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  • Australian left thirsty on Emirates flight loses injury case

    A woman who said she was left thirsty by an Emirates cabin crew and broke her ankle when she fainted on the flight has lost her case in an Australian court. Lina Di Falco was seeking damages from the United Arab Emirates-based airline for the injury sustained on a flight from Melbourne to Dubai in 2015. Di Falco testified she felt nauseous after her first meal in the economy cabin and fainted because of dehydration while walking to a toilet.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 01:59:59 -0400
  • Money, hatred for the Kurds drives Turkey's Syrian fighters

    Golocal247.com news

    The Syrian fighters, trained and funded by Turkey, present themselves as heirs to the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. "The main problem with these forces is their criminality," said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute who has interviewed dozens of the fighters and said they appear to be driven by a desire for power and money rather than by any specific ideology.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 01:44:17 -0400
  • Trevor Noah Accuses Trump of ‘Renting’ U.S. Military to Saudi Arabia

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    Comedy CentralOn Monday night, with all the other late-night hosts off this week except for Kimmel, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah teed off on the latest news out of Trumpville: that the president’s decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in Northern Syria at the behest of Turkey has not only led to the Kurds being under attack, but also the escape of hundreds of ISIS prisoners they’d previously held captive. “Sweet Jesus,” exclaimed Noah. “Donald Trump is the only person who can find a way to make the Middle East more chaotic. Turkey invading, Kurds fleeing, ISIS escaping?! Like, the Middle East was already a geopolitical Jenga tower, with everyone trying to figure out the right move, and then Donald Trump comes in and he’s like, ‘What if we move the whole table!’” “Trump has justified his position to pull out of Syria by saying this is all part of his larger plan to bring American troops back home, and that makes sense,” Noah continued. “What doesn’t make sense is that ‘home’ seems to be another country in the Middle East.”Yes, Trump has reportedly sent 2,800 troops to Saudi Arabia in response to alleged attacks on Saudi oil facilities that the Trump administration has blamed on Iran. “We are sending troops and other things to the Middle East to help Saudi Arabia. But, are you ready? Saudi Arabia, at my request, has agreed to pay us for everything that we’re doing. That’s a first!” Trump exclaimed during one of his regular White House lawn pressers. Jimmy Kimmel Calls Trump ‘Flakiest Snowflake Ever’ for Whining to Fox NewsJohn Oliver Thinks Rudy Giuliani Is Totally Screwed: ‘Trump Will Abandon Him’“Yeah, he’s right—that is a first. I don’t think America has ever rented out its military before. Like, that is a wild thing,” offered Noah. “He’s selling the military and ‘other things?’ What are the ‘other things?’ Does anybody ask? Nobody? What, does he just sneak Eric into the shipment?” “It’s weird that you can rent out America’s military,” Noah added, before throwing to their Senior War Correspondent Desi Lydic, to help “clear things up.” “President Trump is just fulfilling his promise to pull U.S. troops out of the Middle East,” said Lydic. “And you know what? It’s refreshing! A lot of men say they’ll pull out, but they don’t. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seven times…I have seven kids now.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 01:00:02 -0400
  • Syrian government forces regain control of towns along northern border

    Moving up from the south, Syrian government troops seized several towns in the northeastern part of the country on Monday, one day after reaching an agreement with the Kurdish-led militia that has held control of the area for several years.The Kurds and Syria reached the deal after President Trump pulled back U.S. troops from the border, giving Turkey the opportunity to invade Syria and launch an assault on the Kurds. The Kurds and United States worked together to fight the Islamic State in Syria, and the Kurds took control over territory lost by ISIS. After the U.S. retreat, the Kurds turned to the Syrian government for added protection against Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Kurds terrorists.Syrian government forces were able to take control of multiple towns from the Kurds, including Taqba, which has a hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates. Kurdish fighters spent Monday battling Turkish troops and allied Syrian militias in the border towns of Ras al Ain and Tal Abyad. The recent developments are viewed as victories for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who counts Russia and Iran as his allies.Complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. has about 50 tactical nuclear weapons stored at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, 250 miles from the Syrian border. Two U.S. officials told The New York Times that over the weekend, State and Energy Department employees were reviewing plans for getting the weapons out of Turkey. They are "essentially Erdogan's hostages," the Times says, and moving them from Turkey would basically end the alliance between the United States and Turkey. Leaving them is just as problematic, as it puts the weapons and U.S. in a vulnerable position. Read more at The New York Times.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 00:33:00 -0400
  • Trump imposes sanctions on Turkey, threatens its economy

    Golocal247.com news

    Targeting Turkey's economy, President Donald Trump announced sanctions aimed at restraining the Turks' assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria — an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving U.S. troops out of the way. The United States on Monday also called on Turkey to stop the invasion and declare a cease-fire, and Trump is sending Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Robert O'Brien to Ankara as soon as possible in an attempt to begin negotiations.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 00:09:41 -0400
  • Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal on Knife Edge

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal was hanging in the balance Tuesday, after the European Union Presidency said more time was needed before a summit of its leaders this week.Antti Rinne, premier of Finland -- which currently has the rotating presidency of the EU -- said negotiations may need to continue after the EU Council summit that starts Thursday.“I think there is no time in a practical way and in a legal base to reach an agreement before the Council meeting, I think we need to have more time,” Rinne told reporters in Helsinki.With 16 days before the U.K. is due to leave the EU, Johnson repeatedly pledged to “get Brexit done,” as he spoke in Parliament on Monday following a Queen’s Speech that laid the ground for a general election. He’s refused to ask for a delay to Brexit, even though the Benn Act says he must do so if he hasn’t finalized a deal with both the EU and U.K. Parliament by Oct. 19.The EU plans to decide Wednesday whether there will be a deal for leaders to sign during the Oct. 17-18 summit and has ruled out negotiating during the actual meeting of leaders.Johnson postponed a meeting of his political cabinet to Wednesday, when it may become clearer whether a Brexit deal will be done this week, and the government will then be able to decide whether to call MPs in for a sitting Saturday.Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid also announced Nov. 6 as the date for his annual Budget, but that will only take place if the government gets a Brexit deal.Pound Shaken Up by Positioning in Fear of Swift and Brutal MoveWith the clock ticking down, Johnson’s Brexit opponents in the U.K. met Monday to discuss their next move. They concluded any deal Johnson brings back would probably be incomplete, meaning he’d likely have to delay Brexit anyway, according to two people familiar with the discussions.The group, which consists of some Labour MPs, the Liberal Democrats, Wales’ Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and Greens — alongside some former Conservatives — said they’d wait and see how the next 48 hours pans out.If Johnson gets a deal they would then decide whether to seek a confirmatory public vote on it as a price for allowing it to pass Parliament, the people said.But Johnson once again ruled out another referendum on Brexit on Monday.“If there could be one thing more divisive more toxic than the first referendum, it would be a second referendum,” he said.\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson and Kati Pohjanpalo.To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0400
  • Hong Kong Under ‘De Facto Curfew’ as Subway Stations Shut Early

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s subway system has closed early for more than a week, effectively cutting off the main mode of transportation for millions of residents. Many are now wondering how long it will last.Following unprecedented vandalism on the night of Oct. 4, when Chief Executive Carrie Lam banned face masks after invoking emergency powers last used in 1967, many stations were left in tatters. The rail operator MTR Corp. shut the entire network for a whole day for the first time since 2007 before gradually reopening damaged stations.The MTR has said it needs extra time to repair its stations. But as the service keeps getting curtailed, protesters have accused the company of helping the authorities prevent further demonstrations. In recent statements, the MTR has cited a “joint risk assessment with other relevant government departments” as a reason for the closures.“Hong Kong has a de facto curfew,” said a medical professional with the surname Wong, who said his commute from Kowloon City to Tin Shui Wai near the Chinese border recently took him 3.5 hours when an early closure prevented him from taking the subway. “It is not enforced by law, but by a monopoly on transportation.”For most of the time since protests against China’s increasing grip over Hong Kong began in early June, it was entirely possible for many city residents to continue their daily lives uninterrupted apart from some inconvenience during the weekends. But the disruption to the MTR, the lifeblood of the city, has started to alter life in the Asian financial hub.The subway handles roughly 5.9 million daily passengers in a city of around 7.5 million. Even though many stations have reopened, they still have extensive damage to escalators, turnstiles, security cameras and ticket machines.In an emailed response to questions, Hong Kong’s Transport and Housing Bureau called the subway “the backbone of the city’s public transport network” and “of paramount importance.”The MTR “has taken all possible means to ensure railway safety while striving to maintain train service as far as possible,” the bureau said. The company’s arrangements “cannot in any way be equated or compared with the imposition of curfew.”Canceled ConcertsNumerous major events -- from investment conferences to concerts -- have been canceled due to the protests, prompting the local economy to slip toward recession. Hong Kong is likely to remain tense ahead of a major policy address on Wednesday from Lam, whose popularity is near record lows.Police said a radio-controlled improvised explosive device was detonated on Sunday evening near a police car in an effort to “kill and seriously harm” officers, the first time one has been used since the unrest began. A protester also slashed a police officer in the neck.Hong Kong Police Targeted With Remote-Controlled Explosive “The escalating violence and the use of these homemade bombs and also the very deadly attacks on policemen, it just gives us even stronger determination to end the violence,” Lam told reporters on Tuesday. “We should consider every means to end the violence.”The MTR’s early closures, the increased violence and the denial of police permits for demonstrations have caused numbers to fall at recent protests, Steve Vickers, the former head of the Royal Hong Kong Police Criminal Intelligence Bureau, wrote in a threat assessment on Monday.“Support for the protesters, their cause, and even for violence, is strong in some sectors of Hong Kong society, such as amongst some medical staff and other professionals, but may be waning on the broader front by workers who are now suffering inconvenience,” wrote Vickers, chief executive of Steve Vickers and Associates, a political and corporate risk consultancy.Tear GasDuring the early weeks and months of the protests, the MTR largely stayed open. However, as police began refusing permission for large rallies, protesters began launching spontaneous demonstrations by disappearing into the MTR network and reappearing at a new location -- sometimes on the other side of the city. The MTR also allowed protesters an efficient route to and from the protests, with many changing outfits before commuting home.But as the MTR began accommodating the government and riot police, protesters began targeting subway stations. They tried to delay subway cars at the height of morning commutes and later vandalized some stations to the point that they were shut down. Hong Kong’s police were also criticized by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights for firing tear gas inside the enclosed area of a station.‘Do You See Anyone?’The closures have contributed to a downturn in business across the city. Roughly 100 restaurants have been forced to close throughout the unrest, leaving around 2,000 employees without jobs, Hong Kong’s Finance Secretary Paul Chan wrote in a blog post over the weekend.Bonnae Gokson, who runs the luxury restaurant SEVVA on the top floor of the Prince’s Building in Hong Kong’s central financial district, has seen her business suffer. After a $1.3 million renovation, her restaurant reopened just a few days after some of the worst violence on Oct. 1, when a protester was shot for the first time, and people have been staying home.One recent afternoon, only eight customers sat in her cavernous 22,000 square-foot restaurant, which has a large patio with views over Hong Kong’s gleaming skyscrapers and iconic harbor. She said the MTR’s trimmed back schedule, constant mobile alerts from police and a general sense of economic malaise is keeping people away.“Normally, I can tell you at this hour, 4:30 p.m., my goodness, this place is packed,” she said. “Do you really see anyone now?”‘Quite Intense’The unpredictability is part of what’s keeping everyone away. Tourist arrivals in August were down 40% from a year earlier, the biggest year-over-year decrease since the SARS epidemic in 2003, as people cancel or revise travel plans.Hong Hao, the chief strategist at Bocom International, said the protests constantly disrupt his work schedule, which often requires him to do TV interviews in Causeway Bay or Wan Chai late in the evening.The tendency for protests to escalate in the evening and the fact that demonstrators frequently attack MTR stations are a great inconvenience for him and his colleagues, Hong said, noting that taxi drivers sometimes refuse to give them a ride.“Whenever there’s a protest we have to cancel plans because the situation can get quite intense,” said Hong, who has lived in the city for eight years. “People are scared.(Updates with Carrie Lam comments under Canceled Concerts subheadline.)\--With assistance from Manuel Baigorri, Lulu Yilun Chen, Rebecca Choong Wilkins, Virginia Lau and Stephen Tan.To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Kiuyan Wong in Hong Kong at kwong739@bloomberg.net;Jinshan Hong in Hong Kong at jhong214@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 23:42:52 -0400
  • EU’s Lending Arm Seeks to Tighten Screw on Fossil-Fuel Financing

    (Bloomberg) -- The European Investment Bank is poised to limit funding for fossil fuels as the continent ups its fight against climate change.The board of the Luxembourg-based lending arm of the European Union is meeting on Tuesday to discuss a new strategy that includes increased support for clean-energy projects.The boost for the EIB’s support for renewables bolsters the Green Deal being pushed by Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Commission. She wants the institution to become a climate bank and help unlock 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) to shift the economy toward cleaner forms of energy.“With a very strong focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, power grids and research and development, the EIB believes the proposed Energy Lending Policy is well aligned with EU priorities and funding,” EIB President Werner Hoyer told the European Parliament on Oct. 9. “Science tells us that transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy entails ending the use of fossil fuel as soon as possible.”The EIB’s draft strategy has come under fire from green lobby groups after it was softened last month to allow funding for certain natural gas projects, a move sought by Germany and some central European nations concerned about their reliance on Russian supplies. Germany may still require more concessions, posing a risk for adoption of the new policy rules, which need endorsement from EU member states to be approved.“Governments should support the economy of the future and not the economy of the past,” said Sebastien Godinot, an economist at WWF’s European unit in Brussels. “Germany risks becoming a climate laggard. If it doesn’t endorse the EIB strategy it will be a missed opportunity.”The EIB, which last year invested more than 16 billion euros in climate-action projects, is preparing to play a larger role in spurring low-carbon technologies because the EU is weighing whether to declare itself the first climate-neutral continent by the middle of this century.The 28-nation bloc wants to step up its ambition in sync with the landmark 2015 United Nations agreement to fight global warming, after the U.S. turned its back on the accord.Von der Leyen, who is due to assume her new job on Nov. 1, also wants the EU to deepen its current target to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels. That may involve a reduction of 50% or even 55% to counter the more frequent heat waves, storms and floods tied to global warming. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are leading contributors to climate change.To contact the reporter on this story: Ewa Krukowska in Brussels at ekrukowska@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net, James HerronFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 23:00:00 -0400
  • Trump orders Turkey sanctions; US scrambles for Syria exit

    Golocal247.com news

    Targeting Turkey's economy, President Donald Trump announced sanctions Monday aimed at restraining the Turks' assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria — an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving U.S. troops out of the way. The United States also called on Turkey to stop the invasion and declare a ceasefire, and Trump is sending Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Robert O'Brien to Ankara as soon as possible in an attempt to begin negotiations.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 21:56:45 -0400
  • South Korea’s Moon Faces Crisis With Echoes of Park’s Downfall

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- Three years ago, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in was among the masses in the streets of Seoul seeking to oust a president accused of ignoring the people’s will. Now, his own presidency is facing a similar crisis.Moon was forced to issue a public apology Monday after his justice minister and political ally, Cho Kuk, bowed to a series of mass protests and resigned. The departure represented a stunning setback to Moon, who had only five weeks ago ignored corruption probes swirling around Cho and his family to put him in charge of the country’s justice system.The demonstrations and investigations have only intensified in the intervening weeks, with Cho’s home raided by prosecutors and lawmakers shaving their heads to protest the appointment. The conservative opposition -- struggling since Moon helped impeach former President Park Geun-hye in 2016 -- has climbed level with the ruling Democratic Party in opinion polls.“The circumstances that brought down former President Park Geun-hye and started Moon’s administration are now bringing him down,” said Hong Sung-gul, a professor with Kookmin University’s Department of Public Administration. Moon and Cho “thought that pushing the criticism to the side would somehow make this go away, but it didn’t and it developed an even stronger opposition,” Hong said.The shift has increased the political peril for Moon just as he begins to prepare for nationwide parliamentary elections in April. The episode shows that Moon, a former civil rights lawyer, hasn’t broken the boom-and-bust cycle of South Korean presidents, who often see scandals mount and agendas stall in the second half of their single five-year term.Justice Ministry officials were due to appear in parliament Tuesday to face questioning over Cho’s plans to reform the national prosecutors’ office, with the conservative opposition set to blast Moon for his decision to appoint his close confidant as minister.Moon told a meeting of top secretaries Monday that he felt “quite regretful” for having “caused so much friction between the people.” He then took a swipe at the press, urging the country’s free-wheeling media to become more “trustworthy,” without elaborating.Moon already faced headwinds on two of his biggest agenda items: Reinvigorating the economy and securing peace with North Korea. South Korea’s central bank has warned that the economy may not meet its 2.2% growth target this year and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has resumed ballistic missile tests and mocked Moon’s efforts to mediate nuclear talks with President Donald Trump.People PowerMeanwhile, Moon’s government and Japan have escalated a nationalistically charged feud, putting pressure on both their economies and drawing rebukes from the U.S. Moon’s approval rating hovered near an all-time low at 41% last week, according to Gallup Korea, compared with 84% immediately after his election in May 2017.Back then, Moon was riding high on a successful people-power campaign to oust, prosecute and imprison Park, the conservative bloc’s standard-bearer and the daughter of a former dictator. At his inauguration, Moon pledged to “become the president for everyone.”Moon’s decision to appoint one of his former secretaries to the justice minister’s post despite the investigations drew comparisons to Park’s cronyism. Cho has denied wrongdoing in a range of issues involving him and his wife, including their children’s university applications and an investment in a private equity fund.The scandal caused the opposition bloc’s regular marches through Seoul to swell into the tens of thousands, while Liberty Korea Party chief Hwang Kyo-ahn shaved his head in protest outside Moon’s office. The demonstrations spread to universities, where students accused the president of tolerating the sort of favoritism he had vowed to stop.The controversy overshadowed Moon’s stated reason for appointing Cho: Making prosecutions fairer by expanding ministerial oversight of investigations. Cho urged Moon to continue the effort in a statement Monday, saying he decided to “no longer put pressure on the president and the government with my family issues.”The opposition LKP -- the successor of Park’s Saenuri Party -- has gained ground amid the scandal. A Realmeter poll released earlier Monday showed the LKP with about 34% of support, less than one percentage point behind the ruling party.“Moon’s biggest loss in this situation were the people in the middle -- he read the people wrong,” said Choi Chang-ryul, a politics professor at Yongin University. “It may be hard for Moon to see his approval ratings bounce back up before the general elections next year.”(Adds details on parliament in sixth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Jihye Lee in Seoul at jlee2352@bloomberg.net;Kanga Kong in Seoul at kkong50@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Jon HerskovitzFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 20:53:34 -0400
  • Donald Trump Has Nothing to Fear From Iran's Not-So-Scary Military

    Golocal247.com news

    Here is something you may have missed amidst the incessant chatter about a possible military confrontation in the Persian Gulf: Iran is far less powerful and scary than the innuendo in Washington, D.C. would have you believe.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 20:00:00 -0400
  • Hong Kong Protesters Rage Against Corporate China's Growing Control

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- The black-clad protesters pushing back against China’s influence in Hong Kong aren’t just focusing on Carrie Lam and the police. They’re also targeting mainland-based brands such as Bank of China Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Co. with fire bombs, metal bars and spray paint.A walk down the primary route used by Hong Kong’s anti-government marchers shows how big a chunk of the city China owns. Mainland-affiliated supermarkets, drugstores, hotels, Pacific Coffee stores and McDonald’s outlets -- both franchises are operated by state-owned firms -- pepper the vicinity of skyscraper-lined Hennessy Road, the downtown artery connecting the Causeway Bay shopping district with government headquarters in Admiralty. Some of the businesses also occupy property owned by Chinese developers.These perceived outposts of President Xi Jinping’s government expanded their operations after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, adding heft to Beijing’s political goal of integrating the semi-autonomous territory with the motherland. Their deepening presence stokes fears among protesters that Hong Kong soon will become just another Chinese city, deprived of the autonomy former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping guaranteed until 2047.“Mainland Chinese companies are forming a group of entities which can be both economically and politically influential,” said Heidi Wang-Kaeding, who’s done research on mainland investment in Hong Kong and now teaches international relations at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. “That’s why this is shaking the local interest very much.”Hong Kong police said Monday a radio-controlled improvised explosive device was detonated near a police car on Sunday evening, the first time the use of such a device has been reported during months of unrest.The use of explosives marks a significant escalation in pro-democracy protests that started out peacefully in June, with hundreds of thousands of residents marching in the streets in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.In recent weeks, protesters have set fires near police stations, hurled makeshift petrol bombs at riot police, and bashed in glass kiosks at train stations and storefronts tied to mainland Chinese businesses.As Chinese Communist Party leaders focus on solidifying control over the rebellious city, companies taking direction from the state likely will play an even bigger role in Hong Kong’s $363 billion economy. The city is sinking into a recession after the riots, and Lam, the chief executive, may propose remedies during her annual policy address Wednesday.In the past decade, the total amount of loans given by the Hong Kong-based unit of state-owned Bank of China in the special administrative region has more than doubled to $175 billion, and so have deposits to $257 billion.China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers, is among the four operators in the city, having cemented its position since buying a local provider more than a decade ago to gain entry into the market.Mainland-based developers such as Poly Property Group Co. and China Overseas Land and Investment Ltd. successfully bid for 11% of the land for sale last year in the world’s most-expensive real estate market, compared with about 5% in 2013. They bought almost 60% of residential land sold by the local government in the first six months of this year.In one high-profile deal, state-owned Poly Property and China Resources Land Ltd. successfully bid HK$12.9 billion ($1.6 billion) in June for a 9,500-square-meter parcel at Kai Tak, the former airport in the Kowloon district.Beijing-based Citic Ltd., a state-owned conglomerate, is part of a consortium that runs McDonald’s outlets in the city, and unit Dah Chong Hong Holdings operates car dealerships and Food Mart stores.With forays into retail, telecommunications and property development, mainland-based companies are also altering the city’s traditional business landscape. Homegrown tycoons such as Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau Kee, who built their empires by forging close ties with authorities in Beijing, may see that influence erode. Li, for instance, saw the writing on the wall some time ago and has been steadily reducing exposure to his home base.Over time, the economic balance of power will tilt more in favor of state enterprises and away from the local billionaires, said Michael Tien, a pro-Beijing member of Hong Kong’s legislature and a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress.“It will be very difficult for Hong Kong Chinese companies to fight mainland Chinese companies,” he said. “They are capital-rich and powerful.”But it isn’t just state-owned companies that are building a bigger presence in Hong Kong. In 2015, billionaire Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. agreed to buy the South China Morning Post newspaper and related assets for HK$2.06 billion. Prominent Chinese smart-phone makers such as Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi and electronics retailer Suning have retail stores in the city.Mainland-based companies with consumer-facing businesses have been particular targets in the latest phase of the four-month-long protests, which were sparked by opposition to a proposed law allowing extraditions to China.Bank of China branches and ATMs have been firebombed and vandalized, including this past weekend and on the Oct. 1 anniversary of Communist Party rule in the mainland. Huawei and Lenovo stores also were ransacked during the weekend at a mall in suburban Sha Tin.At least two China Mobile stores were attacked Oct. 1 and 2, and a Xiaomi outlet had anti-China graffiti spray-painted on its walls. The local unit of China Construction Bank, which has more than 50 locations, suspended service at two branches because of protest-related damage, including smashed glass doors.At least one local-run business has lost its immunity. Maxim’s Caterers Ltd., which operates bakeries and some Starbucks outlets, is seeing stores vandalized after the founder’s daughter called the protests “riots” and supported the Hong Kong government in comments at the U.N. Human Rights Council last month.Maxim’s tried to distance itself from the comments and a spokeswoman said the group has never taken any political stance. Representatives for China Resources, Citic, the local units of Bank of China and China Construction Bank didn’t respond to requests seeking comments, while one for China Mobile said the carrier is focusing on resuming services at the damaged stores.“Anything with a star on it is vulnerable,” Gavin Greenwood, an analyst with A2 Global Risk, a Hong Kong-based political-risk consultancy, said of mainland-affiliated businesses. He was referring to the Chinese flag. “They are extremely soft targets.”(Updates with report on radio-controlled explosive from fifth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Chloe Whiteaker, Demetrios Pogkas and Alfred Liu.To contact the reporters on this story: Bruce Einhorn in Hong Kong at beinhorn1@bloomberg.net;Shirley Zhao in Hong Kong at xzhao306@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma O'Brien at eobrien6@bloomberg.net, Sam Nagarajan, Michael TigheFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 19:36:30 -0400
  • Turkey widens invasion as Syrian army returns to northeast

    Golocal247.com news

    Syrian government troops moved into towns and villages in northeastern Syria on Monday, including the flashpoint region of Manbij, setting up a potential clash with Turkish-led forces advancing in the area as long-standing alliances in the region began to shift or crumble following the pullback of U.S. forces. The Syrian military's deployment near the Turkish border came after Syrian Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. said they had reached a deal with President Bashar Assad's government to help them fend off Turkey's invasion, now in its sixth day. Assad's return to the region his troops abandoned in 2012 at the height of the Syrian civil war is a turning point in Syria's eight-year civil war, giving yet another major boost to his government and its Russian backers and is like to endanger, if not altogether crush, the brief experiment in self-rule set up by Syria's Kurds since the conflict began.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 19:15:48 -0400
  • We Need a New Way to Measure Human Progress

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- At International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington this week, there will be much debate about slowing global growth, the impact of the U.S.-China trade war, the role of central banks in preventing a global recession, the risk of disruption to oil markets and much more. What you won’t hear, beyond a few platitudes, is a detailed plan for combating climate change and slowing the depletion of the earth’s resources.This pattern of neglect won’t change unless we do a much better job of linking the climate to economic progress. That in turn will require changing the way we measure development.The world still looks at human progress in almost exclusively economic terms. Countries view growth in their stock markets and their GDP per capita with chest-thumping pride. Almost three decades ago, the United Nations Development Programme tried to produce a more nuanced measure of progress by including life expectancy and education along with income in its Human Development Index. While a welcome innovation, the original HDI is still relatively crude, failing to account for such things as sustainability and inequality.How much those omissions can matter became clear recently, after the UN added an inequality-adjusted index (IHDI) to its 2018 Human Development Report. Including inequality as a factor dramatically altered countries’ rankings. The U.S., for instance, fell from 13th on the original index to 25th on the adjusted one. By contrast, Finland rose from 15th to fifth place.Accounting for climate damage would likely have an even bigger impact. Countries that rank high on the human development index also use more carbon and deplete more natural resources than those below them. In other words, our metrics favor unsustainable, environmentally damaging growth. (Using more energy also produces a higher ranking but only up to roughly 100 gigajoules per person; beyond that, countries are wasting energy in inefficient systems, not improving human development.)The same applies to the relationship between the HDI rankings and a measure known as an “ecological footprint.” Up to the middle of the list, where around 140 mostly low- and middle-income countries sit, the footprint is relatively small, less than 2 global hectares per capita (a measure of the world’s global ecological capacity per person). That number rises sharply among countries with higher development levels, however, increasing to as much as 8-10 global hectares.If we want leaders to consider how badly their policies are damaging the environment, we need a new development index, one that takes account of various environmental variables such as CO2 emissions per capita, SO2 emissions (a measure of air quality), groundwater extraction and share of renewable energy. Doing so would drop the rankings of countries from the U.S. to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Australia by over 15 spots apiece. If the ecological footprints of countries were considered, the rankings of Canada, Estonia and, surprisingly, Finland in addition to those countries would drop by over 20 places.Other attempts to produce a more sophisticated measure of development haven’t gotten traction. While the UN agreed to pursue its Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, the system -- which includes 17 goals and 169 indicators -- is too complicated to measure succinctly. The Happy Planet Index hasn’t gained wide acceptability because it mixes observed data on things like life expectancy and inequality with survey results measuring well-being. (Its rankings show Costa Rica and Vietnam in the top two positions, with New Zealand the only fully industrialized country among the top 20; the U.S. ranks 105th.)A Social Progress Index, inspired by the writings of Nobel-winning economists such as Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Douglas North, produces rankings that don’t differ all that much from the HDI. The World Bank has introduced the concept of adjusted net savings to measure changes to wealth (a stock) rather than GDP (a flow), while accounting for additions or depletion of natural capital. But the measure doesn’t adequately address the huge stock of accumulating CO2, SO2 or methane in the atmosphere, the country-sized swarms of plastic now floating in the oceans or the melting of glaciers -- all things that show we may be at an environmental tipping point.Over the last 30 years, the shift from looking just at GDP to judging countries on health and education outcomes has produced real progress, as the world has improved its human development index by over 20% since 1990 and, more meaningfully, in the least developed countries by over 50%. If we want real action on climate, we now need to include damage to the environment and depletion of natural resources as factors in measuring development. Otherwise all these fine-sounding speeches are just more hot air.To contact the author of this story: Ajay Chhibber atTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Nisid Hajari at nhajari@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Ajay Chhibber is a distinguished visiting scholar at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. He was previously Assistant Secretary General at the United Nations and Assistant Administrator at the UN Development Programme. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 19:00:28 -0400
  • The Latest: Pence heads to Mideast as Turkey attacks Kurds

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    Vice President Mike Pence says he's being dispatched to the Middle East by President Donald Trump as U.S. troops pull out of northeast Syria and Turkish forces invade. Pence says Trump spoke with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier Monday and called for an immediate end to Turkey's moves against the Kurds in Syria.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 18:27:09 -0400
  • Foreigners exit northeastern Syria fearing government reach

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    It was a sign of the sudden transformation sweeping Kurdish-run northeast Syria: foreign aid workers and journalists packed this border crossing on Monday, rushing to get out to Iraq. Instead, it was the return of Syria's central government to the region, where Kurdish administrators have had virtual self-rule for years. The rush to leave reflected the sudden and dramatic nosedive of the aspirations of Syria's Kurdish minority for autonomy.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 18:07:55 -0400
  • The Latest: US troops leaving Syria to stay in Middle East

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    President Donald Trump says the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops he has ordered to leave Syria will remain in the Middle East to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State threat. In a written statement Monday announcing his authorization of economic sanctions on Turkey, Trump made clear that the withdrawing troops will leave Syria entirely. Trump confirmed that the small number of U.S. troops at a base in southern Syria will remain there.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 16:36:10 -0400
  • Russia, Saudi Arabia seal key oil deal

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a key deal Monday with Saudi Arabia during a key visit for an OPEC+ grouping aimed at stabilising global oil prices and seeking to calm regional tensions with Iran. Putin's visit follows attacks on Saudi oil installations that Saudi Arabia and the United States have blamed on Iran, an ally of Moscow. Following talks between Putin and Saudi King Salman, the two countries signed some 20 agreements and contracts worth billions of dollars on aerospace, culture, health, advanced technology and agriculture.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 16:04:10 -0400
  • Britain accused of putting trade deals before condemnation of Turkey

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    Britain was left isolated and facing condemnation by close allies last night after ministers defended Turkey's attack on Kurdish-controlled northern Syria and attempted to block EU criticism of it.  Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, shocked delegates at a Nato meeting in London when he said: “Turkey needs to do what it sometimes has to do to defend itself”.  Meanwhile, European diplomats reacted with disbelief when the UK allegedly resisted language condemning the Turkish action at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg.   Addressing the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, Britain’s Defence Secretary said Turkey “must take due regard to the treatment of civilians and human rights” in regard to the current campaign.“ Mr Wallace added: “It is absolutely clear that Turkey has had, and still does have, a threat emanating towards it from groups such as the PKK, a terrorist organisation in this country as well, and that Turkey needs to do what it sometimes has to do to defend itself”.  Plight of the Kurds | Timeline of Western involvement A German delegate from the Bundestag expressed astonishment at the comments and asked if Mr Wallace thought the military action counted as self-defence. “If you are convinced that Turkey has a legitimate reason for invading Syria, what would be your answer to the Turks if they were to ask you, in reference to Article 5, that Nato should support them?” he said. In Luxembourg, diplomats accused Britain of blocking conclusions condemning Turkey for its invasion out of fears of jeopardising a post Brexit trade deal with Ankara. The Telegraph understands Josep Borrell, the incoming EU foreign policy chief, had to intervene to break the logjam, with suggestions that the British resistance had been a tactic to ensure Turkey was recognised as a “key partner” of the EU in the final communique.  “The thinking here is they thought condemnation might not tally well with their wish to come to an Free Trade Agreement post Brexit,” said one EU diplomat in Luxembourg.  The European Council statement eventually said: “The EU condemns Turkey’s military action which seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region." The EU on Monday called on members to halt arms exports to Turkey. Germany, France, the Netherlands, Finland, and the Czech Republic, but not the UK, had all done so by Monday evening. The Ministry of Defence last night said it would not grant any new arms export licenses, but did not commit to halting those already in place.  The tense diplomatic exchanges came as UK special forces, who for years fought alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces against Islamic State, were ordered out of Syria.  The Squadron of about 100 men, thought to be from 22 Special Air Service Regiment,  cannot continue to operate without US logistic support which will vanish following Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the region.  They are believed to have played a key role calling in airstrikes and training SDF fighters in advanced infantry tactics during the five-year war against Isil's so-called Caliphate, and stayed on to hunt down fugitive Isil commanders who escaped after the group's last bastion fell in March.  Britain and France were the largest contributors after the United States to the international coalition that formed to fight Isil in 2014.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 15:37:29 -0400
  • Cass Says Data Continues To Point Toward Economic Contraction

    The European Airfreight Index has continued to see mid-single digit declines, down 8.6% in August as headwinds from Brexit weigh on demand in the region. TL has seen a modest volume inflection of late. In any event, TL demand appears to be firming, certainly on a relative basis to other modes.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 15:14:02 -0400
  • Egypt activist claims she was tortured, beaten after arrest

    An Egyptian pro-democracy activist claims she was tortured and beaten after being arrested amid a sweeping government crackdown, a leading rights group said Monday. Amnesty International said Esraa Abdel-Fattah was brought before prosecutors late Sunday following her arrest by plainclothes security forces a day earlier. Abdel-Fattah's detention comes amid a wave of arrests following small but rare anti-government protests last month.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 15:11:25 -0400
  • Trump Followed His Gut on Syria. Calamity Came Fast.

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    President Donald Trump's acquiescence to Turkey's move to send troops deep inside Syrian territory has in only one week's time turned into a bloody carnage, forced the abandonment of a successful five-year-long American project to keep the peace on a volatile border and given an unanticipated victory to four U.S. adversaries: Russia, Iran, the Syrian government and the Islamic State group.Rarely has a presidential decision resulted so immediately in what his own party leaders have described as disastrous consequences for U.S. allies and interests. How this decision happened -- springing from an "off-script moment" with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, in the words of a senior U.S. diplomat -- likely will be debated for years by historians, Middle East experts and conspiracy theorists.But this much already is clear: Trump ignored months of warnings from his advisers about what calamities likely would ensue if he followed his instincts to pull back from Syria and abandon America's longtime allies, the Kurds. He had no Plan B, other than to leave. The only surprise is how swiftly it all collapsed around the president and his depleted, inexperienced foreign policy team.Day after day, they have been caught off-guard, offering up differing explanations of what Trump said to Erdogan, how the United States and its allies might respond, and even whether Turkey remains a U.S. ally. For a while, Trump said he acted because the Islamic State group was already defeated and because he was committed to terminating "endless wars" by pulling U.S. troops out of the Middle East. By the end of the week he added 2,000 -- to Saudi Arabia.One day he was inviting Erdogan to visit the White House; the next he was threatening to "totally destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if it crossed a line that he never defined.Erdogan just kept going.Trump's error, some aides concede in off-the-record conversations, was entering the Oct. 6 call underprepared and then failing to spell out for Erdogan the potential consequences -- from economic sanctions to a diminution of Turkey's alliance with the United States and its standing in NATO. He has since threatened both, retroactively. But it is not clear Erdogan believes either is a real risk.The drama is nowhere near over. Out of necessity, the Kurds switched sides Sunday, turning their backs on Washington and signing up with President Bashar Assad of Syria, a man the United States has called a war criminal for gassing his own people. At the Pentagon, officials struggled with the right response if Turkish forces -- NATO allies -- again opened fire on any of the 1,000 or so Americans now preparing to retreat from their positions inside Syria. Those troops are trapped for now, since Turkey has cut off the roads; removing them may require an airlift.And over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were quietly reviewing plans for evacuating roughly 50 tactical nuclear weapons that the United States had long stored, under U.S. control, at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, about 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two U.S. officials.Those weapons, one senior official said, were now essentially Erdogan's hostages. To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance. To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago."I think this is a first -- a country with U.S. nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces," Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies wrote last week.For his part, Erdogan claims nuclear ambitions of his own: Only a month ago, speaking to supporters, he said he "cannot accept" rules that keep Turkey from possessing nuclear weapons of its own."There is no developed nation in the world that doesn't have them," he said. (In fact, most do not.)"This president keeps blindsiding our military and diplomatic leaders and partners with impulsive moves like this that benefit Russia and authoritarian regimes," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a longtime member of the Armed Services Committee."If this president were serious about ending wars and winning peace, he'd actually articulate a strategy that would protect against a re-emergence of ISIS and provide for the safety of our Syrian partners," Reed added. "But he has repeatedly failed to do that. Instead, this is another example of Donald Trump creating chaos, undermining U.S. interests and benefiting Russia and the Assad regime."The other major beneficiary is Iran, perhaps Trump's most talked-about geo-political foe, which has long supported the Syrian regime and sought freer rein across the country.But none of that appeared to have been anticipated by Trump, who has no fondness for briefing books and meetings in the Situation Room intended to game out events two or three moves ahead. Instead, he often talks about trusting his instincts."My gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me," he said late last year. He was discussing the Federal Reserve, but could just as easily been talking foreign policy; in 2017 he told a reporter, right after his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, that it was his "gut feel" for how to deal with foreign leaders, honed over years in the real estate world, that guided him. "Foreign policy is what I'll be remembered for," he said.But in this case the failure to look around corners has blown up on him at a speed that is rare in foreign policy and national security. The closest analogue may date back to 1950, during Harry Truman's administration, when Secretary of State Dean Acheson described America's new "defense perimeter" in a speech, saying it ran from southern Japan through the Philippines. That left out the Korean Peninsula, and two weeks later, Josef Stalin, the Soviet leader, appeared to have given Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current North Korean leader, permission to launch his invasion of the South. The bloody stalemate that followed lives with the United States today.At the time, the United States kept a token force in South Korea, akin to the one parked along the Turkish-Syrian border. And it is impossible to know whether the North Korean attack would have been launched even without Acheson's failure to warn about U.S. action if a vulnerable ally was attacked -- just as it is impossible to know if Erdogan would have sent his troops over the border if that phone call, and Trump's failure to object, had never happened.It was Trump himself who, during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton in 2016, blamed President Barack Obama for a similar error. "President Obama and Secretary Clinton created a vacuum the way they got out of Iraq," he said, referring to the 2011 withdrawal. "They shouldn't have been in, but once they got in, the way they got out was a disaster. And ISIS was formed."Even his allies see the parallel. "If I didn't see Donald Trump's name on the tweet I thought it would be Obama's rationale for getting out of Iraq," Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's most vociferous defenders in recent years, but among his harshest Republican critics for the Syria decision, said last week.As James F. Jeffrey, who worked for Obama as ambassador to Turkey, then to Iraq, and now serves as Trump's special envoy for Syria, noted several years ago, it's debatable whether events would have played out differently if the United States had stayed in Iraq."Could a residual force have prevented ISIS' victories?" he asked in a Wall Street Journal essay five years ago. "With troops we would have had better intelligence on al-Qaida in Iraq and later ISIS, a more attentive Washington, and no doubt a better-trained Iraqi army. But the common argument that U.S. troops could have produced different Iraqi political outcomes is hogwash. The Iraqi sectarian divides, which ISIS exploited, run deep and were not susceptible to permanent remedy by our troops at their height, let alone by 5,000 trainers under Iraqi restraints."Trump may now be left to make the same argument about Syria: That nothing could have stopped Erdogan, that the Russians would benefit in any case, that there are other ways to push back at Iran. Perhaps history will side with him.For now, however, he has given up most of what little leverage he had.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 15:05:54 -0400
  • Turkey says it is acting in self-defense in Syria

    Golocal247.com news

    Turkey has justified its ongoing invasion of northeast Syria to the United Nations by saying it's exercising its right to self-defense under the U.N. Charter, according to a letter circulated Monday. Since 2014, the Kurds had fought alongside American forces in defeating IS in Syria. The U.S. withdrawal cleared the way for Turkey's cross-border attack on Kurdish-held areas in Syria, which is now in its sixth day and has led to quickly shifting alliances.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 15:03:53 -0400
  • Johnson Sets Tone for Election in Queen’s Speech: Brexit Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- Queen Elizabeth II delivered a speech outlining the U.K. government’s program in Parliament as Boris Johnson laid the ground for a general election in which he aims to win public support for his Brexit strategy. The prime minister later repeatedly pledged to “get Brexit done” as he underlined the campaigning nature of the plans in his own speech to The House of Commons.In Brussels, Brexit talks continued after European Union Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said on Sunday that Johnson’s proposals to break the deadlock lack detail and risk leaving the single market vulnerable to fraud. Time is running short before Thursday’s crunch summit of EU leaders and the prime minister’s Oct. 31 deadline to deliver Brexit. The pound fell.Key developments:Queen Elizabeth II delivered a speech outlining Boris Johnson’s program for government ahead of a general election expected within weeksJohnson sets out campaign themes for next electionJohnson Stumbles in Bid for Brexit Deal as EU Demands AnswersPound Shaken Up by Positioning in Fear of Swift and Brutal MoveOpposition Parties Will Push For Second Referendum (7:35 p.m)Opposition parties who met this afternoon decided to wait and see if Boris Johnson strikes a deal with the EU in the next 48 hours before making their next move, according to two people who were at the meeting.The group, which consists of some Labour MPs, the Liberal Democrats, Wales’ Plaid Cyrmu, the Scottish National Party and Greens — alongside some former Conservatives — will then decide whether to seek a confirmatory public vote on a deal that the prime minister brings back as a price for allowing it to pass Parliament, the people said.They expect Johnson would still need to seek a delay to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline even if he gets a deal, because it’s likely to be incomplete. The Benn Act passed last month by Parliament requires him to ask for a delay if he hasn’t got a deal approved by MPs by Oct. 19.Finnish PM Says No Brexit Deal Before Summit (6:25 p.m.)The prime minister of Finland -- which currently has the rotating presidency of the EU -- said he doesn’t think it’s possible for the bloc and the U.K. to agree on the terms of a Brexit deal in time for the summit of leaders that starts Thursday. The EU plans to decide on Wednesday whether there will be a deal for leaders to sign during the summit and has ruled out negotiating during the actual meeting of leaders.“I think there is no time in a practical way and in a legal base to reach an agreement before the Council meeting, I think we need to have more time,”Antti Rinne told reporters in Helskini. “If there is a possibility to negotiate after the Council meeting, it would be so.”SNP Westminster Leader Appeals For Calm (4:30 p.m.)Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in the House of Commons, appealed for MPs to remain calm and use measured language as political tensions rise ahead of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deadline of Oct. 31.Recalling the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox during the 2016 referendum campaign, Blackford called on leaders “to cool the temperature in this place” in what will be a series of “challenging” days. “Let’s show some responsibility, let’s show leadership in what is a time of crisis,” he said.Blackford, who called for a general election, said Johnson’s plan to end freedom of movement and leave the EU single market and customs union after Brexit would lead to “economic catastrophe.”PM Rules Out ‘Toxic’ Repeat Referendum (4 p.m.)Johnson said delivering Brexit will give certainty to business and talked up the benefits for the U.K. that a split from the EU could bring.“Brexit will bring all sorts of commercial, economic and humanitarian objectives,” Johnson told the House of Commons. “Let’s not wait, we can’t wait,” he added, ruling out any “pointless procrastination” proposed by opposition parties.“If there could be one thing more divisive more toxic than the first referendum, it would be a second referendum,” he said. “Let’s get Brexit done.”Johnson Sets Out Election Themes (3:30 p.m.)Mindful that a general election could be called within weeks, and the broadcast clips the Conservatives will want to use on social media, Boris Johnson told the House of Commons “we aim to create a new age of opportunity for the whole country” and “let’s get Brexit done.”He also promised a “high wage, low tax economy, with the highest environmental standards” and drew attention to the Tories’ spending pledges for the state-run National Health Service.Corbyn Promises Public ‘Final Say’ on Brexit (3:10 p.m.)Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he doesn’t trust the prime minister and will only facilitate a general election once a no-deal split from the EU is off the table. The Queen’s speech was a pointless exercise, he said.“There’s never been such a farce as a government with a majority of minus 45 and a 100% record of defeat in the House of Commons setting out a legislative agenda they know can’t be delivered in this Parliament,” Corbyn said. For Labour to support an election, Johnson must “get an extension, take us away from the dangers of a no-deal,” he added.Corbyn told MPs a Labour government would concentrate on tackling poverty, investing in public services and tackling inequality. It would also offer a vote for the U.K. public on Brexit, he said. “The only legitimate way to sort Brexit now is to let the people decide with the final say,” he said.“We may only be weeks away from the first Queen’s speech of a Labour government,” he said. “Labour will put forward the most radical and people focused program of modern times.”Johnson Makes Election Pitch in Queen’s Speech (11:30 a.m.)Boris Johnson set out his ambitions for governing the U.K. with an outline plan for what he will do if he wins the general election that’s expected to be triggered within weeks.The prime minister promised a focus on domestic issues if he can “get Brexit done,” as he used the pomp and ceremony of a speech to Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II to announce 26 draft government bills.Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, has already dismissed Johnson’s use of the speech, in which the monarch outlines the government’s program, as a “cynical stunt.”‘Sterling Euphoria Wearing Off’ (Earlier)The pound pulled back from a three-month high and U.K. government bonds rallied as traders reassessed the prospect of the U.K. securing a Brexit deal this week.Sterling dropped as much as 1.2% against the dollar after surging 3.8% during the previous two days amid optimism the two sides would reach an agreement to avoid a no-deal.“After the best two-day rally in 10 years, sterling euphoria as regards the prospects of an imminent deal is wearing off,” said Jeremy Stretch, head of Group-of-10 currency strategy at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. “The prospects of a deal have dimmed from the extremes seen on Friday.”Sinn Fein Say PM Said There’ll Be No Veto (Earlier)Boris Johnson told Sinn Fein, the main nationalist party in Northern Ireland, that no single party would be allowed a veto on border arrangements under the proposals he has made to the EU, according to Mary Lou McDonald, the party’s president.“I spoke with the Prime Minister yesterday lunchtime and I raised this issue with him in respect of a veto that might be afforded to Irish unionism, to the DUP in particular,” she told BBC radio. “He assured me, or sought to assure me, that there would be no vetoes afforded to anybody in this process. So I can only take him on his word on that matter.”The Irish government and Sinn Fein are opposed to the Democratic Unionist Party being given a veto over future arrangements for the border in a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly.Earlier:Johnson Stumbles in Bid for Brexit Deal as EU Demands AnswersBrexit Cloud Hangs Over Energy Supplies From Dublin to Belfast\--With assistance from Charlotte Ryan, Ruth Carson and Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net;Kati Pohjanpalo in Helsinki at kpohjanpalo@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Caroline AlexanderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 14:48:20 -0400
  • US pullout from Syria leaves a major prize for its foes

    Golocal247.com news

    The U.S. decision to withdraw from northeastern Syria after paving the way for a Turkish invasion has placed the oil-rich region back in play, heralding a new phase in the long civil war in which America's adversaries are set to make major gains. Until last week, Syrian Kurdish forces supported by about 1,000 American troops held around a fourth of Syria's territory, lands captured at great cost from the Islamic State group that gave Washington some leverage in the larger conflict. The resulting chaos forced a broader pullout of U.S. troops and led the Kurds to turn to President Bashar Assad, their last remaining hope for protection against Turkish-led forces.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 14:35:35 -0400
  • What If Poor Nations Were Paid to Take In Refugees?

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Much of the commentary about Michael Kremer, named this week as one of three winners of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, has justifiably celebrated his pioneering work in studying poverty — even now, many of us believe, the planet’s greatest moral challenge. But an important 2011 Kremer paper, overlooked in the celebration, helps to shed light on another great challenge of our day: refugee policy.His work helps explain the immigration pressures that have been roiling politics around the world. In the wake of the disaster in Syria and other crises, refugees have flooded Europe. Nationalist parties have responded by playing to the sentiment that migrants are stealing jobs. They promise tougher standards for immigrants, a stance with the potential to harm migrants fleeing persecution. The United Nations puts the number of people seeking refuge in the tens of millions.In the U.S., worries about immigration helped swing the 2016 presidential election. The fear that economic migrants hurt wages among blue-collar workers may not be well-founded, but in recent years has been widely shared. Polling data suggest that sentiment may be changing, but to the extent that the fear of economic loss becomes the basis of immigration policy, refugees are likely to suffer from it.“The Economics of International Refugee Law,” which Kremer co-authored with Ryan Bubb and David I. Levine, presents a useful model to explain why refugee policy tends to become such a mess, even if everyone starts out with the best of intentions.MIHIR SHARMA: A Nobel That Celebrates Asking the Right Questions NOAH SMITH: A Well-Deserved Award for Three Pragmatic Poverty-FightersKremer and his co-authors begin with a reminder that a nation that chooses to accept migrants fleeing political prosecution provides a public good from which other countries will benefit. The larger the number of countries that provide asylum, the less the incentives for others to do the same. This free-rider problem arises even if all nations are altruistic with respect to political refugees. Because admission is not costless to the host nation, a country that might otherwise accept a large number of refugees may nevertheless consider itself better off if those who fear persecution find asylum somewhere else.This creates a problem: The countries that admit political refugees become overburdened and reduce the number of refugees they admit. As a result, even if every country is altruistic, the number of refugees left to be persecuted in their home countries increases.The optimal solution, the authors note, is cooperation among host nations. Under this theory, the 1951 Convention Relation to the Status of Refugees may be viewed as a compact under which all signatories, by agreeing to accept political refugees, jointly supply the public good and increase the chances that any particular refugee will find a host.So far, so good. The trouble is that it can be difficult for a potential host nation to tell whether a particular migrant is fleeing persecution or seeking economic opportunity. Nations tend to be less open to economic migrants because of a fear that the migration will hurt the opportunities for their own citizens and impose other economic costs.(1) This fear of admitting economic migrants will reduce the willingness to admit political refugees.The result is the same even if a country would like to grant political asylum to all who deserve it. The difficulty of discerning an individual applicant's likelihood of persecution means a system of adjudicating claims will be necessary; the fear of admitting a large number economic refugees will lead to a high standard of proof. Other governments will respond by toughening their own standards for political asylum. The predictable result is a race to the bottom in which, worldwide, fewer refugees are admitted. This leads to the breakdown of the system envisioned by the 1951 treaty.How do Kremer and his co-authors propose to solve the problem? They quickly dismiss the establishment of a centralized authority by whose decisions on refugee status the signatories to the convention would all be bound, and indeed such a solution would be politically impossible (and a quite bad idea). After reviewing the literature, they endorse an important proposal floated back in the 1990s: Wealthy countries should pay poorer countries to accept more migrants. In return, the poorer countries would agree to allow the refugees freedom of movement (no refugee camps) and the right to earn a living. Refugees, in turn, might be afforded a degree of choice over which nation to enter. Meanwhile, wealth would be transferred from developed to developing countries.In today’s fractious era, many on the left and right alike will surely dismiss such a suggestion out of hand. But whatever your view of the paper’s solutions (the authors propose several), the deeper analysis of why immigration policy is so hard to fix deserves close attention. In common with the work for which the Nobel was awarded to Kremer and his fellow laureates, the paper on immigration represents a thoughtful and serious effort to use the tools of his trade to grapple with a pressing moral challenge. That’s a welcome contribution at a time when serious thought in public debate remains in tragically short supply.(1) Of course nations can also be altruistic about the admission of economic migrants, but most are not.To contact the author of this story: Stephen L. Carter at scarter01@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 14:30:05 -0400
  • In one fell swoop, Trump throws US goals in Syria into disarray

    Golocal247.com news

    Since the outbreak of Syria's brutal civil war, the United States has stated several objectives -- destroying Islamic State extremists, easing from power President Bashar al-Assad and limiting Iran's influence. In just one decision, President Donald Trump may have undone all three. The mercurial leader pulled US troops out of northern Syria in the face of a Turkish invasion against Kurdish forces, who had led the campaign to crush the Islamic State group and with US protection had enjoyed effective autonomy.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 14:01:45 -0400
  • NHS hospital books hotel rooms for cancer patients under Brexit plans

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    An NHS hospital has booked hotel rooms for cancer patient as part of contingency plans for Brexit. Maidstone Hospital has taken the steps in case of severe traffic congestion in Kent, under a “worst case scenario”. The trust running the site said it had booked “a small number of hotel rooms” to ensure patients could still be treated, in the event of problems on the key routes to the Channel ports.  A report to the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust board, reveals the contingency plans for those in need of essential treatment, such as cancer patients.  Patients and medical supplies could also be airlifted into the hospital by helicopter, under the measures.  Maidstone is close to the M20, one of the key routes to the Channel ports. A spokeswoman for the trust said a small number of hotel rooms had been booked “as a precautionary measure, to ensure we can continue to treat those patients requiring daily treatment”. Brexit | The best comment and analysis In a report to the trust board, health officials said the plans were for a “worst case” scenario, and pointed out the trust has experience of coping with travel disruption.  A new helipad at Maidstone General Hospital is expected to be operational by 31 October when the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. It could be used to move both patients and essential supplies if the hospital is badly affected by traffic disruption, according to the board papers. The plans, revealed by Health Service Journal, say that under a worst case scenario, services will be disrupted, but says critical services are believed to be resilient.  A trust spokesperson said: “To ensure our patients can continue to access services in a range of circumstances, such as when travel disruption is anticipated or severe weather is forecast, we have well-tested plans in place as part of our standard business continuity planning. ”We are working in partnership with other agencies across Kent and the wider NHS on our EU exit resilience planning and are confident that we are as prepared as we can be.” The plans also set out measures such as encouraging staff to use public transport, rather than cars, with pickups from local stations and use of motorcycle couriers for urgent blood supplies.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 14:00:00 -0400
  • This paragraph could suggest Trump's top Russia adviser isn't giving very flattering testimony to Congress

    Fiona Hill might be a major threat to President Trump.Hill, who previously served as Trump's top adviser to Russia, was hired in March 2017 as an ally to then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. And as a story of her first time meeting Trump reveals, she's seemingly unafraid to hurt the president's feelings -- something that could prove notable as she testifies for Congress on Monday.As The Washington Post reported in 2017, Hill's hiring was "a reassuring selection among Russia hard-liners." But as the Post continues, Hill's "relationship with Trump, however, was strained from the start."> In one of her first encounters with the president, an Oval Office meeting in preparation for a call with Putin on Syria, Trump appeared to mistake Hill for a member of the clerical staff, handing her a memo he had marked up and instructing her to rewrite it. When Hill responded with a perplexed look, Trump became irritated with what he interpreted as insubordination, according to officials who witnessed the exchange. As she walked away in confusion, Trump exploded and motioned for McMaster to intervene. [The Washington Post]Things got even worse for Hill "when she was forced to defend members of her staff suspected of disloyalty" after Trump's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked, per the Post. Read more about Hill and Trump's troubles at The Washington Post.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 13:58:00 -0400
  • Libyan officials: Airstrike kills 3 civilians in Tripoli

    An airstrike slammed into a house in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Monday, killing at least three civilians and wounding two others including a child, health authorities said. Tripoli has been the scene of fighting between rival militias since April. The U.N.-supported but weak government holds the capital, while forces associated with Gen. Khalifa Hifter are trying to seize it.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 13:17:53 -0400
  • Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrive in Pakistan for five-day visit

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    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have arrived in Pakistan amid extensive security for a five-day visit the two counties hope will showcase the South Asian nation and strengthen ties with Britain. More than 1,000 Pakistani police officers are being deployed to watch over the royal couple as they criss-cross the second most populous country in the Commonwealth. The pair touched down at the Nur Khan airbase, close to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, soon after 9.30pm local time (5.30 UK time) onboard a RAF Voyager plane from Brize Norton. The couple were met by the country's foreign minister, Shah Mahmoud Qureshi. Details of the visit have been kept under tight secrecy, but the pair will meet the prime minister, former cricketer Imran Khan, and visit Lahore, as well as the north and west of the country. Their visit has been billed as the most complex undertaken by the pair and comes 12 years since the last visit by the Royal family, when the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall met survivors of the Kashmir earthquake. Credit:  Chris Jackson Both the Queen and Princess Diana visited the country in the Nineties, before the country sank into a spiral of militant violence and became out of bounds for many foreign visitors. Pakistan hopes to use the visit to show off its improved security after military operations pushed much of its domestic Taliban militancy over the border into Afghanistan. Violence in the country has fallen sharply since earlier in the decade and Pakistan hopes a successful visit can showcase its potential as a tourist destination.   Thomas Drew, British High Commissioner, said in advance of the trip that the visit would show the country of more than 210m as “dynamic, aspirational and forward-looking”. Pakistan hosts one of Britain's biggest diplomatic missions and receives more UK aid than any other country, much of it spent on education. William and Kate are expected to meet leaders from government and well-known cultural figures and sporting stars, as well as visiting programmes which empower young people. They will also cover how communities in Pakistan are responding and adapting to climate change, and are due to spend time understanding the "complex security picture" of the region. Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tour Pakistan, in pictures The tour, which wraps up on Friday, aims to strengthen ties between the two countries and a time when, with Brexit looming, Britain is also keen to bolster its international relationships. The Duke and Duchess arrive as tensions between Pakistan and India are again strained over Kashmir. The nuclear-armed neighbours almost came to war earlier in the year after Delhi blamed Pakistan for a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 paramilitary police in the Indian Administered Kashmir. Their stand-off flared again in August when Delhi revoked Kashmir's special autonomous status. Both nations claim the Himalayan former princely state, but it is divided between them by a contested and heavily militarised frontier. Pakistan has tried to marshal international opinion against  India's move, but British diplomats are likely to try to avoid the issue during the visit.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 12:51:58 -0400
  • Sudan's government, rebels start peace talks in Juba

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    The peace initiative was built into a power-sharing deal between Sudan's army and its pro-democracy movement. South Sudan's President Salva Kiir is hosting the talks in its capital, Juba, where some rebel groups signed a draft agreement last month that detailed a roadmap for the talks, trust-building measures and an extension of a cease-fire already in place. South Sudan gained independence from the north in 2011 after decades of civil war.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 12:31:31 -0400
  • Johnson repeats Brexit vow as EU talks reach critical point

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    Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeated Monday that Britain must leave the EU on October 31, as divorce talks resumed in Brussels in a pivotal week that could define how and when Brexit finally happens. "My government's priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union on October 31," she said in a speech to robed peers from a gilded throne in the upper House of Lords.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 12:30:44 -0400
  • Finnish PM says more time needed for Brexit negotiations

    Finland's Prime Minister Antti Rinne said on Monday more time was needed for the Brexit negotiations and that they could continue even after a summit of European Union leaders set for Thursday and Friday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants to strike an exit deal at the summit to allow for an orderly departure from the EU on Oct. 31. Finland currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 12:21:34 -0400
  • Drugs investigators close in on Asian 'El Chapo' at centre of vast meth ring

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    A vast drugs Asian drugs syndicate, which is wealthy, disciplined and less violent than Latin America’s cartels has become the prime target of a sprawling, previously unreported counter-narcotics operation, according to a new Reuters investigation.  The suspected leader of the multinational drugs trafficking syndicate, protected by a guard of Thai kickboxers, is Tse Chi Lop, a China-born Canadian citizen.  The elusive Mr Tse, said to be on a par with Latin America's legendary drugs traffickers “El Chapo” and Pablo Escobar, is being investigated in connection with a network formed out of an alliance of five of Asia’s triad groups that allegedly smuggles methamphetamine, heroin and ketamine, said the newswire. Known as “The Company” or “Sam Gor” after one of Mr Tse’s reported nicknames, which means “Brother Number Three” in Cantonese, the crime ring deals mainly in meth - a highly addictive drug that has devastating effects on long term users – and which it often conceals in packets of tea.  According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Sam Gor syndicate’s meth revenue in 2018 was at least $8 billion a year, but could be as high as $17.7 billion.  Suspected drugs kingpin Tse Chi Lop Credit: Reuters The UN agency estimates that the cartel has a 40% to 70% share of the wholesale regional meth market that has expanded at least fourfold in the past five years. Lawmakers believe the drugs are being funneled to at least a dozen countries from Japan in North Asia to New Zealand in the South Pacific.  Sam Gor is believed to collaborate with a more diverse range of local crime groups than the Latin cartels do, including Japan’s Yakuza, Australia's biker gangs and ethnic Chinese gangs across Southeast Asia. The crime network is also less prone to uncontrolled outbreaks of internecine violence than their Latin counterparts, setting aside rivalries in pursuit of massive profits, police say.  The Reuters investigation uncovered that Mr Tse, 55, is the main focus of Operation Kungur, a massive transnational counter-narcotics case, led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and drawing in about 20 agencies from Asia, North America and Europe.  It surpasses any other international effort to combat Asian drug trafficking syndicates, say law enforcement agents linked to the probe, and includes authorities from Burma, China, Thailand, Japan, the United States and Canada.  Taiwan, while not formally part of the operation, is assisting in the investigation. An AFP document reveals that the organisation has “been connected with or directly involved in at least 13 cases” of drug trafficking since January 2015, and names Mr Tse as the suspected ringleader, among the profiles of the operation’s top 19 targets.  Reuters was unable to contact Mr Tse. The AFP, US Drugs Enforcement Agency and Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau said they would not comment on investigations.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 12:15:38 -0400
  • Normally Hush-Hush NSA Opens Doors of New Cyber Directorate

    (Bloomberg) -- The National Security Agency is normally so secretive that its creation was classified, leading to the nickname “No Such Agency.”But in a move that surely caused hand-wringing and murmurs among the nation’s longtime spies, the agency opened its doors to journalists. But just a crack.Reporters were welcomed into the agency’s Fort Meade, Maryland headquarters last week for a carefully curated tour. The occasion? The NSA wanted to show off its Cybersecurity Directorate, a newly minted organization that began operations this month to protect the U.S. against emerging cyber threats.“This is a little bit of a different approach for us from the traditional No Such Agency approach,” said Anne Neuberger, the head of the new cyber directorate, who was among the handful of NSA officials who spoke to journalists during the two-hour event.The tour took place on Oct. 10 amid a recognition that U.S. enemies are rapidly developing cyber tools that threaten national security and the private sector alike, according to agency officials.Black BoxBut Neuberger also traced the agency’s new openness to 2013, the infamous year in NSA history when whistle-blower Edward Snowden spilled its secrets. Neuberger, who served as the agency’s chief risk officer following the disclosures, was struck that a surveillance agency has a unique role in a democracy -- it should publicly explain its values and the way it balances national security with civil liberties and privacy.“If we are a black box then a black box is not trusted,” she recalls thinking at the time. “The average American is a thoughtful thinking person, and they want to know what’s in the box.”Two hours wasn’t much time to examine the box. But it was a start.One of the highlights came after journalists were led into a conference room where opaque frosted glass panels lined the wall. Then, in a technological feat worthy of a Bond movie, the glass clarified on command -- revealing a view, albeit brief, of a newly formed cyber operations center that had been fogged from sight moments before.There, the nation’s cyber warriors -- some in plain clothes, others in uniform -- sit hunched over in semi-circular pods that face 20-foot-tall screens, where they search for malicious hackers stalking through the nation’s computers. This “Joint Operations Center” includes a mix of employees from the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, the military’s cyber division and is staffed around the clock.Each 12-hour shift includes a staff of about 200. Besides searching for adversaries, the cyber sleuths defend government networks, share information with government agencies, coordinate with allies and support offensive cyber operations, officials said.The glass refogged 12 minutes later and the hub of cyber activity vanished from sight, a reminder that the NSA’s new transparency policy has its limits.Defensive MissionCreation of the Cybersecurity Directorate is the first major reorganization of the agency in three years, and it seeks to restore some of the old organizational chart -- with a few tweaks. Under the 2016 reorganization, the agency’s Information Assurance Directorate, which had been responsible for the NSA’s defensive mission, was eliminated and the agency’s offensive and defensive missions were combined.Since then, the so-called ’defensive’ challenges facing the NSA have only grown. Advances in quantum computing may soon threaten the security of the U.S. government’s most sensitive communications. And digital adversaries like Russia, China and Iran have grown both more sophisticated and more ruthless.During the tour, officials said the new directorate does more than resurrect the old IAD. Under the new directorate, cyber defenders will have better access to real-time intelligence collected by the agency’s cyber spies and be expected to defend against attacks by targeting the adversary’s technology.The directorate doesn’t have an easy task. As the 2020 presidential election approaches, it is responsible for gathering and distributing intelligence needed to defend the vote, punish bad actors and avoid a repeat of 2016 -- when Russia meddled with state election data and launched a foreign influence campaign on social media.Beyond elections, new threats to the power grid, financial sector and air traffic safety are arising at an unprecedented pace.‘Don’t Talk’Since new cyber threats affect all Americans, the agency’s ethos -- “we don’t talk about who we are, we don’t talk about what we do” -- needed to change too, Neuberger said. In her view, the press could play a role in helping the NSA and the public understand each other.“If we want the average American to feel that they can trust the best of the country’s intelligence capabilities to be protecting the security and stability we rely on, they need to know the principles we operate under,” she said. “They need to know the questions asked here.”\--With assistance from Michael Riley.To contact the reporter on this story: Alyza Sebenius in Washington at asebenius@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Martin at amartin146@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 12:08:00 -0400
  • CFTC chair on ‘financial stability risk’ from a possible no-deal Brexit

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    The clock is ticking for the UK to reach a deal with the European Union to avoid a no-deal scenario. Heath Tarbert, Chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, a key Wall Street regulator, is watching Brexit closely, as London is a major hub for derivative clearing houses.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:51:29 -0400
  • Fiona Hill: British-born Russia expert drawn into impeachment storm

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    The former National Security Council official saw the struggle over US policy on Moscow and Trump’s special bond with Putin * Former aide to testify she opposed Zelenskiy call – liveFiona Hill, a former adviser on Russia, arrives to be deposed behind closed doors amid the US House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into Trump. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/APFiona Hill, a coalminer’s daughter from County Durham who became the top Russia expert in the White House, is the latest official to find herself at the eye of the impeachment storm engulfing Donald Trump.British-born Hill arrived on Capitol Hill on Monday morning to give testimony behind closed doors to congressional committees investigating Trump’s conduct in his relations with his Ukrainian counterpart.The committees are looking for evidence on whether Trump abused his office to try to persuade the government in Kyiv to provide compromising material on a political opponent, former vice-president Joe Biden.Hill is likely to be interviewed on a much broader range of subjects, however. She was senior director for Europe and Russia in the National Security Council (NSC) for more than two years, giving her a front seat at the struggle over US policy towards Moscow and Trump’s peculiar personal attachment to Vladimir Putin.Hill was brought into the White House by Trump’s second national security adviser, HR McMaster, plucking her out of the Washington thinktank world, because of her expertise on Putin and Russia. She had co-written a book on the Russian autocrat, titled Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin, that stressed the extent that his KGB career had shaped his worldview.“She went in out of a sense of duty,” a friend said. “Once she was in the White House, she tried to impose some sense of order and process on the chaos over Russia policy. When there was a state department translator in meetings Trump meetings with Putin, that didn’t happen by accident.”Hill planned to work at the NSC for a year but was asked to stay on by McMaster’s successor, John Bolton, despite calls to get rid of her from Trump acolytes, aware Hill was not a political loyalist.She handed responsibilities to her successor, Tim Morrison, on 15 July, and actually left the White House on 19 July, six days before Trump’s infamous call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which the US president asked for “a favour” in carrying out certain targeted investigations.It is unclear whether Trump’s efforts to use Ukrainian reliance on the US to his political advantage affected the timing of Hill’s departure, but she is expected to testify about the emergence of a parallel Ukraine policy run by Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who is commonly described as Trump’s personal lawyer.Giuliani clearly thought his channel, focusing on digging dirt on the Bidens, had priority, and has sought to portray Hill as being out of the loop.“Maybe she was engaged in secondary foreign policy if she didn’t know I was asked to take a call from President Zelenskiy’s very close friend,” he told NBC News.Texts released by Congress between two diplomats working with Giuliani, the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and Kurt Volker, formerly special envoy for Ukraine, suggest that they expected more flexibility from Morrison, Hill’s replacement.Hill was born in Bishop Auckland, Durham, the daughter of a miner and a nurse, and became a dual national after marrying an American she met at Harvard. She still speaks with flat northern English vowels.The American chapter in her life opened quite by chance. After winning a scholarship to St Andrews University, she was in Moscow during the 1988 Reagan-Gorbachev summit and got an internship making coffee for the NBC Today Show. There, she met an American professor who suggested she apply for postgraduate studies at Harvard.Since it became clear Hill would be an important witness in the House impeachment hearings, she has been subjected to furious attack on hard-right talkshows and conspiracy theories on social media, some pointing to the fact that she knows Christopher Steele, the author of the famous 2016 dossier alleging Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin, from a previous stint in government, in the National Intelligence Council.Such attacks have become a routine form of intimidation aimed at stopping officials like Hill saying what they know about the inner workings of the Trump White House.Hill’s manner is understated, precise and discreet. Since entering the White House, she has hardly talked to the press and not made appearances in the thinktank world. Her deposition to Congress puts her into an unaccustomed limelight.“She was not looking forward to it but she knew she was going to testify. She will answer the questions and says what she knows, but she is not going to give some sweeping denunciation of the Trump administration,” her friend said.“She has respect for the people she worked for, even if she didn’t necessarily agree with them. They have all been in the same foxhole together.”

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:30:44 -0400
  • Putin aide: Turkish operation 'not exactly' compatible with Syria's territorial integrity

    Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said on Monday that Turkey's military incursion into northern Syria was "not exactly" compatible with Syria's territorial integrity. Ushakov, speaking in Riyadh during an official visit to Saudi Arabia by President Vladimir Putin, was commenting on Turkey's military operation which it launched last week.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:00:00 -0400
  • Russia's Putin visits Saudi Arabia on Mideast trip

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Saudi Arabia on Monday, meeting with the oil-rich nation's king and crown prince as he seeks to cement Moscow's political and energy ties across the Mideast. Putin received all the trappings of a state visit, with a mounted guard escorting his limousine to King Salman's Al-Yamamah palace in Riyadh on his first visit to the kingdom since 2007. In the intervening years, the Arab Spring roiled the wider Mideast as Putin would partner with Iran in backing Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country's still-raging war.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 10:40:37 -0400
  • President Xi Jinping vows Chinese separatists will be ‘smashed to pieces’ as US-themed protests begin in Hong Kong

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    President Xi Jinping said that those seeking to divide China would be “smashed to pieces” in comments reported by state media Sunday, as protesters gathered for US-themed protests after weekend rallies descended into violence over the weekend. Although the comments were not made directly in connection with the Hong Kong protests, they followed a weekend of violence in which a bomb exploded and a police officer was stabbed during overnight clashes between protesters and police.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 10:11:00 -0400
  • President Xi Jinping vows Chinese separatists will be ‘smashed to pieces’ as US-themed protests begin in Hong Kong

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    President Xi Jinping said that those seeking to divide China would be “smashed to pieces” in comments reported by state media Sunday, as protesters gathered for US-themed protests after weekend rallies descended into violence over the weekend. Although the comments were not made directly in connection with the Hong Kong protests, they followed a weekend of violence in which a bomb exploded and a police officer was stabbed during overnight clashes between protesters and police.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 10:11:00 -0400
  • Abandoned by U.S. in Syria, Kurds Find New Ally in U.S. Foe

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    DOHUK, Iraq -- Kurdish forces long allied with the United States in Syria announced a new deal Sunday with the government in Damascus, a sworn enemy of Washington that is backed by Russia, as Turkish troops moved deeper into their territory and President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of the U.S. military from northern Syria.The sudden shift marked a major turning point in Syria's long war.For five years, U.S. policy relied on collaborating with the Kurdish-led forces both to fight the Islamic State group and to limit the influence of Iran and Russia, which support the Syrian government, with a goal of maintaining some leverage over any future settlement of the conflict.On Sunday, after Trump abruptly abandoned that approach, U.S. leverage appeared all but gone. That threatened to give President Bashar Assad and his Iranian and Russian backers a free hand. It also jeopardized hard-won gains against Islamic State -- and potentially opened the door for its return.The Kurds' deal with Damascus paved the way for government forces to return to the country's northeast for the first time in years to try to repel a Turkish invasion launched after the Trump administration pulled U.S. troops out of the way. The pullout has already unleashed chaos and bloodletting.The announcement of the deal Sunday evening capped a day of whipsaw developments marked by rapid advances by Turkish-backed forces and the escape of hundreds of women and children linked to Islamic State from a detention camp. As U.S. troops were redeployed, two U.S. officials said the United States had failed to transfer five dozen "high value" Islamic State detainees out of the country.Turkish-backed forces advanced so quickly that they seized a key road, complicating the U.S. withdrawal, officials said.The invasion ordered by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, which came after a green light from Trump, is aimed at uprooting the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia that has been a key partner in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey sees the group as a security threat because of its links to a Kurdish separatist movement it has battled for decades.The Turkish incursion has killed scores of people, and left Kurdish fighters accusing the United States of betrayal for leaving them at the Turks' mercy. That is what led them to strike the deal with Damascus, which said Sunday that its forces were heading north to take control of two towns and to fight the "Turkish aggression."Turkey's invasion upended a fragile peace in northeastern Syria and risks enabling a resurgence of Islamic State, which no longer controls territory in Syria but still has sleeper cells and supporters.Since the Turkish incursion began Wednesday, ISIS has claimed responsibility for at least two attacks in Syria: one car bomb in the northern city of Qamishli and another on an international military base outside Hasaka, a regional capital farther to the south.Trump has said repeatedly that the United States has taken the worst ISIS detainees out of Syria to ensure they would not escape. But in fact the U.S. military took custody of only two British detainees -- half of a cell dubbed the Beatles that tortured and killed Western hostages -- U.S. officials said.As the Turkish incursion progresses and Kurdish casualties mount, the members of the Syrian Democratic Forces have grown increasingly angry at the United States. Some have cast Trump's move as a betrayal.The Kurds refused, the U.S. officials said, to let the American military take any more detainees from their ad hoc detention sites for captive Islamic State fighters, which range from former schoolhouses to a former Syrian government prison. Together, these facilities hold about 11,000 men, about 9,000 of them Syrians or Iraqis. About 2,000 come from 50 other nations whose governments have refused to repatriate them.The fighting has raised concerns that jihadis detained in the battle to defeat ISIS could escape, facilitating the reconstitution of the Islamic State. Five captives escaped during a Turkish bombardment on a Kurdish-run prison in Qamishli on Friday, Kurdish officials said.The Kurdish authorities also operate camps for families displaced by the conflict that hold tens of thousands of people, many of them wives and children of Islamic State fighters.After a Turkish airstrike, female detainees connected to the Islamic State rioted in a camp in Ain Issa, lighting their tents on fire and tearing down fences, according to a camp administrator, Jalal al-Iyaf.In the mayhem, more than 500 of them escaped, al-Iyaf said.Most of the camp's other 13,000 residents are Syrian, but there are also refugees from Iraq who sought safety in Syria because of violence at home. By nightfall, some of those people had left the unguarded camp, too, fearing that it was no longer safe, al-Iyaf said."Everyone thought that the camp was internationally protected, but in the end there was nothing," al-Iyaf said. "It was not protected at all."Determining the exact state of play on the ground proved difficult Sunday, as the advances by Turkish-backed Arab fighters scattered Kurdish officials who had previously been able to provide information.The likelihood of an ISIS resurgence remains hard to gauge, since the Syrian Kurdish leadership may have exaggerated some incidents to catch the West's attention.The camp escape came hours before the U.S. military said it would relocate its remaining troops in northern Syria to other areas of the country in the coming weeks.Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said in an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation" that the United States found itself "likely caught between two opposing advancing armies" in northern Syria. Syrian government troops were expected to enter the city of Kobani overnight.The Kurdish-led militia said the Syrian government had a "duty to protect the country's borders and preserve Syrian sovereignty" and would deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border.Previously, Trump administration officials argued that keeping Assad's forces out of the territory was key to stemming Iranian and Russian influence and keeping pressure on Assad.Trump says his decision to pull U.S. troops out of the way of the Turkish advance was part of his effort to extricate the United States from "endless wars" in the Middle East and elsewhere."The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years," Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday.Trump also tried to assuage his critics, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who broke with him over the Syria decision and is promising bipartisan legislation to slap economic sanctions on Turkey."Dealing with @LindseyGrahamSC and many members of Congress, including Democrats, about imposing powerful Sanctions on Turkey," Trump wrote. "Treasury is ready to go, additional legislation may be sought."But his decision has had devastating consequences for Syria's Kurds.They lost thousands of fighters in battles against Islamic State and sought to establish a form of autonomous rule in the lands captured from the jihadis. Now that project has collapsed, and it remains unclear what rights they will retain, if any, should they fall back under Assad's government.On Sunday, Turkish troops and their Arab proxies made major progress on the ground, seizing the strategic border town of Tel Abyad and prompting celebrations across the border in Turkey.In Akcakale, a Turkish border town, residents raced around in cars, flying Turkish flags and honking their horns. Exiled Syrians, many of them from Tel Abyad, climbed onto rooftops to watch the end of the battle as gunfire sounded.Three wounded Syrian Arab fighters were recuperating in a private apartment near the border in Akcakale after returning from the front line, where they had been shot in an ambush by Kurdish troops.The men were from an area controlled by Kurdish forces who they said had prevented them from returning home."We will not stop," said Abu Qasr al-Sharqiya, 34, who was shot three times in the leg. "We need our houses back, our children's homes."On Sunday afternoon, Erdogan announced that his forces controlled nearly 70 square miles of territory in northern Syria.They have also taken control of an important highway connecting the two flanks of Kurdish-held territory, the Turkish defense ministry said. This allows Turkish troops and their proxies to block supply lines between Kurdish forces -- and cut an exit route to Iraq.It also makes it harder for U.S. troops to leave Syria by road.Since the Syrian civil war began eight years ago, northern Syria has changed hands several times as rebels, Islamists, extremists and Kurdish factions have vied with the government for control.After joining U.S. troops to drive out the Islamic State group, the Kurdish-led militia emerged as the dominant force across the area, taking control of former ISIS territory and guarding former ISIS fighters on behalf of the United States and other international allies.With Turkey making increasing noise in recent months about forcing the Kurdish militia away from its border, the U.S. military made contingency plans to get about five dozen of the highest-priority detainees out of Syria.The planning began last December, when Trump first announced that he would withdraw troops from the country before his administration slowed down that plan, one official said.U.S. Special Operations forces moved first to get the two British detainees, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, on Oct. 9, in part because there was a clear plan for them already in place: The Justice Department wants to bring them to Virginia for prosecution. They are now being held in Iraq.But as the military then sought to take custody of additional detainees, the Kurds balked, the two U.S. officials said. The Kurds' animosity might harden now that they have aligned themselves with Assad, a U.S. foe.That, combined with the Pentagon's withdrawal of U.S. forces, makes it even less likely the United States will be able to take any more detainees out.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 09:34:08 -0400
  • Iran's Guard says it detains Paris-based exiled journalist

    Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Monday it arrested an exiled journalist who helped fan the flames of nationwide economic protests that struck the country at the end of 2017. Meanwhile, Iran's president said his country was prepared to begin using even more-advanced centrifuges as its nuclear deal with world powers collapses. The Guard and a later announcement on state television did not explain how authorities detained Ruhollah Zam, who ran a website called AmadNews that posted embarrassing videos and information about Iranian officials.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 09:24:22 -0400
  • The Budapest Election Is a Victory for Cities

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- With the election of Gergely Karacsony as mayor, Budapest joins a long list of big cities pitched against nationalist, populist and otherwise illiberal national governments. These cities, however, are largely powerless now to reverse countries’ policies which they abhor. By finding new ways to work together, though, these cities may find they can not only solve some of the thornier problems of urban life, but form an effective counterweight against authoritarian rule. Though it has been run by Hungary’s governing party, Fidesz, ever since its leader Viktor Orban came to power in 2010, Budapest, with its large creative and intellectual class, has always felt uneasy about Orban’s authoritarian ways and crude nationalism. This year, Hungary’s fragmented opposition finally united around a single candidate, political scientist Karacsony, and he comfortably beat the Fidesz incumbent, Istvan Tarlos. In Eastern Europe, where most countries are run by nationalist or populist governments, the dynamic capital cities tend to vote differently. In Poland, where the nationalist Law and Justice Party triumphed in Sunday’s national election, winning an outright majority in parliament, Warsaw backed the main opposition force, centered around the liberal Civic Platform party; since last year, the capital city has been run by a Civic Platform mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski. Zdenek Hrib from the liberal Pirate Party is the mayor of Prague, a city that has no love for populist prime minister Andrej Babis. Matus Vallo, the urban activist elected mayor of Bratislava last year, is no supporter of the country’s governing leftist-populist party.That, of course, is part of a global trend: Big cities tend to stand out politically in countries where nationalists, populists and authoritarians win. Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was forced to concede his loyal candidate’s defeat in the Istanbul mayoral election, and the new mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, has emerged as Erdogan’s top political rival. In Delhi, the Indian capital, an anti-corruption party opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi runs the legislative assembly.  In the U.S., most big city mayors are opponents of President Donald Trump; in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is a member of the opposition Labour Party. Even in Moscow, had it run an honest city council election this year, the ruling United Russia party could have lost its majority; President Vladimir Putin’s support in the Russian capital is always lower than the national average.Authoritarians and populists find it easier to win in the heartland than in the big cities. The erosion of the local media makes rural areas and smaller cities more susceptible to propaganda. Corrupt local political networks operate under the radar. In Hungary, few  media that reach the rural population aren’t under Fidesz control. Recently, when a blogger released video of Zsolt Borkai, the Fidesz mayor of Gyor, cavorting with prostitutes on a yacht in Croatia, the scandal hurt Fidesz support in Budapest (Tarlos even urged Borkai to resign to minimize damage to the party). But in Gyor, a city of 130,000 located halfway between Budapest and Vienna, Borkai won re-election on Sunday as Fidesz retained control over  most of the key municipalities.In countries with mature democratic systems, election results in big cities simply reflect the relative cosmopolitanism and higher education levels of their inhabitants. In authoritarian countries, however, there’s more to these results: Big city campaigns and the votes themselves are more transparent and thus likely fairer than in the provinces.In addition to this enhanced political legitimacy of the big city leaders, the cities carry a disproportionately high economic weight. In 2015, the latest year for which data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are available, the Budapest metropolitan area contributed almost 46% of Hungary’s gross domestic product, one of the highest proportions among wealthy nations. Based mostly on the oversized economic contribution of major cities, the business consultancy McKinsey predicted back in 2011 that “In this century, it will be the city, not the state, that becomes the nexus of economic and political power.” But this prediction is still a long way off being realized because nation states suppress cities’ political power — more so in authoritarian countries than elsewhere. In eastern Europe, national governments carve off economically weaker parts of large cities into separate regions to keep European Union subsidies flowing and at the same time assert their political influence. Budapest and Warsaw were recently separated from their suburbs for these purposes.There’s not much mayors can do to resist national governments that try to weaken them. They can try to use the visibility of their position to win national office, following the examples of Jacques Chirac, a former mayor of Paris who went on to become president, Boris Johnson, whose popularity as mayor of London helped him move on to the national level, or, indeed, Erdogan, who was mayor of Istanbul before going on to run Turkey. But such successful transitions are relatively rare, perhaps because capital city mayors often have a hard time selling their success stories to provincial voters.Increasing efforts at international cooperation and policy coordination reflect mayors’ dissatisfaction with their relative political weakness. U.S. mayors are trying to stay within the Paris Agreement climate guidelines despite Trump’s withdrawal from that pact. There are numerous subnational diplomacy programs involving mayors. In a brief last year for the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, Alyssa Ayres wrote of a “new city multilateralism” where mayors develop partnerships and share best practices.Mayors who disagree with their national governments can use these platforms to work out how to resist. In eastern Europe, for example, the liberal city bosses could learn from the example of “sanctuary city” mayors in the U.S., who welcome immigrants in defiance of Trump’s tough line on immigration. There are enough “dissident” mayors now that they could try forming international united fronts on issues like policing and fighting corruption. Cities also need to push for more powers within their nation states. It’s unfair both economically and politically that the urban centers of today don’t enjoy  more of the freedoms and independence from national authorities that, for example, accrued to the merchant cities of old — like the Free and Hanseatic City of Luebeck, whose ancient self-government was only taken away by Adolf Hitler (as a questionable but widespread  legend goes, as vengeance for the city’s refusal to let him campaign there in 1932). Given the limited powers of mayoral authorities, voting in people like Karacsony will sometimes not feel like enough where people feel their rights or freedoms are being curtailed. This year’s Hong Kong protests in the face of China’s enormous pressure are an extreme but useful example. Even if the people of big cities cannot completely change their nation states, they can at least try to turn the urban centers into oases of relative liberty.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 08:37:14 -0400
  • The Budapest Election Is a Victory for Cities

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- With the election of Gergely Karacsony as mayor, Budapest joins a long list of big cities pitched against nationalist, populist and otherwise illiberal national governments. These cities, however, are largely powerless now to reverse countries’ policies which they abhor. By finding new ways to work together, though, these cities may find they can not only solve some of the thornier problems of urban life, but form an effective counterweight against authoritarian rule. Though it has been run by Hungary’s governing party, Fidesz, ever since its leader Viktor Orban came to power in 2010, Budapest, with its large creative and intellectual class, has always felt uneasy about Orban’s authoritarian ways and crude nationalism. This year, Hungary’s fragmented opposition finally united around a single candidate, political scientist Karacsony, and he comfortably beat the Fidesz incumbent, Istvan Tarlos. In Eastern Europe, where most countries are run by nationalist or populist governments, the dynamic capital cities tend to vote differently. In Poland, where the nationalist Law and Justice Party triumphed in Sunday’s national election, winning an outright majority in parliament, Warsaw backed the main opposition force, centered around the liberal Civic Platform party; since last year, the capital city has been run by a Civic Platform mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski. Zdenek Hrib from the liberal Pirate Party is the mayor of Prague, a city that has no love for populist prime minister Andrej Babis. Matus Vallo, the urban activist elected mayor of Bratislava last year, is no supporter of the country’s governing leftist-populist party.That, of course, is part of a global trend: Big cities tend to stand out politically in countries where nationalists, populists and authoritarians win. Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was forced to concede his loyal candidate’s defeat in the Istanbul mayoral election, and the new mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, has emerged as Erdogan’s top political rival. In Delhi, the Indian capital, an anti-corruption party opposed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi runs the legislative assembly.  In the U.S., most big city mayors are opponents of President Donald Trump; in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan is a member of the opposition Labour Party. Even in Moscow, had it run an honest city council election this year, the ruling United Russia party could have lost its majority; President Vladimir Putin’s support in the Russian capital is always lower than the national average.Authoritarians and populists find it easier to win in the heartland than in the big cities. The erosion of the local media makes rural areas and smaller cities more susceptible to propaganda. Corrupt local political networks operate under the radar. In Hungary, few  media that reach the rural population aren’t under Fidesz control. Recently, when a blogger released video of Zsolt Borkai, the Fidesz mayor of Gyor, cavorting with prostitutes on a yacht in Croatia, the scandal hurt Fidesz support in Budapest (Tarlos even urged Borkai to resign to minimize damage to the party). But in Gyor, a city of 130,000 located halfway between Budapest and Vienna, Borkai won re-election on Sunday as Fidesz retained control over  most of the key municipalities.In countries with mature democratic systems, election results in big cities simply reflect the relative cosmopolitanism and higher education levels of their inhabitants. In authoritarian countries, however, there’s more to these results: Big city campaigns and the votes themselves are more transparent and thus likely fairer than in the provinces.In addition to this enhanced political legitimacy of the big city leaders, the cities carry a disproportionately high economic weight. In 2015, the latest year for which data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are available, the Budapest metropolitan area contributed almost 46% of Hungary’s gross domestic product, one of the highest proportions among wealthy nations. Based mostly on the oversized economic contribution of major cities, the business consultancy McKinsey predicted back in 2011 that “In this century, it will be the city, not the state, that becomes the nexus of economic and political power.” But this prediction is still a long way off being realized because nation states suppress cities’ political power — more so in authoritarian countries than elsewhere. In eastern Europe, national governments carve off economically weaker parts of large cities into separate regions to keep European Union subsidies flowing and at the same time assert their political influence. Budapest and Warsaw were recently separated from their suburbs for these purposes.There’s not much mayors can do to resist national governments that try to weaken them. They can try to use the visibility of their position to win national office, following the examples of Jacques Chirac, a former mayor of Paris who went on to become president, Boris Johnson, whose popularity as mayor of London helped him move on to the national level, or, indeed, Erdogan, who was mayor of Istanbul before going on to run Turkey. But such successful transitions are relatively rare, perhaps because capital city mayors often have a hard time selling their success stories to provincial voters.Increasing efforts at international cooperation and policy coordination reflect mayors’ dissatisfaction with their relative political weakness. U.S. mayors are trying to stay within the Paris Agreement climate guidelines despite Trump’s withdrawal from that pact. There are numerous subnational diplomacy programs involving mayors. In a brief last year for the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, Alyssa Ayres wrote of a “new city multilateralism” where mayors develop partnerships and share best practices.Mayors who disagree with their national governments can use these platforms to work out how to resist. In eastern Europe, for example, the liberal city bosses could learn from the example of “sanctuary city” mayors in the U.S., who welcome immigrants in defiance of Trump’s tough line on immigration. There are enough “dissident” mayors now that they could try forming international united fronts on issues like policing and fighting corruption. Cities also need to push for more powers within their nation states. It’s unfair both economically and politically that the urban centers of today don’t enjoy  more of the freedoms and independence from national authorities that, for example, accrued to the merchant cities of old — like the Free and Hanseatic City of Luebeck, whose ancient self-government was only taken away by Adolf Hitler (as a questionable but widespread  legend goes, as vengeance for the city’s refusal to let him campaign there in 1932). Given the limited powers of mayoral authorities, voting in people like Karacsony will sometimes not feel like enough where people feel their rights or freedoms are being curtailed. This year’s Hong Kong protests in the face of China’s enormous pressure are an extreme but useful example. Even if the people of big cities cannot completely change their nation states, they can at least try to turn the urban centers into oases of relative liberty.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 08:37:14 -0400
  • Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling 'Ashamed,' and Kurdish Allies Describing 'Betrayal'

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    WASHINGTON -- U.S. commandos were working alongside Kurdish forces at an outpost in eastern Syria last year when they were attacked by columns of Syrian government tanks and hundreds of troops, including Russian mercenaries. In the next hours, the Americans threw the Pentagon's arsenal at them, including B-52 strategic bombers. The attack was stopped.That operation, in the middle of the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria, showed the extent to which the U.S. military was willing to protect the Syrian Kurds, its main ally on the ground.But now, with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies."They trusted us and we broke that trust," one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. "It's a stain on the American conscience.""I'm ashamed," said another officer who had also served in northern Syria. Both officers spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals from their chains of command.And the response from the Kurds themselves was just as stark. "The worst thing in military logic and comrades in the trench is betrayal," said Shervan Darwish, an official allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.The next flurry of orders from Washington, as some troops had feared, will pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria altogether. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Sunday that President Donald Trump had ordered the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops in the country's northeast to conduct a "deliberate withdrawal" out of the country in the coming days and weeks.The defense secretary's statement came after comments Friday pushing back on complaints that the United States was betraying allies in Syria -- "We have not abandoned the Kurds" -- even as he acknowledged that his Turkish counterpart had ignored his plea to stop the offensive.Army Special Forces soldiers -- mostly members of the 3rd Special Forces Group -- moved last week to consolidate their positions in the confines of their outposts miles away from the Syrian border, a quiet withdrawal that all but confirmed the United States' capitulation to the Turkish military's offensive to clear Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.But as the Americans pulled back, the Kurds moved north to try to reinforce their comrades fighting the offensive. The U.S. soldiers could only watch from their sandbag-lined walls. Orders from Washington were simple: Hands off. Let the Kurds fight for themselves.The orders contradicted the U.S. military's strategy in Syria over the last four years, especially when it came to the Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG, who were integral to routing the Islamic State group from northeastern Syria. The Kurds had fought in Manbij, Raqqa and deep into the Euphrates River Valley, hunting the last Islamic State fighters in the group's now defunct physical caliphate. But the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as the Kurdish and their allied Arab fighters on the ground are called, are being left behind.U.S. Special Forces and other troops had built close ties with their Kurdish allies, living on the same dusty compounds, sharing meals and common dangers. They fought side by side, and helped evacuate Kurdish dead and wounded from the battlefield."When they mourn, we mourn with them," Gen. Joseph L. Votel, a former head of the military's Central Command, said Thursday at the Middle East Institute.The Kurdish forces and U.S. military have survived previous strains, including Trump's sudden decision in December to withdraw all U.S. troops from northern Syria, a decision that was later walked back somewhat.This time may be different, and irreversible. "It would seem at this particular point, we've made it very, very hard for them to have a partnership relationship with us because of this recent policy decision," Votel said.As part of security measures the United States brokered to tamp down tensions with Turkish troops, Kurdish forces agreed to pull back from the border, destroy fortifications and return some heavy weapons -- steps meant to show that they posed no threat to Turkish territory, but that later made them more vulnerable when Turkey launched its offensive.Special Forces officers described another recent operation with Kurds that underscored the tenacity of the group. The Americans and the Kurdish troops were searching for a low-level Islamic State leader in northern Syria. It was a difficult mission and unlikely they would find the commander.From his operations center, one U.S. officer watched the Kurds work alongside the Americans on the ground in an almost indistinguishable symmetry. They captured the Islamic State fighter."The SDF's elite counterterrorism units are hardened veterans of the war against ISIS whom the U.S. has seen in action and trust completely," said Nicholas A. Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, who visited the SDF in July to advise them on the Islamic State group, or ISIS.During the battle against ISIS, coordination between the U.S. military and the Syrian Democratic Forces has extended from the highest levels to rank-and-file fighters, according to multiple interviews with SDF fighters and commanders in Syria over the course of the campaign.SDF commanders worked side by side with U.S. military officers in a joint command center in a defunct cement factory near the northern Syrian town of Kobani, where they discussed strategy and planned future operations.The battle of Kobani that began in 2014 gave birth to the United States' ties to the Kurds in northeastern Syria. ISIS fighters, armed with heavy American-made artillery captured from retreating Iraqi army units, surrounded Kobani, a Kurdish city, and entered parts of it.Despite the Obama administration's initial reluctance to offer help, the United States carried out airstrikes against advancing ISIS militants, and its military aircraft dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to replenish the Kurdish combatants.That aid helped turn the tide, the Kurds defeated ISIS, and U.S. commanders realized they had discovered a valuable ally in the fight against the terrorist group.Thousands of SDF fighters received training from the United States in battlefield tactics, reconnaissance and first aid. Reconnaissance teams learned to identify Islamic State locations and transmit them to the command center for the U.S.-led military coalition to plan airstrikes.Visitors to front-line SDF positions often saw Syrian officers with iPads and laptops they used to communicate information to their U.S. colleagues."For the last two years, the coordination was pretty deep," said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Kurdish affairs analyst who has spent time in northeastern Syria. "The mutual trust was very high, the mutual confidence, because this collaboration brought enormous results.""They completed each other," he said of the SDF and U.S.-led coalition. "The coalition didn't have boots on the ground, and fighters didn't have air support, so they needed each other."That coordination was critical in many of the big battles against the Islamic State group.To open the battle in one town, SDF fighters were deposited by coalition aircraft behind the Islamic State group's lines. At the start of another battle, U.S. Special Operations forces helped the SDF plot and execute an attack across the Euphrates River.Even after the Islamic State group had lost most of its territory, the United States trained counterterrorism units to do tactical raids on ISIS hideouts and provided them with intelligence needed to plan them.Even in territory far from the front lines with the Islamic State, SDF vehicles often drove before and after U.S. convoys through Syrian towns and SDF fighters provided perimeter security at facilities where U.S. personnel were based.The torturous part of America's on-again, off-again alliance with the Kurds -- one in which the United States has routinely armed the Kurds to fight various regimes it viewed as adversaries -- emerged in 1974, as the Kurds were rebelling against Iraq. Iran and the United States were allies, and the Shah of Iran and Henry Kissinger encouraged the Kurdish rebellion against the Iraqi government. CIA agents were sent to the Iraq-Iran border to help the Kurds.The Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani did not trust the Shah of Iran, but believed Kissinger when he said that the Kurds would receive help from the Americans.But a year later, the Shah of Iran made a deal with Saddam Hussein on the sidelines of an OPEC meeting: In return for some territorial adjustments along the Iran-Iraq border, the shah agreed to stop support for the Kurds.Kissinger signed off on the plan, the Iraqi military slaughtered thousands of Kurds and the United States stood by. When questioned, Kissinger delivered his now famous explanation: "Covert action," he said, "should not be confused with missionary work."In the fight against ISIS in Syria, Kurdish fighters followed their hard-fought triumph in Kobani by liberating other Kurdish towns. Then the Americans asked their newfound Kurdish allies to go into Arab areas, team up with local militias and reclaim those areas from the Islamic State group.The U.S. military implored the SDF to fight in the Arab areas, and so they advanced, seizing Raqqa and Deir el-Zour, winning but suffering large numbers of casualties.The American-Kurdish military alliance against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq "began with us helping them," said Peter W. Galbraith, the former U.S. diplomat who has for years also been a senior adviser to the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq. "But by the end, it was them helping us. They are the ones who recovered the territory that ISIS had taken."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 08:12:35 -0400
  • Johnson Stumbles in Bid for Brexit Deal as EU Demands Answers

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson’s attempt to secure a Brexit deal ran into trouble after the European Union warned the talks were still a long way from a breakthrough and the British prime minister’s political allies distanced themselves from his plans. The pound fell.After a weekend of intensive negotiations in Brussels, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told a meeting of envoys on Sunday that the U.K.’s proposals for breaking the deadlock over the Irish border lacked detail and risked leaving the single market vulnerable to fraud, officials said. The unionist party that backs Johnson’s minority Conservative government in London also raised concerns.Talks are continuing to resolve the impasse over customs checks, but the U.K. isn’t sure the EU will change its position, a government official said on Monday.The Frenzied Fortnight That’s Set to Seal the Fate of BrexitNegotiators are now in a race against time to sketch out an accord for EU leaders to endorse at a summit that starts on Thursday. Johnson wants an agreement at that gathering so that members of the U.K. Parliament can vote to approve or reject it in a special session on Saturday. That way, he may just be able to avoid being forced to delay Britain’s departure beyond the Oct. 31 deadline, which he has vowed to meet.The next 48 hours will be crucial, with the bloc wanting to know by Wednesday how the negotiations are to proceed. If Barnier’s talks founder, EU leaders will have to decide whether to abandon them and move on to the question of whether to allow Britain to delay its departure. Or, if there’s still a chance of a breakthrough, they may hold another emergency summit shortly before Brexit day, according to officials in Brussels.Any agreement will still have to be ratified by the U.K. Parliament, which was re-opened by Queen Elizabeth II at a ceremony on Monday. There, the government repeated its pledge to deliver Brexit by the month’s end. But Johnson lacks a majority at Westminster and will now be vulnerable to attempts to oust him or reject any accord he reaches with the EU. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn warned on Sunday that he was unlikely to support any deal agreed by the prime minister.Early on Monday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid announced a post-Brexit budget for Nov. 6 less than a week after the U.K. is expected to leave the bloc. That budget could be a pre-election spending spree or the way government is going to deal with a no-deal Brexit. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon told BBC radio the government “is making it up as they go along” with no guarantee the nation will have left the bloc by Oct. 31.The obstacle the negotiators are grappling with is the thorny question of how to ensure there is no need for checkpoints to inspect goods crossing the border between the Republic of Ireland and the U.K. region of Northern Ireland after Brexit.Last week, Johnson put forward plans to take Northern Ireland out of Europe’s customs union and give Stormont, its power-sharing assembly, a veto over the arrangement. EU officials say both of these are hugely problematic.Johnson’s OfferThe U.K. has softened its position on the veto and has proposed a complex customs solution that would see Northern Ireland leave the EU’s customs union but still adhere to its rules. The U.K. wants to be able to track goods entering Northern Ireland but treat them differently depending on where they are due to end up, two officials said.That may incur the wrath of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party -- which is in a formal agreement to support Johnson’s government and influences how a significant number his euro-skeptic Conservative MPs vote. DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds told Italy’s La Repubblica on Saturday that the party would reject any solution that would weaken Northern Ireland’s custom ties to the U.K.In Brussels on Sunday, Barnier updated envoys from EU governments on the progress in the talks, which re-started in earnest on Friday. He said the latest version of Johnson’s customs proposal was untested, risked undermining the EU’s single market by leaving it vulnerable to fraud, and was unlikely to be nailed down in the next few days, according to officials.If talks break down, Johnson is required under a new law to delay Brexit, something that he has vowed to avoid. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker indicated on Sunday that he would approve another delay, if the British side asked for it.(Adds detail from Queen’s speech in sixth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson.To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans, Tim RossFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 08:03:19 -0400
  • Report: China Wants More Talks Before Signing Trump's Phase 1 Trade Deal

    China wants further talks in October to over the details of the "Phase One" trade deal set out by President Donald Trump before getting Xi Jinping to sign it, Bloomberg reports. Last Friday, Trump said the U.S. and China reached an initial but “substantial” trade agreement dealing with intellectual property, major agricultural purchases and financial services. The deal would avert a new round of tariffs on China, and includes an agreement by the Chinese to purchase up to $50 billion worth of agricultural items.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 07:59:41 -0400
  • Boris Johnson Uses Queen’s Speech to Set Out General Election Platform

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson set out his ambitions for governing Britain with an outline plan for what he will do if he wins the general election that’s expected to be triggered within weeks.The British prime minister promised a focus on domestic issues if he can “get Brexit done,” as he used the pomp and ceremony of a speech to Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II to announce 26 draft government bills.Without a majority in the House of Commons, Johnson has little chance of seeing his plans turned into law. With that in mind, he is seeking an early general election -- and Monday’s policy package is likely to form the skeleton of his manifesto for that campaign.Seven of the proposals related to Brexit, but everything hangs on the first one: The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which would allow the U.K. to leave the EU with a deal -- if one is agreed.In the event that Johnson and the EU can reach an accord before the end of the month, Johnson will try to rush that bill through Parliament. If not, he may try to take Britain out of the bloc without a deal, or he might be forced to delay the divorce.The issue for Johnson is that he is so far short of a majority he cannot pass any controversial legislation without an election, which the opposition parties won’t let him hold until he delays Brexit or agrees a deal with the EU.In that context, the speech, delivered to both Houses of Parliament by Queen Elizabeth II on her throne in the House of Lords, was a preview of the ground on which Johnson would like to fight that election: Health, crime and education.“People are tired of stasis, gridlock and waiting for change,” Johnson wrote in an introduction to the Queen’s speech. “They don’t want to wait for their streets to be safer. They don’t want to wait for their schools to have the funding they need.”There were other measures to deal with Brexit, covering agriculture, fisheries, trade and immigration. A financial services bill aims to maintain the U.K.’s status as an investment center.Measures affecting business included:a Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, to simplify trials and prescribinga pension bill to make it easier for savers to keep track of different pots of moneyMoves to give government more powers to scrutinize takeovers of companies with national security linksa crackdown on child abuse online, putting a duty of care on technology companiesThe speech also contained lines clearly intended as voter-friendly talking points in an election:a law to let servers in restaurants keep all their tipsa nationwide roll-out of gigabit broadbandan Animal Welfare Bill, banning the use of wild animals in circusesAnother promise seeks to give Johnson’s Conservatives an answer to the opposition Labour Party’s eye-catching plan to take railways back into public ownership. The government will review how the trains work, with a pledge to simplify ticket structures and a new industry structure, Johnson’s office said in a briefing.The rest of the week will see debate on these measures in Parliament, but the political focus will be on Johnson’s talks with the EU, and a summit of EU leaders starting on Thursday. The government wants Parliament to sit on Saturday, the first weekend sitting since the Falklands War in 1982, to discuss the outcome of that meeting.The pageantry of the Queen’s Speech began at 10 a.m., when the Yeomen of the Guard, the royal bodyguards known as “Beefeaters,” searched the cellars of Parliament. The tradition dates back to 1605, when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament, and King James I with it.The Queen then traveled in a gilded coach from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament, escorted by the Household Cavalry. As the Queen arrived, the Union Flag of the U.K. was lowered and her Royal Standard raised over Parliament.At 11:30 a.m., Sarah Clarke, the Queen’s representative to Parliament -- generally known by her official title of Black Rod -- marched to the House of Commons, the lower, elected, chamber. She summoned politicians to hear the Queen, who was waiting in the House of Lords, the upper, unelected chamber. The door of the Commons was slammed in her face.This ritual symbolizes the independence of the Commons from the Crown: no British monarch has entered the lower house since 1642, when King Charles I tried to arrest five members in the run-up to a civil war that ended with his execution in 1649.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 14 Oct 2019 07:39:25 -0400
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