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  • Macron, Putin see chance on Ukraine but clash on Syria news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 18:02:01 -0400
  • Johnson Makes Irish Border Pledge in Bid to Renegotiate Brexit

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governments in November, would keep the U.K. following EU customs and many other trading rules indefinitely unless it’s superseded by a trade agreement that removes the need for controls or checks along the Irish border.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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:46:55 -0400
  • Brazil Considers Labeling Hezbollah as Terrorists in Pivot to U.S. news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:36:30 -0400
  • Johnson tells EU he wants Brexit deal but without backstop news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:23:43 -0400
  • Omar: Go to Israel, see 'cruel reality of the occupation' news

    Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticized Israel on Monday for denying them entry to the Jewish state and called on fellow members of Congress to visit while they cannot. Omar, of Minnesota, suggested President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suppressing the lawmakers' ability to carry out their oversight role. "I would encourage my colleagues to visit, meet with the people we were going to meet with, see the things we were going to see, hear the stories we were going to hear," Omar said at a news conference.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:10:56 -0400
  • The Day Mountbatten Died, review: a powerful look at one of the darkest days of the Troubles news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:00:00 -0400
  • The Latest: Omar calls on colleagues to visit Israel news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:47:24 -0400
  • Airstrikes hit near Turkish convoy in Syria, raising tension news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:17:48 -0400
  • Man, 20, pleads not guilty in Jewish center video threat news

    A 20-year-old man pleaded not guilty Monday to threatening a Jewish community center in a video that authorities say showed him shooting a semi-automatic rifle. A judge near Youngstown set bond at $250,000 for James Reardon, ordered a mental health evaluation and told him to stay away from Jewish churches and organizations if he is released from jail. Police arrested Reardon Saturday on charges of on telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing charges, a day after a Jewish organization contacted authorities.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 16:15:04 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-UK's Johnson to EU: Let's replace backstop with commitment to alternative arrangements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 14:01:04 -0400
  • 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 13:48:08 -0400
  • Russian panel eyes alleged foreign interference in protests news

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

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

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

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:01:31 -0400
  • Iran Warns U.S. Against Seizing Oil Tanker Headed to Greece 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 re-named the Adrian Darya 1, was signaling Kalamata, Greece -- at least for now -- with an arrival date of Aug. 26, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg at 5:25 p.m. London time. It had previously been showing an arrival date of Aug. 25.The vessel left Gibraltar Sunday night after being detained there since early July, when British forces seized it on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in violation of European sanctions. The U.S., which has sanctions against Iran, is seeking to prevent anyone from doing business with the ship.Iranian Crude Tanker Leaves Gibraltar Waters: What Happens Next?U.S. sanctions mean Iran cannot be “very transparent” about the destination of the tanker, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said at a press conference in Helsinki. He said the U.S. is trying to “bully others from purchasing our oil” and that he hopes the release of the vessel will de-escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf.A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.The incident is one of several in recent months that have strained relations between Iran and the West, following the U.S. reinstatement of sanctions on the Islamic Republic last year. Iran has maintained that the ship’s original detention on July 4 was unlawful. The Persian Gulf state continues to hold a U.K.-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero. Aggression in the region has threatened shipping in recent months in the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most critical waterway for oil supplies.“The U.S. surely can’t seize the Iranian tanker and, if it does, it would pose a threat to international maritime security,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. Iran warned the U.S. via “diplomatic channels,” including Switzerland, against interfering with the tanker, in international waters, Mousavi said at a news conference in Tehran. Swiss diplomats serve as interlocutors between the U.S. and Iran.Destination UnclearIt’s not known where the Iranian vessel is ultimately headed. Greek authorities haven’t received formal notification that the vessel intends to head to a port in the country, according to a spokesman for Greece’s coast guard. Kalamata’s port usually serves pleasure craft like sailboats and cruise ships, data compiled by Bloomberg show.The waters off Kalamata could be a possible location for ship-to-ship cargo transfers, according to two vessel brokers without specific information about the tanker’s plans. A ship’s destination is entered manually into its Automatic Identification System and is picked up by vessel-tracking. The destinations can be altered multiple times on the same journey.Gibraltar rejected an attempt by the U.S. to block the Iranian supertanker, saying that EU regulations don’t allow it to seek a court order to detain the vessel.U.S. ComplaintA complaint unsealed in Washington stated that “Oil Tanker ‘Grace 1,’ all petroleum aboard it and $995,000 are subject to forfeiture,” according to a Justice Department statement. The statement alleges a “scheme to unlawfully access the U.S. financial system to support illicit shipments” of oil from Iran to Syria in violation of U.S. sanctions, money laundering and terrorism statutes.Gibraltar last week released the vessel, after the government said Iran had provided assurances that the ship would not sail to a destination sanctioned by the EU. In response, the U.S. said it was gravely disappointed with Britain, and it warned that ports, banks and anyone else who does business with the vessel or its crew might be subject to sanctions, according to two administration officials.(Updates vessel’s estimated arrival date in second paragraph, request for comment in fifth. An earlier version of this story included an incorrect spelling for a port official in Kalamata, Greece.)\--With assistance from Serene Cheong, Anthony DiPaola, Alex Longley, Julian Lee, Paul Tugwell, Kati Pohjanpalo and Nick Wadhams.To contact the reporters on this story: Brian Wingfield in London at;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, Rachel GrahamFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 12:12:15 -0400
  • A look at the Islamic State affiliate's rise in Afghanistan 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
  • 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, although some experts found it unconvincing, saying the results were statistically borderline and the methodology was flawed.“When we started in this field, we were told that fluoride is safe and effective in pregnancy,” said study co-author Christine Till of York University in Toronto. “But when we looked for the evidence to suggest that it’s safe, we didn’t find any studies done on pregnant women.”They recruited 512 pregnant women from six Canadian cities and measured their exposure several ways: analyzing the amount of fluoride in their urine; looking at how much tap water and tea they drank; and comparing the fluoride concentration in the community drinking water.Then, when the women’s children were 3 or 4, the researchers gave them IQ tests and crunched the numbers to see if they could find any trends.“We saw an association between prenatal fluoride exposure and lower IQ scores in children,” study author Rivky Green said.Specifically, they found a 1 mg per liter increase in concentration of fluoride in urine was associated with a 4.5 point decrease in IQ among boys—though not girls. Another translation: The boys of mothers with the most fluoride in the urine had IQs about 3 points lower than the boys of mothers with the least amount.Although critics of the study pointed to the different results by gender as a red flag, when the researchers measured fluoride exposure by examining the women’s fluid intake, they found lower IQs in boys and girls. A 1 mg increase per day was associated with a 3.7-point  IQ deficit among both.While medical organizations are not advising that pregnant women avoid fluoridated water—and the study has no implications for the use of fluoride after birth—Green believes the results are significant enough to warrant a change in behavior. “What we recommend is lowering fluoride ingestion during pregnancy,” she said.Before publication, the study was subjected to two statistical reviews, with the researchers combing through the data to make sure that the results were not skewed by the mothers’ education, income levels, or other factors.The findings were astonishing to JAMA editors, who had been told throughout their medical training that fluoridation was completely safe and that opponents were wingnuts relying on “junk science.”“When I first saw this title, my initial inclination was ‘What the hell?’” Christakis said on a JAMA podcast. “For me, before there were anti-vaxxers, there were sort of anti-fluoriders.”In fact, fluoride has been a boogeyman in conspiracy circles for decades. When water fluoridation became widespread in the U.S. in the 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 Academy of Pediatrics said it is looking forward to future studies “to see if they demonstrate the same results or provide more conclusive evidence.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which recommends that pregnant women use fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinses, isn’t making any changes for now.“We wouldn’t change our guidelines without undertaking our thorough clinical-review process,” ACOG spokeswoman Kate Connors said.Sophia Lubin, an OB-GYN in Brooklyn, New York, said she’s never had a patient ask her about fluoridated water, but expects she will be questioned about it now.“As an obstetrician, you always have to think about two people—the mother and the baby,” she said. ”And oral health is important for mothers.”She anticipates telling women that if they are truly concerned, they can switch to bottled water during pregnancy. But she doesn’t think, at this point, that she will tell patients they should not drink from the tap.One part of the study that struck her was how much fluoride is in black tea, which soaks it up from soil. She said she is more likely to tell patients to cut back on tea than on water, since it’s important they stay hydrated.“This left me with a lot more questions than answers,” Lubin said.Linda Murray, senior vice president of BabyCenter, the online pregnancy hub, said concerns about fluoride will join an already long list of potential danger zones for expectant mothers. “It’s an anxious time for women as it is. Every pregnant woman wants to do everything she can do to have a healthy baby, and they’re hyper-aware,” she said.Pregnant women are already told to avoid too much coffee, raw sushi, fish high in mercury, deli meats, alcohol. But water is in a league of its own.“You can live without your California roll, but this is an everyday thing, and we tell pregnant people to stay hydrated,” Murray said.She suggested that until there is a broad consensus about how to respond to the study, women should focus on the things they can do to improve pregnancy outcomes: seeing a health-care provider early on, taking prenatal vitamins, eating healthy—and worrying less.“Stress and anxiety are not healthy for pregnancy,” she said.Meet The Putin-Loving Congressman Who’s Worried About Fluoride In Our Drinking WaterThe study authors noted a number of limitations, the most significant of which is that they did not assess how much fluoride the children were exposed to after birth.Dr. Stuart Ritchie, a neuroscientist at King’s College London, called the finding “pretty weak.”“They might be interesting as part of a larger set of studies on this question, but alone they shouldn’t move the needle much at all on the question of the safety of fluoride,” he wrote.But in an analysis that accompanied the study, Harvard Professor David Bellinger said that while “high-quality epidemiological studies” are needed, “the hypothesis that fluoride is a neurodevelopmental toxicant must now be given serious consideration.”Those kinds of studies take time—which doesn’t help millions of parents-to-be who may be looking for advice now.“The question that needs to be asked to every pediatrician, scientist, and epidemiologist is what they’re going to tell pregnant women,” said Christakis, who says he will advise his pregnant friends and family to avoid fluoridated water.“We can’t tell them to wait years for another study. They have to decide what to tell their patients now.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 11:00:19 -0400
  • Huawei just got the ban reprieve it needs to release the Mate 30 Pro and Mate X 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
  • How History Can Actually Solve the South Korea-Japan Crisis news

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 10:49:00 -0400
  • Sudan protesters, army postpone announcement on ruling body 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
  • 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
  • Leaked 'no-deal' Brexit report warns of civil unrest and food supply disruptions news

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

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

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

    Mon, 19 Aug 2019 09:30:00 -0400
  • Germany Readying Stimulus Plan as Contingency for Deep Recession 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) -- Follow @Brexit, sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, and tell us your Brexit story. 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
  • 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
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