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  • US-Turkey frictions raise doubts about nukes at Turk base

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    Frayed U.S. relations with Turkey over its incursion in Syria raise a sensitive question rarely discussed in public: Should the United States remove the nuclear bombs it has long stored at a Turkish air base? It's a tricky matter for several reasons, including the fact that by longstanding policy, the U.S. government does not publicly acknowledge locations of nuclear weapons overseas. President Donald Trump implicitly acknowledged the stockpile this week when asked by a reporter how confident he was of the bombs' security.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:50:42 -0400
  • Holding Off Stimulus in Germany Isn’t Just Political Mantra

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    (Bloomberg) -- When German officials get nagged about delivering major fiscal stimulus, they have plenty of answers ready for why now isn’t the moment.“I think we did a lot,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington on Friday. “The more important question is what will happen to the global economy.”Germany’s arguments don’t just rely on the national fixation with budget prudence and the avoidance of debt though. Officials also cite their assessment of the current situation in Europe’s biggest economy, as well as tactical considerations on how a stimulus package would be effective.Such reasoning might be used often this week in Washington as Scholz and colleagues attend meetings of the International Monetary Fund, which on Tuesday called for Germany to invest more and reduce taxes to aid its faltering economy. Two days later, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government cut its growth forecast for 2020 to just 1%, after earlier predicting 1.5%. Data due next month may even show the economy has just slipped into recession.The IMF is far from alone. Outgoing European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said last month that it is time for “fiscal policy to take charge” in the region, and is likely to repeat that refrain at his final meeting next week. Germany, with ample fiscal space built on repeated budget surpluses, is a prime candidate.Angel Gurria, chief of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, made a similar call on Thursday in Washington.“Even the central banks run out of ammunition -- right now, we have to complement their easing,” he told Bloomberg Television. “Countries that have room, that do not have a very big debt-to-GDP ratio, they should spend more.”Scholz said recent measures in Germany, such as higher public investment and tax cuts for individuals, will boost growth. “And this is in a situation when the economy is still stable” and employment is high, he said. While the opposition by some German lawmakers to a fiscal boost is starting to thaw, the government is holding firm for now. Here’s a look at some of the arguments they’re deploying to keep calls for stimulus at bay, based on public statements, private briefings, and confidential conversations with officials.Studying the CycleOne argument is that Germany’s slowdown doesn’t fundamentally stem from domestic weakness and the economic cycle. It’s a result of external and political factors, including global trade tensions and Brexit-related disruption. Such a situation isn’t best served by a classic stimulus response and doesn’t need measures that would normally counter the ebbing of the cycle.It’s Not AppropriateA continuation of that point is that the economy is actually close to its speed limit, with areas such as construction, where a lack of workers is causing bottlenecks, threatening to constrain expansion. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann argued that on Wednesday, saying calls for German fiscal stimulus are “completely disconnected” from reality.“The economy is working with an almost-closed output gap,” he said in response to questions at an event in New York. “Why would you spend money when you are operating at full capacity?”Two-Speed EconomyGerman weakness has generally been limited to manufacturing and isn’t widespread, runs another argument. The auto industry has suffered from trade tensions and a slow response to the global shift toward electric vehicles. But the domestic economy remains healthy, thanks to unemployment near a record low and the benefits of extreme monetary easing.The line of reasoning holds that past spillovers from the industrial sector to the consumer aren’t happening this time, because the link between the two is weaker than it was.“It’s a two-speed Germany,” Trevor Greetham, head of multi-asset management at Royal London Asset Management, told Bloomberg Television. “The consumer is okay, and the housing market is actually rising quite strongly.”The Time Isn’t RightAnother view holds that a major budget stimulus should only be unveiled when it’s widely perceived to be needed. A fiscal boost may be more potent if announced at a time when things are really seen to be deteriorating. That was the experience in 2009 during the global financial crisis. But if ordinary people aren’t much feeling the effects of economic weakness, stimulus now could be less efficient than it otherwise would be.It Needs ThoughtA further point Weidmann made this week is that stimulus should be well aimed and not just delivered for the sake of it, suggesting the need for caution. He recommended targeted spending on infrastructure, research and education, and incentivizing work and investment through tax cuts.“It would be important to use the leeway wisely in order to promote sustainable growth in the long run and not just cause a flash in the pan,” he said.Merkel argued last month that simply spending cash isn’t what’s needed, saying “it’s currently not a lack of money” that’s the problem, and there are sufficient investment projects in the pipeline. They just need to be fast-tracked.(Updates with finance minister’s interview in second and eighth paragraphs)\--With assistance from Francine Lacqua and Lucy Meakin.To contact the reporters on this story: Craig Stirling in Frankfurt at cstirling1@bloomberg.net;Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net, Paul Gordon, Jana RandowFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:41:07 -0400
  • Lebanon PM offers 72-hour ultimatum amid nationwide protests

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    Lebanon's prime minister gave his partners in government a 72-hour ultimatum to come up with "convincing" solutions for a rapidly worsening economic crisis, as nationwide protests against the country's entire ruling political class continued to escalate. In an address to the nation and with hundreds of rowdy protesters camped outside his office, Saad Hariri blamed politicians in his national unity government, which includes the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and rival political parties, for blocking his reform agenda at every turn. Following his speech, groups of rioters broke away from the protesters, clashing with police, setting cars ablaze and smashing store windows in the streets of Beirut.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:30:09 -0400
  • Trump Says Cease-Fire is ‘Working Out’ So Far: Syria Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outlined his understanding of the Turkish-patrolled “safe zone” in northern Syria, saying the U.S. and Russia should also play a role in maintaining a corridor that he wants to stretch along a vast section of Turkey’s border.A deal reached with a top U.S. delegation on Thursday -- which secured a 120-hour cease-fire -- required Kurdish fighters to withdraw from an area 444 km long and 32 km deep, the president told foreign reporters in Istanbul on Friday. “This is what we call the safe zone. The safe zone is not just the area between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad which is yet to be cleared.”But Erdogan’s view clashes with that of the Kurdish YPG, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State. It’s unclear how American officials interpret Thursday’s pact when it comes to defining the area from which the militia must withdraw.Erdogan denied that fighting took place between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces on Friday. However, Syrian state-run Sana news agency said five people were killed in a Turkish airstrike in the Ras Al-Ayn area.Here is a rundown of major events in Turkish local time:Key DevelopmentsTurkish markets rally a day after the U.S.-Turkey deal. Borsa Istanbul-100 index is up 3.7%, most since June 7, as of 5:31 p.m. Two-year government bond yields fell 137 basis points, most since August 2018, to 14.29%. The lira appreciated 1.6% against the dollar in the past two daysU.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Erdogan announced cease-fire deal in Ankara after marathon talks on ThursdayTrump faces Congressional rebuke for Syria pulloutTrump Says Cease-Fire is ‘Working Out’ So Far (9:22 p.m.)President Donald Trump defended the agreement reached with Turkey for a 120-hour pause in hostilities in northern Syria, saying the “Kurds are very happy about it” then adding, cryptically, “we’ve taken control of the oil that everybody was worried about.” It wasn’t clear what the president meant with that statement. Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a statement emphasizing that no U.S. ground troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria. Esper added that he’ll be traveling to the Middle East on Saturday to visit troops and international partners before heading to a NATO meeting in Brussels. U.S. Official Says Most Fighting Has Stopped (6:35 p.m.)Most of the fighting in northeast Syria has stopped, a U.S. official said, asking not to be identified. It will take time for things to completely quiet down, which is usually the case in situations like this, the official said.Death Toll in Syria Rises, SOHR Says (6:16 p.m.)The number of people killed in northeast Syria in a day of sporadic clashes, strikes by airplanes and Turkish shelling increased to 14, according to SOHR, a monitoring groupErdogan Speaks on Trump, Graham and Syria (5:26 p.m. Friday)Erdogan said he understands Donald Trump is “under pressure,” but added that he won’t forget the Oct. 9 letter in which the U.S. president warned him not to be a “fool.” Erdogan also accused Senator Lindsey Graham of flip-flopping on whether the Kurdish militants are “terrorists.”The president said the YPG had freed 750 Islamic State detainees, including 150 Turks, during the Turkish offensive. A total of 195 militants have been recaptured, and they should be tried in their respective countries, he said.EU Leaders Stop Short of Punishing Turkey (5:10 p.m.)Erdogan’s actions were discussed at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels. The EU has called for Turkey to show restraint against the Kurds, but stopped short of threatening major punitive action against a NATO ally.German Chancellor Angela Merkel downplayed any link between Erdogan’s Syria operation and the threat of fresh migrants coming to Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron said he saw recent events as “a heavy mistake” by the West and NATO. “I found out via a tweet that the U.S. decided to withdraw their troops and free the zone,” he said.Turkey Halts Offensive But Skirmishes Underway (9:30 a.m. Friday)Turkey has halted its offensive but occasional skirmishes took place overnight, prompting Turkish artillery units to open fire on targets in the west of the town of Ras al-Ayn, Turkey’s IHA news agency reported Friday. The Rojava Information Center, which is aligned with the Kurdish-led forces, said fighting was continuing in the area and there was no sign yet of Kurdish fighters withdrawing.Safe Zone Definition Contradicts Turkey Aspiration (11:59 p.m. Thursday)Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for the Syria conflict who was with Pence in Ankara, said: “We talk about the safe zone here, and the Turks talk about an aspirational safe zone based upon what we had done with them back in August, where the safe zone was from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border and we had various levels of Turkish observation or movement or whatever down to 30 kilometers, with the withdrawal of the YPG from some of them.”“What we have now is a different situation where the Turks have pushed down to that 30-kilometer level in a central part of the northeast and they’re still fighting in there, and that’s the focus of our attention now because that’s the area that we define as the Turkish-controlled safe zone.”Turkey Says ‘It’s a Temporary Pause’ Not Cease-Fire (9:02 p.m.)Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the one-page accord wasn’t a cease-fire, but a pause, and boasted that Turkey had gotten what it wanted from the U.S. Top of their demands was that Turkish armed forces will be oversee a 20-mile “safe zone” inside Syria. Cavusoglu said Turkey was aiming to create a safe zone that would stretch for 444 kilometers along the frontier and 30 kilometers deep in Syria.Turkey Agrees to Cease-Fire in Syria, Pence Says (8:40 p.m.)Pence said the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to end hostilities in Syria. Turkey would cease operations permanently once the Kurdish forces withdraw and work on detention centers in the affected areas would be coordinated with Turkey, Pence said. Once a permanent cessation of hostilities is in place, the U.S. will lift all sanctions slapped on Turkey earlier, he said.\--With assistance from Nick Wadhams, Saleha Mohsin, Rosalind Mathieson, Selcan Hacaoglu, David Wainer, Taylan Bilgic, Justin Sink and Tony Capaccio.To contact the reporter on this story: Onur Ant in Istanbul at oant@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, ;Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Bill Faries, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:28:41 -0400
  • General discontent: how the president's military men turned on Trump

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    Trump once based his cabinet around retired generals but his Syria policy lurch has brought unprecedented military scorn on his headJames Mattis, centre, listens to Donald Trump in 2018 before his resignation as defence secretary. His mocking comments at a recent dinner made clear that he had heard enough. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPAFour-star US generals and admirals are a taciturn bunch: they measure their words, qualify their statements and guard their silence out of loyalty to the armed forces and to their country.Not this week.A torrent of raw military condemnation has been unleashed on Donald Trump, with some of the most respected figures among retired military leaders lining up to express their profound disapproval of their commander-in-chief.The outpouring was exceptional, both for the sheer number who unloaded on the president and for the unrestrained language in which they put it. The most breathtaking words came from William McRaven, a former commander of US special operations command who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.In an opinion article in the New York Times, McRaven accused Trump of spreading “frustration, humiliation, anger and fear” through the armed forces and of championing “despots and strongmen” while abandoning US allies. The four-star admiral called for Trump to either shape up or ship out of the White House.“If this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office – Republican, Democrat or independent – the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.”That Trump should be coming under such sharp criticism from figures as revered as McRaven is all the more extraordinary given that Trump put those he called “my generals” at the center of his cabinet when he took office almost three years ago. He appointed Jim Mattis as defense secretary, Michael Flynn and HR McMaster as successive national security advisers, and John Kelly as homeland security secretary and then White House chief of staff.Now all those generals are gone, and some are speaking out.Mattis, who has largely kept his silence since resigning last December, made clear his disdain for the president in the form of a stream of jokes at a black-tie roasting on Thursday night. In his first public comments about his former boss, Mattis mocked the amount of time Trump spends on his golf courses and poked fun at how he had avoided military service in Vietnam by claiming bone spurs in his feet.“I earned my spurs on the battlefield; Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor,” Mattis said.The new sense of license to criticize Trump among military leaders originated with the president’s highly contentious decision last week to pull US troops from northern Syria. The sudden move has paved the way for a Turkish invasion that has put a prominent US ally in the fight against Isis, the Syrian Kurds, in mortal danger.Several US generals and admirals expressed their disgust and bewilderment at Trump’s decision. Adm James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of Nato, told MSNBC that it was a “geopolitical mistake of near epic proportion”. He said its long-term impact would be to cast doubt on the reliability of the US as an ally.“It’s hard to imagine how one could, in a single stroke, re-enable Isis, elevate Iran, allow Vladimir Putin the puppet master to continue his upward trajectory and simultaneously put war criminal chemical-weapon user Bashar al-Assad in the driving seat in Syria.”On the same channel, the former four-star general and battlefield commander in the Gulf, Barry McCaffrey, said the Syrian withdrawal was “inexplicable”.“Mr Trump seems to have single-handedly and unilaterally precipitated a national security crisis in the Middle East,” he said, adding that the president had put the armed forces in a “very tricky situation”.Trump’s former national security adviser, HR McMaster, agreed that the decision would destabilize the region and intensify the Syrian civil war.Gen Mark Milley grimaces as Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi confront each other at the White House. Photograph: White House/ReutersBut the key question is what the highest echelons of the serving military think about Trump’s increasingly erratic leadership. A clue can be found in the viral photograph of the confrontation between Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and Trump in the White House on Wednesday.Pelosi is seen jabbing her finger at Trump who appears to be yelling across the table from her. Soon after the photo was taken Pelosi walked out of the meeting after Trump called her a “third-grade politician”.Sitting next to Trump is Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff – the highest-ranking officer in the US military. What he was thinking in the moment is not known, but he is looking down at his hands and his face is clenched.Milley may not have the luxury to emote enjoyed by his retired four-star equivalents. But his expression spoke volumes.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:18:53 -0400
  • Syria cease-fire off to rocky start amid reports of fighting

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    The cease-fire in northern Syria got off to a rocky start Friday, as Kurdish leaders accused Turkey of violating the accord with continued fighting at a key border town while casting doubt on provisions in the U.S.-brokered deal with Ankara. Turkey's president warned that Turkish forces would go back on the attack in four days unless Kurdish-led fighters withdraw "without exception" from a zone 20 miles (30 kilometers) deep in Syria running the entire 260-mile (440-kilometer) length of the border. "Without exception, if the promise is not fulfilled, Operation Peace Spring will resume the minute the 120 hours end with even more determination," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists in Ankara.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:18:22 -0400
  • 'Only God is with us': A Syrian family feels betrayed by US

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    For months, every time Turkey threatened to invade northern Syria, Salwa Hanna told her husband they should take their children and flee from the border town of Kobani. Now the Christian family is among an estimated 160,000 Syrians who have fled Turkey's offensive, which began last week after President Donald Trump announced he would move U.S. forces out of the way, abandoning their Kurdish allies. The invasion transformed one of the safest parts of Syria into a war zone, leaving displaced residents with a deep sense of betrayal.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:04:07 -0400
  • UN says Ebola in Congo still qualifies as global emergency

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    The World Health Organization says the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo still warrants being classified as a global emergency, even though the number of confirmed cases has slowed in recent weeks. The U.N. health agency first declared the epidemic, the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, to be an international emergency in July. WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the situation remains "complex and dangerous" and that officials must continue to treat every case like it's the first.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:45:50 -0400
  • Parliament Votes on Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal: Your Guide

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    (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s Parliament meets Saturday to pass judgment on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. How will the day play out?0830 European Research Group of pro-Brexit Conservatives meets, to try to agree a position. The premier needs almost all of them to support him if his deal is to pass0930 Parliament opens. Johnson will set out his deal in a statement, taking questions from Members of Parliament1100 (roughly) When Johnson’s statement is finished, they move to debating the deal. Speaker of the Commons John Bercow announces which amendments will be voted on. The one to watch has been proposed by Oliver Letwin1430 (roughly) It’s likely an MP will propose moving to a vote around this point.How does voting work? For a detailed look at the procedure, see: Order! Order! How the U.K. Parliament Will Vote on BrexitHow are the votes stacking up? See our tally: Can Johnson Pull Off the Impossible? We’re Counting the VotesThey will vote on the amendments first. The government wants its motion not to be amended, so a “No” vote is a win for Johnson, and a “Yes” vote is a defeat. Each vote takes around 15 minutes.If Letwin’s motion passes:Johnson is required by law to seek a delay to BrexitThey will then vote on the motion as amended.The government can’t withdraw its motion at this point.Letwin argues that if his amendment has passed, the vote can still indicate how much support there is for Johnson’s deal. But it would have no legal effect.If Letwin’s amendment is defeated, or isn’t selected for a vote:They will vote on the unamended motionA “Yes” vote is a win for Johnson. He will not be required to seek a delay to BrexitA “No” vote means Johnson is required to ask the European Union for more timeIf the deal is rejected, Johnson could choose to ask for a vote on whether the U.K. should leave the EU without a deal. In practice, this is unlikely, because it would reveal how little support that idea has in Parliament. If Johnson does push the question, an amendment has been proposed that would call instead for a second referendum.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:42:13 -0400
  • Trump says Europe now willing to take IS prisoners in Syria

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    Claiming new progress against Islamic State extremists in Syria, President Donald Trump said Friday that some European nations are now willing to take responsibility for detained IS fighters who are from their countries. A day earlier, he had proclaimed that a U.S.-brokered cease-fire deal with Turkey marked "a great day for civilization," though the deal's effect was largely to mitigate a foreign policy crisis widely seen to be of his own making. At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said U.S. troops are continuing their withdrawal from northern Syria.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:34:21 -0400
  • The Latest: Lebanon security fire tear gas at protesters

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    Lebanese security forces fired tear gas at protesters outside government headquarters in central Beirut shortly after Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave a long-awaited speech. The protesters rejected Hariri's speech in which he gave his political adversaries a 72-hour ultimatum to back his reform agenda amid growing nationwide protests over the country's worsening economic crisis.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:23:24 -0400
  • Ukrainians Blame Trump for ‘Capitulation’ in the War With Russia

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    Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast/GettyKHARKIV, Ukraine—Night had fallen in this city less than 20 miles from the Russian border, and a crowd gathered around the offices of the State Security Service. From out of the dark a tall, muscled-up, militant young man stepped forward to speak. “We have stopped Russian forces advancing on our land, we’ll stop the treason: no to capitulation in this war,” 22-year-old Georgy Tarasenko proclaimed that night of October 2: a message and a motto that has resonated throughout the country. Recent days have seen thousands of people in the streets of the capital, Kyiv. “No capitulation!” they shout.The sentiment is genuine and deep, but so is the desire for peace in a country that has fought for more than five years against a Russian-backed separatist movement at a cost of more than 13,000 lives.President Volodymyr Zelensky won his office earlier this year promising to end the war at almost any cost. But the price has gone up as his position has weakened, he appears ready to sign a peace agreement very much on Russian terms, and that is due in no small measure to the unreliability of Ukraine’s most important supporter, the United States. Trump and Giuliani Connections to Ukraine Corruption Go Back YearsUntil last month, President Donald Trump held up vital military aid while his personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, twisted arms in Ukraine looking for dirt on Democratic presidential front runner Joe Biden and grasping for information that somehow Ukraine, not Russia, set out to deform American democracy. A phone call between Trump and Zelensky in July which touched on these issues is now at the center of impeachment proceedings against Trump in Washington.Importantly, people believe the games that Trump and his attorney Rudolph Giuliani have been playing with Ukraine have led to a sellout of Russian-annexed Crimea and the embattled Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine. For critics here, the most damning evidence came when Trump met Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month. “During the meeting in New York, Trump told our President Zelensky to ‘get together and solve your problem’ with Putin, so now we see how Zelensky is pushing to fulfil that request, “ Galina Odnorogo, one of the protesters on the Maidan, Kyiv’s Independence Square, told The Daily Beast. Odnorog traveled from the war-troubled Donbas region to join the rallies.  “We are blaming Trump for putting pressure on our president in these peace negotiations.” But there’s a problem with a movement where characters like the buff Mr. Tarasenko have pushed themselves into the foreground. Tarasenko, for instance, is a leader of Freikorps in Kharkiv, a group best known for gay-bashing and fights with police during a pride march. “All our members are of Ukrainian nationality, other nationalities do not want to join us because of our views; there is nobody more far-right than us in Kharkiv,” he told The Daily Beast.Such people play directly into the hands of Russian propagandists who denounce “a neo-Nazi effort to stoke chaos.”Protests by war veterans, nationalists and pro-European integration groups began just hours after a representative of Ukraine, former President Leonid Kuchma, signed a letter in Minsk, Belarus on October 1 addressed to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirming the so-called Steinmeier Formula, named for a former German president. This opens the way for snap elections in the self-proclaimed Russian-backed separatist republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, but makes no mention of withdrawal by pro-Russian military forces.  It doesn’t talk about Ukraine regaining control of the nearly 400 kilometer (250 mile) border with Russia. Discussion of Crimea is left for some later date. In 2014, Russia used unidentified troops (“little green men”) to take over the strategic peninsula, rigged up a referendum and summarily annexed Crimea in a matter of weeks, precipitating international sanctions on Russia that have lasted to this day.Natalia Isupova, a Kyiv school teacher, is one of the moderate voices joining the “No Capitulation” protests. “I don’t think it would be possible to hold elections in the occupied east [the Donbas region]. This is a scenario of the Crimea referendum,” Isupova said.Isupova also questions an earlier document signed by Russia and Ukraine after negotiations during the most violent months of 2014 and 2015,  the so-called Minsk agreements detailing the conditions for ceasefire.“Four years ago we signed a bad document to stop the killing of people,” said Isupova. But the killing has gone on, albeit at a lower level. “All this time Ukraine has been prioritizing security issues over the political questions. And now vice versa, our leadership first wants to run elections and then solve the security issues, then take control over the border.” Many in Ukraine think hopes for such future developments are illusory, given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing confidence in the face of America’s evident vacillation and weakness. If the elections in eastern Ukraine do not lead to outright annexation, as happened in Crimea, they could open the door to the kind of quasi-independent Russian satellites Moscow has established in formerly sovereign territories of Moldova (Transnistria) and the Republic of Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). The creation of quasi-states carved out of territory belonging to other nations is a favorite strategy for Moscow. Indeed, Russia and Turkey—and the Trump administration—appear to be collaborating right now to establish a similarly problematic territory in northern Syria. But the creation of these territories whose sovereignty is left in limbo doesn’t lead to a lasting resolutions of conflict, they create a false peace that thwarts the chances for a real peace.The document signed by Kuchma was written as a formal response to a letter from Ambassador Martin Sajdik, special representative of the OSCE, sent out on September 11 this year. Coincidentally, perhaps, this was precisely the same moment that the Trump administration agreed to release $250 million in aid to Ukraine it had held up in hopes Zelensky would help provide support for its conspiracy theories about the Democratic Party.In the event, the suspension of U.S. aid, then its release, may have encouraged Zelensky to agree to the terms of the letter endorsing the so-called Steinmeier Formula, which is named after the current president of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who helped negotiate it when he was foreign minister. Russia and Ukraine have been discussing those terms for years, but until now Kyiv had, indeed, seen them as a form of surrender.Russian state media headlined “Ukraine has compromised,” which to this country’s war veterans, and others, sounded like betrayal.Many liberal activists, corruption fighters and journalists are just as worried as far-right protesters about the future status of the separatist regions, but they are also concerned about the growing crowds of angry veterans on the streets. “There is a huge risk of armed protests growing violent,” anti-corruption activist Daria Kaleniuk told The Daily Beast. She said she was concerned as well and that in eastern Ukraine “security cannot be guaranteed in the occupied territories, where population has been living with Russian propaganda for years.” President Zelenksy’s popularity rating dropped from 77 percent in September to 66 percent, and the protest movement appears to have made the difference not only in the polls, but on the ground. The Zelensky’s office decided to postpone the disengagement of forces near the town of Zolote, where according to Ukrainian news reports pro-Russian forces continued to shell in violation of earlier agreements. Zelensky, a former television comedian with no prior political experience, says peace talks have nuances and the local elections in separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk “will be held in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution and legislation.” He also said that Kyiv would allow elections in separatist regions only if monitors from the OSCE determined they are fair. The Ukrainian president told his people the letter Kuchma signed was not the final law, that it was up to the Ukrainian parliament to decide the final version: “That is why there will never be any capitulation.”At an unusual 14-hour “press marathon” in a trendy Kyiv food market last week, Zelensky repeatedly tried to calm concerns about the path he’s chosen, but he left little doubt about the weakness of his government’s position.When journalists asked Zelensky to admit that Ukraine for the last five years has been at war not just with separatists, but with the Russian Federation, he said, “Then we’d have to start the war in Crimea,” since Moscow now claims the peninsula as part of its sovereign territory. “Our army is not ready and I am not, as the President, ready to lose our people.”He reminded reporters, “I was coming [to politics] as the president of peace.”Every day, Ukrainians are reminded of the violence in Donbas. “Almost every week more people die and we update our data in the aftermath,” Gennady Sherbak, the founder of Peaceful Bank (Mirny Bereg), told The Daily Beast. At the time of our conversation last week, his website included the names of 4,543 dead Ukrainian soldiers, 2,892 dead civilians and 4,643 dead separatist militias. “We also have lists of more than 1,300 disappeared people,” he said. Ukrainian MP Valentyn Nalyvaichenko says that the parliament has a clear position: “We first need to see the deoccupation process that would require all aggressor’s forces and special services leave the territory; and only after the territory is free could we have snap elections,” Nalyvaichenko said.So far, Russia has not agreed to that condition.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.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:20:00 -0400
  • Johnson tells MPs 'no better outcome' than his Brexit deal

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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Friday there was "no better outcome" to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambled to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of a knife-edge vote in parliament. The day before the House of Commons meets to consider the agreement, Johnson urged lawmakers to back the "fantastic" terms he struck with European Union leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31. Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:17:41 -0400
  • Can Boris Johnson Pull Off the Impossible? We’re Counting the Votes

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson has managed to strike a new Brexit deal with the European Union. But does he have the numbers to get it past Parliament?Well short of a majority, he needs to persuade 61 Members of Parliament to back his deal. He looks more than half-way there, based on public comments made by lawmakers in recent days. Here’s our tally of how many have declared for him so far.Now for the health warning. This analysis is necessarily imprecise: MPs can change their minds. It’s also incomplete: There are some we would expect to back the deal but simply haven’t said so publicly yet.For Johnson, it looks tight -- but not impossible. Here’s how the numbers break down.Johnson’s Target: 320Once non-voting MPs are accounted for, Johnson needs 320 MPs on his side to win any vote in the House of Commons.May’s Baseline: 259The last time Theresa May tried to get her deal through, in March, she had the support of 279 Conservatives. They are mostly likely to back a Johnson deal too, but there are some problems.Johnson expelled a group of MPs from the party in September after they backed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. They were joined by Amber Rudd, who resigned in sympathy. Also out of the party is Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives earlier this year in frustration at the Brexit deadlock.As a result there are question marks against 19 former Tories who previously backed May’s deal. On top of that number, one deal-backing Conservative, Chris Davies, lost his seat to a Liberal Democrat in a recall election.That leaves Johnson 61 votes short. Where can he go?‘Gaukeward Squad’: 19The expelled Tories, who take their name from former Justice Secretary David Gauke, are temperamentally loyalists -- some had never voted against their party before September. Many of them are looking for a way back in -- including Gauke, who says he will vote for the deal on Saturday. Given that their objection to Johnson’s strategy was the fear he was pursuing a no-deal divorce, they may be happy to get back into line if he reaches an agreement.But it’s not certain. Gauke has questioned whether Johnson’s promises can be trusted, while former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has warned of the economic dangers of not having a close relationship with the EU. Several of them, including Antoinette Sandbach, have suggested the U.K. needs to hold another referendum.Johnson would be doing very well if he got all of them on side.Democratic Unionist Party: 10Johnson worked hard to try to keep Northern Ireland’s DUP engaged, but they have come out firmly against the new deal. They have deep reservations about anything that creates any kind of border between Britain and Northern Ireland, such as customs checks in the Irish Sea, and want a stronger consent mechanism that hands a greater say to the regional assembly. They are now trying to persuade Tories to vote against the deal.The Spartans: 28The self-titled “Spartans” are Conservative MPs who refused to vote for May’s deal. They chose their name to recall the fearsome Ancient Greek warriors who held off a numerically superior Persian force at the Battle of Thermopylae.When Johnson became prime minister, the Spartans were adamant they opposed any but the most minimal Brexit agreement. But in recent weeks they have begun to see the virtues of compromise. This is the result of the Benn Act, legislation that aims to prevent the U.K. leaving on Oct. 31 unless Johnson has reached a deal. It’s made the Spartans fear losing Brexit altogether.The leader of the Spartans, Steve Baker, twice described the emerging deal as “tolerable” before it was unveiled. Another, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, was more critical. But many are desperate to get Brexit over the line -- for fear this may be their last opportunity.Two Spartans, at least, are fairly sure to back a deal: Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers are both in Johnson’s Cabinet.Labour: 31May pinned her hopes on winning the support of a significant minority of MPs from the opposition Labour Party who believe the 2016 referendum result must be honored. She struggled to get more than five to vote with her, but 15 who didn’t back her last time joined some who did in signing a letter this month urging the EU to do a deal. That might imply a commitment to actually vote for such an agreement.Against that is the fear of retribution from their party if they do so. Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team sense that defeating Johnson’s deal is a key step on their route to beating him at an election. Others in the party see defeating a deal as essential to securing another referendum.A law unto herself is Kate Hoey, a fierce supporter of Brexit, who’s likely to vote the same way as the Spartans.Since Johnson announced his deal, some Labour MPs who previously made pro-Brexit noises have started to come out of the woodwork, so we’ve increased the number of potential Labour votes by 10.Independents: 5Four independent MPs backed May’s deal in March. A fifth, John Woodcock, might also be tempted.Other MPs: 2Two possible supporters defy categorization. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who is stepping down at the next election, represents a seat that voted to leave the EU and has been critical of his party’s anti-Brexit stance. And Jo Johnson, brother of the prime minister, voted against the deal in March, agreed to join his brother’s Cabinet, then resigned. Both could potentially back a deal to settle the issue.So, Johnson Needs 61 of 85 Available VotesIt’s tight, but feasible. In charge of wooing MPs is Johnson’s political secretary, Danny Kruger, who has been speaking not just to Conservatives but to opposition lawmakers who might be tempted to support a deal. The opposite of his more famous and abrasive colleague Dominic Cummings, Kruger is a gentle and thoughtful former political speech-writer who has set up two charities to help people on the margins of society.The RisksThere is a question, however, of whether the prime minister might lose some support, for example among those Tories who voted for a deal in March and regretted doing so afterward.There’s also another intriguing possibility. When Theresa May was prime minister, she said a Brexit deal that split Northern Ireland from Great Britain was one that no prime minister could accept. Now she’s a former prime minister and if that’s the path Johnson takes, could she live with it?She’ll almost certainly stay loyal, but then Johnson did make her life very difficult, so it’s hard to be sure.The JokerIf it comes to a tie, Speaker John Bercow has a casting vote. It’s not clear how he would exercise it.(Updates count in second paragraph, table.)\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Jessica Shankleman and Greg Ritchie.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:16:36 -0400
  • After deadly shooting, Pittsburgh synagogue plans reopening

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    Leaders of the Pittsburgh synagogue where worshippers were fatally shot last year want to rebuild and renovate the building, turning it into what they hope will be a "center for Jewish life in the United States" and a symbol against hatred. On Friday, they outlined their vision for the Tree of Life building, where three congregations — Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light — had gathered on Oct. 27, 2018. The building in the city's Squirrel Hill neighborhood has not reopened since the shooting, considered the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:16:27 -0400
  • Lebanon Leader Threatens to Abandon Ship During Largest Protests in Years

    (Bloomberg) -- Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave his feuding coalition government a 72-hour deadline to get behind an economic overhaul program or he would step aside and let them deal with a financial crisis that has brought thousands of protesters onto the streets.In an impassioned speech broadcast live on television, Hariri said political rivals inside the government were blocking steps that could unlock some $11 billion in international aid pledges.“If anyone thinks they have another solution” they are welcome to take power and try to implement it, Hariri said.The ultimatum did little to ease anger on the streets, where some of the biggest protests in years were into their second day. Amid chants of “revolution” and “the people want the fall of the regime,” demonstrators burned tires, blocked roads and converged on the government headquarters in Beirut demanding the resignation of an entire political class they blame for economic mismanagement and falling living standards.The economic stakes have rarely been higher for Lebanon, a tiny country that straddles the geopolitical fault-lines of the Middle East, since the end of the 15-year civil war in 1990. One of the most indebted countries in the world, it is struggling to find fresh sources of funding as the foreign inflows on which it has traditionally relied have dried up.Fractious GovernmentThe protests have increased pressure on Hariri, who heads a fractious coalition government that has struggled to overcome sectarian and political differences.A Sunni Muslim, Hariri has been traditionally backed by Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom has withheld support in recent years as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia’s political influence in the government has grown.At the same time, Hezbollah-allied ministers and lawmakers have steadfastly opposed higher taxes and other difficult measures to spare their supporters further economic pain amid tightening U.S. sanctions on the group’s members and on its patron, Iran.The crisis has catapulted Lebanon into a new and unpredictable phase. If Hariri and his allies resign, Lebanon could end up with a government dominated by Hezbollah, making it even harder to attract investment.If it survives, few observers see how the government can overcome divisions that have already brought the economy to the precipice.The International Monetary Fund projects Lebanon’s current-account deficit will reach almost 30% of gross domestic product by the end of this year. Amid the violence on Thursday, it issued a new report predicting that economic growth, stagnant at 0.3% in 2018, would continue to be weak amid political and economic uncertainty and a severe contraction in the real estate sector. Public debt is projected to increase to 155% of gross domestic product by the end of 2019, it said.Persistent instability in Lebanon has shaken investor confidence and made it harder to revive an economy already struggling to absorb more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the war in their country.The yield on Lebanon’s dollar bonds due in 2021 jumped more than two percentage points to 20.38% as of 10:44 a.m. in London, snapping six days of declines. The cost of insuring Lebanese debt against default climbed, with the nation’s five-year credit-default swaps rising 87 basis points to 1,262 -- the highest level on a closing basis since the start of the month.WhatsApp CallsSporadic demonstrations have erupted for months in Lebanon as the economic crisis has led to shortages of dollars and threatened the pensions of retired soldiers.The latest unrest was sparked by plans to impose a fee of 20 U.S. cents on the first WhatsApp call that users make every day, causing outrage in a country where communications costs are among the least competitive in the region and people widely use internet voice applications to save money. WhatsApp, a free messaging and voice platform owned by Facebook Inc., has some 1.5 billion users worldwide.The government also discussed a proposal for a gradual increase to the value-added tax, currently at 11%, and new levies on gasoline. But Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, who’s party is allied to Hezbollah, insisted there were no additional taxes planned for next year’s budget.As night fell, scuffles once more broke out between protesters who tried to storm the government headquarters downtown, and riot police.Walls of burning tires and debris effectively severed the main thoroughfares at the northern and southern entrances of Beirut, and crowds also headed toward the presidential palace in Baabda, footage aired on Lebanese television stations showed.To contact the reporters on this story: Dana Khraiche in Beirut at dkhraiche@bloomberg.net;Lin Noueihed in Beirut at lnoueihed@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:58:04 -0400
  • Johnson May Not Get His Decisive Vote on Saturday: Brexit Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson is talking to MPs as he tries to build a majority in Parliament for the Brexit agreement he reached with the European Union on Thursday. But rebels expelled from his own Conservative Party are moving to postpone the decisive vote -- forcing the prime minister to seek a further extension from the bloc.French President Emmanuel Macron added to the pressure on MPs weighing how to vote when he told reporters in Brussels that a further extension shouldn’t be granted if Parliament rejects the deal.Must read: Two Crisis Phone Calls Unlocked the ‘Impossible’ Brexit DealKey DevelopmentsJohnson meeting with cabinet in LondonJohnson Sells Brexit Deal to Parliament Before Knife-Edge VoteDUP reaffirms its 10 MPs will vote against Johnson’s dealJudge Rejects Bid to Block Saturday’s Debate (5:35 p.m.)A Scottish judge rejected an attempt by legal activist Jolyon Maugham to block Saturday’s vote. The lawyer, who successfully got the courts to quash the prime minister’s prorogation of Parliament, had sought to argue that Johnson’s plans violated an existing law that prevents Northern Ireland being put in a separate customs union to the U.K.Hammond Seeks Assurances (5:25 p.m.)Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned he can’t back Johnson’s deal in its current form because it could be used to trigger a no-deal Brexit in 2020.Writing in The Times of London, Hammond says he wants assurances from the prime minister that the government won’t crash the U.K. out of the EU without a deal at the end of the transition period.“I haven’t come this far seeking to avoid no deal in 2019 to be duped into voting for a heavily camouflaged no-deal at the end of 2020,” he wrote. “But I am not a lost cause!”Labour MPs Propose Referendum Amendment (4:40 p.m.)Labour MP Peter Kyle has proposed an amendment that would give Parliament’s backing to a referendum on any deal agreed with the EU.The proposed change is to a motion requesting Parliament’s permission to leave without a deal which might be proposed by the government on Saturday if it fails to win backing for Boris Johnson’s agreement.“Tomorrow government will ask us to vote on two motions. First, on the new deal. Second, if that fails, for permission to leave with no deal,” Kyle said. “Should the deal fail to get a majority, MPs will move forward and be given the chance to vote” for the amendment, he said. However, ministers could opt not to move the no-deal motion.The proposed change would add to the motion that Parliament “rejects leaving the European Union without a deal and believes that any final decision on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU should be subject to a confirmatory referendum before exit day,” Kyle said in a posting on Twitter.Letwin Says Amendment is ‘Insurance’ (4:15 p.m.)Former Tory minister Oliver Letwin said he will back Johnson’s deal and his amendment (see 3:15 p.m.) is simply an insurance policy to stop the U.K. accidentally crashing out without a deal if the necessary legislation isn’t completed in time.“My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the U.K. from crashing out on Oct. 31 by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation,” Letwin said in an email. “Nothing in my amendment or in the Benn Act itself in any way delays the actual departure of the U.K. from the EU immediately following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.”SNP Indicates Support for Vote Delay (3.30 p.m.)Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, suggested her party would vote for a proposal to delay the vote on Johnson’s deal until after Saturday. The amendment, drawn up by former Tory Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Hilary Benn, would withhold approval for the Brexit deal until the bill which implements it is law (see 3:15 p.m.).“We will ultimately vote against this deal but we would be sympathetic to something that would make sure it doesn’t get through tomorrow,” Sturgeon told reporters in London. She said an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline followed by a general election or a referendum would be her preferred outcome.Saturday May Not Seal the Deal (3:15 p.m.)Boris Johnson may not even get the chance to put his Brexit deal to the vote on Saturday, with support growing for a move by an alliance of former Conservatives and opposition Members of Parliament to delay the decision by a week or more.Former Tory minister Oliver Letwin and Labour MP Hilary Benn have put down an amendment to Johnson’s motion which would withhold approval for the Brexit deal until the bill that implements it is law.If it is passed, Johnson would be unable to put his deal to the vote, leaving him in a situation where he’s obliged by law to seek a delay to Brexit.Don’t Assume EU Extension, Varadkar Says (2:30 p.m.)U.K. lawmakers should not assume the EU would grant another Brexit extension if it’s requested, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned, noting such a move would need unanimous consent from EU members. The current proposal is the final offer, he added.Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Varadkar said he “cannot see the European Union coming back for another set of negotiations” if the British Parliament rejects this plan. Asked what the alternative is if this deal is shot down in Westminster, he responded that “plan B is no deal.”Macron Says U.K. Mustn’t Get Delay If Vote Fails (2 p.m.)French President Emmanuel Macron said the U.K. should not get another extension to the Brexit process if Boris Johnson loses the vote on his Brexit deal in Parliament on Saturday.“I don’t think a new extension should be granted,” Macron said at a press conference after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels. “The Oct. 31 deadline must be met.”BNP: U.K. Stocks Could Drop 10% If Vote Lost (12:20 p.m.)Stocks with heavy exposure to the U.K. economy could wipe out the rally seen over the past week if MPs reject Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Saturday, according to BNP Paribas.The bank forecasts downside of as much as 10% for the FTSE 250 index in such a scenario, with the exporter-heavy FTSE 100 gaining amid weaker sterling, strategists including Edmund Shing wrote in a note to clients.Johnson Goes on Charm Offensive (12 p.m.)With Saturday’s vote looking incredibly tight, Boris Johnson and his team are spending the day trying to persuade MPs from all parties to back his Brexit deal.Labour MPs are being offered more assurances on workers’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which would be brought to Parliament next week if Johnson wins on Saturday, according to a person familiar with the discussions.The Prime Minister’s personal focus is on winning around hard line Brexiteers in the European Research Group, and that operation is starting in earnest today, the person said.The government currently thinks about 17 or 18 of the 21 rebels who were expelled from the Tory party last month will back the deal, the person said. Many of them are seeking a way back into the party and want assurances any MP who votes against the government this time around will also be expelled.DUP Affirms Opposition to Deal (10:30 a.m.)Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, extinguished any hopes his party will pivot toward supporting Johnson’s deal. “We will definitely be voting against it,” he told Sky News.Wilson said he’s disappointed Johnson “folded to the unreasonable demands of the EU,” especially since the DUP had given him a “fair degree of latitude” on temporary Northern Irish regulatory alignment with Europe.While acknowledging tariffs on goods coming into Northern Ireland from the U.K. would be refunded if they are proven not to have entered the Republic of Ireland, Wilson said the cash-flow problems this would create for local businesses would be damaging.At Least 10 Labour MPs Back Deal, Mann Says (Earlier)As speculation mounts over the way votes will fall on Saturday, Labour’s John Mann said at least 10 Labour MPs are likely to vote for Johnson’s deal. Asked on Ireland’s RTE radio how many of his party would back Johnson’s Brexit proposal, Mann responded that he expected the total to be in the “double digits.”Mann, who will vote for the plan, supported former prime minister Theresa May’s deal and is a vocal critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for Labour MPs to reject the deal.Earlier:Johnson Sells Brexit Deal to Parliament Before Knife-Edge VoteLondon Bankers Ready for Wave of Debt Deals If Johnson Wins Vote\--With assistance from Peter Flanagan, Joe Easton and Helene Fouquet.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net;Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:47:17 -0400
  • Scottish Judge Rejects Bid to Suspend Brexit Vote on Saturday

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    (Bloomberg) -- A Scottish judge rejected an attempt by attorney Jolyon Maugham to secure more time for Parliament to scrutinize the Brexit agreement.Judge Paul Cullen refused Maugham’s filing Friday afternoon.The decision comes as a civil-rights group, Liberty, lost its own attempt in a London court to win a declaration blocking Prime Minister Boris Johnson from flouting the Benn Act. That law requires the prime minister to extend the Brexit deadline if he doesn’t get his deal through Parliament Saturday.To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Elser in London at celser@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net, Eddie SpenceFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:32:36 -0400
  • At least 62 people killed in Afghanistan mosque explosion

    At least 62 people have died and more than 100 others were injured in explosions at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan.Multiple bombings caused the roof of a mosque in the Nangarhar province to collapse during Friday prayers, Reuters reports. Rescuers are still excavating the site and pulling survivors and bodies out of the destroyed mosque, a member of Nangarhar's provincial council said.Explosives were put "under a podium in the main atrium of the mosque where people were praying before they exploded," a spokesperson for Nangarhar's governor tells The New York Times. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the Deh Bala district does border rural ISIS-held areas. Afghanistan's government has so far blamed the Taliban for the attack, but the Taliban has denied involvement, per Reuters.The attack comes as the United Nations declares violence against civilians has reached "extreme levels" in Afghanistan, CNN notes. At least 1,174 civilians died in the months of July-September, the largest quarterly total in a decade. The rising conflict largely stems from fighting between rival political groups.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:28:26 -0400
  • The Latest: Trump says Erdogan assured him of cease-fire

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    President Donald Trump says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is offering assurances that the cease-fire he agreed to has not already broken down. Trump also says he has "just been notified that some European Nations are now willing, for the first time, to take the (Islamic State group) Fighters that came from their nations" as he has demanded. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about which countries he'd heard from and exactly what they had agreed to.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:19:54 -0400
  • Can Johnson Pull Off the Impossible? We’re Counting the Votes

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson has managed to strike a new Brexit deal with the European Union. But does he have the numbers to get it past Parliament?Well short of a majority, he needs to persuade 61 Members of Parliament to back his deal. He looks more than half-way there, based on public comments made by lawmakers in recent days. Here’s our tally of how many have declared for him so far.Now for the health warning. This analysis is necessarily imprecise: MPs can change their minds. It’s also incomplete: There are some we would expect to back the deal but simply haven’t said so publicly yet.For Johnson, it looks tight -- but not impossible. Here’s how the numbers break down.Johnson’s Target: 320Once non-voting MPs are accounted for, Johnson needs 320 MPs on his side to win any vote in the House of Commons.May’s Baseline: 259The last time Theresa May tried to get her deal through, in March, she had the support of 279 Conservatives. They are mostly likely to back a Johnson deal too, but there are some problems.Johnson expelled a group of MPs from the party in September after they backed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. They were joined by Amber Rudd, who resigned in sympathy. Also out of the party is Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives earlier this year in frustration at the Brexit deadlock.As a result there are question marks against 19 former Tories who previously backed May’s deal. On top of that number, one deal-backing Conservative, Chris Davies, lost his seat to a Liberal Democrat in a recall election.That leaves Johnson 61 votes short. Where can he go?‘Gaukeward Squad’: 19The expelled Tories, who take their name from former Justice Secretary David Gauke, are temperamentally loyalists -- some had never voted against their party before September. Many of them are looking for a way back in -- including Gauke, who says he will vote for the deal on Saturday. Given that their objection to Johnson’s strategy was the fear he was pursuing a no-deal divorce, they may be happy to get back into line if he reaches an agreement.But it’s not certain. Gauke has questioned whether Johnson’s promises can be trusted, while former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has warned of the economic dangers of not having a close relationship with the EU. Several of them, including Antoinette Sandbach, have suggested the U.K. needs to hold another referendum.Johnson would be doing very well if he got all of them on side.Democratic Unionist Party: 10Johnson worked hard to try to keep Northern Ireland’s DUP engaged, but they have come out firmly against the new deal. They have deep reservations about anything that creates any kind of border between Britain and Northern Ireland, such as customs checks in the Irish Sea, and want a stronger consent mechanism that hands a greater say to the regional assembly. They are now trying to persuade Tories to vote against the deal.The Spartans: 28The self-titled “Spartans” are Conservative MPs who refused to vote for May’s deal. They chose their name to recall the fearsome Ancient Greek warriors who held off a numerically superior Persian force at the Battle of Thermopylae.When Johnson became prime minister, the Spartans were adamant they opposed any but the most minimal Brexit agreement. But in recent weeks they have begun to see the virtues of compromise. This is the result of the Benn Act, legislation that aims to prevent the U.K. leaving on Oct. 31 unless Johnson has reached a deal. It’s made the Spartans fear losing Brexit altogether.The leader of the Spartans, Steve Baker, twice described the emerging deal as “tolerable” before it was unveiled. Another, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, was more critical. But many are desperate to get Brexit over the line -- for fear this may be their last opportunity.Two Spartans, at least, are fairly sure to back a deal: Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers are both in Johnson’s Cabinet.Labour: 31May pinned her hopes on winning the support of a significant minority of MPs from the opposition Labour Party who believe the 2016 referendum result must be honored. She struggled to get more than five to vote with her, but 15 who didn’t back her last time joined some who did in signing a letter this month urging the EU to do a deal. That might imply a commitment to actually vote for such an agreement.Against that is the fear of retribution from their party if they do so. Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team sense that defeating Johnson’s deal is a key step on their route to beating him at an election. Others in the party see defeating a deal as essential to securing another referendum.A law unto herself is Kate Hoey, a fierce supporter of Brexit, who’s likely to vote the same way as the Spartans.Since Johnson announced his deal, some Labour MPs who previously made pro-Brexit noises have started to come out of the woodwork, so we’ve increased the number of potential Labour votes by 10.Independents: 5Four independent MPs backed May’s deal in March. A fifth, John Woodcock, might also be tempted.Other MPs: 2Two possible supporters defy categorization. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who is stepping down at the next election, represents a seat that voted to leave the EU and has been critical of his party’s anti-Brexit stance. And Jo Johnson, brother of the prime minister, voted against the deal in March, agreed to join his brother’s Cabinet, then resigned. Both could potentially back a deal to settle the issue.So, Johnson Needs 61 of 85 Available VotesIt’s tight, but feasible. In charge of wooing MPs is Johnson’s political secretary, Danny Kruger, who has been speaking not just to Conservatives but to opposition lawmakers who might be tempted to support a deal. The opposite of his more famous and abrasive colleague Dominic Cummings, Kruger is a gentle and thoughtful former political speech-writer who has set up two charities to help people on the margins of society.The RisksThere is a question, however, of whether the prime minister might lose some support, for example among those Tories who voted for a deal in March and regretted doing so afterward.There’s also another intriguing possibility. When Theresa May was prime minister, she said a Brexit deal that split Northern Ireland from Great Britain was one that no prime minister could accept. Now she’s a former prime minister and if that’s the path Johnson takes, could she live with it?She’ll almost certainly stay loyal, but then Johnson did make her life very difficult, so it’s hard to be sure.The JokerIf it comes to a tie, Speaker John Bercow has a casting vote. It’s not clear how he would exercise it.(Updates count in second paragraph, table.)\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Jessica Shankleman and Greg Ritchie.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans, Flavia Krause-JacksonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:05:10 -0400
  • Boris Johnson to Lose Brexit Vote by Four, Spread Betting Firm Says

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    (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to lose the vote on his Brexit deal by four votes, according to Sporting Index, a spread betting firm that has correctly called earlier ballots.If the vote goes ahead on Saturday, Johnson will win the backing of 316 lawmakers, compared with the 320 he needs, the spread betting firm said in an email. On Thursday, the firm predicted he’d win 313.In April, on the final vote on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the spread betting firm forecast she’d lose by 60 votes. She was defeated by 58. Earlier in March, when May lost by 149 votes, Sporting Index predicted a 148 loss. In January, when she was beaten by 230, it forecast 218.Separately, 67% of all bets placed with Ladbrokes on the vote have favored the deal being rejected, the betting firm said. Still, it’s not clear if the vote will go ahead as planned on Saturday. Rebels expelled from his own Conservative Party are moving to postpone the decisive vote -- forcing the prime minister to seek a further extension from the bloc.To contact the reporter on this story: Dara Doyle in Dublin at ddoyle1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:58:41 -0400
  • GOP Rep. Rooney Won’t Rule Out Impeachment: It’s ‘Certainly Clear’ There Was Quid Pro Quo

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    A day after “acting “ White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney remarkably admitted military aid to Ukraine was contingent on their investigation into an insane conspiracy theory involving the 2016 election, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) said that he could not rule out impeachment while saying Mulvaney laid out a “clear” quid pro quo.“Whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear right now,” Rooney told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Friday morning. “That the actions were related to getting someone in the Ukraine to do these things. As you put on there, Senator Murkowski said it perfectly: We’re not to use political power and prestige for political gain.”Harlow, meanwhile, wanted to know if Rooney felt this rose to the level of an impeachable offense.“That’s something I can’t answer,” the Florida lawmaker replied. “I’ve been reading about this impeachment business. I’m not really—I went to law school but didn’t practice law. I did read something today. That impeachment is whatever the House members and majority say it is. I guess anything is.”This prompted the CNN anchor to press Rooney on the issue of impeachment, noting that he had said it was “very clear” there was a quid pro quo as it relates to Ukraine.“I don’t know. I want to study it more,” he responded. “I want to hear the next set of testimony next week from a couple more ambassadors. But it’s certainly very, very serious and troubling.”Harlow continued to grill Rooney on why he was still unsure on the matter, causing the Republican congressman to say he still wants to see if this is “grave and serious” enough to impeach the president.“I don’t think this is as much as Richard Nixon did,” Rooney continued. “But I’m very mindful of the fact that back during Watergate everybody said it’s a witch hunt to get Nixon. Turns out it wasn’t a witch hunt but it was absolutely correct.”Moments later, during a discussion on the situation in Syria and the bipartisan backlash the president has faced for abandoning America’s Kurdish allies following Turkey’s invasion, Rooney said he was worried about America’s safety as Trump was ceding the Middle East to Russia.“Do you agree at all with the assessment then from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the private meeting with the president earlier this week where she reportedly said to him, ‘Sir, all roads lead to Putin, lead to Russia.’ Do you share that concern?” Harlow wondered.“Well, I’ve read some of that,” the GOP lawmaker answered. “I was skeptical of it, like most Republicans. But I have to say this business about the Ukraine server, which no one heard about until it was mentioned recently, tells me what—are we trying to exculpate Russia, who all our trained intelligence officials have consistently corroborated that Russia was behind the election meddling, not the Ukraine.”Asked whether he agreed with Pelosi, the Republican eventually stated that “she has a point.”Rooney isn’t the only potential crack in the Republican dam when it comes to impeachment. Following Mulvaney’s disastrous comments, which he’s since tried to walk back, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) said: “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet 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.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:53:59 -0400
  • Japan to send own force, won't join US coalition for Mideast

    Japan's government said Friday it has decided not to join a U.S. coalition to protect commercial vessels in the Middle East but is preparing to send its own force to ensure the safe shipment of oil to Japan. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that Japan will keep cooperating closely with Washington even if it won't join the initiative the U.S. says is aimed at protecting commercial tankers from alleged Iranian attacks. "Peace and stability in the Middle East is extremely important for the international society, including Japan," Suga said at a news conference.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:49:41 -0400
  • Irish PM's party primed for snap election if Brexit sealed - party sources

    Supporters of Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will urge him to call a snap election if Britain can seal its departure from the European Union, four members of his Fine Gael party told Reuters. Varadkar's minority government, run via a cooperation deal with the main opposition Fianna Fail party, was supposed to last only until the end of 2018 but its lifespan was extended as Dublin took on a pivotal role in Brexit talks. Varadkar could try to capitalise on what is likely to be hailed in Ireland as a diplomatic success if on Saturday British lawmakers ratify the Brexit deal reached with the EU and leave by the end of October, the four members said.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:48:32 -0400
  • GBP/USD: Hinging On Boris' Selling Skills

    GBP/USD has been trading at a high range ahead of parliament's vote on the Brexit deal. "White smoke in Berlaymont" was one of the tweets announcing a Brexit deal – sending sterling surging – until "black smoke" came out of Belfast. Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed off on a deal with his European counterparts without receiving the blessing of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:33:33 -0400
  • UK PM's "deal or no deal" Saturday showdown faces wrecking attempt

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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to fend off an attempt to wreck his "deal or no-deal" Brexit vote on Saturday, as a group of lawmakers propose to delay giving parliament's backing for his new exit agreement.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:30:33 -0400
  • Boris Johnson Might Not Even Get His Brexit Vote on Saturday

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson may not even get the chance to put his Brexit deal to the vote on Saturday, with support growing for a move by an alliance of former Conservatives and opposition Members of Parliament to delay the decision by a week or more.Former Tory minister Oliver Letwin and Labour MP Hilary Benn have put down an amendment to Johnson’s motion which would withhold approval for the Brexit deal until the bill that implements it is law.If it is passed, Johnson would be unable to put his deal to the vote, leaving him in a situation where he’s obliged by law to seek a delay to Brexit.The main opposition Labour Party is likely to order its MPs to support the amendment, according to two people familiar with the party’s plans. Other opposition parties are also on board. Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the 35-seat Scottish National Party, said she’s “sympathetic” to the plan and would back anything that makes sure the deal doesn’t go through on Saturday.Johnson doesn’t have a majority, so a united opposition and the support of former Tories, such as Philip Hammond and David Gauke, gives the move a good chance of passing.The amendment says Parliament should withhold approval of the deal “unless and until implementing legislation is passed.” That would automatically trigger the Benn Act, which says the prime minister must ask the EU for an extension if he hasn’t finalized a deal with both the EU and U.K. Parliament by Oct. 19.“My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the U.K. from crashing out on Oct. 31 by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation,” Letwin said in an email. “Nothing in my amendment or in the Benn Act itself in any way delays the actual departure of the U.K. from the EU immediately following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.”Letwin won’t know until Saturday morning if his amendment has been selected for debate by Speaker John Bercow.(Updates with Letwin in seventh paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:16:56 -0400
  • UK lawmaker Letwin says his amendment designed to block accidental no-deal

    British Lawmaker Oliver Letwin said on Friday he wanted to make sure Britain did not leave the European Union without a Brexit deal by mistake, explaining a proposal that could prevent a vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal on Saturday. Letwin has proposed that the approval of the deal is deferred until separate legislation to implement the terms of the deal has passed through parliament. "My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the UK from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation," Letwin said in an explanatory note sent to reporters.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:06:54 -0400
  • Macron Says U.K. Shouldn’t Get New Delay If Johnson Loses Vote

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    (Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron heaped pressure on the British Parliament to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, saying the U.K.’s departure from the European Union shouldn’t be delayed a moment longer.With Parliament due to vote on the revised agreement on Saturday, Macron’s remarks echoed the message Johnson himself has been sending to reticent MPs: it’s now or never. "I don’t think a new extension should be granted," Macron told reporters after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, where the deal had been rubber stamped. "The Oct. 31 deadline must be met."Macron’s stance increases the risk that the U.K. will crash out of the EU without a deal on Oct. 31. But the reality is more nuanced, according to EU diplomats who doubt the bloc will ever throw the U.K. off a cliff without a safety net. The pound dipped on the comments, and then recovered.Selling the DealAfter sealing a revised deal with the EU on Thursday, Johnson is spending Friday frantically talking to politicians from his own and other parties as he tries to rustle up a majority. The prime minister needs to add 61 votes to the tally his predecessor Theresa May managed when her version of the Brexit deal was defeated for a third and final time in March.The new agreement differs from May’s agreement because only Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K. will continue to apply the EU’s customs rules. That’s upset the province’s Democratic Unionist Party whose MPs say they won’t back Johnson’s deal on Saturday.If Johnson loses the vote, he’s obliged by law to request from the EU another extension by the end of the day. But any postponement must be approved unanimously by the EU’s 27 leaders so Macron would have a veto.EU officials were expecting such an intervention by Macron, who made similar noises before approving a Brexit delay in April, but they said that it’s very unlikely that he or any other leader would prevent another one, particularly if the U.K. was headed for a general election. While the bloc is just as keen to get Britain’s departure over the line as Johnson, it considers a no-deal exit in two weeks a far worse prospect than another postponement.Envoys from the 27 remaining countries and the European Commission are due to meet on Sunday to discuss next steps should Johnson’s deal fall.The French have consistently taken a hard line in Brexit negotiations and Macron argues that the tight deadline he insisted on the last time the process was extended helped force Johnson into concessions. Several EU governments privately now regret delaying Brexit from April until October, acknowledging that it took the pressure of the U.K. to pass a deal."I was alone and I don’t think I was wrong," Macron said, referring to the decision six months ago.Other leaders were more circumspect on the issue, with Leo Varadkar, the prime minister of Ireland, which stands to be affected most by a no-deal Brexit, saying a delay isn’t guaranteed and Luxembourg premier Xavier Bettel insisting the ball was now in the U.K. Parliament’s court.“We have done our job,” he said. “There’s a plan A, but there’s no plan B."(Updates with context throughout.)\--With assistance from Stephanie Bodoni.To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@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.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:59:33 -0400
  • Hong Kong protesters don cartoon masks to defy face mask ban

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    Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters donned cartoon character masks as they formed human chains across the semiautonomous Chinese city on Friday night, in defiance of a government ban on face coverings at public assemblies. Chinese internet users have joked that Chinese President Xi Jinping resembles the talking bear, leading the country's censors to scrub online references to the character. The protesters were taking a lighthearted approach to oppose the government's decision this month to invoke colonial-era emergency regulations banning face masks at rallies as it struggles to contain the chaotic protest movement.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:46:38 -0400
  • Nationwide Protests Erupt in Lebanon as Economic Crisis Deepens

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    (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of protesters cut off roads and started fires around Lebanon as anger over plans to impose a levy on WhatsApp calls escalated into demands for the government to resign.Demonstrators carrying Lebanese flags thronged outside government headquarters in downtown Beirut on Friday, as some of the largest protests in years entered a second day.Chants of “the people want the fall of the regime” and “revolution” rang out and scuffles erupted with riot police as the crowds demanded the politicians currently debating a proposed austerity budget step down and hold early elections.The economic stakes have rarely been higher for Lebanon, a tiny country that straddles the geopolitical fault-lines of the Middle East, since the end of the 15-year civil war in 1990. One of the most indebted countries in the world, it is struggling to find fresh sources of funding as the foreign inflows on which it has traditionally relied have dried up.The protests have increased pressure on Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who heads a fractious coalition government that has struggled to overcome sectarian and political differences to push through much-needed reforms.Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, has been traditionally backed by Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom has withheld support in recent years as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia’s political influence over the government has grown.The crisis has catapulted Lebanon into a new and unpredictable phase. If Hariri and his allies resign, Lebanon could end up with a government dominated by Hezbollah, making it even harder to attract investment. Hezbollah’s ministers and parliamentarians have oppose higher taxes to spare their supporters further financial pressure as the U.S. seeks to choke off its funding through sanctions on its members and its patron, Iran.If the government survives, few observers expect it to overcome the divisions that have frustrated public demands for change.Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of the president and an opponent of Hariri, called for urgent measures to fight corruption and warned in a televised address that the collapse of the government would result in “chaos” and undermine the currency peg.Hariri, who canceled a cabinet session planned for Friday, is expected to deliver an address to the nation at 6 p.m. local time.Persistent instability in Lebanon has shaken investor confidence and made it harder to revive an economy already struggling to absorb more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the crisis in neighboring Syria.The yield on Lebanon’s dollar bonds due in 2021 jumped more than two percentage points to 20.38% as of 10:44 a.m. in London, snapping six days of declines. The cost of insuring Lebanese debt against default climbed, with the nation’s five-year credit-default swaps rising 87 basis points to 1,262 -- the highest level on a closing basis since the start of the month.‘Revolution’Sporadic demonstrations have erupted for months in Lebanon as the economic crisis has led to shortages of dollars and threatened the pensions of retired soldiers.The government is under pressure to cut spending, raise taxes and fight corruption -- conditions required by international donors to unlock some $11 billion in pledges made at a Paris conference in early 2018. But the measures are proving deeply unpopular with the public, which widely blames institutional corruption, nepotism and profiteering by politicians for bankrupting the government.The latest unrest was sparked by plans to impose a fee of 20 U.S. cents on the first WhatsApp call that users make every day, causing outrage in a country where communications costs are among the least competitive in the region and people widely use internet voice applications to save money. WhatsApp, a free messaging and voice platform owned by Facebook Inc., has some 1.5 billion users worldwide.On Thursday, the government also discussed a proposal for a gradual increase to the value-added tax, currently at 11%, and new levies on gasoline. But Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil insisted there were no additional taxes planned for next year’s budget.As protests spread to the suburbs and provinces, Telecom Minister Mohamed Choucair called LBCI television on Thursday to say Hariri had ordered him to cancel the levy on Internet calls. But the reversal came too late to appease public opinion.Walls of burning tires and debris effectively severed the main thoroughfares at the northern and southern entrances of Beirut and crowds also headed toward the presidential palace in Baabda, footage aired on Lebanese television stations showed. In downtown Beirut, protesters threw bottles, petrol bombs, metal barriers and other projectiles at riot police and occasional scuffles broke out as they tried to break through the security cordon around the government headquarters.The International Monetary Fund projects Lebanon’s current-account deficit will reach almost 30% of gross domestic product by the end of this year. Amid the violence on Thursday, it issued a new report predicting that economic growth, stagnant at 0.3% in 2018, would continue to be weak amid political and economic uncertainty and a severe contraction in the real estate sector. Public debt is projected to increase to 155% of Gross Domestic Product by the end of 2019, it said.(Updates throughout, adds quotes from Basil.)\--With assistance from Alex Nicholson.To contact the reporters on this story: Lin Noueihed in Beirut at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net;Dana Khraiche in Beirut at dkhraiche@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:41:38 -0400
  • Chinese Nuclear Stockpile Clouds Prospects for U.S.-Russia Deal

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    (Bloomberg) -- A key hurdle to extending a landmark nuclear treaty between the U.S. and Russia isn’t Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin. It’s China.The New START treaty, the last major arms control accord between the world’s two nuclear superpowers, is set to expire in early 2021. Like another key treaty covering intermediate-range nuclear missiles, which collapsed this year after the U.S. quit that accord, Trump administration officials say the agreement may not be worth extending if China isn’t brought into the fold.A failure to renew or extend the accord would mark the effective end of decades of agreements aimed at limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Experts say it would also send a worrisome signal to other nations -- from Saudi Arabia to North Korea -- already pursuing or seeking to pursue nuclear programs.U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in August that the U.S. should consider “multi-lateralizing” the agreement. “If we really want to go after avoiding an arms race, and capture these systems, we should multi-lateralize it.”Yet while the U.S. believes China will double its nuclear stockpile over the next decade, most arms control experts say it would be better for Washington and Moscow to settle on an extension of New START and worry about Beijing later.“China doesn’t have anything like the number of warheads the U.S. and Russia possess,” Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia who co-chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative, said in an interview. “We will at some point have to have China in the equation but that won’t happen now. Common sense would be to at least extend a treaty that already exists and work from there.”Russian officials say they want the current agreement extended for the allowed five years beyond its 2021 expiration. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters last month that that the U.S. continues to insist China be brought into negotiations, a message he said Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivered to him at the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings.But Moscow says time is running out. Negotiations for a new deal would typically take as long as a year. Even settling on an extension would be lengthy.“We urge our American colleagues not to lose time anymore,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with Russia’s International Affairs journal. “There’s almost none left. Simply letting this treaty die would be unforgivable. This will be perceived by the international community as neglecting one of the key pillars of international security.”Despite American efforts, Beijing has so far balked at trilateral talks, arguing it is far behind Moscow and Washington, which together hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.“China has no interest in participating in a nuclear-arms-reduction negotiation with the U.S. or Russia, given the huge gap between China’s nuclear arsenal and those of the U.S. and Russia,” said Fu Cong, director general of the foreign ministry’s Arms Control Department. “The U.S. and Russia, as the countries possessing the largest and most advanced nuclear arsenals, bear special and primary responsibilities on nuclear disarmament.”Nine countries possess nuclear weapons, with the global nuclear warhead count at 13,865 in 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Russia and the U.S. each have more than 6,000 warheads, followed by France at 300, China at 290, the U.K. at 200, India and Pakistan each with over 100, Israel at about 80 and North Korea estimated at 20-30.China’s stockpiles are expected to grow rapidly. The country “has developed a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, a new multi-warhead version of its silo-based ICBM, and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile,” Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in May. “With its announcement of a new nuclear-capable strategic bomber, China will soon field their own nuclear triad, demonstrating China’s commitment to expanding the role and centrality of nuclear forces in Beijing’s military aspirations.”Getting China to participate in any talks is complicated by Beijing’s own calculus, which involves deterring India and expanding its weapons program, said Gary Samore, a former U.S. senior director for nonproliferation and export controls during the Clinton administration.“A trilateral approach is not practical at the moment because the Chinese will not agree to institutionalize their very small numbers compared to the U.S. and Russia,” added Samore, who now directs the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF -- the Cold War-era agreement that expired this year -- is already raising tensions with Beijing. Esper recently indicated that the U.S. was looking at deploying previously-banned intermediate range missiles in Asia, angering Chinese officials. Potential bases for the missiles could be in Taiwan and Japan, Samore said.Beyond China, U.S. talks with Russia are complicated by increasing mistrust on both sides. As a UN disarmament committee sought to begin its scheduled meetings earlier this month, Russian officials wouldn’t agree to adopt the schedule in protest of a U.S. refusal to issue visas to members of its delegation, a diplomat said.The potential of an escalating arms race comes after a prolonged period of relative progress in curbing nuclear weapons.The U.S. and Russia destroyed thousands of ground-launched missiles thanks to the INF treaty. New START, reached between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, capped the total number of U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Crucially, after reaching that accord, the U.S. and Russia adopted a united stance against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, forcing Tehran to sign a 2015 nuclear accord that the U.S. withdrew from last year.Unlike the situation during the Cold War, the advent of new cyber, artificial intelligence, and space technologies has moved much of the nuclear arms competition in recent years away from quantity to quality, Nunn and Ernest Moniz, the former U.S. Energy secretary and the co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, recently warned in a report. That may bolster the U.S. case for China to be included in a future deal.China’s rising military and technological prowess in the decades since the first nuclear deals were ratified means the Trump administration is right in calling China to be included in new strategic talks, even if it remains in the U.S. interest to extend New START, said Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.“The U.S. has historically dominated many emerging technologies such as space, but now the Chinese are growing in these areas,” Manning said. “We need strategic dialogue to tackle these new areas. Do we want autonomous weapons or not? Do we want to ban hyper-sonics or not? That’s where the next wave is, not in whether nuclear weapons should be reduced or not.”But losing New START would send a signal to the world that the two biggest nuclear powers don’t care about arms control, Nunn said. Lori Esposito Murray, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees.“You don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Murray said. “You keep the constraints you have that have produced an 80% reduction of nuclear stockpiles and then you look at a process that looks at China and advanced technologies.”(Updates to add estimated global arsenal in 12th paragraph. An earlier version of this story was corrected to say Nunn is from Georgia, not North Carolina)\--With assistance from Henry Meyer and Brendan Scott.To contact the reporter on this story: David Wainer in New York at dwainer3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:36:01 -0400
  • Pound Levels to Watch After U.K. Lawmakers Vote on Brexit Deal

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    (Bloomberg) -- Currency markets are likely to react sharply to the vote in Britain’s Parliament on Saturday on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.With the pound being the main barometer to the ups and downs of the Brexit saga, here is a guide to the levels to watch when markets reopen at the end of the weekend.Bullish OutcomeThe first key pound technical resistance comes around $1.3150 and may be where a knee-jerk rally will stall; the 200-weekly moving average stands at $1.3159, while the midpoint of sterling’s losses since April 2018 comes at $1.3168 and its May 6 high is at $1.3185The next big stop doesn’t come until closer to $1.3400; the mid-March high at $1.3381 stands out, while the pivotal 61.8% Fibonacci retracement of the 2018-2019 downtrend comes at $1.3453 and a four-year trendline resistance currently stands above $1.3500Bearish OutcomeInvestors short the pound may be looking to trim their exposure around the $1.2600 area; the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement of the recent rally comes at $1.2596, with October’s breakout point seen at $1.2582, the high on Sept. 20; a key DeMark trendline comes at $1.2522 The next potential barrier comes below $1.2400; the July 17 low at 1.2382 is in close proximity to $1.2353, the 61.8% Fibonacci level of the latest rally A triple-bottom in October around $1.2200 also stands out, while at the far end lies a 31-year low at $1.1841, the 2016 troughRangebound OutcomeIn case the pound fails to sustain a big move in either direction, short-term levels to watch for include pivot resistance at $1.3004; $1.2990, the high on Oct. 17; $1.2765, pivot support; and $1.2712, the 233-daily moving averageNOTE: Vassilis Karamanis is an FX and rates strategist who writes for Bloomberg. The observations he makes are his own and are not intended as investment adviceTo contact the reporter on this story: Vassilis Karamanis in Athens at vkaramanis1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Dobson at pdobson2@bloomberg.net, Neil Chatterjee, Michael HunterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:29:48 -0400
  • Brexit Defeat Would ‘Suck The Wind’ Out of Sterling’s 5% Rally

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    (Bloomberg) -- Currency strategists are ruling nothing out for Saturday’s crucial parliamentary vote on Britain’s deal to exit the European Union -- and that makes forecasting where sterling will trade something of a crapshoot.The pound could surge to $1.35 or slip to around $1.22, strategists and fund managers say as they assess the range of possible outcomes from Brexit’s climactic moment.Sterling already jumped 5% this month to around $1.29 and now it’s pinned to that marker as traders wait to see if Prime Minister Boris Johnson can convince skeptics in the House of Commons to approve the divorce deal he sealed this week. It’s fine margins, and if he can’t, that opens the door to other scenarios including an election, a second referendum, or even a move to leave the EU with no agreement in place.While Johnson’s accord has lowered the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, the risks “are not mathematically zero,” say strategists at Toronto-Dominion Bank, including Ned Rumpeltin.“Any positions predicated on an imminent no-deal crash-out look difficult to countenance at this stage,” said Rumpeltin, the European head of currency strategy at TD. “Looking forward however, we think it is still a little too early to sound an unqualified all-clear.”If Parliament does manage to pass the deal this week, the pound could test May’s peak of around $1.3185, the TD strategists forecast, though they see it struggling to move higher in the absence of fresh catalysts.UBS Global Wealth Management is more bullish. It’s retaining an overweight position in sterling against the dollar, said Chief Investment Officer Mark Haefele. A “convincing deal” could drive the pound to $1.35, he predicted.Johnson needs 61 of 85 possible votes from potential swing lawmakers, a tight but feasible number. One blow is that Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, with 10 potential supporters, came out firmly against the deal.If lawmakers were to reject it and that led to an extension beyond the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, the risk of a general election would “suck the wind” out of sterling’s rally and see it test $1.2640-60, the TD strategists predict. And that level could come under significant pressure if Parliament’s blocking of the deal were followed by the EU rejecting a request for an extension to the Brexit deadline.Jane Foley, the head of currency strategy at Rabobank, sees even greater risks if the deal fails to pass through Parliament. Sterling could dip to around to October’s low of $1.22 before finding “solid support” -- as long as the government doesn’t ramp up its no-deal rhetoric, she said.Other scenarios -- including a potential second referendum that could cancel Brexit altogether, or a delay in the timing of the vote -- cannot be ruled out either.No wonder implied volatility on sterling is so high and risk gauges are swinging back and forth. And adding to the drama, the currency market won’t get its first chance to react to the twists and turns of the weekend until trading resumes at 7 p.m. local time (or 7 a.m. in Auckland), when liquidity can be limited and exacerbate price swings.“No deal remains a threat until either a deal or no Brexit is completed,” Rumpeltin said. “An unexpected jump to an alternative scenario would quickly return both rates and FX to the state of confusion and -- often -- contradiction that has defined much of the Brexit process so far.”(Adds Rabobank view in 10th paragraph, updates chart)To contact the reporter on this story: Anooja Debnath in London at adebnath@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Dobson at pdobson2@bloomberg.net, Neil ChatterjeeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:24:18 -0400
  • EU Leaders Fail to Make Headway on Their Trillion-Euro Budget

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    (Bloomberg) -- After managing a united front over Brexit, divisions between European Union leaders were laid bare Friday when they discussed how to plug the budget shortfall left by the U.K.’s intended departure.The trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) seven-year budget is a cornerstone of EU policy that lets farmers compete against imports from the developing world, helps poorer states catch up with the rich ones and underpins projects that bind the union together. But agreeing on the amount of cash and how to spend it is a regular source of tension between the net contributors and those who get more than they put in.Britain, of course, was a net contributor. Now richer members are calling for the hole it will leave to be covered by cuts in the budget for the 2021-2027 period. Poorer ones want everyone else to cough up more.During their meeting on Friday leaders didn’t make any headway in agreeing on a ceiling for the budget, putting at risk a self-imposed deadline to reach a final deal in December. Agreement on the volume of the funds is needed before decisions can be taken on what they should be spend it on, and the conditions attached to the disbursements.But so far, diverging positions between different countries have remained entrenched."Positions on the budget were significantly apart," said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda "Divergence of opinion was too big to find a compromise today."European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the discussion didn’t offer any guidance as leaders just repeated known positions and predicted there would be no breakthrough in December either."We’re under time pressure," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. "We have to quickly reach an agreement under the Croat presidency if possible, otherwise we won’t be able to finalize the programs by the time the new financial framework takes effect -- which wouldn’t be good."No One Is HappyThe spat is expected to keep leaders at loggerheads for months, but at its heart it’s about a tiny amount of money when spread over the EU’s 450 million people: 0.1% of GDP. The bloc’s executive arm has proposed that member states commit around 1.1% to the joint budget, while net contributors want to cap that at 1%. Either way it’s not much more than they have put in previously.Finland, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has proposed 1.03% to 1.08%, according to an internal memo. The difference between those figures amounts to about 50 billion euros over seven years. Yet almost no one is happy, according to several diplomats following the issue.The EU is no stranger to fighting over small change.The 19 finance ministers representing the euro-area’s $19 trillion economy just completed a two-year negotiation over a separate budget worth less than 20 billion euros.(Updates with Nauseda and Juncker comments in six, seventh paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Milda Seputyte, Jan Bratanic, Aaron Eglitis, Lyubov Pronina, Stephanie Bodoni, Morten Buttler, Jonathan Stearns, Helene Fouquet, Ewa Krukowska, Alexander Weber, John Follain, Richard Bravo and John Ainger.To contact the reporters on this story: Nikos Chrysoloras in Brussels at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.net;Viktoria Dendrinou in Brussels at vdendrinou@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Ben Sills, Rosalind MathiesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:55:51 -0400
  • EU finance sector prepared for hard Brexit, if deal fails- Scholz

    German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Friday said he hoped the British parliament approved an agreement for Britain's departure from the European Union, but said the EU was prepared to weather a no-deal Brexit if necessary. Scholz said there would be no significant impact on the financial sector, but sorting out complex supply chain issues could be more difficult if Britain crashed out of the bloc without a deal. "We are prepared for that," Scholz told an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:35:49 -0400
  • Boris Johnson seeks to charm parliament — with his eye on an election

    Boris Johnson will fire up the charm in an attempt to push his Brexit deal through the U.K. parliament — but crushing failure followed by an election could be no bad thing. Johnson already started greasing the wheels on Thursday after he clinched a surprise agreement with Brussels and jetted to the European Council summit in Brussels to get it rubber-stamped by EU leaders. Saturday's vote is the crucial next stage in the Brexit process, but an expected defeat in the House of Commons coupled with the win from Brussels could hand him a tailor-made election campaign pitch to take to the public: Parliament blocked my deal and refused to deliver Brexit, so give me more MPs to get it done.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:29:03 -0400
  • Sudan rebel faction, government hold 1st round of talks

    Sudan's largest single rebel group Friday held its first round of direct peace talks with the country's transitional government, despite an earlier boycott following a military crackdown. The Sudan Liberation Movement-North, led by Abdel-Aziz al-Hilu, had canceled talks with the government that were scheduled for Wednesday after the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces set up a checkpoint and detained 16 people in South Kordofan Province.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:27:09 -0400
  • Macron says opposes Brexit extension if UK parliament rejects deal

    French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that he was opposed to granting a Brexit extension past the Oct. 31 deadline if the British parliament rejects the deal agreed with the 27 other EU member states. The House of Commons is due to vote on Saturday on the agreement reached between the 27 and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. "I hope we can stick to the timeline we gave ourselves and that the date of Oct. 31 is respected," Macron told a news conference.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:04:21 -0400
  • Britain will lose out from exiting single market - Merkel

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Britain would become a competitor after Brexit and that its exit from the European Union would see it losing out. Merkel told a news conference that she felt the competition would be strongest in areas such as research, tax policy and digitalisation, rather than foreign policy. "Great Britain will of course lose out somewhat.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 08:38:25 -0400
  • 15 Times Trump and His Allies Claimed 'No Quid Pro Quo'

    Golocal247.com news

    WASHINGTON -- It was not the message that the White House and its supporters have been trying to hammer home in recent weeks as the impeachment investigation has intensified on Capitol Hill: Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, said Thursday that President Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine in part to pressure Kyiv to pursue a politically motivated investigation into the 2016 election.His comments -- even after he issued a statement walking back his remarks -- undercut weeks of denials from Trump, his aides, Republican lawmakers and the conservative news media that the president was seeking a quid pro quo in his dealings with the new Ukrainian president. Some of their statements were focused on a July 25 phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine in which Trump repeatedly brought up his desire for investigations into political rivals. Others touched specifically on Trump's decision in July to hold up the $391 million package of security aid to Ukraine, a development that government officials there said they only learned about at the end of August.OCT. 16, 20191\. President Donald Trump"Now, all of a sudden, quid pro quo doesn't matter because now they see, in the call, there was no quid pro quo."-- In remarks at the White HouseThe New York Times also found several other instances of Trump's proclaiming "no quid pro quo" on Twitter, in remarks to reporters, in news conferences and at political rallies.OCT. 3, 20192\. Vice President Mike Pence"Contrast that with the president's -- the transcript of the president's phone call with President Zelenskiy where there was no quid pro quo. There was no pressure."-- In remarks to reportersOCT. 3, 20193\. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C."What we do know is there was definitely no quid pro quo. I mean, it came out over and over."-- In remarks to reportersOCT. 13, 20194\. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin"In the Oval Office, when the president was asked about this in front of the vice premier, the president made very clear, they can do what they want. So, again, people who are trying to imply that the president is asking for things or quid pro quos, I think this is ridiculous."-- In an interview on ABCOCT. 4, 20195\. Lou Dobbs, Fox Business Network host"And it's not a difference of opinion. Any rational person looking at it, any reasonable person, can only conclude that there was no quid pro quo. There was no threat of any kind."-- on Fox NewsSEPT. 28, 20196\. Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president"And as the president said, this was a perfect call. The Ukrainian president said on live TV the other day, up at the United Nations General Assembly, that he felt no pressure. And, in fact, if you read what's there, you see what's not there -- no quid pro quo."-- In an interview on Fox NewsSEPT. 26, 20197\. Larry Kudlow, Trump's chief economic adviser"There was no quid pro quo. There was no issue about finally getting the military assistance. And he thanked us. The Ukrainian president thanked us for our support on his anti-corruption campaign."-- In an interview on Fox NewsOCT. 14, 20198\. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La."And I think a lot of these members in swing districts are hearing that, hey, you ran saying you were going to work with people to get things done and all you're focused on is impeaching the president over a lie about quid pro quo that never even happened. What are you people doing up there?"-- In an interview on Fox Business NetworkOCT. 14, 20199\. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y."President Zelenskiy had no idea that there was a hold on aid during the July 25th call. The readouts of the July 25th call on both the Ukraine side and the U.S. side mention nothing about a hold on aid or a quid pro quo. July 26th, the day after that phone call, Ambassador Volker met with President Zelenskiy. During that meeting, there was no reference to a hold on aid or a quid pro quo."-- In remarks to reportersOCT. 13, 201910\. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D."There was no quid pro quo in the -- in the phone conversation. So, no doubt that the haters are going to hate."-- In an interview on CNNOCT. 13, 201911\. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas"I think that was good because a lot what the Democrats had been raising, alleging an illegal quid pro quo, was not, in fact, backed up by the transcript."-- In an interview with CBSOCT. 8, 201912\. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio"If they would release the transcript from Ambassador Volker's testimony and interview last week, you would see that Ambassador Volker backs up exactly what you just said. There was no quid pro quo."-- During an interview on Fox NewsOCT. 6, 201913\. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C."Every Democratic member of the House needs to be on record: Do you agree with Nancy Pelosi that the transcript is enough to impeach President Trump? Remember when Pelosi said that the transcript would show a quid pro quo? It doesn't."-- In an interview on Fox Business NetworkOCT. 8, 201914\. Mercedes Schlapp, senior adviser for the Trump campaign"But more so, what is so disgusting is the fact that the Democrats continue to try to build up this narrative on, well, there was a quid pro quo when the call -- when the call happened. They just jumped the gun without facts, without being credible."-- In an interview on Fox Business NetworkOCT. 2, 201915\. Hogan Gidley, White House spokesman"Well, right. But this doesn't have anything to do with the 2020 election, and the president was very clear about that and that wasn't in the call. What else wasn't in the call was the quid pro quo."-- In an interview on Fox NewsThis article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 08:17:17 -0400
  • Pompeo seeks to reassure Israel amid Syria turmoil

    Golocal247.com news

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israel's prime minister on Friday to reaffirm the countries' close ties at a time when many in Israel fear the Trump administration intends to cut and run from the Middle East. The meeting came a day after a U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo reached an agreement with Turkey to halt its week-old offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Israel has strongly condemned the offensive, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of "ethnic cleansing." Others have expressed fear that President Donald Trump's stated desire to get out of "stupid endless wars" in the Middle East makes him an unreliable ally as Israel faces threats from Iran.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 08:11:17 -0400
  • 10 things you need to know today: October 18, 2019

    1.Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday admitted that the Trump administration held back military aid to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats, then hours later walked back the comments. In his first comments, Mulvaney said the White House held back $400 million in security funding to get Ukraine to investigate a debunked theory that the country was involved in 2016 election campaign hacking in a bid to help Hillary Clinton beat President Trump. He said the aid was never linked to Trump's desire for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. In his later statement, Mulvaney said "there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election." [CNBC, The Washington Post] 2.Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire in Syria to allow Syrian Kurdish forces to withdraw from areas under attack by the Turkish military, Vice President Pence said Thursday after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Pence said the U.S. had committed to helping the Kurds, who fought alongside American troops against the Islamic State, and Erdogan had agreed to halt his offensive, although the fighting did not appear to cease immediately. President Trump's decision to move U.S. forces out of the area cleared the way for Turkey to launch its operation. The House on Wednesday passed a bipartisan measure opposing Trump's move, with critics saying he abandoned strong allies. [The Washington Post] 3.Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House impeachment investigators on Thursday that President Trump delegated Ukraine policy to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland, testifying under subpoena after declining a request to appear last week, said in an opening statement obtained by The New York Times that the president had rebuffed his top diplomats' advice to meet with Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, without any preconditions. "We were also disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani," Sondland said. "Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine." [The New York Times] 4.Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday told President Trump he plans to resign by the end of the year. Perry's decision came as he became a focus of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump. Perry, a former Texas governor, was one of three political appointees referred to as the "three amigos" who oversaw Ukraine policy for Trump after acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney transferred the job away from career staff, State Department official George Kent told lawmakers in closed-door testimony. Perry reportedly urged Trump to take the July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint and then the impeachment inquiry. Perry had recently denied press reports that he was planning to step down. [USA Today, CNBC] 5.The White House announced Thursday that President Trump would host next year's Group of Seven summit at his Doral resort near Miami, Florida. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump's property would host the event "at cost" so that Trump would not profit from the summit. Democrats criticized Trump's decision to award the contract to his own hotel, noting it will bring hundreds of foreign leaders and staff to the financially struggling resort. The move was "among the most brazen examples yet of the president's corruption," said House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose committee is one of three conducting the impeachment inquiry of Trump. "He is exploiting his office and making official U.S. government decisions for his personal financial gain." [The Washington Post, The New York Times] 6.European Union leaders unanimously backed a proposed Brexit deal on Thursday, hours after EU and U.K. negotiators reached the draft agreement. The deal would prevent a hard border between EU member Ireland and Britain's Northern Ireland, the two sides of the U.K.'s only land border with the EU. The deal now goes to British Parliament, which rejected proposals presented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May. Johnson said the proposal was "a great deal for our country." Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn disagreed. "It seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May's, which was overwhelmingly rejected," Corbyn said. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the agreement was "fair and balanced." [The Associated Press] 7.Mexican security forces captured drug boss Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel and son of imprisoned drug boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, but promptly released him. The federal officers who detained Guzman came under intense fire from suspected Sinaloa cartel members, and violence erupted across the Mexican city of Culiacan, with masked men firing high-powered weapons and blocking roads with burning vehicles. City residents were forced to take cover, many left with no choice but to lie flat in the street as bullets flew overhead. The release of Guzman was seen as a humiliating defeat for Mexico's government. Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the decision was necessary to protect lives. [Los Angeles Times, CNN] 8.A powerful nor'easter storm hammered New England with winds gusting to 90 miles per hour and heavy rains on Thursday. The storm caused floods and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people. The intense weather also caused train delays and forced authorities to cancel classes at many schools. Many roads and businesses also were closed. CBS News weather contributor Jeff Berardelli said the storm became a "bomb cyclone," which occurs when a storm's pressure drops 24 millibars within 24 hours. CBS Boston reported that this storm's central pressure plunged by 30 millibars in just 15 hours, setting a record for lowest pressure during October in the area. [CBS News, NPR] 9.The Trump administration on Friday imposed tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European Union goods, including parts and planes made by Boeing-rival Airbus, French wine, and Scottish whiskies. The tariffs took effect at midnight after U.S. and European negotiators failed to agree on a deal in last-minute talks. Aircraft from Britain, France, Germany, and Spain imported to the U.S. now will face a 10 percent tariff, a move the Trump administration announced earlier this month after the World Trade Organization ruled the U.S. could impose tariffs to offset illegal preferential treatment of Airbus by the EU. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who is scheduled to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday, warned that "Europe is ready to retaliate." [France24, MarketWatch] 10.President Trump blasted Democrats during a rally in Texas on Thursday, calling them "crazy" for pursuing an impeachment inquiry against him. "At stake in this fight is the survival of American democracy itself," Trump said. The remarks hit what has become a recurring theme for Trump as House Democrats investigate Trump's relationship with Ukraine. A day earlier, he denounced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as "crazy Nancy" after she walked out of a meeting on Syria that devolved into insults. During the rally, Trump also continued his attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden over his son's work for a Ukraine energy company, the issue at the heart of the House inquiry into whether Trump used his office to undermine a political rival. [MarketWatch]

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 08:02:00 -0400
  • Wanted: Ethical intelligence for artificial intelligence

    From the Pentagon to the United Nations, leaders seek advice on AI’s potential to harm – or to serve.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 07:22:34 -0400
  • UN condemns Egypt crackdown on activists

    Golocal247.com news

    The UN on Friday condemned Egypt over the recent arrests of prominent activists and demanded that Cairo probe allegations that they were tortured by the security services while in custody. Several activists who played key roles in the 2011 revolution have been arrested in recent weeks, including blogger and journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah and Alaa Abdel Fattah, an iconic figure in Egypt. Alaa Adbel Fattah and his lawyer, Mohamed el-Baqer -- who is also being held -- have both been accused of belonging to and providing funding for a terrorist group, the United Nations human rights office said.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 06:39:21 -0400
  • EXPLAINER-Britain's 'Super Saturday' Brexit showdown in parliament

    Other options include collapsing his government so that others can take control of Brexit negotiations. Johnson will make a statement to lawmakers, after which there will be a debate and then a vote. Johnson said he had agreed a "great" new Brexit deal.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 06:30:09 -0400
  • Global watchdog gives Iran until Feb. 2020 to tighten anti-money laundering rules

    A global dirty money watchdog said on Friday it had given Iran a final deadline of February 2020 to comply with international norms after which it would urge all its members to apply counter-measures. "If before February 2020, Iran does not enact the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF Standards, then the FATF will fully lift the suspension of counter-measures and call on its members and urge all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures, in line with recommendation 19," it said in a statement.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 06:02:54 -0400
  • Emolumental: Mulvaney and Trump Like Doral for a G-7 Quid Pro Quo

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If you’re wondering how the White House decided a Miami golf resort owned by President Donald Trump was the best venue for a major diplomatic gathering, the Group of Seven summit, the U.S. will host next June, Mick Mulvaney has answers.In a press briefing on Thursday, Trump’s acting chief of staff said his team made its choice after analyzing about a dozen criteria “used by past administrations” that included accommodations as well as “ballrooms, bilateral rooms, the number of rooms, the photo ops, the support hotels that are there, the proximity to cities and airports, helicopter landing zones, medical facilities, etc.”During a visit to Europe in July, the president himself said that he liked the idea of holding the G-7 at Trump National Doral because his Florida spread has “tremendous acreage” and “people are liking it.” But that didn’t mean Trump’s advisers would just roll over and do whatever their boss wanted. Instead, Mulvaney assured us, the White House deployed “an advance team” to examine multiple locations in several states. That scrutiny produced a list of four finalists the crack team pored over before deciding, against the odds, that Doral was the one.“Doral was, by far and away — far and away — the best physical facility for this meeting,” Mulvaney said at the press briefing. “In fact, I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back, and I said, ‘What was it like?’ And they said, ‘Mick, you’re not going to believe this, but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.’” That means, presumably, that Mulvaney never had a conversation in the Oval Office about the selection process that might have gone like this:Mulvaney: “We’re looking at several sites and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “But Mr. President, if you hold the G-7 at your own place that means that the government is using taxpayer funds to fill your wallet and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “I just want to remind you about the grief we got when the vice president stayed at your hotel in Ireland and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “And the grief we got about the our military personnel staying at your golf club in Scotland because –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “There’s also been lots of chatter about all of the diplomats who stay at your Washington hotel and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “Let’s not forget the Kushners used your image and name for product marketing in China, Jared’s maneuvers with 666 Fifth Avenue, the trademarks China suddenly awarded you and Ivanka, taxpayer funds used to help Don Jr. and Eric make overseas business trips or to help you golf all the time at your own clubs, or questions about why you keep appeasing guys like Putin and Erdogan, and why you haven’t really distanced yourself from your businesses or released your tax returns and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “Well, I’ve thought about it, and I’d like to recommend Doral to you, Mr. President.”Trump: “Thank you Mick, that’s a great idea.”Nope, a conversation like that never could have happened and Mulvaney held his press conference to make sure reporters could take his word for it. And sure enough, a reporter did ask if Trump personally intervened to get Doral on the short list of G-7 venues. Yep, he did, Mulvaney answered.“We sat around one night. We were back in the dining room and I was going over it with a couple of our advance team. We had the list, and [Trump] goes, ‘What about Doral?’  And it was like, ‘That’s not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense.’”That’s the kind of answer that could convince skeptics Trump is violating “emoluments” provisions in the Constitution that bar presidents from accepting payments from foreign governments (since lots of foreign governments attending the G-7 will be spending money at Doral).Mulvaney tried to get in front of that by asking and then answering the most obvious question about hosting the G-7 at Doral.“Is the president going to profit from this? I think the president has pretty much made it very clear since he’s got here that he doesn’t profit from being here. He has no interest in profit from being here,” he allowed. “It’s one of the reasons that he’s not taken a salary since he’s been here. He’s given that salary to charity. Will not be profiting here.”Reporters batted some of that back, asking why Trump didn’t see the Doral move as a pure financial conflict of interest and why Mulvaney also didn’t recognize it as free marketing and brand promotion for the president’s company. Mulvaney had no patience for that but couldn’t really put the questions to rest, either.“I was aware of the political, sort of, criticism that we’d come under for doing it at Doral, which is why I was so surprised when the advance team called back and said that this is the perfect physical location to do this.”Mulvaney also swatted down comparisons between the financial practices and ethics of Trump and those of former Vice President Joe Biden and his family – addressing the topic before reporters had even asked about it. (Trump, of course, is in the middle of an impeachment inquiry for asking the president of Ukraine to unearth financial dirt involving Biden.)“There’s no issue here on him profiting from this in any way, shape, or form,” Mulvaney reiterated about Doral. “What’s the difference between this and what we’re talking about the Bidens?  Well, first of all, there’s no profit here.  Clearly, there’s profit with the Bidens.  And, second of all, I think if there’s one difference that you look at between the Trump family and the Biden family: The Trump family made their money before they went into politics.  That’s a big difference.”That’s a problematic way to frame things though because the Trump Organization has been struggling to keep revenue and profits robust at Doral – its biggest golf property -- and thus has incentives to steer government business in its own direction. Doral has also received bad press about bedbug, roach, and other insect infestations — along with hundreds of health code violations — but reporters didn’t ask Mulvaney about that.Last year, an armed man managed to sneak into Doral, steal an American flag and drape it over a lobby counter, pull a fire alarm and then start screaming about Trump before shooting at the ceiling, chandeliers and the police who ultimately apprehended him. Reporters didn’t ask Mulvaney about security concerns if the G-7 ends up at Doral.If I was at the press conference, I also would have asked Mulvaney about the tournament Doral planned to host last summer featuring strippers serving as golfers’ “caddy girls,” but that’s probably just one of the reasons the White House doesn’t invite me to its media events.Like Sean Spicer before him, Mulvaney appears entirely willing to throw himself in front of the media and dissemble while essentially serving as one of Trump’s crash test dummies. It’s also still astounding how easily Trump co-opts people like Mulvaney and how readily Mulvaney and his ilk trample on the Constitution and shred core, non-partisan public values in Trump’s service.Consider this reporter’s question at the Thursday presser about the propriety of holding the G-7 summit at Doral. “Is there any value to sending a message to the world, especially given that all that’s happened with foreign interference and attempts at foreign interference in our country, that this president and this country is not open for the kind of self-dealing that happens in other countries? Is that not an important message to send when you’re inviting the world to come here to the United States?”“No,” Mulvaney responded.To contact the author of this story: Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brooker at mbrooker1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Timothy L. O’Brien is the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion. He has been an editor and writer for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. His books include “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 06:00:24 -0400
  • UPDATE 2-Brexit on a knife edge as PM Johnson stakes all on 'Super Saturday' vote

    Britain's exit from the European Union hung on a knife-edge on Friday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrambled to persuade doubters to rally behind his last-minute European Union divorce deal in an extraordinary vote in parliament. In one of the most striking flourishes of the three-year Brexit drama, Johnson confounded his opponents on Thursday by clinching a new deal with the EU, even though the bloc had promised it would never reopen a treaty it agreed last year.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 05:55:05 -0400
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