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  • A look at the Islamic State affiliate's rise in Afghanistan news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:57:01 -0400
  • Omar, Tlaib to discuss Israel, Palestine travel restrictions news

    Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are talking about travel restrictions to Israel and Palestine after they were denied entry into the Jewish state last week. At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:56:04 -0400
  • US scraps West Bank conference over Palestinian protests

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:50:06 -0400
  • Egypt court hands out 6 death sentences on terror charges

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

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:38:56 -0400
  • 'Dumb as a rock' and a 'crazed crying lowlife': How Trump has insulted former staff news

    On becoming president Donald Trump boasted that he only hired the best people.It was a claim that played into his preferred self-image of a business titan, delegating the running of his many big-money projects to shrewdly chosen managers who could be relied on to make the right calls.But the subsequent two and a half years have called that boast into question, and very often from an unlikely source - Mr Trump himself.Not only has there been a frantic turnover of senior staff, but some of the most withering condemnation of their talents has come from the very person who put them in post.Here’s what Donald Trump has said about some of his top appointments:Anthony Scaramucci (communications director) “Anthony Scaramucci is a highly unstable “nut job” who was with other candidates in the primary who got shellacked, & then unfortunately wheedled his way into my campaign. I barely knew him until his 11 days of gross incompetence-made a fool of himself, bad on TV. Abused staff,… fired. Wrote a very nice book about me just recently. Now the book is a lie? Said his wife was driving him crazy, “something big” was happening with her. Getting divorced. He was a mental wreck. We didn’t want him around. Now Fake News puts him on like he was my buddy!” Fired July 2017Rex Tillerson (secretary of state) “Rex Tillerson, a man who is ‘dumb as a rock’ and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany. I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!” Fired March 2018Jerome Powell (chairman of the Federal Reserve) “This guy made a big mistake. The head of the Fed -- another beauty I chose!” Still in postSteve Bannon (chief strategist) “Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!” Fired August 2017Omarosa Manigault Newman (assistant to the president) “When you give a crazed, crying lowlife a break, and give her a job at the White House, I guess it just didn't work out. Good work by General Kelly for quickly firing that dog!” Fired January 2018Jeff Sessions (attorney general) “I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it.“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.” Resigned at president's request November 2018Donald McGahn (White House counsel) I was NOT going to fire Bob Mueller, and did not fire Bob Mueller. In fact, he was allowed to finish his Report with unprecedented help from the Trump Administration. Actually, lawyer Don McGahn had a much better chance of being fired than Mueller. Never a big fan! - never a big fan. Fired October 2018Gary Cohn (chief economic adviser) “Gary Cohn, I could tell stories about him like you wouldn’t believe.” Resigned March 2018

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:03:15 -0400
  • Study Links Fluoridated Water During Pregnancy to Lower IQs news

    Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettyAn influential medical journal published a study Monday that links fluoride consumption during pregnancy with lower childhood IQs—a finding that could undermine decades of public-health messaging, fire up conspiracy theorists, and alarm mothers-to-be.The research was expected to be so controversial that JAMA Pediatrics included an editor’s note saying the decision to publish it was not easy and that it was subjected to “additional scrutiny.”“It is the only editor’s note I’ve ever written,” Dimitri Christakis, editor in chief of JAMA Pediatrics and a pediatrician, told The Daily Beast. “There was concern on the journal’s editorial team about how this would play out in the public eye and what the public-health implications would be.”About three-fourths of the United States drinks fluoridated tap water—which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared one of the 10 greatest public-health achievements of the 20th century because it dramatically reduces tooth decay.A handful of earlier studies have suggested that prenatal fluoride exposure could affect neurodevelopment, but many experts considered those to be substandard. The new study, vetted by the premier medical publisher in the U.S., is seen as more rigorous.“When we started in this field, we were told that fluoride is safe and effective in pregnancy,” said study co-author Christine Till of York University in Toronto. “But when we looked for the evidence to suggest that it’s safe, we didn’t find any studies done on pregnant women.”They recruited 512 pregnant women from six Canadian cities and measured their exposure several ways: analyzing the amount of fluoride in their urine; looking at how much tap water and tea they drank; and comparing the fluoride concentration in the community drinking water.Then, when the women’s children were 3 or 4, the researchers gave them IQ tests and crunched the numbers to see if they could find any trends.“We saw an association between prenatal fluoride exposure and lower IQ scores in children,” study author Rivky Green said.Specifically, they found a 1 mg per liter increase in concentration of fluoride in urine was associated with a 4.5 point decrease in IQ among boys, though not girls. Another translation: The boys of mothers with the most fluoride in the urine had IQs about 3 points lower than the boys of mothers with the least amount.When the researchers measured fluoride exposure by examining the women’s fluid intake, they found lower IQs in both boys and girls: A 1 mg increase per day was associated with a 3.7-point  IQ deficit among both genders.The results are significant enough to warrant a change in behavior, Green said. “What we recommend is lowering fluoride ingestion during pregnancy,” she said.Before publication, the study was subjected to two statistical reviews, with the researchers combing through the data to make sure that the results were not skewed by the mothers’ education, income levels, or other factors.The findings were astonishing to JAMA editors, who had been told throughout their medical training that fluoridation was completely safe and that opponents were wingnuts relying on “junk science.”“When I first saw this title, my initial inclination was ‘What the hell?’” Christakis said on a JAMA podcast. “For me, before there were anti-vaxxers, there were sort of anti-fluoriders.”In fact, fluoride has been a boogeyman in conspiracy circles for decades. When water fluoridation became widespread in the U.S. in the 1950s, some claimed it was a Soviet plot to physically and mentally weaken Americans. The far-right John Birch Society, among others, accused the U.S. government using fluoride to usher in socialism—a conspiracy theory famously satirized in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Doctor Strangelove.Anti-Fluoriders Are The OG Anti-VaxxersSome modern conspiracy theorists have claimed fluoridated water is a form of mind control, while others falsely link it to Adolf Hitler. Some allege a corporate conspiracy: They think the dentistry industry or food companies are fluoridating water for their own purposes.Others still claim fluoridated water causes illness ranging from thyroid dysfunction to cancer. Infowars founder Alex Jones has frequently railed against fluoride in hyperbolic terms, and his site sells anti-fluoride products.Arguments that the government is medicating people against their will has had an impact. Over the past five years, dozens of U.S. cities have voted to remove fluoride from their drinking water, much to the dismay of federal officials who say the criticism is based on bunk.According to the CDC, a pile of studies show fluoridated water reduces cavities by 25 percent in children and adults, helps young children develop strong permanent teeth, and protects tooth enamel in grownups.It’s all but certain that anti-fluoride activists, no matter how outlandish their ideas, will seize on the new study results as proof they were right all along. The findings also pose a conundrum for health-care providers and their pregnant patients.“The effects of this study are comparable to the effects of lead, and if these findings are true there should be as much concern about prenatal fluoride exposure,” Christakis told The Daily Beast.The CDC declined to discuss the study, saying it does not comment on outside research. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which recommends that pregnant women use fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinses, isn’t making any changes for now.“We wouldn’t change our guidelines without undertaking our thorough clinical-review process,” ACOG spokeswoman Kate Connors said.Sophia Lubin, an OB-GYN in Brooklyn, New York, said she’s never had a patient ask her about fluoridated water, but expects she will be questioned about it now.“As an obstetrician, you always have to think about two people—the mother and the baby,” she said. ”And oral health is important for mothers.”She anticipates telling women that if they are truly concerned, they can switch to bottled water during pregnancy. But she doesn’t think, at this point, that she will tell patients they should not drink from the tap.One part of the study that struck her was how much fluoride is in black tea, which soaks it up from soil. She said she is more likely to tell patients to cut back on tea than on water, since it’s important they stay hydrated.“This left me with a lot more questions than answers,” Lubin said.Linda Murray, senior vice president of BabyCenter, the online pregnancy hub, said concerns about fluoride will join an already long list of potential danger zones for expectant mothers. “It’s an anxious time for women as it is. Every pregnant woman wants to do everything she can do to have a healthy baby, and they’re hyper-aware,” she said.Pregnant women are already told to avoid too much coffee, raw sushi, fish high in mercury, deli meats, alcohol. But water is in a league of its own.“You can live without your California roll, but this is an everyday thing, and we tell pregnant people to stay hydrated,” Murray said.She suggested that until there is a broad consensus about how to respond to the study, women should focus on the things they can do to improve pregnancy outcomes: seeing a health-care provider early on, taking prenatal vitamins, eating healthy—and worrying less.“Stress and anxiety are not healthy for pregnancy,” she said.Meet The Putin-Loving Congressman Who’s Worried About Fluoride In Our Drinking WaterThe study authors noted a number of limitations, the most significant of which is that they did not assess how much fluoride the children were exposed to after birth.In an accompanying analysis, Harvard Professor David Bellinger said “high-quality epidemiological studies” are needed, but added: “The hypothesis that fluoride is a neurodevelopmental toxicant must now be given serious consideration.”Those kinds of studies take years, though—which doesn’t help millions of parents-to-be who looking for advice now.“The question that needs to be asked to every pediatrician, scientist, and epidemiologist is what they’re going to tell pregnant women,” said Christakis, who says he will advise his pregnant friends and family to avoid fluoridated water.“We can’t tell them to wait years for another study. They have to decide what to tell their patients now.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:58:03 -0400
  • Sudan protesters, army postpone announcement on ruling body news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:46:21 -0400
  • Turkey says airstrikes target Turkish army convoy in Syria news

    Airstrikes targeted a Turkish army convoy inside a rebel-held part of Syria on Monday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said, killing 3 civilians and wounding 12 others. The Syrian government, however, said the convoy entered the country carrying ammunition to help rebels who have lost ground this month amid a government offensive to retake the country's last rebel stronghold. The Defense Ministry gave no word on Turkish casualties, saying the convoy was attacked while heading to one of Turkey's observation posts in the rebel-controlled Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:41:17 -0400
  • Angela Merkel successor in row over former intelligence chief news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:03:05 -0400
  • Iranian tanker sought by US heading toward Greece news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:58:00 -0400
  • Germany Readying Stimulus Plan as Contingency for Deep Recession news

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

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:22:41 -0400
  • Boris Johnson Plans Publicity Blitz to Prepare U.K. for No-Deal Brexit

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s government will mark the start of September with a publicity blitz aimed at preparing the British public for a no-deal Brexit.Whereas previous information campaigns were aimed at businesses -- with long technical briefings on how different sectors should prepare for the possibility that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a deal -- the new one will be more user-friendly, said a government official who asked not to be identified.At the same time, briefings for Parliament will be stepped up, with Cabinet minister Michael Gove appearing weekly in the House of Commons to give updates on the status of planning.The official said that government planners had been warned that small businesses in particular weren’t ready for a no-deal exit. The Department for Transport is taking particular responsibility for the issue, with many hauliers facing big increases in the amount of paperwork they will have to handle as they move goods into and out of the U.K.Johnson on Monday insisted the country would be ready for a no-deal Brexit.‘Bumps’“There may well be bumps in the road but we will be ready to come out on Oct. 31, deal or no deal,” he told Sky News.Johnson travels to Berlin and Paris this week to discuss Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. EU leaders were “showing a little bit of reluctance” to change their position, he said, but he was “confident” they’ll eventually shift and give him a deal.Johnson’s comments come after the Sunday Times newspaper reported a leaked government report warning of a three-month “meltdown” at ports, along with shortages of food and medicine. Gove said on Sunday this was out-of-date information based on “worst-case planning.”The publicity campaign will direct people to the government’s website to find out what preparations they need to make and the site is being been readied for a big increase in traffic, the official said.EU citizens living in Britain are being urged to apply for settled status ahead of the Brexit deadline. But despite the government warning that free movement from the bloc will end on Oct. 31, the official said most changes are likely to be symbolic in the short term.What ‘No-Deal Brexit’ Means and Why It’s a Big Risk: QuickTakeMeanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn renewed his pledge to call a no-confidence vote in the government and if successful, form a temporary administration to hold an election. Labour, he said in a speech in Corby, central England, would promise to hold a second referendum on leaving the EU because opinions have hardened in the past three years.“No outcome will now have legitimacy without the people’s endorsement,” Corbyn said. Labour will “give voters the final say with credible options on both sides including the option to remain.”To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Robert Hutton at, Stuart Biggs, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:09:04 -0400
  • Iran Warns U.S. Against Seizing Oil Tanker Headed to Greece news

    (Bloomberg) -- Iran warned the U.S. against apprehending a supertanker carrying the Middle East country’s oil and said it couldn’t be clear on the ship’s ultimate destination, leaving the fate of the vessel uncertain as it sailed into the Mediterranean Sea from Gibraltar, where it had been detained. The tanker, formerly called the Grace 1 and now known as the Adrian Darya 1, was signaling Kalamata, Greece -- at least for now -- with an arrival date of Aug. 25, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg at 1:45 p.m. London time show.It left Gibraltar Sunday night after being detained there since early July, when British forces seized it on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions. The U.S., which has sanctions against Iran, is seeking to prevent anyone from doing business with the ship.Iranian Crude Tanker Leaves Gibraltar Waters: What Happens Next?U.S. sanctions mean Iran cannot be “very transparent” about the destination of the tanker, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at a press conference in Helsinki. He said the U.S. is trying to “bully others from purchasing our oil” and that he hopes the release of the vessel will de-escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf.The incident is one of several in recent months that have strained relations between Iran and the West, following the U.S. reinstatement of sanctions on the Islamic Republic last year. Iran has maintained that the ship’s original detention on July 4 was unlawful. The Persian Gulf state continues to hold a U.K.-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero. Aggression in the region has threatened shipping in recent months in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most critical waterway for oil supplies.“The U.S. surely can’t seize the Iranian tanker and, if it does, it would pose a threat to international maritime security,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. Iran warned the U.S. via “diplomatic channels,” including Switzerland, against interfering with the tanker, in international waters, Mousavi said at a news conference in Tehran. Swiss diplomats serve as interlocutors between the U.S. and Iran.Destination UnclearIt’s not known where the Iranian vessel is ultimately headed. Greek authorities haven’t received formal notification that the vessel intends to head to a port in the country, according to a spokesman for Greece’s coast guard. Kalamata’s port usually serves pleasure craft like sailboats and cruise ships, data compiled by Bloomberg show.The waters off Kalamata could be a possible location for ship-to-ship cargo transfers, according to two vessel brokers without specific information about the tanker’s plans. A ship’s destination is entered manually into its Automatic Identification System and is picked up by vessel-tracking. The destinations can be altered multiple times on the same journey.Gibraltar rejected an attempt by the U.S. to block the Iranian supertanker, saying that EU regulations don’t allow it to seek a court order to detain the vessel.U.S. ComplaintA complaint unsealed in Washington stated that “Oil Tanker ‘Grace 1,’ all petroleum aboard it and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture,” according to a Justice Department statement. The statement alleges a “scheme to unlawfully access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments” of oil from Iran to Syria in violation of U.S. sanctions, money laundering and terrorism statutes.Gibraltar last week released the vessel, after the government said Iran had provided assurances that the ship would not sail to a destination sanctioned by the EU. In response, the U.S. said it was gravely disappointed with Britain, and it warned that ports, banks and anyone else who does business with the vessel or its crew might be subject to sanctions, according to two administration officials.(Updates with Iranian foreign minister comments in fourth paragraph. An earlier version of this story included an incorrect spelling for a port official in Kalamata, Greece.)\--With assistance from Serene Cheong, Anthony DiPaola, Alex Longley, Julian Lee, Paul Tugwell and Kati Pohjanpalo.To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Wingfield in London at;Arsalan Shahla in Tehran at;Verity Ratcliffe in Dubai at vratcliffe1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at, Brian Wingfield, John DeaneFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 08:58:30 -0400
  • Turkey removes 3 pro-Kurdish mayors from office news

    In a new government crackdown on a pro-Kurdish party, Turkey on Monday removed from office the elected mayors of three cities in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeast region over their alleged links to rebels, replacing them with government appointees. The mayors of the cities of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van — members of the People's Democratic Party, or HDP — were sacked over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and over evidence that they had allegedly aided the outlawed organization, an Interior Ministry statement said.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 08:53:28 -0400
  • Merkel Looks to Bridge Refugee Gap With Orban Despite Dispute

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to seek common ground on refugees with Hungary’s populist prime minister at a meeting where she avoided mentioning a European dispute over the rule of law.Merkel met Viktor Orban for the 30th anniversary of then-communist Hungary’s opening of its borders to East Germans in an event that helped bring down the Iron Curtain as she tries to confront a surge of populism across the European Union.While she avoided criticizing Orban, who has tried to build an international movement to counter the EU’s liberal, multi-cultural values, she called for unity in the bloc. She said that one way to cooperate would be to work with the newly elected EU leadership to strengthen protections on external borders and address problems in refugees’ home countries.“Even if differences remain, we need to find the common traits,” Merkel told reporters Monday in Sopron, where East Germans came to meet with their friends and family in neighboring Austria 30 years ago. “With a new European Commission, we have every chance to do that.”The event in Sopron, heralded as a key trigger for the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification, carries strong symbolism for the Hungarian premier. A member of the anti-Communist resistance at the time, Orban has since based his political narrative on fighting immigration and built a border fence to keep refugees out.Orban’s stance against immigrants and his efforts to erode checks and balances in his self-styled “illiberal democracy” has increasingly isolated him from other European leaders. Hungary is facing a top-level EU probe into flouting rule of law, and Orban’s ruling Fidesz party has been suspended from the umbrella European People’s Party.To contact the reporter on this story: Marton Eder in Budapest at meder4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Dana El Baltaji at, Michael Winfrey, Andrew LangleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 08:49:29 -0400
  • Russian Lawmakers Look For Foreign Hand Behind Wave of Protests

    (Bloomberg) -- Leaders of Russia’s lower house of parliament met to discuss alleged foreign meddling in the country’s affairs including in elections, amid the biggest wave of protests in Moscow in seven years.The council of the State Duma, comprising party leaders and top officials, held a special session on Monday to create a commission to investigate “the facts of possible interference in Russia’s internal affairs,” according to a statement on the legislature’s website. It will start work this week, the state-run Tass news service reported.The meeting during the Duma’s summer recess highlights the increasing alarm among officials over the growing protests, which are the biggest since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency in 2012. Andrei Klimov, the head of a similar commission in the upper chamber of parliament, last week accused YouTube and the U.S. embassy of advertising opposition rallies, two days after an estimated 60,000 turned out to protest in Moscow.A series of protests that began in the capital last month, initially over the refusal to register opposition candidates for the Sept. 8 city council elections, has swiftly gained momentum after riot police beat and brutally detained peaceful protesters. Despite thousands of detentions and the imprisonment of many of the movement’s leaders, the anti-Kremlin opposition has called another protest for this weekend.In an unusual intervention, Sergey Chemezov, an influential Putin ally who heads Rostec State Corp., said “the presence of a sound opposition” would be good for the authorities in Moscow and Russia generally, in an interview published Monday by the RBC news website. “It’s obvious people are very upset and that’s not good for anyone,” said Chemezov, adding that Russia risked a return to times of stagnation without a healthy opposition and “we have already gone through this.”Growing DiscontentDiscontent is spreading in Russia after five years of falling living standards and last year’s unpopular pension-age hike that helped push Putin’s approval rating to the lowest since 2013. Organizers of opposition demonstrations have avoided support from abroad since Russia passed its tough “foreign agent” law as part of moves to break the 2012 protests.Lawmakers delayed a separate discussion on the spread of “fake news” via algorithms on Yandex NV, Russia’s largest search engine and biggest news aggregator, until October.The Duma’s focus on foreign meddling comes amid a broader crackdown by the authorities that includes mass unrest charges against at least 10 people arrested at the peaceful rallies, and a money-laundering probe against opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. State TV has also taken up the theme in reporting on the Moscow protests.Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. embassy of interference earlier this month for posting a notice on Twitter and on its website warning American citizens about an unsanctioned election protest in Moscow, along with a map of the route of the proposed demonstration. The ministry summoned Tim Richardson, a diplomat in the U.S. embassy’s political section, on Aug. 9 to complain that publication of the map was “a call to action, which constitutes an attempt to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs.”The Foreign Ministry also summoned Germany’s envoy, Beate Grzeski, to complain about the “unacceptable” behavior of Deutsche Welle, alleging the broadcaster called on people in social media to take part in unsanctioned protests. Deutsche Welle said its correspondent was detained briefly while reporting on a July 27 protest in Moscow.(Updates with Chemezov comment in fifth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Jake Rudnitsky in Moscow at jrudnitsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Torrey Clark at, Tony Halpin, Paul AbelskyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 08:19:56 -0400
  • The Latest: Turkey says its army convoy targeted in Syria news

    Turkey says airstrikes have targeted a Turkish military convoy in Syria, killing at least three civilians. The Defense Ministry says 12 other civilians were wounded in Monday's strikes, which took place as the Turkish convoy was heading toward a Turkish observation post in the Syrian rebel-held stronghold of Idlib. Turkey has 12 observation posts in and on the edge of Idlib as part of an agreement reached with Russia.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 07:56:27 -0400
  • Johnson Says U.K. Will Be Ready to Leave Oct. 31: Brexit Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Follow @Brexit, sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, and tell us your Brexit story. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn promised to do “everything necessary” to prevent a no-deal Brexit, amid reports the government is preparing for a three-month “meltdown” at ports if Britain crashes out of the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he still wants an agreement with the bloc, but the U.K. will be ready to leave on Oct. 31 without one.Key Developments:Corbyn renewed pledge to hold a second Brexit referendum if general election called this yearPrime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. will be ready to leave the EU with or without a deal on Oct. 31; will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron this weekSunday Times newspaper cited leaked documents showing the government is preparing for shortages of food and medicine, as well as a hard Irish border, in a no-deal Brexit scenarioPound dropped 0.3%Johnson: U.K. Will Be Ready on Oct. 31 (12:45 p.m.)Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he still wants a Brexit deal with the European Union, but that Britain will be ready to leave the bloc without one on Oct. 31 if necessary.“I want a deal,’’ Johnson told Sky News on Monday. “We’re ready to work with our friends and partners to get a deal, but if you want a good deal for the U.K., you must simultaneously get ready to come out without one.’’The premier, who is going to Berlin and Paris this week to discuss Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, said EU leaders were “showing a little bit of reluctance at the moment to change their position.’’ But he said he was “confident” they’ll shift.U.K. Has ‘Stepped Up’ No-Deal Planning (12.30 pm)Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokeswoman insisted the leaked document (see earlier) on “Operation Yellowhammer’’ -- the government’s worst-case plans for a no-deal Brexit -- are out of date.“We have significantly stepped up planning,’’ Alison Donnelly told reporters Monday. “You can see that work is ongoing. A significant amount of work has been done. There’s still work to do in various areas.’’She refused to discuss details of the leak further, but said the coming public information campaign would help with no-deal planning.Donnelly said the free movement of EU citizens in and out of Britain will end on Oct. 31, but offered only one example of how: “Much tighter’’ rules on whether people with criminal records can come in. She urged EU citizens living in the U.K. to apply for settled status. She also ruled out recalling Parliament early, as requested by some MPs over the weekend (see 8:30 a.m.).Corbyn Renews Election, Referendum Pledges (11:30 a.m.)Corbyn renewed his promise to call a no-confidence vote in the government and if successful, form a temporary administration to call an election. Labour, he said in a speech in Corby, central England, would promise to hold a second referendum because opinions have hardened in the past three years.“No outcome will now have legitimacy without the people’s endorsement,” Corbyn said. Labour will “give voters the final say with credible options on both sides including the option to remain.”Corbyn also said his party will do “everything necessary to stop a disastrous no-deal, for which this government has no mandate.” When Parliament returns in September, “this country is heading into a political and constitutional storm,” he said.Taking questions from the press afterward, Corbyn agreed with his finance spokesman, John McDonnell, that Parliament should return early (see 8:30 a.m.) from its summer recess. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokeswoman ruled it out in a briefing to reporters on Monday morning.Labour Seeks Parliamentary Recall Over Brexit (8:30 a.m.)The Labour Party believes Prime Minister Boris Johnson should recall Parliament from its summer recess in the coming days to discuss the threat of a no-deal Brexit, the main opposition’s finance spokesman, John McDonnell, said on Monday.McDonnell was responding to a question on BBC radio about the group of more than 100 lawmakers, including Labour backbenchers, who have written to Johnson to make that request. Parliament is due to resume on Sept. 3.“It’s a good initiative by this group of MPs to say that we need to get back into Parliament,” McDonnell said. “We’re facing a critical issue here and we should be debating it in Parliament.”Former Sainsbury’s Boss Warns of Brexit Food Shock (Earlier)Former J Sainsbury Plc Chief Executive Officer Justin King said the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline comes at just about the worst time of the year for the food-supply chain, and that the document leaked to the Sunday Times on the impact of a no-deal Brexit presages a major crisis.“Anything other than silky smooth at our borders particular at Dover-Calais is going to have very significant impacts on the food supply chain in the U.K.,” King told BBC radio. By the end of October, food is already being stored up for Christmas, leaving little spare capacity to stockpile in anticipation of border delays, he said.CBI Says No-Deal Impacts Show Need for Deal (Earlier)The document leaked to the Sunday Times detailing the anticipated impact of a no-deal Brexit -- including port delays and fuel shortages -- shows just how “incredibly serious for our economy” such an outcome would be, Confederation of British Industry Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn told BBC radio Monday.“Business does have to prepare, but above all else what this does show is we must be trying to get a deal -- and that must be the number one priority of government,” Fairbairn said, adding that the U.K. as become more prepared in recent weeks for “the short-run disruption.”“Not fully prepared, I don’t think that can be done,” she said. “If you have any delays at borders, that would be significant. I think what we can’t be prepared for though is the long-run impact of a fundamental change in our competitiveness.”Earlier:Corbyn Gears Up for Election as Chaotic Brexit Fears EscalateJohnson to Raise Brexit Stakes in Visits to Germany and FrancePound Wins Holiday From Selloff on Resistance to No-Deal BrexitTo contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at;Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Robert Hutton at, Stuart Biggs, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 07:53:10 -0400
  • British PM Johnson calls on Germany and France to compromise on Brexit

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called on Germany and France to compromise on Brexit, cautioning that the United Kingdom would be ready to leave the European Union without a deal on Oct. 31 if necessary. "We will be ready to come out on Oct. 31 - deal or no deal," Johnson told reporters.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 07:32:05 -0400
  • Taliban Trolls Could Adopt New Terrorist Tactics in the Wake of America's Peace Plan news

    President Donald Trump wants out of Afghanistan by 2020. He may get his wish. Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan, has been negotiating with the Taliban for a nearly a year and is hopeful that the next round of talks will produce a “lasting and honorable” peace agreement.While peace would be wonderful, the United States should not be too hasty in reaching a deal. Two of the Trump administration’s top counterterrorism priorities—defeating ISIS and preventing Afghanistan from once more becoming a hub of global terror—are sometimes viewed as separate objectives. In fact, they are part of the same fight—and that fight is complicated.For starters, Al Qaeda and the Taliban aren’t the only extremist groups operating in Afghanistan. More than twenty foreign terrorist organizations or organizations that have provided support to terrorists are active there. One of the worst is the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K), which is an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State.When the organization was formed in January 2015, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hand-picked Hafiz Saeed Khan to lead it. Khan was joined by Abdul Rauf, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and member of the Taliban, who defected to al-Baghdadi’s cause.This leadership team did not last long. Both Rauf and Khan were killed in drone strikes; Rauf died in February 2015 and Khan died in July 2016. Yet the group was able to expand nonetheless. According to the United Nations, ISIS-K has the largest foreign fighter component of all the ISIS affiliates. Its troops, drawn from North Africa and Europe, the North Caucasus and South and Central Asia, now number between 2,500 and 5,000.ISIS-K’s targets have included NATO personnel, Shia worshippers, and the Taliban. According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the group is responsible for one fifth of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan.ISIS-K largely operates in eastern Afghanistan, primarily in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, which are close to the border of Pakistan. Yet it also reportedly has a presence in neighboring provinces of Nuristan and Laghman, as well as the capital city of Kabul, where it has launched attacks.Now, there are fears ISIS-K has broadened its ambitions. It has claimed attacks in neighboring Pakistan, and Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, recently stated that ISIS-K “has aspirations to attack the United States.” A U.S. intelligence official based in Afghanistan characterized this summer’s attacks in Kabul as “practice runs” for operations in the United States and Europe, which this official described as “just a matter of time.” He also called ISIS-K “the most near-term threat to our homelands from Afghanistan.”That threat may have already turned to action in Europe. In April 2017, an Uzbek called Rakhmat Akilov began mowing down civilians on the streets of Stockholm, Sweden. Akilov said he carried out his attack in order to “build a caliphate according to Prophet Muhammad's prophecies.” Prior to his attack, Akliov was in contact with a fellow Tajik called Abu Osama Noraki. Akilov identified Noraki as an ISIS emir. Noraki is suspected of recruiting Tajiks to the cause via the smartphone walkie-talkie app Zello.True, it has not all been smooth sailing for ISIS-K. A UN assessment this July concluded that, “in 2019, ISIL-K suffered military setbacks and the intensity of its attacks lessened compared with previous periods.” ISIS was also weakened by a military skirmish with the Taliban in the summer of 2018 in the province of Jowzjan in the country’s north. This was erroneously claimed by the Pentagon to be a victory for Afghan security forces.The good guys, too, have recorded some victories over ISIS-K. According to the Long War Journal, the United States has successfully targeted four ISIS-K emirs since July 2016. The latest was Abu Saad Orakzai, who was killed during an August 2018 airstrike in the Nangarhar Province.Despite this, ISIS-K presents an ongoing regional and, potentially, transnational threat. As it has grown in manpower (from hundreds at its founding to thousands today), it has expanded the territory it controls in Kunar. It operates in rugged, highly advantageous terrain and is aggressively recruiting from university campuses.Perhaps, once the United States withdraws, the Taliban will crush ISIS-K as part of a campaign to expand its influence in Afghanistan even further. When speaking as head of U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel noted that “ISIS-K is not a popular insurgency in Afghanistan. Everybody is against them.” Perhaps its presence in Afghanistan will prove to be fleeting.Yet several observers have pointed out that if the United States does negotiate a durable peace settlement in Afghanistan, then it possible that some of the most hardcore Taliban elements that want to carry on fighting may be drawn to the transnational jihadism of ISIS-K.Either way, any deal negotiated in Afghanistan must allow the United States to retain the ability to carry out counterterrorism operations there. After almost two decades of fighting, America’s desire to wind down its efforts is understandable. Yet, as it does so, it cannot ignore the emergence of a group that aspires to inflict the kind of suffering on the United States that led it into Afghanistan in the first place.Robin Simcox, The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher fellow, specializes in the analysis of terrorism and national security risks.Image: Reuters

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 07:25:00 -0400
  • India Keeps Kashmir in Lockdown as Anger Grows Across the Valley

    (Bloomberg) -- Communications restrictions continued across Kashmir two weeks after India scrapped the region’s autonomy, while the fate of detained political leaders -- including former chief ministers -- remains uncertain.India yesterday said all government offices along with around 190 schools would be reopened from Monday, however curbs in some parts of the capital Srinagar were reimposed after protesters clashed with police, the Press Trust of India reported Sunday.Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has remained silent on the detention of scores of political leaders. The Indian Express listed 27 prominent leaders including three former heads of local government, members of the former legislative council and a mayor who have been detained without legal recourse.The forced removal of the state’s most senior politicians would make it difficult for the federal government to restore normalcy in a region that has been locked down for so long, said Khalid Shah, associate fellow at the New-Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.“In absence of a political system for such a large population which is angry and alienated and hostile, how does the government look towards easing tensions?” Shah said. “Today there’s no difference between a separatist and a mainstream, pro-India politician. If at all there’s a violent eruption, who will control that? Because you need politics to be a buffer, to channel people’s anger.”Nearly 4,000 people have been arrested and held under the Public Safety Act, a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial, AFP reported Sunday.Eight people were injured in protests across six places in the valley, PTI reported citing government spokesman Rohit Kansal. Although there were reports that landlines had been restored in some parts of Srinagar, government numbers remained unreachable after repeated attempts Monday.Modi’s surprise move to scrap seven decades of autonomy in India’s only Muslim-majority state has raised tensions with neighbor and nuclear rival Pakistan, which also lays claim to the Himalayan border territory. The United Nations Security Council held a rare closed-door meeting on Friday, called after China backed Pakistan’s demand’s for a high-level discussion on India’s actions. It failed to produce concrete action.India has called the Kashmir decision an internal matter with no bearings on its international borders with Pakistan and China. Yet China has raised concerns about the decision to split the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories to carve out the mainly Buddhist region of Ladakh -- an area of strategic importance nestled between Tibet and Pakistan.To contact the reporters on this story: Archana Chaudhary in New Delhi at;Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at, Unni KrishnanFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 07:05:33 -0400
  • Time Is Running out for a Deal with North Korea news

    Time is running out to achieve a real breakthrough with North Korea. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have attempted multiple times to find a diplomatic solution over Kim’s nuclear arsenal. South Korean leader Moon Jae-in has also reached out to both sides, most recently declaring his dream to see both Koreas reunified by 2045. Unfortunately, the following day Moon was met by insults and missile launches as Pyongyang rejected further negotiations. All three countries—North Korea, South Korea, and the United States—need to be on board with any solution, and any of them could derail talks. And time is short.Although talks could fail because of each other’s actions, they are perhaps more likely to fail due to each country’s domestic politics. All three leaders know that their supporters want to see immediate progress and are getting impatient with repeated summits with little to show for it. Moreover, each government’s domestic opposition is also always ready to critique their diplomatic outreach. North Korea is a dictatorship, but even Kim must consider the mood in his inner circle and military as he attempts negotiations with America, their historic enemy. Furthermore, in the case of the two democracies, South Korea and America have upcoming elections that could change what course those countries take.North Korea has set the end of 2019 as a deadline for getting things done before they possibly return to intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests. After the collapsed summit with Trump in Hanoi, Kim announced, “We will wait for a bold decision from the U.S. with patience till the end of this year but I think it will definitely be difficult to get such a good opportunity as the previous summit.” There is a good chance that Pyongyang will follow through with shifting gears if no deal is reached by the end of 2019. Given that any deal takes at least months to negotiate—the Iran Deal took two years—it is highly unlikely that a major breakthrough will occur in under the next four months.However, what is possible is a deal that makes future escalation unlikely instead of focusing only on denuclearization. The question of what actually happens to all of Kim’s nuclear program and weapons could be addressed later. Instead, a deal could focus on a peace treaty or liaison offices. Another possibility is some limited denuclearization in exchange for some limited sanctions relief. Any of these deals would still be very difficult, but more doable within Kim’s deadline than a grand bargain that addresses everything.Trump might choose such an option to declare progress as the November 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections loom closer. Also, Kim might be persuaded to extend his deadline or say it was partially fulfilled—thereby claiming victory for himself domestically as well. Making real progress is necessary and in America’s interests. If North Korea becomes more aggressive in 2020, there is the risk of Trump returning to the threats of “fire and fury” that marked the tense months of 2017. High tensions coupled with harsh rhetoric from two nuclear-armed powers is not a good thing for anyone.If a deal is possible, it needs to happen soon. The problem is time. Washington needs to take advantage of the rare occurrence of having all three countries in agreement that diplomacy is a better option can confrontation. Something sufficient needs to be negotiated by the end of this year to buy a bit more precious time to work out any details. The unfortunate truth is that even then, it is a race against the clock. After scrambling for a deadline of fewer than four months, diplomats and working-level officials then have to keep in mind South Korea’s April 15, 2020 legislative elections—three-and-a-half months from the end of 2019. This is because if Moon’s party loses those elections, he might be forced to tamper down his strategy of outreach to Kim. On the other hand, if Moon has a strong enough showing, active negotiations could continue during the not-quite seven months before America’s November 3, 2020 elections. Yet, given the all-consuming nature of U.S. Presidential elections, Trump will have less bandwidth to focus on any negotiations with Kim and those months will go by very quickly.Ultimately, Washington should continue trying for a breakthrough while the current favorable political alignment still exists. At the very least, a minor deal would help to avoid a return to escalation spirals and threats. It is doubtful any deal could ever achieve full denuclearization, but at best a peace treaty or liaison offices would open a badly-needed channel of communication and crisis management during future emergencies. Given America’s experience of many close calls with previous nuclear-armed rivals, it would be wise to find a way to manage relations with North Korea better.Confrontation may resume, and Kim’s choices may relegate him to the penalty box indefinitely. That would be disappointing but not surprising. The good thing is that North Korea can be safely managed and communicated with. The real tragedy would be if all three countries let this opportunity slip away for lack of time and far-sightedness.John Dale Grover is an assistant managing editor at The National Interest and a Korean Studies Fellow at the Center for the National Interest. He is also a fellow at Defense Priorities. His articles have appeared in Defense One, Real Clear Defense, The Diplomat, The Hill, Fox News, and The American Conservative.Image: Reuters

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 06:54:00 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-EU says ready for no-deal Brexit, "British would be the biggest losers"

    The European Commission said on Monday that the EU was ready for a no-deal Brexit and that Britain would suffer most under such a scenario. Speaking at a regular daily briefing, Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said a no-deal UK exit would never be the EU's preferred scenario, adding that the Brussels-based executive saw no need for additional contingency preparations at this stage.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 06:42:56 -0400
  • UK Labour's Corbyn: we want parliament recalled

    British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Monday he supported recalling parliament to deal with the Brexit crisis but sidestepped a question about whether he would step down as leader. "We do support the recall of parliament in order to prevent the prime minister having some kind of manoeuvre to take us out on the 31st of October without any further discussion in parliament," Corbyn said.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 06:42:28 -0400
  • Tiananmen Option: Would China Use Military Force in Hong Kong? news

    Will Xi Jinping deploy the People’s Liberation Army to suppress the peaceful protests in Hong Kong, or will Beijing opt for a more conciliatory approach to quieting the unrest that has rocked the city for the past several months? So far, China has refrained from pursuing the so-called “Tiananmen option” in Hong Kong, instead relying on local police and criminal gangs to mete out nonlethal violence against the city’s pro-democracy protesters. But if the movement for political reform in Hong Kong continues to gather strength—or if it shows signs of spreading to the Chinese mainland—then it might be difficult for China’s panicked leaders to resist using overwhelming force to crush the dissention.The dispute between Hong Kong’s protesters and the Hong Kong Government will be difficult to resolve through dialogue alone. This year’s unrest began as a reaction against Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s proposal for an extradition law between Hong Kong and the mainland, which would have made it possible for the Hong Kong authorities to send people accused of crimes to face trial in regular Chinese courts. If enacted, such a law would have undermined Hong Kong’s judicial independence and had a chilling effect on free speech, with activists in the territory always under threat of extradition to the mainland on politically motivated charges.However, the protesters’ demands are now much more expansive than just the withdrawal of the extradition bill. Among other things, they are calling for an independent investigation into police brutality, the release of political prisoners, and the introduction of fully democratic elections in Hong Kong.Lam and other Hong Kong leaders refuse to grant these demands. And even if they were inclined to appease the protesters, the full democratization of Hong Kong is obviously anathema to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime based in Beijing, which is becoming even less tolerant of political pluralism under the authoritarian leadership of President Xi. In a sense, the stakes are essentially a zero-sum game: either Hong Kong is allowed to proceed along a path to full democratization, free from the political influence of the communist mainland, or else the city’s inhabitants must accept their ultimate fate of becoming just another Chinese city.Can a violent crackdown be avoided? The answer, thankfully, is yes. Most obviously, the protests could simply fizzle out. After all, it is difficult to sustain a mass movement on the scale presently being witnessed in Hong Kong, especially in the face of concerted official opposition. At some point, the protesters’ will to continue fighting might evaporate, or else the protest’s leaders could opt to pursue less risky means of achieving long-term political reform. This is what the CCP is hoping for.Alternatively, the Hong Kong Government could be pressured to make concessions. It is not unthinkable, for example, that Xi could lean on Lam (or her successor, if she is pushed out of office) to permanently withdraw the extradition bill as a way to buy off a critical mass of dissenters. Something similar happened in 2003, when public demonstrations forced the Legislative Council of Hong Kong to withdraw a controversial bill that would have made it easier to punish Hong Kongers for “treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government.”If neither side backs down, however, then a Tiananmen-style solution to the standoff becomes increasingly likely. The deployment of the People’s Liberation Army would obviously be devastating for Hong Kong, almost certainly resulting in mass injuries, fatalities and arrests. A violent crackdown would also be a bad outcome for Xi’s regime. It would wreck the Hong Kong economy, alienate the population, and saddle Beijing with a decades-long task of political reconstruction and reconciliation—not to mention ruining Xi’s international image.But while deeply unattractive to China’s leaders, the Tiananmen option is far from the worst-case scenario from Beijing’s perspective. Preserving the territorial integrity of the People’s Republic, upholding the CCP’s political authority, and avoiding widespread unrest in mainland China are all considerations that President Xi values more highly than the fate of Hong Kong. If push came to shove, then overwhelming force might yet be viewed as necessary to avoid imperiling the regime as a whole.It should not be forgotten that the Tiananmen Massacre was a long-term political success for the CCP. In the summer of 1989, the upper echelons of the Chinese leadership had been split on whether to use violence to disperse the throngs of pro-reform campaigners that had gathered in Tiananmen Square to remonstrate with their leaders. But once military action had been ordered, Communist Party grandees quickly united behind the plan. The protests were crushed within days, with up to ten thousand civilians being killed—a vicious response that placed the Communist Party’s political authority beyond doubt for a generation to come.Despite the bloodshed (or perhaps because of it), China’s communist system survived 1989. The same cannot be said of the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe, which opted against the violent suppression of pro-democracy movements during the last months of that year. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made clear that Moscow would tolerate (and even encourage) political reform made in response to popular demands for change, a policy that was lauded in the West as far more enlightened than the butchery on display in Beijing. Yet thirty years later, China is still a communist country and has risen to become a great power. By contrast, the Soviet Union no longer exists and most of Eastern Europe is part of NATO.From this view, Tiananmen worked. And what is more, the CCP regime managed to carry out the Tiananmen crackdown without incurring much in the way of long-term political costs. Domestically, Beijing has relentlessly suppressed discussion of the Tiananmen Massacre for over thirty years, effectively preventing those killed from becoming martyrs to a lasting popular cause. Overseas, the Tiananmen crisis drew stinging rebukes from foreign governments, media organizations and international nongovernmental organizations. Yet the opprobrium was relatively short-lived, and China became an increasingly important and active member of the international community over the course of the 1990s.If Xi orders a crackdown in Hong Kong, then he will have to do so in the full glare of the international community. He will be hated for it. But there is no reason to believe that China could not ride out the storm again. And while the advent of social media means that it would be far more difficult today for Beijing to suppress information about the slaughter of innocent civilians than it was in 1989, it is also true that the CCP has become more sophisticated in how it controls the media consumption of mainland Chinese, many of whom are already predisposed to view Hong Kongers with dislike and distrust.Of course, it is far from inevitable that Beijing will use tanks to suppress the protesters in Hong Kong. But at the end of the day, CCP decisionmakers value the security of the People’s Republic and their own political survival above all else. If the situation in Hong Kong ends up metastasizing into something that threatens these core concerns of the leadership in Beijing, then nobody should bet against a Tiananmen-style “solution” to the crisis. Worse still, there is every chance that China would get away with it.Peter Harris is an assistant professor of political science at Colorado State University. You can follow him on Twitter:@ipeterharris.Image: Reuters

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 06:25:00 -0400
  • Salvini May Have Missed His Moment to Shine news

    (Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.Matteo Salvini’s drive to win outright power in Italy has run into trouble.When the anti-immigration deputy premier broke with his uneasy coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, in a bid to force a snap election earlier this month, he looked irresistible: His League party was close to 40% in the polls, Five Star was in disarray, and the opposition Democratic Party was still reeling from its electoral drubbing last year.But over the weekend signs emerged of a potentially paradoxical alliance to block the man who cites Donald Trump as his political inspiration — between the populist Five Star and the establishment Democrats.The real drama starts tomorrow when Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte addresses the Senate with the future of the government in the balance. If his administration falls, President Sergio Mattarella must choose whether to hold a new election or ask the anti-Salvini forces to form a governing coalition.The outcome of Italy’s latest drama has huge implications for Europe: whether its most dangerous pile of government debt will be managed by a hardliner bent on further tensions with Brussels or a weak coalition that will need all the help it can get. Global HeadlinesBite of the Apple | Trump offered a readout of his Friday-night dinner with Tim Cook, telling reporters the Apple CEO voiced concerns about chief competitor Samsung getting an edge because its products won’t be subject to tariffs when imported by the U.S. The majority of Apple’s products are made in China and face 10% levies before year’s end. The U.S. president said Cook made a “very compelling argument.”Trump said the U.S. is “doing very well with China, and talking!” but suggested he wasn’t ready to sign a trade deal, hours after his top economic adviser laid out a potential timeline to resume talks. Support for free trade among Americans is on the rise, as Trump’s backing dips to its lowest level in more than a year in a new poll. Subscribe to our Terms of Trade newsletter to receive all the big developments in your inbox each weekday.Youthful energy | Democrats’ prospects in the 2020 presidential election will turn on whether they can keep fanning the fires that drove young voters to the ballot box last year. A record jump in the 18-to-29 turnout helped the party win control of the House, and several signs point to a repeat of that trend. An uptick could prove particularly useful to Democrats in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire — states that were decided narrowly in 2016.Democratic candidates are spending the final weeks of summer raising cash in the enclaves of the rich and famous. Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford said he’s exploring challenging Trump for the Republican nomination but that he’d still vote for the president over a Democrat. Elizabeth Warren is chipping away at Joe Biden’s strongest selling point — that he’s the candidate most likely to beat Trump.Priming the pump | As Germany’s economy slips further toward a possible recession, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is starting to eye a fiscal stimulus package. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz floated the figure of 50 billion euros, days after Merkel said the country was heading for a difficult phase that might require action. But don’t expect an announcement until the most politically sensitive of all indicators comes under threat — jobs.Lesson plan | Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and other top aides spent months searching for a way to give states the power to block undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools. The previously unreported aspect of the administration’s efforts to stem illegal border crossings was ultimately abandoned after its advocates were told repeatedly that any such effort would run afoul of a 1982 Supreme Court case.Tricky decision | Brazil is considering designating Lebanese group Hezbollah a terrorist outfit, as President Jair Bolsonaro aligns himself with Trump on foreign policy. As Samy Adghirni exclusively reports, the idea is being mulled at the highest levels but doesn’t have across-the-board support: It could strain ties with Hezbollah ally Iran, which imports $2.5 billion of Brazilian products a year, and displease Brazil’s influential Lebanese community.What to Watch This WeekFrench President Emmanuel Macron hosts Russian leader Vladimir Putin at his summer residence today, with Paris insisting it has no plans to mediate between Russia and other world powers. More moderate Hong Kong opposition leaders hope yesterday’s peaceful march of more than million people will help reset the protest movement after violent rallies threatened to sap public support. A tanker carrying Iranian oil has departed Gibraltar — likely headed for Greece — after being seized last month by U.K. forces on suspicion of hauling oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions. The U.S. attempted to block its release. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell kicks off the central bank’s annual Jackson Hole symposium Friday with a speech on the challenges facing monetary policy. Embattled Argentine President Mauricio Macri is grappling with the resignation of his economy minister and a double downgrade to the nation’s debt. Turkish authorities fired three elected mayors today and detained more than 400 people for alleged ties to a terrorist group, escalating tensions in the Kurdish-dominated southeast as the government looks to expand its military presence in Syria.And finally ... As leaders prepare to gather for the Group of Seven summit at the French seaside town of Biarritz, Trump’s again raising the possibility of targeting one of his host country’s most prized exports: wine. The U.S. president told donors at a Hamptons fundraiser this month he could impose a 100% tariff to retaliate for a tax on multinational technology companies, Jennifer Jacobs and Jenny Leonard report. It's unclear how serious Trump was. \--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter and Raymond Colitt.To contact the author of this story: Ben Sills in Madrid at bsills@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Karl Maier at, Rosalind MathiesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 06:10:40 -0400
  • Bees Are Dropping Dead in Brazil and Sending a Message to Humans news

    (Bloomberg) -- Death came swiftly for Aldo Machado’s honey bees. Less than 48 hours after the first apis mellifera showed signs of sickness, tens of thousands lay dead, their bodies piled in mounds.“As soon as the healthy bees began clearing the dying bees out of the hives, they became contaminated,” said Machado, vice president of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul beekeeping association. “They started dying en masse.”Around half a billion bees died in four of Brazil’s southern states in the year’s first months. The die-off highlighted questions about the ocean of pesticides used in the country’s agriculture and whether chemicals are washing through the human food supply — even as the government considers permitting more. Most dead bees showed traces of Fipronil, a insecticide proscribed in the European Union and classified as a possible human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January, Brazil has permitted sales of a record 290 pesticides, up 27% over the same period last year, and a bill in Congress would relax standards even further. Manufacturers of newly permitted substances include Brazilian companies such as Cropchem and Ouro Fino, as well as global players including Arysta Lifescience Ltd., Nufarm Ltd. and Adama Agricultural Solutions Ltd. Giants such as Syngenta, Monsanto, BASF and Sumitomo also won new registrations.The fertile nation is awash in chemicals. Brazil’s pesticide use increased 770% from 1990 to 2016, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Agriculture Ministry says that Brazil ranks 44th in the world in the use of pesticides per hectare and that, as a tropical country, it is “incorrect” to compare its practices with those of temperate regions.Still, in its latest food-safety report, Brazil’s health watchdog Anvisa found that 20% of samples contained pesticide residues above permitted levels or contained unauthorized pesticides. It didn’t even test for glyphosate, Brazil’s best-selling pesticide, which is banned in most countries.The silent hives, critics say, are a warning.“The death of all these bees is a sign that we’re being poisoned,” said Carlos Alberto Bastos, president of the Apiculturist Association of Brazil’s Federal District.Agriculture is the biggest contributor to Brazil’s growth, composing around 18% of the economy. Its power — from pop culture to politics — is unmatched. Major producers sponsor samba groups, as well as a nationwide “little Ag” school program and arguably, the most influential grouping in congress.Like U.S. President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro was elected with strong support from agribusiness and has expressed disdain for environmental concerns. “This is your government,” Bolsonaro promised lawmakers from the agriculture caucus, and his administration has allowed the industry wide leeway to use whatever chemicals it likes.About 40% of Brazil’s pesticides are “highly or extreme highly toxic,” according to Greenpeace, and 32% aren’t allowed in the European Union. Meanwhile, approvals are being expedited without the government hiring enough people to evaluate them, said Marina Lacorte, a coordinator at Greenpeace Brazil.“There isn’t another explanation for it, other than politics.” she said.Easing pesticide approvals was a campaign commitment for Bolsonaro. The agriculture sector has complained for years about slowness.“Registrations are the biggest barrier,” said Flavio Hirata, an agrochemical specialist at Allier Brasil consultancy. “The world’s largest pesticide market can’t be limited to a few companies.”Roughly half of the approvals are ingredients, not final products, said Andreza Martinez, manager for regulation at Sindiveg, a group representing pesticide producers. Varying chemicals is important as pests develop resistance to formulas, she said.“It brings more tools to farmers, but that doesn’t mean an increase in the use of products in the field,” she said.The variety, however, alarms toxicologists. “The higher the number of products, the lower our chances of safety, because you can’t control them all,” said Silvia Cazenave, a professor of toxicology at the Catholic Pontifical University of Campinas.Brazil’s health ministry reported 15,018 cases of agricultural pesticide poisoning in 2018, but acknowledged that this is likely an underestimate.One victim was Andresa Batista, a 30-year-old mother of three. In March 2018, she went to work picking soybeans on one of the plantations on the plains surrounding the capital, Brasilia. Soon, she started feeling dizzy and nauseated — and then she passed out.More than 40 farmhands fell ill that day, according to Batista, so many that they were divided into three groups and taken to different hospitals. The first medical team to attend Batista also became unwell, prompting the hospital to destroy her clothes, including her underwear. Still, Batista and most of the others were cleared to work again two days later. Almost as soon as they started, they collapsed.Over a year later, Batista still can’t work. She has difficulty eating without vomiting, can’t go to the toilet without medicine, can’t go in the sun without her skin swelling and she’s lost around 30% of her vision. Doctors can’t give her a prognosis due to uncertainty about the type of pesticide that poisoned her.“That day, our lives ended,” she said. “We’re not the same people we were before.”Court documents show that Dupont do Brasil S.A., the company that managed the field, agreed to pay damages of 50,000 reais ($13,000) to one of Batista’s coworkers that day. Batista said the company paid her 40,000 reais in an out-of-court settlement. Dupont’s press office said it could not comment on the case due to legal restrictions.The government said all cases of poisoning must be investigated, and it would introduce a decree to strengthen the oversight and training process for pesticide handling.Despite stories such as Batista’s, Congress may accelerate approvals yet further, rebranding pesticides as “agricultural defenses” and substituting the requirement to identify potential harm with a simple risk analysis.Brazil’s National Cancer Institute argued the measure would allow pesticides with “carcinogenic characteristics, endangering the population.” But Alceu Moreira, head of the lower house’s agriculture caucus, is certain it will become law.“There’s this need to create this international narrative that harms the image of Brazilian agriculture, as if we were using excessive levels of pesticides,” he said. “We’re not.”Brazilians may disagree. Carrefour Brasil, a supermarket chain, plans to increase its offering of organic products by 85% in 2019. Tatiana Carvalho, a 31-year old who runs a small organic delivery service in Brasilia, says sales have increased constantly since she started four years ago, despite the country’s sharp recession.She attributes her success to two things: greater consumer awareness and the government’s decision to authorize ever more pesticides.\--With assistance from Simone Preissler Iglesias and Rachel Gamarski.To contact the authors of this story: Bruce Douglas in Brasilia at bdouglas24@bloomberg.netTatiana Freitas in Sao Paulo at tfreitas4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at, Stephen MerelmanReg GaleFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 06:00:07 -0400
  • REFILE-German economy could continue to shrink: Bundesbank

    The German economy could have continued to shrink over the summer as industrial production drops amid a dearth of orders, the Bundesbank said on Monday, suggesting that the euro zone's biggest economy is now in a recession. German growth contracted in the second quarter on slumping exports as a global trade war, China's own slowdown and Brexit uncertainty sapped confidence, dealing a blow to an export-focused economy. "Overall economic performance could again decline slightly," the Bundesbank said in a monthly report.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 06:00:00 -0400
  • Feeding the future: Fixing the world's faulty food system news

    Feeding the future Fixing the world's faulty food system Feeding the future Fixing the world's faulty food system Nearly one billion of the world's population go hungry, while two billion eat too much, using up the planet's precious resources. Josh Wilson delves into the data exploring ways to solve the problem. This article has an estimated read time of seven minutes Fixing the world's "faulty food system" is increasingly being recognised as one of the key ways to fight climate change as well as tackle high rates of both malnutrition and obesity.  Each year 821 million people suffer from hunger – a figure that is rising despite an increase in global food production. And at the same time, around two billion people are eating too much of the wrong type of food.   The world is also facing an unprecedented climate emergency, with temperatures hurtling towards a dangerous tipping point.  Last week, a United Nations report concluded that eating less meat could help tackle the dual crisis of climate change and hunger. Switching to plant-based diets, the UN said, could both free up land and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  With the global population set to hit almost 10 billion by 2050, the pressure to find new approaches to feed the world is not going to disappear.  Almost half the current global crop production goes to feeding livestock, however on average just 15 per cent of these calories are then passed on to humans when we consume meat. Climate change also poses a major threat to food security as increasingly common extreme weather events devastate crop land. Simultaneously, agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. “At one level we don't need to grow any more, we should stop feeding our food to bloody livestock and then we've got all the calories we need,” Tim Benton, professor of population ecology at Leeds University, told The Telegraph.  “Food production, and especially livestock production, is a major driver of climate change, biodiversity loss, water  and air quality degradation and soil degradation. We have to start actually recognising that we can’t carry on as we are,” Prof Benton added.  But is the solution to such complicated challenges really as simple as changing how we eat?  One in ten suffering from chronic hunger Hunger is a part of everyday life in certain parts of the world – 11 of the 15 most undernourished countries are in Africa, with the worst rates found in the Central African Republic where three in every five people suffer malnutrition. Globally over one in ten people suffer from chronic undernourishment In Yemen, some 85,000 children are thought to have died from extreme hunger between April 2015 and October 2018 as the country struggles with civil war and military intervention from Saudi Arabia. But many countries with high levels of hunger also produce plenty of food. Pakistan was the ninth biggest producer of beef in 2013 – yet more than one in five of their population suffer from chronic undernourishment. Experts have warned that future conflicts will increasingly focus on a struggle for dwindling resources, especially food and water, unless more urgent action is taken on a global scale. “The most potent resource for any national government is access to energy, water and food, and so as the world gets more complicated these sorts of things are going to matter more and more,” said Prof Benton. Insatiable appetites for meat The livestock industry is viewed by many experts as a serious threat to food security because of its size and unsustainability, as well as the negative effects on our health of a diet overly rich in meat. Every one and a half years, more animals are slaughtered than the total number of humans who ever lived.  As countries become wealthier their eating habits shift towards more meat-based diets, fuelling a massive expansion in livestock farming and contributing some 8.1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2010. “By 2050 we're forecast to be consuming 60 per cent more meat and dairy, a staggering 1.2 trillion litres of dairy milk and 500 billion kilograms of meat per year,” said Joseph Poore, researcher at the University of Oxford, warning that such growth is unsustainable. Meat production has skyrocketed to keep up with population growth With half of global crop production already going to feed livestock such a scenario could have catastrophic consequences, warn scientists. In the UK each person consumes an average of 81.5 kg of meat each year, up from 69.2 kg in 1961, despite associated health risks such as obesity, diabetes and bowel cancer. Professor Benton said: “If you look at the UK, the amount of money that it’s costing us to make people better through the health service is around 37 per cent of all our tax revenue and that’s going up fast. “That’s partly because of an ageing population, but it’s also partly because of malnourishment in the form of obesity,” he said.  The majority of population growth will occur in less developed nations Drought causes over 80 per cent of agricultural damage Agriculture, especially livestock production, is a major driver of climate change, but it also one of the most sensitive industries to the effects of changes to weather. Extreme climate disasters such as floods, storms and droughts are on the rise, with an average of 213 such events occurring each year between 1990 and 2016. These events often devastate wide areas of delicate crop land. This harms agricultural yields, leading to food price hikes and loss of income, reducing access to food. This captures some of the complexity of the system and its highly integrated nature. It also highlights how the problem of feeding the population won't be solved by simply growing more food. There has been average of 213 extreme climate disasters per year Reports of crop damage due to climate change are becoming increasingly common, with farmers in Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria recently describing delays to the start of the rainy season, abnormal mid-season heatwaves and high-intensity rainfall. These have all led to crop losses. Increasing water scarcity is also a serious concern as the agricultural industry accounts for 70 per cent of global water use. Groundwater has already been depleted worldwide for crop irrigation, and as these sources run dry it will increasingly limit where we can grow crops. Meanwhile, as the planet continues to warm, sea levels are predicted to rise, putting low-lying farms at considerable risk, while also restricting future expansion. Scientists have warned that any initiatives to ensure future food security must account for global climate change and seek to minimise agriculture’s contribution. Changing diets and tackling poverty key "In 20 years time we will have 10 billion people on the planet and we simply can’t sustain those numbers without changes in diet," says Simeon Van Der Molen, founder of Moving Mountains, a British manufacturer of plant-based burgers. “Cellular agriculture is the future.” Plant-based meat alternatives such as the 'Impossible Burger' have been touted as a viable and much more sustainable alternative to conventional meat. The Impossible Burger bleeds like real meat Some of these products have already started to get a run out on Britain's high streets. Greggs  achieved notable success with its vegan sausage roll and KFC recently announced it is to begin trialling a vegan Imposter Burger, featuring a bespoke Quorn fillet. Newer plant-based products such as the 'Impossible Burger' are now able to get much closer to the sensory profile and texture of meat, making it more appealing to many consumers. They have a similar nutritional profile to meat but require significantly less water and energy to produce. Insects have also been touted as a potential alternative to meat. They have the advantage of being high in protein and also have a much higher conversion rate of energy input to received calories. However, insect-based meat replacements remain a very niche consumer product and public acceptance in the West remains a long way off. But there is another major emerging food technology which has expanded rapidly in recent years and has drawn lots of interest and corporate investment, that of lab grown meat. This 'meat' is grown in special bioreactors from cells extracted harmlessly from livestock. The result is a product that is almost indistinguishable from conventionally produced meat. From petri dish to plate: how to grow a burger in a lab Leaders in the cultured meat industry are confident that their product has the edge over other meat alternatives because it has the same taste and texture profile as the real thing. “We’re pretty optimistic that as long as it really has the same taste, texture and smell, we think that most consumers will favour the product that doesn’t have all the guilt surrounding it in terms of animal welfare and environmental damage," said Sarah Lucas, head of operations at Mosa Meat, the company responsible for the first lab-grown hamburger. Lab-grown meat is still a few years from consumer availability and the technology still has some way to go - that first lab grown hamburger cost €250,000 to produce - but management consultant AT Kearney predicts that it will make up over a third of global meat supply by 2040. Meat consumption calculator However Prof Benton has warned that systemic changes to the whole agricultural system will be needed to achieve sustainable and nutritious food security. He says that tackling poverty will be key in this battle: “If people are too poor to buy a healthy diet, why does everybody leap to the conclusion that it’s the food price that’s the problem and not the poverty? “For me, the challenge of feeding 10 billion people is not how do we double agricultural production of the wrong things. It is how to do this systemic transformation so people can eat healthily in a way that doesn’t create a lot of waste and doesn’t create a lot of unsustainability.” Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security Global Health Bulletin REFERRAL article

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 05:22:32 -0400
  • Iran warns US against seizing tanker at sea as re-named Grace-1 1eaves Gibraltar news

    Iran has warned the United States against attempting to seize the Grace 1 oil tanker on the high seas after it departed from Gibraltar following a six-week crisis.  The Grace 1, which was renamed the Adrian Darya 1 over the weekend, left an anchorage off Gibraltar after dark on Sunday night after a court dismissed an attempt by the United States to have it impounded.  This morning ship tracking data showed it heading slowly east, bound for the port of Kalamata in Greece.   Asked about the possibility of the US seizing the vessel by force at sea, Abbas Mousavi, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said:  "Such an action, and even the talk of it...would endanger shipping safety in open seas "Iran has issued the necessary warnings through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy, to American officials not to commit such an error because it would have heavy consequences," he told Iranian television.   A Royal Marine boarding party seized the Grace 1 after it sailed into Gibraltar's waters on July 4, sparking a weeks long standoff between Tehran and London that culminated in Iran seizing a British flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Persian Gulf.  The governments and Britain and Gibraltar said they suspected the vessel of carrying oil to Syria, in breach of sanctions against Bashar Assad's regime.  Iran accused Britain of acting on behalf of the United States, which has tried to blockade Iranian oil exports as part of a "maximum pressure" policy against Tehran, and sent revolutionary corps gunboats to seize the Stena Impero, a British flagged tanker, in the gulf on July 19.   However, Mr Mousavi on Monday denied the Stena Impero had been taken in a tit-for-tat action and said it would only be released after an Iranian court had reviewed "violations" it had committed.   Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a member of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee, appeared to hint that the British tanker would be held for several more days or even weeks.  "Until the Iranian oil tanker arrives at its destination the British must help end the crisis," Mr Falahatpisheh was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency. "This means that the crisis with Britain is not over. Britain has the primary responsibility for ending the oil tanker crisis," he said.  A Gibraltar court cleared the Grace 1 to proceed last week after assurances were provided that it would not sail to Syria.  The United States then applied or the vessel to be impounded on the grounds that its cargo is controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US designates a terrorist organisation. The court rejected the application because Gibraltar is not within US jurisdiction.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 05:13:26 -0400
  • Iranian tanker sets sail from Gibraltar after US request to detain it is rejected news

    The Iranian tanker caught in a standoff between Tehran and the West left Gibraltar on Sunday night, shipping data showed, hours after the British territory rejected a US request to detain the vessel further. British Royal Marines seized the tanker in Gibraltar in July on suspicion it was carrying oil to Syria, a close ally of Iran, in violation of European Union sanctions. That triggered a series of events that have heightened tensions on international oil shipping routes through the Gulf, including the seizure of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which remains held by the Islamic Republic. Analysts had said the Iranian ship's release by Gibraltar could see the Stena Impero go free. The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar around 11pm, Refinitiv shipping data showed. Its destination was not immediately clear. A crew member looks over the side of the tanker at its new name Credit:  JON NAZCA/ REUTERS Iran's ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, had written on Twitter earlier that the vessel was expected to leave on Sunday night, adding that two engineering teams had been flown to Gibraltar. The tanker's detention ended last week, but a federal court in Washington on Friday issued a warrant for the seizure of the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million. Gibraltar said on Sunday it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law. "The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar - is much narrower than that applicable in the US," the government said in a statement. "The Gibraltar Central Authority is unable to seek an Order of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar to provide the restraining assistance required by the United States of America." Washington had attempted to detain the Grace 1 on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a terrorist organisation. US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that "Iran would like to talk," attributing the willingness to economic conditions in the country, when asked on Sunday by reporters about the status of the tanker. “Iran would like to talk but they just don’t know how to get there. They are very proud people. But their economy is crashing, crashing. “Inflation is through the roof. Their economy is doing really badly, they are not selling oil. We put the sanctions on, the oil is selling much less, much less than we thought. It’s like a trickle. “They very much want to make a deal, they just don’t know how to make a call, because they are proud people and I understand that. “But I have a feeling that things with Iran could work out, or maybe not." Iran has denied the tanker was ever headed to Syria. Tehran said it was ready to dispatch its naval fleet to escort the tanker if required. "The era of hit and run is over ... if top authorities ask the navy, we are ready to escort out tanker Adrian," Iran's navy commander, Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency. Earlier on Sunday, video and photographs showed the tanker flying the red, green and white flag of Iran and bearing its new name, painted in white, on the hull. Its previous name, 'Grace 1', had been painted over. Rising tensions between UK, US and Iran The initial impounding of the Grace 1 sparked a diplomatic row that escalated when Tehran seize a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf two weeks later. That tanker, the Stena Impero, is still detained. The two vessels have since become pawns in a bigger game, feeding into wider hostilities since the United States last year pulled out of an international agreement to curb Iran's nuclear programme, and reimposed economic sanctions. Iran has denounced US efforts to set up an international maritime security coalition in the Gulf and insisted regional countries could protect the strategic waterway and work towards signing a non-aggression pact. On a trip to Kuwait on Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that "Iran's proposal for Regional Dialogue Forum and non-aggression pact trumps reliance on extraneous actors". The Grace 1 had originally flown the Panamanian flag but Panama's Maritime Authority said in July that the vessel had been de-listed after an alert that indicated the ship had participated in or was linked to terrorism financing.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 04:52:07 -0400
  • Indonesian police regain control after demonstrators torch local parliament news

    Indonesia's police chief said on Monday that authorities in the easternmost Papua region were regaining control after protesters set fire to tyres and torched a local parliament building over the recent detention of scores of Papuan students. A separatist movement has simmered for decades in Papua, while there have also been frequent complaints of rights abuses by Indonesian security forces. The spark for the latest anger appears to have been the detention of Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, for allegedly bending a flagpole in front of a dormitory during the celebration of Indonesia's Independence Day on Aug. 17, according to activists. Police fired tear gas into the dormitory before arresting 43 students, Albert Mungguar, an activist, told a news conference on Sunday. He said students had been called “monkeys” during the operation. On Monday morning, Papuan protesters set fire to a parliament building and blocked streets in the provincial capital of West Papua, Manokwari, by burning tyres and tree branches, paralysing the town, Deputy Governor Mohamad Lakotani told Kompas TV. Television footage showed a group of about 150 people marching on the streets, as well as footage of smoke billowing from a parliament building. “According to the report I got from the West Papua police, the situation has gradually turned conducive,” National Police Chief Tito Karnavian told reporters, adding officers from other parts of eastern Indonesia could be brought in if needed. A police water cannon is parked on the street as police officers take a rest shortly after a protest in Manokwari, West Papua Credit: Rex Papua Governor Lukas Enembe said Papuans were angry because of “the extremely racist words by East Java people, the police and military”, he told broadcaster TVone. East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa in a televised statement said: “We apologise because this does not represent the voice of the people of East Java” and described the slur as “someone's personal outburst of emotion”. The incident also triggered a protest in Jayapura, the capital of neighbouring Papua province, where TV footage showed thousands peacefully protesting on the streets. Papua police spokesman Ahmad Kamal said by telephone 500 people were involved in the demonstration in Jayapura. “It's been a while since I saw West Papuans this angry...,” Veronica Koman, a human rights lawyer who focuses on Papua, said on Twitter. “The liberation movement is entering a new chapter.” Koman posted videos on Twitter that she said were taken in Jayapura of people yelling “free Papua”. In one of the videos, a group of teenagers can be seen carrying a Morning Star flag, which is a banned symbol used by supporters of independence. Papua and West Papua provinces, the resource-rich western part of the New Guinea island, make up a former Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised U.N.-backed referendum in 1969. President Joko Widodo has sought to ease tension in the restive region, including by building the Trans Papua highway to spur economic activities and improve people's welfare. However, unrest has persisted and separatists killed a group of construction workers in December 2018, triggering a military crackdown that displaced thousands in the Nduga area.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 04:51:23 -0400
  • UK lawyer to join British teen's team in Cyprus rape case news

    Court proceedings against a 19 year-old British woman who faces a public nuisance charge for falsely accusing 12 Israelis of rape have been adjourned until Aug. 27 in order to give her new legal team time to prepare their defense. A defense lawyer told a Paralimni court judge Monday that the defense team is waiting for a reply from Cyprus' attorney general to a written request seeking authorization for U.K. lawyer Lewis Power Q.C. to also represent the British woman along with Cypriot lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou. Cypriot police denied the allegation.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 04:37:25 -0400
  • Iceland commemorates first glacier lost to climate change news

    Iceland on Sunday honoured the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change, as scientists warn that some 400 others on the subarctic island risk the same fate. As the world recently marked the warmest July ever on record, a bronze plaque was mounted on a bare rock in a ceremony on the former glacier in western Iceland, attended by local researchers and their peers at Rice University in the United States who initiated the project. Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson also attended the event, as well as hundreds of scientists, journalists and members of the public who trekked to the site.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 04:33:28 -0400
  • How China's Military Is Becoming Stronger news

    Continued Evolution of PRC “Core” InterestsThe PRC claims that its policy for national defense is inherently defensive. However, the scope and scale of what the PLA may be called upon to defend is expanding, motivated by the “fundamental goal” of “resolutely safeguarding China’s “sovereignty, security, and development interests.” This phrasing has replaced, and is tantamount to, earlier assertions of China’s “core interests” (核心利益, hexin liyi). There have been changes and a degree of consistency in the framing of these interests over time. [2] However, the characterization of the tasks of the Chinese military and objectives of Chinese defense policy have evolved slightly between the 2015 and 2019 NDWPs. [3] In particular, the PRC’s commitment to safeguarding “national sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and security” is expanding.“China’s National Defense in the New Era” declares, “The South China Sea islands and Diaoyu Islands are inalienable parts of the Chinese territory.” Although the militarization of islands in the South China Sea has provoked serious concerns in the region, the PRC’s apparent confidence in its approach appears to have only increased. In 2015, “China’s Military Strategy” had highlighted the importance of “safeguard[ing] maritime rights,” calling for the PLA to “strike a balance between rights protection and stability maintenance.” By contrast, this 2019 NDWP lacks that emphasis on stability, and instead provides a direct defense of PRC actions: “China exercises its national sovereignty to build infrastructure and deploy necessary defensive capabilities on the islands and reefs in the South China Sea, and to conduct patrols in the waters of Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.” The justification of such measures as defensive reflects the flexible concept of defense that animates China’s strategy of active defense, which involves an offensive approach at the operational level.China’s national interests are continuing to expand into new domains and territories. The concern with threats and security interests in new domains, such as space and cyberspace, has been a consistent feature across the 2011, 2013, 2015, and now 2019 NDWPs. However, this latest document is more explicit in describing these as interests to be secured in China’s national defense, including not only outer space and cyberspace, but also the “electromagnetic space.” The PRC intends not only to improve its situational awareness in space but also to “enhance the capacity to safely enter, exit and openly use outer space.” The PRC’s future “use” (利用, liyong) of outer space could involve not only leveraging this domain for military purposes but also pursuing the exploitation of resources. At the same time, China’s attention to cyber security remains consistent with the concentration on cyber sovereignty, which requires reinforcing “national cyber border defense.” The emphasis on the electromagnetic space again highlights the spectrum as another domain for PRC interests.China has continued to concentrate on safeguarding its “overseas interests,” which are expanding worldwide. This imperative has been relatively consistent across the past couple of NDWPs, but the language in this document indicates its heightened importance. In particular, China’s armed forces intend to “address deficiencies in overseas operations and support,” including “build[ing] far seas forces” and “develop[ing] overseas logistical facilities,” such as the base in Djibouti and a potential base in Cambodia, which may be the first such bases of a number to come (China Brief, March 22). Inherently, China’s national defense requires supporting “the sustainable development of the country.” At a time when growth is slowing and depending ever more directly upon access to markets and resources worldwide, China’s future growth is directly linked to this global outlook. This concern justifies the call for the PLA to contribute to “global security goods,” which may see continued internationalization of China’s military power in ways that could start to challenge the United States.China’s Response to Global Military Competition“China’s National Defense in the New Era” reflects the PRC response to the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy, which centered on sharpening the U.S. military’s competitive advantage. [4]American initiatives have evidently provoked a powerful response in the PLA, spurring on Chinese defense innovation (China Brief, October 4, 2016). As a result, the PLA has been greatly concerned with the risks of “technology surprise attacks” (技术突袭, jishu tuji), wary of a “growing technological generation gap” that could emerge as a result of this competition. By its own assessment, the PLA “still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries,” and a failure to adapt could place the PLA in a position of dangerous disadvantage.  This unfavorable situation necessitates innovation as a military, and indeed strategic, imperative.The PLA is confronting the challenge and opportunity of the “Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA, 军事革命, junshi geming) believed to be currently underway. This 2019 NDWP builds upon notable themes from the 2015 edition, which stated that the global RMA was “proceeding to a new stage.” In particular, those trends were assessed to involve the development of weaponry and equipment characterized as “long-range precision, intelligent, stealthy and unmanned.” In the “new era” described in the 2019 edition, China is particularly concerned with advances in cutting-edge technologies with promising applications in the military domain, especially artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information, big data, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things. As a result of these trends, the form (形态, xingtai) of warfare “is accelerating in its evolution towards informatized warfare, and intelligentized (智能化, zhinenghua) warfare is on the horizon.” [5]The PLA’s recent reforms have introduced unprecedented transformation into a force once considered resistant to change. However, the PLA continues to confront considerable challenges as a result of the disparities that persist even within the force. Chinese military leaders must “promote the integrated development of mechanization and informatization and accelerate the development of military intelligentization.” [6] The PLA today must undertake all three processes simultaneously, which presents distinct difficulties and potential chances to leapfrog in its development. Notably, this innovation is reportedly extending to the development of new military theories that may be formalized eventually into new “doctrine” or operational regulations (作战条令, zuozhan tiaoling) (The Diplomat, June 6, 2017). However, the PLA’s approach to the requisite technical and conceptual challenges is still taking shape.New Paradigms of Chinese Military PowerToday, the PLA is changing its paradigm for military power: the PLA is “striving to transform from a quantity-and-scale model to that of quality and efficiency, as well as from being personnel-intensive to one that is S&T-intensive.;” This objective has involved a significant downsizing of personnel, with 300,000 demobilized on the course of these reforms, and increased investment in human capital. At the same time, the PLA’s approach to military research has been restructured: the CMC Steering Commission on Military Scientific Research has been established, and a transformed Academy of Military Science (China Brief, January 18) has been officially designated to lead the military scientific research enterprise. Guided by Lieutenant General Yang Xuejun (杨学军)—the former commandant of the PLA’s National University of Defense Technology, known for his expertise in artificial intelligence and supercomputing—AMS appears to be undertaking rapid recruitment of the talent required to promote defense innovation in emerging technologies. The “new” AMS is also leading a new initiative to facilitate the integration of theory and technology (理技融合, liji ronghe), which could enable the innovative thinking required to realize the potential of emerging capabilities (Xinhua, February 14).The PLA is also improving and modernizing its system for weaponry and equipment. The PLA, once described as the world’s largest military museum, is phasing out older equipment while working towards introducing a new “system of systems” (体系, tixi) composed of high-tech weapons, such as Type 15 tanks, type 052D destroyers, J-20 fighters, and DF-26 intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles. The PLA’s next-generation capabilities could prove to be more sophisticated, from higher levels of autonomy to hypersonics and a range of “new concept” systemss, such as directed energy weapons. Whereas prior armaments development had been characterized by a lack of jointness, current initiatives mentioned in the 2019 NDWP are intended to improve capabilities by “coordinating the efforts of all services and arms,” while “promoting the balanced development of main battle equipment, information systems, and support equipment” in order to increase “standardization, serial development and interoperability.”The PLA’s apparent enthusiasm for technology and innovation can appear incongruous when juxtaposed against a concurrent attachment to tradition. For instance, Mao Zedong’s concept of “people’s warfare” (人民战争, renmin zhanzheng) was described in “China’s Military Strategy” as a “magic weapon” (法宝, fabao) for the PLA. Even as China’s national defense enters this “new era,” the espoused dedication to “give full play to the overall power of the people’s war[fare]” is again reiterated with calls for “innovating in its strategies, tactics and measures.” This is not merely rhetorical, but rather reflects a core concept: “China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people,” as the 2019 NDWP declares. This approach may appear to be anachronistic in an age of informatized warfare, yet arguably possesses enduring relevance, from cyber defense to a whole-of-nation approach to national defense mobilization. [7] The juxtaposition of low-tech concepts and options with high-tech ambitions can be strikingly incongruous. For example, the much-derided discussion of the PLA’s reintroduction of bugles in the 2019 NDWP can also be characterized as a measure with practical relevance, including to resolving the challenges of command and communications in a highly denied environment (China Military Online, September 12, 2018). China’s armed forces continue to attempt to reconcile such apparent contradictions.PLA Reforms in ProgressThe 2019 NDWP introduces certain updates regarding force structure that are worth highlighting. The PLA has apparently succeeded in overcoming considerable bureaucratic impediments to adjust its force structure—away from the prior dominance of the Army to expand the Navy and Rocket Force—while increasing investments in “new types of combat forces.” This adjustment and rebalancing of China’s armed forces has shifted resources to new priorities: there is a new focus on special operations, “all-dimensional offense and defense,” amphibious operations, far seas protection and “strategic projection,” with the objective to “make the force composition complete, combined, multi-functional and flexible.”As a significant innovation in force structure, the PLA Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) is a unique outcome of the reforms. The PLASSF has consolidated capabilities for space, cyber, and electronic warfare, contributing to Chinese capabilities to “fight and win wars in the information age.” At the same time, its supporting function is officially described as including battlefield environmental protection, information and communication assurance, and information security protection, as well as new technology testing. The PLASSF is called upon to “accelerate the integrated development of new-type combat forces,” which may allude to recognition of potential synergies in capabilities across these domains. In a notable indicator of progress, the PLASSF is “actively integrated into the joint operations system, and solidly carrying out new-type domains confrontation drills and emergency response training.” For instance, the PLASSF has engaged in exercises in which it acted as a “blue force” through engaging in electronic countermeasures.Today, the PLA’s capabilities for “strategic deterrence” (战略威慑, zhanlue weishe) thus extend beyond the PLARF to emerging capabilities in new domains. In particular, the new strategic capabilities for space and cyber warfare have been consolidated through the PLASSF.  [8] The PLA Air Force was described in 2015 as endeavoring to “build an air-space defense force structure that can meet the requirements of informationized operations.” However, this discussion of “air-space defense” is not included in the 2019 NDWP, potentially reflecting organizational decisions that have resulted in the space mission being primarily entrusted to the PLASSF. [9] This shift thus appears to reinforce the assessment that the PLASSF is more likely to possess responsibility for the PLA’s space mission, though there is a possibility that the PLAAF and/or PLARF may retain some role in kinetic counterspace capabilities.The PRC’s capabilities for and strategic thinking on deterrence are evolving. The subtle changes in phrasing across these NDWPs convey notable nuances regarding the role of its missile forces. In 2015, the role of the former Second Artillery was described as involving “strategic deterrence and nuclear counterattack,” whereas in 2019, the PLARF was characterized as responsible for “nuclear deterrence and nuclear counterattack.” The fact that the PLARF is not described as the service with the sole role in strategic deterrence further confirms the shift in the PLA’s nuclear posture: from a monad to a triad, in which the PLA Navy and Air Force are also called upon to serve as newly “strategic” services in their own right. Also new to this defense white paper, the PLARF is called upon to “enhanc[e] strategic counter-balance capability” (增强战略制衡能力, zengqiang zhanlue zhiheng nengli). The meaning of this phrasing is not clearly defined, but it could be an allusion to the potential of new capabilities, such as hypersonics, intended to maintain deterrence in the face of missile defense.As the PLA continues to improve “preparations for military struggle,” its capability to “fight and win” future wars will depend upon the realism and sophistication of its training. This “actual combat” (实战, shizhan) training appears to be improving across the services. [10] For instance, the PLA Navy has started to concentrate on training in the far seas, reportedly deploying its new aircraft carrier task group for its initial “far seas combat exercise” in the West Pacific. The PLAN has also introduced “live force-on-force exercises codenamed “Mobility” (机动, jidong). Significantly, the introduction of the theater commands (战区, zhanqu) provides a critical mechanism to enable joint operations. This 2019 NDWP reveals that the theater commands have “strengthened their leading role in joint training and organized serial joint exercises codenamed the East, the South, the West, the North and the Central, to improve joint combat capabilities.” The existence of these exercises had not been previously disclosed, and their announcement is noteworthy as a new mechanism for improving joint combat capabilities.ConclusionToday’s PLA is very different from that of yesteryear. Chinese military power has increased dramatically over the past several decades, consistently surpassing the estimates of most analysts. The PLA is adapting to the challenges of military rivalry among great powers and pursuing new mechanisms for victory in future warfare. Of course, the PLA continues to confront numerous weaknesses and significant shortcomings—lagging behind the U.S. military, which is seen as the target of and teacher for these efforts. The apparent ambitions for the PLA to become truly “world-class” as a force by mid-century should not be dismissed. The gestures towards transparency, including new details on China’s defense budget, which reached $151.6 billion as of 2017, should be welcomed, but hardly resolve concerns about PRC intentions and growing capabilities. Meanwhile, the PLA remains more opaque about its actual military strategic guidelines and operational regulations, which are not, and are unlikely to be, publicly disclosed. [11] However, it is clear that China is well on its way to creating a military commensurate with its global standing and interests in this “new era.” This latest NDWP thus provides one more piece of the puzzle of reckoning with the rise of China’s military power.Elsa Kania is an Adjunct Senior Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program of the Center for a New American Security. She is also an Associate with the U.S. Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute.This article appeared originally at The Jamestown Foundation's China Brief.Image: Reuters. Notes[1] See this volume that provides significant assessments of major elements of the reforms: Phillip Saunders et al. (ed.), Chairman Xi Remakes the PLA: Assessing Chinese Military Reforms(National Defense University Press, 2019).[2] See these earlier assessments of the evolution and characterization of China’s “core interest” (核心利益) over time: Caitlin Campbell, Ethan Meick, Kimberly Hsu, and Craig Murray, “China’s ‘Core Interests’ and the East China Sea,” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2013. Michael D. Swaine, “China’s Assertive Behavior: Part One: On ‘Core Interests,’” China Leadership Monitor 34, no. 22 (2011): 1-25.[3] For instance, the only mention of the South China Sea in the “China’s Military Strategy” included the statement: “Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China.” The question of whether the South China Sea was considered a ‘core interest’ was previously debated and debatable, but “China’s National Defense in the New Era” seems to settle that issue more conclusively.[4] Department of Defense, “Summary of the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Advantage,”[5] Potentially, the PLA’s military strategic guidelines may be revised someday to reflect its focus on preparing to fight and win future “intelligentized” wars.[6] For more context on the Chinese military’s approach to intelligentization, see: Elsa B. Kania, “Chinese Military Innovation in Artificial Intelligence,” Testimony  to U.S.-China Economic and Security  June 7, 2019,[7] For a more detailed assessment of China’s approach to national defense mobilization, see: Elsa B. Kania, “Testimony before the National Commission on Service’s Hearing on “Future Mobilization Needs of the Nation,”” April 24, 2019,[8] For initial assessments of the PLA Strategic Support Force, see: John Costello and Joe McReynolds, China’s Strategic Support Force: A Force for a New Era,  National Defense University Press, 2018; Elsa B. Kania and John K. Costello,”The Strategic Support Force and the Future of Chinese Information Operations,” The Cyber Defense Review 3, no. 1 (2018): pp. 105-122.[9] As a potential indicator of inter-service rivalry or dynamics, it may be notable that the PLASSF’s new commander, Lt. Gen. Li Fengbiao (李凤彪) is a career PLAAF officer who formerly commanded the PLAAF Airborne Corps. Potentially, his selection is an indication that the PLASSF is becoming more joint as an organization. For context and confirmation of this change, see: “CCTV screen leakage of personnel adjustment” [央视画面泄密人事调整], Duowei, May 15, 2019, For the original video of footage from the May 2019 conference, see: “Xi Jinping at the All-Nation Public Security Work Conference Emphasized” [习近平在全国公安工作会议上强调], CCTV, May 8, 2019,[10] As for other services, the PLA Army has continued such major exercises as “Stride” (跨越) and “Firepower” (火力), the PLA Air Force has continued to engage in regular system-vs.- system exercises, such as “Red Sword” (红剑), and the PLA Rocket Force has focused on “force-on-force evaluation-oriented training” while continuing major exercises, such as “Heavenly Sword” (天剑).[11] For a much more extensive discussion of the evolution of China’s military strategy over time, see: M. Taylor Fravel, Active Defense: China’s Military Strategy Since 1949, Princeton University Press, 2019.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 04:24:00 -0400
  • UPDATE 5-Iran tanker heads to Greece, Iran warns U.S against seizure bid

    An Iranian tanker at the centre of an angry confrontation between Iran and Washington sailed for Greece on Monday after it was freed from detention off Gibraltar, as Tehran said any U.S. move to seize the vessel again would have "heavy consequences". While Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared to downplay the possibility of military conflict with Washington in an interview on U.S. television, he also indicated on a visit to Finland that Washington was seeking "more escalation".

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 04:22:00 -0400
  • Putin, Macron to meet for French-Russian talks before G-7 news

    French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting in southern France to discuss the world's major crises, including Ukraine, Iran and Syria, and try to improve Moscow's relations with the European Union. Macron has invited Putin on Monday afternoon to his summer residence, the Fort de Bregancon on the French Riviera, for a meeting followed by dinner, just a few days before opening a meeting of the Group of Seven nations in the French city of Biarritz with U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders. France holds the 2019 presidency of the G-7, which also includes Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 04:07:24 -0400
  • UPDATE 3-UK's Johnson tells Germany and France: do a Brexit deal

    TRURO, England/LONDON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on France and Germany on Monday to change their position on Brexit and negotiate a new exit deal for Britain, reiterating his stance that he is ready to leave the European Union without a deal if they do not. With Britain is set to leave the bloc on Oct. 31, it has less than 74 days to resolve a three-year crisis that is pitting the country against the EU, and parliament against the executive. "We will be ready to come out on Oct. 31 - deal or no deal," Johnson told reporters in Truro, southwest England.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 03:55:42 -0400
  • France's Macron to discuss Brexit with PM Johnson on Thursday

    French President Emmanuel Macron will meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Aug. 22 to discuss Brexit as well as the crises in Iran and Syria, an official from Macron's office said on Monday. "The President of the Republic will host Boris Johnson for a working dinner at the Elysee Palace, which will be preceded by remarks to the press," said the official. Johnson is also scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday this week.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 03:39:10 -0400
  • Iran says it has warned US against seizing oil tanker news

    Tehran said on Monday that it has warned Washington against making another attempt to seize an Iranian tanker that has departed Gibraltar despite a US bid to have it detained. "Iran has given necessary warnings to American officials through its official channels... not to make such a mistake because it would have grave consequences," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a news conference. Iran had been locked in a high-seas standoff with US ally Britain since Royal Marines seized the tanker off the coast of UK territory Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion it was shipping oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 03:35:49 -0400
  • Detained Iranian tanker sets sail from Gibraltar as Tehran warns US not to seize ship news

    The Iranian tanker seized by British Royal Marines near Gibraltar in July on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria has left port.Shipping data showed the Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, leaving Gibraltar around 11pm, and is believed to be heading to Kalamata in Greece.Authorities in Gibraltar released the tanker last week, but on Friday a federal court in Washington issued a warrant for its seizure, its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, and nearly $1m (£824,000).However, on Sunday Gibraltar said it could not comply with that request because it was bound by EU law.Washington had attempted to detain the ship on the grounds it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which it has designated a terrorist organisation.The release comes amid a growing row between Iran and the West after Donald Trump pulled Washington out of Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.Shortly after the tanker was detained in early July near Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz, which remains in the Islamic Republic.Iran has warned the US against any new attempt to seize its tanker in open seas after it left Gibraltar.Asked whether the US could renew its seizure request, Abbas Mousavi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said: “Such an action ... would endanger shipping safety in open seas. We have issued a warning through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy.”Switzerland represents US interests in Iran, which has no diplomatic relations with the US.After the US unsealed a warrant on Friday to seize the vessel and its cargo, US officials told reporters the oil abroad the ship was worth some $130m (£107m) and it was destined for a designated terror organisation.The unsealed court documents argued Iran’s IRGC are the ship’s true owners through a network of front companies.But authorities in Gibraltar said that, unlike in the US, the IRGC is not a designated terrorist organisation under EU, British or Gibraltan law.Iran has not disclosed the Adrian Darya 1’s intended destination and has denied it was ever headed for Syria.The chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said he had been assured in writing by the Iranian government the tanker would not unload its cargo in Syria.The Astralship shipping agency in Gibraltar, which has been hired to handle paperwork and arrange logistics for the Adrian Darya 1, told the Associated Press a new crew of Indian and Ukrainian nationals had been expected to replace the sailors on board.Additional reporting by agencies

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 02:27:26 -0400
  • Netanyahu's partisan streak has paid off, but for how long? news

    In the eyes of critics, Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to bar two Democratic congresswomen at the request of President Donald Trump is the latest reckless gamble by a prime minister willing to sacrifice Israel's national interests for short-term gain. The move infuriated Democrats and risked turning Israel into even more of a partisan issue at a time when Americans are fiercely divided and Trump faces a tough fight for re-election.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 01:57:49 -0400
  • Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea news

    A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is preparing to make his fifth visit to China later this month during which he says he will finally raise the result of the 2016 Hague arbitration case on China's South China Sea claims amid a new spike in tensions. Duterte, who has sought warmer ties with Beijing, has long been criticized by nationalists and left-wing groups for not immediately demanding Chinese compliance with the ruling from an international arbitration panel that declared China's claims to virtually the entire South China Sea invalid under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 00:53:54 -0400
  • Iceland commemorates first glacier lost to climate change news

    Iceland on Sunday honoured the passing of Okjokull, its first glacier lost to climate change, as scientists warn that some 400 others on the subarctic island risk the same fate. Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson also attended the event, as well as hundreds of scientists, journalists and members of the public who trekked to the site. "I hope this ceremony will be an inspiration not only to us here in Iceland but also for the rest of the world, because what we are seeing here is just one face of the climate crisis," Jakobsdottir told AFP.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 00:52:18 -0400
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