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  • France Could Veto a Delay, Johnson Tells Corbyn: Brexit Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson said French President Emmanuel Macron could veto another extension to the Brexit deadline, potentially forcing the U.K. out of the bloc with no deal in eight days’ time.According to a spokesman for the U.K. opposition, Johnson made the remark during a private meeting with Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who raised doubts about the scenario.Johnson is stuck and Brexit is in limbo. The prime minister held fruitless talks with Corbyn after failing to persuade Parliament to rush his Brexit deal into law. Now he must wait for the European Union to decide whether to agree to his reluctant request for a three-month delay. Donald Tusk is keen on pushing the deadline back to Jan. 31, and EU ambassadors will meet later.Key Developments:German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hints a Brexit extension could come with conditionsEU27 ambassadors meet to discuss U.K.’s request for a delay; a special leaders’ summit could be held on Oct. 25 or Oct. 28Opposition Labour Party willing to back election if risk of no-deal Brexit is removedJohnson insists he wants U.K. to leave on Oct. 31, but fails to reach deal with Corbyn on a new timetable ratify Brexit dealMust Read: What If Macron Blocked a Brexit Delay? His Reasons to Be TemptedBrexit Twists Point to Election. Here’s How It Works: QuickTakeJohnson Tells Merkel U.K. Should Leave Oct. 31 (4:25 p.m.)Boris Johnson spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday to reiterate his view that Brexit should not be delayed, according to the prime minister’s spokesman. The two leaders spoke for 10 minutes by phone, James Slack said, declining to say what Merkel told Johnson.The prime minister’s view is that Brexit on Oct. 31 is still possible, Slack told reporters in London. He said Parliament has handed control of the next stage of the process to the European Union by voting down Johnson’s timetable to debate his Brexit bill.In addition to calls with Merkel and EU Council President Donald Tusk (see 1:15 p.m.), Johnson spoke to his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar on Tuesday night, Slack said.EU Won’t Make Delay Decision Today: Officials (4 p.m.)The European Union’s 27 remaining countries won’t decide on a Brexit delay when their ambassadors meet in Brussels later on Wednesday, two EU officials said.European Council President Donald Tusk will probably make a decision on Friday -- either on the length of the delay or, if there’s no consensus within the EU, to call a summit of leaders, the officials said.Tusk is consulting heads of government in the bloc and the most likely option remains to extend until Jan. 31 with the ability to leave earlier, according to the officials, who were speaking on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.How Brexit Could Be Done by End-November: MPs (3:15 p.m.)Boris Johnson could get Brexit done by the end of November if he were willing to negotiate a new legislative timetable, according to two pro-European Members of Parliament who were expelled from the Conservative Party by the premier for opposing his strategy.Both MPs, who asked not to be named, said that six days of debate in the House of Commons would suffice, with a similar period in the House of Lords. Both also said they’d back an amendment to keep the U.K. in a customs union with the European Union -- something Johnson opposes because it curtails Britain’s ability to strike its own trade deals.These MPs are among the staunchest opponents of Johnson’s attempt to ram through the bill. Their proposal suggests Johnson may not have to wait too long to get his deal done, if he were willing to give MPs six days to debate it, instead of the three he originally offered.Johnson Sees Possible France Veto: Labour (1:45 p.m.)Boris Johnson told Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in their meeting Wednesday that French President Emmanuel Macron could veto a Brexit extension, and asked Corbyn how he would respond. Corbyn expressed his doubt about that scenario, according to a Labour Party spokesman.Corbyn also reiterated to the prime minister that Labour would back a general election once the threat of a no-deal Brexit has been removed, the spokesman said.Earlier, a spokesman for the prime minister said he didn’t expect further talks with Labour on a new timetable for the government’s Brexit bill after Parliament rejected Johnson’s accelerated schedule on Tuesday (see 12 p.m.).EU Leaders May Meet on Extension: Varadkar (1:35 p.m.)EU heads of state may meet as soon as Friday to decide on the U.K.’s request for a Brexit extension until January, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in Parliament in Dublin. The meeting may take place on Monday if the leaders don’t all immediately agree to extend, he said.The new withdrawal agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson will not be changed, Varadkar said, adding that even if the deal is approved, the transition period may need to be extended beyond the end of 2020.Varadkar, who spoke to Johnson by phone on Tuesday night, said the U.K. leader was “very pleased” to have a won a vote on his deal in the London Parliament but “concerned” his timetable to get his plan approved had been defeated.Tusk tells Johnson He’s Recommending Delay (1:15 p.m.)European Council President Donald Tusk told Boris Johnson in a phone call that he will be recommending to the other 27 member states that they should grant the prime minister’s request for an extension.“I gave reasons why I’m recommending the EU27 accept the U.K. request for an extension,” Tusk wrote on Twitter.Johnson, who wrote to the EU to ask for a delay on Saturday evening after losing a vote in Parliament, told Tusk he “continues to believe that there should be no extension,” his spokesman James Slack told reporters in London. A further delay would not be in the interests of either side, Slack said.EU Ambassadors to Discuss Extension (12:45 p.m.)Ambassadors from the EU’s other 27 governments will meet in Brussels at 5:30 p.m. local time to discuss the U.K.’s request for a Brexit delay.They can’t make the final decision -- that will have to come from EU Council President Donald Tusk on behalf of all the leaders -- but they will give a sense of what the EU’s response will be.It could be that the decision is a formality, or Tusk will have to convene a summit. Oct. 28 has been penciled in for that meeting, but most EU officials hope it won’t be necessary.Johnson Still Wants Brexit on Oct. 31 (12:40 p.m.)Boris Johnson told Parliament he still wants to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31, though he offered no path to achieving this goal.Asked by former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke to set out a new compromise timetable to get his Brexit bill through Parliament, Johnson said it would depend on how the EU responds to the request for a Brexit delay that he sent to the bloc on Saturday night.“I think it would be still very much in the best interests of this country and democracy to get Brexit done by Oct. 31,” Johnson said.Deal ‘a Great Advance,’ Johnson Says (12:15 p.m.)Johnson defended his deal with the EU and urged the opposition to enable him to push it through Parliament.“I believe the union is preserved and we are able to go forward together as one United Kingdom and do free trade deals that have been impossible under previous deals,” Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons. “This is a great advance for the whole of the U.K. and we intend to develop that with our friends in Northern Ireland.”“I do think it’s a great shame the House willed the end but not the means” in Tuesday night’s votes, Johnson said. He urged Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn to “get Brexit done” and accused him of having “no other purpose in seeking to disrupt Brexit than seeking a second referendum.”Johnson Meets Corbyn for Talks on Exit Law (12 p.m.)The premier hosted his arch rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for a discussion in Parliament aimed at seeing whether there is any hope of agreeing a new timetable for MPs to debate and scrutinize the Brexit deal.Johnson was thwarted on Tuesday night when the House of Commons refused to allow him to rush his deal through Parliament and into law on a fast-track program. According to an official from Johnson’s Conservative party, Corbyn did not propose anything other than more delays and a referendum.A Labour Party spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn reiterated Labour’s offer to the prime minister to agree a reasonable timetable to debate, scrutinize and amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and restated that Labour will support a general election when the threat of a no-deal crash out is off the table.”France Waits To See How Long U.K. Needs (11.55 a.m.)France thinks the U.K. Parliament should be able to scrutinize the Brexit legislation in a matter of days and wants to wait for Johnson’s view on that before deciding how long to delay the exit date, according to a French official. The French believe a maximum of 15 days should be given, the official said, rather than the full three months to Jan. 31 that Johnson reluctantly requested.This contradicts the thinking in many European capitals, as suggested in a tweet last night by EU Council President Donald Tusk, that the EU should grant the U.K. a three-month delay, with the ability to end the extension early.Government Wants New Timetable for Bill: Smith (11:45 a.m.)Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, also a former chief whip, suggested the government’s priority is to propose a new legislative timetable for the government’s Brexit bill after the House of Commons rejected an accelerated schedule on Tuesday.Speaking to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Smith said he hopes to get a so-called program motion “that is to the satisfaction of a majority of people in this House and resolve this situation.” He also said he thought last night’s votes were the “beginning of the end of this chapter.”Nothing Agreed at Johnson-Corbyn Meeting: BBC (11:40 a.m.)The BBC said “nothing was agreed” at the reported meeting between Boris Johnson and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (see 11:30 a.m.) on a new timetable for the prime minister’s Brexit bill.Johnson, Corbyn Discuss New Timetable: Times (11:30 a.m.)Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are meeting to discuss a new timetable for the prime minister’s Brexit bill to be debated in the House of Commons, the Times newspaper reported on Twitter, without saying where it obtained the information.Varadkar Backs Brexit Extension (11 a.m.)Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar appeared to back a flexible extension to the Brexit process, after speaking to European Council President Donald Tusk. Varadkar confirmed his support for a delay, while both men noted that it would still be possible for the U.K. to leave before Jan. 31 if the withdrawal agreement is ratified before then, according to an Irish government statement.Fundamental Changes Needed: DUP’s Wilson (10:50 a.m.)Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party, reiterated that his party would not support the withdrawal agreement in it’s current form, calling parts of it “unpalatable and unacceptable.”Wilson told RTE radio he would use a Brexit extension to persuade the U.K. government “to change its position” on the deal which he said would change Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the U.K.“It’s very difficult to take at face value” assurances Johnson made in Parliament about light touch rules around movement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, he said, adding his party would support a move by the prime minister to hold a general election.Maas Indicates Delay May Come With Conditions (10 a.m.)A Brexit extension to Jan. 31 shouldn’t simply be given by the European Union, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, raising the prospect it may come with conditions. “We have to know: What is the basis for it? What will happen by then? Will there be an election?” Maas said to broadcaster N-TV.“Above all we have to know what the British are planning and what Johnson is planning. At the moment that’s once again completely unclear,” Maas said. A short extension of two or three weeks to get approval in Parliament, on the other hand, is “less of a problem.”Labour Wants Election Once EU Sets Delay (9:45 a.m.)Richard Burgon, Labour’s justice spokesman, said the main opposition party would back a general election as soon as the European Union agrees an extension, and as long as that extension is for more than just a few weeks.Burgon also said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s offer to work with the government to come up with a “reasonable” alternative timetable for scrutinizing the Brexit bill still stands.“Until a general election is called we’ll carry on making that offer, to try and improve that bill to make it closer and closer to what we would call a credible Leave option,” he said.Extension Needed to Break Impasse: Duncan-Smith (Earlier)Iain Duncan Smith, a hard-line Brexiteer and former leader of the Conservative Party, said he’d rather have an election than extend the timetable for passing the Brexit bill.If the EU grants a three month extension, then Parliament would take up all of that time and would hang amendments on it “like a Christmas tree,” he told Bloomberg TV.Earlier:Boris Johnson Eyes Election After Parliament Forces Brexit DelayJohnson Faces Extension Rebellion After Defeat: Brexit BulletinBrexit Has the British Fleeing to Europe: Leonid Bershidsky\--With assistance from Tim Ross, Anna Edwards, Helene Fouquet, Jessica Shankleman, Patrick Donahue, Greg Ritchie and Peter Flanagan.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:48:12 -0400
  • Putin aims to boost Moscow's clout with Russia-Africa summit

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin courted dozens of leaders of African nations Wednesday at the first-ever Russia-Africa summit while a pair of nuclear-capable bombers made an unprecedented visit to the continent, reflecting Moscow's new push for clout. Speaking at the two-day summit attended by leaders of 43 of Africa's 54 countries, Putin hailed the continent's "enormous potential for growth" and negotiated deals to tap its riches including diamonds, uranium and oil. Putin said Russia's annual trade with African nations doubled in the last five years to exceed $20 billion, and expressed confidence that it could double again "as a minimum" in the next four or five years.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:47:58 -0400
  • Russia steps up its presence in north-east Syria after Turkey deal

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    More Russian troops arrive in border region as Donald Trump hails situation as a ‘big success’A convoy of Russian military vehicles drives towards the north-eastern Syrian town of Kobane. Photograph: AFP via Getty ImagesRussian troops have expanded their presence across north-eastern Syria, the result of an agreement between Ankara and Moscow that should end Turkey’s attack on Kurdish-led forces at the price of ending the Kurds’ dreams of local autonomy.Syrian and Russian media showed footage of Russian military police vehicles on the outskirts of the important towns of Manbij and Kobane on Wednesday, one day after the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, met Vladimir Putin in Sochi.A statement carried on Russia’s Interfax agency said Russian patrols had already begun inside Manbij, a town that until two weeks ago was a key US base in the region.The deal was hailed as a “big success” by Donald Trump, although his critics say it cements Russia’s role as prime power broker in the Middle East after the US president’s announcement that American special forces would withdraw from the area.Who is in control in north-eastern Syria?Until Turkey launched its offensive there on 9 October, the region was controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which comprises militia groups representing a range of ethnicities, though its backbone is Kurdish. Since the Turkish incursion, the SDF has lost much of its territory and appears to be losing its grip on key cities. On 13 October, Kurdish leaders agreed to allow Syrian regime forces to enter some cities to protect them from being captured by Turkey and its allies. The deal effectively hands over control of huge swathes of the region to Damascus.That leaves north-eastern Syria divided between Syrian regime forces, Syrian opposition militia and their Turkish allies, and areas still held by the SDF – for now.On 17 October Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, agreed with US vice-president Mike Pence, to suspend Ankara’s operation for five days in order to allow Kurdish troops to withdraw. The following week, on 22 October, Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin agreed on the parameters of the proposed Turkish “safe zone” in Syria.How did the SDF come to control the region?Before the SDF was formed in 2015, the Kurds had created their own militias who mobilised during the Syrian civil war to defend Kurdish cities and villages and carve out what they hoped would eventually at least become a semi-autonomous province. In late 2014, the Kurds were struggling to fend off an Islamic State siege of Kobane, a major city under their control. With US support, including arms and airstrikes, the Kurds managed to beat back Isis and went on to win a string of victories against the radical militant group. Along the way the fighters absorbed non-Kurdish groups, changed their name to the SDF and grew to include 60,000 soldiers.Why does Turkey oppose the Kurds?For years, Turkey has watched the growing ties between the US and SDF with alarm. Significant numbers of the Kurds in the SDF were also members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) that has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for more than 35 years in which as many as 40,000 people have died. The PKK initially called for independence and now demands greater autonomy for Kurds inside Turkey.Turkey claims the PKK has continued to wage war on the Turkish state, even as it has assisted in the fight against Isis. The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, the UK, Nato and others and this has proved awkward for the US and its allies, who have chosen to downplay the SDF’s links to the PKK, preferring to focus on their shared objective of defeating Isis.What are Turkey’s objectives on its southern border?Turkey aims firstly to push the SDF away from its border, creating a 20-mile (32km) buffer zone that would have been jointly patrolled by Turkish and US troops until Trump’s recent announcement that American soldiers would withdraw from the region.Erdoğan has also said he would seek to relocate more than 1 million Syrian refugees in this “safe zone”, both removing them from his country (where their presence has started to create a backlash) and complicating the demographic mix in what he fears could become an autonomous Kurdish state on his border.How would a Turkish incursion impact on Isis?Nearly 11,000 Isis fighters, including almost 2,000 foreigners, and tens of thousands of their wives and children, are being held in detention camps and hastily fortified prisons across north-eastern Syria.SDF leaders have warned they cannot guarantee the security of these prisoners if they are forced to redeploy their forces to the frontlines of a war against Turkey. They also fear Isis could use the chaos of war to mount attacks to free their fighters or reclaim territory. On 11 October, it was reported that at least five detained Isis fighters had escaped a prison in the region. Two days later, 750 foreign women affiliated to Isis and their children managed to break out of a secure annex in the Ain Issa camp for displaced people, according to SDF officials.It is unclear which detention sites the SDF still controls and the status of the prisoners inside.Michael SafiThe US president was planning to make a fresh statement on the issue on Wednesday morning. In an earlier tweet he claimed the Kurds were safe and Isis prisoners secured.> Big success on the Turkey/Syria Border. Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us. Captured ISIS prisoners secured. I will be making a statement at 11:00 A.M. from the White House. Thank you!> > — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019Turkish troops, allied Syrian rebel proxies, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and soldiers belonging to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, are now all present in the border zone, with Russia the only negotiating force between them.The talks on Tuesday between Erdoğan and the Russian president defined the contours of Turkey’s long-proposed border “safe zone”: Turkish troops in the area seized since the offensive began on 9 October will remain in situ, and Russian soldiers and the Syrian army will control the rest of the frontier.Soldiers with a Russian military police vehicle in Kobane. Photograph: AFP via Getty ImagesMoscow and Damascus will supervise the removal of Kurdish fighters and weaponry to the depth of 18 miles (29km) from their current positions on the border before 26 October, after which joint Russian-Turkish patrols will begin across the entire border area to a depth of six miles, with the exception of the de facto Kurdish capital, Qamishli.On Wednesday, the Russian ministry of defence published a map showing 15 planned border observation posts that will be manned by the Syrian regime.The deal in effect redraws the map of northern Syria and ends five years of semi-autonomy carved out by the local Kurdish administration and its military forces, after Kurdish officials reached an agreement with Assad, their former enemy, for military reinforcements to fend off the Turkish attack.However, the fate of local military councils set up by the SDF in border towns previously under their control and what happens to the SDF’s non-Kurdish units remains unclear. The SDF and Kurdish politicians are yet to comment on the Sochi deal.It is believed they will retain control of the approximately 90,000 men, women and children with links to Islamic State being held in Kurdish-run prisons and detention camps.Turkish officials including Erdoğan threatened on Wednesday that Ankara would resume the offensive if neither Russia nor the US guaranteed the total withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the border region.Erdoğan asked Putin what would happen if the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the largest and most important unit within the SDF, put on Syrian army uniforms in order to stay in the border area, according to Hürriyet newspaper.Ankara says the YPG is indistinguishable from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state for decades. Erdoğan said Putin responded by saying he would not let that happen.The border towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad, which have experienced fierce fighting, remained quiet on Wednesday, one day after a separate, poorly observed US-brokered ceasefire expired.Trump tweeted: “Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us. Captured ISIS prisoners secured.”Erdoğan is scheduled to visit the White House next month.The deal was greeted more cautiously by the Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, who said the need for a political solution in north-east Syria would be discussed by defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday.At least 120 Syrians have died and 176,000 people have fled their homes over the last two weeks of violence, with 20 Turkish civilian deaths on the other side of the border.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:43:21 -0400
  • Turkey's Halkbank may face sanctions if it fails to appear in U.S. court

    A U.S. district judge on Wednesday ordered Turkey's majority state-owned Halkbank to appear in court on Nov. 5 and warned that he may sanction the bank if it fails to show up. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Oct. 16 charged the state-owned lender with taking party in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran. Halkbank declined to comment on the order.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:35:02 -0400
  • EU debates Brexit delay as Johnson eyes election

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    European leaders were deciding whether to postpone Brexit and for how long Wednesday, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson's eyes turned towards a snap general election. In tense parliamentary votes on Tuesday, Johnson won preliminary backing for the divorce deal he agreed with the EU, which would have seen Britain leave the bloc on October 31. European Council President Donald Tusk has recommended that EU's 27 other member states grant a flexible extension until January 31, 2020 -- to be cut short if Britain ratifies the deal before then.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:14:44 -0400
  • Yemen rebels, government set up joint positions in key port city

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    Yemen's government and Huthi rebels have set up joint observation posts as part of de-escalation moves in the flashpoint city of Hodeida, a move the United Nations welcomed on Wednesday. The world body's envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths wrote on Twitter that the establishment of the four positions along frontlines in the key port city, and the deployment of liason officers, were positive moves.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 11:04:36 -0400
  • Trump to speak from White House to claim 'success' in Syria

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    President Donald Trump is claiming "big success" along the Turkey-Syria border as the United States winds down its military commitment in Syria, where a civil war has raged for eight years. Trump said in a tweet that he planned a late Wednesday morning statement from the White House where he would discuss the cease-fire between Turkey and American-allied Syrian Kurdish forces. According to Trump, the Kurds are "safe," and captured Islamic State fighters are "secured" in detention centers.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:57:57 -0400
  • Russian Nuclear Bombers Land in S. Africa in Rare Cooperation

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    (Bloomberg) -- Russia on Wednesday landed the world’s biggest military aircraft in South Africa, the Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ bomber, in a rare display of cooperation between the defense forces of the two countries.The two bombers, which are capable of launching nuclear missiles, are the first to ever land in Africa and were escorted by fighter jets from the South African Air Force as they arrived at the Waterkloof air base in Tshwane. The bombers arrived at around 4 p.m. and a number of other Russian military aircraft will also land at the site. The bombers had initially been scheduled to land earlier.“The military-to-military relations between the two countries are not solely built on struggle politics but rather on fostering mutually beneficial partnerships based on common interests,” the South African National Defence Force said in a statement. Russia’s defense ministry put out a similar statement.The arrival of the bombers in Africa’s most industrialized nation coincides with Russian President Vladimir Putin hosting an Africa summit this week, the first such event to be organized by Russia. The nation is competing with China and the U.S. for influence in Africa.(Updates time of landing in second paragraph)\--With assistance from Stepan Kravchenko.To contact the reporter on this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: John McCorry at jmccorry@bloomberg.net, Pauline BaxFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:50:47 -0400
  • The Latest: Russian diplomat says US should close Syria base

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    A senior Russian diplomat says Moscow expects the United States to shut down its remaining military base in southern Syria. Turkey invaded northeastern Syria on Oct. 9 to push back Kurdish fighters from its border following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the area. On Tuesday, Russia and Turkey struck a deal to share control of Syria's northern border and conduct joint patrols.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:40:52 -0400
  • Albania says it's discovered an Iranian paramilitary network

    Albanian police said on Wednesday they have discovered an Iranian paramilitary network that allegedly planned attacks in Albania against exiled members of an Iranian group seeking to overthrow the government in Tehran. Police chief Ardi Veliu said the foreign wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard operated an "active terrorist cell" targeting Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK, group members in Albania. It also said the network was allegedly linked with organized crime groups in Turkey and used a former MEK member to collect information in Albania.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:37:55 -0400
  • In Egypt, 7 dead after chaotic day of heavy rains, flooding

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    At least seven people, including three children, were killed in Egypt's Nile Delta and Sinai regions, authorities said Wednesday after heavy rains pummeled Cairo and other parts of the country the previous day, causing massive traffic jams and flooding many key roads. Another video shows a policeman, steps away from the presidential palace in Cairo's district of Heliopolis, wading into a flooded street to unclog a sewage drain. The mayhem raised questions about Cairo's ability to deal with heavy rainfall as the city's infrastructure and sewage and drainage systems have suffered from years of poor maintenance.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:32:46 -0400
  • Russian forces deploy at Syrian border under new accord

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    Russian military police began patrols on part of the Syrian border Wednesday, quickly moving to implement an accord with Turkey that divvies up control of northeastern Syria. The Kremlin told Kurdish fighters to pull back from the entire frontier or else face being "steamrolled" by Turkish forces. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan echoed those warnings, saying his military would resume its offensive against Kurdish fighters if the new arrangements are not carried out.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:20:16 -0400
  • Kushner to Meet With Israel’s Gantz as Third Election Looms

    (Bloomberg) -- Jared Kushner, a White House adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, plans to meet with Benny Gantz, who is trying to put together the next Israeli government and unseat longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Kushner, who is traveling to Israel this weekend, also will meet with Netanyahu, according to a person familiar with the matter. Trump has been a strong ally of Netanyahu and has repeatedly praised the prime minister.Kushner, who has been seeking to forge a Middle East peace plan, wants to determine where things stand after two elections and two failed attempts by Netanyahu to build a governing coalition, the person said.Gantz of the Blue and White bloc appears to have no easier path to forming a government, raising the prospect of yet another revote that might keep Netanyahu in power.Kushner is traveling with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is scheduled to meet separately with Netanyahu, the person said. They’ll also be joined by Brian Hook, a State Department special representative for Iran, and Avi Berkowitz, who is becoming Trump’s new special envoy for the Middle East. Jason Greenblatt is departing that position on Nov. 1.Saudi ForumThe U.S. officials also plan to attend an annual Saudi Arabian investment forum that Mnuchin skipped last year because of the kingdom’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mnuchin also plans to travel to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and India.The investment forum, called the Future Investment Initiative, is a the three-day program. Held in Riyadh from Oct. 29 to 31, the meeting is set to attract some of Wall Street’s top dealmakers, as well as representatives from major institutional investors across the globe.Mnuchin boycotted the forum last year after Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was killed and dismembered by Saudi agents in Turkey. The Treasury chief still traveled to Riyadh in October 2018, meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince.The CIA has concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s murder, according to the Washington Post. Saudi Arabia’s reputation abroad has also taken a hit since the 2018 killing and the arrest of prominent women’s rights activists accused by authorities of undermining state security.To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:18:50 -0400
  • Russian forces enter Syrian border towns after deal struck with Turkey

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    Russian forces and Syrian troops began deploying along the Turkish border on Wednesday, after striking a deal with Turkey to stave off a large offensive on Kurdish-held Syria. Humvees bearing Russian flags were filmed driving into Kobane - a town considered by the Kurds to be the heart of their territory, marking the first pro-regime presence in the area in more than seven years. The deal, which was struck between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Russian President Vladimir Putin, gave Kurdish fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) until Tuesday evening to withdraw 18 miles back along a 270-mile stretch of the border. Turkey’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that the withdrawal from its so-called “safe zone” would mean that there was “no further need to conduct a new operation,” which would prevent a feared humanitarian crisis. Russian military vehicles entering the city of Kobani on the border with Turkey. VOApic.twitter.com/6was7YmHaK— Sirwan Kajjo (@SirwanKajjo) October 23, 2019 Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, said Moscow and Ankara would “work together” to arrange the resettlement of a million Syrian refugees into the buffer zone, but admitted that “in order to feel safe” the returnees would need reassurances from President Bashar al-Assad. However, the deal was scant on detail and there was no immediate comment from the SDF. What it did reveal was Russia’s position as powerbroker in Syria. The order made by President Donald Trump for US troops to leave Syria marked a blow to American influence on the ground. Those forces were allied with the Kurdish-led fighters for five years in the long and bloody campaign that brought down Isil. "The United States has been the Kurds' closest ally in recent years. (But) in the end, it abandoned the Kurds and, in essence, betrayed them," Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said pointedly on Wednesday. "Now they prefer to leave the Kurds at the border and almost force them to fight the Turks." Or as Mr Cavousoglu put it: “When you are present on the ground, then you are also present on the negotiating table." Russian President Vladimir Putin receives Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi Credit: Getty The US, which was not present at Tuesday’s talks in Mr Putin’s dacha in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, has been shut out of decision-making and left with little leverage to demand assurances for its former Kurdish partners. Mark Esper, US secretary of defence, was in Baghdad on Wednesday meeting with Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to manage the fallout of their quick retreat. The US withdrew the bulk of its some 1,000 troops from Syria on Monday, greeted on the way out by Kurdish residents throwing rotten fruit and holding up signs reading “we will not forget this betrayal”. The Pentagon had announced the troops were expected to move to western Iraq to continue the campaign against Islamic State and "to help defend Iraq". But it appeared the move was not first approved by Baghdad, which issued a statement saying they did not have the right to remain in the country. Mr Esper was told he had 30 days to remove the troops.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:17:01 -0400
  • Syrian Kurd sets self on fire in front of UN refugee office

    Swiss police say a Syrian Kurdish man set himself on fire in front of the United Nations refugee agency's headquarters in Geneva. Police spokesman Silvain Guillaume-Gentil said the man, who was born in 1988 and lives in Germany, set himself on fire with gasoline Wednesday morning. Security guards doused the flames and the man was then taken by helicopter to a hospital in Lausanne that specializes in treating burns.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 10:15:42 -0400
  • Brexit extension likely to be flexible - Irish foreign minister

    Ireland's foreign minister said he thinks Britain will be offered a flexible extension that could trigger Brexit well ahead of the new deadline but that the views of all EU member states were first needed. "I think that extension will be a flexible one, that will allow the United Kingdom to leave the EU - if they can get a deal done - well in advance of the end of that extension period which looks like it will be the end of January," Simon Coveney told an audience in Belfast on Wednesday.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 09:42:09 -0400
  • UK Labour says election stance will depend on EU Brexit offer

    Britain's opposition Labour Party will look at the detail of any Brexit delay to be certain the risk of a no-deal exit has been removed before it decides whether to back an early general election, a spokesman for the party said on Wednesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said if the European Union offers Britain an extension to the end of January, he will pull the legislation aimed at ratifying his exit deal and seek an election to break the deadlock over Brexit. "We will support an election as soon as the risk of a no deal is taken off the table and what that means will depend on the exact terms of the EU offer," the Labour spokesman said.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 08:36:13 -0400
  • EU's Tusk tells Johnson on phone call why he recommending Brexit extension

    European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that he explained to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on a call why he was recommending that leaders of the EU's 27 other member states accept his request for a Brexit deadline extension. "In my phone call with PM @BorisJohnson I gave reasons why I'm recommending the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension," Tusk said on Twitter.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 08:07:59 -0400
  • UN creates joint observation posts in Yemen's key port city

    The U.N. says four joint observation posts manned by both forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government and the country's Houthi rebels have been established in a key port city. The head of the U.N. mission to the city of Hodeida, retired Gen. Abhijit Guha, announced late on Tuesday that the warring sides had finalized written agreements and posted liaison officers at all four locations in Hodeida. The U.N. mission says Guha has visited the posts this week as part of the implementation of a U.N-brokered cease-fire in Hodeida, agreed to by both sides last December in Sweden.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 08:02:46 -0400
  • Former top general gets a shot at forming Israeli government

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    Israel's former military chief Benny Gantz is set to receive an official mandate to form the country's next government but has few options after last month's elections left him in a near tie with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu was given the first opportunity to form a government after assembling a large right-wing bloc but announced this week that he failed to build a 61-seat majority. Gantz faces similarly steep odds, raising the possibility that Israel will hold a third election in less than a year.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 08:01:28 -0400
  • Germany’s NATO Allies Give Tentative Welcome to Syria Peace Plan

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    (Bloomberg) -- Germany’s NATO allies offered encouragement to Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s call for an international force to stabilize the situation in northern Syria.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the U.S. ambassador to the organization, Kay Bailey Hutchison, both welcomed the proposal on Wednesday in Brussels when previewing an Oct. 24-25 meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers. Hutchison signaled that the German initiative would require European troops on the ground to make it work.Kramp-Karrenbauer’s suggestion is "certainly a positive," Bailey Hutchison told reporters. "If the Turks will ask for more help from the international community, I think the Europeans can step forward."The response in Brussels was very different to the reaction in Berlin, where the plan was sprung on many of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s allies with little warning earlier this week and was greeted with barely veiled contempt by the junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats.“I find it somewhat unusual – and I don’t think it should become the way the cabinet works,” Social Democratic caucus leader Rolf Muetzenich told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday. “I do think that Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer should learn a little from the discussion that she’s confronted in the past few hours.”Kramp-Karrenbauer, known as AKK in Germany, said an internationally agreed security zone would defuse the fighting in northern Syria and allow the focus to return to fighting the Islamic State and allowing displaced Kurds to return. It’s not clear how the plan would overlap with Turkey’s proposed security zone, designed to be off-limits to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. Turkey is seeking to clear a swath of territory along its border with Syria currently occupied by Kurds.“This will certainly be discussed during our meeting," Stoltenberg told a news conference. "And I expect AKK to share her thoughts with the other allies.’’The idea has the backing of the chancellor, but the idea of a military venture in the Middle East puts AKK on risky terrain with a German public that has been broadly resistant to such entanglements since World War II.AKK herself has been struggling to establish her authority since being chosen to succeed Merkel as head of the Christian Democrats last year. Two months ago she asked Merkel for the defense minister’s job in an effort to boost a slide in her approval ratings and her plan for an internationally-monitored security zone in northern Syria was the latest in a series of interventions that have irritated people in Berlin.Dim ViewFor now, her party is closing ranks behind her. Merkel, who earlier this year took a dim view of the new CDU leader’s performance, backed her defense minister in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers in Berlin, according to two people present. A similar security-zone proposal was raised in 2016 during the siege of Aleppo, Merkel said. AKK even drew a round of applause.But earlier in the day, officials in Merkel’s coalition were scrambling to figure out what was being announced.Syria was discussed at length at a Sunday evening meeting of coalition leaders, including the CDU, their Bavarian allies in the Christian Social Union and the Social Democrats. But AKK made no mention of such a plan at the time, CSU caucus leader Alexander Dobrindt said. He himself learned of the initiative only Tuesday morning.Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, another Social Democrat, complained that he was informed via text message.“We would like to know what Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s ideas look like concretely, because we’re getting a lot of questions from abroad on what the German position is,” Niels Annen, Germany’s deputy foreign minister and a Social Democrat, told ZDF. “We need to answer that.”(Adds Stoltenberg comment in third to last paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.net;Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Caroline AlexanderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 07:44:20 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson calls on Corbyn to explain how he will get Brexit done

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday to explain how he would get Brexit done, repeating his disappointment that parliament had rejected his timetable while voting in favour of his deal. "There is still time for (Corbyn) ... to do that and explain to the people of this country how he proposes to honour his promise that he made repeatedly and deliver on the will of the people and get Brexit done," Johnson told parliament.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 07:35:20 -0400
  • A True Public Servant Deals Trump a Crushing Blow

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- A career civil servant who is a West Point graduate, soldier, officer, military attache and veteran diplomat told Congress on Tuesday that President Donald Trump personally and explicitly tried to force Ukraine’s president to investigate Trump’s political opponents by withholding crucial military aid and a coveted White House meeting.William Taylor testified that the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, told him that “everything” Ukraine wanted depended on whether its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, pursued an investigation. Sondland also told Taylor that Trump wanted to squeeze Zelenskiy into “a public box” by forcing him to commit openly to a probe.Taylor said Sondland told him that tying military aid to efforts to kneecap political opponents didn’t amount to a quid pro quo. But it was exactly that, of course, and in his testimony Taylor didn’t hesitate to describe it as such. He said Sondland told him he needed to understand the give-and-take with Ukraine as a business transaction because Trump was a businessman.“When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something,” Taylor quoted Sondland as saying, “the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.” Sondland told Taylor that he even coached Zelenskiy to tell Trump he would “leave no stone unturned” in pursuit of Trump’s political opponents.“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor said he told Sondland in September, after threatening to quit if the practice continued. Shortly after that, the U.S. released the military aid to Ukraine.  Taylor has much on the line. He jeopardized his career by speaking out, and by defying White House orders not to cooperate with Democrats managing the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry. But he made it clear in his testimony what motivates him: He sees Ukraine as a promising and important U.S. ally and a bulwark against Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.The country “is struggling to break free of its past, hopeful that their new government will finally usher in a new Ukraine, proud of its independence from Russia, eager to join Western institutions and enjoy a more secure and prosperous life,” Taylor testified. “Because of the strategic importance of Ukraine in our effort to create a whole, free Europe, we, through Republican and Democratic administrations over three decades, have supported Ukraine.”And what motivates Gordon Sondland? Sondland is a wealthy hotel operator with no diplomatic or public policy experience who received his ambassadorship after making generous donations to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He reportedly aspires to a cabinet position. To get one, he was apparently willing to help the president abuse the powers of his office by strong-arming Ukraine to meet his personal needs.And what motivates Rudy Giuliani? He’s a former federal prosecutor and mayor with a thirst for the limelight and political power who was willing to test legal boundaries and strong-arm public servants in the U.S. and Ukraine to orchestrate the slagging of Trump’s political opponents.And what motivates Donald Trump? He’s a haphazard developer and reality TV star who pursued the presidency as a marketing ploy and surprised even himself by winning it. He hasn’t any meaningful interest in public policy or public service, but when his candidacy and office have offered him opportunities to consolidate his power and line his wallet he has pursued them with gusto.Why has Trump courted Russian President Vladimir Putin? It’s not simply because he has an affinity for dictators or is irrational and unpredictable (though those things are true). It’s because he’d like to make money with Putin. He tried to do that before and during the 2016 campaign when he pursued a real estate deal in Moscow, and I suspect he’ll try again more overtly whenever he leaves the White House. Putin wants to control Ukraine and its natural gas supplies, and get the U.S. to lift the economic sanctions it imposed after he invaded and occupied part of Ukraine. He and Trump are wheeling and dealing.Why has Trump courted Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan? Trump does business in Istanbul. Trump is willing to give Erdogan what he wants (domination and potential obliteration of the Kurds in northern Syria) because, I suspect, he wants to do even more robust business in Turkey whenever he leaves the White House.Why did Trump want to convene next year’s Group of Seven summit at his resort in Doral, Florida? No, it wasn’t because he thinks it is the best place for the meeting or because he’s super proud of it. Yes, it was the money.Money, money, money. It’s rarely more complex than that with Trump.Trump, Sondland and Giuliani are light years apart from Taylor. They’re opportunists who are perverting the wheels of government to feather their own nests. Taylor is a person of purpose, integrity and decency, and his testimony before legislators exploring impeachment has been one of the most devastating and consequential episodes of the Trump presidency. It destroys the White House argument that there was no quid pro quo in Trump’s Ukraine dealings.Building on already ample evidence of presidential wrongdoing, Taylor’s testimony means that Trump will be impeached in the House. It will then be interesting to see whether the Senate, in adjudicating Trump’s case, stands up for integrity and national purpose, as Taylor has, or emulates Sondland and Giuliani by acquiescing to the president’s misdeeds.To contact the author of this story: Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mary Duenwald at mduenwald@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Timothy L. O’Brien is the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion. He has been an editor and writer for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. His books include “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 07:30:24 -0400
  • After PM meeting, UK Conservative source says Labour's Corbyn just wants Brexit delay

    British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn "made clear he has no policy except more delays", a Conservative Party source said on Wednesday, describing a meeting between the opposition leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The prime minister "met Corbyn this morning ... to discuss whether Labour would back a timetable that allows us to actually get Brexit done rather than yet more delay," the source said. "Corbyn made clear he has no policy except more delays and to spend 2020 having referendums," the source added, referring to Labour's policy to hold a public vote on any Brexit deal secured with the European Union.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 07:20:52 -0400
  • Lifting the Veil: North Korea's KN-23 Missile and KN-25 MLRS

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    It is unclear if the DPRK will directly go back to the testing of ICBMs. However, given North Korea’s new willingness to conduct tests of shorter-range weapons, it is likely we will see further tests of such systems before the end of the year. Here is what you need to know about two key weapons platforms Pyongyang recently tested.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 07:13:00 -0400
  • Let's agree a "reasonable" Brexit timetable, Labour's Corbyn tells UK PM

    British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday reiterated his offer to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to agree a "reasonable timetable" to pass Brexit legislation, a party spokesman said. The spokesman said Corbyn also repeated his party's position that Labour could only support any move for an election if the threat of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal was taken off the table. "Jeremy Corbyn reiterated Labour's offer to the prime minister to agree a reasonable timetable to debate, scrutinise and amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and restated that Labour will support a general election when the threat of a No Deal crash out is off the table," the spokesman said in a statement.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 06:47:24 -0400
  • Britain's Corbyn meets PM Johnson to discuss Brexit timetable - Labour source

    British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday to discuss a new timetable for passing Brexit legislation, a source in the party said. Parliament rejected Johnson's accelerated timetable on Tuesday, putting into doubt the prime minister's "do or die" pledge to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31. Corbyn had asked Johnson to meet to discuss a revised timetable that would better suit parliament.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 06:29:36 -0400
  • Iraq official: US troops from Syria to leave Iraq in 4 weeks

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    U.S troops withdrawing from northeastern Syria to Iraq are "transiting" and will leave the country within four weeks, Iraq's defense minister said Wednesday. Najah al-Shammari made the remarks to The Associated Press following a meeting in Baghdad with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who arrived as Iraqi leaders chafed over reports the U.S. may want to increase the number of troops based in Iraq, at least temporarily. Iraq's military said Tuesday that American troops leaving northeastern Syria don't have permission to stay in Iraq in a statement that appeared to contradict Esper, who has said that all U.S. troops leaving Syria would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group from Iraq to prevent its resurgence in the region.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 06:23:23 -0400
  • Brexit’s Risk to the Union Is Becoming Clearer

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    (Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.Far from the arcane drama at Westminster, warning signs are flashing that Boris Johnson’s path to leaving the European Union carries peril for the integrity of the U.K. itself.The prime minister won a fleeting victory in Parliament last night when MPs indicated their support for his renegotiated Brexit deal, only to balk at fast-tracking it into law.But Northern Ireland’s unionists are outraged at the deal’s provisions for the province to be treated under a different set of customs rules from the rest of the U.K. The pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party unanimously opposed the accord yesterday.They’re in rare agreement with the Irish nationalists of Sinn Fein: Both see it as weakening the union and edging Irish reunification closer to reality. Prominent loyalist Jamie Bryson forecast “an organic explosion of anger” if Johnson’s deal is passed.In Scotland, where a majority voted in 2016 to remain in the EU, the nationalist government is angry at not being awarded the same tailor-made customs arrangement as Northern Ireland. It is redoubling calls for a second referendum on independence.Johnson will push for an election to try to break the deadlock in Parliament — and the momentum is with him. He may yet win his Brexit, but the price may be losing the union.Global HeadlinesStrained loyalty | Donald Trump’s self-inflicted crises are testing the Republican senators the president will be counting on in an impeachment trial that lawmakers in both parties now see as all but inevitable. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took the rare step yesterday of criticizing Trump by name (for his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from northern Syria) and called the president’s description of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry as a lynching “an unfortunate choice of words.”Read about how the acting U.S. envoy to Ukraine’s explosive testimony to House investigators yesterday has damaged Trump’s defense and left Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in a tough spot.Happening today: Impeachment investigators will hear from Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense.Competing for influence | Fresh from striking a Syria deal with Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin is turning his attention to the contest for geopolitical influence in Africa. He’s hosting leaders of more than 50 African states in Sochi today at Russia’s first summit with the continent. Moscow is trying to regain lost ground in Africa after the Soviet Union’s collapse, though it now trails far behind powers such as China.Management change? | The Chinese government is considering a plan to replace Hong Kong’s embattled leader next year, a pro-establishment lawmaker said, in a potential strategy shift as demonstrations continue to rock the Asian financial center. Following through would be risky for President Xi Jinping’s Communist Party since there’s no guarantee it would do anything other than embolden the protesters demanding direct elections.On the outs | Trump has been privately testing the idea of replacing his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. As Saleha Mohsin and Jennifer Jacobs report, Trump said to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in front of a roomful of staff about a month ago: You have such great ideas, why don’t you be my chief? He has made similar remarks about Chris Liddell, a deputy chief of staff, and asked advisers whether his counselor Kellyanne Conway would be good for the role.Late last night, Trump responded on Twitter, saying, “Wrong, never even discussed this with Kellyanne Conway or Steve Mnuchin. Just more Fake News!”Opposition meltdown | Policy splits between white and black leaders and months of infighting have left South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, on the brink of an implosion. As Antony Sguazzin reports, that’s giving the ruling African National Congress breathing room as it attempts to recover its popularity following the scandal-ridden nine-year rule of Jacob Zuma.What to WatchMark Zuckerberg plans to defend Facebook’s Libra project before a congressional panel, saying the cryptocurrency won’t be launched without approval from the U.S. government, even as the social-media giant’s Washington lobbying strategy is faltering. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera unveiled a series of social measures designed to appease protesters who have brought major cities to a near standstill in the past five days. Ethiopian authorities are probing missing funds a military contractor already accused of graft was meant to spend on a showpiece Nile tributary dam that’s raised tensions with Egypt. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Nobel Peace Prize-winning Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed are due to discuss the dispute while in Russia today.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... Once known as “America’s toughest sheriff,” Joe Arpaio isn’t content with being first recipient of a criminal pardon from Trump — he wants his contempt of court conviction thrown out as well. Arpaio, who made a name for himself targeting Latinos in the Phoenix area with traffic stops based solely on the suspicion they were undocumented immigrants, will try to convince a federal appeals court today to throw out his original conviction. \--With assistance from Kathleen Hunter, Brendan Scott and Anthony Halpin.To contact the author of this story: Alan Crawford in Berlin at acrawford6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Karl Maier at kmaier2@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 06:01:08 -0400
  • Gullah Geechee: distinct US culture risks losing island home to climate crisis

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    Fierce storms and rising seas are causing existential angst for communities in Alaska, Arizona and other states on the front line of the climate crisisQueen Quet at the Hunting Island Nature Center in St Helena Island, South Carolina. ‘Our very existence is threatened by the rapid erosion of our Sea Islands.’ Photograph: Lynsey Weatherspoon/The GuardianThe 2019 hurricane season, which has already seen parts of Texas flooded and the Bahamas devastated, is prompting existential angst for a unique US culture that fears being torn asunder by the climate crisis.Fiercer storms and the encroaching seas are gnawing away at the Gullah Geechee nation, a distinct cultural group that historically dwelt on a 425-mile stretch of coastline from Jacksonville, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. Today, the bulk of this community, descendants of African slaves and native Americans, resides only on the low-lying fringes of South Carolina and Georgia.Hurricane Dorian, which lacerated the Caribbean in early September, uprooted trees and left debris strewn across historic Gullah Geechee sites, according to Queen Quet, the elected chieftess and head of state for the community, which declared its own nationhood in 2000. A destructive recent pattern, marked most severely by Hurricane Matthew in 2016, is taking hold.“The biggest concern is the massive number of [storms] that are arriving on our coast annually,” said Queen Quet, also known as Marquetta L Goodwine, who is also a computer scientist and historian. In the English-based creole language used by the Gullah Geechee, she is known as the “head pun de boddee”.St Helena Island, South Carolina. Photograph: Lynsey Weatherspoon/The Guardian“We are convinced that this is directly linked to climate change dynamics,” she said. “There have never been this many hurricanes and tropical storms in succession. This is causing a major strain on the community being able to recover financially from these.”A rapidly warming ocean and atmosphere is helping fuel stronger, if not more numerous, hurricanes, climate scientists have found. But periods of drought and rising sea levels are also a major concern for the Gullah Geechee, owing to their precarious perch on a string of tidal and barrier islands called the Sea Islands, previously the site of rice, cotton and indigo plantations.“The very existence of the Gullah Geechee nation is threatened by the rapid erosion of our Sea Islands due to the sea level rise issues brought on by climate change,” said Queen Quet, who has attempted to rouse the US government and the United Nations to the cause of a culture expressed through its arts, basket weaving and spiritual music, much of it based upon an intrinsic link to the sea. Queen Quet: ‘There have never been this many hurricanes and tropical storms in succession. This is causing a major strain on the community being able to recover financially.’ Photograph: Lynsey Weatherspoon/The GuardianBecause of their geographic isolation, the Gullah Geechee developed a distinct language and culture, stemming from west and central Africa. Beginning in the late 19th century, theirs was a slow-paced life of fishing and mule carts on dirt roads. Dishes were based around okra, rice and yams. Many of the traditions continue today, with heritage tours helping provide locals with an income as well as cultural preservation. Threats loom, however.Earlier this year Queen Quet appeared in front of a congressional committee to explain how prized seafood is disappearing as the waters warm. Shellfish are threatened as the ocean acidifies while once-common catfish are vanishing. Her people’s unique culture “will not continue to thrive or survive if we are displaced from the Sea Islands,” Queen Quet warned.The plight of the Gullah Geechee is echoed in other distinct cultures across the US that find themselves on the frontline of the climate crisis. Often forced on to land vulnerable to drought or flooding by colonial dispossession and a lack of political clout, these communities face an overwhelming threat to their way of life.“There will be tremendous stories of adaption and change as well as horrifying stories of losing homelands, family and cultural practices,” said Kyle Whyte, an expert in indigenous environmental issues at Michigan State and a member of the Potawatomi native American people.“Lots of indigenous cultures place importance upon resilience but that doesn’t mean that climate change risks aren’t a threat. Many are going to have to work very hard to maintain their way of life.” ‘Home is being eaten by the sea’In Arizona, the Navajo are under pressure from rising temperatures and a dwindling water supply. In Washington state, the Quinault Indian Nation is attempting to relocate the village of Taholah – including its housing, post office, school, daycare, gym and police and fire service – to 200 acres of higher ground due to the threat of riverine flooding.Further north, Alaska is heating up at twice the global average, causing roads to buckle and houses to subside as permafrost locked in the soils starts to melt.Native communities, which rely on stable sea ice for subsidence hunting and transportation, are at particular risk, with at least a dozen towns attempting to relocate. One, the small coastal town of Newtok, received $15m in federal funding last year to start moving houses to safer ground, although the fate of other at-risk towns remains unclear.The threat to traditional practices has helped spur a legal challenge led by young Alaskans who are suing their state government over the harm caused by the climate crisis.The small coastal town of Newtok in Alaska received $15m in federal funding last year to start moving houses to safer ground, although the fate of other at-risk towns remains unclear. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images“Climate change is not just a political issue for me, it’s my lifestyle, it’s what I face every day back at home,” said lead plaintiff Esau Sinnok, an indigenous Alaskan from Shishmaref, a barrier island menaced by coastal erosion. “The one and only place I get to call home is being eaten by the sea.”Adapting to the changing environment isn’t simple – funding and political will is lacking and minority communities can feel wary dealing with US authorities that have previously wrought dispossession and discrimination.Splits within communities can also appear. Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, populated by the ancestors of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe who were forced there after fleeing persecution, has lost 98% of its land mass over the past six decades due to coastal erosion, leaving a slender strip of land just two miles long and a quarter-mile wide.In 2016, residents were the first to be given federal funding to relocate the community to drier ground, although many now don’t want to sever their deeply rooted bonds to the island. “This here can’t be remade someplace,” island resident Chris Brunet told the LA Times.“Cultural practices across the US have already been threatened for many decades and climate change is making things worse,” said Whyte. “These people are often tied to a certain area and don’t have the options to move like other people. They can exercise their culture and self-determination on small areas of land only. Native people certainly didn’t choose to be in this situation.”Queen Quet said lawmakers need a much greater appreciation of the cultural threat posed by climate change.“Without the ability to continue our cultural traditions on the land and the sea, we would not be able to continue to live in the healthy, balanced manner that is central to traditional Gullah Geechee culture,” she said. “You may move to another place, but that does not mean that the environment of that new place will allow your cultural traditions to be sustained. Heartache has killed many people that have been displaced.”

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 06:00:38 -0400
  • Merkel’s Successor Splits German Coalition With Rogue Syria Plan

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    (Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s designated successor is causing trouble in Berlin with her efforts to assert authority.Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has been undermined by a series of errors since she was chosen to follow Merkel as leader of the Christian Democratic Union last year. In the latest on Tuesday, just two months after also taking the job as defense minister, she sprang a proposal for an internationally-monitored security zone in northern Syria with little warning. Allies in the coalition, which includes Social Democrats, complained they were informed late or not at all.“I find it somewhat unusual – and I don’t think it should become the way the cabinet works,” Social Democratic caucus leader Rolf Muetzenich told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday. “I do think that Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer should learn a little from the discussion that she’s confronted in the past few hours.”The political storm that surrounded Kramp-Karrenbauer’s rushed roll-out comes after she stumbled for months in her role as Merkel’s heir apparent, committing a string of gaffes and failing to communicate. That assessment was buttressed as many party colleagues were caught unawares by the plans of AKK, as she is also known.If nothing else, the volley drove a wedge between the CDU and its junior coalition partner just as the Social Democrats approach a sensitive decision on whether to remain in the 17-month old government.Dim ViewFor now, her party is closing ranks behind her. Merkel, who earlier this year took a dim view of the new CDU leader’s performance, backed her defense minister in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers in Berlin, according to two people present. A similar security-zone proposal was raised in 2016 during the siege of Aleppo, Merkel said. AKK even drew a round of applause.That sense of unity only went so far. Earlier in the day, officials in Merkel’s coalition were scrambling to figure out what was being announced.Syria was discussed at length at a Sunday evening meeting of coalition leaders, including the CDU, their Bavarian allies in the Christian Social Union and the Social Democrats. But AKK made no mention of such a plan at the time, CSU caucus leader Alexander Dobrindt said. He himself learned of the initiative only Tuesday morning.“We would like to know what Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer’s ideas look like concretely, because we’re getting a lot of questions from abroad on what the German position is,” Niels Annen, Germany’s deputy foreign minister and a Social Democrat, told ZDF. “We need to answer that.”Annen also said prospects for any such plan would hinge on the deal struck Tuesday by Russia and Turkey to secure a buffer zone in northern Syria, involving a coordinated effort with Syrian forces to remove Kurdish fighters from the border area.Kramp-Karrenbauer is battling to reverse an increasing sense of disappointment among the party faithful 10 months after she was elected its chief in a tight vote. Complaints range from a leadership vacuum AKK has left to an inability to implement or communicate fresh ideas, according to at least three people familiar with the thinking within the party.The fresh approach of 57-year-old AKK hasn’t been a boon to the CDU’s public backing. The party has 27% support, down five points from the week she was elected in December of last year, according to an Oct. 19 Forsa poll. Separately, Bild newspaper last week carried a headline showing a “horror” poll for AKK, who came last in a list of top German politicians.Kramp-Karrenbauer would have to forge a unified position among coalition partners to gain any traction, according to a German government official. Judging by the Social Democrats’ response, that’s unlikely to happen before the NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, when she intends to present her proposal. Germany Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a Social Democrat, complained that he was informed via text message.“I don’t believe much in SMS diplomacy,” Maas told local media. “That can quickly turn into SOS-Diplomacy.”Muetzenich, the usually soft-spoken SPD caucus leader who has opposed German participation in military interventions, was more withering, asking how such a security zone could win United Nations approval after failing to do so for years.Still, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that he welcomes the proposal. “This will certainly be discussed during our meeting," Stoltenberg told a news conference. "And I expect AKK to share her thoughts with the other allies.’’Kramp-Karrenbauer said an internationally agreed security zone would defuse the fighting in northern Syria and allow the focus to return to fighting the Islamic State, or ISIS, and allowing displaced Kurds to return. It’s not clear how the plan would overlap with Turkey’s proposed security zone, designed to be off-limits to U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. Turkey is seeking to clear a swath of territory along its border with Syria currently occupied by Kurds.Irrespective of the merit of the Syria proposal, a German bid for a military venture in the Middle East puts AKK on risky terrain with a public that has been broadly resistant to such entanglements throughout the country’s post-World War II history.(Adds Stoltenberg comment in third to last paragraph.)\--With assistance from Jonathan Stearns.To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.net;Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond ColittFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 05:57:47 -0400
  • America's consumer paradise means hell on Earth for Chinese Muslims

    You're in your bed and you wake up with a black bag over your head. When you can see again you have no idea where you are: exposed concrete room, very cold. You're forced to perform manual labor, to attend talks on patriotism, to learn a new language, to sing inane songs. You are beaten -- for refusing to eat pork, for sending messages on a phone you don't have and wouldn't even know how to use, for refusing to confess to crimes you have not committed, for confessing to crimes you have not committed, for any offense at all or none. If you are under the age of 35, you are raped, often by more than one person at a time; if you are a woman and become pregnant you will be forced to have an abortion, perhaps more than once. Or you may have a contraceptive device inserted inside you against your will. No sleep, and you stink. Then there are the drugs that are supposed to protect you from the flu and AIDS; these weaken your cognitive faculties and lead to the end of menstruation and sterilization. If you are actually sick with a condition like diabetes you will receive no treatment. And it could be worse: You could be brought to the black room, where you will be be electrocuted and made to sit on a bed of nails and have your fingernails ripped out, even though the black room officially doesn't exist and talking about it is forbidden. All of this is carried out by a sinister body with administrative and military as well as economic authority over an entire region; it is known only as "The Corps."This is not a summary of a dystopian novel or a pitch for a new Hulu original series. It is a description of the conditions under which perhaps as many as a million Uighur Muslims live in China in 2019. China, in case you had forgotten, is the United States' largest trading partner, the country whose achievements in everything from infrastructure to STEM education we are supposed to be fawning over, the country our president is an idiot for wanting to tangle with, and prominent sports figures are officially not allowed to criticize. In the last six or so years they have created hell on Earth for the country's largest Turkic ethnic minority group in the ostensibly autonomous Xinjiang region.And no one particularly cares, least of all in the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China's treatment of the Uighurs earlier this month, but it was in the context of a ludicrous comparison with Iran and Pakistan. There was no indication during a Cabinet meeting on Monday that President Trump or anyone else involved in the ongoing trade talks intends to do anything about the issue, which was not mentioned either by the president or by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary.I cannot believe I am typing this about a man who eight years ago said he would be walking on Mars by now, but Newt Gingrich is absolutely right. Our leaders are not prepared to deal with China. Not only do they lack the cunning and the willpower -- they lack the requisite bargaining tools. We are in too deep, and China knows it. Any concession we could possibly demand of them will require a corresponding one that we are unable to grant.Besides, it is not clear to me that a substantial number of Americans particularly wants to see our relations with China change. We are happy to buy cheap water bottles and Halloween decorations and licensed cartoon merchandise and mobile phones. We want our movies shown in Chinese theaters and our sports leagues to have large Chinese fan bases. From our home in this consumer paradise hell looks impossibly remote."I will never forget the camp," says Sayragul Sauytbay, a former teacher in one of the Uighur camps now living in Sweden. "I cannot forget the eyes of the prisoners, expecting me to do something for them. They are innocent. I have to tell their story, to tell about the darkness they are in, about their suffering. The world must find a solution so that my people can live in peace. The democratic governments must do all they can to make China stop doing what it is doing in Xinjiang."Indeed they must. But they will not if their citizens and leaders alike care more about stock prices and Cyber Monday deals than they do about torture, rape, and Mengelean experimentation on human bodies and brains.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 05:55:02 -0400
  • The Latest: US troops from Syria to leave Iraq in 4 weeks

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    Iraq's defense minister has said after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that American forces withdrawing from Syria to Iraq will leave the country within four weeks. Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari made the remarks to The Associated Press on Wednesday, following a meeting with Esper, who arrived in Baghdad a day to discuss the troops.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 05:52:21 -0400
  • Climate change amplifies conflicts, hinders peacebuilding: Somalia report

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    Climate change poses serious challenges to current and future peacebuilding efforts and can amplify conflicts, according to a report on years of devastating violence and drought in Somalia released Wednesday. Researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) looked at how conflicts and the peacebuilding efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) have been affected by climate change, and found that it "amplifies existing challenges and strengthens radical groups". "What it shows is that the security landscape is changing with climate change," Florian Krampe, senior researcher at SIPRI's climate change programme, told AFP, adding that many of the findings are applicable to other conflicts.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 05:41:48 -0400
  • Goldman Sachs sees short Brexit delay, expects deal to pass

    Goldman Sachs said on Wednesday that it still expected the UK parliament to approve Britain's Withdrawal Agreement with the European Union, and that there would be a "technical extension" to Brexit of three or four weeks beyond the Oct. 31 deadline. "We maintain the view that approval of the existing Withdrawal Agreement is the most likely outcome of the current impasse, but we now expect a technical extension of three or four weeks beyond the 31 October deadline," the bank said in a research note sent to clients. Goldman also said that it believed there was "insufficient appetite" among lawmakers in the House of Commons for a pre-Brexit general election.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 05:20:26 -0400
  • Kim Jong-un orders demolition of South Korean-funded buildings at flagship tourist resort

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    Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has ordered the destruction of all facilities built by South Korea at the Mount Kumgang tourist zone, apparently because of Seoul’s refusal to break ranks with the United States. Mr Kim visited the resort, which was initially operated by the two nations and was seen as a way of improving cross-border ties, and declared that “all the unpleasant-looking facilities” designed by South Korea should be torn down, state-run media reported. In their place, North Korean-style “modern service facilities” would be built, he said. Opened in 1998 as part of efforts to build trust and promote exchanges, around one million South Koreans visited the 204 square-mile resort region, which was also an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang.  Trips over the border came to a sudden end in July 2008, when a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who had strayed into a restricted zone. With bilateral ties warming in the last two years, discussions had begun about South Korean tourists returning to Mount Kumgang as a relatively straightforward confidence-building measure. In their meeting in September, Kim and Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, agreed that tours should resume as soon as conditions permit. South Korean invested villas line the coastline of the Mount Kumgang resort, also known as Diamond Mountain, in North Korea. Credit: AP Mr Moon has hesitated to approve visits, however, as international sanctions remain in place, including sanctions on economic projects that enable the North to obtain hard currency. North Korea has stepped up its criticisms of the South in recent weeks, claiming Seoul has failed to meet its commitments to improve bilateral relations. On Tuesday, North Korean media condemned Seoul’s plans to carry out a series of missile tests and develop new weapons systems, including nuclear-powered submarines, describing the moves as “outright provocations” that would “have consequences”. It also accused the South of “enhancing its pre-emptive attack capability against the North”. South Korea’s responses have remained conciliatory, with Suh Ho, the vice unification minister, stating on Tuesday that Seoul remains committed to a “peace economy” that will deepen cross-border economic cooperation and reduce the chances of a return to an era of confrontation. Mr Moon has proposed removing landmines from the Demilitarised Zone that divides the two nations and transforming it into a “peace zone”, while South Korea has been the largest international donor of humanitarian aid to the North so far this year.  Seoul has provided international aid agencies with US$9 million this year, about 30 per cent of the total international assistance to the North.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 04:36:10 -0400
  • Climate change amplifies conflicts, hinders peacebuilding: Somalia report

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    Climate change poses serious challenges to current and future peacebuilding efforts and can amplify conflicts, according to a report on years of devastating violence and drought in Somalia released Wednesday. Researchers at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) looked at how conflicts and the peacebuilding efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) have been affected by climate change, and found that it "amplifies existing challenges and strengthens radical groups".

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 04:34:34 -0400
  • Brexit uncertainty weighing on UK credit quality - Moody's

    Britain still faces significant uncertainties about Brexit which will drag on the country's economy for some time with negative implications for borrowers, ratings agency Moody's said on Wednesday. A vote in parliament on Tuesday in favour of the Brexit deal struck by Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU with a deal was higher than it had been for some time, said Colin Ellis, Moody's managing director for credit strategy.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 04:32:11 -0400
  • UPDATE 2-EU considers Brexit delay; Johnson says that would lead to election

    EU leaders considered on Wednesday whether to give Britain a three-month Brexit extension, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if they do so he would call an election by Christmas. Britain appears closer than ever to resolving its 3 1/2 year Brexit conundrum, with Johnson having agreed a deal with the EU last week and secured an early signal of support for it from parliament.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 04:30:54 -0400
  • China Is Considering Replacing Hong Kong’s Lam, Pro-Beijing Lawmaker Says

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    (Bloomberg) -- The Chinese government is considering a plan to replace Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam as chief executive, pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien said, in a potential strategy shift by Beijing as pro-democracy demonstrations continue to rock the Asian financial center.Tien said he has information from Beijing that the government was considering candidates to fill Hong Kong’s top job next year. His comments came after the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified people briefed on the deliberations, that an “interim” chief executive would be installed by March if President Xi Jinping decides to carry out the plan.“They recently assessed that this could go on for a while,” Tien said in an interview on Wednesday. “Dragging this thing out is actually bad for everyone, for Hong Kong, the police. So now they need to sort of take action. And I have heard it’s going to be next year, probably February or March.”Lam’s replacement wouldn’t necessarily stay on for a full five-year term. Tien said Beijing was weighing two different scenarios: Either appointing a “caretaker” who would serve the remainder of Lam’s term, or try out someone who could conceivably stay on after the next election for chief executive in 2022. Tien said a replacement would need to be elected by the 1,200-member election committee.A spokesman for Lam’s office declined to comment on the speculation over her position.The Financial Times said Norman Chan, former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, and Henry Tang, who previously served city’s No. 2 official, were leading candidates to succeed Lam. Both Tang and Chan declined to comment on the FT report Wednesday.China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said the central government still firmly supports Lam, reiterating Beijing’s long-standing position.“This is a political rumor with ulterior motives,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular briefing.Replacing Lam would represent a delicate reversal for Xi’s Communist Party, which doesn’t want to give a victory to protesters demanding direct elections. Still, Beijing is under pressure to ease months of unrest, which has helped push the city toward recession and provided ammunition to the party’s critics from Taipei to Washington.Lam’s introduction of legislation allowing extraditions to China sparked months of increasingly violent protests against Beijing’s tightening grip over the city. Her moves to withdraw the bill -- which formally took place Wednesday -- and invoke a colonial-era emergency law to ban face masks have done little to stem the chaos.“Business should not expect that the removal of Lam will end the civil unrest,” Verisk Maplecroft, a consultancy that advises businesses on political risk, said in a note on Wednesday. “No matter who the next chief executive is, the protesters will continue to demand an independent investigation into police conduct amid widespread dissatisfaction with how the authorities are managing the demonstrations.”Lam told a gathering of business people that she had caused “huge havoc” and would quit “if I had a choice,” according to audio excerpts released by Reuters last month. She subsequently told reporters that she never asked China for permission to resign over the historic unrest rocking the city.If Lam resigns, responsibility for leading the city of 7.5 million would fall immediately to Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, who can act as chief executive for as long as six months. Before that interim period ends, the city’s 1,200-member Election Committee comprised overwhelmingly of Beijing loyalists must meet to select a new leader.In 2005, Hong Kong’s first post-colonial leader, Tung Chee-hwa, resigned after mass protests forced him to withdraw China-backed national security legislation. Tung, a shipping magnate, held onto the job for more than a year after the demonstrations peaked as the party settled on a succession plan.‘New Face’Opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo said last week that Lam’s resignation could help ease tensions.“She can go, if she wants to,” Mo told Bloomberg Television. “You might say, ‘What’s the point of having Carrie Lam gone? There would just be another puppet in place.’ But at least we can have a new face, and let’s have a restart, if possible, between the government and the people.”In her annual policy address last week, Lam tried to appease the economic concerns of poorer Hong Kong citizens with incentives for first-time home buyers and annual grants for students. Still, she didn’t make any new proposals and repeated her opposition to the protesters’ demands, including granting amnesty, an independent police inquiry and the ability to nominate and elect their own leaders.“Heads need to roll” in order to show the administration is accountable but Lam’s removal would also carry risks for the Communist Party in Beijng, said David Zweig, an emeritus professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China Consulting Ltd.“How many cities in China may have bad situations, unemployment or difficulties particularly going forward if the U.S.-China trade war continues, China’s economy slows down, and people march,” he said. “Are they going to remove mayors? Are they going to remove officials?”\--With assistance from Natalie Lung and Peter Martin.To contact the reporters on this story: Blake Schmidt in Hong Kong at bschmidt16@bloomberg.net;Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Daniel Ten KateFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 04:06:40 -0400
  • Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Are Doomed to Fail

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Lebanon and Iraq are the Arab countries most disfigured by highly sectarian politics, and not coincidentally, dominated by Iran. So it is reassuring, even inspiring, that the mass protests rocking both countries are entirely secular in character.Alas, they are probably doomed to fail. The protesters, lacking both organization and a programmatic agenda, have little chance of altering the political structures in both countries, which are entirely sectarian. To protect Iran’s influence, its proxies in both countries are reacting with threats and violence. In the recent history of rebellions in the neighborhood are any guide, the sectarian establishment will ride out the demonstrations, and hijack any concessions the protesters secure from the power-centers in Beirut and Baghdad.Structural change needs a broad-based, organized and focused political movement that pursues not just better living standards but inclusive and tolerant national unity, as opposed to communal and transnational identities that outsiders easily exploit. It needs an identifiable and accountable political leadership that represents its base, negotiates with other groups and can engage in electoral politics. This is not what is happening in Lebanon and Iraq.In Lebanon, the protesters have come from every religious community and walk of life, voicing unanimous rage against years of mismanagement, the lack of basic services and a looming economic catastrophe. They have aimed their wrath at their own confessional leaders, with Shiites denouncing Hezbollah, Christians railing against President Michel Aoun, and Sunnis blaming Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the sorry mess.In Iraq, the protests were largely restricted to Shiite-majority cities like Baghdad and Basra. They have not spread to the Sunni-majority areas in the west, or to the Kurdish provinces in the north, both of which have different priorities. The Sunnis are still recovering from the depredations of the Islamic State, and the Kurds are preoccupied with building their own quasi-independent enclave.But where the Shiite-led Iraqi government rules most directly, it now faces the anger of the majority sect, especially from unemployed youths. Shiites have not only condemned their political leadership, they have specifically linked their grievances—rampant corruption, poor services, unemployment—to Iranian meddling.The reaction of Tehran’s local clients has been predictable. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has issued dire threats, sought to cow politicians and deployed mobs of counter-demonstrators to intimidate the protesters. To their credit, the Lebanese army has beaten back the motorcycle-riding thugs—for now. In Iraq, the reaction has been far more violent. Over 150 protesters have been killed, many by snipers; even the government admits that its security forces and pro-Iranian militias used excessive force.Iraq remains tense, even though the protests have died down somewhat. In Lebanon, the demonstrations continue unabated.But the spontaneity and momentum of these uprisings protests cannot mask their basic weakness: the protesters have no clear political goals, only socioeconomic demands. Most likely, they will eventually tire and be placated by promises of reform—of the kind announced by Hariri’s government—that will either go entirely unfulfilled, or be coopted by the usual process of patronage and corruption by existing elites.That’s exactly what happened in the countries that experienced the Arab Spring protests. With the exception of Tunisia, they all failed to produce the democratic reforms demanded. Instead, they degenerated into tussles of power between the existing elites and Muslim Brotherhood parties. Eventually, the Islamists proved too unpopular to defeat what amounted to the old regimes posing in new garb.That same dynamic is likely to thwart the aspirations of the Lebanese and Iraqi protesters. Because their protests are not an organized revolution, but rather a popular rebellion, their secular sentiments, no matter how widespread, are unlikely to prevail over entrenched sectarian power structures.In both countries, sectarianism is hardwired into the underlying political structures—and in Lebanon, into the constitutional order. Lebanese politics are almost entirely confessional, with top jobs such as the presidency, premiership, and military and central-bank leadership reserved for particular sects, and almost all parliamentary seats allocated on ethnic or religious lines. In Iraq, an ethno-sectarian quota system similarly reserves key jobs for Shiites, Sunnis, Turkmen and Kurds respectively, and an informal communal patronage system takes care of the rest.The protesters may be unhappy with this state of affairs, but they have not defined what they would like to see in its stead, much less demonstrated the ability to force a change.In Lebanon, no one has envisioned a practical alternative to the prevailing confessional system, so the most that will be accomplished politically is a warning to Hezbollah of its growing unpopularity. Hassan Nasrallah, the group’s leader, must know now that he can no longer escape blame for the failure of the state. In Iraq, Shiite sectarian leaders are on notice that they must perform better. But there’s no real pressure on them to be more inclusive.Some concessions on socioeconomic issues are likely—such as telecommunication privatization and tax reform in Lebanon, and jobs programs and unemployment stipends in Iraq. But eventually any benefits accruing from reforms will almost certainly be folded into the existing systems of patronage controlled by the corrupt, self-serving and sectarian powers.Because there is no other system in these societies, the sectarian blob will eventually swallow everything it encounters.And as long as Iran dominates Lebanon and Iraq, its proxies will vigorously—and if need be, violently—defend sectarian identity politics, ensuring that communal disharmony trumps the impulse for national unity among the Lebanese and Iraqi peoples.To contact the author of this story: Hussein Ibish at hussein.ibish@gmail.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Hussein Ibish is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 04:04:32 -0400
  • Lebanese media say Israeli drone shot down over village

    Lebanon's state-run news agency says a Lebanese man shot down an Israeli drone with a hunting rifle near the border village of Kfar Kila. The Israeli military only says the drone "fell" over a Lebanese village near the heavily-guarded border "during routine security activity." The military declined to comment on the type of drone or the cause of the crash, which took place on Wednesday. Lebanon's Hezbollah and Israel fought a monthlong war in 2006.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 04:02:49 -0400
  • JPMorgan sees Johnson passing Brexit deal if given short Brexit delay

    U.S. investment bank JPMorgan said on Wednesday that if the European Union offered Prime Minister Boris Johnson a short Brexit extension then he would probably succeed in passing his Withdrawal Agreement Bill. "It is easier to see that unanimity being established quickly around simply agreeing to the UK’s request.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 03:53:48 -0400
  • Australia asking Israel to return educator in sex abuse case

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    Australia's prime minister said on Wednesday he will raise with Israel's next administration the need for a quick resolution to a 5-year-old extradition battle over an Israeli educator accused of child sex abuse in an Australian school. Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a statement after meeting at Parliament House with sisters Dassi Erlich and Nicole Meyer, who were allegedly abused by Malka Leifer when she was principal of Melbourne's ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel school.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 03:32:40 -0400
  • Boris Johnson Eyes Election After Parliament Forces Brexit Delay

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson looked set to try for an election after Parliament blocked his plan to rush his Brexit deal into U.K. law.A day of threats and promises from Johnson ended with an official in his office warning that if the European Union agreed to a request from the British Parliament that Brexit be delayed until Jan. 31, then the prime minister would call an election instead.As European Council President Donald Tusk had earlier signaled that this was what the EU was likely to do, Johnson is likely to put passing his Brexit deal -- something he discovered on Tuesday evening that he has the votes to do -- on hold in favor of trying to secure a parliamentary majority.His gamble will be that voters give him one, attracted by his pitch of getting Britain out of the EU with the deal he’s negotiated. The risk is that the polls that put him well ahead prove unreliable -- as they have done in the past -- and that voters opt instead for the opposition Labour Party’s offer of a softer Brexit, confirmed by a second referendum. That could put the entire Brexit project in jeopardy.Premier’s OptionsOne risk that has receded is that of a no-deal Brexit, as Johnson is now committed to a deal, and the EU seems likely to allow the time to either pass the deal or have an election. “One way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this House has just given its assent,” the prime minister told Parliament.Johnson isn’t certain to go for an election. He threatened one earlier Tuesday if Parliament didn’t agree to rush his Brexit bill through, and later in the evening an official repeated the threat. But Johnson has gone back on such promises before. He said last month he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than apply for a Brexit extension, and unidentified officials in his office had briefed journalists there were ways around the law that required him to do so. On Saturday evening, he requested an extension.Nor is it certain Parliament would agree to give him one. He was twice refused last month. But people familiar with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s thinking said he’d support one if Brexit was put off until Jan. 31, removing the risk of an accidental no-deal split.Justice Secretary Robert Buckland suggested he wanted Parliament to come up with an alternative timetable to break the impasse, rather than hold an election. He told the BBC on Wednesday an election may not be necessary if MPs can work together to find a way to “crack on.”Breakneck PaceTuesday afternoon began with Johnson’s election threat, directed at members of Parliament who wanted more time to scrutinize his Brexit legislation.As the afternoon went on, it looked like it might be working. The first vote of the evening saw Parliament back Johnson’s Brexit deal in principle, and not by a narrow margin, but convincingly, 329 votes to 299. That was the first time Parliament had approved any Brexit deal, and it suggested there is a way to get the deal through.But Johnson didn’t just want to pass his deal, he wanted to push it through at a breakneck pace before the current Oct. 31 deadline. That meant getting the House of Commons to agree to pass it through all its stages in just three days.Johnson’s opponents argued that they needed more time, and voted 322 to 308 against his proposed timetable. That defeat made it certain the prime minister would need to delay Brexit, something he’s promised repeatedly not to do.Labour’s Corbyn offered to work with Johnson to come up with a better timetable to help Parliament improve the deal.Johnson himself seemed more emollient than earlier, not raising his election threat again. “Let me be clear: our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on Oct. 31 and that is what I will say to the EU and I will report back to the House,” he told the House of Commons.Tusk then responded by saying he’d recommend the EU accept the U.K.’s request for an extension. While he didn’t set a date, his suggestion that this could be agreed by letter, and without a summit, pointed to accepting the British Parliament’s request of a new exit date of Jan. 31. It’s possible the EU will offer to allow an earlier exit if Johnson can get his deal passed in the next month, something that seems plausible after the first vote of the evening. That might persuade Johnson to get his deal passed before going for an election.‘Keep People’s Trust’Earlier, when MPs had voted to endorse the broad thrust of Johnson’s deal, the winning margin included 19 members of the main opposition Labour Party. Crucially, Johnson won that vote without the Democratic Unionist Party, his former allies, whose support he lost after he broke a commitment to them not to create a customs border between Britain and Northern Ireland. If Johnson can keep those 19 Labour MPs on board, he can pass his deal.Labour’s Lisa Nandy, one of the 19, warned Johnson that their support shouldn’t be taken for granted. “Those of us who are seeking to engage in the detail do so not because we will support a Tory Brexit -- our votes at Third Reading are by no means secure -- but because we want to see if we can improve the deal and keep people’s trust in our democracy.”Johnson’s First Battle With MPs: The 2020 Trade Cliff EdgeThe government is making promises to secure their support, and that of former Tories who have their doubts about Johnson. Minutes before the votes, MPs were assured they’d get a say on whether the government extended its post-Brexit transition period if it hadn’t concluded a trade deal with the EU by the end of next year. Some had feared another no-deal cliff edge.If Johnson does go for an an election and wins a majority, those promises may be dropped. Or he could use that majority to soften his Brexit position.(Updates with Buckland comment in eighth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Greg Ritchie and Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 03:11:40 -0400
  • Germany open for short Brexit extension to allow smooth ratification - Maas

    Germany would be open to grant Britain a short-term extension for its departure from the European Union if it will be for the right political reason, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview on Wednesday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said it was up to the EU to decide whether it wanted to delay Brexit and for how long, after a defeat in parliament made ratification of his deal by the Oct. 31 deadline almost impossible.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 02:50:57 -0400
  • Emmanuel Macron's 15 Minutes of Brexit Joy

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Fifteen minutes was all it took for the joy of European Union officials to evaporate on Tuesday. An evening that began with the U.K. parliament’s historic vote in favor of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal — the first time that British lawmakers have been able to agree a way out of the current impasse — ended with the rejection of the prime minister’s plan to rush it into law in a matter of days.As the looming Oct. 31 Brexit deadline agreed with the EU now looks impossible to meet, another extension is inevitable; as is the threat of squabbling inside the EU over its length.The path of least resistance looks like the most likely outcome right now, with EU Council President Donald Tusk advocating a simple “yes” to the British extension request currently sitting on his desk. Johnson’s various shenanigans in trying to disown this request sent over the weekend (he made clear he was being forced by members of Parliament to ask for something he didn’t want) haven’t convinced anyone. Kicking the can down the road to January 2020, as torturous as that seems, would avoid the need for a new EU summit on Brexit and would avert a costly no-deal exit.Aside from Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron will probably be the most outspoken critic of this arrangement, and justifiably so. A three-month delay seems very long considering MPs aren’t looking for a new deal; they’re looking for time to scrutinize, debate and amend the existing one. France is impatient to get on with reforming the EU in its image, which the Brits’ presence makes difficult. A short technical extension would focus MPs’ minds on passing the deal, and would have the benefit of being the U.K. prime minister’s preferred option.So why drag Brexit out?The answer lies in the EU’s two unofficial guiding principles on Brexit: Never refuse an extension when it’s in front of you, and don’t get sucked into the quagmire of British politics. The first principle is symbolized by the typically softer approach of Tusk and Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel. They fear a no-deal Brexit will backfire on the EU and don’t want to push out a key trade and defense partner too hastily. The second makes sense in the context of wanting to stay well clear of the endless, and so far inconclusive, machinations in Westminster: Applying pressure on MPs to get on with approving a deal won’t look so clever if Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill starts to fall apart under scrutiny. As my colleague Therese Raphael wrote on Tuesday night, there’s a lot to dislike in the devilishly complicated “solution” to the Irish border question. So as tempting as it is from the EU’s point of view to try to hurry Brexit along, the bloc might be better conforming to type and playing it safe. This extension could be made conditional on passing a deal soon, or — if MPs block it — on deeper change via a second referendum or a general election (which may be Johnson’s preferred choice).Still, as the saga of the U.K.’s departure from the EU lurches into 2020, almost four years on from the referendum, no one should discount the possibility of the bloc losing patience altogether. Having a member that’s permanently stuck in the departure lounge isn’t good for the smooth functioning of the EU, and Macron’s administration has started to suggest that maybe no deal is better than infinite delays. There won’t always be a letter requesting an extension sitting on Tusk’s desk.To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at llaurent2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 02:30:24 -0400
  • Brexit Has the British Fleeing to Europe

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Five years ago, I emigrated to Germany from Russia, because it had abandoned any pretense of wanting to be a European country. Now, I’m watching in amazement as Britons — people we Russians have long considered the epitome of Europeanness — are doing the same, in droves, for the same reason.It’s well known that tens of thousands of U.K. citizens have obtained second passports from Ireland as insurance against a post-Brexit loss of the European freedom of movement. But that’s only part of the story. Far more British citizens are applying for passports in other European countries than had been doing so before the Brexit referendum; they’re also moving to these countries in numbers not seen in a decade.The number of Britons acquiring the German nationality, for example, has jumped from hundreds to thousands a year. There are so many of them they no longer get a traditional ceremony when they receive their German passports.In 2014, five times as many Russians as Britons became naturalized Germans. The situation has reversed today: In 2018, 6,640 U.K. nationals obtained German passports, compared with 1,930 Russians. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s international migration database, after Brexit passed, the naturalizations of Britons also went up sharply in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden, although the absolute numbers are smaller there than in Germany.While Britons getting second passports from Ireland mostly aren’t going anywhere, there’s a substantial jump in U.K. emigration to the rest of the European Union. While Britons migrated to the continent in similar numbers in the mid-2000s, about half of those emigres were moving to Spain, which marketed itself aggressively to retirees (and enjoyed a housing boom as a consequence). Today, the geography of the U.K. emigration is much more diverse. And, as with naturalizations, continental Europe is receiving significantly more U.K. nationals than Russians. Data from the OECD are only available through 2017. But Daniel Auer of the Berlin Social Science Center, who is working on a study of recent U.K. emigration with co-author Daniel Tetlow, projects that the number of U.K. citizens moving to other EU countries increased to more than 75,500 in 2018, and will go up to almost 84,000 this year. That would be an absolute record. The numbers are bigger than those reported by the U.K. Office of National Statistics for the outward migration of U.K. citizens --according to the ONS, net out-migration in the 12 months ending in March 2019 reached 52,000. But Auer considers OECD data and his extrapolations from national statistics in Germany, Spain and Ireland more accurate than British data, which is based in large part on passenger surveys.It’s true that Britons face a lot less bureaucracy than Russians when they want to move to EU member states. And, unlike Russians, they are allowed dual citizenship in Germany while the U.K. is still an EU member.  But I still can’t help my incredulity as I look at the numbers.Russia is a corrupt country run by an authoritarian ruler who invades neighboring states, and it’s much poorer than the U.K. It fits the profile of a country of emigration much better than Britain does. According to Gallup data from the end of last year, 34 million people worldwide would want to move to the U.K. and only 8 million to Russia. And yet the U.K. appears to be beating my country of birth at driving people away.The fact that the U.K. is still an attractive destination for immigrants makes it likely that post-Brexit Britain will be able to attract enough talent to replace those who leave. The foreigners still come: According to the OECD, the number coming to study — mostly from non-EU countries — has increased even as fewer people have been arriving to take jobs. But the U.K. government needs to pay more attention to how many citizens are leaving the country and declaring their allegiance to other European states. It needs more accurate statistics, obtainable from destination countries, and policies designed to persuade its people to stay or to come back if they’ve left.The growing emigration of U.K. nationals is a measure of policy failure — just as it has been for the Vladimir Putin regime in Russia since the 2014 Crimea annexation. The U.K., like Russia, is losing people who disagree with insular policies. Brexiters may consider that good riddance — just like the Kremlin does. But I’m deeply convinced that countries need such people. They’re the the ones who connect nations in this increasingly small world, and with fewer of them, countries can quickly lose their edge.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 02:00:24 -0400
  • Esper arrives in Baghdad to discuss US troop deployments

    Golocal247.com news

    Defense Secretary Mark Esper arrived in Baghdad Wednesday, as chaos swirled along the Turkey-Syria border and Iraqi leaders chafed over reports the U.S. may want to increase the number of troops based in Iraq at least temporarily. Esper has said that under the current plan, all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region. Iraq's military, however, said Tuesday that U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, even as the American forces continue to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey's invasion of the border region.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 01:34:54 -0400
  • Brexit delay looms after UK MPs demand more time to debate deal

    Golocal247.com news

    European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday he will recommend EU leaders grant another Brexit extension, hours after British MPs rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's bid to force his divorce deal through parliament this week. Tusk said he would advise the bloc's 27 other member states to accept a postponement request from the UK government, which Johnson was forced to submit Saturday under British law after he had failed to win lawmakers' backing for his new agreement. Johnson immediately announced he would pause the process of trying to ratify the text -- the first that MPs have backed since the 2016 referendum -- while he consulted European Union leaders on a possible delay.

    Wed, 23 Oct 2019 00:55:45 -0400
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