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  • UN, France raise concern over Amazon wildfires 'crisis'

    Golocal247.com news

    France and the United Nations called Thursday for the protection of the fire-plagued Amazon rainforest as Brazil's right-wing president blamed NGOs for promoting an "environmental psychosis" to damage the country's interests. UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply concerned" by the fires in the Amazon. "In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity," he said on Twitter.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 16:49:19 -0400
  • Kremlin dismisses doctors' complaints they were exposed to radiation after blast

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    Doctors who treated the victims of a military test explosion have accused Russian authorities of carelessly exposing them to radiation and then forcing them to keep silent. Staff from the Arkhangelsk regional hospital were not informed at first that they were treating irradiated patients, and protective measures were not taken until the next day, they told Russian media this week. In some cases, staff said they were falsely told patients had been decontaminated. One doctor was later found to have the isotope Caesium-137 in his muscle tissue. He was told he must have eaten too many “Fukushima crabs” during a trip to Thailand, his colleague told the news outlet Meduza. Other patients at the hospital may also have been exposed, a doctor also told Meduza, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We just want not to be contaminated and not to die, at least when it can be avoided easily,” he said. “Not a word was ever said about this." Vladimir Putin disembarks from a helicopter for a meeting with president Emmanuel Macron in France on Monday Credit: Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Reuters FSB security agents reportedly pressured staff to sign non-disclosure agreements. Radiation levels spiked this month in the northern Arkhangelsk region after an engine blew up at a missile testing site near the town of Nyonoksa, killing at least five people and injuring six in an accident that remains shrouded in secrecy. Asked on Thursday whether the state was trying to clamp down on information about the accident, Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov sparred back and forth with journalists and claimed that “someone wants to deliberately inflame media coverage, distort reality and present the situation as if there were implications of danger”. If doctors were made to sign non-disclosure agreements, he added, they should “fulfil their obligation” and not speak to the press anonymously. Locals participate in a folk festival in Nyonoksa, where activists have called for additional radiation testing Credit: Sergei Yakovlev/AP  “(Mr) Putin is being given concrete information based on readings from instruments, based on an appraisal of the situation on the ground, an absolutely professional one,” Mr Peskov said. “And there's no reason not to trust this information.” The defence ministry initially reported that two people had been killed when a “liquid-fuel reactive propulsion system” exploded, but the state nuclear concern then said five of its employees were dead. The military also denied that radiation had spiked, but civilian authorities said gamma particle levels in the nearby military city of Severodvinsk had been more than tripe the safe limit for a half hour after the accident. Activists have called for further testing in Nyonoksa itself and measurements of alpha and beta particles.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 15:10:19 -0400
  • Trump Plans Breakfast With U.K.’s Boris Johnson on Sunday

    (Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson plan to meet for breakfast on Sunday while in France for the Group of Seven leaders’ summit, according to people familiar with the matter.Trump lands this weekend in Biarritz, France, for the meetings. The two leaders are scheduled to talk as Johnson makes his international debut while global leaders weigh what a post-Brexit Britain will look like. It will be their first meeting since Johnson took office.Trump also plans to meet with other leaders at the summit, including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a senior administration told reporters Thursday.Johnson has appeared eager to forge a close relationship with Trump. They have spoken at least four times by phone since Johnson became prime minister last month, most recently on Monday. But Johnson also has to balance his closeness to Trump with the U.S. president’s deep unpopularity in the U.K.“He’s going to do a fantastic job,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday. “We have a great relationship.”Trump, who cut an isolated figure at last year’s G-7 gathering, sees Johnson as an ally as the gap between the European Union and U.S. widens. Johnson seeks closeness with both the U.S. and the EU and could potentially tip the balance on key issues from Iran to China’s Huawei Technologies Co.\--With assistance from Alex Morales.To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net;Saleha Mohsin in Washington at smohsin2@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.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 14:42:59 -0400
  • Brazilian president says country lacks money to fight Amazon fires

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    The Brazilian government lacks the resources to fight a record number of wildfires burning in the Amazon rainforest, Jair Bolsonaro, the president, said on Thursday, weeks after telling donors he did not need their money. "The Amazon is bigger than Europe, how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?" he asked reporters as he left the presidential residence. "We do not have the resources for that." Fires in the Amazon have surged 83 per cent so far this year compared to the same period a year earlier, government figures show, destroying vast swathes of a forest considered a vital bulwark against climate change. Although fires are a regular and natural occurrence during the regular dry season at this time of year, environmentalists blamed the sharp rise on farmers setting the forest alight to clear land for pasture. On Wednesday, Mr Bolsonaro said, without supporting evidence, that non-governmental organisations were behind the fires. Questioned again on Thursday about those comments, he said he could not prove that NGOs, for whom he has cut funding, were lighting the fires but that they were "the most likely suspects." The Right-wing president has repeatedly said he believes Brazil should open the Amazon up to business interests, to allow mining and logging companies to exploit its natural resources. "As NGOs lose funding... What can they do?," he asked. "Try to take me down, try to take me down. That's all that's left for them to do." Brazil is facing growing international criticism over its handling of the Amazon, 60 per cent of which lies in the country. Earlier this month, Norway and Germany suspended funding for projects to curb deforestation in Brazil after becoming alarmed by changes to the way projects were selected under Mr Bolsonaro. At the time, when asked about the loss of German funding, Mr Bolsonaro said “Brazil does not need that.” Other officials have expressed concern over the fires. Brazil's lower house speaker, Rodrigo Maia, said on Twitter he would create "an external committee" to monitor the burning of the rainforest. He also vowed to form a group "to evaluate the situation and propose solutions to the government." The Bishops Conference for Latin America expressed concern about what it called "a tragedy," and on Thursday called on countries to take immediate action to protect the rainforest and the communities that live in and around it. "We urge the governments of the Amazon countries, especially Brazil and Bolivia, the United Nations and the international community to take serious measures to save the world's lungs," the Bishops Conference said. "If the Amazon suffers, the world suffers," the statement said.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 14:41:30 -0400
  • Clashing statements expose rift in Iraqi paramilitary force

    Golocal247.com news

    The head of Iraq's paramilitary forces supported by Iran on Thursday walked back a statement by his deputy the day before in which he blamed Israeli drones and held the U.S. responsible for a series of attacks on bases run by the militias. Faleh al-Fayyadh said the statement by his deputy, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, did not represent the view of the mainly Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces — or the view of the Iraqi government. The statements highlight divisions within the paramilitary force, which is headed by al-Fayyadh but practically run by his deputy, a powerful military commander known for his anti-American sentiments.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 13:53:05 -0400
  • Did you hear the one about the German city that doesn't exist?

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    A German city is offering a reward of €1m (£900,000) to anyone who can prove it doesn’t exist. The city of Bielefeld in north-western Germany launched the bizarre marketing stunt this week to mark the 25th anniversary of one of the country’s longest running jokes. The Bielefeld conspiracy theory is often held up as proof that the Germans do have a sense of humour after all. The joke, which originated in an early internet meme, is that the city doesn’t exist and that there is a national conspiracy to pretend that it does. What makes the joke effective is that practically everyone in Germany plays along — including Angela Merkel, who famously said after a visit to the city: “So it does exist. Well, at least I had the impression I was there.” Over the years the people of Bielefeld have not always taken kindly to being the butt of a national joke. But now it seems the city has decided to join in — and turn the joke on its head. Even Angela Merkel has played along with the joke Credit: FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS “We thought the anniversary would be a nice occasion to put the Bielefeld conspiracy to bed,” says an announcement on the city’s website. “That's why we call on all intellectual overachievers in this country to prove to us that Bielefeld really does not exist. The prize for the ultimate proof: €1m.” The stunt is the work of the city’s marketing company, which says it’s 99.9 per cent sure no one can come up with incontrovertible proof. But in the unlikely event that some one does manage to prove the city doesn’t exist, it has assured taxpayers they won’t have to foot the bill, which will be paid out of the company’s coffers. The Bielefeld conspiracy theory originated in a 1994 internet post by Achim Held, a student who wrote: “Bielefeld? That just doesn’t exist.” The joke hinges on the fact Bielefeld, a city of some 330,000 people, lies far from other urban centres in a relatively lightly populated corner of north-western Germany that is eccentrically named East Westphalia. Proponents of the conspiracy theory even maintain that Bielefeld railway station is a carefully staged set to fool passengers on trains that pass through. And they will doubtless claim the offer of a €1m prize is just another sham to pretend the city exists

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 13:44:00 -0400
  • 'Sorry!' Johnson puts foot in it at Macron's palace

    Golocal247.com news

    An invitation to the gilded Elysee palace of France's president in Paris usually prompts a sense of decorum and formality in a visitor of any rank. During crunch talks over Brexit with French President Emmanuel Macron -- who Johnson insisted on repeatedly addressing as "Monsieur le President" -- the British premier joked and waved his hands flamboyantly. The episode appeared part of a shared joke with Macron, who could be seen laughing heartily.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 13:39:53 -0400
  • Today's Pickup: No-Deal Brexit Might Unleash An Explosive Growth In Grey Market Goods

    In the U.K. there has been palpable fear going around in the logistics circles at the thought of a no-deal Brexit, a possibility that seems to be inching closer with every passing day. In that context, a British retail expert pointed out the odds of an "explosion" in goods sold in the grey market if no-deal Brexit becomes a reality. A no-deal Brexit would cause the prices of legitimate products imported into the U.K. to rise by roughly 10 percent due to scarcity.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 13:39:43 -0400
  • UN report condemns sexual violence by Myanmar military

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    Sexual violence carried out by Myanmar's security forces against the country's Muslim Rohingya minority was so widespread and severe that it demonstrates intent to commit genocide as well as warrants prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity, a U.N. report charged Thursday. Its report on sexual and gender-based violence in Myanmar covers the Kachin and Shan ethnic minorities in northern Myanmar as well as the Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 13:31:55 -0400
  • Macron backs more Brexit talks but insists no concessions

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    French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday backed holding further talks to avoid Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal but rejected major concessions, as he hosted Prime Minister Boris Johnson just over two months ahead of the planned British exit. Echoing comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron supported allowing another month to find a solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border which has bedevilled negotiations since 2017. "We need to try to have a useful month," Macron said alongside Johnson, adding that France was nonetheless planning for all scenarios and "notably that of no deal" when Britain exits the EU on October 31.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 13:08:36 -0400
  • Mozambique, Russia sign energy, security deals

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    Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi signed energy and security agreements with Russian's Vladimir Putin on Thursday in the first visit by a leader from the southern African state in two decades. Nyusi's visit came weeks his government signed a peace deal with former rebel movement Renamo and just two months before elections where the Mozambique leader will seek a second term. Russia has been looking to expand its influence in Africa and oil and gas producer Mozambique already signed a debt swap agreement with Moscow in 2017.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 12:45:17 -0400
  • ISIS vs. Al Qaeda: What Lies in the Future of Global Jihadism?

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    The IS – Al-Qaeda Dispute (excerpt from Chapter 4 of After the Caliphate, Polity Press, 2019)Colin P. ClarkeThe fall-out from the split between IS and al-Qaeda has led to a competition viewed by both sides as zero sum in nature, where progress by one of these groups signaled a loss for the other. One of the primary drivers of such a heated competition is that, in many ways, the ideology and objectives of the group are so similar. The Islamic State reverted to extreme levels of violence as one method of differentiating itself from its rivals, including al-Qaeda. Both groups are attempting to recruit from the same milieus and influence similar constituencies. The main differences are that IS sought to create a caliphate on a timeline considered premature by al-Qaeda, and IS pursued a far more sectarian agenda in attempting to achieve this objective. Whether and how these differences are ever resolved will have a major impact on the future of the movement writ large.The split itself occurred at the leadership levels of these groups, so one of the most interesting questions is: to what extent do foot soldiers and mid-level commanders really care, in actuality, about the previous infighting and strategic disputes? For some of the fighters at these levels, there is an obvious parallel to conflicts between street gangs, where members like the Bloods and Crips “fly their colors” – or represent their gangs by wearing their distinctive colors – and continuously disparage their adversaries by posting “dis videos” online, mocking and threatening rivals.63 The bitterness and divisiveness of the feud has played out on social media, with leaders on each side hurling vituperation and casting opprobrium on the other as “bad Muslims.” The initial castigation came from al-Qaeda’s leader Zawahiri himself, who fulminated against IS for being deviant from the al-Qaeda methodology.The truth is, as outlined in chapter 1’s discussion of al-Qaeda in Iraq, that the relationship was doomed from the start. The group that would eventually become IS has always been something of a rogue element, formed and led by Zarqawi, who fought hard to preserve the independence of his affiliate. Even after pledging his loyalty to bin Laden and assuming the al-Qaeda moniker, Zarqawi still ignored directions from al-Qaeda’s core leadership and narrowly pursued his own sectarian agenda in hopes of igniting a Sunni–Shia civil war, first within Iraq, and then throughout the wider Islamic world. One of al-Qaeda’s first steps to present itself as more evenhanded was denouncing blatant sectarianism and working to convince AQI to jettison sectarianism as a guiding principle. When, in July 2005, Zawahiri penned a letter to the leader of AQI chastising him for his group’s wanton slaughter of Shiites, the former stressed the overall negative impact these actions were having on the al-Qaeda brand and urged him to eschew targeting other Muslims. When Zarqawi disregarded Zawahiri’s advice, he cemented AQI’s reputation as a ruthless organization where violence was almost an end in and of itself.So while the initial rift began deepening in Iraq in the mid-2000s, it developed into an internecine struggle during the early years of the Syrian civil war. Following the fall-out, al-Qaeda has worked assiduously to reestablish itself as a major factor in the Levant; to accomplish this, it has been forced to overcome several significant setbacks related to its organizational unity and coherence. Al-Qaeda’s initial presence in Syria was through an affiliation with Jabhat al-Nusra, the Islamic State in Iraq’s erstwhile Syria branch. In mid-2016, Nusra rebranded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and later merged with other terrorist splinter groups to form Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist umbrella organization, which put even more distance between itself and al-Qaeda. As of mid-2018, al-Qaeda had no formal affiliate in Syria but still commanded the loyalty of several high-profile militants. Some al-Qaeda loyalists announced the formation of yet another new group, Tanzim Hurras al-Din, or the Religious Guardians’ Organization, in 2018. While HTS remains focused on events in Syria, Tanzim Hurras al-Din is headed by al-Qaeda veterans who may seek to use Syria as a base to launch high-profile terrorist attacks against the West. This posture is a departure from al-Qaeda’s recent focus on grassroots appeal in Syria and, if it comes to fruition, it will probably have significant ramifications for the group’s return to its former glory. Another important angle is that there are several Jordanian jihadi veterans among Tanzim Hurras al-Din’s leadership cadre who were close to Zarqawi and, as such, there is both historical and ideological affinity with IS, which increases the probability that Hurras might successfully poach IS members and bring them into the al-Qaeda fold.The rebranding process for al-Qaeda in Syria was undertaken partly out of necessity, but it was also strategic in nature. From a pragmatic standpoint, the rebrandings have served to put some distance between al-Qaeda and a host of imitators and rivals. This could be an effort by the group to learn from past mistakes, when the leadership’s reluctance to publicly disavow Zarqawi traded short-term gains for long-term losses and eventually contributed to the split, an event that seemed like an existential threat to al-Qaeda throughout 2014. The strategic part of the rebranding is no different from a company’s use of public relations and marketing to refashion its image – al-Qaeda now seeks to present itself as the “moderate alternative” to the Islamic State. The IS brand was represented by the caliphate and the group’s reliance on anomic violence, while al-Qaeda sought to position itself as an organization more adept at strategic planning and with more attractive prospects for enduing success in the future.Although the rebranding is considered a feint by many counterterrorism scholars, it just might have worked to recast al-Qaeda’s image within Syria. And so, even while the emergence of IS at one point threatened the existence of al-Qaeda, it also presented the latter with an opportunity. Al-Qaeda’s calculated decision to distance itself from its former satellite organization was an effort to portray itself as a legitimate, capable, and independent force in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Another objective was to prove that the militants were dedicated to helping Syrians prevail in their struggle. Finally, it would give core al-Qaeda a modicum of plausible deniability as it paves the way for its erstwhile allies to gain eligibility for military aid from a collection of external nations.Now that the Islamic State has lost its caliphate, al-Qaeda may be the only group viewed as militarily capable of challenging the Assad regime’s grip on power, although, as of mid-2018, that seems like a long shot. Al-Qaeda could certainly prove to be the longer-term threat to stability in Syria, primarily due to its grassroots support and local appeal. Unlike the Islamic State, al-Qaeda is perceived as an entity willing to work with the population and possessing the resources necessary to provide at least some of the trappings of governance. In the long term, al-Qaeda could resemble Lebanese Hezbollah – a violent non-state actor that has solidified political legitimacy while still retaining its ability to wage large-scale acts of terrorism and political violence.Depending on where it operates, al-Qaeda has shifted between protector, predator, and parasite, labels which are not mutually exclusive. In both Yemen and Mali, its members demonstrate a remarkable knack for pragmatism when operating in the midst of brutal civil wars. After infiltrating local rebel groups, al-Qaeda fighters parrot their grievances and champion parochial objectives. After ingratiating its fighters, al-Qaeda then ramps up proselytization efforts and introduces a narrative defined by a mixture of local and global themes. Unlike the Islamic State, al-Qaeda is willing to work with other groups, as it has been doing in Syria, where it typically puts locals in charge of units, battalions, and other military formations, lending a sense of local legitimacy to its face in the country. Moreover, al-Qaeda has displayed a penchant for cooperation beyond immediate conflict zones, as evidenced by on-again, off-again tactical cooperation with Iran.One of the most debated issues within the global jihadist movement is the so-called “near versus far debate” about which enemies the militants should concentrate the bulk of their efforts fighting – local apostate regimes or Western countries, especially the United States, but increasingly also the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. Al-Qaeda in Syria has managed to boost its brand through the provision of local services, including water and electricity, while also working to support local bakeries and control market prices of basic foodstuffs. Its leadership publicly announced that it will refrain from attacking the West, at least temporarily, in order to avoid Western counterterrorism reprisals, while simultaneously conserving its resources to concentrate on overthrowing the Assad regime, by far the top priority of Syrian Sunnis.Al-Qaeda’s Syrian leadership also recognizes that it is infinitely more successful when it focuses on local issues instead of a more amorphous and contested struggle with the West. These tensions seem to be at least partly to blame for the continued fracturing and splintering of al-Qaeda in Syria and its multiple iterations and offshoots. The debate over whether to focus locally or to revert back to a relentless quest to conduct spectacular attacks in the West could lead to a long-term and enduring fissure within the global jihadist movement. With the movement already divided by the al-Qaeda – IS split, this issue, similar to the decision on when to attempt to establish the caliphate, is a core ideological debate that is unlikely to be settled anytime soon.For all of al-Qaeda’s attempts at moderation, IS has behaved in an entirely opposite manner, as it pursued an uncompromising strategy of sectarianism, barbarity, and conquest. IS fully embraced sectarianism, seemingly making the killing of Shiites its raison d’être. And while al-Qaeda’s propaganda might still be peppered with derogatory references to Shiites, in general it favors a much more measured approach than IS. The groups are different in many ways, some subtle and others not. For example, rather than working with local groups, IS consistently acted as a conquering army, routing local militant leaders rather than working alongside them. In addition, locals were taxed, extorted, and closely policed by IS religious patrols to ensure strict adherence to sharia law.IS’s approach to warfare was reflected in its fighting style, whereby the group relied on conventional means of warfare, including artillery and tanks, in combination with some asymmetric tactics. When IS assumed control of a certain swath of territory, it often installed foreigners (Chechens, Tunisians, and Uzbeks) in command of the area. But its success came with a price. The more territory IS took over and the more brazen its displays of military might, the more likely the Coalition could no longer ignore its actions. The result was that, compared to other Salafi-jihadist groups operating in Syria, IS bore the brunt of Wester counterterrorism operations, a development that suited al-Qaeda just fine. The relentless stream of IS propaganda directed at the West – particularly the gruesome videos of beheadings, burnings, and crucifixions – left the Coalition with little choice but to set its sights on the caliphate. The success IS experienced in building its proto-state elevated it to the top priority for the Coalition. Accordingly, al-Qaeda in Syria was given breathing room to patiently rebuild its credibility and political legitimacy among locals. Gartenstein-Ross has described this as a “strategy of deliberate yet low-key growth.”The future of al-Qaeda and IS will be largely defined by the competition between the two. There is little debate that, beginning around 2014, IS could successfully lay claim to be the undisputed leader of the global jihadist movement. Once its caliphate collapsed, that began to change, and its current decline may be accompanied by al-Qaeda’s rise back to preeminence. There are clear signs that al-Qaeda has modified its tactics to take advantage of what it sees as a unique opportunity. In Syria’s Idlib province, al-Qaeda successfully cultivated grassroots support and by mid-2017 was beginning to accept former IS fighters into its ranks, a development most would have thought unthinkable just a year or two earlier. Al-Qaeda’s leadership realizes that its response to the Arab Spring was sclerotic and is now making amends, focusing its resources and energy on the concerns most salient to Sunnis, a strategy that has helped the group spread its roots throughout northwestern Syria. It has also used this strategy successfully throughout parts of Yemen, where it operates under various front organizations, branches of Ansar Sharia, and other Salafi groups.Al-Qaeda’s more balanced and predictable approach to governing is geared toward winning the popular support of civilian populations. Life under the Islamic State, even for its own loyal subjects, was enforced by draconian religious interpretations and subsequent enforcement of punishments for those who were not fastidious and completely obedient. Al-Qaeda was far less stringent and could be indifferent to perceived offenses that would draw harsh rebuke from the Islamic State. The year 2018 marks the 30-year anniversary of al-Qaeda’s founding and it is clear that the group has evolved, adapted, and learned over time. Its ability to establish widespread political legitimacy through a refurbished image could propel the group through well into its fourth decade.This shift over time by al-Qaeda to a more tolerant organization was in part a result of Zawahiri’s leadership. For all of the criticism he endures for lacking charisma, a critique most jihadist scholars find unassailable, Zawahiri does give al-Qaeda the benefit of continuity and a historical appreciation for what has traditionally worked and what has failed in the jihadists’ ongoing struggle against their adversaries. With his direction, the group has made course corrections based on trial and error and actively sought to amend previous errors in doctrine and strategy.Al-Qaeda in Syria has gone to great lengths to protect its image by rebranding its affiliate several times already. Bilaad al-Shaam, or the Land of the Levantine People, is highly coveted by multiple groups within the global jihadist movement for religious and geographical reasons. Zawahiri sees Syria as an opportunity to demonstrate relevance, juxtapose al-Qaeda to the Islamic State, and position his group as the more capable and pragmatic entity and, thus, the group worth siding with as the competition continues.Perhaps the most interesting change in al-Qaeda’s behavior since the death of bin Laden is that the group no longer seems obsessed with striking the West and, indeed, according to Bruce Hoffman, in 2015 Zawahiri issued strict orders to Mohammed al-Jolani not to use Syria as a launching pad to attack the West. There are several possible reasons for this decision, including that al-Qaeda’s infrastructure in Europe was not nearly as robust as that of the Islamic State, and thus any attack was probably going to pale in comparison to what IS had already achieved.Another, more nefarious possibility is that Zawahiri is merely playing the “long game” while strategically concealing its Khorasan Group assets as IS is further attenuated. Again, this might be changing with the continued splintering of groups in Syria and the emergence of Tanzim Hurras al-Din. At least in terms of capability, if not intent, discerning a group’s organizational structure could provide clues to its reach and ability to conduct external attacks. Do groups adopt a more decentralized structure to conduct external attacks, or are attacks outside of the group’s main territory a byproduct of a flatter structure? Relatedly, it is possible that too much structure is assigned to jihadist groups by those attempting to analyze them. Al-Qaeda and IS, in addition to their respective affiliates, may in reality be far less monolithic than scholars and analysts believe.Colin P. Clarke is a Senior Research Fellow at The Soufan Center and a senior adjunct political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Image: Reuters

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 12:06:00 -0400
  • Palestinians: Tax deal with Israel to ease fiscal crisis

    The Palestinian Authority says it has reached an agreement with Israel to restore some of the much-needed tax funds withheld by Israel in recent months. Israel began this year withholding parts of some $200 million in monthly tax transfers that the Palestinians give to families of people killed or imprisoned in fighting with Israel. Israel says the payments encourage violence, while the Palestinians say the funds assist distressed families.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 11:54:51 -0400
  • The Politics of Russia's Primorsky Krai

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    Most nine-hour journeys from Moscow land you on the east coast of the United States. But that is assuming one is flying westward over the Atlantic or crossing the pond, as the Brits likely to fondly refer to transatlantic destinations. But a nine journey flying eastwards, over seven time-zones across the Urals and over Siberia, wouldn’t necessarily get you to Japan. It would get you close—right to the eastern border of Russia, the port city of Vladivostok.Vladivostok is a peculiar place for many reasons. As maritime expert Rockford Weitz reminds us, most people forget that Russia is a Pacific country until they visit the port city. Trade notwithstanding, the city is home to the Russian pacific fleet, a naval bastion whose importance was even more accentuated during the Soviet-era Cold War. Vladivostok is so strategically important that the city was closed to foreigners during the Soviet era; even Soviet citizens needed special permits to enter.Former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited Vladivostok in the 1950s and was besotted enough to genuinely want to work towards making it the Soviet San Francisco. The similarities were evident with both cities being on the Pacific coast and the gale across the ocean lent itself to similar climes. Khrushchev’s goal can be seen in the design of the Zolotoy Bridge and the Russky Island Bridge, closely, though not identically, resembling the structures of the iconic Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Communism perhaps precluded Vladivostok from achieving its own Silicon Valley and having an economy comparable to San Francisco. But the city certainly became a key venue for high power political discourse.The framework of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) was discussed here in Vladivostok between former U.S. President Gerald Ford and the then-Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Russian President Vladimir Putin made a conscientious decision to host the APEC Summit here in 2012. The recent cherry on the cake was the high profile summit between Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un which was hosted at the cavernous and state-of-the-art campus of the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU).While Vladivostok has been a key host to politics, the politics of the eastern region of Primorsky Krai are different from the political capital of Moscow and the cultural capital of St. Petersburg. Moscow’s concerns have long been the remnants of the Cold War era: The trust-deficit with the United States, that has only grown prominent since the annexation of Crimea in 2014; the simmering tensions with Ukraine as a result of Crimea and the Donbass region; NATO encirclement and enlargement into once-Soviet territories on its western border that continue to infuriate the Kremlin; and a relationship with the European Union that has never been quiet warm or convivial, given the hand-in-glove relationship between Brussels and Washington.The name Vladivostok translates to ruler of the east, and in a name, there is an identity. In this case, the eastern identity has formed. Ensconced so far east, the geographic and time difference translates to the political distance between Primorsky Krai and the politically and culturally affluent western Russia. The region is part of the Far East district; the name “far east” itself almost reminiscent of an anglophone era subtly indicating that the prosperous pastures belong in the west, whatever is your west (globally or locally).Primorsky Krai is the eastern most point of East Europe, so east at that point that it stops looking like Europe and starts looking like Asia. So far east, that one tour guide at the state museum of Primorsky Krai, described Vladivostok as the edge of the world, and if the flat earth theory held true, then we’d fall off if we went any further east.It’s one hundred kilometers from China’s northeastern border, with Harbin being the closest major Chinese city and just an hour flight away from Sapporo in Japan. Pyongyang is under 700 kilometers away and hence it’s no surprise that a lot of diaspora in the Russian Far East has Asian roots, with a huge population of Russian Koreans (so Russian, that some of them can’t speak Korean) and migrant labor from North Korea and China.Vladivostok is closer to Alaska and Hawaii than it is to Moscow. And Alaska and Hawaii serve as fitting examples for states that aren’t the quintessential red, white, and blue “all American” states. Asking residents of Primorsky Krai to gauge the pulse of Moscow, is akin to asking residents of Anchorage or Honolulu if they feel an intimate bond with Washington, DC or New York City.As FEFU academic Tamara Troyakova tells me over lunch in Vladivostok, “When we [residents of the Far East] wake up, they [Muscovites] fall asleep, and when they start work, we end work. So how can they think for us or feel what we feel?” Physical factors of geographic distance once influencing the intangible political distance.“We are so far away and they don’t even call us the Pacific capital of Russia” says Alexey Starichkov, director of the Primorsky Krai Department of International Cooperation. Local government officials see Primorsky Krai as a Russian outpost in the Asia-Pacific region. Starichkov confidently states that Primorsky Krai influences Russia’s Eastern & North Asia policy.Starichkov’s message is vindicated by the fact that Vladivostok has the most number of diplomatic missions after Moscow and St. Petersburg. Furthermore, six of the seven consulates operating in the region belong to Asian countries—China, India, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Vietnam—with the sole exception being the United States.The Primorsky Krai region has trade worth $700 billion. External trade and exports with Asian behemoths run into billions of dollars: $300 billion split between China, Japan and South Korea.Sino-Russia relations have seen the ebbs and flows from the days of Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin to a special friendship between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, who perhaps found common ground in being seen as threats to the United States’ position at the top of geopolitical totem pole. But officials in Primorsky Krai remind me that a lot of Russia’s relationship (half, to be specific) with China is a result of the eastern region.Both countries have major economic forums on either side. The Eastern Economic Forum, started in 2015, is Putin’s brainchild and is held every year in Vladivostok to foster closer economic cooperation between the Russian Far East and its Asian neighbours. Meanwhile, the summer Davos or Davos of the East goes to the port city of Tianjin in Northern China.Japanese diplomats at the consulate in Vladivostok remind me that Japan is another strong ally. This notwithstanding a natural historic bond with the United States. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has had over twenty meetings with Putin and attended the Eastern Economic Forum in 2018, while Putin returned the favor, by visiting Japan in June. Putin and Abe have agreed to rejig the council of governors which will increase interactions between governments (such as the Far East) of various districts and provinces in both countries. Timber trade between the two countries flows through Primorsky Krai with Japan being the major importer.What Japan exports, it makes up for in exports with a vast number of automobile imports to the Far East. The roads in the east are teeming with Mazdas, Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans; hailing from a practice of importing cheap second hand automobiles from Japan during the Cold War era. Back then, tense relations with the West precluded significant imports of American and other Western automobiles. While Russia, like so many non-commonwealth countries, drives on the right-hand side of the road, the prevalence of Japanese car models means that you have right-hand driven vehicles on the right side of the road. A peculiarity evinced in Vladivostok over its western counterparts.Ural Airlines has frequent flights to Hokkaido from Vladivostok. The Far East constitutes nearly ten percent of the total tourists visiting Russia, however Japanese tourists don’t exceed more than twenty-four thousand a year. Japanese diplomats at the consulate in Vladivostok tell me that it’s due to the lack of visa free access that exists between Japan and Russia.However, South Korea and Russia do share visa free access and flight connectivity between the Russian Far East and Seoul, seeing between ten to fifteen flights per day. There has been a tourism uptick in the Far East and on average South Koreans make up one hundred thousand in tourist arrivals.A short drive outside Vladivostok will take you to the small town of Ussuriysk, home to several Russian Koreans, which enhances the cultural link between the two countries.The elephant in the room is the other Korea. The two share a seventeen-kilometer border along the lower Tumen River, linked together by a bridge called the Friendship Bridge, alluding to the warm ties shared between Russia and the DPRK.Publicly, both Russia and North Korea are allies, a relationship which precedes the very founding of the Hermit Kingdom. North Korea was once under the rule of the Soviet Civil Administration from 1945 to 1948. The ties strengthened with Soviet involvement as an ally in the Korean War of 1950. Putin is credited for improving ties with Pyongyang, which had seen a lull following the collapse of the USSR. The Far East’s proximity to North Korea means there has been a steady stream of North Korean migrant workers and North Korean restaurants in the city. Even Pyongyang’s cargo jets get refueled at Vladivostok International Airport.However, U.S. sanctions on North Korea have affected the livelihoods of several North Korean migrant laborers, and Alexander Efremov, CEO of Dobroflot, a large fishing company, says he has had to let go of a lot of his migrant workforce. His quota of Chinese workers too has been reduced. Efremov foresees these geopolitical tensions having headwinds for the fisheries, a prominent industry in the region.Apart from fisheries and the naval base, it’s tourism, transport and logistics, trade and agriculture that are the revenue generators for the Primorsky Krai coffers. Fishing and fisheries are integral to Primorsky Krai, so much so that at the Department of International Cooperation, Starichkov confidently states that “Muscovites are mainland people—The culture of eating fish and fishing isn’t even there,” accentuating regional heterogeneity. “Moscow doesn’t understand the Vladivostok region,” says one of my colleagues at FEFU, a university whose international relations program specializes in understanding its Asian neighborhood. As we strolled through the streets of Vladivostok, past Yul Brynner’s childhood home, we reach the train station.“Is this where the vaunted Trans-Siberian train ends?” I ask the local tour guide. “Actually, we, the local residents, would like to think that this is where the Trans-Siberian starts. After all, the sun does rise in the east!”Akshobh Giridharadas is a former broadcast reporter covering business and international relations with Channel NewsAsia in Singapore. He has regularly published with outlets such as The Diplomat, the Observer Research Foundation, Inside Sources, and FirstPost on geopolitics, business and sports.Image: Reuters

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 11:51:00 -0400
  • Syrian convicted of Germany stabbing that sparked protests

    Golocal247.com news

    A German court on Thursday convicted a Syrian man over a fatal stabbing in the city of Chemnitz last year that touched off far-right protests. Judges convicted asylum-seeker Alaa S. of manslaughter and dangerous bodily harm in the killing last August of 35-year-old Daniel Hillig. The 24-year-old defendant, whose last name wasn't released in line with German privacy laws, was sentenced to 9 years and 6 months in prison, slightly less than the 10-year-sentence prosecutors had demanded.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 11:38:44 -0400
  • Trump Uses Israel to Attack His Political Foes

    Golocal247.com news

    The recent episode in which President Donald Trump and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined forces to stop a visit to Israel by two members of the U.S. Congress has many disturbing aspects. The episode represented, of course, yet another effort to silence any criticism of Israeli policies toward Palestinians and the Occupied Territories, rather than having a full and open discussion about the issues involved. Insofar as anyone’s support for an economic boycott is involved, the nature of a boycott is not to be defined by the most extreme statements of anyone who has ever been associated with it. A boycott used as a nonviolent means to oppose current Israeli policies toward the territories and support the human and political rights of Palestinians is not, per the hyperbolic words of David Friedman, Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and ambassador to Israel, designed to “destroy” the State of Israel. It is not doing that any more than the international boycott that opposed South Africa’s apartheid policies and supported the human and political rights of black South Africans was designed to destroy the Republic of South Africa.Certainly disturbing is how Trump went out of his way to block legitimate travel by two members of his own country’s national legislature. Most members of Congress routinely travel to Israel on trips that are designed to support the Israeli government’s viewpoint and that, through an ignored tax dodge, are in effect partly subsidized by American taxpayers. Seventy members have gone on such trips during the current congressional recess. The two members Trump targeted—Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota—had scheduled a different trip that included discussions relevant to important issues of U.S. foreign policy. (Omar sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.) Trump did not just accede to a foreign government’s blocking of their travel; he actively encouraged the blockage. The domestic political game Trump has been playing is obvious. Tlaib and Omar are one-half of a quartet of House members—women with diverse skin tones and progressive views—whom Trump is trying to equate with the Democratic Party and to paint as extreme. Although some commentary has described Netanyahu as bending to Trump’s will on this matter—and the episode is indeed contrary to the interests of Israel, broadly and properly defined—the handling of the incident suits Netanyahu’s narrow political objectives just as much as it suits Trump’s narrow political objectives. With the withering of the Israeli left, the competition that matters most to Netanyahu is on the right. He increases his chances of prevailing in the coming Israeli election by being seen to be at least as hardline toward Palestinians and their supporters as any of his right-wing competitors are.A Larger ConcernAs disconcerting as all these details are, Americans ought to take a broader perspective and worry about how the episode illustrates a more fundamental development: the decline in American politics of the concept of the U.S. national interest as the foundation of foreign policy. A dominant principle of U.S. foreign relations used to be that, however sharp and partisan may be disagreements among Americans about specific issues in foreign policy, ultimately those disagreements are subsumed by the interest of the nation as a whole, that this interest constitutes the face that the United States should present to the outside world, and that this interest should take precedence over any interests found in foreign countries or subnational elements overseas. The concept found expression in the traditional apothegm about politics stopping at the water’s edge.This principle has never been observed entirely, but over the past quarter century its observance has increasingly broken down in two ways, as angry partisanship in the United States has intensified. First, viewpoints that do not prevail in domestic political competition are seen not just as losing arguments regarding the best way to pursue the national interest but rather as not a worthy part of the nation at all. Second, some foreign interests are seen not just as allies or means that can be used to pursue the U.S. national interest but rather as objects of affection or identity in their own right. These two developments are two sides of the same coin. The more that the concept of a national interest breaks down domestically into a sharp division between one viewpoint to be cherished and an opposing one to be scorned, the more natural a step it is to identify with like-minded elements overseas rather than with one’s own fellow citizens.Some of the most important roots of this process are to be found in Newt Gingrich’s political revolution in the 1990s, which recast politics as a form of warfare and led political opponents to be regarded more as enemies than as interlocutors in debate. It has been a natural progression from that to the present go-back-where-you-came-from delegitimization of even members of the U.S. Congress, and to taking a foreign government’s side against those members. These developments are partly disguised by Trump’s rhetoric about “America First” and his declaration that “I’m a nationalist.” Much else that he has said and done suggests that his words were code for “I’m a white nationalist” and indicates that he is not a nationalist in an inclusive sense of nationhood. His whole political approach of energizing and enflaming, rather than expanding, his base reflects how the interests he intends to defend, abroad as well as at home, are best defined in narrower ethnic or racial terms.His administration provided a couple of reminders of this in the same week as the incident involving the congresswomen’s aborted trip to Israel. First, Trump’s acting immigration chief rewrote Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty to make it apply only to Europeans. And then it was reported that Trump, who had given the back of his hand to the U.S. island of Puerto Rico, where three million (Hispanic) U.S. citizens reside, wants to buy the island of Greenland. Trump either doesn’t realize that people live in Greenland and thinks a purchase would just be a “large real estate deal,” or, not realizing how much the population of Greenland is ethnically Inuit, thinks of the place as part of the northern Europe that he likes in contrast to the “shithole countries” in more southerly latitudes that he doesn’t like.The Nationalist InternationalTrump clearly feels affinity with foreign elites who share with him a xenophobic, ethnically based populism or faux-populism with an authoritarian bent. With Trump, one can never know for sure how much his orientation is personal and emotional rather than political or ideological. Some of his open fondness for dictators may be simple longing for the kind of control over a country’s affairs that they have and he wishes he had. But to the extent there is true political content in this aspect of his foreign relations, he is being just as transnational as a member in good standing of the Socialist International. The bond that unites him and the foreign leaders with whom he identifies could be termed oxymoronically as the Nationalist International, if nationalism in this case is understood to be the narrow, exclusive kind with an unspoken ethnic adjective in front of the word nationalism.The range of issues on which the breakdown of the previous concept of U.S. national interest appears extends beyond relations with Israel, although that is where affinity with a foreign country’s narrow nationalism and its connection to divisive U.S. politics is most apparent. Friedman, with his personal connection to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, personifies the phenomenon as much as anyone does. Based on his public statements and conduct, he defines his role not as representing his home country’s national interests before the host government—which is the primary duty of any ambassador—but instead as defending the host government’s policies to the people of both his host and home countries.The breakdown precedes and extends beyond Trump, even though he is more blatant in expressing underlying sentiments than are most other politicians who have been part of the phenomenon. One of the most illustrative pre-Trump episodes was an open letter to Iran in 2015, organized by Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and signed by most senate Republicans, that essentially told the Iranians not to put any trust in whatever the U.S. administration was saying or offering in the ongoing negotiations to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. About the same time, the Republican congressional leadership invited, without informing the administration, a foreign leader—Netanyahu—to give an address to Congress in which he denounced the same negotiations in which the United States was then engaged. The Republicans had the twin objectives of denying a foreign-policy achievement to Barack Obama and currying favor with domestic political elements that support Netanyahu’s government, making this flagrant undermining of U.S. diplomacy a salient example of the U.S. national interest taking a back seat to domestic political warfare and transnational political affinities.The Republican-Likud alliance that has become a major part of politics in both the United States and Israel, and underlies a widening divide between Republican and Democratic views of issues involving Israel, flows naturally from ideological affinity rooted in ethnic exclusiveness. Peter Beinart comments that Republicans “conflate love of Israel with love of America because they see Israel as a model for what they want America to be: an ethnic democracy.” Israel “structurally privileges one ethnic and religious group over others. That’s what many Republicans want here.”Border walls, which have become a big part of Trump’s politics, figure into the same affinity. Trump has lauded Israel’s security barrier, which slices through the West Bank and skirts the home village of the grandmother whom Representative Tlaib will not be visiting, as a model for the United States. Netanyahu has basked in the comparison and added that a further security barrier that Israel has built near the Egyptian border has been a “great success” that has “stopped all illegal immigration.”The handling of the proposed visit by Tlaib and Omar has received criticism from many different quarters for many different reasons. What all Americans ought to ponder is how this incident demonstrates how far U.S. politics have come from truly putting America first and from upholding its interests before the rest of the world in a strong, united and effective way. Paul R. Pillar is a contributing editor at the National Interest and the author of Why America Misunderstands the World.Image: Reuters

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 11:29:00 -0400
  • Angela Merkel calls for EU-wide climate neutrality by 2050

    Golocal247.com news

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Thursday for the European Union to support ambitious targets for the entire 28-nation bloc to become climate neutral. Merkel made her appeal after she and members of her "climate Cabinet" met their Dutch counterparts at the official residence of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to share experiences on how best to shift their economies to sustainable energy sources. The working lunch came as Germany is set to miss its own emissions goals for 2020 by a wide margin, even as Merkel's government acknowledges that it has to further ramp up its ambition by next year as part of its commitment under the 2015 Paris climate accord.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 11:26:42 -0400
  • Syrian government opens corridor for civilians in rebel area

    Golocal247.com news

    Syrian authorities opened Thursday a "humanitarian corridor" so civilians from a besieged, rebel-held area in the north of Hama province can leave and move to parts of the country controlled by the government, the Foreign Ministry said. Government warplanes, meanwhile, carried out an airstrike close to a Turkish military post in northwestern Syria, raising tensions between the two neighbors. Turkey is a strong backer of the Syrian opposition and rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's forces.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 10:39:26 -0400
  • Some Egyptian rights activists dismiss country's new NGO law

    Golocal247.com news

    Some Egyptian human rights activists Thursday hailed the country's new law regulating non-governmental organizations as a step forward, while others dismissed it as more of the same restrictive measures. It amends Egypt's notorious law regulating local as well as international NGOs working in the country. "These are nominal amendments that do not change anything about the oppressive nature of the law or its hostility to civil society organizations namely human rights groups," said Mohamed Zaree, a human rights lawyer with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 10:26:50 -0400
  • Sweden Delivers ‘Neutral’ Fiscal Policy as Recession Fears Grow

    (Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s government cut its economic growth forecasts for a second time this year, and promised a “neutral” fiscal policy for next year to cope with the slowdown.At a press conference in Harpsund, south of Stockholm, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said next year’s budget, which still pencils in a surplus, will be “well-calibrated” and that the country is “well-equipped” to handle the economic slowdown. Swedish growth contracted in the second quarter, held back by slowing momentum in global growth amid a trade dispute between the U.S. and China and a growing threat for a hard Brexit. A report ahead of Thursday’s press conference also showed that unemployment rose to a three-year high in July, raising concerns the country is headed into a recession. Andersson said that one should be careful in reading too much into one employment report, especially over the summer months. “What we are seeing now is a slowdown, not a crisis,” she said. “If the development turns considerably worse than we expect now, we have the muscle to take measures."After building buffers and cutting debt since taking over in 2014, Andersson now predicts smaller surpluses ahead. She has also promised to cut the highest marginal taxes at the start of next year as part of an agreement forged in January to allow her Social Democratic minority government to remain in power after contentious elections last year.There will be limited room for stimulus, with only about 25 billion kronor available for “reforms” next year, according to Andersson.The message from the finance minister will come as a disappointment to economists from both the left and right. They have called on Andersson to capitalize on Sweden’s financial strength to boost fiscal spending and tackle needs in infrastructure and welfare, as well as help the central bank exit more than four years of negative rates. The government on Thursday revised its outlook for the central bank, and now predicts that it will leave its benchmark rate unchanged below zero into 2021. To contact the reporters on this story: Rafaela Lindeberg in Stockholm at rlindeberg@bloomberg.net;Niclas Rolander in Stockholm at nrolander@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman at jbergman@bloomberg.net, Jonas Cho WalsgardFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 09:53:26 -0400
  • Ex-Tory MP Sets Out His Plan to Block a No-Deal Brexit

    (Bloomberg) -- Follow @Brexit, sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, and tell us your Brexit story. Nick Boles, who quit the Conservative Party this year over its refusal to vote for a Brexit deal, said lawmakers trying to stop the U.K. leaving the European Union in chaos must focus on passing a law to force Boris Johnson to seek an extension rather than trying to push him from office.The opposition Labour Party has proposed that members of Parliament who oppose a no-deal Brexit should pass a motion of no-confidence in Johnson, and then appoint its leader Jeremy Corbyn as a caretaker prime minister with a mandate to both delay Britain’s departure from the EU and then call an election. That got a lukewarm response from other parties, and Corbyn invited other MPs, including Boles, to meet him on Aug. 27 to discuss options.Boles responded Thursday that he wasn’t able to attend the meeting, but called for the focus to be on legislative options.“I, for one, will not support a vote of no confidence while the Johnson government continues to pursue a Brexit deal,” Boles wrote. “Nor would I be able to support any government in which you were prime minister, however temporary its mandate,” Boles said, adding that even some Labour MPs agree.Election RiskBoles instead proposed trying to seize control of the parliamentary timetable to pass a law compelling the government to seek a Brexit extension from the EU. The risk, he said, is that Johnson might respond by trying to call a general election -- which Boles and other MPs would need Corbyn’s help to prevent.Under the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act, a national ballot can be called only if two-thirds of MPs opt for it, or if the government loses a confidence vote. Unless either of those happen, the next election isn’t scheduled until 2022.Boles urged Corbyn to rule out supporting an election until Brexit had been delayed. “Until you do so, people will continue to doubt the sincerity of your declared opposition to a no-deal Brexit,” he wrote.Meanwhile Jo Swinson, leader of the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, has agreed to attend Corbyn’s meeting, but said in a statement it had to focus on “workable options.”To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 09:47:19 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Merkel: "30 days" Brexit remarks were meant to highlight urgency

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had not given Britain 30 days to find a solution for the so-called Irish backstop but had wanted to highlight how short time was before Britain's planned European Union exit date of Oct. 31. "I said that what one can achieve in three or two years can also be achieved in 30 days. "It is not about 30 days.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 09:33:43 -0400
  • Merkel Didn't Give Johnson 30 Days to Fix Brexit

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Throughout the Brexit negotiations, the U.K. government and its European interlocutors have spoken in different languages to one another. But the closer the Oct. 31 deadline draws, the more deliberate the misunderstanding appears to be. The most recent exhibit: The glaring difference between German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s actual words to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday and how they have been reported in parts of the British media.At a press conference in Berlin, Johnson reiterated his comments to European Council President Donald Tusk that any deal must exclude the so-called Irish backstop – a provision that would keep the U.K. inside the EU’s customs union so as to avoid reinstating customs checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.In response, Merkel said the following. The translation from the German is mine, and the lengthy quote unavoidable:This is basically an expression of an unsolved problem. The moment one comes to grips with it and says, “We propose this and that by way of solving it,” the backstop is no longer necessary as a placeholder. Because then one would know what the future relationship between the European Union and Great Britain, especially between Northern Ireland and the EU member state, the Republic of Ireland, will look like. This means the backstop has always been a fallback position. If one removes this position, if there is a solution, a way to do this… it has been said that we’ll probably find it in the next two years. But one could also, maybe, find it in the next 30 days. Why not? Then we’ve taken a big step forward. We must make an effort to find something like this.British media, from wildly pro-Brexit tabloid The Sun to the relatively neutral BBC, have followed Johnson’s interpretation of these words: Namely, that Merkel is open to dropping the backstop if the U.K. delivers an alternative solution within 30 days. To me, that  reading looks incorrect. It is, I suspect, deliberately so.The U.K. has been told time and time again that as soon as a workable solution is found to the problem of the Irish border, the backstop won’t be necessary. The same discussion played out in December between Merkel and Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May. In February, Merkel said again that a “creative” solution to the future relationship between the EU and the U.K. would obviate the need for the backstop. Last month, she repeated that the measure could be “overwritten” by a solution that could be included in the political declaration about the future relationship. Other EU leaders and negotiators have said the same thing, too.Not once – and certainly not on Wednesday – did Merkel say she was willing to remove the backstop from the legally binding text of the Brexit deal. Every time, the words “future relationship” were mentioned. That is the subject of the non-binding political declaration. There, arrangements can be described that will cancel the backstop as soon as they are implemented.That reference to 30 days? A mere reminder that the clock is ticking – and, in all likelihood, a mocking response to what Johnson must have thought a clever barb about reaching a deal. Minutes before, he had said, in heavily accented German, “Wir schaffen das” – “We can do it.” That, of course, echoed Merkel’s now infamous remark at the outset of the 2015 refugee crisis, when she said she wouldn’t turn back migrants seeking asylum in Germany.As everyone knows now, Merkel’s pledge turned out to be somewhat overoptimistic. Germany was biting off more than it could chew, and the governing parties are still grappling with the political fallout and with the challenge of integrating refugees. With his quote, Johnson didn’t just earn a forced smile from chancellor and some laughs from the journalists present; he got a dose of Merkel’s straight-faced irony: Now you try it in – finger to the wind – 30 days!It is Merkel’s style always to seek a compromise. But she’s too cautious, and too good a negotiator, to blow a huge hole in the EU’s united position that any Brexit deal must not create a hard border in Ireland. She also knows from years of negotiating with the U.K. that it doesn’t have an acceptable solution to the border and that one is unlikely to emerge suddenly from a London brainstorm. If it does, its place is in the declaration about the future relationship.Brexit-watchers in the U.K. media know all this, too. Sometimes, though, it feels better to hope for a miracle – and to look for a scapegoat in case one doesn’t happen. Merkel makes a convenient one, and she will be blamed endlessly if she fails to bend at the last minute. But at this point, it’s unclear what might make her do so – and this time, it’s not she who said “Wir schaffen das.”To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@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.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 09:30:04 -0400
  • Merkel Didn't Give Johnson 30 Days to Fix Brexit

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Throughout the Brexit negotiations, the U.K. government and its European interlocutors have spoken in different languages to one another. But the closer the Oct. 31 deadline draws, the more deliberate the misunderstanding appears to be. The most recent exhibit: The glaring difference between German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s actual words to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday and how they have been reported in parts of the British media.At a press conference in Berlin, Johnson reiterated his comments to European Council President Donald Tusk that any deal must exclude the so-called Irish backstop – a provision that would keep the U.K. inside the EU’s customs union so as to avoid reinstating customs checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.In response, Merkel said the following. The translation from the German is mine, and the lengthy quote unavoidable:This is basically an expression of an unsolved problem. The moment one comes to grips with it and says, “We propose this and that by way of solving it,” the backstop is no longer necessary as a placeholder. Because then one would know what the future relationship between the European Union and Great Britain, especially between Northern Ireland and the EU member state, the Republic of Ireland, will look like. This means the backstop has always been a fallback position. If one removes this position, if there is a solution, a way to do this… it has been said that we’ll probably find it in the next two years. But one could also, maybe, find it in the next 30 days. Why not? Then we’ve taken a big step forward. We must make an effort to find something like this.British media, from wildly pro-Brexit tabloid The Sun to the relatively neutral BBC, have followed Johnson’s interpretation of these words: Namely, that Merkel is open to dropping the backstop if the U.K. delivers an alternative solution within 30 days. To me, that  reading looks incorrect. It is, I suspect, deliberately so.The U.K. has been told time and time again that as soon as a workable solution is found to the problem of the Irish border, the backstop won’t be necessary. The same discussion played out in December between Merkel and Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May. In February, Merkel said again that a “creative” solution to the future relationship between the EU and the U.K. would obviate the need for the backstop. Last month, she repeated that the measure could be “overwritten” by a solution that could be included in the political declaration about the future relationship. Other EU leaders and negotiators have said the same thing, too.Not once – and certainly not on Wednesday – did Merkel say she was willing to remove the backstop from the legally binding text of the Brexit deal. Every time, the words “future relationship” were mentioned. That is the subject of the non-binding political declaration. There, arrangements can be described that will cancel the backstop as soon as they are implemented.That reference to 30 days? A mere reminder that the clock is ticking – and, in all likelihood, a mocking response to what Johnson must have thought a clever barb about reaching a deal. Minutes before, he had said, in heavily accented German, “Wir schaffen das” – “We can do it.” That, of course, echoed Merkel’s now infamous remark at the outset of the 2015 refugee crisis, when she said she wouldn’t turn back migrants seeking asylum in Germany.As everyone knows now, Merkel’s pledge turned out to be somewhat overoptimistic. Germany was biting off more than it could chew, and the governing parties are still grappling with the political fallout and with the challenge of integrating refugees. With his quote, Johnson didn’t just earn a forced smile from chancellor and some laughs from the journalists present; he got a dose of Merkel’s straight-faced irony: Now you try it in – finger to the wind – 30 days!It is Merkel’s style always to seek a compromise. But she’s too cautious, and too good a negotiator, to blow a huge hole in the EU’s united position that any Brexit deal must not create a hard border in Ireland. She also knows from years of negotiating with the U.K. that it doesn’t have an acceptable solution to the border and that one is unlikely to emerge suddenly from a London brainstorm. If it does, its place is in the declaration about the future relationship.Brexit-watchers in the U.K. media know all this, too. Sometimes, though, it feels better to hope for a miracle – and to look for a scapegoat in case one doesn’t happen. Merkel makes a convenient one, and she will be blamed endlessly if she fails to bend at the last minute. But at this point, it’s unclear what might make her do so – and this time, it’s not she who said “Wir schaffen das.”To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@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.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 09:30:04 -0400
  • Midway Through His Year, Our 52 Places Traveler Answers Readers' Questions

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    Some mornings when I wake up, it takes me a few minutes to remember where I am. I look around my hotel room, piecing together how I ended up here. Then, once I've calibrated my internal GPS (coffee helps), it's time to start exploring.Days of the week and even what month it is matter less when your routine is one of perpetual movement. So, the halfway point -- stop number 26 -- sneaked up on me. It came and went without any fanfare, and before I knew it I was on another plane to place number 27.But milestones lend themselves to reflection, so we took the opportunity to slow down for a second and tap you, fellow travelers, for questions you might have about my journey. Here are my answers to a selection of the many great questions we received, ones that we thought would be most helpful and offer a little behind-the-scenes peek into my strange, but wonderful, day-to-day. (You can also join me on Reddit at noon on Aug. 21 for a live AMA.)______Meaningful connections The most profound travel experiences often seem to come about by chance. How do you manage to make meaningful connections with people and places when you're only in each spot for a few days?_____I feel extra pressure to make connections, considering I'm looking for stories, not just things to see and eat. Still, I've been constantly surprised how easy it is to meet good people when traveling alone.You get from the universe what you put into it -- not in some quasi-mystical way, but in terms of attitude. I find that if I walk into a bar, or a town square, hoping to meet someone, I often do.We are naturally curious animals, and more often than not, someone is going to step in if I'm looking lost (which I often am) or if I'm not staring into the void of my phone. Usually, I'm not even the one who initiates conversation. At least once per place, I'm blown away by the generosity of complete strangers.______Planning (or lack thereof) How much planning do you do before you get to a place?_____Close to none. With the frenetic pace of this trip, it doesn't leave me much time to plan. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as a travel strategy, but it sure is fun.I'm lucky to have a great team back in New York City who helps me with some of the booking and research, but when I get off the plane, I'm usually stepping into a five- or six-day stretch with no concrete plans. It's changed the way I travel. I'm less concerned with checking sights off a list, and far more interested in going for long walks and seeing what happens.You're not going to find serendipity -- that Golden Ticket of solo travel -- if you don't give it the space to happen.______Updates on Iran Are you still going to Iran? Could you please share the details about getting a visa -- or deciding not to go?_____It looks, for now, like going to Iran will be impossible. Americans can still visit the country as part of an organized tour group, but it gets a lot more complicated when you're a journalist. I have to be transparent about my work, and in talking to those at The New York Times with more experience in the region, it became clear that it would be next to impossible to get a journalist visa right now.I still get regular messages from Iranians welcoming me to their country and offering to take me around. I hope I get there some time, but unfortunately 2019 isn't going to be it.______Travel Zen You seem to be in go-mode constantly. How do you balance seeing things and reporting with your well-being -- and being Zen?_____I don't -- but I'm trying to get better at it.It baffles me that (knock on wood) I haven't gotten sick yet, and that I'm still going strong. I'm tired. Like, very tired. I try to get enough sleep, but often don't; and I try to eat well, but mostly just eat too much.There's something that happens when I arrive in each place, where adrenaline takes over and I immediately hit the ground running. I've been trying to give myself days off, but I can count the number I've successfully taken on one hand. Travel is just too exciting; I'm constantly weighing the cost of doing just one more thing, and "doing" always wins.That said, in each place, I'll give myself at least one afternoon when I leave the camera at the hotel and take my proverbial reporter's hat off, and just be in a place for real, with no agenda other than to soak it in.______Climate change and carbon footprints In what ways, if any, have you witnessed the impact of climate change thus far? And how have your travels affected your sense of our planet's future? Do you feel optimistic? How do you reconcile the carbon footprint you're creating with all your travels?_____A few places are on the list this year expressly because they might disappear because of climate change. Seeing these phenomena -- like the ephemeral ice caves of Lake Superior -- puts a lump in your throat that doesn't go away. It's one thing to think abstractly about a problem as big as climate change, but it's another to see it up close and hear how it's affecting real places.There's an obvious contradiction that comes out of this, of course: How can I talk about climate change when my flights are causing so much damage to the environment? I recognize the paradox, and I'm not encouraging everyone to go to 52 places in 52 weeks. Nor am I saying everyone should descend on Ontario's Ice Caves next winter.I hope that by reporting what I'm seeing, I'm helping bring more attention to the threats of climate change, beyond, for example, weather patterns or food systems. The beauty of our planet -- what inspires us to get off our couches and see it with our own eyes -- is at risk of extinction, too. Little things, like traveling with reusable bags, water bottles and cutlery, and buying carbon offsets for the thousands of miles I'm flying this year, do make a difference, even if it's a small one.None of it is a panacea, not even close, but it helps. I've also encountered a lot of places around the world that are doing a much better job with environmental conversation than we are. (Good luck finding a plastic bag in Chile.)______Staying healthy Have you gained weight or lost any weight? How do you stay healthy?_____Considering the amount of food I consume on a daily basis, I was surprised to find that I've actually lost quite a bit of weight. It comes from being on my feet and on the move most of the day, instead of sitting at a desk. I try to eat healthy, though sometimes that sixth serving of cheese focaccia just looks too good to pass up.After I threw out my back and was bedridden for a day in Uzbekistan, I'm stretching and doing strengthening exercises most days. I still haven't figured out how to get enough sleep. But that's what 2020 is for, I guess.______Coping with loneliness I've found that loneliness can be a challenge on extended travels. What advice do you have for making friends and meeting people in unfamiliar surroundings, especially when language may be a barrier?_____I still get nervous meeting people all the time. But the potential rewards -- new friends, a local's perspective on a place -- always outweigh the initial feeling of discomfort. So just go for it, even if you don't speak the language. You'll be surprised how far pointing and translation apps can go. Of course, putting yourself out there is a lot easier as a straight, ethnically ambiguous man, and I fully acknowledge that privilege. Sadly, not everyone can -- or even should -- take down those barriers.Loneliness happens. I've felt it many times. There was that time on a highway in Wyoming when a John Prine song came on the radio and punched me right in the gut. Or when I was sitting under the most beautiful night sky I've ever seen in Chile's Elqui Valley and I just wanted my partner to be there, to share it with me. But it's feelings that make us human, and I've learned to lean into loneliness when it comes. It makes the moments you're surrounded by people you could never even imagine that much more special.______Travel essentials What gear and clothes have you found essential?_____Those who follow this column are going to roll their eyes, but merino wool is still my biggest travel revelation. I hate doing laundry, especially on the road, and so anything that increases the number of times I can wear something without washing it is a godsend.In terms of tech, I couldn't imagine this trip without my noise-canceling headphones. They're obviously bulkier than earbuds, but I love the full immersion I can have while on flights, which is some of the only time I have to really relax, catching up on music and creating my own little cocoon of peace.______Managing risks You take a lot of risks that I would/should not take as a solo/single female traveler. For example: I would meet new friends for dinner, but I probably wouldn't get into a car with them. Have you gotten into any situations on this trip that made you nervous? What safety tips do you have for solo travelers?_____I have tried during the first half of this trip to emphasize that the decisions I make and the things I do should never be a boilerplate "how to travel" manual for everyone. The risks worth taking are going to be different for every person. I'm fine with getting blind drunk with a bunch of Georgians in the middle of the woods, because that's what I am personally comfortable with, but I wouldn't necessarily advise that for everyone.Travelers need to take the precautions that make sense given their particular circumstances and the situation they find themselves in. When people ask me if a certain place would be safe for a solo female traveler, I don't give a yes or no answer. That's a calculation that comes down to the individual.There are some common sense things you can do to minimize any risks you do take, though. I always know the emergency number for every country I'm in. I've shared my location on my phone with a few people back home so that if they haven't heard from me for a couple of days they can make sure I'm where I'm supposed to be. If I'm going into a potentially risky situation -- barhopping in Slovakia with some dude I've just met, say, or going on a full-day solo hike in Norway -- I'll tell someone back home about it first.But it really comes down to your own comfort level. You can have a perfectly pleasant and highly rewarding trip without taking the kinds of risks that I do.______Livable locales Have you visited any places that you felt you could settle down and live in?_____Many! I'm a weird case: I grew up in five different countries and have always had a pretty fluid sense of home. So it's not unusual for me to imagine myself living somewhere far from New York City.Specifically though, so far I've fantasized about moving into a 19th-century apartment in Plovdiv, Bulgaria; buying a beach shack and a surfboard in Santa Catalina, Panama; and trading the MTA for Tashkent's masterpiece of a subway system -- just to name a few.______Impromptu tour guides Where and how do you meet the people featured in your articles who show you around or act as impromptu tour guides? Do you know them in advance or are you just super friendly?_____Most of the time it's by pure chance -- a run-in at a bar or cafe, or a smile that turns into a conversation. Or they're friends of friends, sometimes three or four times removed. I also get messages on social media that lead to in-person encounters with locals.The people who really deserve the "superfriendly" designation, though, are the ones who let me into their worlds.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 09:25:22 -0400
  • No Rohingya turn up for planned repatriation to Myanmar

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    COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — No Rohingya Muslims staying in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh turned up for a planned repatriation to Myanmar on Thursday because they want to be guaranteed safety and citizenship first, officials said. Bangladesh refugee commissioner Abul Kalam said none of the 295 families interviewed since Tuesday by the Bangladesh government and the U.N.'s refugee agency had agreed to return to Myanmar.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 09:02:58 -0400
  • Taiwan Really Wants to Buy the THAAD Missile Defense System and F-35 Stealth Fighters

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    In response to questions on whether Taiwan has received related information on such arms sales, Wu said again there has been no official word from the U.S.As we have recently reported Taiwan could be next country to buy the F-35.In fact according to Focus Taiwan, on Apr. 5, 2017 an official from Taiwan told the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that the island welcomes the sale of the F-35 stealth fighter.However according to the country Ministry of National Defense Wu Pao-kun there has been no official word from Washington regarding the issue.Currently Taiwan is looking for a fighter with short-take off and vertical-landing (STOVL)capabilities, hence the need for the “B” variant of the F-35.Noteworthy Wednesday’s hearing came after Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper claimed that U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration would like to sell Taiwan both the F-35 and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.In response to questions on whether Taiwan has received related information on such arms sales, Wu said again there has been no official word from the U.S.Wu also added that his country doesn’t need to deploy THAAD system urgently since the long-range early-warning radar (EWR) system in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, has similar functions to those of THAAD.As we have explained in our previous post the U.S. is expected to announce a new package of weapons sales to Taiwan, possibly after the summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. A claim confirmed also by Reuters which, citing unnamed U.S. officials, said that “the Trump administration is crafting a big new arms package for Taiwan that could include advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to defend against China.”This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2017.Image: DVIDShub.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 08:55:00 -0400
  • A Letter to the Editor Regarding "Constraining Iran Requires Ending its Colonization of Arabistan"

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    Editor’s Note: The National Interest has always stood for publishing a variety of perspectives on the most pressing international security and foreign policy challenges of the day as well as doing all we can to present all sides of a debate. Keeping with that mantra, we offer the following response to a recent piece in our publication authored by Alireza Miryousefi, Ph.D., Minister & Head of Media Office at the Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations. To the Editors:Your piece “Constraining Iran Requires Ending its Colonization of Arabistan,” by Sheikh Abdullah Al Khazaal, August 18, 2019, is a fictitious piece, riddled with factual errors. The title alone—use of the word “colonization”—is wrong and against known historical facts: what your author refers to as “Arabistan” and what in reality is Khuzestan, has always been a part of Iran, its people are Iranian, and they always will be.A quick look at any map, going all the way back to ancient times and drawn by the Greeks or Romans, shows that to be a fact.There is no Iranian colonization in any part of Iran, and our Iranian ethnic Arabs would agree. The fact that foreign or colonial powers have tried to dismantle Iran by provoking separatist sentiments in some parts of Iran where there are ethnic minorities is no secret. It is also a fact that these sentiments are always agitated by enemies of Iran from the outside, as evidenced by this very article which is written by the grandson of an infamous early 20th Century separatist from Khuzestan. (Had you mentioned that the author's grandfather, Sheikh Khaz’al, was a separatist, your readers might have had an inkling that the author is not an unbiased or neutral observer, but in fact has an agenda and is agitating against Iran's sovereignty.)Iran is a multi-ethnic nation with a history that goes back millennia. In fact, as the world’s first nation state, ethnic diversity is in Iran’s DNA. While (provoked) separatist attitudes can be seen everywhere—certainly in Europe as evidenced in its recent post-communist past—agitating for separatism in Iran and in other countries in the region will only undermine stability and security in the entire region.The media, and in particular your distinguished magazine, should not, in our opinion, even implicitly encourage secession. We strongly oppose this approach, and expect your magazine to take the necessary steps to prevent the publishing of such dangerous provocations in the future.Alireza Miryousefi, Ph.D., is the Minister & Head of Media Office at the Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations. He can be reached at alireza.miryousefi@un.int. Follow him on Twitter @miryousefi.Image: Wikipedia.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 08:46:00 -0400
  • UN warns Yemenis could face food aid cuts after Saudi and UAE pledges fail to materialise

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    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been accused of “leaving Yemenis to die” after the United Nations revealed they have paid only a fraction of the $1.2bn promised in aid to the war-torn country. At a UN pledging conference in February, donors pledged $2.6 billion, including $1.5bn  (£1.2bn) by Saudi and the UAE, but to date less than half the amount has been received. The UN said nearly all donors have paid most or all of their 2019 pledges, while some have paid even more. But the largest donors – Yemen’s neighbours in the coalition and the biggest players in the conflict – have so far paid only a modest share of what they have promised. According to a spokesman, Abu Dhabi has paid only $16m and Riyadh $127m. "When money doesn't come, people die," the UN said in a statement released on Wednesday. Homeless children stand on the road from Khoukha to Taiz in Yemen Credit: AP Saudi's announcement of funding was made to great fanfare at a press conference held in Riyadh. PR advisers to the kingdom had told the Telegraph, which was in attendance, that it hoped it would garner some much-needed good publicity.   "Saudi Arabia spends $50 billion every year on turning Yemen into a moonscape and creating millions of refugees in the process,” said Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who sits on the Committees on Arms Controls in the Commons. “But they refuse to spend a fraction of that figure on ensuring the survivors of their air campaign and blockade don't starve to death. Some ally." The UN is now warning that unless significant new funding is received in the coming weeks, food rations for 12 million people in the war-torn country will be reduced and at least 2.5 million malnourished children will be cut off from life-saving services. The organisation was already forced to suspend most vaccination campaigns in May, and without new money a "staggering" 22 life-saving programs in Yemen will close in the next two months. An injured Yemeni child receives medical aid at an emergency room in the Saada province early on November 20, 2018, following a reported air strike Credit: AFP The Saudi government did not immediately respond to the Telegraph’s request for comment. The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Iran-backed Houthi Shia rebels who control much of the country's north.  A Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE allied with Yemen's internationally recognised government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.  Saudi’s air and sea blockade had helped create the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and pushing the country to the brink of famine. Its indiscriminate bombing of schools and hospitals has left thousands dead, leading EU allies to call for an arms embargo. "Millions of people in Yemen, who through no fault of their own are the victims of this conflict, depend on us to survive," Lisa Grande, UN humanitarian chief in Yemen, said. "All of us are ashamed by the situation. It's heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help."  She said it was grateful to donors who have lived up to their promises, but said of the 34 major UN humanitarian programs in Yemen only three are funded for the entire year.  Several have been forced to close in recent weeks, Ms Grande said, and many large-scale projects designed to help destitute, hungry families have been unable to start. Without new funds in the coming weeks, she said, 19 million people will also lose access to health care, including 1 million women who depend on the UN for reproductive health services.  In addition, Ms Grande said, clean water programs for 5 million people will have to shut down at the end of October and tens of thousands of displaced families may find themselves homeless.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 08:04:34 -0400
  • No Rohingya turn up for repatriation to Myanmar

    COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh's refugee commissioner said Thursday that no Rohingya Muslims turned up to return to Myanmar from camps in the South Asian nation as they wanted their demands for citizenship and guarantees of safety met first. Abul Kalam told a news conference that no one from 295 families already interviewed since Tuesday by the Bangladesh government and the U.N.'s refugee agency agreed to go back to Myanmar. Rohingya have long been demanding that Myanmar must give them citizenship, safety and their own land and homes they left behind.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 07:20:27 -0400
  • South Korea to scrap military intelligence sharing pact with Japan as trade dispute worsens

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    South Korea said Thursday it will terminate its military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan amid intensifying trade and diplomatic disputes with Tokyo. The decision comes as Seoul and Tokyo are locked in a tit-for-tat trade and diplomatic dispute following a series of South Korean court rulings against Japanese firms, requiring them to pay for forced labour during World War II. Japan had removed South Korea from a so-called white list of countries that receive preferential export treatments earlier this month "without presenting clear justifications", said Kim You-geun, a national security official at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. He said Tokyo had done so citing security concerns and a loss of trust with South Korea, and that caused "significant change" in the nature of defence cooperation. "In such a situation, we have determined it is not in the national interest to maintain the agreement that was signed for the purpose of exchanging sensitive military intelligence," he added. The dispute between the two US allies has raised concerns over the potential implications for their security cooperation in the face of North Korean missile tests, and the possible impact on global supply chains. The intelligence pact was signed in November 2016 with Washington's backing in response to North Korea's missile launches and nuclear tests to better coordinate the gathering of information about the reclusive state.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 07:00:32 -0400
  • The Hidden Gender Politics of Trump’s China Tariffs

    (Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Terms of Trade newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Economics on Twitter for more.Much has been made of how businesses are suffering from U.S. tariffs on everything from Chinese steel wiring to plastic tubes. But companies can’t go to the polls in November 2020 and punch a ballot.American women will, however, and the trade war may provide extra motivation.Katica Roy, chief executive of Denver-based Pipeline Equity Inc., says the tariffs President Donald Trump has slapped on imports are disproportionately hurting women. If he puts a 10% tax on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese products, including consumer items like smartphones and apparel, he risks hurting a segment of voters whose support he can ill-afford to lose.“As women continue to increase their voting rates and their economic influence, they will continue to vote with their wallets,” Roy says. “That does not bode well for Trump’s 2020 re-election bid.”Roy starts with the premise that there’s an unintentional but real gender bias in the way U.S. tariff rates are applied on imported products. Those extra costs are passed to consumers. She cites some interesting  examples of the so-called pink taxes:About 75% of the tariff burden that falls on U.S. households were from apparel in 2015, and women shouldered 65% of that load. On average, men’s apparel is taxed at about 12%, women’s clothing at 15%, according to Roy. Consider imports of seemingly gender-neutral overalls. The U.S. imposes a 14% tariff on women’s and a 9% duty on men’s. A pair of women’s hiking boots get a 10% tariff, while the rate for virtually the same pair for men is 8.5%.   In some cases, discrimination goes the other way, Roy says. Men’s swimwear is hit with a 28% border tax compared with a 12% levy on bathing suits for women.The tariff fallout debate has mostly revolved around economics — the extent to which companies or consumers, or both, are feeling the pain of higher import taxes. But as a wider swath of the American shopping cart gets hit, the gender politics of trade policy may seep more into the discussion.“More money is going out of women’s wallets compared to men for similar products,” Roy says. “As the tariff burden continues to grow for both genders, it’s worth questioning if, and how, the impact of tariffs help U.S. consumers and the economy as a whole.”Charting the Trade WarA no-deal Brexit would leave the U.K. trading on basic World Trade Organization terms with the EU, but that is not necessarily the case with the rest of the world. Britain has agreed to roll over trade arrangements with some other nations that were established in EU trade deals, which the U.K. was party to as a member of the bloc. It’s set to sign a continuity deal with South Korea on Thursday, bringing the total number of such deals to 13.Today’s Must ReadsLacking trust | South Korea plans to withdraw from an intelligence-sharing agreement with Japan, extending their feud over trade measures and historical grievances. Legal eagles | The slowdown in global trade has been a boon for professionals with expertise in trade law, patents and accounting standards are getting big paychecks this year. Paying the price | U.S. importers and consumers bear the burden of tariffs, the IMF said in a rebuke of the Trump administration’s assertions that China is paying a steep price. Tomato truce | Mexican farmers and the U.S. government agreed to new rules on tomatoes that will suspend tariffs and implement import measures demanded by Florida growers. Ending hostilities | The presidents of Rwanda and Uganda agreed to mend political fences after deepening tensions that led  to blocked trade between the East African neighbors.Economic AnalysisContainer rates | Trans-Pacific shipping rates are taking a dive amid tariffs in the U.S.-China trade war. Cloudy outlook | Fed minutes saw economic risks ahead of rising trade tension and uncertainty.Coming UpAug. 24-26: G-7 leaders meet in France Aug. 29: U.S. merchandise trade balanceLike Terms of Trade?Don’t keep it to yourself. Colleagues and friends can sign up here. We also publish Balance of Power, a daily briefing on the latest in global politics.For even more: Subscribe to Bloomberg All Access for full global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.How are we doing? We want to hear what you think about this newsletter. Let our trade tsar know.\--With assistance from Eddie Spence.To contact the author of this story: Olivia Konotey-Ahulu in London at okonoteyahul@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Murray at brmurray@bloomberg.net, Zoe SchneeweissFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 07:00:05 -0400
  • Putin Allies Show Sympathy for Protests

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin always fights back when under pressure. But, surprisingly for a system in which he reigns supreme, some of his close allies are daring to tell him that this is not always the best tactic with the Russian people.In recent days, three influential people from different strands of the Putin elite have publicly criticized the Kremlin’s harsh treatment of the protests set off by the refusal of the authorities to let opposition candidates run in next month’s Moscow city council election. This doesn’t mean Putin will listen or even that the elite representatives want him too. Rather, it shows that the people who have shaped the president’s policies are pondering the nature of the power transition that’s possible if Putin gives up the presidency in 2024, as the Russian constitution dictates.The first and perhaps most surprising criticism came from Sergey Chemezov, the chief executive officer of Rostec, one of the mammoth state corporations that have swallowed up much of the Russian economy during Putin’s rule. Chemezov, who served with Putin in East Germany in the 1980s, is part of a tiny circle of people Putin completely trusts. And yet on Aug. 19, he dared disagree with the Kremlin’s official line that the Moscow protests are instigated from abroad and need to be put down by force. He told the RBC website:It’s obvious that people are highly irritated, and that does no one any good. In general, my position as a citizen is that the presence of a reasonable opposition is beneficial for any representative body and ultimately for the state. There must be an alternative force which points things out and sends out signals, one way or the other. If everything is always going great, we can slip into a period of stagnation. And we’ve been there before.Chemezov, of course, isn’t directly backing the protesters -- mostly young people who’d like to dismantle the Putin system rather than just get a few candidates into Moscow’s weak city legislature. He’s only arguing that the government should let off some steam instead of practicing pure suppression. But coming from him, even that is serious dissent.On Aug. 21, Alexei Kudrin, the architect of Putin’s tight financial policy and currently head of Russia’s budgetary watchdog, the Accounting Chamber, also cautiously condemned police violence against the protesters, which has resulted in record numbers of detentions and disturbing footage of rubber stick beatings. “There was an unprecedented use of force at the recent protests,” Kudrin tweeted, posting a link to a press release on the violence from Putin’s largely liberal and mostly powerless Human Rights Council. “It is important publicly to investigate every episode. Everyone must always act within the law.”Kudrin counts as a so-called “system liberal,” a Putin loyalist who’s in favor of softer methods, so his statement is less unexpected than Chemezov’s. It’s important, however, that Kudrin, an economist who mostly keeps out of politics, has decided to weigh in this time.The third dissenting opinion also came on Aug.  21, from Sergey Karaganov, who has helped shape Putin’s anti-Western foreign policy in recent years as a key adviser to the Kremlin and who now heads the international economics and global policy department at the prestigious Higher School of Economics. In an article for the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Karaganov issued a warning:The ripples on the surface of the water can turn into a storm or a tsunami if, apart from suppressing protest, the authorities don’t start dealing with the deep-seated problems that are piling up in the nation.  These are the economic stagnation, which is among the factors that have caused a shutdown of social mobility mechanisms for an overwhelming majority of people, and the gap between government and society. Besides, the elite and the government haven’t presented the country with a set of ideas that would make the nation’s life meaningful and future-oriented. Quite obvious also is the high degree of inequality, especially indecent in Russia with its almost genetic yearning for justice.Karaganov goes on to pay lip service to the foreign interference theory, but the dominant idea of his article is that the protests should be a wake-up call to the elite to start tackling the root causes of discontent. As an academic without a government or state company post, Karaganov has more freedom to express such ideas than Chemezov or Kudrin. He uses it to tell Putin that it’s time to move on from relying on Russians’ patriotic impulses and think of prosperity and opportunity instead.Putin probably hears some of these arguments in private, too; in fact, he must have heard them before violence was unleashed on protesters in Moscow streets and foreign ambassadors were summoned to be told off for allegedly inciting disturbances. From his perspective, the government is already doing what’s necessary – that’s what the 12 so-called “national projects,” worth $400 billion over six years, are meant to achieve. It’s just that not everyone has felt their impact yet. In Putin’s view, stability must be maintained in the meantime, and anti-Kremlin loudmouths, prodded on by Americans and Europeans, must be kept in check.But even among Putin loyalists, faith in big government projects isn’t a given: These  people know better than most others how the system works and how inefficiently it distributes benefits because of corruption and nepotism. Even if the cautious dissenters can’t persuade Putin to go softer, they can at least signal that, once a softening becomes possible – for example, after a 2024 transition – they’ll be among its backers.No palace coup is brewing, but a preliminary alignment of forces for 2024 is taking place within the elite. This alignment shows there is a certain potential for a more liberal post-Putin regime.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at stebaker@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.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 06:27:22 -0400
  • Putin Allies Show Sympathy for Protests

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin always fights back when under pressure. But, surprisingly for a system in which he reigns supreme, some of his close allies are daring to tell him that this is not always the best tactic with the Russian people.In recent days, three influential people from different strands of the Putin elite have publicly criticized the Kremlin’s harsh treatment of the protests set off by the refusal of the authorities to let opposition candidates run in next month’s Moscow city council election. This doesn’t mean Putin will listen or even that the elite representatives want him too. Rather, it shows that the people who have shaped the president’s policies are pondering the nature of the power transition that’s possible if Putin gives up the presidency in 2024, as the Russian constitution dictates.The first and perhaps most surprising criticism came from Sergey Chemezov, the chief executive officer of Rostec, one of the mammoth state corporations that have swallowed up much of the Russian economy during Putin’s rule. Chemezov, who served with Putin in East Germany in the 1980s, is part of a tiny circle of people Putin completely trusts. And yet on Aug. 19, he dared disagree with the Kremlin’s official line that the Moscow protests are instigated from abroad and need to be put down by force. He told the RBC website:It’s obvious that people are highly irritated, and that does no one any good. In general, my position as a citizen is that the presence of a reasonable opposition is beneficial for any representative body and ultimately for the state. There must be an alternative force which points things out and sends out signals, one way or the other. If everything is always going great, we can slip into a period of stagnation. And we’ve been there before.Chemezov, of course, isn’t directly backing the protesters -- mostly young people who’d like to dismantle the Putin system rather than just get a few candidates into Moscow’s weak city legislature. He’s only arguing that the government should let off some steam instead of practicing pure suppression. But coming from him, even that is serious dissent.On Aug. 21, Alexei Kudrin, the architect of Putin’s tight financial policy and currently head of Russia’s budgetary watchdog, the Accounting Chamber, also cautiously condemned police violence against the protesters, which has resulted in record numbers of detentions and disturbing footage of rubber stick beatings. “There was an unprecedented use of force at the recent protests,” Kudrin tweeted, posting a link to a press release on the violence from Putin’s largely liberal and mostly powerless Human Rights Council. “It is important publicly to investigate every episode. Everyone must always act within the law.”Kudrin counts as a so-called “system liberal,” a Putin loyalist who’s in favor of softer methods, so his statement is less unexpected than Chemezov’s. It’s important, however, that Kudrin, an economist who mostly keeps out of politics, has decided to weigh in this time.The third dissenting opinion also came on Aug.  21, from Sergey Karaganov, who has helped shape Putin’s anti-Western foreign policy in recent years as a key adviser to the Kremlin and who now heads the international economics and global policy department at the prestigious Higher School of Economics. In an article for the government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Karaganov issued a warning:The ripples on the surface of the water can turn into a storm or a tsunami if, apart from suppressing protest, the authorities don’t start dealing with the deep-seated problems that are piling up in the nation.  These are the economic stagnation, which is among the factors that have caused a shutdown of social mobility mechanisms for an overwhelming majority of people, and the gap between government and society. Besides, the elite and the government haven’t presented the country with a set of ideas that would make the nation’s life meaningful and future-oriented. Quite obvious also is the high degree of inequality, especially indecent in Russia with its almost genetic yearning for justice.Karaganov goes on to pay lip service to the foreign interference theory, but the dominant idea of his article is that the protests should be a wake-up call to the elite to start tackling the root causes of discontent. As an academic without a government or state company post, Karaganov has more freedom to express such ideas than Chemezov or Kudrin. He uses it to tell Putin that it’s time to move on from relying on Russians’ patriotic impulses and think of prosperity and opportunity instead.Putin probably hears some of these arguments in private, too; in fact, he must have heard them before violence was unleashed on protesters in Moscow streets and foreign ambassadors were summoned to be told off for allegedly inciting disturbances. From his perspective, the government is already doing what’s necessary – that’s what the 12 so-called “national projects,” worth $400 billion over six years, are meant to achieve. It’s just that not everyone has felt their impact yet. In Putin’s view, stability must be maintained in the meantime, and anti-Kremlin loudmouths, prodded on by Americans and Europeans, must be kept in check.But even among Putin loyalists, faith in big government projects isn’t a given: These  people know better than most others how the system works and how inefficiently it distributes benefits because of corruption and nepotism. Even if the cautious dissenters can’t persuade Putin to go softer, they can at least signal that, once a softening becomes possible – for example, after a 2024 transition – they’ll be among its backers.No palace coup is brewing, but a preliminary alignment of forces for 2024 is taking place within the elite. This alignment shows there is a certain potential for a more liberal post-Putin regime.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at stebaker@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.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 06:27:22 -0400
  • Seeking Soul Mates for Trump in Biarritz

    (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.A key question for this weekend’s Group of Seven summit in France is — does the meeting matter anymore? And if so, in what way?As Tim Ross, Gregory Viscusi and Arne Delfs point out, multilateralism, the global architecture that arose from the ashes of World War II, is waning with leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump and newly minted U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The nationalist mood sweeping many countries has seen coordinated discussion on the economy and issues like climate change dissipate.But even as Trump rewrites the rules for these international meetings (farewell formal communiques), the G-7 in Biarritz was one summit where he most risked feeling isolated. Of the seven leaders, at least four — France, Germany, Canada, Japan — have defended the global order. Trump found more of his “spirit animals” at the recent G-20 in Japan, where he hung out with strongmen from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Brazil and China.He may encounter more sympathetic souls among other leaders invited onto the summit’s sidelines at the French resort. That list includes the right-wing premiers of Australia and India, plus Spain, Chile, Egypt and Senegal.The attention Trump devotes to them may show whether he considers the G-7 gang to be any longer the cool kids of geopolitics in this populist era. Global HeadlinesTough talk | After dinner last night in Berlin with Angela Merkel, Johnson is in Paris today for talks with Emmanuel Macron. If the German chancellor was prepared to entertain the idea of a last-minute Brexit deal — she floated, possibly with a raised eyebrow, the idea that the tricky stuff could be fixed in 30 days — the French president is likely to be blunter. France said yesterday a no-deal Brexit is now its working assumption.Cold shoulder | North Korea warned it wouldn’t talk under U.S. “military threats,” raising new doubts about Trump’s effort to restart nuclear negotiations even as his top envoy visited Seoul. The regime denounced fresh U.S.-South Korean military moves as a “grave provocation,” undercutting the president’s assertion that Kim Jong Un would warm to talks after the drills concluded earlier this week.Just In: South Korea announced it’s ending a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan, creating “significant changes” in security cooperation. It’s the latest twist in a deepening dispute between the two Asian nations.Click cash | Launched in 2004 in part to battle big money’s influence in politics, an online platform called ActBlue is for the first time the main fundraising tool for each of the 2020 Democratic presidential campaigns. Why? Chief executive officers, lawyers and other deep-pocketed donors like the convenience of a one-click stop.Click here for a closer look at liberals’ efforts to repeat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning 2018 Democratic primary victory by ousting other incumbent Democratic lawmakers. Stay on top of the latest developments in the 2020 White House race with Bloomberg’s Campaign Update.China’s warning | Companies who do business with China are going out of their way to avoid offending the Communist Party after Beijing clamped down on Cathay Pacific Airways this month when its employees participated in Hong Kong protests. Firms including accounting giants KPMG and PwC are instructing employees to avoid speaking on behalf of the company in public, raising questions about the price of access to Asia’s biggest economy.Brazilian firestorm | As the Amazon burns at a record rate, President Jair Bolsonaro is accusing non-governmental organizations of setting the fires to discredit him, without offering evidence. His allegation comes as he faces intense pressure to contain the blazes in the world’s largest rainforest, as plumes of smoke cast parts of the country into apocalyptic darkness.What to WatchItalian President Sergio Mattarella meets with key political leaders today in an effort to carve out a viable coalition after the government collapsed this week. Central bankers including Fed Chairman Jerome Powell gather today for their annual Jackson Hole symposium, amid Congressional Budget Office warnings the U.S. budget deficit is growing faster than expected as Trump’s trade war with China weighs on the economy.And finally … A new front in the global trade war is threatening to open — over palm oil. Indonesia, the world’s top producer and consumer, is joining Malaysia in removing anti-palm oil products from grocery-store shelves. They are weighing retaliatory action against the European Union, including a push by Jakarta to halt domestic purchases of Airbus aircraft, after the bloc decided to place stricter limits on the tropical oil’s use in biofuels on concerns over deforestation.  \--With assistance from Karl Maier, Kathleen Hunter, Ruth Pollard and Robert Hutton.To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Halpin at thalpin5@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 06:16:43 -0400
  • Tough Brexit Talk But Neither Side Has Given Up on Breakthrough

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    (Bloomberg) -- Angela Merkel’s challenge to Boris Johnson to find a Brexit solution in the next 30 days sounds impossible. But while both sides are talking tough, officials in private say there’s still time to salvage a deal.The latest person to sound skeptical about the British prime minister’s chances of taking the U.K. out of the European Union with an agreement was a senior French official close to President Emmanuel Macron. A no-deal Brexit is now the likeliest scenario, the official said on Wednesday.His remarks reflect the mood across the bloc since the Brexit deal, agreed between former Prime Minister Theresa May and Brussels in November, was rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament and Johnson was installed in Downing Street. The premier has struck a more belligerent tone than his predecessor, demanding the removal of the contentious part of the agreement dealing with the Irish border. He’s also promised to take the U.K. out of the EU on Oct. 31 “do or die” -- without a deal if necessary.The deadlock is genuine. The EU remains broadly united on the issue and isn’t ready to throw Ireland to the wolves by conceding to Johnson’s demands to cut the so-called backstop, the mechanism designed to ensure a check-free border on the island of Ireland that will be the U.K.’s new land frontier with the bloc.But there are small signs of movement -- on both sides.Despite his apparent preconditions, Johnson met German Chancellor Merkel in Berlin, and will hold talks with Macron in Paris on Thursday. And though his letter this week laying out his objections to the backstop was immediately dismissed by the bloc, there are now signs of engagement on the issue, which European diplomats said was at least a start.Deal Hopes“We in the U.K. want a deal,” Johnson said alongside Merkel in Berlin. “We seek a deal. And I believe that we can get one.”Johnson expects to talk further about Brexit at the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, at the weekend, and while neither side predicts any kind of breakthrough, diplomats said there’s time for more twists with just 71 days left until the U.K. is due to leave.“You will simply have to wait a little bit longer to see whether we will come up with a solution,” Merkel told reporters at the joint press conference. She said the EU had always thought the U.K. could do it in two years -- a reference to the transition period that forms part of the Brexit deal.“But maybe you can also find it within the next 30 days,” she said to Johnson. “Why not?”While some in Britain seized on that as a sign Germany was ready to shift -- Johnson described it as a “blistering timetable” he was “more than happy with” -- it could simply have been an expression of the difficulty of the task.Onus on U.K.Merkel said it’s up to the U.K. to put forward workable alternatives to the backstop, and that the EU needs to know how Britain sees future ties to the bloc. Johnson agreed the “onus is on us” to solve the border issue, though he pointed to measures that have already been dismissed in three years of Brexit talks, including trusted trader programs and electronic pre-clearing of goods.The backstop is despised by Brexiteers in Johnson’s Conservative Party because it keeps the U.K. tied to many of the EU’s customs rules.Officials in Brussels and European capitals are increasingly eyeing an EU summit on Oct. 17-18, just two weeks before the U.K.’s leaving date. There’s every chance the two sides won’t have come to an agreement by then, or even at that meeting, officials said. Work will continue to try to get one right up until the U.K. leaves, they said.On Thursday, a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels a no-deal Brexit is the most likely outcome, though the bloc is hoping Johnson can bring substantive ideas to his meeting with EU President Donald Tusk on Sunday.Rebel MPsEuropean officials are also closely watching events in the U.K. Parliament, knowing that if politicians there can block a no-deal split, Brexit will probably be delayed again. Johnson has said this threat from British lawmakers is what’s discouraging the EU from shifting -- a claim European diplomats deny.Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is among a group of ex-ministers in Parliament talking about blocking a no-deal Brexit. Main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn invited other senior lawmakers to meet him on Tuesday to discuss “all tactics” to stop a no-deal departure.But it’s not clear whether that’s possible. Only once Parliament has returned on Sept. 3 are the tactics, and level of support, likely to be clear.In Berlin, Johnson invoked the EU’s history of last-minute compromises. The question is whether the bloc will oblige.“I’ve in my life watched a lot of European negotiations and, believe me, it looks at first as though it’s irresistible force and immovable object, and what in my experience happens is that people find a way through,” he said. “It’s in the final furlong generally when the horses change places and the winning deal appears.”(Updates with senior EU official in 15th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman, Helene Fouquet, Robert Hutton, Alex Morales and Arne Delfs.To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, ;Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Alex MoralesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 05:42:34 -0400
  • US imposes sanctions on suspected Chinese fentanyl producers

    The United States has issued economic sanctions against three Chinese nationals and two companies suspected of producing fentanyl and shipping the drug to the US, Treasury officials announced on Wednesday.Three men, all of whom already face US indictments for the manufacturing and distribution of the synthetic opioid, were added to the Treasury's "Specially Designated Nationals List", which provides for the freezing of any US-based financial assets they might have.Zheng Fujing, 36, his father Zheng Guanghua, 63, and Yan Xiaobing, 42, were named in the action along with two Shanghai-based entities, Qinsheng Pharmaceutical Technology and another group referred to in the announcement as the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organisation.The sanctions alert was announced by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)."The Chinese kingpins that OFAC designated today run an international drug trafficking operation that manufactures and sells lethal narcotics, directly contributing to the crisis of opioid addiction, overdoses, and death in the United States," Sigal Mandelker, the department's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.The move comes as Washington is increasing pressure on Beijing to limit the flow of Chinese-produced fentanyl into the US.Beijing said it would designate all fentanyl derivatives as illegal starting in May, following a pledge made by President Xi Jinping to US President Donald Trump as part of trade negotiations in November.Trump recently accused Xi of reneging on that commitment, saying on Twitter, "my friend President Xi said that he would stop the sale of Fentanyl to the United States " this never happened, and many Americans continue to die!"Synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which has a potency around 50 times greater than that of heroin, have fuelled a growing public health crisis in the US, killing around 29,500 people in 2017.The US government believes most of the fentanyl consumed in the US comes from China, arriving indirectly through Mexico or directly via commercial shipping services. Given its high potency, the substance can be sent in extremely small amounts, making detection difficult.Mandelker said that Zheng and Yan had shipped "hundreds of packages" of synthetic opioids to the US through commercial carriers, having solicited customers through online advertising.Websites for the group identified by the Treasury Department as the Zheng Drug Trafficking Organisation have been seized by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, but archived versions of the site indicate it was advertising a variety of designer drugs, including synthetic opioids.The company, called Global RC, also said on its website that it could synthesise substances on a custom-order basis, and that it would reship any product free should a package be seized by customs agents.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 05:30:00 -0400
  • Trump Says He’s the ‘Chosen One’ to Take on China Over Trade

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    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’s the “chosen one” to wage a trade war with China and asserted that he’s winning.“This is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago,” Trump told reporters at the White House. He added: “Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one.”Trump routinely criticizes previous presidents for failing to take on what he says are China’s unfair trade practices.China has called looming U.S. tariffs a violation of accords reached by Trump and Xi Jinping, vowing retaliation.Tensions between the world’s two biggest economies rose significantly this month after Trump said he would tariff another $300 billion of Chinese goods, prompting Beijing to halt U.S. agricultural purchases and allow the yuan to weaken. Top negotiators from the two countries talked over phone last week, and the U.S. delayed some tariffs by splitting the $300 billion list of Chinese products into two separate ones.“Although the U.S. will delay tariffs on some Chinese goods, any new tariffs from America will unilaterally escalate the trade tensions,” China’s Ministry of Commerce Spokesman Gao Feng said in a press conference on Thursday. If the U.S. follows through with the new tariffs, China will have to take “corresponding measures” to retaliate. He said they will release those measures when they have more information about the specifics, without giving a set time frame.(Updates with Chinese Ministry of Commerce comments.)To contact the reporter on this story: Jordan Fabian in Washington at jfabian6@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.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 05:24:02 -0400
  • North Korea's Worst Fear: South Korea Is Getting an F-35 Armed Aircraft Carrier

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    South Korea’s carrier will sail into crowded seas. Japan's cabinet on Dec. 18, 2018 approved a plan to modify the Japanese navy's two, 27,000-ton-displacement Izumo-class helicopter carriers to embark F-35B stealth fighters.South Korea is getting an aircraft carrier. The vessel could help Seoul’s navy to compete with its main rivals, the Chinese and Japanese fleets.(This first appeared several weeks ago.)The South Korean joint chiefs of staff decided on July 12, 2019 to acquire an assault ship capable of operating fixed-wing aircraft, Defense News reported. The vessel presumably would embark vertical-landing F-35B stealth fighters.Seoul for years has mulled a purchase of F-35Bs to complement the country’s land-based F-35As.“The plan of building the LPH-II ship has been included in a long-term force buildup plan,” a spokesman for the joint chiefs told Defense News, using an acronym for “landing platform helicopter.”“Once a preliminary research is completed within a couple of years, the shipbuilding plan is expected to be included in the midterm acquisition list,” the spokesman added.The new LPH will displace around 30,000 tons of water, roughly twice as much as the South Korean navy’s two LPH-Is displace. The older assault ships embark only helicopters. A 30,000-ton vessel easily could operate a dozen or more F-35Bs plus other aircraft.Acquiring a carrier represents “a symbolic and meaningful step to upgrade the country’s naval capability against potential threats posed by Japan and China,” Kim Dae-young, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told Defense News.The new flattop is part of a wider naval buildup in South Korea. The South Korean government on April 30, 2019 approved plans to acquire new destroyers and submarines for the country’s fast-growing navy.The $6-billion acquisition include three Aegis destroyers armed with ballistic-missile interceptors and three submarines equipped with their own launchers for land-attack missiles.The new ships could help Seoul’s navy to expand beyond its current, largely coastal mission. The main threat to South Korea is North Korea, specifically the North’s huge force of artillery that in wartime quickly could demolish Seoul and endanger millions of people.But looking beyond the North Korean threat, South Korea clearly has ambitions to develop a far-sailing “blue-water” navy.The South Korean navy in 2019 operates 68 major warships including 16 submarines, 12 destroyers, 13 frigates, 13 corvettes and 14 amphibious warfare ships. The fleet also includes scores of patrol boats, mine-warfare vessels and auxiliaries.The three new Sejong the Great-class destroyers and three new Dosan An Chang-Ho-class submarines apparently will expand the fleet rather than replace older vessels.“The new Aegis destroyers will be outfitted with an upgraded missile launch system which will allow them to intercept ballistic missiles,” Yonhap news agency reported. “They will also represent a marked upgrade in detection and tracking abilities.”The navy currently possesses three of the Sejong the Great-class destroyers that it acquired between 2008 and 2012. The 11,000-ton-displacement destroyers are among the most heavily-armed in the world and boast 128 vertical missile cells for SM-3 air-defense missiles and Hyunmoo-3C cruise missiles.At present the American-made SM-3 is most effective as a terminal- or boost-phase missile-interceptor, meaning it possess the speed, range and altitude performance to hit enemy ballistic missiles when they’re first launching or in their final seconds of flight.But the U.S. Missile Defense Agency plans to modify the SM-3 and test it for the most difficult, mid-course-phase intercepts, when an interceptor must climb outside of the atmosphere. Exo-atmospheric interceptions require special sensors and other capabilities.Among Asian powers, Japan is also equipping its destroyers with SM-3s for missile-defense missions.South Korea however is unique in fitting its submarines with launchers for ballistic land-attack missiles. The 3,400-ton-displacement Dosan An Chang-Ho-class subs will come with vertical launchers that can fire Chonryong cruise missiles and Hyunmoo-2 ballistic missiles.The boats’ land-attack capabilities could help Seoul to target Pyongyang’s 13,000 artillery pieces, potentially minimizing the damage that North Korea could inflict on the south.More than 30 million people including hundreds of thousands of foreigners live within range of North Korea's artillery. Barrages in the opening hours of a full-scale war could kill or injure 250,000 people, the U.S. Defense Department estimated.The new submarines during wartime also would hunt North Korea’s own large but aging fleet of subs. Pyongyang operates around 70 undersea vessels, including around 20 Soviet-designed Romeo-class attack boats and scores of midget submarines.South Korea’s carrier will sail into crowded seas. Japan's cabinet on Dec. 18, 2018 approved a plan to modify the Japanese navy's two, 27,000-ton-displacement Izumo-class helicopter carriers to embark F-35B stealth fighters.The modifications should result in the Japanese fleet operating, for the first time since World War II, flattops with fixed-wing aircraft.The Chinese navy has two carriers. Another is under construction. Beijing’s fleet could possess as many as six aircraft carriers by the mid-2030s, experts told state media. They could be a mix of conventional and nuclear-powered vessels.Even the smallest Chinese carrier displaces around 60,000 tons of water, making it twice as big as South Korea’s own, future flattop.David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 05:02:00 -0400
  • Report: 2 Iranian lawmakers arrested for 'disrupting' market

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    Iran's semi-official Fars news agency says two lawmakers have been arrested for unspecified actions described as "disrupting" the country's car market. The report says the two lawmakers — Fereydoun Ahmadi and Mohammad Azizi — were initially taken to the Evin prison in Tehran but they were later released for about $85,000 in bail.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 04:53:43 -0400
  • Former UN Economist Becomes Prime Minister in Crisis-Hit Sudan

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    (Bloomberg) -- A Sudanese economist who’s worked for the United Nations and African Development Bank was sworn in as the first prime minister since President Omar al-Bashir’s overthrow, pledging to overhaul the country’s ravaged economy.Abdalla Hamdok, the opposition’s choice for the premiership, took the oath of office late Wednesday. He’s the latest person to join a transitional government that’s meant to rule for three years and divide powers between pro-democracy activists and the military that ousted Bashir. His appointment came after months of protests, crackdowns and stalled negotiations.“The slogan of ‘freedom, peace and justice’ will be the program of the transitional period,” Hamdok told reporters in the capital, Khartoum. He said that “with the right vision and right policies we will be able to address this economic crisis” that’s seen inflation rocket over 45% and shortages of fuel, bread and banknotes.Sudan’s turmoil has been closely watched in North Africa and the Middle East, where the uprisings earlier this decade that unseated presidents from Tunisia to Yemen are fresh in the memory. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged $3 billion in aid to Sudan, where soaring costs of living sparked the demonstrations in late 2018. The Gulf states’ prior interventions in uprisings have acted to bolster national armies or maintain the status quo.Another major component of the transitional government -- a so-called sovereign council made up of six civilian and five military representatives and holding some executive powers -- was sworn in earlier Wednesday. Its head is Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, a lieutenant-general who led the previous military council, and Mohamed Hamdan, the leader of a militia accused of a fatal crackdown on protesters also has a place. A cabinet of technocrats is set to be announced later this month.A graduate of universities in Manchester, England, and Khartoum, Hamdok was a policy economist at the African Development Bank and also worked with the International Labour Organization in Zimbabwe. More recently, he served as the deputy executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.The government, including members of the main Freedom and Change opposition coalition, will tackle “the immediate challenges through a recovery program that will address peoples’ needs and the issues of inflation and availability of commodities including wheat, fuel, medicines,” Hamdok said. He also said work is needed to restore trust in the “banking sector that has almost collapsed.”Other people on the sovereign council include:Mohamed Alfaki Suleman, a journalist, author and leading member of the Sudanese Unionist PartyAlsidig Touwer Kafi, a physics professor and prominent member of Sudan’s Baath PartyRaja Nicole Issa, a lawyer and one of only two women membersShams Aldin Kabashi, a lieutenant-general who was spokesman for the military council(Updates with comment from premier starting in first paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Mohammed Alamin in Khartoum at malamin1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Michael Gunn, Giulia CamilloFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 04:50:13 -0400
  • This Isn’t the Madman Theory. This Is a Madman President.

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    Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast/GettyAt this moment, on another Earth, a man is locked in a padded cell, nodding to the gibbering chorus of voices in his head and smearing out his manifesto on the grimy walls of the asylum using a jagged fingernail and his bodily fluids.This chorus tells him things, you see. They warn him of the many hands posed to strike him, and demand revenge for every slight. They praise him, stroke his ego, and feed his rage.On this Earth, the asylum is the bedlam of 1600 Pennsylvania, the inmate is the President of the United States, and instead of managing this dangerous patient, the staff sings his praises and encourages his worst behaviors.The recognition that Donald J. Trump—President of the United States, Commander in Chief of the U.S. armed forces, leader of the Republican Party and now King of Israel and Chosen One—is, to use the psychiatric term of art, batshit crazy is dawning even on the slowest members of society. Also, that there’s not a damn thing we can do about it until November of 2020.The Trump Doctrine Is Sicker and More Terrifying Than EverThe big cons of the first term haven’t just been embarrassing flops but concatenating failures putting our economy and security at existential risk. The tax bill blew out the debt and deficit to unimaginable depths. North Korea’s serial humiliation of Trump proved to Kim Jong Un that he could pants the President of the United States and move the DPRK closer to full nuclear capabilities to threaten our allies and even our own shores.The cruel nostalgia of Trump’s promises to restore coal, steel, and auto jobs are shattered on the altar of President Bigly Negotiator's moronic shitshow of an unwinnable trade war. The fact that he was spanked by Denmark, a country the size of Delaware, after his absurd “Buy Greenland” campaign was just one more humiliation of a President who clearly likes having his ass handed to him by bijou nations. The Trump campaign and the early days  of his administration were marked by the charming window when most of his supporters—and frankly, much of the mainstream media—believed that the vomitus spraying out of Trump's mouth was part of some clever psychological game, quantum chess to own the libs. Only idiots and zealots believe that now. The howling vacuum of need within Trump's soul had already distorted every normal human emotion for decades, but now the stress of the presidency and the realities of his lasting failures have pushed him closer to a very public mental breakdown. In business, Trump could paper over his bankruptcies, flops, asinine remarks, and failed cons.The presidency is different. His rising mania and rage come from the sure knowledge that history’s cold, brutal eye will allow no later revision, no long-term rethinking of his legacy, or even wry nostalgia over the grim era in which he presides. His failures, cruelty, caprice, corruption, and hairstyling tips will be graven in stone as a warning to future Americans. This isn’t madman theory. This is just a mad man.Gradually, and then suddenly—as Hemingway said of bankruptcy—came the realization that the lies Trump tells and the claims Trump makes aren’t deliberate or strategic. They are a roadmap of his pocked and scarred mental landscape. What the boobs defended for three years as sales talk and typical Trumpian bullshitting is more and more indefensible. From economic claims to immigration scare stories to his constant mendacity about the wall, the lies—or whatever they are, given how inclined he is to trust what the voices in his head tell him—are seen as less crafted, and more crazy. Jeb Bush once promised us that Donald Trump would be the chaos president. Call me crazy, but I’d trade the low energy candidate for President Nutjob in a hot second. Donald Trump is America's Loki, only without the charm and wit.On that other Earth where Trump is getting the help he needs and the rest of us have a normal President, 50 percent of the nation would disagree that man or woman on any given day. But no one would wake up thinking, “Hey, I wonder if this is the day that  Barack Obama nukes Denmark?” or “Is George H.W. Bush gonna declare war on Belize because they tweeted something critical of him?” No matter the partisan differences, we had the luxury of going about our lives with the knowledge that the men charged with running the country were, fundamentally, mentally sound. Only his most deluded followers still buy that the phrase “Stable Genius” can be applied without irony to this president.Donald Trump, the conqueror of Greenland, victor of World Trade War I, King of the Jews, richest man in the world, number-one lover man of all ladies, and golden god astride the Fruited Plain is the tallest, smartest, most handsome, best-hung President in this or any era. Just ask him. Or the voices in his head.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. Learn more.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 04:44:24 -0400
  • Iran unveils home-grown missile defence system

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    Iran unveiled its new home-grown air defence system on Thursday at a time of increased tensions with the United States. Iranian officials have previously called Bavar-373 the Islamic republic's first domestically produced long-range missile defence system. Tehran began making Bavar -- which means "believe" -- after the purchase of Russia's S-300 system was suspended in 2010 due to international sanctions.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 04:36:41 -0400
  • 13 world leaders ranked by how tall they are

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    From the tall Xi Jinping to the short Michael D. Higgins to the mysterious height of Kim Jong Un, the height of world leaders varies wildly.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 03:33:00 -0400
  • Iran's president says 'talks are useless' in dealing with US

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    Iran's president struck a muscular tone on dealings with the U.S., saying Thursday that "talks are useless" as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers crumbles further. President Hassan Rouhani made the comment in a speech in Tehran during the unveiling of the Bavar-373, a long-range surface-to-air missile system that he described as an improvement to the Russian S-300. "Now that our enemies do not accept logic, we cannot respond with logic," Rouhani said in the televised speech.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 03:21:19 -0400
  • Russia's Navy Is Getting Stronger (But Where are the Aircraft Carriers?)

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    It is this kind of pragmatic focus on small, cost-efficient vessels that has sustained the Russian Navy’s sweeping modernization program.A coterie of new ships at Russia’s annual Navy Day Parade in Saint Petersburg reflects the rapidly changing face of the Russian Navy as it forges ahead with a far-reaching modernization program.First established in 1939 as an annual Soviet holiday to “mobilize the working masses around the construction of a Workers’ and Peasants’ Soviet Navy,” Navy Day was canceled in 1980 and reinstated in 2006 by presidential decree of Vladimir Putin. However, it was not until 2017 that Saint Petersburg was designated as the permanent site of the main Naval Parade that has since served as a staging post for the Russian Navy to display flagship hardware intermixed with historical vessels.First, a few notable omissions. Russia’s geriatric, problem-ridden Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier was unsurprisingly missing from the event, as it is reportedly undergoing extensive repairs on the heels of a devastating devastating drydock crane incident late last year. More curious is the absence of the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great)  battlecruiser, the world’s largest surface military vessel and the star of the 2017 Navy Day Parade. However, the exclusion of Petr Velikiy makes ample sense in the context of a 40-strong parade lineup that sought to reflect the Russian Navy’s gradual transition into a lean, local, rapid-response force.(This first appeared in early August 2019.)Occupying a prominent place in the parade’s spearhead was the second Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate, Admiral Kosotonov, coming it at a displacement (vessel weight) of 4,500 tons and armed with Russia’s unique Paket-E/NK anti-submarine/anti-torpedo system. Also present was Gremyashchiy, the flagship of the new Gremyashchiy heavy corvette class that builds on the technical progress of the already formidable Stereguschiy-class.Of all the upcoming submarine prototypes that could have been shown, it is surprising that the Russian Navy chose the Lada-class Kronstadt submarine; while potentially a sign that Rubin Central Design Bureau is making progress on Lada’s Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, Kronstadt’s inclusion could just as easily be nothing more than a nod to the fact that the parade was held from the naval base of “Kronstadt,” just west off Saint Petersburg.Vladimir Putin’s Parade Day press statement did not neglect to mention even Russia’s recent line of small missile ships, and for good reason: there is an increasing consensus around compact, highly maneuverable vessels as the future of Russian anti-ship/cruise missile delivery. As former Captain Leonid Yudnikov put it in a Parade Day interview, “the problem of surface ships is solved by accelerated construction of small missile ships, the ships that successfully hit terrorists in Syria with the help of cruise missiles… A modern-day missile, which is, first of all, cruise missiles like Calibre, have become compact, while the range of these missiles is very long, up to 2-2,500 kilometres. And they are convenient to be placed on small military ships because these ships have good navigability. They can be located in both territorial waters and small water bodies with conditions for their maintenance.”It is this kind of pragmatic focus on small, cost-efficient vessels that has sustained the Russian Navy’s sweeping modernization program-- according to Putin’s parade day address, “the navy’s level of modern armaments and military equipment exceeds 62%.” The devil, as ever, is in the details: a substantial portion of Putin’s 62% metric comes from Soviet-era vessels that have been that been refitted with modern armaments or electronics.Nevertheless, the navy’s lean and small 2019 parade lineup of illustrates that the Russian Navy has taken significant, if not at times painful steps over the past several decades to pave the way for new projects by retiring large swathes of its Soviet naval inheritance.Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 03:00:00 -0400
  • Forget About the F-35: This Is America's Deadliest Plane of All (It Can Kill Billions)

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    Of course, the U.S. military has a ground-based strategic Global Operations Center in Nebraska, and land-based transmitters for communicating with the nuclear triad. However, the E-6’s sinister purpose is to maintain the communication link between the national command authority.In a military that operates Raptor stealth fighters, A-10 tank busters, B-52 bombers and Harrier jump jets, the U.S. Navy’s placid-looking E-6 Mercury, based on the 707 airliner, seems particularly inoffensive. But don’t be deceived by appearances. Though the Mercury doesn’t carry any weapons of its own, it may be in a sense the deadliest aircraft operated by the Pentagon, as its job is to command the launch of land-based and sea-based nuclear ballistic missiles.This first appeared in December 2017.Recommended: This Video Shows What Happens if Washington, D.C. Is Attacked with Nuclear WeaponsRecommended: 8 Million People Could Die in a War with North KoreaRecommended: Why North Korea Is Destined to Test More ICBMs and Nuclear WeaponsOf course, the U.S. military has a ground-based strategic Global Operations Center in Nebraska, and land-based transmitters for communicating with the nuclear triad. However, the E-6’s sinister purpose is to maintain the communication link between the national command authority (starting with the president and secretary of defense) and U.S. nuclear forces, even if ground-based command centers are destroyed by an enemy first strike. In other words, you can chop off the head of the U.S. nuclear forces, but the body will keep on coming at you, thanks to these doomsday planes.The E-6’s basic mission is known as Take Charge and Move Out (TACAMO). Prior to the development of the E-6, the TACAMO mission was undertaken by land-based transmitter and later EC-130G and Q Hercules aircraft, which had Very Low Frequency radios for communication with navy submarines. Interestingly, France also operated its own TACAMO aircraft until 2001, four modified Transall C-160H Astarté transports, which maintained VLF communications with French ballistic-missile submarines.The first of sixteen E-6s entered service between 1989 and 1992. These were the last built in a very long line of military variants of the venerable Boeing 707 airliner, in particular the 707-320B Advanced, also used in the E-3 Sentry. Bristling with thirty-one communication antennas, the E-6As were originally tasked solely with communicating with submerged Navy submarines. Retrofitted with more fuel-efficient CFM-56 turbojets and benefiting from expanded fuel tanks, the E-6A could remain in the air up to fifteen hours, or seventy-two with inflight refueling.To use its Very Low Frequency radios, an E-6 has to fly in a continuous orbit at a high altitude, with its fuselage- and tail-mounted VLF radios trailing one- and five-mile-long wire antennas at a near-vertical attitude! The VLF signals can be received by Ohio-class nuclear ballistic-missile submarines hiding deep underwater, thousands of miles away. However, the VLF transmitters’ limited bandwidth means they can only send raw data at around thirty-five alphanumeric characters per second—making them a lot slower than even the old 14k internet modems of the 1990s. Still, it’s enough to transmit Emergency Action Messages, instructing the ballistic-missile subs to execute one of a diverse menu of preplanned nuclear attacks, ranging from limited to full-scale nuclear strikes. The E-6’s systems are also hardened to survive the electromagnetic pulse from nuclear weapons detonating below.Between 1997 and 2006, the Pentagon upgraded the entire E-6A fleet to the dual-role E-6B, which expanded the Mercury’s capabilities by allowing it to serve as an Airborne Nuclear Command Post with its own battle staff area for the job. In this role it serves as a backup for four huge E-4 command post aircraft based on the 747 Jumbo jet. The E-6B has ultra-high-frequency radios in its Airborne Launch Control system that enable it to remotely launch land-based ballistic missiles from their underground silos, a task formerly assigned to U.S. Air Force EC-135 Looking Glass aircraft—yet another 707 variant. The E-6’s crew was expanded from fourteen to twenty-two for the command post mission, usually including an onboard admiral or general. Additional UHF radios give the E-6B access to the survivable MILSTAR satellite communications network, while the cockpit is upgraded up with new avionics and instruments from the 737NG airliner. The E-6B can be distinguished in photos by its additional wing-mounted pods.The Mercury’s abundant communications gear allows it to perform nonnuclear Command, Control and Communications (C3) operations as well. For this reason, E-6s have at times been deployed to Europe and the Middle East to serve as flying C3 hubs. For example, VQ-4 was deployed in Qatar for three years from 2006 to 2009, where it relayed information such as IED blast reports and medical evacuation requests from U.S. troops in Iraq who were out of contact with their headquarters.Two Navy Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadrons currently operate the E-6: VQ-3 “Ironmen” and VQ-4 “Shadows,” both under the Navy Strategic Communications Wing 1. These have their home at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, but also routinely forward deploy out of Travis AFB in California and Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. At least one E-6 is kept airborne at all times. E-6s on the submarine-communication mission often fly in circles over the ocean at the lowest possible speed—for as long as ten hours at a time. Those performing the nuclear command post mission typically remain on alert near Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The E-6’s nuclear mission has also made its operations occasional fodder for conspiracy theorists and foreign propaganda outlets.The E-6 platform should remain in service until 2040 thanks to a service-life extension program and continual tweaks to its systems and radios. While the Mercury has demonstrated its usefulness as an airborne communication hub for supporting troops in the field, the airborne command post will be considered a success if it never has to execute its primary mission. The heart of nuclear deterrence, after all, is convincing potential adversaries that no first strike will be adequate to prevent a devastating riposte. The E-6s are vital component in making that threat a credible one.Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.This first appeared last year.Image: Creative Commons.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 02:30:00 -0400
  • Putin’s G-7 Game Isn’t About Getting Back In

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Donald Trump wants to bring Russia back into the club currently known as G-7 after the country lost its membership following the 2014 Crimea annexation. But Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t really want back in. He’ll just try to use the situation to gauge what degree of cooperation on his part would be sufficient to get French President Emmanuel Macron to go along with Trump’s idea.Trump, who also called for going back to the G-8 format last year, said on Tuesday that Russia’s readmission would be “appropriate” “because a lot of the things we talk about have to do with Russia.” That, of course, is a factual statement; even if, in the U.S. political discourse, Russia’s role has shrunk to election interference, Putin’s role in dismantling the U.S.-led international order is much more multifaceted. Besides, taking into account purchasing power parity, Russia is the sixth biggest global economy, so if membership in the G-7 is determined by the size of economic output, Russia, along with China, India, Indonesia and Brazil, has a better claim on it than some current members (although without the PPP correction, it’s only the 12th biggest). The Group of Seven nations are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the U.S.What’s different this year is that Trump appears to be actively lobbying other members of the club, especially Macron, whom he treats as a proxy for all European leaders, to bring Russia back. So far, the French president hasn’t quite caved: Unlike Trump, he wants to make Russia’s return conditional on the resolution of the Ukraine crisis in line with the Minsk agreements. All this, however, is a bit like planning chess moves without considering how one’s opponent will play.Putin has said many times since 2014 that Russia has moved on from the G-8 format and that he has more interest in various regional networks and the G-20, which includes the other major emerging economies in BRICS – Brazil, India, China and South Africa. The last time he said this was on Monday, after his meeting with Macron. It would be wrong to interpret these statements as sour grapes. Before Russia was expelled from the G-8 in 2014, the rest of the members tended to disagree with Putin on almost everything, anyway, and his participation in discussions didn’t help stop the Western military interventions he resented, most notably those in Iraq and Libya. Meanwhile, economic matters – such as international tax transparency, one of Putin’s favorite issues because of Russia’s capital outflow problem – lend themselves more naturally to the broader G-20 format.Getting reinvited to the G-7 wouldn’t bring with it any tangible benefits like an easing of Western sanctions. It would merely be another forum for Putin to meet with Western leaders – but he gets regular opportunities to do so regardless.In a way, discussions of inviting Russia back hold more promise for Putin than membership itself. The most titillating question is whether the full implementation of the Minsk agreements is necessary for Macron to side with Trump – and thus likely to get Putin reinvited, given that Japan and Italy would probably agree. If the desired progress falls short of a handover of the unrecognized pro-Russian “people’s republics” of eastern Ukraine to the Kyiv government, then perhaps the European sanctions, too, could be lifted without such a handover.Even if the people’s republics need to be surrendered on honorable terms, will Russia really get reinvited to the G-7 without giving up Crimea? That’s an immovable red line for Putin.So the Russian foreign ministry has reacted to the Western activity by asking for specifics. “Proposals must be formulated, if they exist, and handed over to the Russian side for consideration,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Govorit Moskva Radio. “Now it’s hard to understand what this is about.”Putin knows that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, despite the unusual amount of power he amassed when his party won an outright majority in parliament, would feel powerful headwinds if he tried fully to implement the Minsk agreements. They require Ukraine to change its constitution to give a special status to the eastern Ukrainian regions; this would effectively give Russia a legitimate base from which to interfere with Ukrainian politics and policy. This is extremely unpopular in Ukraine. Putin, for his part, is unwilling to let Ukraine reclaim the “people’s republics” on any other terms. But he’s amenable to playing along with Zelenskiy’s efforts to pacify eastern Ukraine – and gauging Macron’s reaction in the process.His first move most likely will be finally to exchange  prisoners with Ukraine. On Wednesday, Kommersant, a Moscow newspaper with good Kremlin sources, reported that the exchange would take place before the end of August and that Ukrainian sailors seized by Russia in the Kerch Strait late last year would be part of the deal. This would create goodwill for further talks, and perhaps an intermediate solution can be found that will move Macron to fall in with Trump.For the G-7’s Western members, though, the big question is what they gain by letting Putin play this game with them. He’d probably explore various opportunities with Zelenskiy, anyway – and do they really want Putin in a new edition of the G-8? The West only stands to lose credibility if an invitation to the club is issued to Putin even though he has no intention to return Crimea. Such an invitation would also present him with an opportunity to decline – and wouldn’t that be embarrassing.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Gray at philipgray@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.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 01:30:05 -0400
  • New Zealand's speaker feeds colleague's baby during debate

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    Photos of New Zealand's parliamentary speaker cradling a colleague's baby as he presided over a debate have drawn praise on social media. Trevor Mallard, speaker in the country's House of Representatives, posted an image on his Twitter page of him feeding MP Tamati Coffey's newborn son while in the speaker's chair. He captioned the snap: "Normally the Speaker's chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me. Congratulations tamaticoffey and Tim on the newest member of your family." The pictures have since been shared and liked hundreds of times, with many hailing Mr Mallard for taking on the babysitting duties. "New Zealand....you might be a small country, but you have a huge lesson to teach the world!", one Twitter user said, while another added: "That is the most beautiful thing I've seen in years." Normally the Speaker’s chair is only used by Presiding Officers but today a VIP took the chair with me. Congratulations @tamaticoffey and Tim on the newest member of your family. pic.twitter.com/47ViKHsKkA— Trevor Mallard (@SpeakerTrevor) August 21, 2019 Mr Coffey's son was born via a surrogate to him and his partner Tim Smith in July. Other MPs also rushed to praise Mr Coffey for bringing the baby into the parliament chamber and shared an image of him holding his son. Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman wrote on Twitter: "Who needs to see this today? Every single last one of us, that's who. Here's a brand new papa holding his new born in our House of Representatives right now." Who needs to see this today? Every single last one of us, that’s who. Here’s a brand new papa holding his new born in our House of Representatives right now ��❤️ pic.twitter.com/NU00SHfKFT— Golriz Ghahraman (@golrizghahraman) August 21, 2019 "Lovely to have a baby in the House, and what a beautiful one," said fellow Green Party MP Gareth Hughes. New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern made history last year by becoming the first female world leader to bring her baby to the United Nations general assembly. And in the UK, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson brought along her baby as she sat on Parliament's famous green benches in January - in what was thought to be a first during a Commons debate. But not all countries are so relaxed about allowing babies in parliament. Trevor Mallard holds a Member of Parliament's baby during a parliamentary session in Wellington Credit: Reuters Kenyan politicians walked out in protest earlier this month over a decision to eject their colleague who was holding her young child during a session of the legislature. Zulekha Hassan Juma was ejected from the floor of the National Assembly with her five-month-old baby. Christopher Omulele, temporary speaker of the National Assembly, said: "As much as she might want to take care of her child, this is not the place for it."

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 01:24:28 -0400
  • The Last Thing Yemen Needed Was a Second Civil War

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Whether Yemen ever really deserved the Roman-era appellation of Arabia Felix is debatable, but few would contest its modern-day claim as the Arab world’s least fortunate nation. Already ravaged by conflict and cholera, the country now faces a new civil war in the south, between separatists and government forces.This second civil war is taking place within the battle lines of an ongoing internecine struggle between northern rebels and the government. And both of these wars are wrapped inside a larger conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.Yemen’s latest misfortune will make harder the herculean task of bringing peace to the ravaged nation. What the United Nations has described as the world’s worst manmade humanitarian crisis will become worse. The U.S. counterterrorism campaign against a resurgent al-Qaeda in the south, as well as the Yemeni franchise of the Islamic State, will become more difficult. To make matters worse, the Houthis claim to have just shot down a U.S. drone operating over Yemen, the second in recent months.Quick Take: Yemen’s Fault LinesWhere to start unpacking this mess? For the past four years, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states has been fighting the Iran-backed rebel militia known as the Houthis, who seized large parts of Yemen from a weak government in 2015. Tens of thousands of civilians have died, either from bullets and bombs, or from starvation and disease attending the conflict.The tragedy is deepened by its pointlessness. Far from being beaten, the Houthis have grown bolder, lobbing missiles and drone attacks deep into Saudi territory.Inevitably, cracks in the coalition are showing. The United Arab Emirates, which carried the burden of fighting on the ground—the Saudi effort has been mainly aerial—has decided to reduce its footprint. This, in turn, has surfaced old Yemeni fault lines, between north and south.  If you are of a certain age, you may remember they used to be separate countries: the conservative north ruled from Sanaa, and the socialist south, from Aden. Despite unification in 1990, many southerners have chafed at northern rule. Separatists rose up in 1994, but were easily defeated by the forces of the longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh.Since the Houthis are primarily a northern force, the Saudi-led coalition—specifically, the UAE—was able to recruit many southerners against the militias. Now that the Emiratis are pulling out, a group known as the Southern Transitional Council, seems to be pushing for formal secession.Fighting broke out between the STC and Saudi-backed government forces, first in Aden and then across the south. The government, led by the president-in-exile Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, accused the UAE of supporting a coup. (The Emiratis denied this.) Coalition aircraft bombed the separatists, and the Saudis demanded a ceasefire.For the moment, the separatists have agreed to stop shooting, but they are unlikely to abandon aspirations for an independent south. With their Emirati patrons distracted by the greater peril from Iran, and the Saudis now at the receiving end of attacks by the Houthis, the STC will try to create a fait accompli by taking progressively larger parts of the south.They will not have it easy. In addition to the government’s ground troops and Saudi bombing runs, the separatists must contend with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. And the Houthis haven’t given up their hopes of taking Aden. On Aug. 1, Aden was hit almost simultaneously by a missile strike on a military parade and an attack on a police station by suicide bombers; the combined death toll exceeded 50. The Houthis said the missile was theirs; it is not yet clear who sent the suicide bombers, but al-Qaeda is the likeliest suspect. (It overran a military base the following day, killing 20.)The terrorists will try to exploit the rift between the STC and the government—and the drawdown of Emirati forces. The Houthis will benefit, too, as will their patrons in Tehran, where they have now appointed an ambassador.For Arabia Infelix, more tragedy awaits.To contact the author of this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Bobby Ghosh is a columnist and member of the Bloomberg Opinion editorial board. He writes on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 01:00:05 -0400
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