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  • Assad troops force Syrian rebels to retreat from key town

    Golocal247.com news

    Jihadists and allied rebels withdrew from a key area of northwestern Syria on Tuesday as President Bashar al-Assad's forces pressed an offensive against the jihadist-run Idlib region, a war monitor said. The fighters pulled back from the town of Khan Sheikun and the countryside to its south overnight and in the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. On Monday, a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into the Idlib region, sparking condemnation from Damascus as Ankara alleged air strikes had targeted its troops. The convoy halted just north of Khan Sheikhun on Monday afternoon and remained there on Tuesday, after government forces took control of a section of the highway into the town. After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition  Credit: AFP Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said Monday morning's strike targeted a rebel vehicle scouting the road in front of the Turkish convoy. "The Syrian army in its own way sent a clear message to the Turkish regime by forcing convoys sent by Ankara to help the terrorists in Khan Sheikhun to come to a halt," it said. It was a "clear warning against any Turkish attempt to resuscitate the terrorists," the paper said, adding that the strike had "Russian support". After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Since January, it has been administered by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, which is led by jihadists from Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate. The region of some three million people was supposed to be protected by a Turkish-Russian buffer zone deal signed last year. But government and Russian forces have subjected it to heavy bombardment since late April, killing more than 860 civilians, according to an Observatory toll. The United Nations says the shelling and air strikes have also hit dozens of health facilities and caused more than 400,000 people to flee their homes. The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since the rebels first took arms following the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011. Rival interventions by outside powers have turned it into a complex conflict with multiple battle fronts that has driven millions of civilians from their homes.

    Tue, 20 Aug 2019 04:16:31 -0400
  • Britain's Johnson opening Brexit bid: rip out the Irish border backstop

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has fired the opening salvo in his bid to renegotiate Britain's divorce from the European Union, demanding that an insurance policy for the Irish border be removed from the Brexit deal and replaced with a pledge. After more than three years of Brexit crisis, the United Kingdom is heading towards a showdown with the EU as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the divorce terms. The bloc and its leaders have repeatedly refused to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, which includes a protocol on the Irish border "backstop" that then-prime minister Theresa May agreed in November.

    Tue, 20 Aug 2019 04:10:56 -0400
  • Boris Johnson’s Bid to Renegotiate Brexit Starts on Irish Border

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    (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his first public attempt to renegotiate the Brexit deal by telling the European Union he wants to explore different ways to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, Johnson said he wants to replace the so-called backstop provision in the divorce agreement with a “legally binding commitment” not to build infrastructure or carry out checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland -- the U.K.’s new frontier with the EU -- as long as the bloc promises the same.Johnson also talked to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar for almost an hour on Monday, and agreed to meet him in Dublin next month. But in an indication the impasse is likely to continue, Varadkar reiterated that the EU won’t reopen the Brexit deal or ditch the backstop.The most contentious part of the Brexit deal agreed between Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and the 27 other EU governments in November, the backstop would keep the U.K. following EU customs and many other trading rules indefinitely unless it’s superseded by a trade agreement that removes the need for controls or checks along the Irish border. The EU has said it’s needed as a permanent guarantee and isn’t up for negotiation.Johnson said both sides must look at other ways to keep the border free of checks and wants a commitment “to put in place such arrangements as far as possible before the end of the transition period,” which could be as early as the end of 2020. A transition will only apply if the U.K. leaves with a deal.No SpecificsBut Johnson didn’t set out what the arrangements should be, and acknowledged there “will need to be a degree of confidence” about what would happen if they were not “fully in place” at the end of the transition period. That suggests he is prepared to replace the backstop with a different guarantee.What a No-Deal Brexit Would Mean for the Irish Border: QuickTakeJohnson made the removal of the backstop from the Brexit deal, which was not approved by the British Parliament, his key pledge on becoming prime minister last month. He’s repeatedly said that if the EU doesn’t comply, the U.K. will leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal.If he succeeds, it might still not be enough for some hardline Brexiteers.“Even without the backstop, this is still the worst ‘deal’ in history,” Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said on Twitter.Time Pressure“Time is very short,” Johnson said in his letter, which was published late Monday. “But the U.K. is ready to move quickly, and given the degree of common ground already, I hope that the EU will be ready to do likewise.”In many ways, Johnson’s position echoes May’s. She also wanted to avoid a hard border in Ireland, while having different regulations between the U.K. and EU, and wanted to find alternative “arrangements” to deliver this. She, too, was willing to offer a guarantee if those arrangements couldn’t be agreed.Deal HopesJohnson said earlier Monday that while he would prefer to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU, he was determined to get the country out of the bloc, and was ready for any “bumps in the road.” His argument is that by talking up Britain’s readiness for a no-deal Brexit and willingness to go through with one, he’s more likely to persuade the EU to give ground.The prime minister travels to Berlin and Paris this week to discuss Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. EU leaders were “showing a little bit of reluctance” to change their position, he said, but he was “confident” they’ll eventually shift and give him a deal.The main opposition Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said Johnson’s plan didn’t contain any solutions.“This letter confirms that Johnson has no negotiating strategy,” Starmer said on Twitter. “He suggests (unspecified) alternatives to the backstop. And if they don’t work: further (unspecified) alternatives to the backstop. Why didn’t anyone think of that before!”No-Deal RowWith Johnson showing no sign of backing down over his willingness to leave the EU without an agreement, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded the prime minister release the latest assessment of the impact of a no-deal Brexit, after the government said a leaked copy of its plans was no longer current.The Sunday Times newspaper reported that “Operation Yellowhammer,” the government’s plans for leaving the EU without a deal, warned of a three-month “meltdown” at ports, along with shortages of food and medicine. Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit preparations, said on Sunday this was out-of-date information based on “worst-case planning.”“If the government wants to be believed that it doesn’t represent the real impact, it must publish its most recent assessments today in full,” Corbyn said in a statement. “Boris Johnson’s denials can’t be trusted, and will do nothing to give businesses or consumers any confidence that the dire state of affairs described in these documents aren’t right around the corner.”What ‘No-Deal Brexit’ Means and Why It’s a Big Risk: QuickTakeMeanwhile the government is about to launch a publicity blitz aimed at preparing the public for a no-deal Brexit, according to a government official.Whereas previous information campaigns were aimed at businesses -- with long technical briefings on how different sectors should prepare for the possibility that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a deal -- the new one will be more user-friendly, said the official, who asked not to be identified.PWJ2AN6KLVR6EU citizens living in Britain are being urged to apply for settled status ahead of the Brexit deadline. But despite the government warning that free movement from the bloc will end on Oct. 31, the official said most changes are likely to be symbolic in the short term. The Home Office said in a blogpost that EU citizens still had until December 2020 to make their settlement applications.(Updates with Varadkar call in third paragraph, Farage tweet in ninth.)\--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, ;Robert Hutton at rhutton1@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 20 Aug 2019 04:03:05 -0400
  • Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on what's moving European markets in your inbox every morning? Sign up here.Good morning. Donald Trump really, really wants the Fed to cut rates, Boris Johnson is planning a Brexit blitz and governments are testing the temperature of the bond market. Here’s what’s moving markets.100 Basis PointsIn what has become a favored topic for President Donald Trump on Twitter, he called for the Federal Reserve to cut rates by at least a full percentage point in order to weaken a dollar whose strength, he said, was “sadly hurting other parts of the world.” He also accused Democrats of holding out hope for a recession before the next election. The Fed’s minutes from its last meeting are coming on Wednesday but the attention will be on Chairman Jerome Powell when he speaks at the Jackson Hole symposium on Friday, where he’s expected to signal the potential for another, likely Trump-pleasing cut, though some of his colleagues are not convinced.Boris BlitzThe battle lines are being drawn again in British politics. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated the country will be ready to leave the European Union without a deal by the current deadline at the end of October and is planning a September  publicity blitz to prepare the public for a so-called hard Brexit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, having failed to get support from other parties for a caretaker government, appears to be gearing up for an election by giving backing to a second referendum and vowing to do everything necessary to avoid a no-deal exit.Bond TestsThese are precarious times for the global bond market and the biggest issuers are starting to do more to test the waters on what investors want. Germany is set for a flurry of debt sales in the next couple of weeks offering negative rates and this week will sell a 30-year bond with a 0% coupon for the first time. The U.S. Treasury also appears to be taking the chance to issue ultra-long bonds, an idea shelved in the past but which could now have its moment as investors continue to search further out in global yield curves for returns as the spreading pile of negative-yielding securities grows.Great British PubsHong Kong leader Carrie Lam has pledged to establish a platform for dialogue with protesters in the country, potentially opening an avenue towards calming the turmoil in the city. But it was elsewhere that Hong Kong’s influence was felt on Monday. Victor Li, the head of Hong Kong’s largest conglomerate, made a $3.3 billion bet on the post-Brexit future of the pub with a deal to buy Greene King Plc. The immediate debate raised after the surprise bid is whether more pubs are likely to close down but another question to ask is to what extent this was driven by the cheap pound and whether more bids to pick up U.K. property estates could emerge.Coming Up...Asian stock indexes were mostly in the green on Tuesday amid signs of progress being made on trade negotiations and speculation about government stimulus to shore up economies globally. European and U.S. futures look mixed. On a relatively quiet day for earnings and economic data, all eyes will turn to Rome and the likely breakdown of the current coalition government. The question will be whether another government can be formed by alternative parties, likely leaving out Matteo Salvini’s League, or if new elections will be required.What We’ve Been ReadingThis is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.How Europe could reduce its reliance on the U.S. The Odd Lots podcast on what's ailing bank stocks. If you have spare 8 million pounds, this Scottish castle is on the market. The ethical conundrum of making money from deepfakes. ‘Tesla killers’ are struggling to kill Tesla. The century-old company on a $10 billion shopping spree. Transhumanists who want to live forever.Like Bloomberg's Five Things? Subscribe for unlimited access to trusted, data-based journalism in 120 countries around the world and gain expert analysis from exclusive daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. Find out more about how the Terminal delivers information and analysis that financial professionals can't find anywhere else. Learn more.To contact the author of this story: Sam Unsted in London at sunsted@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 20 Aug 2019 01:14:41 -0400
  • Omar: Go to Israel, see 'cruel reality of the occupation'

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    Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticized Israel on Monday for denying them entry to the country and called on fellow members of Congress to visit while they cannot.

    Tue, 20 Aug 2019 00:49:21 -0400
  • Hungary Is Happy to Be Germany's Gatekeeper

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a friendly meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to celebrate an open border.This may look like a great occasion to discuss how Orban’s current anti-immigrant stance has subverted the legacy of the Hungarians who opened the first breach in the Iron Curtain on August 19,  1989 –  months before the Berlin wall became useless. But history doesn’t lend itself to such facile juxtapositions. After all, both in 1989 and in 2015, during the recent refugee crisis, Hungary was merely a transit country for people seeking a better life.In February 1989, the ruling Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, one of the softest and most reform-minded Communist parties in the Warsaw Pact, decided to dismantle the fortifications on Hungary’s border with Austria. It intended to take two years to remove the electrified wires and other defenses. Yet after the Hungarian government made the policy public in May, something happened that neither the Hungarians nor the Austrians had expected: East Germans started traveling to Hungary en masse in hopes of crossing the border into Austria and then moving on to West Germany. At the same time, a group of Hungarian activists were working on a small-scale idea: a joint picnic for the Hungarian and Austrian residents of the border area to promote friendship and openness. Both countries’ governments were fine with opening a wooden gate on the border near the Hungarian city of Sopron for three hours on Aug. 19, to let people move back and forth so they could eat and drink together. But the East Germans crashed the party. Why exactly that happened on depends on whose story you hear. One thing is for sure: Leaflets had been distributed to East German “tourists” in Hungary, telling them about the picnic and the opportunity it provided to slip into Austria. The East German government would later accuse West German intelligence and Otto von Habsburg, a descendant of the Austro-Hungarian monarchs who at the time represented Germany in the European Parliament, of having spread the word. Hungarian activists did their part, though, and the Hungarian government, worried about the growing number of restless East Germans gathered on its territory, at least turned a blind eye. Since the border guard contingents had been weakened on picnic day, with just five guards present on each side, some of the East German “tourists” simply pushed past them into Austria even before the gate opened. By the time the picnic began, chaos reigned: Local activists had made the event popular, so more Hungarians than expected had arrived, and hundreds of Germans were attempting to mix in with the crowd. Arpad Bella, the commander of the Hungarian border guards, was worried about being blamed for the mess, but he let the Germans through – about 600 of them.Like the opening of the Berlin wall on Nov. 9, 1989, what happened at the “Pan-European Picnic” was largely spontaneous; at  least, Laszlo Vass, the highest-ranking Hungarian official at the picnic, insisted there had been no plan to let the East Germans through to Austria. But after the event, it became clear that the rapidly liberalizing Soviet Union wouldn’t use its 60,000 troops in Hungary to punish the small country’s government for letting the refugees go, and in September, Hungary allowed thousands of the “tourists” to cross into Austria.Orban’s Fidesz party, formed just a year before the picnic, was among the event’s organizers, so some of the gratitude for helping bring down the Iron Curtain, which Merkel expressed at the commemoration on Monday, is due to him. And yet Orban is one of the harshest critics of Merkel’s 2015 decision to open Germany’s borders to asylum seekers, mostly from Syria and Iraq, who had crossed the Mediterranean and were making their way to central and northern Europe from Turkey and Greece. Since these refugees swarmed into Hungary, Orban has fortified his country’s borders with Croatia and Serbia, made it illegal to help asylum seekers (the law is being challenged by the European Union) and turned applying for asylum in his country into a near-impossibility.At the commemoration on Monday, Orban said this behavior is “completely compatible” with what happened 30 years ago. I find it hard to disagree. In 2015, Hungary initially bused the asylum seekers to the Austrian border; even later, when the busing stopped, the Hungarian authorities only ever wanted the “migrants” to leave without filing asylum applications there. That, essentially, was the Hungarian authorities’ approach in 1989, too: They wanted to be rid of a problem. On their part, the refugees – both East German in 1989 and Middle Eastern in 2015 – had no intention of staying in Hungary: Both groups wanted to go to Germany, where they hoped to find a better life.The difference, of course, is that Hungarians were mostly sympathetic toward the East Germans in 1989 but not toward the Muslim newcomers in 2015. Hungary, with its long history of resisting the Ottoman Empire, has long seen itself as a bulwark against Muslim conquest, and it wasn’t just Orban who saw the refugee wave as yet another invasion. The cultural factor is important; for similar reasons, Poland’s nationalist government happily accepts Ukrainian immigrants but not Middle Eastern or North African ones. The discussion of xenophobia, however, overshadows a deeper truth. Smaller countries are often destabilized and overtaxed by political upheaval in bigger ones; both in 1989 and in 2015, tiny Hungary became an arena for German crises – one caused by East Germany’s inhumanity toward its citizens, another by the humanistic impulses of Merkel, a former East German. Hungary wasn’t equipped to handle either disruption – it was the innocent bystander thrust into the center of events by its geography. The world has changed dramatically, but Hungary the Soviet satellite was too poor to attract East German refugees – and Hungary the relatively recent EU member is still too poor for Middle Eastern asylum seekers to want to stay. So both in 1989 and in 2015, Hungary sent the refugees on their way. And when Orban built his fences on Hungary’s borders with Croatia and Serbia, he only did so out of fear that Germany would stop accepting the asylum seekers and saddle his government with them. Even before Merkel caught on to the toxic political fallout of her decision, Orban knew Germany soon would seek to limit the inflow, and so it did.“We believe that we are the fortress captains of the Germans,” Orban said on Monday. In a way, he’s right: At least twice in a generation, Hungarians have served, willy nilly, as Germany’s gatekeepers. Only now, Germany doesn’t really want them to rupture the new Iron Curtain, the one between the world’s poor south and its affluent north. For all the official disapproval of Orban’s tough anti-immigration policies in Germany and in the EU, for all the distaste about his illiberalism and his clumsy propaganda, he’s just the guy at the door.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 20 Aug 2019 00:00:06 -0400
  • Trump Is Coming for Europe’s Most Important Alliance

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- In the end, they papered over the cracks.After months of increasingly acrimonious sniping, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel set aside some of their differences last month, pushing through a deal on the next head of the European Commission. The rapprochement arrived just in time, with Donald Trump coming to Europe this week for the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France.The U.S. president has a knack for finding the pressure points in the Franco-German relationship and has been looking to drive a wedge between the two leaders as he turns his focus toward the U.S.’s terms of trade with Europe. “Trade is a risk in their relationship,” said Enrico Letta, the former Italian prime minister who has worked with both Merkel and Macron. “France as a country has protectionist tendencies. Germany relies far more on industrial exports, and is keen to defend them. It’s another asymmetrical situation.” European Union diplomats fear that once Trump has rammed through a trade deal with China, he will turn his attention to Europe. While trade isn’t on the G-7 agenda, it’ll come up in one-on-one meetings if the president’s recent rhetoric is any guide. At a fundraiser in the Hamptons this month, Trump raised the prospect of imposing 100% tariffs on French wine, according to two people familiar with the conversation. The U.S. Trade Representative is also completing a probe into a French tax on internet giants like Google and Facebook that could pave the way for retaliatory tariffs, while the EU is braced for the World Trade Organization to give a green light for U.S. tariffs on up to $7 billion of EU goods after a ruling on illegal aircraft subsidies.“The European Union is worse than China, just smaller,” Trump said at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, last week. “It treats us horribly: barriers, tariffs, taxes—and we let them come in.”The prospect of a fully blown trade war is already sowing distrust between Berlin and Paris. The problem is that Trump’s demands are causing most resistance in France, and he’s mainly threatening punishment for Germany. The U.S. wants more access to Europe’s agricultural markets—a red line for the French—and the president is mulling tariffs on cars, the backbone of the German economy, unless he gets it. So Merkel’s aides are watching the French president nervously.German officials already feel that Macron has been playing a double game on trade. France, along with its allies, persuaded Germany to keep agriculture out of the EU’s trade talks with the U.S. in April but still cast a symbolic vote against opening trade talks.  Such a blatant sop to rural voters at home on an issue so vital to Germany greatly annoyed Merkel. She’s not convinced she can rely on Macron on trade, according to a person familiar with her thinking.The policy differences mirror the contrasting backgrounds of the two leaders. One is the 65-year-old daughter of a pastor who grew up in communist East Germany, the other a child prodigy who was writing plays at age 15. She’s cautious, he moves fast. He likes grand declarations, she works behind the scenes. At the October 2017 Frankfurt book fair, Macron gave a sweeping talk about the French 20th century philosopher Paul Ricoeur. When he was done, Merkel said “I didn’t understand what you said, but it sounded so beautiful.” She then launched into a discussion of the intricacies of German copyright rules.And yet when Macron came to power it looked at first like they might strike up a truly effective partnership—the previous three occupants of the Elysee Palace had failed to deliver the sort of reforms Germany has been hoping for. When Macron tried to answer politely, Trump cut him off and called her a “loser,” according to a diplomat presentMacron promised a long-overdue modernization of the French economy and, in exchange, he bet that Merkel would persuade German skeptics to accept greater financial integration of the euro zone. Both sides quickly wound up disappointed. Macron’s advisers say he hoped Merkel would show greater courage after more than a decade in power. But they also recognize both sides were unlucky with the timing. Germany’s inconclusive September 2017 elections touched off months of political gridlock and eventually left the chancellor’s hands tied by hardliners in her party leery of Macron’s proposals. Into this increasingly frustrating relationship, stepped Trump. At a White House meeting during Macron’s state visit in April 2018, Trump began with a tirade about German trading practices and then asked Macron what he thought of Merkel. When Macron tried to answer politely, Trump cut him off and called her a “loser,” according to a diplomat present.Trump’s monologues, sometimes premised on basic factual errors, can leave Macron lost for words, the diplomat said. But the president’s reading of the big picture can make a lot of sense all the same, he added.Macron’s relationship with Trump has deteriorated since then, and he’s stood firm with Merkel on both Iran and climate. But the French leader has also shown that he’s prepared to exploit the same pressure points as Trump and on occasion to leave Merkel isolated when she stands up to the U.S. A month after that White House encounter, Macron delivered his harshest rebuke yet to Merkel. Invited to Aachen, Germany, to receive an award for serving European integration, Macron lectured an audience including the chancellor for obstructing his plans, even echoing Trump’s critique of the Berlin government.  “Germany can’t have a perpetual fetish about budget and trade surpluses, because they come at the expense of others,” he said. When Germany blocked arms exports to Saudi Arabia last year after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Macron, like Trump, sought to shield his relationship with the Saudi regime and dismissed Merkel’s stance as “demagoguery.” That fight put a question mark over French-German plans to jointly develop tanks and a fighter plane.Macron even threw a spanner in the works of German plans for a new gas pipeline to Russia, a project that enrages Trump. Officials in Berlin were furious when France persuaded the EU to demand greater regulatory oversight of the North Stream 2, labelling it a threat to German interests. A compromise was found, but the bad taste remained. The Germans’ anger flared up again in May when Macron shot down their candidate to head the European Commission. Manfred Weber was the head of the biggest group in the EU parliament, a party ally of the chancellor, and officially the winner of the EU elections. But Macron demolished his credentials at a dinner in front of EU leaders. Merkel herself had been lukewarm about Weber, and acknowledged his inexperience. But the German camp saw Macron’s move not just as a European power play, but an attack on the European party system that has been a key element in their influence.  What followed was like a replay of the all night crisis summits of 2015 with an added element of farce. The 28 EU leaders were called back to Brussels for endless negotiations, though this time it wasn’t the fate of the euro that was at stake, just the identity of the bloc’s top bureaucrat. Macron settled the crisis with a call to the chancellor, proposing German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as a compromise candidate who could win broad support. Macron describes their jousting as “productive confrontation.” Merkel accepts that they have “differences in mentality.” People who know them say they aren’t close, but manage to work together.Their alliance has been fundamental to reining in the U.S. leader at previous G-7 meetings. They were at the center of the push that persuaded Trump to sign the communique at last year’s summit in Canada, even if he then ripped it up on the plane home. And any tensions this weekend could compromise efforts to wring concessions from the U.S. As Air Force One begins its descent into Biarritz on Saturday, both will know the relationship is in for another stress test. \--With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs, Arne Delfs, Shawn Donnan and David Wainer.To contact the author of this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at gviscusi@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 20 Aug 2019 00:00:05 -0400
  • Golocal247.com news

    Man, 20, pleads not guilty in Jewish center video threat

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    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:54:07 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Trump, UK's Johnson discuss Brexit, economic issues in call

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed Brexit and a U.S.-Britain free trade deal during a phone call on Monday ahead of a Group of Seven summit in France this weekend. A spokesman for Johnson's office said the two leaders "discussed economic issues and our trading relationship, and the Prime Minister updated the President on Brexit.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:23:26 -0400
  • Iranian tanker sought by US heading toward Greece

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    An Iranian supertanker with $130 million worth of light crude oil that the U.S. suspects is tied to a sanctioned organization left Gibraltar and was heading east into the Mediterranean Sea on Monday, with its next destination reported to be Greece. The Iran-flagged Adrian Darya 1, previously named Grace 1, set course for Kalamata, Greece, with an estimated arrival on Aug. 25, according to ship tracking service MarineTraffic. The vessel left Gibraltar late Sunday after having been detained for a month in the British overseas territory for allegedly attempting to breach European Union sanctions on Syria.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:05:19 -0400
  • Germany's Air Force Is Dying: Everything You Need To Know.

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    A February ministry report showed only 39 of 128 Eurofighter jets were available for training and combat use last year on average, and just 26 of 93 older-model Tornado fighter jets.Head of the German Air Force, Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, told 200 industry executives, military officers and lawmakers at an event in Berlin at an event in Berlin on Jun. 27 that the “Luftwaffe is at a low point.”Gerhartz said that his recent inspections of several bases revealed serious deficits in the readiness of aircraft and other equipment.A 400-hour inspection of the Eurofighter now takes 14 months instead of seven.(This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2018.)His comments followed recent reports by the defence ministry and the German parliament’s military ombudsman that revealed significant gaps in military equipment and personnel.A February ministry report showed only 39 of 128 Eurofighter jets were available for training and combat use last year on average, and just 26 of 93 older-model Tornado fighter jets.“Aircraft are grounded due to a lack of spare parts, or they aren’t even on site since they’re off for maintenance by the industry,” Gerhartz said at the event.According Reuters, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) are finalising budget plans for 2019, but Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, from the SPD, has been resisting moves to accelerate increases in military spending.Merkel this month forecast steady increases in German military spending in coming years, in line with Berlin’s pledge to meet a NATO target of moving towards spending 2 percent of economic output by 2024, but she gave no details.Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen has been pressing for increased spending after Scholz’s previous longer-term plan called for military outlays to edge lower after reaching 1.3 percent of economic output in 2019, up from 1.2 percent now.Von der Leyen has pledged that German military spending will reach 1.5 percent of gross domestic product by 2025.Gerhartz urged lawmakers at last week event to back a more sustainable spending plan that would allow the air force to rebuild its equipment and improve planning for new weapons and upgrades to existing systems.This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2018.Image: Wikimedia.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:00:00 -0400
  • PRESS DIGEST- British Business - Aug 20

    The following are the top stories on the business pages of British newspapers. - Boris Johnson has said he is "confident" that the European Union will back down over his demands for the Irish backstop to be scrapped. - UK ministers were accused of "concealing the facts" over a no-deal Brexit on Monday as business leaders expressed fury over leaked government documents that outlined the prospect of widespread disruption.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 19:57:39 -0400
  • Brazil Considers Labeling Hezbollah as Terrorists in Pivot to U.S.

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    (Bloomberg) -- Brazil is considering designating Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist organization, as President Jair Bolsonaro increasingly aligns his government with the U.S. on foreign policy.Officials are reviewing their options to move forward with the idea, which is being discussed at the highest levels of government but doesn’t have across-the-board support, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter. It wouldn’t be easily implemented due to the particularities of Brazilian law, they added, requesting anonymity because the discussion isn’t public.The idea is part of Bolsonaro’s efforts to forge stronger ties with Donald Trump, with whom he also seeks a trade deal. It also fits into the world-view of Brazil’s right-wing president and his inner-circle. During last year’s presidential campaign, his son Eduardo, who may become the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S., already advocated a strong stance against Hezbollah, and Hamas.Yet the move could strain relations with Iran, a Hezbollah ally which imports $2.5 billion of Brazilian products per year, and displease Brazil’s influential Lebanese community. The government also worries it could make the country a target of terrorism, said one of the people. A decision could be announced before Bolsonaro visits in October the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two countries strongly opposed to Hezbollah.Contacted by Bloomberg, Brazil’s foreign ministry said it doesn’t consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has no plans to change its status for now. The president’s office, the justice ministry and the federal police, responsible for enforcement of anti-terror laws, declined to comment.Currently, Brazil only considers as terrorists those groups already labeled as such by the UN Security Council, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. It can bar the entry, arrest, and freeze assets of people suspected to be part of them.Growing PressureThe Brazilian leader is at the same time willing and under pressure from the U.S. to put Hezbollah on the terrorist list. In a November meeting with then President-elect Bolsonaro, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump expected to boost cooperation with Brazil on terrorism, be it against Hezbollah, Hamas or others.The temperature rose further last month when Argentina became the first Latin American nation to label Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shia Islamist group with an armed wing, as a terrorist organization. On Monday Paraguay announced its decision to follow suit. “Brazil has been under international pressure for many years to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist group,” said Jorge Lasmar, a terrorism expert and professor of international relations at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais. “There can be serious consequences, for example creating friction with Iran and other countries with a relevant number of Shiites, such as Lebanon.”The U.S. has urged Latin American countries to denounce Hezbollah as part of its anti-Iran strategy. Argentina finally did so during the 25th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people. Argentina and the U.S. blame Hezbollah and Iran for the attack. Both deny the accusations. Brazil has recently recognized the group’s presence in South America.The U.S. government shares intelligence about Hezbollah with Brazil because its government is trusted and law enforcement agencies are good, Admiral Craig Faller, Commander of the U.S. Southern Command, told a small group of reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.End of NeutralityBolsonaro and Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo have repeatedly vowed to break with Brazil’s decades-old tradition of multilateralism and neutrality that allowed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to keep trade and diplomatic relations with the U.S. and its enemies. Instead, Brazil is getting so close to the U.S. and its allies that Bolsonaro earlier this year promised to move the country’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, following on Trump’s footsteps. The pledge triggered intense criticism from Brazilian meat exporters who feared losing market in the Middle East, forcing the president to open only a trade bureau in Jerusalem, rather than an embassy.Brazil also followed the U.S. in recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela. Eduardo Bolsonaro‘s nomination as ambassador to Washington has received Trump’s blessing but has yet to be approved by Brazil’s Senate.Among the obstacles to press ahead with the plan is the fact that Brazilian law is vague when defining terrorism. Currently, Brazil narrowly defines acts of terror but not terrorist organizations. It also completely ignores political motivation behind attacks. That means Congress’ may need to approve any specific measures against Hezbollah.“Brazil’s legal definition of terrorism is narrow; foreign and national concepts on this topic tend to clash,” said Rogerio Sanches Cunha, a legal scholar and expert in anti-terror Brazilian laws.Hezbollah, or the party of God in Arabic, is at the same time an armed group, a political party and a social organization. It sits in the Lebanese cabinet and has considerable geopolitical power. It is considered a terrorist group by many countries, including the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Germany sees Hezbollah’s military wing as terrorist but not its political and social branches. Russia and China don’t consider it as a terrorist group.(Updates with Paraguay’s decision to label Hezbollah a terrorist group)\--With assistance from David Biller and Bruce Douglas.To contact the reporter on this story: Samy Adghirni in Brasilia Newsroom at sadghirni@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net, Walter BrandimarteFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 18:45:01 -0400
  • Airstrikes target Turkish convoy in Syria, raising tensions

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    Airstrikes targeted a Turkish army convoy inside a rebel-held part of northwestern Syria on Monday, killing three civilians and wounding 12 others, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. Syria said the Turkish convoy was carrying ammunition to rebels who have lost ground this month amid a government offensive to retake their last stronghold in the country. The incident ratcheted up tensions in the region, currently ground zero in the long-running Syrian civil war that has put Turkish, Russian, U.S. and Iranian interests at stake.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 18:29:52 -0400
  • Macron, Putin see chance on Ukraine but clash on Syria

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    Bormes-les-Mimosas (France) (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron and Russia's Vladimir Putin on Monday agreed changes in Ukraine had bolstered the chances of peace in its east but clashed on Syria, as the Russian leader made a rare bilateral visit to a key EU power. Macron, who hosted Putin at his summer residence in southern France, made clear he wanted to keep contacts with Moscow alive on a range of issues even at a time of spiralling tensions with the West. The pair both expressed optimism that the arrival of Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukraine's president had improved the chances of ending the half-decade conflict during their meeting which lasted four-and-a-half hours.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 18:02:01 -0400
  • Johnson tells EU he wants Brexit deal but without backstop

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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote Monday to EU President Donald Tusk reaffirming his desire to conclude a Brexit deal as well as his opposition to the controversial "backstop" on Ireland. The so-called backstop is a mechanism that would keep the UK in EU customs arrangements to prevent a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Brussels says the backstop is needed as a fallback option to preserve the integrity of European trade and avoid risking a return of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:23:43 -0400
  • The Day Mountbatten Died, review: a powerful look at one of the darkest days of the Troubles

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    The recent YouGov poll which asked Conservative members what they would be prepared to sacrifice in order to achieve Brexit did not propose the ultimate option. Would they rather have Brexit than peace? The question loitered discreetly in the background for most of The Day Mountbatten Died (BBC Two), Sam Collyns’s powerful commemoration of one of the blackest days of the Troubles, when the IRA murdered British royalty and blew up 18 members of the Parachute regiment, while an innocent civilian was shot in error. “He would have been astonished,” said Lord Mountbatten’s biographer Philip Ziegler, exuding plummy English detachment, “that there were IRA members interested in his existence.” Their target styled himself Mountbatten of Burma; his granddaughter was named India, after the country whose partition he oversaw. But these grand imperial associations were no defence when the IRA’s South Armagh brigade snuck onto his unguarded fishing boat, moored in the village of Mullaghmore just south of the border, and planted the bomb that would kill him, his daughter’s mother-in-law, his grandson and a local teenage boy. The story of both atrocities was carefully stitched together from every perspective: witnesses, rescuers, those who survived and the relatives of those who didn’t, all in different ways were still scarred and bereaved. To observe a cultural neutrality, the voice-over was spoken by the Scottish actor Bill Paterson.  Lord Mountbatten with his granddaughter Credit: BBC Remembering terror does funny things to people; India Hicks wore a brave smile and apologised for her tears as she recalled being packed off to Gordonstoun days after the state funeral, where that night in her dorm someone cracked the most appalling joke about her grandfather’s murder. “The mindset would have been operational,” explained Kieran Conway, who had been the IRA’s director of intelligence. “Kill them, without too much reflection.” He emitted a stab of laughter that mingled cold callousness with baffled regret. Conway confirmed that it was Martin McGuinness who signed off on all this carnage. Put in this clarifying context, the handshake in 2012 that the Queen offered to McGuinness became an ever more profound symbol of reconciliation. The 40th anniversary falls with the troubled border once more at the heart of geopolitics. “The problem with peace,” concluded the veteran Irish journalist Olivia O’Leary, “is you have to keep working at it.” Essential viewing for our leaders.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:00:00 -0400
  • This Picture Could Mean Russia and America Have Entered into a New Arms Race

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    The U.S. military on Aug. 18, 2019 successfully tested a ground-launched, intermediate-range, nuclear-capable cruise missile.It’s exactly the kind of kind of missile that the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF, had banned before the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump in early August 2019 formally withdrew from the treaty.With INF dead, the world’s nuclear balance is in flux. In the near term at least, it’s clear that the United States and Russia intend to deploy shorter-range nukes. It seems unlikely that a new treaty will halt these deployments.The flight test of America’s new “conventionally-configured, ground-launched cruise missile” took place at San Nicolas Island in California, the Pentagon announced.“The test missile exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers [310 miles] of flight,” the Defense Department stated.  “Data collected and lessons learned from this test will inform [the Defense Department's] development of future intermediate-range capabilities.”The missile appears to be a version of the Tomahawk cruise missile, which U.S. forces also deploy in sea- and air-launched versions.The U.S. military previously deployed a ground-launched Tomahawk from 1983 to 1991. The missile type boasted nuclear warhead and a 1,600-miles range. INF compelled the Americans and Russians respectively to withdraw 400 and 1,500 ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range between 310 and 3,400 miles.Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin doomed INF and heralded the return of quick-striking intermediate missiles.The first sign that the 1987 agreement was in trouble came in 2011, when the administration of then-U.S. president Barack Obama warned that new, intermediate-range nuclear-armed cruise missile—under development in Russia since 2008—could violate the terms of the treaty.The U.S. State Department in 2013 first raised the issue with the Kremlin. Later the same year, the White House formally announced that Russia was in violation of the treaty.The Americans were responsible for their own provocations. In 2015 the Pentagon began installing missile defenses in Romania. The non-nuclear SM-3 missile-interceptors are designed to hit ballistic missiles launched by Iran at the United States, and are not capable of stopping intermediate-range nukes launched from Europe.But the Russians viewed the SM-3s as a threat and cited them as an indication that the Americans were developing their own intermediate-range weapons. Sometime in 2017 the Russian military finally deployed its new intermediate-range missile, the SSC-8, at a site along Russia’s western frontier.Meanwhile, the Trump administration advanced plans for a host of new nukes, including smaller “tactical” atomic weapons that the White House might be more willing to use than larger, more powerful strategic weapons.The Trump administration also cited China as a rationale for canceling INF, as Beijing was never party to the 1987 treaty.Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in early 2018, codified U.S. rearmament plans, effectively mirroring Russia’s own new atomic deployments. INF’s demise freed both countries to develop and field a class of weapons that for decades have been absent from Europe.“The new policies only increase the chances of blundering into a nuclear war,” commented Bruce Blair, a Princeton University nuclear scholar.The United States could negotiate a new treaty to replace INF, Trump said in his February 2019 state-of-the-union address. And that treaty could include China, Trump claimed.That's unlikely to happen, explained Gregory Kulacki, a nuclear expert with the Massachusetts-based Union of Concerned Scientists.The United States probably would have to agree to broad limitations on its own weaponry in order to bring China to the table. But the Trump administration consistently has wanted fewer, not more, restrictions on its weapons."Decades ago the United States entered into a treaty with Russia in which we agreed to limit and reduce our missile capabilities," Trump said in his speech. "While we followed the agreement to the letter, Russia repeatedly violated its terms. That is why I announced that the United States is officially withdrawing.""Perhaps we can negotiate a different agreement, adding China and others," Trump added, "or perhaps we can't --- in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far."The problem for China isn't nuclear weapons, rather non-nuclear ones. "China has a small number of nuclear-armed ground-based intermediate-range missiles that would fall under the original INF treaty limits," Kulacki wrote. "But it also has a much larger number of conventionally-armed missiles in this class that seem to be the major concern of U.S. advocates of withdrawing from the treaty."“Figuring out how to negotiate an expanded INF treaty that would require China to dismantle them would introduce a number of new and difficult issues to resolve, but it could also lead to some very productive conversations on how to build trust and preserve the peace in East Asia,” Kulacki added.“Sadly, I suspect U.S. advocates of killing the INF treaty have no intention to talk to China about joining it.”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.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:48:00 -0400
  • The Latest: Omar calls on colleagues to visit Israel

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    Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is calling on other members of Congress to visit Israel while she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib cannot. Israel last week blocked the two Democratic House members from a planned trip to that country over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement. At a news conference in Minnesota, Omar says she and Tlaib are being prevented from carrying out their duties as members of Congress.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:47:24 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-UK's Johnson to EU: Let's replace backstop with commitment to alternative arrangements

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk on Monday to propose replacing the Irish backstop with a commitment to put in place alternative arrangements by the end of a post-Brexit transition period. In the letter, published by his office, Johnson repeated his calls for the backstop - an insurance policy to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland - to be removed from the deal the EU reached with his predecessor Theresa May.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:06:25 -0400
  • General accused of war abuses named Sri Lanka's army chief

    Sri Lanka's president on Monday appointed a general accused of grave human rights abuses in the final stages of its long civil war as the country's new army chief, a move a top United Nations human rights official said is likely to impact contributions to U.N peacekeeping missions. The new commander, Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, who was also promoted to the rank of lieutenant general, was in charge of the 58th Division which encircled the final stronghold of the Tamil Tiger rebels in the last stages of the civil war in 2009. Rights groups have accused the division of violating international human rights laws, including shelling a hospital.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:03:47 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson discussed economic issues, Brexit in call with Trump -spokesman

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday ahead of a Group of Seven summit in France this weekend, Johnson's office said. "They discussed economic issues and our trading relationship, and the Prime Minister updated the President on Brexit.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 15:40:00 -0400
  • Independence in the air in south Yemen after Aden clashes

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    Colourful flags emblazoned with a red star are being held aloft in Aden, reflecting the independence ambitions of southern Yemen after a separatist takeover of the city. Last week, fighters from the Security Belt Forces ousted unionist troops loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi from what was the capital of the formerly independent south. Both the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) and government forces have been fighting the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in a years-long war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 15:36:36 -0400
  • Putin, Macron spar over 'yellow vest' protests

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    Bormes-les-Mimosas (France) (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday vowed to prevent the emergence of any mass demonstrations in Moscow like the "yellow vest" anti-government protests that erupted in France late last year. "We would not want such a thing to happen in the Russian capital," Putin said after talks with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at the Bregancon fortress on France's Mediterranean coast.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 14:49:04 -0400
  • G7 must ban detergents that cause sea pollution, say French campaigners

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    Campaigners are lobbying G7 leaders who are to attend a summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz this week to ban detergents that cause marine pollution. Environmentalists say there is a “dead zone” in the Bay of Biscay off Biarritz, which they say is caused by a “chemical cocktail” of detergents discharged into the sea. Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, need only look out to sea when they are in Biarritz to realise the magnitude of the problem, campaigners say.  The pollution is invisible when the sea is calm, but when it is choppy a brownish foam can be seen. Tons of the foam are often deposited on the beaches around Biarritz, a popular surfing destination with surfers because of the area’s high waves. Georges Cingal, head of a federation of conservation groups, said: “The G7 should decide to withdraw petrochemical detergents from sale, as has already been done for some plastics. It’s only common sense if they don’t want dead zones to spread in our oceans, which are not yet dying completely, but are gravely ill.” Basque activists of "No G7" hold banners reading "This is not your playground" Credit: AP Photo/Bob Edme France Nature Environnement (FNE), a campaign group, says petrochemical micropollutants present in domestic detergents are “almost never treated by purification plants and end up in the sea”. Environmentalists are concerned about the impact of the chemicals on marine life. “Dead zones are waters containing very little oxygen where marine fauna is rare,” an FNE spokesman said. “Back in 2008, more than 400 of these areas had already been identified worldwide, covering 245,000 square kilometres (94,595 sq miles).” Even small quantities of the micropollutants are toxic to living organisms, according to the French Environment Ministry. Campaigners say only environmentally friendly detergents should be allowed.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 14:36:10 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-U.S. Senator Schumer says he would oppose any U.S.-UK trade deal imperiling Irish border

    U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday he would oppose any post-Brexit trade deal between the United States and Britain if it undermined the Good Friday agreement, which helped end three decades of violence in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday pact also dismantled all physical border infrastructure between European Union member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, guaranteeing that people and goods on either side can move freely. This cannot be allowed to happen," Schumer wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 14:28:30 -0400
  • If Endangered Species Act ends, no amount of money can bring back extinct animals | Opinion

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    Recently, the United Nations, a nonpartisan global authority, issued a sad and sobering report stating that under the present conditions, there is a strong possibility that up to 1 million species of wildlife will become extinct within the next several decades.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 14:10:15 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson and Ireland's Varadkar to meet in Dublin in early Sept -Irish govt statement

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar spoke by phone for almost an hour on Monday and agreed to meet in Dublin in early September, the Irish government said in a statement. During the call on Monday the two stuck to their existing positions, with Johnson saying the current Brexit deal on offer would not be approved by parliament and that the so-called Irish backstop needed to be removed and Varadkar reiterating the EU's line that the deal cannot be reopened.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 14:01:04 -0400
  • Russian panel eyes alleged foreign interference in protests

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    Russia's lower house of parliament on Monday set up a commission to examine alleged cases of foreign interference in connection with a series of protests against the Moscow city council election, while President Vladimir Putin defended the harsh police crackdown on some of the demonstrations. The commission established by the State Duma holds its first session on Aug. 30. This summer, thousands of people have demonstrated -- in both authorized and unsanctioned protests -- against the election board's exclusion of some opposition and independent candidates from the Sept. 8 election.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:35:14 -0400
  • Putin says Russian nuclear explosion poses no threat

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is no threat from a deadly explosion at a secretive naval weapons testing range that has prompted international concern about radiation leaks. Putin said Monday in France that experts sent to the site on the White Sea are "controlling the situation" and no "serious changes" have been reported. Russian authorities have given contradictory information about what happened.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:32:04 -0400
  • Palestinian police vow to crack down on planned LGBT event

    Palestinian police have threatened to arrest anyone involved in a gathering planned by LGBT activists and have called on people to come forward with information about them. The announcement over the weekend followed word that al-Qaws, an LGBT group in the Palestinian territories, was planning a gathering this week in the northern West Bank town of Nablus. The police are under the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:01:31 -0400
  • Iran Warns U.S. Against Seizing Oil Tanker Headed to Greece

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    (Bloomberg) -- Iran warned the U.S. against apprehending a supertanker carrying the Middle East country’s oil and said it couldn’t be clear on the ship’s ultimate destination, leaving the fate of the vessel uncertain as it sailed into the Mediterranean Sea from Gibraltar, where it had been detained.The tanker, formerly called the Grace 1 and re-named the Adrian Darya 1, was signaling Kalamata, Greece -- at least for now -- with an arrival date of Aug. 26, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg at 5:25 p.m. London time. It had previously been showing an arrival date of Aug. 25.The vessel left Gibraltar Sunday night after being detained there since early July, when British forces seized it on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions. The U.S., which has sanctions against Iran, is seeking to prevent anyone from doing business with the ship.Iranian Crude Tanker Leaves Gibraltar Waters: What Happens Next?U.S. sanctions mean Iran cannot be “very transparent” about the destination of the tanker, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at a press conference in Helsinki. He said the U.S. is trying to “bully others from purchasing our oil” and that he hopes the release of the vessel will de-escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf.A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.The incident is one of several in recent months that have strained relations between Iran and the West, following the U.S. reinstatement of sanctions on the Islamic Republic last year. Iran has maintained that the ship’s original detention on July 4 was unlawful. The Persian Gulf state continues to hold a U.K.-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero. Aggression in the region has threatened shipping in recent months in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most critical waterway for oil supplies.“The U.S. surely can’t seize the Iranian tanker and, if it does, it would pose a threat to international maritime security,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. Iran warned the U.S. via “diplomatic channels,” including Switzerland, against interfering with the tanker, in international waters, Mousavi said at a news conference in Tehran. Swiss diplomats serve as interlocutors between the U.S. and Iran.Destination UnclearIt’s not known where the Iranian vessel is ultimately headed. Greek authorities haven’t received formal notification that the vessel intends to head to a port in the country, according to a spokesman for Greece’s coast guard. Kalamata’s port usually serves pleasure craft like sailboats and cruise ships, data compiled by Bloomberg show.The waters off Kalamata could be a possible location for ship-to-ship cargo transfers, according to two vessel brokers without specific information about the tanker’s plans. A ship’s destination is entered manually into its Automatic Identification System and is picked up by vessel-tracking. The destinations can be altered multiple times on the same journey.Gibraltar rejected an attempt by the U.S. to block the Iranian supertanker, saying that EU regulations don’t allow it to seek a court order to detain the vessel.U.S. ComplaintA complaint unsealed in Washington stated that “Oil Tanker ‘Grace 1,’ all petroleum aboard it and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture,” according to a Justice Department statement. The statement alleges a “scheme to unlawfully access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments” of oil from Iran to Syria in violation of U.S. sanctions, money laundering and terrorism statutes.Gibraltar last week released the vessel, after the government said Iran had provided assurances that the ship would not sail to a destination sanctioned by the EU. In response, the U.S. said it was gravely disappointed with Britain, and it warned that ports, banks and anyone else who does business with the vessel or its crew might be subject to sanctions, according to two administration officials.(Updates vessel’s estimated arrival date in second paragraph, request for comment in fifth. An earlier version of this story included an incorrect spelling for a port official in Kalamata, Greece.)\--With assistance from Serene Cheong, Anthony DiPaola, Alex Longley, Julian Lee, Paul Tugwell, Kati Pohjanpalo and Nick Wadhams.To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Wingfield in London at bwingfield3@bloomberg.net;Arsalan Shahla in Tehran at ashahla@bloomberg.net;Verity Ratcliffe in Dubai at vratcliffe1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at anightingal1@bloomberg.net, Brian Wingfield, Rachel GrahamFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 12:58:54 -0400
  • Palestinian leader fires advisers, wants bonuses returned

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    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday laid off all of his advisers and ordered a former prime minister and other ex-Cabinet ministers to return tens of thousands of dollars from a pay raise he had secretly approved. Palestinian officials said the decisions, announced in official statements, came as part of efforts to cut costs and recuperate funds after Israel stopped delivering tax revenues earlier this year. The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has long faced charges of corruption and mismanagement.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 12:34:58 -0400
  • Saudi Arabia reports soldier killed near border with Yemen

    Saudi Arabia says a soldier was killed near the country's southern border with Yemen, where the kingdom has been at war against Houthi rebels for four and a half years. The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported the death on Monday, providing his name and his rank as a sergeant, but did not disclose how he died or specifically where. This marks the first time in years that the kingdom has publicly announced the death of a Saudi soldier at the border.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 12:31:02 -0400
  • US scraps West Bank conference over Palestinian protests

    The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday was forced to postpone a conference it organized in the West Bank city of Ramallah after Palestinian officials and factions called for a boycott and threatened to organize protests. The Palestinians cut all ties with the U.S. after it recognized disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017, and view the Trump administration as unfairly biased following a series of actions seen as hostile to their aspirations for an independent state. The embassy had organized a conference this week to bring together alumni of U.S. educational and cultural programs, including dozens of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who received permission from Israel to attend.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 12:12:15 -0400
  • A look at the Islamic State affiliate's rise in Afghanistan

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    A suicide bombing at a wedding party in Kabul claimed by a local Islamic State affiliate has renewed fears about the growing threat posed by its thousands of fighters, as well as their ability to plot global attacks from a stronghold in the forbidding mountains of northeastern Afghanistan. The attack came as the Taliban appear to be nearing a deal with the U.S. to end nearly 18 years of fighting. Now Washington hopes the Taliban can help rein in IS fighters, even as some worry that Taliban fighters, disenchanted by a peace deal, could join IS.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:57:01 -0400
  • Egypt court hands out 6 death sentences on terror charges

    An Egyptian court has sentenced six people to death on terror charges for carrying out attacks that killed at least three people, including a policeman, on the outskirts of the capital. Giza criminal court on Monday also sentenced 41 defendants, including 28 in absentia, to life in prison on similar charges, including possession of weapons and explosives. Kerdasa had been a hotbed of Islamist support for ex-President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the military in June 2013 after massive protests against his rule.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:45:13 -0400
  • US extends ban on passports for North Korea travel

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    The Trump administration is extending a ban on the use of U.S. passports for travel to North Korea for another year. A State Department notice released Monday says the ban will remain in place until Aug. 31, 2020, unless revoked by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY'-oh). The ban was imposed in September 2017 by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and renewed in 2018.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:38:56 -0400
  • Study Links Fluoridated Water During Pregnancy to Lower IQs

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    Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettyAn influential medical journal published a study Monday that links fluoride consumption during pregnancy with lower childhood IQs—a finding that could undermine decades of public-health messaging, fire up conspiracy theorists, and alarm mothers-to-be.The research was expected to be so controversial that JAMA Pediatrics included an editor’s note saying the decision to publish it was not easy and that it was subjected to “additional scrutiny.”“It is the only editor’s note I’ve ever written,” Dimitri Christakis, editor in chief of JAMA Pediatrics and a pediatrician, told The Daily Beast. “There was concern on the journal’s editorial team about how this would play out in the public eye and what the public-health implications would be.”About three-fourths of the United States drinks fluoridated tap water—which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared one of the 10 greatest public-health achievements of the 20th century because it dramatically reduces tooth decay.A handful of earlier studies have suggested that prenatal fluoride exposure could affect neurodevelopment, but many experts considered those to be substandard. The new study, vetted by the premier medical publisher in the U.S., is seen as more rigorous, although some experts found it unconvincing, saying the results were statistically borderline and the methodology was flawed.“When we started in this field, we were told that fluoride is safe and effective in pregnancy,” said study co-author Christine Till of York University in Toronto. “But when we looked for the evidence to suggest that it’s safe, we didn’t find any studies done on pregnant women.”They recruited 512 pregnant women from six Canadian cities and measured their exposure several ways: analyzing the amount of fluoride in their urine; looking at how much tap water and tea they drank; and comparing the fluoride concentration in the community drinking water.Then, when the women’s children were 3 or 4, the researchers gave them IQ tests and crunched the numbers to see if they could find any trends.“We saw an association between prenatal fluoride exposure and lower IQ scores in children,” study author Rivky Green said.Specifically, they found a 1 mg per liter increase in concentration of fluoride in urine was associated with a 4.5 point decrease in IQ among boys—though not girls. Another translation: The boys of mothers with the most fluoride in the urine had IQs about 3 points lower than the boys of mothers with the least amount.Although critics of the study pointed to the different results by gender as a red flag, when the researchers measured fluoride exposure by examining the women’s fluid intake, they found lower IQs in boys and girls. A 1 mg increase per day was associated with a 3.7-point  IQ deficit among both.While medical organizations are not advising that pregnant women avoid fluoridated water—and the study has no implications for the use of fluoride after birth—Green believes the results are significant enough to warrant a change in behavior. “What we recommend is lowering fluoride ingestion during pregnancy,” she said.Before publication, the study was subjected to two statistical reviews, with the researchers combing through the data to make sure that the results were not skewed by the mothers’ education, income levels, or other factors.The findings were astonishing to JAMA editors, who had been told throughout their medical training that fluoridation was completely safe and that opponents were wingnuts relying on “junk science.”“When I first saw this title, my initial inclination was, ‘What the hell?’” Christakis said on a JAMA podcast. “For me, before there were anti-vaxxers, there were sort of anti-fluoriders.”In fact, fluoride has been a boogeyman in conspiracy circles for decades. When water fluoridation became widespread in the U.S. in the '50s, some claimed it was a Soviet plot to physically and mentally weaken Americans. The far-right John Birch Society, among others, accused the U.S. government of using fluoride to usher in socialism—a conspiracy theory famously satirized in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Doctor Strangelove.Anti-Fluoriders Are The OG Anti-VaxxersSome modern conspiracy theorists have claimed fluoridated water is a form of mind control, while others falsely link it to Adolf Hitler. Some allege a corporate conspiracy: They think the dentistry industry or food companies are fluoridating water for their own purposes.Others still claim fluoridated water causes illness ranging from thyroid dysfunction to cancer. Infowars founder Alex Jones has frequently railed against fluoride in hyperbolic terms, and his site sells anti-fluoride products.Arguments that the government is medicating people against their will has had an impact. Over the past five years, dozens of U.S. cities have voted to remove fluoride from their drinking water, much to the dismay of federal officials who say the criticism is based on bunk.According to the CDC, a pile of studies show fluoridated water reduces cavities by 25 percent in children and adults, helps young children develop strong permanent teeth, and protects tooth enamel in grownups.It’s all but certain that anti-fluoride activists, no matter how outlandish their ideas, will seize on the new study results as proof they were right all along. The findings also pose a conundrum for health-care providers and their pregnant patients.“The effects of this study are comparable to the effects of lead, and if these findings are true there should be as much concern about prenatal fluoride exposure,” Christakis told The Daily Beast.The CDC declined to discuss the study, saying it does not comment on outside research.  The American Academy of Pediatrics said it is looking forward to future studies “to see if they demonstrate the same results or provide more conclusive evidence.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which recommends that pregnant women use fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinses, isn’t making any changes for now.“We wouldn’t change our guidelines without undertaking our thorough clinical-review process,” ACOG spokeswoman Kate Connors said.Sophia Lubin, an OB-GYN in Brooklyn, New York, said she’s never had a patient ask her about fluoridated water, but expects she will be questioned about it now.“As an obstetrician, you always have to think about two people—the mother and the baby,” she said. ”And oral health is important for mothers.”She anticipates telling women that if they are truly concerned, they can switch to bottled water during pregnancy. But she doesn’t think, at this point, that she will tell patients they should not drink from the tap.One part of the study that struck her was how much fluoride is in black tea, which soaks it up from soil. She said she is more likely to tell patients to cut back on tea than on water, since it’s important they stay hydrated.“This left me with a lot more questions than answers,” Lubin said.Linda Murray, senior vice president of BabyCenter, the online pregnancy hub, said concerns about fluoride will join an already long list of potential danger zones for expectant mothers. “It’s an anxious time for women as it is. Every pregnant woman wants to do everything she can do to have a healthy baby, and they’re hyper-aware,” she said.Pregnant women are already told to avoid too much coffee, raw sushi, fish high in mercury, deli meats, alcohol. But water is in a league of its own.“You can live without your California roll, but this is an everyday thing, and we tell pregnant people to stay hydrated,” Murray said.She suggested that until there is a broad consensus about how to respond to the study, women should focus on the things they can do to improve pregnancy outcomes: seeing a health-care provider early on, taking prenatal vitamins, eating healthy—and worrying less.“Stress and anxiety are not healthy for pregnancy,” she said.Meet The Putin-Loving Congressman Who’s Worried About Fluoride In Our Drinking WaterThe study authors noted a number of limitations, the most significant of which is that they did not assess how much fluoride the children were exposed to after birth.Dr. Stuart Ritchie, a neuroscientist at King’s College London, called the finding “pretty weak.”“They might be interesting as part of a larger set of studies on this question, but alone they shouldn’t move the needle much at all on the question of the safety of fluoride,” he wrote.But in an analysis that accompanied the study, Harvard Professor David Bellinger said that while “high-quality epidemiological studies” are needed, “the hypothesis that fluoride is a neurodevelopmental toxicant must now be given serious consideration.”Those kinds of studies take time—which doesn’t help millions of parents-to-be who may be looking for advice now.“The question that needs to be asked to every pediatrician, scientist, and epidemiologist is what they’re going to tell pregnant women,” said Christakis, who says he will advise his pregnant friends and family to avoid fluoridated water.“We can’t tell them to wait years for another study. They have to decide what to tell their patients now.”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.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:00:19 -0400
  • Huawei just got the ban reprieve it needs to release the Mate 30 Pro and Mate X

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    August 19th marks the end of the temporary reprieve the US government gave Huawei after banning its access to American products, including hardware components as well as software licenses it needs to manufacture and sell all sorts of devices. But that doesn't mean Huawei will no longer be able to conduct business with US-based partners, as the Commerce Department was expected on Monday to extend the reprieve by several months. The extension was just announced, which means Huawei has ample time to launch two of its most important products of the year, including the Mate 30 Pro and Mate X foldable.The Mate X was recently delayed to November, while the Mate 30 Pro is rumored to be unveiled on September 19th, one day ahead of Apple's iPhone 11 release. In both cases, we're looking at dates beyond the initial August 19th deadline.When the ban was first announced, several US companies cut ties with Huawei, at least temporarily. It soon became clear that Huawei might not be able to manufacture and sell Android handsets under the ban, but the Chinese conglomerate made it clear that any phones launched with Google's Android would continue to receive software updates.Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters a few days ago that the "temporary general license" would be extended for 80 days.The same sources said the situation remains fluid and might change ahead of the deadline on Monday. US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to discuss the matter during a call over the weekend. While the ban on Huawei may be founded, there's reason to believe the company is being used as a bargaining chip in the US-China trade war.The government blacklisted Huawei, alleging that the company violated US sanctions against Iran. Moreover, Huawei had to defend itself against allegations that its telecom equipment, including smartphones and networking gear, could be used to spy on Americans.Without a reprieve extension, several of the major US tech giants doing business with Huawei would not be able to supply parts to the Chinese smartphone vendor. Moreover, Huawei's Mate 30 Pro and Mate X launch plans might be severely impacted.Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters last month that more than 50 applications for special licenses to sell to Huawei were received. Huawei spent about $11 billion in the US last year out of the total of $70 billion it paid for parts. Companies including Intel, Qualcomm, and Micron are among Huawei's suppliers, but they're hardly the only ones. Replacing its supply chain might be problematic, and the list of problems does include Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows. These two operating systems obviously power Huawei smartphones, tablets, and PCs.Ross said on Monday that the US government will indeed extend the reprieve by 90 days, Reuters reports. He also said that 46 Huawei affiliates have been added to the Entity List, raising the total to over 100 Huawei entities covered by the ban.It's unclear what will happen come November when the new deadline expires. "Everybody has had plenty of notice of it, there have been plenty of discussions with the president," Ross said, adding that the extension is supposed to help mainly those US customers who operate networks in rural America.The report notes that Huawei is still prohibited from buying American parts and components for new products without additional special licenses. Ross said that there were no "specific licenses being granted for anything" on Monday.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:58:03 -0400
  • How History Can Actually Solve the South Korea-Japan Crisis

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    Korea-Japan relations, already strained by South Korean Supreme Court rulings last fall ordering Japanese companies to compensate World War II victims of forced labor, began breaking down across new issue areas this summer with no clear resolution in sight. These countries, both U.S. treaty allies, have quarreled over historical issues tied to Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of Korea several times in the past. But recently their political spats have bled into the economic and security dimensions of their relationship in unprecedented ways, with implications for global supply chains as well as Washington’s capacity to respond to regional security challenges from North Korea and China. Despite this grim situation, previous cycles of contention provide insights on how to turn shaking fists into handshakes. South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s conciliatory tone toward Japan in his August 15 statement marking the anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule was a good first step, resembling moves that helped to reset relations following past episodes of bickering. To consolidate this positive turn, Seoul and Tokyo should take advantage of additional upcoming opportunities to dial down tensions, starting with renewing an important bilateral intelligence-sharing agreement this week on August 24. Ties in a tailspin with high stakesIn early July, Japan restricted bilateral economic ties with South Korea for the first time since their 1965 normalization of relations. Japan tightened export controls on materials essential for South Korea’s production of semiconductors and displays. While Tokyo has cited vague security concerns for these actions, Seoul views them as retaliation for its Supreme Court rulings. On August 2, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet approved the further step of removing South Korea from a so-called white list of countries that are allowed relaxed export procedures for a number of items with possible military applications. Thereafter, on August 12, South Korean President Moon Jae-in moved on plans to remove Japan from Seoul’s own list of preferential trading partners. South Korea’s deputy national security adviser also threatened to withdraw from the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is critical to intelligence sharing in the wake of North Korean provocations. In addition to the mounting economic costs of this dispute, security conditions in the region are deteriorating. North Korea has tested short-range missiles and projectiles six times since late July. And on July 23, South Korean defense officials reported that Russia violated its airspace for the first time during joint military exercises with China. Absent bilateral cooperation, South Korea and Japan, along with the United States, are in a much weaker position to address these challenges. On the flip side, North Korea and China will only be further emboldened by deepening rifts between their regional rivals. Restoring cooperative relations is essential and urgent, but it will not be easy. Publics in both South Korea and Japan have rallied behind hardline actions and nationalist rhetoric in recent weeks. Conventional wisdom dictates that surges in nationalism tie the hands of leaders in the context of international disputes. But an examination of de-escalation processes from previous episodes of Japan-South Korea contention suggests that band-aids to stop the bleeding—if not completely heal underlying wounds in this relationship—remain within the reach of Moon and Abe. Possible pathways outThree de-escalatory lessons from the past are useful in identifying opportunities for Seoul and Tokyo to defuse tensions in the coming days and weeks. Lesson 1: External crises can help leaders justify pragmatic turns in the midst of rallied nationalism. In the past, wild card events like North Korean missile or nuclear tests and financial crises provided political space for leaders in Seoul and Tokyo to back off from hardline stances in their bilateral disputes. Considering the shifting context, the South Korean and Japanese publics in these cases generally understood the need to tamp down tensions to cooperate on more pressing issues. For instance, in 1996, then-South Korean President Kim Young Sam ramped up tensions over contested islands referred to as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan by building a new pier on one of the islands and reinstating military exercises nearby. With the onset of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, however, Kim saw the need to seek Japanese economic assistance and toned down his tough stance on the islands. Similarly, a phase of strained ties from 2005-06—which involved a Japanese prefecture’s establishment of “Takeshima Day” and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun’s warning about a “diplomatic war” between Seoul and Tokyo—de-escalated following North Korea’s long-range missile and nuclear tests in 2006. Considering these past trends, the Moon administration should cite the North Korean missile tests and China-Russia joint exercises as rationales for continuing Japan-Korea security cooperation, specifically the renewal of GSOMIA on August 24. The South Korean public is more likely to support this move if its leaders emphasize the urgency of coordinating security postures and sharing intelligence in the face of fast-developing regional threats. Lesson 2: Export-oriented businesses avoid getting swept up in nationalism, providing leaders with steady sources of support for de-escalation. South Korea and Japan are each on one another’s lists of top five trading partners, and both countries rely on exports to fuel their economies. The preferences of export-oriented businesses , therefore, matter to politicians and to the publics at large.During previous phases of South Korea-Japan contention, these groups have quietly kept economic channels open, hoping to insulate their bottom lines from political battles. On the rare occasions when trade ties appeared to be threatened, leaders of business federations like Japan’s Keidanren (Japanese Business Federation) and South Korea’s Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) publicly lobbied for a return to cooperative relations. The current round of tensions may involve some shifts in these dynamics. Companies in Japan targeted by South Korea’s Supreme Court ruling have a vested interest in supporting Abe’s hardline stance. Some South Korean business leaders reportedly also support President Moon’s plans to reduce economic dependence on Japan. But these moves will be costly and time consuming for the businesses involved. Recent statements and polls suggest that the companies hardest hit by the export curbs in South Korea do not favor the prolongation of this dispute. For instance, FKI Vice Chairman Kwon Tae-shin recently warned in an “emergency” seminar on Japan’s export controls that retaliatory moves by the South Korean government could invite further costly reprisals from Tokyo, while boycotts of Japanese products and visit cancellations “will only exacerbate the conflict rather than resolving it.” And a recent poll conducted by The Chosun Ilbo, a conservative South Korean daily, indicated that a large majority of the country’s top twenty conglomerates favor a diplomatic solution and none support retaliatory actions like restricting Korean exports to Japan. This suggests that President Moon will retain the support of powerful business interests if he takes further steps to ease tensions. In seeking a diplomatic solution to this crisis, he might find it helpful to open quiet, depoliticized channels to brainstorm business-led paths to de-escalation, along the lines of Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong’s visit to Japan shortly after Tokyo announced the initial export controls. Seoul and Tokyo should also publicly endorse the rescheduling of the Korea-Japan Business Conference, which was postponed in the spring due to bilateral tensions but is reportedly set to occur in September. With regular diplomatic channels not functioning well, this annual gathering of public and private economic officials is certain to take on greater significance than usual. Lesson 3: Symbolic concessions can provide domestic nationalist constituencies with rationales for backing down. In recent decades, symbolic concessions, like more “sincere” apologies for wartime misdeeds, have not fully resolved underlying historical issues. But they have helped to mollify grassroots nationalist pressure on leaders to maintain a hardline, thereby opening paths to de-escalation. For instance, in October 1998, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo issued a joint declaration involving a symbolic trade—an apology from Japan for its colonial-era transgressions in exchange for praise from South Korea for Japan’s positive international contributions. These statements by Kim and Obuchi helped defuse what was at that time a protracted wave of tensions over the Dokdo/Takeshima islands and fishing negotiations, while facilitating higher levels of economic cooperation to weather the Asian financial crisis. Symbolic concessions can also help smooth a path toward more cooperative dynamics in the present day. President Moon’s statement on August 15, known as “Liberation Day” in Korea because it marks the end of Japan’s colonization of the Peninsula, helped to set a new tone at the leadership level. Rather than repeating his battle-ready rhetoric of recent weeks, Moon extended an olive branch, stating: “Better late than never: if Japan chooses the path of dialogue and cooperation, we will gladly join hands. We will strive with Japan to create an East Asia that engages in fair trade and cooperation.” He even went so far as to promote the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, noting, “I look forward to seeing the Tokyo Olympics become a source of hope for friendship and cooperation.” Through this move, Moon signaled Seoul’s willingness to start a fresh chapter with Tokyo. By doing so, he left nationalist actors in Japan with less fodder to push for further hardline moves. The ball is now in Tokyo’s court to reciprocate the warmth or risk looking like the more unreasonable actor on the world stage. Conclusion: Moon and Abe must take the initiativeThese three potential pathways to de-escalation emphasize the degree to which South Korea and Japan maintain their agency to defuse tensions, even in the context of spiraling escalation and heightened nationalism. Moon and Abe have sought U.S. and international support to help resolve current tensions and should continue to do so. But the urgency of this situation, together with the likelihood that third-party mediation will not be able to deliver results quickly enough, necessitate that Tokyo and Seoul not sit back and wait for outside powers to save the day. The United States, in particular, has been slow to provide arbitration assistance in this round. In tandem with seeking outside support, Tokyo and Seoul must also summon their own capacities and resolve to pull themselves out of this bitter impasse that threatens to leave both countries, and the U.S.-backed regional order, depleted. Lessons from periods of bilateral recuperation in the past can help them illuminate pathways for doing so. Katrin Fraser Katz is an Adjunct Fellow in the Office of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a U.S.-Korea NextGen Scholar. She served as director for Japan, Korea and Oceanic Affairs on the staff of the U.S. National Security Council from 2007 to 2008.Image: Reuters

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:49:00 -0400
  • Sudan protesters, army postpone announcement on ruling body

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    Sudan's ruling military council said on Monday the country's pro-democracy movement has asked for a delay on the announcement of a joint ruling body because of last-minute, internal disputes over the opposition appointees. The new, 11-member body — called the sovereign council — is to rule Sudan for a little over three years until elections can be held. The body was envisaged under a power-sharing deal between the military and the protesters that sought to resolve weeks of standoff in the wake of the April ouster of Omar al-Bashir, the country's autocratic president of 30 years.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:46:21 -0400
  • Angela Merkel successor in row over former intelligence chief

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    Angela Merkel’s chosen successor has become embroiled in a public row over a former intelligence chief — almost a year after a same official almost brought down Mrs Merkel’s government. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who took over as leader of Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrat party (CDU) last year and is also defence minister, appeared to call for Hans-Georg Maassen to be expelled from the party. But she came under immediate fire from her own party as powerful factions within the CDU backed the former intelligence chief. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer was accused of damaging the party ahead of regional elections next month, and there were even calls for her to be replaced as CDU leader. Mr Maassen has now proved to be a thorn in the side of both Mrs Merkel and her protege. As head of the BfV domestic intelligence agency, he caused a government crisis last year when he publicly contradicted Mrs Merkel over the severity of far-Right protests in the city of Chemnitz. He denied that foreigners were being "hunted" in the streets, only for video evidence to later emerge supporting Mrs Merkel's version of events.  Forced into early retirement over that dispute, he has emerged as one of the chancellor's leading critics within the CDU. Hans-Georg Maassen, former domestic intelligence chief, has proved to be a thorn in the side of Mrs Merkel and her successor Credit:  UWE MEINHOLD/EPA-EFE/REX Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer appeared to signal her patience was at an end in an interview with a German newspaper group at the weekend, saying: “There are high hurdles to be cleared before you can expel some one from a party for good reason, but I do not see any attitude in Mr Maassen that really connects him with the CDU.” But her comments came under attack from the conservative wing of the party. “Mr Maassen enjoys great trust among voters and party members,” Alexander Mitsch, leader of the CDU's influential Values Union faction, said. “These mind games about expulsion from the party harm the CDU and could lead to a split.” Party leaders in eastern Germany, where the CDU faces a stiff challenge in regional elections this autumn, distanced themselves from Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s remarks. “This is the wrong way,” said Michael Kretschmer, the regional prime minister of Saxony and a key CDU figure. Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer attempted to row back, telling reporters: “I did not call for his expulsion from the party in the interview or anywhere else”. But her initial remarks were widely viewed as the latest in a series of mis-steps that have seen her approval ratings plummet since she took over as CDU leader.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:31:10 -0400
  • 4 German children born to IS to return home from Syria

    Four German children fathered by Islamic State militants, including an ill toddler, were handed over to Germany on Monday by Syria's Kurdish-led administration, a Kurdish official and Germany's foreign minister said. The children had been held in detention camps in Syria alongside over 70,000 women and children, many of them foreigners, who emerged from the last IS-controlled territories in Syria. Two of the German children are orphans, while a third, who is six months old, is ill.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:17:55 -0400
  • German minister discusses Mideast conflict on Jordan visit

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    Germany's defense minister has reaffirmed its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a visit to neighboring Jordan. Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi said they discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the "challenges we're facing in relation to Jerusalem," where tensions have risen over a holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Jordan strongly supports the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:14:49 -0400
  • Merkel, Orban stress unity on Iron Curtain anniversary

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    German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a conciliatory tone Monday alongside her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban as they commemorated the 30th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. The two leaders were speaking after marking the anniversary of the "Pan-European Picnic" held at the Austro-Hungarian border in 1989, which saw at least 600 East Germans cross the border and escape to freedom in the West. The first mass exodus of East Germans since the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, it was seen as a key factor in the fall of the wall itself three months later.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:03:05 -0400
  • Leaked 'no-deal' Brexit report warns of civil unrest and food supply disruptions

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    The U.K. government has looked to play down concerns about leaked documents that outlined preparations for Brexit, which included warnings about fuel, food and medicine shortages, as well as severe travel disruption and civil unrest if Britain leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal. The report, entitled "Operation Yellowhammer" and made by the Cabinet Office, was leaked to the Sunday Times, with the Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the EU just over 10 weeks away. The "Base Scenario" for a "no-deal" Brexit, which is the minimum expectation according to the report, suggests that "public and business readiness for no-deal will remain at a low level," as outlined in the Sunday Times.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:44:21 -0400
  • Let's Not Turn Kashmir Into Another Gaza

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    The world is witnessing a rise of populist politics. The sphere of such politics is so vast that it produces leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson from the developed nations as well as populists such as Imran Khan and Narendra Modi from the developing countries of the world. While the memories of the referendum for Brexit in the United Kingdom and the passage of anti-immigration legislation in the United States are still fresh, the world is currently listening to the beat of a similar drum in India in the face of the passage of a controversial resolution repealing Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian constitution. This resolution has annulled the special status involving the semi-autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K;) and has placed the region directly under the Indian Union and the Indian Constitution. A landslide victory in the recent 2019 elections and subsequent powerful presence of the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP in the Parliament facilitated the passage of this controversial resolution, fulfilling one of its main campaign milestones.According to the Indian perspective, the government of India will be able to control the region more strictly and unswervingly towards curbing the ongoing militancy, terrorism, and turbulence in the region of J&K;. Thus, BJP leaders and conservative Indian nationals are hailing the decision.Conversely, the opposition parties in India and the Muslim leaders of J&K; are protesting the repeal of Article 370 and 35A. Likewise, there has been a massive outcry from Pakistan against the repealing of the articles. Pakistan considers this a matter of violation of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution on Kashmir. For Pakistan, it is another instance of depriving Kashmiris of their inherent right to self-determination. In a letter to the United Nations, Pakistan has requested that the UN take formal notice of the issue.We opine that by repealing the articles, India has, in truth, deployed “lawfare” against Pakistan to counter Pakistan’s claims on the disputed territory of Kashmir. Lawfare—a mixture of two words, law and warfare—is a strategy of using the law as a weapon of warfare, according to retired Army Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., which can also be waged without the presence of an actual armed attack. Therefore, it is also regarded as an element of hybrid warfare strategy in the contemporary era. The use of lawfare is not a new phenomenon. Nations have historically used lawfare to secure a competitive advantage against their rivals. For example, the Dutch East India Company hired Hugo Grotius in 1600 to propose a lawful policy to counter Portuguese control over the spice trade route along the Indian coast. Likewise, in the contemporary era, the People’s Republic of China has resorted to efficiently deploying lawfare as a strategy of achieving competitive advantage over its adversaries and neighboring countries. Similarly, Shurat Hadin of Israel has also resorted to offensive lawfare by filing lawsuits on companies that offered assistance to the flotilla from reaching Gaza. India has followed a similar style of using law for gaining a competitive advantage over its rival, Pakistan. India had also used lawfare earlier when it took Pakistan to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the arrest and death sentence of Indian-national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was convicted by a military court in Pakistan. As per the last hearing of this case, the ICJ has asked Pakistan for a reconsideration of the death sentence of Jadhav. Hence, India has successfully used lawfare against Pakistan, and New Delhi’s recent repeal of Constitutional Articles 370 and 35A is a continuation of its lawfare strategy. Furthermore, since India used domestic law to repeal the decades-old special status of the internationally recognized and disputed territories of J&K;, it is crucial to investigate if India has violated any international law, norm, treaty or principal. One perspective states that India may have harmed the letter and spirit of international laws and norms because the territory of J&K; was given to India by the Maharaja of Kashmir on the conditions that were stipulated in Article 370 and Article 35A; however, the other dominant narrative affirms that India has not violated international law or any treaties because it has made the legislation for a region that was already under its legal control per the international law. Hence, the world is likely to not stringently oppose India's actions.Nonetheless, the repercussions of India’s lawfare strategy can be seriously damaging to regional peace. Firstly, while Pakistan has already embarked upon a grand strategic reset and is also mediating negotiations between the United States and the Taliban, India’s employment of lawfare could potentially harm the effectiveness of the U.S.-Taliban talks. This, by extension, is detrimental to world peace. For the two nuclear powers with China in proximity, any lawfare like this can have severe repercussions for not only the Kashmiris but also for the entire international community, especially for South Asia.Secondly, Kashmiri Muslims are feeling apprehension since J&K;’s Muslim majority status is under threat: the repeal of Articles 370 and 35A now permits Hindu nationals from other regions of India to buy property in the J&K; region. However, a rational analysis of this concern may suggest it as negligible, since Indians may not be interested in buying property in the J&K; region due to the ongoing upheaval and the deterioration of law and order. Moreover, Kashmiri locals’ protests against the decision to annul Kashmir’s special status and routine skirmishes between the Mujahideen party and the Indian Army should further discourage Indian nationals from buying property in the conflict-affected J&K; region. The only way through which the Indian government can create a scenario that is more conducive to the purchase of property in J&K; is through initiating a settlement plan in the manner done by Israel in the Palestinian region. Such a settlement plan would undoubtedly ignite the Kashmir issue more harshly and may threaten to create conditions for J&K; residents like what the Palestinians have faced in recent decades. The settlement plan may make J&K; take a shift from a Muslim majority region to a Hindu majority or to more like a balanced-ethnic populous region. The world needs to ponder on this before the Kashmir issue may become as serious, complex, and threatening to the regional and international peace as the Palestinian issue is.Thirdly, India’s waging of hybrid warfare through its lawfare strategy will most likely invite a reactionary policy from Pakistan. This can either be in the form of lawfare via approaching the ICJ or in some other hybrid-warfare endeavor. The indulgence into the latter option would cause both rival countries to engage in hybrid warfare against each other. As such a strategy also includes overt and covert operations, covert warfare missions may force the entire region to face uncalculated security risks. With both countries being nuclear powers with capable military forces, it is highly recommended that diplomacy should be reinitiated between them. In response to the growing tensions between India and Pakistan, President Donald Trump has reiterated his offer (a conditional offer only upon invitation) to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, but the Indian side has again rejected this offer; New Delhi continues to maintain that it has never asked any country to mediate on the Kashmir issue and that it seeks to resolve the issue bilaterally with Pakistan. It is likely that Modi may have kept President Trump’s eagerness to mediate on Kashmir issue in his mind. Therefore, the BJP has abruptly ended Kashmir’s special status to include the region within the Indian Union so that if the United States ever pressures India to accept Trump’s mediation on the Kashmir issue, India could counter that Kashmir is its internal region and, therefore, that any third-party mediation would be an offense and meddling in Indian domestic affairs. What is probable is that the United States and the European Union (EU) will not seek to reverse India’s decision to annul Kashmir’s special status, even though the United States has, earlier on, declared the entire Kashmir region as a disputed territory—including the Azad Kashmir of the Pakistani side. The non-reaction would be motivated by the significant trade volume and economic ties between India and the United States and the EU in comparison to the existing U.S. and EU trade with Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan is unlikely to receive substantial support from the international community on pressuring India over Kashmir. Yet what is certain is that regional tensions are escalating again. Post-revocation, India has added 35,000 troops to the J&K; region, cut off internet access, and placed several leaders under house arrest. Soldiers are alert on the Line of Control. It is unclear how Pakistan will respond: whether it would opt for a defensive lawfare strategy or would end up supporting covert operations as its hybrid warfare response to India. The use of force could be detrimental for either side. Pakistan’s lawfare response would be to use international fora such as the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court to prevent India from implementing its recent controversial legislation. It will be necessary for the United States and other world leaders to step-in for the sustenance of world peace. If they show any apathy, Pakistan’s engagement with India could serve to halt the delicate U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations. Additionally, the United Nations should use its discretion to cool the temperature between the two countries. The world certainly cannot afford to see another Gaza, forever causing the spillover of violence with no peaceful end in sight.Nasir Javaid is a graduate of Lahore University of Management Sciences and is currently working as a research associate in Qureshi Law Associates, Islamabad. He tweets at @Nasir_MinhasMuhammad Salar Khan is a Ph.D. Public Policy candidate and graduate research assistant at Schar School of Policy & Government, George Mason University. He tweets at @salarppolicyImage: Reuters.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:30:00 -0400
  • Germany Readying Stimulus Plan as Contingency for Deep Recession

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.The German government is getting ready to act to shore up Europe’s largest economy, preparing fiscal stimulus measures that could be triggered by a deep recession, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.The program would be designed to bolster the domestic economy and consumer spending to prevent large-scale unemployment, said the people who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Similar to bonuses granted in the 2009 crisis to prod Germans to buy new cars, the government is studying incentives to improve energy efficiency of homes, promote short-term hiring and boost income through social welfare, the people said.Bunds extended declines while the euro briefly rose as much as 0.2% to $1.1114 before slipping back.Signs are mounting that Germany’s rigid adherence to its balanced-budget policy is softening. On Sunday, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz suggested the government would aim to muster 50 billion euros ($55 billion) of extra spending in case of an economic crisis. Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the economy is “heading into a difficult phase” and that her government will react “depending on the situation.”Germany’s central bank warned on Monday that the economy could be about to slip into recession, adding to the pressure on policy makers to ramp up support.With Europe’s largest economy slowing sharply and Merkel’s coalition becoming increasingly unpopular, pressure has increased at home and abroad for the famously frugal Germans to open the purse strings. Sticking to a balanced-budget policy for roughly a decade has allowed Germany to slash public debt to 60% of gross domestic product from 83% over the past decade.“Considering that industrial weakness has now persisted for one and a half years, it is remarkable how slowly the debate has moved so far,” Greg Fuzesi, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, said in a note. “This is partly because the desire to cut government debt is deeply held by all mainstream parties and because the economic slowdown has felt “strange” so far, with spillovers to the labour market only beginning to emerge now, and in modest scale.”The hurdles for a stimulus program remain high. The government requires the lower house of parliament to declare a crisis so it can issue debt beyond the normal guidelines allowed during a recession. Without a sense of wide-spread malaise that approval could be difficult to justify, and Germany is still officially predicting an economic recovery before the end of the year.What Bloomberg’s Economists Say...“By the end of the year we estimate the German economy might be about 1% smaller than it could have been if the slowdown had been avoided. It could take spending of between 30 billion and 110 billion euros to reverse that damage.”--Jamie Rush.Read his GERMANY INSIGHTEven with German output contracting in the second quarter, officials in Merkel’s administration are wary that a knee-jerk spending spree would fuel imports and savings rather than bolster industrial output and protect jobs, said the people.Industrial capacity utilization would have to drop significantly for fiscal stimulus to have a meaningful impact, they said. Currently, spending in the amount of 1% of gross domestic product would boost growth by less than 0.5 percentage points, a ratio they consider insufficient.(Adds charts, quotes throughout.)\--With assistance from Carolynn Look and Jana Randow.To contact the reporter on this story: Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond Colitt, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:27:24 -0400
  • Iran warns US against seizing tanker

    Golocal247.com news

    Tehran said it had warned its arch-foe Washington against attempting to seize an Iranian tanker, which sailed into international waters Monday after being released from Gibraltar. Iran had been locked in a six-week standoff with US ally Britain since Royal Marines seized the tanker off British territory Gibraltar, on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. Little more than two weeks later, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps impounded the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker in strategic Gulf waters in what London called a tit-for-tat move.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:22:41 -0400
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