalifa Hifter, a veteran army officer based in the country's east, began an offensive to capture Tripoli in early April, clashing with an array of militias loosely allied with a U.N.-supported but weak government based in the capital.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:47:14 -0400
  • Britain's Labour Party will not support Brexit deal or timetable - Corbyn

    British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Tuesday his opposition party would not support Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal or his timetable to pass the legislation for it through parliament. "My recommendation would be to vote against this bill," he added, saying the party would also oppose the so-called programme motion, which sets the timetable for passage of the legislation through the House of Commons.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:41:47 -0400
  • For Trump the Dealmaker, Troop Pullouts Without Much in Return

    Golocal247.com news

    WASHINGTON -- The Taliban have wanted the United States to pull troops out of Afghanistan, Turkey has wanted the Americans out of northern Syria, and North Korea has wanted them to at least stop military exercises with South Korea.President Donald Trump has now to some extent at least obliged all three -- but without getting much of anything in return. The self-styled dealmaker has given up the leverage of the United States' military presence in multiple places around the world without negotiating concessions from those cheering for U.S. forces to leave.For a president who has repeatedly promised to end the "endless wars," the decisions reflect a broader conviction that bringing troops home -- or at least moving them out of hot spots -- is more important than haggling for advantage. In his view, decades of overseas military adventurism has only cost the country enormous blood and treasure, and waiting for deals would prolong a national disaster.But veteran diplomats, foreign policy experts and key lawmakers fear that Trump is squandering U.S. power and influence in the world with little to show for it. By pulling troops out unilaterally, they argue, Trump has emboldened America's enemies and distressed its allies. Friends like Israel, they note, worry about U.S. staying power. Foes like North Korea and the Taliban learn that they can achieve their goals without having to pay a price."It's hard for me to divine any real strategic logic to the president's moves," said John P. Hannah, a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. "The only real connective tissue I see is the almost preternatural isolationist impulse that he invariably seems to revert to when left to his own devices internationally -- even to the point that it overrides his supposed deal-making instincts."Reuben E. Brigety II, a former Navy officer and ambassador to the African Union under President Barack Obama who now serves as dean of the Elliott School for International Affairs at George Washington University, said just as worrisome as the decisions themselves was the seemingly capricious way they were made.Trump, he said, often seems more interested in pleasing autocrats like Kim Jong Un of North Korea and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey than in organizing any kind of coherent policymaking process to consider the pros and cons."When he canceled the South Korea military exercises, the only person he consulted was Kim Jong Un," Brigety said. "The decision to abandon the Kurds came after a brief phone call with Erdogan. So they weren't taken because he had personally reflected on the strategic disposition of American forces around the world. They were taken after he took the counsel of strongmen over that of his own advisers."All the complaints from the career national security establishment, however, carry little weight with Trump, who dismisses his critics as the same ones who got the country into a catastrophic war in Iraq. While that may not be true in all cases, Trump makes the case that 18 years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it is time to pull out even without extracting trade-offs in return."When I watch these pundits that always are trying to take a shot, I say -- they say, 'What are we getting out of it?' " Trump told reporters Monday as he hosted a Cabinet meeting. "You know what we're getting out of it? We're bringing our soldiers back home. That's a big thing. And it's going to probably work. But if it doesn't work, you're going to have people fighting like they've been fighting for 300 years. It's very simple. It's really very simple."The United States has about 200,000 troops stationed around the world, roughly half of them in relatively less dangerous posts in Europe or Asia where U.S. forces have maintained a presence since the end of World War II. Tens of thousands of others are deployed in the Middle East, although only a fraction of them are in the active war zones of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.It took only a few dozen Special Forces operators near the border in northern Syria to deter Turkey from assaulting America's Kurdish allies there, but soon after Trump talked with Erdogan on Oct. 6, the president announced on a Sunday night that they would be pulled back. Turkey then launched a ferocious attack on the Kurds, and by the time a convoy of U.S. troops moved away over the weekend, they were shown in a widely circulated video being pelted by angry Kurds throwing potatoes to express their sense of betrayal.Trump did not ask Erdogan for anything in exchange. Instead, the diplomacy came only after the Turkish incursion began when he sent Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to broker a cease-fire to give the Kurds time to evacuate a new safe zone to be controlled by Turkey along the Syrian border. Erdogan essentially got what he wanted.In Afghanistan, Trump's special envoy spent months negotiating a peace agreement with the Taliban militia that would provide guarantees that the country would not be used as a base for terrorist attacks against the United States if it reduced its troop presence to around 8,600. The talks fell apart, but Trump is drawing down U.S. forces anyway, pulling out 2,000 troops in the past year, leaving 12,000 to 13,000. Plans are to keep shrinking the force to around 8,600 anyway.In Asia, Trump voluntarily canceled traditional large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea at the behest of Kim even though the two have yet to reach any kind of concrete agreement in which North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons. The decision frustrated not only allies like South Korea and Japan but senior U.S. diplomats and military officers, who privately questioned why North Korea should be given one of its key demands without having to surrender anything itself."Trump is a win-lose negotiator," said Wendy R. Sherman, a former undersecretary of state under Obama who helped broker the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that Trump abandoned last year. "That's what he did as a real estate developer. He doesn't see the larger landscape, the interconnections, the larger costs, the loss of greater benefits."When he has sat down at the negotiating table, Trump's record on the world stage has been mixed or incomplete. He has sealed an accord to update NAFTA with Mexico and Canada, revised a free-trade agreement with South Korea and reached a limited trade pact with Japan.But in addition to the collapse of the Afghan talks, he has gotten nowhere in nuclear negotiations with North Korea, made no progress in a long, drawn-out Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, has yet to even reach the table with Iran despite his stated desire and remains locked in a high-stakes, big-dollar negotiation with China over tariffs.For Trump, though, the desire to "end the endless wars," as he puts it, may override his instinct for deal-making. He talks repeatedly about the misery of families whose loved ones have been killed in the Middle East or elsewhere, and he seems to put decisions about deployments in a different category than trade deals or other negotiations. Getting them out of harm's way is an end to itself."We're going to bring our soldiers back home," Trump said Monday. "So far, there hasn't been one drop of blood shed during this whole period by an American soldier. Nobody was killed. Nobody cut their finger. There's been nothing. And they're leaving rather, I think, not expeditiously -- rather intelligently."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:41:18 -0400
  • Britain's Labour Party will not support Brexit deal or timetable - Corbyn

    British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Tuesday his opposition party would not support Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal or his timetable to pass the legislation for it through parliament. "My recommendation would be to vote against this bill," he added, saying the party would also oppose the so-called programme motion, which sets the timetable for passage of the legislation through the House of Commons.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:32:11 -0400
  • PM Johnson says will push for election if lawmakers reject Brexit timetable

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he would end an attempt to win parliamentary approval for his Brexit legislation and instead press for an election if lawmakers reject his timetable. The prime minister would need to win a vote to trigger an early election because one is not scheduled until 2022.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:25:06 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson says EU will not change deal again

    The European Union will not reopen the Brexit deal it has reached with Britain if lawmakers seek to change it by amending legislation to ratify the agreement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday. The government plans to get the legislation through the House of Commons, parliament's lower chamber, by the end of Thursday but some lawmakers hope to make changes to it. The alternative to approving the deal is to undo Brexit, Johnson said, urging lawmakers to work "night and day" to get the legislation through.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:18:35 -0400
  • Russian Income Statistics Are Too Good to Be True

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Russian’s have reason to celebrate, at least according to data published by the national statistics office last week. Their real disposable incomes grew 3% year-on-year in the third quarter, the most since 2013.The problem is, it’s unclear exactly where the improvement comes from.Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be obsessed with real incomes. It’s a statistic he mentions more frequently than economic growth. Sometimes he argues, as he did in June, that incomes are pulling out of their dive. Sometimes he expresses concern, as he did  in August, that they’re not growing. Sometimes he tells the government, as he did last month, that economic growth is only desirable if citizens’ incomes also grow.It’s understandable that Putin’s worried. Before 2014, his unspoken contract with Russians was more prosperity in exchange for less freedom. The patriotic fever following the Crimea annexation tided Putin over as falling oil prices and sanctions hit the Russian economy. But now that enthusiasm has faded, and Putin fears that popular dissatisfaction could lead to mass protests. When incomes decline, that probability grows.That means last week’s report from the Rosstat statistics agency was particularly good news for Putin. It’s a headline number he can proudly cite as proof that his policy of boosting government spending on so-called “national projects” is already having a beneficial effect on ordinary Russians. Independent economists, however, struggled to understand where the unexpectedly big increase might have come from. Central Bank data indicated that the value of loans issued to individuals had been increasing, which would imply downward pressure on disposable incomes from interest payments. Retail sales have been slowing down. And real wages weren’t growing fast enough for such an increase in July and August. Unfortunately, no one knows what wages did in September because Rosstat, contrary to previous practice, didn’t publish those data along with the real disposable income number. “But wages are a key component of incomes,” Kirill Tremasov, formerly head of the Economics Ministry’s forecasting department, wrote on his Telegram channel. “If Rosstat has no September estimate for wages, how did it calculate incomes? It seems to me Rosstat is continuing to undermine trust in statistics.”That’s a shame because Pavel Malkov, Rosstat’s current chief who was appointed last December, has said his goal is to strengthen the quality of data collection and analysis. What’s been more noticeable so far are the  stronger numbers.To address the outstanding questions, Rosstat came out with an explanation: Apart from the “low 2018 base,” the other major reason for the recorded growth in incomes was an increase in “gray” wages — that is, those paid in cash to avoid taxation. In the first quarter of this year, such unofficial payments made up just 7.8% of Russians’ incomes, but they reached 14.1% in the third quarter, according to the statistics agency.This explanation would imply that Russia’s shadow economy is growing. But Rosstat’s own data show that it has been declining steadily relative to Russia’s economic output in recent years, to 12.7% of gross domestic product in 2018 from 13.8% in 2014. There is no reason to expect that Russia’s ever-tightening tax controls have slackened considerably this year. In any case, data on shadow incomes are especially hard to check.Such aggressive accounting is a potential headache for economists who use official Russian data for analysis and forecasts. And it doesn’t change the major challenges the government faces in improving standards of living.Rosstat has just released fresh survey data showing how Russians estimate their living standards. In the second quarter of 2019, the share of households that report only having enough money for food and clothes increased to 49.4% from 48.8% a year earlier, though the share of even poorer people, who can only afford food, dropped to 14.1% from 16.1%.Taken together, these numbers mean almost two thirds of Russians are barely making ends meet and have no way to save. According the edition of Credit Suisse’s Global Wealth Report, a Russian adult’s median wealth amounts to $3,683 compared with $65,904 in the U.S. Russia stands out as the major economy with the most inequality of all. There, the wealthiest accrue some 58% of the country’s wealth, compared to 35% in the U.S.This is a reality that can hardly be glossed over with upbeat statistical reports. Putin’s chances of holding on to power beyond the end of his current term in 2024 or passing it to a chosen successor increasingly depend on his ability to suppress protest, as the Kremlin did last summer in the run up to the Moscow city council election in which opposition candidates weren’t allowed to run. A tangible improvement in living standards is proving more difficult to deliver than nicer statistics.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 09:17:02 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson will seek election if parliament rejects Brexit timetable - BBC

    Britain's government will drop its attempt to get approval for Brexit legislation if lawmakers vote against the timetable to pass it on Tuesday, and will instead press for a new election before Christmas, a source was quoted by the BBC as saying. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to get approval for his Brexit deal by trying to push it through parliament in an accelerated time frame so Britain can leave the EU on Oct. 31. Sources close to the government have said the government would most probably drop its attempt to get legislation through the lower house of parliament if lawmakers refused to approve its shortened timetable.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 08:37:17 -0400
  • PM Johnson tells lawmakers: pass Brexit deal and Britain can unite again

    Britain can begin to heal and unite if lawmakers pass legislation to ratify the government's Brexit deal with the European Union, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday. Parliament is due to vote for the first time on Johnson's new Brexit deal on Tuesday.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 08:29:57 -0400
  • Russian Nuclear Bombers Sent to S. Africa in Rare Cooperation

    (Bloomberg) -- Russia will on Wednesday land the world’s biggest military aircraft in South Africa, the Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ bomber, in a rare display of cooperation between the defense forces of the two countries.The two bombers, which are capable of launching nuclear missiles, are the first to ever land in Africa and will be escorted by fighter jets from the South African Air Force when they touch down at the Waterkloof air base in Tshwane, the South African National Defence Force said in a statement. A number of other Russian military aircraft will also land at the site.“The military-to-military relations between the two countries are not solely built on struggle politics but rather on fostering mutually beneficial partnerships based on common interests,” the SANDF said. Russia’s defense ministry put out a similar statement.The arrival of the bombers in Africa’s most industrialized nation coincides with Russian President Vladimir Putin hosting an Africa summit this week, the first such event to be organized by Russia. The nation is competing with China and the U.S. for influence in Africa.\--With assistance from Stepan Kravchenko.To contact the reporter on this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: John McCorry at jmccorry@bloomberg.net, Pauline BaxFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 08:22:03 -0400
  • Putin Conquered the Middle East. The U.S. Can Get It Back.

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Russia, President Barack Obama taunted in 2014, was a “regional power”: a country capable of making mischief in its neighborhood, but not of projecting global influence. It wouldn’t be surprising if in the last two weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin has chuckled at the memory of that jibe.Russian mercenaries now occupy positions in Syria held just days ago by U.S. forces — a symbol of the collapse of America’s position in the region and Moscow’s ascendance as the key power broker in the Syrian civil war. Meanwhile, Putin conducted a state visit to the United Arab Emirates (as part of a larger trip to the Persian Gulf), where Russian flags lined the streets upon his arrival. Russia now possesses greater influence in the Middle East than at any time since the height of Soviet power in the 1960s. Not bad for a country that has an economy the size of a middling European power. It’s hard to remember that only a few years ago, Moscow’s sole ally in the region - Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime – was tottering; it looked like Moscow was about to get pushed out of the region altogether. When Putin intervened militarily in Syria in 2015, Obama predicted that Russian forces would soon get stuck in a quagmire. It hasn’t turned out that way.Moscow, in partnership with Iran and its proxies, has made itself the centerpiece of the diplomacy and regional power struggles surrounding that conflict. To what other capital would both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, trek to discuss Middle Eastern security?The Kremlin also enjoys growing military and political ties with countries throughout the region in addition to the UAE, including U.S. partners such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Turkey’s recent purchase of Russian military hardware — the advanced S-400 air-defense system — is threatening to fracture NATO. Moscow has even entered the fray in the Libyan civil war, by supporting the rebel forces of General Khalifa Haftar, who happens to hold U.S. citizenship.Putin has done a great deal to engineer this Middle Eastern revival. He has compensated for Russia’s comparative lack of power by using low-cost tools — air power, mercenaries, support for proxies — to achieve outsize impact in Syria. He has also been willing to accept relatively high risks, such as putting Russian pilots, advisers, and Special Forces in the middle of this war, on the calculation that Moscow’s rivals — namely the U.S. — would be more cautious.At the same time, Putin has shown diplomatic flexibility, keeping the lines open to nearly all players throughout the region. He has adhered to the dictum that countries have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests, by repairing relations with Turkey — frayed by the shootdown of a Russian fighter jet in 2015 — and using Ankara’s disaffection with Washington to weaken NATO. He has exploited one of the resources that the Middle East produces in abundance – chaos - to thrust Russia into imbroglios like the one in Libya. Yet Putin wouldn’t have achieved nearly as much were it not for another critical asset: his ability to capitalize on American mistakes, and to cultivate a reputation for decisiveness just as many Arab regimes, from Egypt to the Gulf, have grown worried about America’s reliability.There would not have been an opportunity for Russian meddling in Libya, for example, had the U.S. and its allies not left behind a disastrous security vacuum after overthrowing the Muammar Qaddafi regime in 2011. Similarly, Russia’s emergence as a central player in Syria began not in 2015, but in 2013, when Obama carelessly drew a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s military, declined to enforce that red line when it was breached, and then had to turn to Moscow to broker a face-saving agreement to defuse the crisis.In 2015, Putin could turn the tide of the civil war and embarrass Washington in the process because the Obama administration had created an enormous gap between its stated policy and its actual policy: It had publicly set an objective, regime change, that it never wanted to pay the costs of achieving. And now, Russia’s triumph in northern Syria was possible because the Trump administration abandoned a position it was holding at relatively low cost, thereby precipitating the upheaval that Moscow exploited.All of this has been happening against the backdrop of American retrenchment from the Middle East under two presidents. That retrenchment may be wise or foolish, or some mixture of the two, but it has fractured U.S. relationships by leaving key partners uncertain about what role Washington will play in the future.The Trump administration took a major step toward undoing 40 years of American policy in the region by provoking a confrontation with Iran, and then failing to respond when Tehran repeatedly interfered with the production or export of Gulf oil. If Russia seems to have barged back into the Middle East, America opened the door. Putin wants to bring about a world where Russia regains the global prestige and influence it lost after the Cold War. In the Middle East, at least, Putin’s Russia is well on its way.This trend seems unlikely to be reversed anytime soon. For years, American analysts have been waiting for Russian citizens to get sick of foreign adventures as they endure pension cuts at home. But so long as Putin keeps the costs of his policy relatively low and is delivering geopolitical successes, the political dangers for him will be modest. Putin is not the only Russian that wants his country to be a global power. That is one of the reasons he has remained relatively popular despite all his corruption and authoritarianism.Yet if Russia is a great power, the U.S. is still the superpower, and it retains major geopolitical advantages in the Middle East. Russia can make inroads with U.S. partners, but it can’t aspire to fill Washington’s role in patrolling the Persian Gulf. (Indeed, the sight of Russia’s lone aircraft carrier spewing black smoke on a deployment to the Mediterranean in 2017 reminds us that Moscow has precious little power-projection capability compared to the U.S.)Russia can say that it is fighting terrorism in Syria and elsewhere, but only the U.S. really has the capability to keep groups like the Islamic State at bay. Moscow can change the trajectory of the Syrian civil war, but it can’t unlock the flow of international aid dollars that will eventually be needed to rebuild that country — only Washington, in partnership with Europe, can.In short, Russia can chip away at the American-led order in the region, but only the U.S. can destroy that order altogether. Right now, Washington is doing a pretty good job of that.To contact the author of this story: Hal Brands at Hal.Brands@jhu.eduTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Hal Brands is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, the Henry Kissinger Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Most recently, he is the co-author of "The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 08:00:24 -0400
  • German minister: Some allies irritated by proposal for Syria security zone

    Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday Germany had received questions and some irritation from allies after Germany's defence minister suggested creating a security zone in northern Syria. Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer - also the leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) said the security zone should involve Turkey and Russia.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 07:57:57 -0400
  • Chile's Violence Has a Worrisome Message for the World

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If it can happen in Santiago, it could happen anywhere. That is the uncomfortable message that the rest of the world should take from the sudden breakdown of civil order in Chile, and unfortunately it is correct. The riots and vandalism of the last few days, which have sparked a state of emergency, a military response, and even a declaration by Chile’s president that the country is at war, have come in Latin America’s stablest and most prosperous nation. It had the longest uninterrupted democracy on the continent before the coup that installed Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1973, and it has enjoyed uninterrupted democracy since his regime’s peaceful fall in 1990. Outside the country, Chile has been seen as the living embodiment of the economic policies installed under Pinochet by the “Chicago Boys” — a group of economists, many of whom had been trained in free-market ideas at the University of Chicago. Chile’s pension reform, in which everyone must pay into private pension plans overseen by the state, was used as a template by countries around the region, and has allowed a steady buildup of patient local capital. Meanwhile, globalization allowed Chile to benefit from its huge supplies of copper. In relative terms, its success is undeniable. In 1975, just after Pinochet had taken over power, Chilean gross domestic product per capita lagged Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and even its neighor Peru. Now, it has more wealth per capita than any of them. It has avoided the crises that bedeviled the rest of the region. The fact that Chileans have revolted against the cost of living, then, is alarming, and suggests a similar situation could more easily happen in the rest of the developing world. Many assumed that insurrections like this would follow hard on the heels of the Great Recession; instead that moment seems to have been delayed amid a decade of slow recovery, but also deepening inequality. Only now is it upon us, with television pictures of protests in Lebanon and elsewhere only amplifying the message from Chile.If Chile seems an unlikely flash point, why the blowup there? There are, I think, four critical reasons. Taken together, they offer a troubling template for other potential hot spots.The first is inequality. The Chicago Boys’ agenda delivered reasonably strong and stable aggregate growth, but Chile remains one of the most unequal countries on earth. It ranks as one of the leaders in inequality among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and, according to the World Bank, remains more unequal than either of its very different neighbors, Argentina and Peru. People are far angrier about a rising cost of living if it comes with a sense of injustice. Second, the catalyst was a proposal to raise public transport fares and energy bills. There is ample evidence from across the world that these will incite rebellion like nothing else — a point that those who hope to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions via a carbon tax should bear in mind. The violent protests of the Gilets Jaunes in France were over higher gasoline taxes, which were seen as penalizing car-dependent people in the provinces while favoring metropolitan elites. Mexico in 2017 saw riots and protests against what was known as the “gasolinazo,” a 20% rise in fuel prices that was a part of the government’s partial privatization of Pemex, the  monopoly state oil company. Last year, Brazil was rocked by protests and a strike by truck drivers in response to fuel shortages and a sharp increase in the price of diesel.Third, Chile lacks a populist movement, or a canny populist caudillo politician. Such a figure might have been able to use public anger for their own purposes, but would also have had a better chance to control it. For example, Mexico’s left-wing populist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador frequently led public protests, but successfully persuaded his followers not to resort to violence. In Chile, where conventional politics lacks a party or a personality to channel their grievances, protesters have resorted to self-destructive vandalism. Which is to say, while charismatic Latin American populists understandably tend to make western leaders nervous, Chile shows that they can perform a vital function. Finally, Chile’s dependence on commodities, particularly copper, set it up to suffer severe collateral damage from China’s economic deceleration, and from the U.S.-China trade war. Chile is greatly dependent on its exports of copper, whose price is in turn dependent on the health of the Chinese economy. With Chinese growth slowing to 6%, the slowest in three decades, copper prices are under pressure again. That has led very directly to pressure for the Chilean peso:A weakening currency makes it harder for the Chilean government to balance its books. Chile’s leaders need to answer questions as to why they have not managed to diversify their economy away from a reliance on metals. But the country is far from alone. Several other emerging countries are similarly exposed to metals prices, including Brazil.U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he expects to sign a trade deal with China next month — at a summit in Santiago, of all places. There could scarcely be a more appropriate venue. If Trump or his counterpart Xi Jinping of China is in any doubt as to the damage their conflict could wreak on the rest of the world, they might want to take the chance to look around while there.To contact the author of this story: John Authers at jauthers@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Beth Williams at bewilliams@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.John Authers is a senior editor for markets. Before Bloomberg, he spent 29 years with the Financial Times, where he was head of the Lex Column and chief markets commentator. He is the author of “The Fearful Rise of Markets” and other books.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 07:31:00 -0400
  • Palestinian court blocks 59 websites critical of government

    A Palestinian court has blocked access to 59 websites critical of the Palestinian Authority, a decision that has drawn wide criticism. Most of the sites are run by supporters of the Islamic militant group Hamas or Mohammed Dahlan, rivals to President Mahmoud Abbas. All are critical of the Palestinian Authority.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 07:16:20 -0400
  • EU: 'We have done all in our power' for orderly Brexit

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    The EU said Tuesday it believes it has done "all in our power" to ensure an orderly Brexit and that a new divorce deal now hangs on the approval of British MPs before any European ratification. "We need now to watch events in Westminster very closely," Juncker said.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 07:03:26 -0400
  • 10 things you need to know today: October 22, 2019

    1.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won a second term on Monday as his Liberal Party lost its parliamentary majority in elections but won enough seats in the House of Commons to form a new government, according to Canadian Broadcasting Company projections. Trudeau will need the support of two smaller left-leaning parties to pull together a ruling coalition. Trudeau faced a late setback after acknowledging wearing brown-face and black-face several times years ago. Trudeau also faced allegations of bullying his former attorney general, an indigenous woman. The vote was "a reflection of the fact that the shine has come off the Trudeau brand," said University of Toronto political science professor Andrew McDougall. In his victory speech, Trudeau said "it is always possible to do better." [The New York Times, CNBC] 2.The Democratic-controlled House on Monday rejected a GOP proposal to censure Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, for his handling of his committee's part in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The censure measure specifically criticized Schiff's depiction, during a Sept. 26 hearing, of the phone call in which President Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. House Democrats blocked a floor vote on the censure measure. Earlier in the day, Trump had called for his fellow Republicans to "get tougher and fight" the impeachment proceedings. [The Washington Post] 3.Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he had failed in his effort to form a governing coalition following a near tie in last month's elections. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said he would let Netanyahu's rival, former Army Chief of staff Benny Gantz, try to pull together a ruling coalition. Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White Party, will have 28 days to see if he can succeed where Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud party, failed. "This broadens the political imagination to include the possibility that someone not named Netanyahu could be the prime minister of the state of Israel," said Mordechai Kreminitzer, senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute. "But I think Gantz will also find it extremely difficult to shape a coalition." [The Washington Post] 4.South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg surged into third place in the Democratic field in a new Iowa poll, close behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Calif.) in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Biden led the pack with the support of 18 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in the Suffolk University/USA Today poll, which was released Monday. Warren trailed just behind him with 17 percent, while Buttigieg received the backing of 13 percent of the respondents. He had just 6 percent in a similar poll in June. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) trailed with 9 percent. Billionaire Tom Steyer, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) picked up 3 percent support. Twenty-nine percent remained undecided. [Politico] 5.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing for Parliament to approve his Brexit deal on Tuesday in what he has called a "do or die" moment ahead of Britain's scheduled Oct. 31 departure from the European Union. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow rejected his call for a Monday vote. Bercow said Johnson's Monday request was essentially the same as one Parliament rejected Saturday. "The house should not be continually bombarded with the requirement to consider the same matter over and over and over again," Bercow said. Lawmakers want more time to review the deal Johnson reached with the EU, which hasn't responded to a request for an extension Johnson was legally obliged to make after missing a deadline for winning Parliament's approval. [USA Today, The Washington Post] 6.Residents of a Kurdish-controlled city threw rocks and potatoes at a caravan of departing U.S. troops, shouting at the military vehicles as they passed on the way to crossing the border from Syria into Iraq. "Like rats, America is running away," one man shouted in a video distributed by the Kurdish news agency. More than 100 U.S. military vehicles left Syrian Kurdish territory as the U.S. withdrew most of the 1,000 U.S. personnel who fought alongside the Kurds against the Islamic State. President Trump decided to pull out the U.S. forces, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an offensive to take control of Kurdish-dominated areas along its border. Turkey considers the Kurdish forces terrorists. Trump reportedly is considering leaving 200 troops to guard oil fields. [The Associated Press, The New York Times] 7.Under a last-minute deal reached Monday, four drug companies will pay two Ohio counties over the firms' role in the opioid epidemic. Distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health settled for $215 million, while manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals will pay $20 million and provide $25 million of anti-addiction medication. The settlement averted what would have been the first federal opioid trial just before opening arguments had been scheduled to start. The counties accused the companies of fueling addictions to the powerful painkillers by failing to monitor and flag large, suspicious orders. Another defendant, pharmacy chain Walgreens, wasn't included in the settlement, and its case was postponed. The trial was expected to be a test case for more than 2,300 opioid lawsuits brought by state and local governments. [USA Today] 8.Northern Ireland legalized abortion and same-sex marriage at midnight in a major shift for a traditionally conservative territory. The occasion was marked Monday with demonstrations for and against the changes. "Thousands of women from the North have abortions every year, outside the law in their bedrooms or in England," said Alliance for Choice spokeswoman Goretti Horgan. "They will now be able to access normal health care." Northern Ireland previously had some of the most restrictive abortion laws anywhere, with the procedure almost entirely banned except when a woman's life was threatened. Under the old laws, women could be arrested for getting or even seeking an abortion. [BBC News, The Washington Post] 9.At least two witnesses are expected to testify this week as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who in text messages with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said it's "crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," will testify Tuesday. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper is to testify Wednesday. Democrats are investigating whether Trump abused his power by delaying aid to Ukraine to secure investigations that might help him politically. During a Cabinet meeting Monday, Trump lashed out at "vicious" Democrats, while the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a new impeachment fact sheet saying Trump has "betrayed his oath of office." [CNN, Politico] 10.The Trump administration on Monday proposed a rule that would allow it to take DNA samples from migrants detained by immigration authorities. The data would be kept in an FBI database. The proposed rule is due to be officially published Tuesday. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said the proposed rule change would "help to save lives and bring criminals to justice" by restoring authority to collect the data that was suspended by the Obama administration. Civil liberties groups say the move is motivated by xenophobia, and threatens migrants' rights and privacy. "It seeks to miscast these individuals, many of whom are seeking a better life or safety, as threats to the country's security," said Naureen Shah, the ACLU's senior advocacy and policy counsel. [Reuters, NBC News]

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 06:55:00 -0400
  • Egypt's options dwindle as Nile talks break down

    Golocal247.com news

    The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater for its large and growing population. Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is around 70% complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia's 100 million people. Speaking at the U.N. last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he would "never" allow Ethiopia to impose a "de facto situation" by filling the dam without an agreement.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 06:51:29 -0400
  • Once Beaten and Imprisoned, Kosovo’s Leader Now Has Greater Test

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    (Bloomberg) -- When NATO jets bombed Serb forces 20 years ago to push them out of Kosovo, Albin Kurti was packed onto a red bus with other political prisoners to be used as a human shield.He was beaten in custody, convicted of terrorism by a Serb court and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Fearing he’d never leave jail alive, it was only when Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic was ousted in 2001 that he was let go.What he found was a Kosovo free of Serb soldiers but stuck in a limbo he now likens to going from a “Serbian prison to an international hospital.” Now the strategically important nation, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is at the center of a struggle for influence in the Balkans contested by Russia, the European Union, China and Turkey.And it will probably be up to the bookish IT engineer, who has ditched his signature long hair and flannel shirt for a crisp suit and white pressed shirt, to turn the nation of 1.9 million around after his party won this month’s snap elections.Kurti may be designated prime minister as early as this week, when his first task is to try to form a government. Then he’ll have to get to work trying mend ties with Serbia -- a key requirement to starting accession talks with the EU. But he’s a controversial choice.As an anti-corruption crusader, he organized protests targeting the international administrators who oversaw Kosovo’s transition from war-torn territory to fledgling democracy. In 2007, two activists from his ethnic-Albanian party died and dozens were injured in a clash with United Nations police. Kurti, 44, was himself arrested and detained for nine months.He’s also a fierce critic of both Kosovo President Hashim Thaci -- who comes from a rival political party -- and his Serb counterpart Aleksandar Vucic, calling them “authoritarian leaders.” He denounced them for trying to reach a secret reconciliation deal last year that he said could lead to more violence in Europe’s most volatile region.Army GeneralsThe scars between Serbs and Kosovo’s Albanian majority run deep. The 1998-99 war killed 13,535 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Now Kosovo is recognized by the U.S. and most EU members. Five nations from the bloc joined Russia and China in siding with Serbia, which refuses to acknowledge Kosovo’s sovereignty.That poses a hurdle for Kurti, who must now find a way sit down at a negotiating table with Thaci and Vucic. Also, unlike Thaci or former Premier Ramush Haradinaj, Kurti wasn’t a guerrilla fighter. And he wasn’t part of Milosevic’s close circle, while Vucic served as the late Serb leader’s information minister.Kurti has been a harsh critic of the Brussels-mediated talks since they started in 2013, saying there’s little to negotiate apart from war damages from Serbia, which he says “owes us a lot.” And he staked out a tough position before the election, slamming a proposal from Thaci and Vucic to redraw borders so the neighbors can incorporate areas inhabited by their ethnic kin.Dialog Needed“No deals without dialog. No dialog with maps. No maps with presidents around who like to behave as army generals,” Kurti said in one of two interviews with Bloomberg this year.After 2013, when Thaci and Vucic signed a framework agreement envisioning some autonomy for Serbs in Kosovo, Kurti’s party repeatedly disrupted parliament by setting off tear gas grenades. He also criticized Thaci and blamed the international community that helps to keep the small economy running for having “closed an eye and a half toward corruption and criminal matters.”Autonomy for the remaining Serbs in Kosovo, as envisaged by the EU-brokered deal, is out of the question, Kurti said this week. That drew a swift rebuke from the Serbian government, which accused him of undermining what little had been agreed on.When it comes to geopolitics, Kurti doesn’t mince words about who’s stoking tensions in the Balkans: It’s Vladimir Putin.“That’s why we have to be very careful in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he is using Serbia as an instrument,” he said.No rush for DealWhile he has spoken of needing to advance with the talks, he says Kosovo is in no rush to reach a deal. He’s sent mixed signals on how he now feels about a possible unification of Kosovo and Albania, which he used to champion. He remains adamant there should be no territorial exchanges with Serbia as part of a mutual-recognition deal.“It’s wrong to give territory to Serbia,” he said in an interview in March. “The side that loses the war should give us some territory.”Kurti thinks the EU needs to put together a mini Marshall plan for the region and take in all six Western Balkan nations that aren’t part of the bloc now.“The EU is very important to us,” he said. If all six nations don’t become members “that would mean that they have learned nothing from history.”(Updates with latest spat in 13th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Rosalind Mathieson.To contact the reporters on this story: Jasmina Kuzmanovic in Zagreb at jkuzmanovic@bloomberg.net;Misha Savic in Belgrade at msavic2@bloomberg.net;Andrea Dudik in Prague at adudik@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Michael WinfreyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 06:22:14 -0400
  • UK lawmaker sets out plan to stop no-deal Brexit in December 2020

    A British lawmaker proposed an amendment to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit plan which would prevent a no-deal exit from the European Union at the end of 2020, when a planned transition period is scheduled to end. "I have tabled the following amendment to require the government by default to seek an extension of the transition to Dec 2022 unless MPs pass a resolution to the contrary," former Conservative lawmaker Nick Boles, who now sits as an independent, said on Twitter.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 06:15:09 -0400
  • Yemen rebels say Saudi-led airstrike kills 5 civilians

    Yemen's Houthi rebels say an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition has killed at least five civilians, including two children, when it hit a vehicle in a northern province. Youssef al-Hadri, spokesman of the Houthi-run Health Ministry, said in a statement the airstrike took place Monday in Kitaf district of Saada province, which borders Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Houthi rebels on behalf of Yemen's internationally recognized government since 2015.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 06:14:19 -0400
  • Trump viewed Ukraine as adversary, not ally, witnesses say

    Golocal247.com news

    The president, according to people familiar with testimony in the House impeachment investigation, sees the Eastern European ally, not Russia, as responsible for the interference in the 2016 election that was investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller. It's a view denied by the intelligence community, at odds with U.S. foreign policy and dismissed by many of Trump's fellow Republicans but part of a broader skepticism of Ukraine being shared with Trump by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his key regional ally Viktor Orban of Hungary. Trump's embrace of an alternative view of Ukraine suggests the extent to which his approach to Kyiv — including his request, now central to the impeachment inquiry, that the Ukraine president do him a "favor" and investigate Democrats — was colored by a long-running, unproven conspiracy theory that has circulated online and in some corners of conservative media.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 06:09:10 -0400
  • A Houdini-Like Escape Leaves Canada Divided

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    (Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.Justin Trudeau has hung on, barely.He won over Canada’s urban voters to cling to power in a minority parliament — despite losing the popular vote.Although his mandate has been weakened, the result will come as a relief for Trudeau. He entered the campaign wounded by a scandal over his handling of a judicial case and was further rocked by revelations he wore blackface at least three times when he was younger.A second term will allow him to cement one of the most left-leaning agendas the country has seen in at least a generation — progressive on social issues, willing to run deficits to tackle income disparities, assertive on climate change and fervently internationalist in an era of populist nativism.But the result has exposed a deep fault line between rural Canada and its biggest cities, as well as a stark regional split. The Conservatives, traditional champions of the oil sector, finished strongly in the western provinces, while the separatist Bloc Quebecois more than tripled its tally from 2015.Trudeau will now need to tread carefully after this obvious rebuke, and prepare to ramp up spending to win the support he’ll need as head of a minority government.Global HeadlinesDown to the wire | The future of Syria may come down to a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan today. With the clock ticking on Ankara’s cease-fire for Kurdish fighters to leave northeastern Syria, Putin may press Erdogan to talk with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to prevent a clash between Syrian and Turkish troops.Lobbying blitz | Huawei’s lobbying spending spiked in the third quarter as the Chinese telecom colossus hired a fundraiser for Trump with deep ties to the Republican leadership to help it fight back against the administration’s blacklisting of the company from the U.S. market. Facebook and Amazon.com also set federal lobbying records as Washington ramps up oversight of the tech giants’ business practices.Shaken ‘oasis’ | A country that regularly tops Latin America’s general prosperity metrics, Chile has been rocked by upheaval over the past four days after a protest over a subway-fare hike morphed into an outpouring of broad discontent over economic inequality. The protests, organized mainly on social media, have killed 11 people and brought cities to a near standstill.Unfamiliar home | As Hong Kong’s historic pro-democracy protests become more violent, the more than 1 million mainland Chinese who migrated to the city in recent decades are becoming increasingly fearful. Mainlanders eschew Mandarin Chinese, while out in the Cantonese-speaking city, they monitor social media to avoid protesters and regularly flee across the border to escape the weekend chaos.Prisoner’s dilemma | When NATO jets bombed Serb forces 20 years ago to force them out of Kosovo, Albin Kurti was convicted of terrorism, beaten in jail and packed onto a bus with other political prisoners to be used as a human shield. Now, after his party won this month’s snap elections in the strategically important nation, it will be up to him to try to mend ties with Serbia to open the way for the neighbors to join the European Union.What to WatchBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson will find out this evening whether he has a chance of getting his Brexit deal through Parliament ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline with the second reading of his Withdrawal Agreement Bill. House Democrats are looking to significantly advance the impeachment probe of Trump with testimony today from the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, William Taylor, who had warned it was “crazy” to withhold military aid to get dirt on the president’s political rivals.  Israel may be heading for a third election in less than a year after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again failed to form a government. Now his centrist rival Benny Gantz will try, but he faces a similarly tough road to mustering a ruling majority. The Khama family has been synonymous with political power in the diamond-producing nation of Botswana, but its role is likely to be diminished after tomorrow’s general election following a split between former president Ian Khama and his successor, Mokgweetsi Masisi.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... Big Brother is watching you. And you. And you. Officials in Moscow have spent the last few years assembling one of the world’s most-comprehensive video-surveillance networks, with about 200,000 cameras and the most sophisticated facial-recognition software outside of China. And it isn’t just western spies they’re looking at, but all 12.6 million Muscovites too. \--With assistance from Karl Maier, Muneeza Naqvi and Kathleen Hunter.To contact the author of this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Michael WinfreyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 05:45:03 -0400
  • EU will treat Brexit extension request in all seriousness - Tusk

    The European Union should treat Britain's request for an extension of the deadline to leave the EU in all seriousness, the chairman of EU leaders Donald Tusk said on Tuesday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who opposes a further extension of the exit deadline after reaching a divorce deal with the EU last week, was forced by his parliament to request a delay until Jan. 31. "I have no doubt that we should treat the British request for an extension in all seriousness," Tusk told the European Parliament after a debate on Brexit.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 05:40:20 -0400
  • The Terror Gap: U.S. Laws Let White Supremacists Operate Like ISIS

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    Courtesy SITEThe recent arrests of Jarrett William Smith, a former U.S. Army soldier who discussed plans to “bomb a major U.S. news network,” and Conor Climo, a Las Vegas man who plotted attacks on a synagogue and LGBT bar, give an inkling of the growing threat posed by far-right terrorists in the United States.The problem of white supremacist violence is international. From the horrific attack on a mosque in Christ Church, New Zealand, to the assault on a synagogue in the German city of Halle, the movement often follows the same horrific script—live-streaming the carnage, disseminating a manifesto, comments full of tongue-in-cheek internet references—and governments are scrambling to counter this threat. Atomwaffen Division’s Washington State Cell Leader Stripped of Arsenal in U.S., Banned from CanadaBut U.S. laws have a special problem, what might be called a “terror gap” between “foreign” and “domestic” terror organizations.While the arrests of Smith and Climo mark a new level of initiative by the federal government, there is still much more to be done. What allows far-right terrorist groups to thrive in the U.S. is a legal double standard that binds the hands of even the most proactive members of law enforcement.This double standard is exemplified by groups like Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group with major influence in the far-right online community. A video this past May shows people with Atomwaffen patches on their arms carrying out paramilitary drills with assault rifles. They then burn the flags of Israel, the United Nations, the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” snake, the gay pride rainbow, Black Lives Matter, the police-supporting Thin Blue Line—designating any and all as enemies. If it weren’t for the Atomwaffen branding, you’d think you were watching footage of an ISIS training camp on American soil.Now combine this militancy with a widely aimed recruitment operation. Messages on Telegram, the far-right’s current online hub, recruit on behalf of Atomwaffen, directing prospects to different email addresses of region-specific chapters across the US, Europe, South America, and Australia. Minding its popularity, it’s not surprising to see that Atomwaffen has inspired other neo-Nazis to launch offshoot chapters or like-minded groups across the globe, such as Feuerkrieg Division, a growing neo-Nazi organization which both Climo and Smith were associated with.Media by such groups often advocate for terrorism and praise far-right attackers, including the Halle shooter and Pittsburgh synagogue shooter Robert Bowers.This type of propaganda is a major lifeblood to the far-right community, just as it is for any extremist group or movement—no terrorist organization can grow without it. The world witnessed the power of media with the rise of ISIS, leading governments to counter propagandists with the same urgency as fighters or financiers. That is precisely why last October, a 34-year-old man named Ashraf Al Safoo was arrested for his work with Khattab Media Foundation, a prominent ISIS-linked media group that issued scores of threats and incitements against elections, public events, and other targets. Safoo himself never killed or planned to kill anyone, but the media he created helped amplify ISIS’ dangerous message, making him no less guilty of aiding the group. Taking note of Safoo’s story, you might ask yourself how groups like Atomwaffen or Feuerkrieg Division can run their threat propaganda machines—let alone carry out paramilitary drills with the objective of overthrowing the U.S. government—with little to no interference. The answer is simple: what they do is, for the most part, not illegal.The reason the U.S. government can arrest ISIS recruiters or media workers like Safoo and others is because the groups they support are Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs), making their activities grounds for, in the language of court documents, “conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” To support or be a member of an FTO in any capacity is a crime.While actual acts of domestic terrorism—killing, assaulting, harassing—are obvious crimes, being a member of domestic terrorist organizations like Atomwaffen or Feuerkrieg Division in and of itself is not, despite their blatantly stated goals to spark collapse of the U.S. through terrorism. The very phrase “domestic terrorist group” is in many ways legally meaningless. As assistant FBI Director Michael McGarrity explained before the House Homeland Security Committee in May: “A white supremacist organization is an ideology, it's a belief. But they're not designated as a terrorist organization.”This lack of adequate domestic terror laws too often leaves far-right terrorist propaganda, incitement, and recruitment messages under the classification of hate speech, something protected under the First Amendment. A group like Atomwaffen, which bluntly and loudly states its goals for violence, is a perfect example of why this makes for a domestic security crisis. Noting this problem, I’d like to echo the yet small but growing voices of legislators and others seeking to end this double standard in how we protect our nation from terrorism. The world has made immense progress against ISIS online and on the ground, in no small part due to the clear-cut laws against promoting it, whether financially, militarily, through its incitement propaganda machine. That said, the U.S. legal system shouldn’t have to wait until the brink of an attack—or, as it too often does, the aftermath of one—to prosecute terrorists like Climo or Smith. Membership of a group like Atomwaffen should bear all the same legal weight as ISIS, al Qaeda, or any other terrorist organization we don’t flinch at pursuing. U.S. Soldier Discussed Plans to Bomb News Network, Kill Beto O’Rourke: FedsAny such list of designations should be regularly updated to address the rapidly changing landscape of groups that either form or, under pressure, dissolve only to reemerge under different names.Such laws will make it immensely clearer to these far-right organizations and the platforms hosting them that they cannot remain online.I don’t embrace such measures lightly. I’ve been very vocal throughout my counter-terrorism career speaking out against overreaching measures by the government, whether attempting to regulating encrypted messenger services or other ill-guided policies.But the far-right community has grown dramatically in the last year, with new waves of attacks and uninterrupted online spaces that inspire them—a very similar condition to that of ISIS shortly before it established its so-called Caliphate. This is a critical moment for the U.S. government to prove if it is capable of learning from history. While terrorist legislation will not be a silver bullet to stop the threat of attacks by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, it would mark a major step in the right direction.As it’s increasingly said these days, "Terrorism is terrorism.” So why perpetuate the legal double standard?Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 05:00:54 -0400
  • Iranian Hacking Group Targeted Satellite Industry Nerds

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    Photo Illustration by The Daily BeastIranian hackers breached computers of the American satellite technology industry with help from a fake website and an unsuspecting college professor. Court documents obtained by The Daily Beast show that the FBI believes Iranian hackers going by the nicknames MRSCO and N3O may have been involved in the attempted breaches. The hackers, members of a long-running Iranian hacker collective known as the “Iranian Dark Coders Team,” have become known for defacing websites with pro-Iranian and Hezbollah propaganda, hacking gas-station pump terminals online, and attacking an Israeli credit-card company over the past seven years. The Department of Justice declined to comment publicly on the investigation. The FBI began investigating the campaign when unnamed satellite trackers tipped off the Bureau that someone was sending out malware-laden spear-phishing emails in an attempt to trick recipients into downloading software hosted on a website made to look like a legitimate app for finding satellite orbits. The messages, written in stilted English, advertised an “ultimate software for tracking satellite [sic]” and were allegedly sent to members of a satellite-tracking website after the site had been hacked. Iran’s Cyber Army Is Under Attack From All SidesAgents pulled the registration information for the bait website and found that the hackers had tried to impersonate an employee of the commercial satellite imagery firm DigitalGlobe when creating the site in order to make the software downloads appear genuine. One recipient of the poisoned emails noticed that code embedded in the fake satellite technology company’s website contained noteworthy strings of text. A download link for the malicious software contained a script that included the phrases “IraNiaN DarK CoderS TeaM” and “Israel Fucked by M.R.S.CO And Ali.Pci.”That text, law enforcement officials believed, pointed to a well-known hacker collective, the Iranian Dark Coders Team, and one of its top members, who goes by the nickname MRSCO. The group hacked gas pump software exposed to the internet in 2015 and in 2012 defaced Israeli sites with the slogan “Remember Emad,” a reference to the Hezbollah terrorist operative Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a joint U.S.-Israeli operation in 2008.Iranian hacking groups have been involved in a number of sophisticated attacks over the years, including break-ins at Saudi oil facilities and a nuclear power plant in New York state. But the Dark Coders team has tended to focus more on cybervandalism and less advanced hacks than other groups operating from the Islamic Republic. For example, federal agents found that MRSCO claimed 37 hacks on Zone-H, a site that tracks self-reported website defacements, and that “at least 13 of these hacks involved U.S. facilities”In addition to MRSCO, law enforcement believes that another member of the Dark Coders Team was also involved in a similar attempt to hack people in the U.S. satellite industry. FBI agents wrote that the Iranian hackers compromised the email account of an unnamed geology professor and used it to send spear-phishing email to a “U.S. person employed at a satellite imagery company.” When FBI agents spoke to the professor, they learned that he was unaware that his account had been compromised and said he had not used it for years. Messages sent by the Iranian hackers from his old email account asked the recipient to download and test a parallel image-processing application hosted on a Dropbox accounts. Investigators looking into the attacks believe that Dropbox accounts registered to email addresses associated with MRSCO and another Iranian Dark Coder Team Member, “N3O,” are associated with the hacking campaign of the impersonated geologist. It’s unclear exactly why the Dark Coders Team targeted Americans in the satellite industry or what kind of data they sought. The Iranian government has invested heavily in building up its hacking capabilities and taken on targets in the U.S. and the Middle East. Former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats testified in 2018 that Iranian hackers ranked alongside hacking groups from China, Russia, and North Korea as among the greatest cyberthreats to the U.S.But just because the Dark Coders Team is Iranian doesn’t necessarily mean that they were pursuing satellite industry targets at the explicit direction of the Iranian government. One cybersecurity researcher who tracks Iranian hackers and asked not to be identified for security reasons told The Daily Beast that “Iran’s hacking community is a mixture of ideologues, criminals, and opportunists—all with differing relationships with the regime. As a pariah state with little access to foreign technologies, there are rich opportunities for those in Iran with a bit of technical skill who want to make a fast dollar engaging in fraud and industrial espionage, and the government is a willing buyer.” There’s plenty of precedent, the researcher suggests, to suggest that the Dark Coders Team is made up of “freelancers with a bit of ambition and an ambition to sell stolen information to the government.”Russia’s Troll Farm Is Kind of Sh*tting the Bed on FacebookRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 04:57:14 -0400
  • How Hong Kong Protesters Show Which Businesses Are Friend or Foe

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    Photo Illustration by Kristen Hazzard/The Daily Beast/Photos Getty/ReutersHONG KONG—Yellow shop, blue shop, red shop, black shop?That isn’t the first line in a modern nursery rhyme. Rather, it outlines an act of resistance that the people of Hong Kong participate in every day.Recognizing that the path to true self-governance is one that will take years, if not longer, Hongkongers are adopting small-scale actions so that the protest movement does not stall. Medical professionals have daily strikes during daylight hours. In the evenings, people meet at certain public squares or in shopping mall atriums so they have a constant, regular presence. At night, some yell out protest slogans through their apartment windows. Hong Kong Imposes Face Mask Ban, Inflaming ProtestersStreet-level actions don’t have the seven-figure turnout like months ago, and are often more scattered throughout the city. There’s worry that Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, will invoke emergency powers and cancel the upcoming district elections, where pro-democracy candidates are expected to grab many new seats. So, Hongkongers have shifted tactics, and are, for now, voting with their wallets.For the past few weeks, lists of businesses have been circulating in Hong Kong, each name carrying a color code that defines the stance of its proprietors and general outlook regarding the ongoing protests that have evolved into a movement to shake off the Chinese Communist Party’s influence in the city’s affairs.Shops and brands that are “yellow”—the color of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement of 2014—are mostly local, and each in its own way supports those who wear black clothing, gas masks, and hard hats every weekend to translate city-wide discontent into street-level action. “Blue” businesses are those where you might find the staff wearing “I (heart) the police” T-shirts, as well as outspoken supporters of the establishment and Carrie Lam.“Red” shops are affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, while “black” shops—not to be confused with protester-black—are CCP fronts or belong to the Party through direct ownership or shell companies.The lists serve as guidelines for consumption. Hongkongers are encouraged to spend their dollars at businesses like independent bookshops and certain eateries that are marked “yellow.” Restaurants that are “blue” have seen steep drops in footfalls in many districts because of the boycott. Starbucks is a chain that is often smashed up during large marches, because it is managed by local conglomerate Maxim’s Caterers; in September, Annie Wu, the daughter of Maxim’s founder, spoke before the United Nations Human Rights Council along with other tycoons, utilizing talking points from CCP propaganda to condemn the blackshirt protesters in her city.Overtly Chinese businesses see the harshest attacks. A branch of Tong Ren Tang, a 350-year-old traditional Chinese medicine maker that was founded in Beijing, was set on fire on Sunday night. Throughout the month, Bank of China and China Construction Bank branches saw their ATMs torched in several neighborhoods in the city; some of these banks’ locations are now encased in steel walls to prevent protesters from forcing their way in.The attacks on “blue,” “red,” and “black” locations have lasted for weeks in Hong Kong, and they remind us of scenes from when the blackshirts briefly seized the legislative building in July. There is chaos, but also discipline: No stealing, especially cash. Looting is forbidden.Raining on China’s Big Parade: Hong Kong Protests Give the Lie to ‘One State, Two Systems’In fact, after the fire set at a store opened by Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone and consumer electronics company, was put out on Sunday night, one man who was found to be scavenging for new phones was apprehended and tied up by protesters, and then left on the street with a handwritten cardboard sign that read “thief.”On some days, especially over the weekends, there’s a heavy dose of vigilantism on the streets in Hong Kong, yet support from the public remains high. A mid-October poll conducted by the Center for Communication and Public Opinion Survey at the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicates that more than 70 percent of people in the city believe that it is acceptable for protestors to use some level of force in the current conditions.The yellow-blue dichotomy was originally meant to be a boycott campaign, and it quickly gained traction. (The “red” and “black” tags were added later.) After Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked emergency powers to implement a ban on masks, fewer people have been willing to hit the streets for marches than in the summer (though many still wear face masks during their commutes and regular, daily situations to signal their dissatisfaction). Boycotts of “blue” businesses were designed to be a mode of daily participation in the larger blackshirt movement, so that people would be mindful of channeling their disposable income toward proprietors who keep the welfare of the city in mind.This act may be small, but it’s a constant reminder that the Chinese Communist Party’s greatest weapon in Hong Kong is one that is commercial, wielded by its tycoon proxies and shell companies that are swallowing up swathes of industries.In mid-September, local pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily ran a report that Lam had met with more than 30 senior managers of Chinese state-owned enterprises, discussing the possibility of these companies taking more control of various business sectors in Hong Kong. Lam denied that was the case, saying the meeting was routine.And yet the CCP has a history of using businesses to distort public discourse in Hong Kong. The most explicit example is the Party’s progress in monopolizing the city’s media and publishing industries. The CCP owns two newspapers in the city, Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao. The English-language broadsheet with the highest circulation in the city, the South China Morning Post, was bought in 2016 by Alibaba, which has become an e-commerce juggernaut with the blessing of Beijing. And as of four years ago, the Party’s liaison office in Hong Kong—its political representative in the city—enjoys around an 80 percent market share in book publishing, printing, distribution, and retail.For individuals who refuse to compromise their principles, things can escalate quickly. In 2014, the once-liberal newspaper Ming Pao saw its chief editor nearly hacked to death by men armed with cleavers. It was widely believed that the assault was political motivated. On more than one occasion, the house of Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai was firebombed.Will the boycott of non-“yellow” businesses work? Likely not—at least not if the goal is to remove Chinese capital from the port city. Hong Kong and mainland China’s economies are inseparable. Look hard enough at any set of books, and you’ll likely find a Chinese supplier, customer, or even investor that is linked to the business. (That’s not to say all money from mainland China flows from the Party, though some elements in the blackshirt movement do not make the distinction.) And, boycotts aside, should an individual’s opinions or political beliefs lead to the physical destruction of a business?For now, those details are overlooked by many protesters. The blackshirt movement’s color-coded resistance is keeping the broader population engaged, asserting an acutely anti-CCP message in everyone’s minds at all times. In those terms, it has been extremely effective.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. 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    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 04:56:25 -0400
  • Alex Gibney: How Donald Trump Is Morphing Into Vladimir Putin

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    Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast/Photos GettyLONDON—One of America’s leading documentary-makers set off on a project to examine the extraordinary life of Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and came away with the discomforting realization that President Trump is morphing into Vladimir Putin.Alex Gibney’s Citizen K traces Putin’s evolution from political newbie to uncompromising autocrat whose ability to harness the power of TV allowed him to gain total control over a democratic state.“It’s a cautionary tale,” Gibney told The Daily Beast. “There’s a lot that Putin and Trump share in common.”One of the scenes in the documentary, which played at the London Film Festival, shows Putin watching as political advisers working for his predecessor Boris Yeltsin set up a fake office to impress television audiences.“The lesson that Putin saw was: ‘Yeah. All right. I get it. Just lie. Use the media to lie,’” Gibney said. “I didn’t realize what a manufactured character he was. What a TV-manufactured character. He learned the lessons of television very well. He wasn’t a kind of born politician. The people around him, their ability to use TV to create this larger-than-life James Bond-like figure—that took over.”Gibney sees obvious parallels in the way the reality-TV star Donald Trump used his media persona and endless TV appearances to win the presidency.Even more alarmingly, there’s a clear parallel with the way Putin gaslights his entire nation.‘Going Clear’ Filmmaker Alex Gibney: Harvey Weinstein Is Just the BeginningPussy Riot’s Nadya on the Disturbing Putin-Trump Bromance: ‘He’d Love to Have as Much Power as Putin’The film includes a section on Putin telling obvious, outright lies about the attempted murder of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, in southwest England. At the time, Putin backed the claims made on camera by two Russian intelligence agents, who were caught on CCTV heading to Salisbury on the day of the nerve-agent attack, saying they had flown to England simply to see the local cathedral and hoped to squeeze in a trip to Stonehenge.“Talking about the whole Skripal attempted killings, it’s like Putin is saying: ‘We’re obviously lying. We don’t care that you know we’re lying. And by the way, we’re going to do it anyway. So go fuck yourselves.’ It’s like Trump saying, ‘There were more people at my inauguration than any other inauguration in history.’ You can look at the photographs. You don’t have to count the numbers. It’s a lie. But maybe more than a lie, it’s bullshit,” Gibney said.“But you promote it, and it’s weirdly effective for the people who want to be behind you. It’s like you’re rooting for the balls, not for the brain.”Of course, Putin used his mendacious television strategy to quash dissent and then to twist the spirit of Russia’s constitution to allow himself to retain power beyond the two-term limit. It’s hard to imagine him stepping down anytime soon without a fight.“The classic example is Xi Jinping in China,” said Gibney. “He’s announced he’s gonna stay there. Will Putin do that? That will be the really interesting moment coming up. Will they find some mechanism to allow him to continue on in power?”One of the most striking sections of the movie shows Gibney asking Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man and now an exiled opposition figure, what he thought was Putin’s biggest nightmare. “He took me literally, which I found fascinating,” said Gibney.Khodorkovsky, who founded the anti-Putin Open Russia organization, described a nightmare scenario in which the Kremlin phones suddenly stop working and no one answers Putin’s calls for assistance. He realizes this means the game is up and the gangsters are coming for him.“One way to avoid that eventuality is to make sure that you never leave,” said Gibney. “If the gangsters think you’re leaving office, then you’re not useful to them anymore.”Something similar must be rushing through Trump’s head as congressional inquiries, federal probes, and tax investigations mount.“I think in the back of everyone’s minds they’re terrified of the idea that whether Trump loses in 2020 or whether he gets another four years, how can he imagine stepping down?” said Gibney.“So many norms have been bent and twisted out of shape.”Mikhail KhodorkovskyGreenwich Entertainment“With Trump, there is a real fear that whenever he steps down—if he steps down—from his perspective, he’ll be prosecuted, he’ll be sent to jail. How do you forestall that eventuality? It’s the same thing with Putin—there are a lot of parallels in the film.”Khodorkovsky, the “Citizen K” of the film’s title, was one of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs after successfully exploiting the post-Soviet privatization of the economy to rack up a personal fortune that Forbes estimated at around $15 billion.The documentary shows how he fell out of favor with Putin after publicly experimenting with his own pro-democracy instincts. Eventually he would be arrested by Russian special forces and put on trial on trumped-up charges.The trial resembles a Kafkaesque dystopia with ludicrous evidence presented by prosecutors who keep a straight face while Khodorkovsky smirks from behind bars at the craziness of it. “It’s an absurdist thing, and that by the way is an old theme that runs through Russian literature, the absurdity of power. When power says something is black and it’s clearly white,” said Gibney. “That’s why there’s so much time spent in the film on sculpting perception; it was clearly important for the state to have these trials to show that they’ve got a vigorous legal system.”By the end of the trial, Khodokovsky is jailed and his business destroyed.“For all sorts of practical and political reasons, Putin puts him in prison and, by the way, uses it as a demonstration of his power and his enduring political influence: ‘I brought to heel the oligarchs who so raped and pillaged this country.’ But then of course all around him he surrounds himself with oligarchs 2.0,” said Gibney. “That’s a classic Trumpian move. Even as he’s able to claim that he’s coming to power to drain the swamp, he’s filling it full of alligators—but they’re his alligators. Call it gangster capitalism or crony capitalism that they both represent.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? 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    Tue, 22 Oct 2019 04:55:01 -0400
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