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  • Brazil Sends Army to Fight Amazon Fires; Trump Tweets Support

    (Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he’s sending troops to battle fires roaring through vast expanses of the Amazon as President Donald Trump offered U.S. support to combat the disaster.Under growing domestic and international pressure, Bolsonaro on Friday promised “zero tolerance” for environmental crimes and pledged “strong action” to control fires -- many of them set by loggers emboldened by his government’s disdain for environmental oversight.“Forest fires exist everywhere in the world and that can’t be used as pretext for possible international sanctions,” he said in a rare televised speech, adding the flames have been spreading faster this year because of high temperatures, an extremely dry season, and strong winds.Trump tweeted on Friday evening that that he had spoken with Bolsonaro about the fires and trade between the two countries. His tweet appeared hours after French President Emmanuel Macron -- who’s about to host the Group of Seven summit -- accused Bolsonaro of lying about his country’s commitments to fight climate change and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries of South America.“Our future Trade prospects are very exciting and our relationship is strong, perhaps stronger than ever before,” Trump said in the tweet. “I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!”Brazil is home to one third of the world’s rainforests, and a decade-long trend of improving forest protections has gone into reverse. Critics blame Brazil’s relapse on the rollback of environmental protections and enforcement in the Amazon in recent years.While fires breakout every year, one analysis showed that more than 75,000 have swept across the country since January, an 84% annual increase. Many are allegedly caused by loggers incentivized by the government’s disdain for environmental oversight. While Bolsonaro relishes criticism of his attitude toward the Amazon -- jokingly referring to himself as “Captain Chainsaw” -- his supporters in the agricultural sector fear a backlash from consumers both in Brazil and abroad.“We know that a large part of these fires are on public land that was illegally invaded partly in function of the disastrous, unacceptable messages that the Bolsonaro government has put forth,” Marina Silva, the former environment minister and then presidential candidate, said in an interview with BBC Brazil. “Fires have always occurred but never because of encouragement given by the government.”Macron vowed to make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit, but the reactions of not only Trump, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested that the leaders about to gather in the French seaside resort of Biarritz were not in harmony on the crisis.Merkel publicly disagreed with Macron. Her spokesman told Bloomberg News that she didn’t think upending the trade deal would achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil. Merkel’s spokesman, however, did back Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.Bolsonaro faces outrage abroad and at home, with protesters marching against him in Brazil’s main cities.After a week in which the public outcry only grew louder -- and as images of the flames and giant clouds of smoke continued to appear on screens around the world -- he decided to deploy the Brazilian army to the Amazon. The president’s decree ordered the armed forces to carry out “preventive and repressive actions against environmental crimes” and to combat fires in the region, including indigenous territories.“I had today an excellent conversation with President @realDonaldTrump,” Bolsonaro tweeted on Friday night. “Relations between Brazil and the U.S. are better than ever. We have a mutual desire to launch a big trade negotiation soon, aimed at promoting our peoples’ prosperity.”Earlier Friday, the French president’s office said that it had become clear that Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his pledges to address climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year.“The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka,” the statement said. “Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal.”The French president’s remarks provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist. Issues relating to Brazil should not be discussed without the country at the table, Bolsonaro added.“The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year,” Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. “There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them.”(Updates with details on fires from sixth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Helene Fouquet and Simone Iglesias.To contact the reporters on this story: Austin Weinstein in New York at aweinstein18@bloomberg.net;Walter Brandimarte in Brasilia at wbrandimarte@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, John Harney, Shamim AdamFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 06:15:53 -0400
  • India's Modi awarded UAE medal amid Kashmir crackdown

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    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the United Arab Emirates' highest civilian honor during a visit Saturday to the oil-rich Gulf nation, reinforcing ties between the countries even as he pursues stripping statehood from the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir. The induction of Modi into the Order of Zayed shows the importance the UAE places on India, the world's third-largest consumer of crude oil. India is home to a rapidly growing consumer market and labor pool that the federation of sheikhdoms relies on for its own economy.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 06:13:50 -0400
  • Austria prepares to repatriate IS supporter's children

    Austria is preparing to repatriate two sons of an Austrian Islamic State group supporter believed to have died in Syria after she headed there in 2014. ORF reported that a court last week awarded custody to the grandparents of the boys, who are 1 ½ and 3. It said they have been at the al-Hol camp in Syria, controlled by Kurdish forces, for the past few months.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 05:50:44 -0400
  • Corruption trial continues for Sudan's ex-president

    Sudan's autocratic former President Omar al-Bashir has arrived in court amid tight security for the second week of his trial on corruption and money laundering charges. Al-Bashir was ousted by the military in April following months of mass protests against his three-decade rule.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 05:41:39 -0400
  • Chinese diplomat Zhao Lijian, known for his Twitter outbursts, is given senior foreign ministry post

    China's former No 2 diplomat in Pakistan, known for taking to Twitter to defend his government in bellicose terms, has been handed a senior role in Beijing's foreign ministry.Recently updated records on the foreign ministry's website indicate that Zhao Lijian, who left his position as deputy chief of mission in Islamabad earlier this month, now serves as deputy director general of the ministry's information department.In his new role, Zhao serves directly beneath the department's newly appointed director general, Hua Chunying, and alongside fellow deputies Geng Shuang and Yu Dunhai.Both Hua and Geng regularly host ministry press conferences for domestic and international reporters, suggesting that Zhao may be in line to take on public-facing duties.One of the first Chinese diplomats to open an official account on Twitter, Zhao has used the platform prolifically during his four-year tenure at the Chinese embassy in Pakistan, tweeting over 51,000 times to his more than 200,000 followers.He has been joined on Twitter in recent weeks by other official Chinese government accounts, including that of the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai.But while others have generally used the platform as merely an additional channel through which to share official remarks in diplomatic terms, Zhao has made a name for himself for using Twitter to directly confront critics of the Chinese government, in a manner that some have compared to that of US President Donald Trump.After a BBC video documenting limits on public expressions of faith in China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in June, Zhao told the broadcaster: "Don't [poke] your nose everywhere. Xinjiang is none of your business. Take care of your Brexit first!"Meanwhile, a group of 22 Western countries that had issued a letter condemning the Chinese government's mass internment of largely Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang were united by "white supremacy", Zhao charged.Zhao has also taken to Twitter to push back against the US administration's treatment of Huawei and deem the British government "shameless" for its calls for restraint from Hong Kong authorities, arguing that many British citizens were "descendants of war criminals".But arguably his most infamous moment came in July when he was branded a "racist disgrace" by a former Obama administration official after he argued that Washington did not have the right to criticise China's policies in Xinjiang because racism existed in the US."If you're in Washington DC, you know the white never go to the SW area, because it's an area for the black & Latin. There's a saying 'black in & white out', which means that as long as a black family enters, white people will quit, & price of the apartment will fall sharply," he wrote in a since-deleted tweet.You are a racist disgrace. And shockingly ignorant too. In normal times, you would be PNGed for this.Ambassador Cui, I expect better of you and your team. Please do the right thing and send him home. https://t.co/KIKanBjQ2L" Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) July 15, 2019Susan Rice, who served as president Barack Obama's national security adviser, responded via Twitter that Zhao was "a racist disgrace [and] shockingly ignorant too," and suggested that he should be declared persona non grata.Several weeks later, on August 8, Zhao announced on Twitter that his four-year tour had come to an end and that he was leaving Pakistan with a "heavy heart, because Pakistan has stolen my heart."Suggesting that he intended to use Twitter in his new role in Beijing, Zhao said he would be returning to the platform "after I settle down".This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 05:30:00 -0400
  • Amazon fires: Brazilian president sends army to tackle blaze after Emmanuel Macron moves to block EU-South America trade deal

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    Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro authorized the deployment of armed forces to help fight fires raging in the Amazon and crack down on criminal activities in the region on Friday. The decree applies to indigenous territories, conservation areas as well as other regions in the Brazilian states spanning the world's largest rainforest. He hit back at such criticism in his Friday night address, claiming the spreading of “disinformation” – inside or outside Brazil – would do nothing to solve the Amazon crisis. “Forest fires exist in the whole world and this cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions,” Mr Bolsonaro said in his brief, scripted address. It came after Donald Trump offered to help Brazil as it grapples with thousands of wildfires burning in the Amazon. The US president said he had spoken with Mr Bolsonaro and stated that the countries' prospects for trade are "perhaps stronger than ever." "I told him if the United States can help with the Amazon Rainforest fires, we stand ready to assist!" Mr Trump tweeted. U.S. President Donald Trump, left, waves while standing with Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president, at the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Credit:  Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Earlier on Friday, Emmanuel Macron spearheaded a European charge against Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro as a war of words intensified over raging fires in the Amazon basin ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz. France joined forces with Ireland in threatening to block a trade deal with South America unless Brazil takes action to stop vast tracts of the Amazonian rainforest from burning. The threat followed a clash between Mr Bolsonaro, a far-Right climate sceptic, and Mr Macron, whom the Brailian leader accused of having a “colonialist mentality” for dubbing the fires an “international crisis” and requesting the Amazon be added to the G7 agenda. ”Our house is burning. Literally,” tweeted the French leader. Mr Macron, said Mr Bolsonaro, was bent on sensationalism and seeking "personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries". Upping the ante, the French premier on Friday accused his Brazilian counterpart of having “lied” about his environmental commitments at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan in June. "The decisions and statements from Brazil these recent weeks show clearly that President Bolsonaro has decided to not respect his commitments on the climate, nor to involve himself on the issue of biodiversity," read a presidential statement. Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! ActForTheAmazonpic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019 As a consequence, France now opposes an EU trade deal "in its current state" with the Mercosur bloc of South American nations that includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Two decades in the making, the treaty is yet to be ratified. Brazil contains about 60 per cent of the Amazon rainforest, seen as the world’s “lungs” and a crucial carbon sink. Environmental experts say the fires are linked to accelerating deforestation in the Amazon region, which in July quadrupled compared to the same month in 2018, according to data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State Credit: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo Mr Bolsonaro has denied his policies are to blame, pointing the finger at drought and even environmental groups and NGOs - a baseless claim Ireland’s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, branded “Orwellian”. Earlier, Mr Varadkar said the Irish government would also oppose the treaty. "There is no way that Ireland will vote for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement if Brazil does not honour its environmental commitments," he said in a statement. Ireland and France would need other EU states to help form a blocking minority if they want to sink the deal reached late June. Angela Merkel called the fires “shocking and threatening” for the “whole world”. Along with Norway, Germany has blocked donations to the Brazilian government’s Amazon fund. But a government spokesperson signalled on Friday that it would not be joining in the push against the trade pact, saying that was "not the right response". This Aug 20 satellite image provided by Nasa shows the fires Credit: AP British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I passionately share the view of Emmanuel Macron, and one of the things I am going to be raising at the G7 is the horrific loss of habitats and species around the world.” French officials said talks were underway to take “concrete initiatives on the Amazon as part of the G7”. However, all eyes will be on Donald Trump, with whom Mr Macron claims to have a close working relationship but who he has to date failed to sway on a range of issues from Iran and trade to the climate. A staunch climate sceptic himself having pulled out of the Paris accords, the US president views Mr Bolsonaro as a valuable regional ally who he may choose to defend against European attacks on Brazilian “sovereignty”. Where there's smoke: the city of Porto Velho, state capital of Rondonia, in the upper Amazon River basin, on Aug 16 Credit: Rex Even so, pressure was piling up on the Brazilian president on the domestic front as demonstrations were held in dozens of cities around his country. Others were also staged in Paris and London. Brazil's agribusiness lobby, which wields significant influence within Congress, also expressed concerns over a drop in exports due to a potential boycott of Brazilian products. In an apparent bid to reduce tensions, Mr Bolsonaro mooted the idea of deploying the army to help fight the fires, some 700 of which were ignited between Wednesday and Thursday alone, according to the National Institute for Space Research.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 04:44:46 -0400
  • REFILE-UPDATE 1-Global disputes likely to thwart unity at G7 summit in France

    Leaders of the G7 nations began arriving in France on Saturday for a summit as a U.S.-China row over protectionism highlighted President Emmanuel Macron's tough task in delivering real results on trade, Iran and climate change. The three-day meeting in the Atlantic seaside resort of Biarritz takes place amid sharp differences over a clutch of global issues that risk further dividing a group of countries already struggling to speak with one voice. Summit host Macron wants the leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States to focus on the defence of democracy, gender equality, education and climate change, and has invited leaders from Asia, Africa and Latin America to join them for a global push on these issues.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 04:31:52 -0400
  • Explosion in Iraq near Shiite mosque kills 3, wounds dozens

    Iraqi security officials say a motorcycle rigged with explosives went off near a Shiite mosque south of the capital Baghdad, killing three people and wounding 34. The officials said Saturday that the blast occurred the previous evening on a commercial street in the village of Mussayyib. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it targeted "gatherings of Shiites" near a Shiite mosque.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 04:12:05 -0400
  • Fox News is a dangerous state propaganda outlet. Sarah Sanders' job confirms that

    Golocal247.com news

    What hope is there for the truth when the press and the state are one and the same?‘Fox has realized that Trump is lucrative, and Trump has realized that Fox will say anything he wants them to say.’ Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty ImagesThe only surprising thing about Sarah Sanders joining FOX News was that it took this long. The former Trump press secretary is a perfect fit for the network, a faithful and shameless propagandist for the right. It would have been shocking if she’d ended up anywhere other than “Trump’s personal YouTube channel.” It is, however, perhaps the most explicit confirmation we have that FOX now functions as the kind of “state television” apparatus that Americans think is is peculiar to countries like Russia and Iran.No network interested in airing journalism or reliable commentary would ever go near Sarah Huckabee Sanders. As White House press secretary, she became infamous for the brazenness of her duplicity. Press secretaries are meant to be spin artists, and a good portion of the job consists of finding ways to excuse or downplay presidential misconduct, but Sanders took things to a new level. For example, here she is claiming Trump would never incite or condone violence:“I certainly don’t think that the president, at any point, has done anything but condemn violence against journalists or anyone else… In fact, every single time something like this happens, the president is typically one of the first people to condemn the violence, and the media is the first people to blame the president.”And here is Trump himself, inciting and condoning violence against protesters:“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell ... I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.”That comment reflected Trump’s attitude to protests generally, saying “we need a little more” of the audience “hit[ting] back” against dissenters. As for attacks on journalists specifically, when soon-to-be-elected Montana congressman Greg Gianforte attacked a Guardian reporter, throwing him to the ground and punching him, Trump’s response was: “Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” (Gianforte was convicted of assault.) Perhaps worst of all, Trump told police that they should stop being “too nice” with arrested suspects, and should perhaps stop protecting suspects’ heads from hitting the doorframe as they were being loaded into the back of police cars.It’s difficult to find a way to twist “I’m serious, I want you to hit people” into “condemning violence” but Sanders didn’t even bother to try to spin the existing facts. She was utterly and completely unprincipled. And the violence comment is just one among many. According to the Mueller report, Sanders even acknowledged to investigators that she had fed the press a claim that was “not founded on anything,” when she said the administration had “heard from countless members of the FBI” who had lost faith in James Comey. Sanders even smeared the many women who have accused Trump of sexual assault as being liars themselves.Actually, the press were almost lucky when they got lies out of Sanders, because most of the time they got nothing at all. Sanders barely did her job. Daily press briefings “all but vanished” during her tenure and she didn’t respond to media inquiries. This might have been for the best—the daily press briefings serve the government more than they serve the cause of truth and transparency, by giving an opportunity for state official to massage facts to fit their narrative. The almost refreshing aspect of the Trump presidency is the frankness of its dishonesty. Other presidents pretended to care about the truth, but didn’t. The Trump administration doesn’t pretend.Thus Sanders and FOX are a match made in heaven (or perhaps somewhere else). FOX has become as much of a state propaganda outlet as RT is for Russia or PressTV is for Iran. There is a revolving door between the White House and the network: Hope Hicks went from the administration to the network, Bill Shine from the network to the White House. Sean Hannity, who speaks regularly with the president, initially vowed to simply “cover” him as a member of the press but then began actively campaigning for Trump. Jane Mayer’s exhaustive reporting in the New Yorker has showed that FOX and the White House have a symbiotic relationship, both collaborating to push a far right agenda. FOX has realized that Trump is lucrative, and Trump has realized that FOX will say anything he wants them to say.The hiring of Sarah Sanders is just confirmation of what was already plain. But it shows just how insidious the FOX operation is: we are essentially living in a country where the president has a TV network, and can manipulate public perception at will. That makes it all the more critical for us to build independent media outlets that can serve as an effective counterweight. We are struggling against the combined forces of the state and the most popular cable news channel. What hope is there for the truth when the press and the state are one and the same? * Nathan Robinson is the editor of Current Affairs and a Guardian US columnist

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 03:00:35 -0400
  • This Dual Purpose Navy Ship is More Than Just an Aircraft Carrier

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    But if the Navy wants to, it could instead cram up to twenty fighters on the LHDs, turning them effectively into light aircraft carriers—a class of ship the Navy hasn’t built since World War II. Were the USS America to cruise alongside the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the average Joe might struggle to distinguish their purposes. Both flat-tops measure longer than two-and-half football fields in length and carry jet fighters and helicopters.But the America and her sistership Tripoli are technically “Landing Helicopter Assault” vessels numbered LHA-6 and LHA-7 respectively: super-sized members of the “gator navy” of amphibious assault ships designed to deploy the expeditionary units of the U.S. Marine Corps onto hostile shores. In addition to the Navy crew of 1,000-1,200 sailors and officers, each LHA can carry nearly 1,700 Marines.Unlike the catapult-launched Rafale-M jet fighters on the Charles de Gaulle, the America and Tripoli can only deploy short-takeoff and vertical-lift capable jump jets from their decks. You can see a video of an F-35B hovering down for a landing on the America here.Rather than using nuclear reactors to achieve brisk speeds of 30 knots, 45,000-ton LHAs use an innovative hybrid electric/gas-turbine propulsion system pioneered in the final Wasp-class LHD, USS Makin Island. The electric propulsion is used for slower cruising speeds while the gas-turbine becomes more efficient near the more modest maximum speed of twenty knots.However, unlike the Wasp-class Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) they were based upon, America and Tripoli lack floodable “well deck” which can carry landing craft to ferry troops ashore. (This video shows how the Wasp’s cavernous well deck works.) All that space has instead gone to dramatically expanded aviation facilities and fuel stores. The ship’s medical facilities were also reduced by two-thirds.Instead of watercraft, the LHAs rely on squadrons of MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotors, sophisticated hybrid aircraft combining the vertical lift ability of a helicopter and the speed and range of an airplane—to insert troops by air.Officially, a “typical” air wing on the America would include a dozen Ospreys, six Harrier or F-35B jump jets, seven AH-1Z “Viper” attack and four CH-53K heavy transport helicopters to support troops ashore, and two MH-60S choppers for anti-submarine and search-and-rescue duties.But if the Navy wants to, it could instead cram up to twenty fighters on the LHDs, turning them effectively into light aircraft carriers—a class of ship the Navy hasn’t built since World War II. Like the lower-end escort carrier, the concept was that there were many missions like aircraft delivery and convoy escort that would benefit from air support, but didn’t require the massive firepower of a full carrier air wing with seventy to a hundred warplanes.Indeed, during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the Navy used the LHDs Bataan and Bonhomme Richard as pocket carriers primarily to launch Harrier airstrikes in Iraq.However, the subsonic Harrier, though a versatile support platform, was substantially inferior in performance to equivalent land-based or catapult-launched fighters.The new supersonic-capable F-35B Lightning II stealth jets entering service with the Marine Corps are far more capable of taking on fourth- and fifth-generation fighters and launching longer-range strikes. Combined with the F-35’s surveillance capabilities, this means future air wings on LHDs and LHAs will be far more versatile.As the Pentagon’s chief strategic contingency is preparing for the possibility of conflict with China, the Marine Corps sees the Pacific Ocean as its most important likely battleground. A U.S.-China conflict might play out over small islands in the South China Sea in which the Chinese military has installed airfields, missile batteries and naval bases. And it may prove inefficient or risky to delegate a full-sized supercarrier to operations targeting these islands, or defend islands to which Marine and Army forces have deployed their own missile batteries.Indeed, the LHD USS Wasp deployed in April 2019 with ten F-35Bs onboard and buzzed Chinese troops deployed at Scarborough Shoal, an occupied by Chinese troops but claimed by the Philippines.Light carriers might also be appropriate in scale for protecting vital convoys traversing the vastness of the Pacific against sporadic air and submarine attacks using their onboard fighters and helicopters respectively.The cost of the America-class LHAs reflects the efficiency argument well: the three ships ordered together were developed and built for $10 billion. That’s less than a single $13 billion Gerald Ford-class supercarrier.Bringing Back the Well DeckNonetheless, Marines have understandable objections to the removal of the ability to deploy landing craft from a nominally “amphibious” ship.Afterall, air-cushion landing craft (LCAC) can carry up to 180 soldiers, 60-75 tons of supplies on each load, and vehicles as large as an Abrams main battle tank. Meanwhile, an Osprey can only carry 10-15 tons or thirty-two personnel. The only vehicle the MV-22B is certified to carry internally is a Growler jeep.The Marine Corps, however, is increasingly convinced that D-Day style amphibious landings on defended beachheads are less and less likely to be viable in modern warfare. It’s not merely that they fear a bloodbath on the beaches of the sort depicted in Saving Private Ryan or Letters from Iwo Jima. Strategists worry that long-range shore-launched anti-ship missiles will make it unlikely that landing craft, and even the larger LHDs and LHA carrying those landing craft, will be able to approach close enough to even deposit their troops in the first place. Surely, giant amphibious ships stuffed full with over a thousand Marines would be particularly tempting targets. America-class LHAs can at least thin out threats up to thirty miles away with their two Evolved Sea Sparrow missile launchers before having to rely on Phalanx gatling cannons and Rolling Airframe Missile launchers and Nulka decoys for point defense. But none of these systems can even hope to stop anti-ship ballistic missiles entering service in Iran and China.Thus, the Marine Corps recently abandoned its former objective of maintaining thirty-eight amphibious assault ships in service (it currently has thirty-two) which can deployed two full brigades into battle between them, in favor of dispersing troops amongst more numerous, though less capable, auxiliary and even robotic ships.That may explain why the Navy prioritized the ability to launch additional troop-carrying Ospreys from over a hundred miles away which can land behind enemy lines rather than exposed beachheads.But that doesn’t change the issue of logistical throughput: if you need to rapidly reinforce a beachhead with heavy weapons, vehicles and supplies, landing craft are preferable—especially once nearby enemy defenses are suppressed.The Ospreys themselves, while highly flexible, are also expensive to maintain and operate per flight hour. Furthermore, exhaust from both the Osprey and, especially, the F-35Bs inflict heat damage to the flight deck over time, limiting the advisability and increasing the cost of surging high-intensity flight operations over prolonged periods. The Navy has been continuously adapting the ships to prevent heat damage for years.Therefore, in a bid to restore flexibility, the third America-class ship, Bouganville (LHA-8) which was laid down in March 2019 in Mississippi, will see the well-deck restored with a capacity for two LCACS. The island is trimmed down to allow more flight deck parking spot in compensation for lost hangar space. Armament and sensors are re-situated onto the vessel’s “island” superstructure, including a brand-new EASR radar also destined to equip future Gerald Ford-class carriers.The new configuration inevitably requires tradeoffs. According to a chart at Navy Recognition, Bougainville falls squarely in between the Wasp-class LHD and the first two America-class boats with 38,000 square feet of deck space dedicated to aviation, but has less than half the aviation fuel capacity of her sister ships and more limited vehicle stowage. Despite these downsides, the restoration of the ability to carry landing craft should improve the America class’s flexibility. Still, naval planners will hopefully bear in mind the carrier’s secondary potential to serve as economy-size aircraft carriers for missions that don’t require $13 billion supercarriers.Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published earlier this month and is being republished due to reader interest.)

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 02:30:00 -0400
  • Why John Bolton Is Pushing Hard For Britain to Leave the European Union

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    National security adviser John Bolton made an extraordinary promise while on a visit to London Monday, pledging that the United Kingdom would jump to the “front of the queue” for trade with the United States if it went ahead and left the European Union.Already, some are concerned that the promise of such trade favoritism might prompt an inevitable no-deal Brexit, the kind U.K. officials have long hoped to avoid.“If that’s the decision of the British government we will support it enthusiastically, and that’s what I’m trying to convey. We’re with you, we’re with you,” Bolton told reporters on the first day of his two-day visit.He emphasized that the United States didn’t want to pressure the U.K. to leave the EU (in an arrangement dubbed “Brexit”), but to support it in doing so. The U.K. voted in 2016 to leave the EU, but has thus far failed to get a deal passed in Parliament.Bolton’s gesture was not met with smiles on all fronts — an op-ed in The Guardian pointed out on Tuesday that the offer was actually a move to colonize the U.K., and another in The Independent called the national security adviser “a snake.”Prime Minister Theresa May tried and failed, repeatedly, to get a deal passed, and now, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has until October 31 to reach a deal. If he fails to do so, then the U.K. will find itself in a “no-deal” Brexit, which will throw things further into chaos, notably trade at the border of Northern Ireland (which is in the U.K.) and the Republic of Ireland (which is in the EU.)Johnson would like the EU to renegotiate elements of the deal, but Brussels so far has refused to do so — as it did when May repeatedly made the same request. It is now up to the U.K. to figure out how to make Brexit work within its own laws and regulations.President Donald Trump, who is not a fan of multilateral agreements, has been a Brexiteer from the jump. He also openly chastised May for her failure to pass a deal in Parliament.In saying that the United States would support the U.K.’s departure from the EU but not a decision to remain, Bolton is stating a policy. For a national security adviser to make trade policy promises on the premise that a country make a major policy change, is remarkable.The United States, meanwhile, remains embroiled in a trade war with China, with tariffs and counter-tariffs flying, and almost nothing happening in the way of negotiations.Trump’s landmark trade deal is also at a standstill. The USMCA, which was to replace NAFTA — the longstanding agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada — has yet to be ratified, and as of now, is dying on the vine.Per the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.K. is the seventh largest trade partner with the United States and the fourth largest export destination for American goods. It accounts for 15% of foreign investment in the United States.There is, of course, room for improvement, even in an already strong relationship between the United States and U.K. But there’s also healthy skepticism about what the Trump administration may want in return.“This is a highly transactional administration,” said Jack Straw, former foreign secretary under Prime Minister Tony Blair, in an interview with the BBC’s Radio 4 on Tuesday.He added, “You don’t get something for nothing.”Indeed, the Trump administration might have already tipped its hand on this one.In February, the administration published its objectives for trade with the U.K. moving forward. Those objectives speak to a weak post-Brexit U.K. that would have to bring itself in line with U.S. regulations — something that won’t be in the interests of a U.K. that will still want to trade with the EU.The Trump administration would also like to deregulate the health service in the U.K. by preventing the “the undermining of market access for U.S. products through the improper use of the UK’s system for protecting or recognizing geographical indications” and providing “full market access for U.S. products.”This article originally appeared on ThinkProgress on August 13, 2019.D. Parvaz covers foreign policy for ThinkProgress.Image: Reuters.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 01:45:00 -0400
  • What Boris Johnson Fears More Than a No-Deal Brexit

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson seems rather glib about the idea of his country crashing out of the European Union without a deal – an outcome that myriad authoritative bodies have predicted will be highly costly for the U.K. economy -- it is most likely because there is something he fears more than that.Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is far from a real opposition party. It doesn’t not have a single member of parliament. It may even have peaked in the polls since Johnson took the Conservative Party reins. But it could easily pose a threat to the Conservatives winning an electoral majority. Johnson’s hell-for-leather lurch toward a no-deal Brexit isn’t really about getting Brussels to offer concessions so much as keeping Farage at bay.In talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of the G-7 summit, Johnson repeated his desire to see Britain and the EU reach an agreement that allows the U.K. to leave the EU on Oct. 31 with a deal. But the U.K. prime minister offered no willingness to compromise, only an insistence that the EU should.Had his predecessor, Theresa May, managed to win a compromise from Brussels that put a time limit on the disputed Irish backstop – the insurance policy built into the deal that maintains an open Irish border by keeping the U.K. in the EU’s customs union – Johnson would have been delighted. Now Johnson wants the backstop scrapped entirely, a much tougher position that emerged relatively late in his party leadership campaign.That stance was initially seen by many as merely a negotiating gambit; a signal to the EU that his no-deal threats were serious. Rather, it was more likely an acknowledgement that it would be hard to exorcise the Faragist threat to Conservatives unless he too worshipped at the altar of a “clean break” Brexit, as the no-deal variant is sometimes called.The Brexit Party, which will launch its own election plans on Tuesday, is keeping up the pressure. After Johnson’s letter to the EU confirming he could not accept the backstop but holding out the hope of some kind of compromise, Farage pounced. He warned Johnson that even scrapping the backstop but accepting the rest of the Withdrawal Agreement would betray the 2016 “leave” vote. David Davis, a hardline Brexiter who served as Brexit Secretary under May, also warned that just getting rid of the backstop wouldn’t be enough to make the deal acceptable.In other words, Brexiters – who wouldn’t have dreamed of promoting a no-deal exit back in 2016 -- have moved the goal posts again. Now, it’s hard to see any compromise that won’t be cast as a sell-out.For Johnson, this presents a longer term problem. In the wake of a deal over the backstop that got through parliament, Britain would have its transition period and, pretty soon, a new U.K. trade delegation would schlepp off to Brussels to negotiate the future trade relationship. You can imagine how that would play out back in Britain. Michel Barnier (or his replacement) and his team -- far more experienced negotiators holding better cards -- would run circles around the U.K. side. Every concession would become another cause of national hand-wringing over the drip-drip from the glacier of British sovereignty melting into an ocean of EU rules.In other words, what is the real reward for doing a Brexit deal now from Johnson’s perspective? Nigel Farage would become the Greta Thunberg of the sovereigntist cause. Britain will be in a constant and never-ending state of sovereignty emergency. Government will be under attack from within. The betrayal narrative started with the opposition to May’s deal and has been growing ever since; Johnson may have decided (along with his top advisor and focus-group guru Dominic Cummings) that only a no-deal Brexit can quash it.A no-deal Brexit, of course, doesn’t settle matters. Far from it; the U.K. will have to re-enter negotiations with the EU very soon just to keep from sinking into a prolonged recession. There are serious risks, from the much-feared shortages of food and medicine and transport disruptions to lost investment and business closures.  And yet by the time the two sides sit down again, Johnson will have hoped to have won an election and banished Farage to the wilderness again. And having proved he was willing to walk away, he’ll have answered those who accused him of insincerity. But Johnson is gambling that he can win an election in the chaotic aftermath of no-deal Brexit -- by no means a sure thing. If he loses, he risks destroying what’s left of the Conservative Party’s reputation for competence.The EU also has a high hurdle to clear to reach a compromise. Breaching its own red lines – particularly in upholding the single market – could cause other EU countries to make demands of their own, which would be worse than no deal because it would be seen as posing an existential threat to the Union. Much would depend on the stance taken by Ireland, which has the most to lose from a no-deal Brexit and which is party to the Good Friday Agreement that has been the reason for the backstop arrangement.Still, of the two sides, Johnson has further to travel. Hardline Brexiters now see no-deal as the ultimate test of faith and will fight the next election on that ground if they can. If he is to agree on any deal, it must be one that doesn’t oxygenate Farage’s side. None of this is to say that Johnson would prefer to leave with no deal if there were an acceptable compromise on offer. It’s just that, at the moment, a no-deal Brexit might look politically more attractive than the risks he would have to run for the sake of an agreement.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at stebaker@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 01:00:06 -0400
  • N. Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end

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    North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday in the seventh weapons launch in a month, South Korea's military said, a day after it vowed to remain America's biggest threat in protest of U.S.-led sanctions on the country. President Donald Trump downplayed the latest launch. "Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 00:41:17 -0400
  • UN envoy challenges Malaysia's claim to near zero poverty

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    A U.N. special rapporteur challenged Malaysia's claim to have nearly ended poverty, saying an estimated one in six people in the Southeast Asian country are still considered poor. Malaysia's official poverty rate fell from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016. Philip Alston, the U.N. rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said Friday the rate was "extremely artificial," doesn't reflect the cost of living and excluded vulnerable populations.

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 00:34:50 -0400
  • Why Is Saudi Arabia Buying a Billion-Dollar Ship The Navy Doesn't Even Want?

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    The kingdom’s enthusiasm for the Littoral Combat Ship may seem curious given that the U.S. Navy has infamously struggled with the vessels’ reliability, cost overruns, lack of firepower, and inability to conveniently slot in different “mission modules” as had originally been advertised. These flaws led the Navy to cut its order for LCS down from fifty-five to thirty-two vessels, though Congress insisted the Navy buy three additional ships.On July 29, members of the U.S. Senate voted forty-five to forty to block new sales of laser-guided bombs and aircraft maintenance services to Saudi Arabia—falling short of the two-thirds majority necessary to override a veto by the Trump administration blocking the ban from taking effect. Despite deteriorating public support for Riyadh due to its implication in an exceptional number of civilian deaths in Yemen and the murder of one of its own citizens in the Turkish embassy, the flow of U.S. arms is set to continue.Earlier in May, the Trump administration argued the new sales could be authorized on an emergency basis, bypassing congressional review, due to escalating tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf.However, one of the arms sales most pertinent to Saudi Arabia’s ability to police the increasingly tense waterways is already well underway, having been years in the making.Since 2008, the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy has planned to invest $20 billion in its SNEP II naval expansion project. It currently operates seven frigates, four thousand-ton Badr-class corvettes and nine 500-ton patrol boats. All but three of its frigates date back to the 1980s.The sale of four modified Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), a corvette-type vessel, was initially proposed under the Obama administration in 2015 and authorized under Trump as part of a larger $110 billion package in May 2017. The U.S. government awarded the contract to Lockheed Martin in 2018, and vessels are currently under construction in Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin and set for delivery between 2019–2021.The kingdom’s enthusiasm for the Littoral Combat Ship may seem curious given that the U.S. Navy has infamously struggled with the vessels’ reliability, cost overruns, lack of firepower, and inability to conveniently slot in different “mission modules” as had originally been advertised. These flaws led the Navy to cut its order for LCS down from fifty-five to thirty-two vessels, though Congress insisted the Navy buy three additional ships.So why is Riyadh ready to spring the dough for the over-engineered and under-gunned corvettes?First of all, the Saudi Arabian Navy is primarily dedicated to operations in littoral waters of the Persian Gulf, where shipping of ultra-valuable oil tankers faces harassment from Iran’s unconventional naval forces, and the Gulfs of Oman and Aden, where Saudi ships seeks to interdict arms and agents smuggled by Iran into Yemen.Littoral combat ships, as their name suggests, were built for speed, maneuverability and stealth in coastal waters: they are agile and have shallow drafts ideal for “knife-fighting” small ships close to shore. Even their light armament—inadequate versus conventional warships of equivalent size—is optimized for sparring with smaller fast boats within visual range.Saudi LCSs will also serve as a useful platform to deploy some of the ten advanced MH-60R Seahawk helicopters purchased by Riyadh in a $1.9 billion deal, the first of which was delivered in September 2018. The multi-mission choppers can help locate ships using their infrared sensors and multi-mode radars, perform search-and-rescue duties, detect submarines with their ALFS dipping sonar and attack them with Mark 54 torpedoes, and even blast surface targets with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided APKWS 70-millimeter rockets.Second, the Saudi LCSs are of an enlarged 4,000-ton model called the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant which ditches the (unsuccessful) mission module concept for more powerful fixed sensors and weapons, and a crew expanded by fifty percent to between 110-130 personnel. Lockheed Martin was paid $450 million for the design and long-lead materials for the new variant. You can see photos of an MMSC model here.The MMSC is nine feet longer and now includes eight Mark 41 vertical-launch cells, each of which can be packed with four medium-range Evolved Sea Sparrow air defense missiles, for a total of 32. These also possess a secondary anti-ship capability. A new TRS4D Active Electronically Scanned Array radar linked to a COMBATSS21 combat system based on the Aegis air-defense system on U.S. cruisers and destroyers allows sensors and fire control to be networked with friendly ships. This will give the Saudi LCS a shot at protecting nearby ships and thinning out incoming cruise missile salvoes from up to thirty miles away, instead of only being able to defend itself with short-range Rolling Airframe Missiles and close defense guns.The Mark 41 cells could also be used to launch other types of missiles like the longer-range SM-2 surface-to-air missile or Tomahawk cruise missile, should the Saudi Navy elect to acquire them.The Saudi LCS also adds in two four-shot launchers loaded with Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles with a range of eighty-one miles, allowing it to engage enemy warships over the horizon. Without such weapons, littoral combat ships are badly outranged even by Iran’s own modest fleet of missile-armed surface combatants.The MMSC retains the Freedom-class’s rapid-firing 57-millimeter dual-purpose gun, but trades the surface-warfare variant’s secondary 30-millimeter guns for smaller 20-millimeter remote-control Nexter Narwhal cannons.The Saudi MMSC is also slower with a maximum speed over 30 knots, not the 40 knots LCSs are renowned for, but has its range increased by more than 40 percent to over 5,700 miles. The four relatively small warships are costing Riyadh a stiff $6 billion, though the contract includes training services, spare parts and over 750 missiles. In fact, the initially proposed deal would have cost $11.25 billion and the vessels would have been even more heavily armed with sixteen Mark 41 cells, a 76-millimeter gun and torpedo tubes. But this price proved too much to swallow even for the Saudis.At the same time as the LCSs are delivered through 2021, Riyadh is set to receive five smaller Avante 2200 corvettes displacing 2,500 tons from Spanish shipbuilder Navantia. These are similarly armed to the MMSC, but slower and require a larger crew—and will cost far less at $2.5 billion for the total package.The modifications to Saudi Arabia’s littoral combat ships make them far more capable of defending themselves and friendly vessels from air and surface threats. However, the Royal Saudi Arabian Navy will still need to keep its fingers crossed that the revised design will not suffer from the serious reliability issues afflicting LCSs in the U.S. Navy, which has yet to deploy a single LCS to the Persian Gulf theater it was designed for. Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.Image: Reuters.(This article was originally published earlier this month and is being republished due to reader interest.)

    Sat, 24 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0400
  • Trump Raises Tariffs on China as Frustration Mounts Ahead of G-7

    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. President Donald Trump escalated the trade war with China on Friday and moved further away from a deal to resolve frictions, announcing a wave of higher tariffs even as he prepared to set off for a gathering of world leaders.In an announcement, tweeted after major indices on Wall Street sank, Trump said existing 25% tariffs on some $250 billion in imports from China would rise to 30% come Oct. 1, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.Planned 10% tariffs on a further $300 billion in Chinese goods will be taxed at 15% instead of 10% starting with the first tranche on Sept. 1. The second batch of goods is due to be hit on Dec. 15.The move was foreshadowed in an earlier series of presidential tweets that again roiled U.S. markets concerned about the growing impact of his trade wars on a slowing global and U.S. economy. In those tweets, Trump vowed to respond to Chinese retaliatory tariffs, accused Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell of being a bigger U.S. “enemy” than China’s Xi Jinping and issued a call for American companies to abandon China.Trump was responding to an announcement that Beijing was planning to impose retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. imports, targeting politically sensitive products from American factories to farms.“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA,” Trump wrote.The move came shortly before the president departed Washington for a Group of Seven summit in France at which responding to a slowing global economy -- blamed by many on Trump’s trade wars -- sits at the top of the agenda.Friday’s procession of angry Trump tweets marked what analysts and people close to the administration said was a clear shift in tone by a president increasingly frustrated by both the lack of progress in his trade assault on China and a slowing economy, for which he’s eager to blame Powell and the Fed.As he left the White House late Friday night, Trump was asked if he wanted Powell to resign. “Let me put it this way,” the president said, “if he did, I wouldn’t stop him.”In his order for U.S. companies to withdraw from China, some close to the administration saw the president embracing the calls for an economic decoupling made by the hawks inside his administration.The evidence of the shift may have been most apparent in a 14-word tweet in which Trump appeared to call Xi an “enemy.”“My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or Chairman Xi?” he said in a Tweet posted after Powell gave a speech in Jackson Hole that contained implicit criticism of Trump’s trade policies and their impact on the U.S. and global economies.Trump has worked very hard ever since entering the presidency to portray his relationship with Xi as a friendship. By using the sort of inflammatory language for the Chinese leader that he has avoided in the past, Trump is likely to be noticed in Beijing.Michael Pillsbury, a China scholar at the Hudson Institute who sometimes advises Trump, said the president’s move on Friday reflected the fact he had grown increasingly frustrated with China’s response to his escalating tariffs in recent months.That has been driven in part by a change of attitude in Beijing, where officials seem increasingly dismissive of Trump and his chances of re-election and convinced that hawkish aides like Peter Navarro, a senior White House trade adviser, are increasingly directing policy, Pillsbury said.“There’s a growing perceptions gap,” he said. “The China hawks in Washington have successfully encouraged their America hawks in Beijing.”What Bloomberg’s Economists Say “The price tag on the latest tariff escalation is similar to previous rounds from earlier this year and in 2018. However, a new threshold has been breached as the Trump administration moves beyond an upper limit of 25%.There is little reason to believe that 30% is the new upper bound, in our view.”\--Carl Riccadonna and Yelena Shulyatyeva Click here for the full reportTrump’s move on Friday appeared to have been hastily assembled.In an appearance on the Fox Business Network in the morning, Navarro played down the new tariffs announced by China. “Seventy-five billion dollars worth of tariffs in terms of, what, the combined $30 trillion economy is not something for the stock market to worry about and we’re cool here,” he said.But just a few hours later Navarro, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and other aides were in the Oval Office for a midday meeting to figure out the administration’s next step.Not WorkingThe National Retail Federation, whose membership includes Walmart Inc., issued a statement on Friday sounding the alarms about the added tariffs.“It’s impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment,” said David French, senior vice president of government affairs for the organization. “The administration’s approach clearly isn’t working, and the answer isn’t more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?”The president has little legal authority to ban all American companies from doing business with China. But he has the capacity to make life difficult for them, as he has with his tariffs, and could ban some tech companies from doing business with China were he to invoke special powers and declare a national economic emergency, according to trade lawyers and analysts.Although some White House aides have sought to portray calls in recent weeks between U.S. and Chinese negotiators as making progress, people close to the talks and briefed on them say they have yielded little of immediate substance.Larry Kudlow, the head of Trump’s National Economic Council, said this week that a telephone call between U.S. and Chinese officials on Wednesday had gone well and that the goal remained a resumption of face-to-face talks in Washington in September.Privately, however, others familiar with the discussions say that major questions remain over those talks and how willing China is to return to the substantive negotiations over structural economic reforms that broke down in May.Distant Deal“The U.S. and China can’t even agree on what text to begin the negotiations with again,” said Derek Scissors, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute who has advised the administration.The one thing left clear was that Friday’s escalation raised more doubts about Trump’s chosen path with China and made prospects of a deal even more distant, analysts said.Though Trump has insisted he had little choice but to take on the fight with a China that threatens to overtake the U.S. economically and technologically in the years to come, his critics insist he has done so in an ill-conceived and ad-hoc way that has caused more damage than necessary to the U.S. economy.“His approach to these negotiations all along has been, just as you are about to sit down to negotiate, you make things significantly worse for the other side and hope that they are going to give you lot of concessions just to get back to where they were,” said Philip Levy, who served as an economic adviser to President George W. Bush and is now chief economist for Flexport, a logistics company. “The Chinese don’t seem very enthused about playing this game.”(Updates with latest remarks on Powell, in 10th paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Shawn Donnan in Washington at sdonnan@bloomberg.net;Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net, Sarah McGregor, Margaret CollinsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 23:42:29 -0400
  • U.S., Japan Reach Agreement on Trade Deal Framework, Reports Say

    (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and Japan agreed on a broad framework for a trade deal that will keep U.S. tariffs on Japanese automobiles in place for now, while removing barriers to beef and pork exports to Japan, Japanese media reported.Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, and Japan Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi reached an agreement in Washington on Friday, the Nikkei and Kyodo News reported, without citing sources. The U.S. currently has a 2.5% import tax on Japanese cars and a 25% levy on trucks from the nation. Japan will lower tariffs on U.S. beef and pork to the same levels as those proposed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they said.The report raises the likelihood that U.S. President Donald Trump and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a trade announcement during the Group of Seven summit in France this weekend. Japan is seeking to stay in Trump’s good graces to avoid costly tariffs and retain positive relations with an ally that ensures its security against China and North Korea. Japan is also counting on U.S. support as its diplomatic spat with South Korea intensifies.A draft agreement could be signed by the end of September, the Nikkei reported. Trump, who threatened to raise tariffs on the approximately $50 billion worth of cars and auto parts Japan exports to the U.S. annually, had hinted that there might be a deal in August.A deal with Japan would give Trump a victory in his trade wars. The U.S. President is escalating his trade war with China, announcing that an existing 25% tariffs on some $250 billion in imports from China would rise to 30% come Oct. 1. He also told U.S. companies to withdraw from China.The latest actions are a sign of Trump’s growing frustration with the lack of progress in his trade assault on China and a slowing economy, according to analysts and people close to the administration.“Trump will likely have to end the trade war if he wants to avoid a US recession and get re-elected next year,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital. “At this stage there is still no end in sight and so share markets likely have to fall further to pressure Trump to solve the issue and de-escalate.”Agricultural goods, automobiles and car parts were the focus of talks between the trading partners. The agreed framework calls for Japan’s tariffs on imported beef to be lowered gradually to 9% from 38.5%, the Nikkei said. Japanese automakers have expressed concern over Trump’s actions in the market.Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp. and chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said in May he was “dismayed to hear a message suggesting that our long-time contributions of investment and employment in the U.S. are not welcomed.”(Updates with economist comment. A previous version of this story was corrected to show Japan seeking removal of tariffs.)\--With assistance from Matthew Burgess.To contact the reporters on this story: Shoko Oda in Tokyo at soda13@bloomberg.net;Gareth Allan in Tokyo at gallan11@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Reed Stevenson, Finbarr FlynnFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 23:13:08 -0400
  • North Korea launches short-range missiles complicating US attempts for talks

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    North Korea fired what appears to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Saturday, the South Korean military said, the latest in a series of launches in recent weeks. A US official said the two missiles North Korea had fired appeared to be similar to launches in recent weeks. Saturday's launch, the seventh by North Korea since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met at the inter-Korean border in June, have complicated attempts to restart talks between US and North Korean negotiators over the future of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. The two leaders agreed to restart working-level negotiations in June, but since then the United States has so far been unsuccessful in attempts to get talks going. US envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun was in Seoul this week to discuss ways to get negotiations back on track. "We are prepared to engage as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea," Mr Biegun said on Wednesday. But in recent weeks, North Korea has repeatedly criticised US and South Korean largely computer-simulated joint military drills, South Korea's import of high-tech weapons such as F-35 stealth jets, and US testing of its intermediate-range cruise missile as threatening and hindrances to dialogue. North Korean missile ranges On Friday, North Korea's top diplomat called US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a "diehard toxin," saying: "We are ready for both dialogue and standoff." South Korea's National Security Council (NSC) expressed "strong concern" over North Korea's continued launches despite the fact that the South Korea-US joint military exercises denounced by North Korea had ended. It called for North Korea to stop escalating military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The NSC agreed to make diplomatic efforts to bring North Korea to the negotiating table with the United States as soon as possible for the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, South Korea's presidential office said in a statement. A senior US administration official said: "We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea, and continue to monitor the situation. We are consulting closely with our Japanese and South Korean allies." Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya said that North Korea's missile launches were a clear violation of UN resolutions and cannot be ignored. He confirmed that missiles fell outside Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, and posed no immediate threat to Japan's security. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JSC) said North Korea fired what appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday at around 6:45 a.m. and 7:02 a.m. KST respectively from around Sondok, South Hamgyong Province. Sondok is the site of a North Korean military airfield. They flew about 236 miles and reached a height of 60 miles, JSC said. Japan's Coast Guard warned shipping not to approach any fallen debris. South Korea officially informed Japan on Friday of its decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing agreement, which Japanese Minister of Defence Takeshi Iwaya said was regrettable and showed that Seoul failed to appreciate the growing security threat posed by North Korea.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 21:55:28 -0400
  • North Korea Launches Two More Missiles in Latest Provocation

    (Bloomberg) -- North Korea launched more missiles on Saturday, the latest in the most prolific series of tests since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.South Korea’s Defense Ministry said two ballistic missiles were launched from south Hamgyong, traveling about 380 kilometers (236 miles) and reaching a maximum altitude of 97 kilometers. They landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japan’s Coast Guard said in a statement.The U.S. assessed that two short-range missiles were fired in the direction of the Sea of Japan, about 15 minutes apart, officials told CNN. South Korea said the tests took place at 6:45 a.m. and 7:02 a.m. local time, and that it will analyze the information with the U.S.Kim Jong Un’s regime has conducted a series of short-range ballistic missile tests in recent weeks as he seeks a more favorable negotiating framework in nuclear talks with Trump. The U.S. leader has said the tests shouldn’t disrupt talks, so long as Kim doesn’t launch longer-range missiles that could strike America.South Korea’s presidential office expressed deep concern over North Korea’s continued missile launches, despite the fact that joint drills between the U.S. and South Korea had finished, according to a text message. It urged North Korea to halt action that raises military tension in the peninsula. Japan’s defense ministry said it was aware of the launches and would update with more information when available.North Korea has issued several statements in recent days saying that military moves by the U.S. and South Korea are making it more difficult for the country to participate in talks. On Friday, North Korea’s top diplomat accused Secretary of State Michael Pompeo of undermining negotiations, even as Trump’s nuclear envoy, Stephen Biegun, was in Seoul.Related story: North Korea Testing Missiles Faster Than Days of ‘Fire and Fury’South Korea said it will provide Japan with information on the missile launch upon request as an intelligence-sharing pact between the two is still in force. On Thursday, South Korea notified Japan of plans to withdraw from a three-year-old framework for exchanging classified military information as their feud over trade measures and historical grievances extended into security cooperation.(Updates with text message statement from South Korea’s presidential office.)To contact the reporters on this story: Gearoid Reidy in Tokyo at greidy1@bloomberg.net;Jihye Lee in Seoul at jlee2352@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gearoid Reidy at greidy1@bloomberg.net, ;Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Gareth Allan, Reed StevensonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 21:23:34 -0400
  • U.S. aware of reports of North Korea missile launch, consulting with allies -official

    The United States is aware of reports of a North Korean missile launch and is consulting with Japan and South Korea, a senior administration official said on Friday. "We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea, and continue to monitor the situation.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 20:14:08 -0400
  • UN expert: No peace in Myanmar if no military prosecutions

    There will be no long-term peace in Myanamar and no return of Rohingya refugees unless there is accountability for the "brutality" of the Asian country's military forces, a member of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said Friday. Radhika Coomaraswamy, a Sri Lankan lawyer who is one of the mission's three international experts, told an informal Security Council meeting on accountability in Myanmar that the commission believes a domestic judicial process is not possible at this time. "There's danger to the victims and witnesses, as they have been threatened, and we feel that the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Myanmar government may face the same challenge," she said.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 19:20:59 -0400
  • Global disputes likely to thwart unity at G7 summit in France

    Leaders of the G7 nations arrive in France on Saturday for a summit as a brewing U.S.-China confrontation over protectionism highlighted President Emmanuel Macron's tough task in delivering meaningful results on trade, Iran and climate change. The three-day meeting in the Atlantic seaside resort of Biarritz takes place amid sharp differences over a clutch of global issues that risk further dividing a group of countries already struggling to pull together. Summit host Macron wants the leaders of Britain, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States to focus on the defence of democracy, gender equality, education and climate change, and has invited leaders from Asia, Africa and Latin America to join them for a global push on these issues.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 19:00:00 -0400
  • Sajid Javid prepares ground for no-deal emergency budget - The Times

    British finance minister Sajid Javid is preparing ground for a no-deal emergency budget in the fortnight before Britain leaves the European Union, The Times reported. Javid, who took office last month, will ask the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to begin work on forecasts for a no-deal Brexit within days, the newspaper reported. Javid will postpone the final decision on whether to push ahead with the budget until after the European Council meets on Oct. 17, the report added.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 18:51:22 -0400
  • Imperial Japan Wanted Battleships with Insane 20-Inch Guns. Here's Why It Never Set Sail

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    Had the war not come, Japan would have bankrupted itself spending on these massive ships. Japan lacked the industrial capacity to compete with the United States; indeed, even if it had managed to seize and keep wide swaths of East Asia, it could not have matched U.S. industrial production for decades. The United States would have responded to Japanese construction with even larger, more deadly ships, and of course eventually with submarines, aircraft and guided missiles.In January 1936 Japan announced its intention to withdraw from the London Naval Treaty, accusing both the United States and the United Kingdom of negotiating in bad faith. The Japanese sought formal equality in naval construction limits, something that the Western powers would not give. In the wake of this withdrawal, Japanese battleship architects threw themselves into the design of new vessels. The first class to emerge were the 18.1-inch-gun-carrying Yamatos, the largest battleships ever constructed. However, the Yamatos were by no means the end of Japanese ambitions. The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) planned to build another, larger class of super battleships, and had vague plans for even larger ships to succeed that class. War interceded, but had Japan carried out its plans it might have deployed monster battleships nearly as large as supercarriers into the Pacific.(This first appeared in 2016.)“Super” YamatosThe A-150 class would have superseded the Yamatos, building on experience with that class to produce a more formidable, flexible fighting unit. Along with the Yamatos, these ships were expected to provide the IJN with an unbeatable battle line to protect its Pacific possessions, along with newly acquired territories in Southeast Asia and China.Recommended: Could the Battleship Make a Comeback? ​The A-150s would theoretically have carried six 510-millimeter (twenty-inch) guns in three twin turrets, although if problems had developed in the construction of that gun they could have carried the same main armament as the Yamatos. The 510-millimeter guns would have wreaked havoc on any existing (or planned) American or British battleships, but would also have caused substantial blast issues for the more delicate parts of the ship. The A-150s would have carried heavier armor than their smaller cousins, more than sufficient to protect from the heaviest weapons in the American or British arsenals. The secondary armament would have included a substantial number of 3.9-inch dual-purpose guns, a relatively small caliber suggesting that the A-150s may have relied on support vessels to protect them from enemy cruisers and destroyers.Recommended: America's Battleships Went to War Against North Korea Design compromises limited the effectiveness of the Yamatos by reducing their speed and range; they could not keep up with the fastest IJN carriers, and burned too much fuel for economic employment in campaigns such as Guadalcanal. The A-150s would likely have been somewhat faster (thirty knots) than the Yamatos, with a longer range more suitable for missions deep into the Pacific.Recommended: How the U.S. Navy Wanted to Merge Aircraft Carriers and BattleshipsThe construction of the Yamatos challenged the capacity of the Japanese steel and shipbuilding industries, and the A-150s would have strained them even more. For example, producing the armor plate necessary to protect a battleship against twenty-inch guns was simply beyond Japan’s industrial capacity, and would have required serious compromises. Moreover, the IJN would have struggled to surround the A150s with support units. While the USN committed to building an enormous number of heavy cruisers, light cruisers and aircraft carriers in addition to the battleship fleet, Japan completed only a small handful of these ships during the war.Little is known about the successors to the A-150 class, which would have been larger, faster and more heavily armed. Potentially displacing a hundred thousand tons, and carrying eight twenty-inch guns in four twin turrets, even the contemplation of such ships would have required a serious revision of economic realities in East Asia. In any case, the changes in naval technology that rendered the battleship obsolete likely would have become obvious before any of these monsters had entered service.Strategic and Economic FollyJapan ordered two A-150 battleships in the 1942 construction program. The first would have succeeded HIJMS Shinano on the dock; the second, the never named fourth sister of the Yamato class. However, wartime demands for smaller ships (and eventually for aircraft carriers) meant that neither ship was ever laid down.But the war only exposed underlying economic realities; it did not forge them. Japan barely had the industrial capacity to build the initial Yamatos, along with all of the support ships that the battlefleet would require. This is the dirty little secret of the entire Washington Naval Treaty system; the United Kingdom could outpace Japanese construction by a wide margin, and the United States could outpace both combined, if it decided to do so. The treaty system prevented an arms race that Japan could not possibly have won, whether in 1921 or in 1937. Japan’s GDP at the beginning of World War II was a bit over half that of Britain’s, and less than a quarter that of the United States.Japan’s naval success at the beginning of the Pacific War happened because of the treaties, not despite them. The IJN played a poor hand very well, but in any kind of extended naval competition against the United States, the UK, or a combination of the two, it could not win. Upon discovering the existence of these ships, the United States would have begun to construct even larger battleships, as well as other means of sinking large battleships. Indeed, in 1952 the United States laid down USS Forrestal, the first of a class of four aircraft carriers substantially larger than the A-150 class battleships.ConclusionHad the war not come, Japan would have bankrupted itself spending on these massive ships. Japan lacked the industrial capacity to compete with the United States; indeed, even if it had managed to seize and keep wide swaths of East Asia, it could not have matched U.S. industrial production for decades. The United States would have responded to Japanese construction with even larger, more deadly ships, and of course eventually with submarines, aircraft and guided missiles.Warships are (imperfect) reflections of existing economic realities. Timing, technology and grand strategy matter, but in raw competition involving mature technologies, superior economic strength will eventually prevail. The Japanese economy would eventually become competitive with that of the UK, and even the United States, but this would only happen in context of an open trading system with access to the European and American markets. No battleship could carry guns large enough to bring that outcome about.Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security, and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money and Information Dissemination and The Diplomat.Image: Wikimedia Commons.(This article originally appeared in 2018.)

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 18:00:00 -0400
  • China Says U.S. Is Using Fentanyl Feud as Political Weapon

    (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. is politicizing the issue of illicit Chinese exports of fentanyl and using it as a weapon against China, said the country’s narcotics regulator on Friday.Liu Yuejin, deputy head of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission, rebutted accusations from the U.S. that China is not doing enough to curb the flow of fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid painkiller, beyond its borders. Some American politicians “are up-ending the facts for their own political necessities,” Liu said in an interview in Beijing on Friday.The comments come just weeks after President Donald Trump lashed out at his Chinese counterpart in a tweet, saying Xi Jinping hadn’t stopped the flow of Chinese-made fentanyl as promised, and citing this failure as one reason that another 10% tariff would be levied on $300 billion of Chinese exports on Sept. 1.In a series of new tweets on Friday, Trump said that he would order U.S. shipping companies to search for and reject any packages containing fentanyl, from China or any other country.FedEx Corp. already has extensive security measures to prevent the use of its network for illegal purposes, the company said in a statement. United Parcel Service Inc. said it works closely with authorities to monitor for prohibited substances, and takes a “multi-layered” approach to prevent such shipments. Amazon.com Inc. didn’t respond to a request for comment.The U.S. Postal Service said it’s “aggressively working” to implement provisions of an existing law to keep illicit drugs from entering the U.S.As an example of facts being twisted by the U.S., Liu cited three Chinese nationals whom the U.S. issued economic sanctions against earlier this week for allegedly producing and trafficking fentanyl. Liu said Chinese authorities have been closely cooperating with their American counterparts on the issue of the three men, but that the individuals’ actions occurred before China’s tightening of its laws regulating the drug in April.“It was hard to prosecute them with the law at that time and U.S. enforcement knows this very clearly,” he said. “Some U.S. politicians refuse to face the reality, upend the facts, turn black into white and muddy clear water. And they mislead Americans who may not know the truth.“Fentanyl has played a role in the opioid epidemic that’s been blamed for thousands of overdose deaths in the U.S. and been declared a public health emergency. It’s also been an issue in trade war negotiations. Last year, China’s move to tighten supervision and revise rules around fentanyl production after the two presidents met at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina was talked up by Trump as a major concession.But earlier this month, he tweeted that “my friend President Xi said that he would stop the sale of Fentanyl to the United States – this never happened, and many Americans continue to die!”The three Chinese nationals, Zheng Fujing, Zheng Guanghua and Yan Xiaobing, were added to the U.S. Treasury’s “Specially Designated Nationals List” earlier this week for running what the agency said was “an international drug trafficking operation that manufactures and sells lethal narcotics, directly contributing to the crisis of opioid addiction, overdoses and death in the U.S.” The move allows the government to freeze their U.S.-based financial assets.“These actions by the U.S. are not constructive and will hurt the good relationship between the two countries’ law enforcement organs,” said Liu. He added that China is still open to working with the U.S. on the fentanyl problem.China has repeatedly pushed back against the U.S. claim that it is responsible for the fentanyl problem, arguing that the epidemic is due to the U.S.’s own lax regulation over the prescription of addictive opioids to patients. Liu pointed out that China doesn’t have a domestic opioid abuse issue because of its strict regulation over the use of painkillers.(Updates with company comments beginning in fifth paragraph)\--With assistance from John Liu and Ben Brody.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Dong Lyu in Beijing at dlyu3@bloomberg.net;Tom Mackenzie in Beijing at tmackenzie5@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Rachel Chang at wchang98@bloomberg.net, Jeff Sutherland, Timothy AnnettFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 17:59:22 -0400
  • Britain wants U.S. trade deal quickly, but terms have to be right - UK spokeswoman

    Britain wants to agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States quickly, but the terms have to work for both sides, a British spokeswoman said on Friday ahead of a meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Trump. Johnson, only a month into his leadership, will travel to the French seaside resort of Biarritz on Saturday for a G7 summit where his every move will be scrutinised for clues on how he will position Britain between the European Union and the United States after leaving the EU on Oct. 31.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 17:30:01 -0400
  • Osborne’s IMF Candidacy Not Priority for Johnson at G-7 Summit

    (Bloomberg) -- George Osborne’s candidacy to head up the International Monetary Fund isn’t a priority for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France.While the U.K. sees the former Chancellor of the Exchequer as a credible candidate for the post, Johnson has already raised the issue with the man whose support he wants the most, U.S. President Donald Trump.It may come up at their bilateral meeting on Sunday morning, though more pressing issues include the prospects for a future trade deal after Britain has left the European Union, and curbing Iran’s nuclear capacity.Osborne’s candidacy is a topic that could also arise in bilateral meetings in the French Atlantic resort town with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau. But there’s no sense in seeking the support of the leaders of France, Germany and Italy for Osborne’s candidacy, because the EU has already nominated Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank’s chief executive, for the role, after a process that the U.K. objected to.To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 17:30:00 -0400
  • U.K.’s Johnson Plays Down Hopes of Quick Brexit Deal With EU

    (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson dropped his trademark optimism over his ability to negotiate a new Brexit deal with the European Union, warning people not to “hold their breath” over the prospect of a quick breakthrough.“I want to caution everybody, OK? Because this is not going to be a cinch, this is not going to be easy. We will have to work very hard to get this thing done,” Johnson said in televised comments in Devon, southwest England on Friday.The clear shift in tone follows meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and France’s President Emmanuel Macron in Paris this week. Both expressed skepticism a breakthrough could be found, with Johnson calling for the EU to reopen the Brexit deal negotiated by his predecessor, Theresa May, which took 19 months to agree but was rejected three times by Parliament.Johnson is already looking to the U.K.’s post-Brexit future -- he and U.S. President Donald Trump are due to discuss a free-trade deal over breakfast at the Group of Seven summit on Sunday. He has promised to leave the EU “do or die” on Oct. 31 and without a deal unless the bloc agrees to change it.ImpasseThe sticking point remains the same as it was for so many months between May and the EU: what to do about the Irish border, which will become the U.K.’s new land frontier with the bloc after it leaves.Johnson is demanding the EU scrap the so-called backstop, a fallback mechanism designed to keep the Irish border free of checks. That’s seen as crucial for ensuring that the peace process in Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., is not jeopardized. But the provision is hated by Brexiteers because it would keep the U.K. tied to many of the EU’s customs and trading rules.The problem for Johnson is the EU doesn’t believe his technology-based solutions to avoid customs and border checks offer a realistic alternative to the backstop. And while Merkel and Macron were both polite and offered Johnson some encouraging words, they were also clear they were not prepared to change the fundamentals of the Brexit deal.On Friday, the U.K. leader repeated his view that there were “lots of ways” to achieve a frictionless border. “But to persuade our EU friends and partners, who are very, very, very hard over against it, will take some time,” he said.No-Deal RiskThe EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said in a tweet Friday the bloc was ready to analyze U.K. proposals “that are realistic, operational & compatible with our principles.”Officials on both sides have said that unless the impasse is broken, a no-deal Brexit -- without a transition period to shield the economy and businesses from the potential turmoil that could follow -- is the most likely scenario.Johnson said he was “very confident” the U.K. “will be OK” in the event of a no-deal Brexit because of the preparations the government is making. Even so, he said he’s not giving up on negotiations, calling the “mood music” during his European trip “very good,” and reiterated his expectation that any compromise would be last-minute, or “on the steps of the court.”“They could see that we want a deal, they can see the problems with the backstop,” he said.Johnson will have another chance to persuade both Macron and Merkel at the Group of Seven meeting in Biarritz, France, which starts Saturday. He’ll also meet European Council President Donald Tusk.Split FocusBut the British prime minister’s focus will be divided in France. Though he needs a revised Brexit agreement from European leaders, he’ll also try to demonstrate to the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Japan that his post-Brexit vision is an outward-looking U.K. eager to strike new trade deals.The government holds a U.S. free-trade agreement in particular as one of the great prizes of Brexit. It won’t be straightforward; the U.K. is protective of British standards on things like animal welfare and hygiene, and doesn’t want to open up the National Health Service to U.S. companies -- a likely demand.Both Johnson and Trump are committed “to starting negotiations as soon as possible,” the prime minister’s office said Friday. “Of course, we want to move quickly, but we want to get the right deal that works for both sides.”At the summit, Johnson’s core message will be to show that despite his resolve to take the U.K. out of the union with its closest trading partners, the U.K. won’t become inward-looking, according to his office.“We will be an energetic partner on the world stage,” Johnson said ahead of his trip to France.To contact the reporters on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 17:30:00 -0400
  • Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

    Golocal247.com news

    France's Emmanuel Macron led a growing wave of international pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest Friday, telling him Paris would block efforts to seal a major trade deal. The issue will be high on the agenda when global leaders meet for the G7 summit Saturday in the French resort of Biarritz, where they are also set to tackle global trade wars and the Iran nuclear standoff. Just days before hosting the summit, Macron called for urgent talks on the "international crisis" in the world's largest rainforest, saying leaders would hammer out "concrete measures" to tackle it.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 17:04:04 -0400
  • How an Old Iranian F-5 Could Kill An F-35 Stealth Fighter In Battle

    Golocal247.com news

    Amid escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, in part resulting from U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision unilaterally to withdraw the United States from the 2015 deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. armed forces have deployed a wide array of ships, planes and other weapons to the Middle East.The American arsenal in the region includes F-35 stealth fighters. If tensions turn into warfare, the factory-fresh F-35s could face an Iranian air force operating some of the oldest active fighters in the world.The Iranians with their four-decade-old F-4s, F-5s and F-14s might not seem to have a chance against the Americans flying arguably the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft. But history, and recent testing show how Iranian pilots flying old planes could defeat Americans flying brand-new ones.For one, the F-35, while new, isn’t necessarily a stellar aerial performer. In 2015 someone associated with the F-35 test effort leaked an official report explaining the stealth fighter’s limitations in air-to-air maneuvers with an F-16.“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage,” an unnamed F-35 test pilot wrote in a scathing five-page brief. “Insufficient pitch rate,” he added. “Energy deficit to the bandit would increase over time.”The complaints continued. “The flying qualities in the blended region (20 to 26 degrees [angle of attack]) were not intuitive or favorable,” the pilot wrote, adding that there’s no point for an F-35 pilot to get into a sustained, close turning battle with an enemy pilot. “There were not compelling reasons to fight in this region.”The pilot’s revelations underscore what many observers long have suspected about the F-35. While its radar-evading qualities and high-end sensors might allow it to gain a favorable position for long-range missile shots, in a close fight the F-35 hardly excels.If an Iranian pilot can survive a merge with an F-35 and engage the stealth fighter in a turning dogfight, the Iranian might just bag himself a stealth fighter. It’s worth noting that the Iranian air force flies scores of fighters that excel precisely in that regime.American-made F-5 Tigers, for instance. Former U.S. Navy pilot Francesco Chierici who flew F-5s in the adversary role, sang the plane’s praise in a 2019 article for The War Zone. “The Tiger was clean, just an AIM-9 and a telemetry pod on the wingtips, and occasionally a centerline fuel tank,” Chierici wrote. “She slipped through the ‘number’ (Mach 1) easily. … The F-5 was a pair of engines and wings. It was so simple …”> Aerodynamically, the F-5 will always be what we call a category-three fighter, where the F-35 and F-22 are now category-five fighters. Compared to modern jets, it is underpowered, slow and bleeds airspeed badly in a sustained turn, not to mention it has no stealth other than its tiny size.> > But with just a few modifications, the F-5 is being turned into a threat plane with a legitimate sting. The newest upgrades include an [electronically-scanned] radar, good [radar-warning] gear, chaff and flares, a jamming pod and a helmet-mounted cueing system for a high off-boresight IR (infrared-guided) missiles. > > A Tiger so outfitted can provide Super Hornets and F-35s a legitimate threat, especially in the training environment.Iran indeed has been upgrading its F-5 fleet, although the modifications likely will not include the latest sensors and helmet sights.Still, all things being equal the F-5 despite its age might still possesses the agility to gain the advantage over an F-35. Again, provided the F-5 pilot survives the merge to a close-in fight.That’s a big assumption. F-35 pilots understand the limitations of their aircraft and certainly would do their best to avoid a dogfight. The Iranians might have to ambush the Americans in order to force the fight to close range. It’s unclear how the Iranians might do so, given the Americans’ huge advantage in sensors and situational awareness.David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 17:00:00 -0400
  • Macron Rips Up Agenda for His G-7 in a Fit of Climate Fury

    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Emmanuel Macron has gone off script.It took the French president less than 24 hours to wrong foot his closest partners and toss a curve ball into the buildup to the Group of Seven summit. His fellow leaders hadn’t even landed. And all this when Macron was supposed to be shoring up the European alliance for another confrontation with Donald Trump.When the summit begins Saturday in the French beach resort of Biarritz, the European contingent is supposed to be holding the line over Brexit, pushing for tougher action on climate change and addressing the trade tensions threatening global growth without provoking the U.S. leader. Now they are going to be distracted by a rift between Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel over how to tackle the environmental threat posed by Brazil.For Macron, for the European Union, and for the transatlantic relationship, the consequences could be far-reaching.Preparations for the summit began to unravel on Thursday evening as Biarritz was about to go into lockdown. The strip of sand that will provide the backdrop for the family photo was still crammed with bathers taking their last swim. Even Macron’s close advisers had no idea about the bombshell the president (who is not a regular tweeter like Trump) was about to drop.Alarmed by the record number of fires ravaging the Amazon jungle, Macron announced that the “emergency” would be a central focus of his summit, abandoning months of careful choreography that even involves France’s most celebrated chef preparing meat for Trump and vegetarian fare for special guest Narendra Modi.Problem was he didn’t seem to have let key players in on his decision. Within two hours, his call to arms was met with a furious response from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who accused Macron of colonial posturing. Affairs relating to Brazil should not be discussed without Brazil at the table, Bolsonaro said.Read more: The Amazon Rainforest Is on Fire, and It’s Getting WorseMacron’s critics on social media pointed out that he’d used an outdated picture of an older blaze.Officials in the G-7 clan were waking up to the news along with the rest of the world. Concern about the environment is something shared by many Europeans, and the sense from officials was that they were willing to accept having the burning of the rainforest thrust onto the agenda at the last moment.A slow drip of benign responses began to come in. A spokesman for the U.K.’s Boris Johnson said the British leader would echo his call for action on the Amazon. Merkel’s spokesman backed Macron’s decision to involve the international community, siding with him against Bolsonaro.Trump, meanwhile, exchanged attacks with Beijing over trade. Markets tumbled as the president said he’d “ordered” the U.S. to disengage from China. But rather than seeking to capitalize, the French leader upped the ante.Another ShockerMaybe he took offense at the colonialist jibe, maybe it was headlines from Brazilian officials bringing up forest fires in Portugal and Siberia. Whatever it was, Macron had another shocker up his sleeve.In a terse statement from the Elysee palace, he branded Bolsonaro a liar and vowed to block the EU’s trade deal with South America’s biggest economies unless Brazil takes its environmental obligations seriously.Tearing up a summit agenda is one thing. But this was a whole other order of magnitude.The EU’s trade accord with Mercosur has been 20 years in the making, will ease tariffs on some $90 billion of annual commerce, and was Europe’s biggest riposte to Trump’s assault on the multilateral trading order. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, invited to the summit as Macron’s special guest, is set to be one of the biggest winners from the deal and invested time and political capital to get it over the line just eight weeks ago. Sanchez had no warning the announcement was coming, according to an official.In The OpenThe public slapdown in the end came from Merkel.Her spokesman told Bloomberg that the chancellor doesn’t believe shooting down the trade deal will achieve Macron’s aim of slowing deforestation in Brazil and actually contains binding commitments on climate protection. She doesn’t think threatening to block the accord is an appropriate response to what is happening in Brazil, he added.After Macron’s political maneuvering over talks with Washington, Merkel had already concluded that she couldn’t rely on France when it comes to trade. Now their split is out in the open.Johnson is seeking to divide them over Brexit. Trump is cranking up the pressure on a host of issues from trade to Iran and economic policy.If they were looking for clues to how robust the EU’s essential alliance is ahead of their latest assault, Macron just handed it to them on a plate.To contact the reporters on this story: Arne Delfs in Biarritz, France at adelfs@bloomberg.net;Helene Fouquet in Biarritz, France at hfouquet1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, ;Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 16:47:15 -0400
  • UN threatens sanctions over C.Africa peace pact violations

    Golocal247.com news

    The United Nations special envoy for the Central African Republic on Friday threatened sanctions for violations of a peace agreement signed by the government and rebel groups to end a war that has ravaged the country since 2013. The CAR is experiencing relative calm since the accord was signed in February between the government and 14 military groups -- the eighth deal since the conflict erupted -- but clashes are still regular in the landlocked country.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 16:47:03 -0400
  • US-China Business Council urges talks to end damaging trade tensions

    The US-China Business Council on Friday said millions of U.S. citizens will be harmed by the increased trade tensions between the United States and China, the world's largest economies, following the latest salvos in the U.S.-China trade war. The group, which represents American companies doing business in China, urged President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to end the downward cycle of tit-for-tat tariffs and focus on resolving their trade differences. "A trade deal that addresses the legitimate concerns articulated by the (U.S. Trade Representative's office) in its Section 301 Report would be in the mutual interest of both China and the United States.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 16:10:20 -0400
  • Here are the reasons for Trump's economic war with China

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    On Friday the US president ‘hereby ordered’ companies to halt business with China, among other attacks – how did we get here? Donald Trump and Xi Jinping in Osaka, Japan, on 29 June. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/ReutersEven by Donald Trump’s standards his Twitter rant attacking China on Friday was extraordinary. In a series of outbursts Trump “hereby ordered” US companies to stop doing business with China, accused the country of killing 100,000 Americans a year with imported fentanyl and stealing hundred of billions in intellectual property.The attack marked a new low in Sino-US relations and looks certain to escalate a trade war already worrying investors, manufacturers and economists who are concerned that the dispute between the two economic superpowers could trigger a recession.Not so long ago Trump called China’s president, Xi Jinping, “a good friend”. Now he is an “enemy”. How did we get here? China, China, ChinaOn the campaign trail Trump railed against China accusing it of pulling off “one of the greatest thefts in the history of the world” and “raping” the US economy.Trump repeated the word China so often it spawned a viral video of him saying it over and over again. The attacks were a hit with voters and helped get him elected. He has continued lambasting China – to cheers – at rallies ever since.His main beef? The trade deficit. Trade deficitThe US imported a record $539.5bn in goods from China in 2018 and sold the Chinese $120.3bn in return. The difference between those two numbers – $419.2bn – is the trade deficit.That deficit has been growing for years as manufacturing has shifted to low-cost China and, according to Trump, it explains the hollowing out of US manufacturing.For Trump, and especially for his adviser Peter Navarro, who once described China as “the planet’s most efficient assassin”, trade deficits represent an existential threat to US jobs and national security. China makes up the largest part of the US trade deficit but those fears are also behind his disputes with the EU, Canada and Mexico.His detractors argue these deficit worries are hyperbole and a result of the US’s stronger economy, which allows consumers to buy goods at cheaper prices.The truth is probably somewhere in between.While it’s true that unemployment is at record lows and consumers continue to prop up the economy, manufacturing jobs have been lost (automation is also to blame for this) and with them wage growth (although the hollowing out of unions plays a part here).But it is not just deficits that concerns Trump. ThievesChina has a deserved reputation for intellectual property theft. On Friday, Trump estimated China robs the US of “hundreds of billions” a year in ideas.In March, a CNBC poll found one in five US corporations had intellectual property stolen from them within the last year by China.According to the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, the theft costs $600bn a year. Beijing bucksLike Tesla, Nio, a Chinese electric vehicle (EV) company, is suffering as subsidies for EVs are phased out. Unlike Tesla, Nio has Xi. China is pumping $1.5bn into the company to keep it on the road, the latest in a series of handouts that the Trump administration believes are unfair.Cheap steel and aluminium, subsidized by the Chinese government, are the origins of this trade dispute. According to the White House, last year alone China dumped and unfairly subsidized goods including steel wheels, tool chests and cabinets and rubber bands on to the US market.To be fair the US too is more than willing to bail out its industries (see: the banks or the automakers) at the taxpayers’ expense. But at this point “fair” is not up for discussion. Currency manipulatorEarlier this month the US officially accused China of manipulating its currency “to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade”.It was the first time since 1994 that such a complaint has been made official and comes as the dollar has strengthened against world currencies. The dispute adds another layer of tension to a complex situation.China disputed the charge accusing the US of “deliberately destroying international order” with “unilateralism and protectionism”.The International Monetary Fund (IMF) appears to be on China’s side, arguing the devaluation of the yuan is largely in line with worsening economic conditions in China. What happens next?The US has now slapped billions of dollars on tariffs on Chinese goods. China retaliated, again, on Friday with more levies on US goods. China’s economic growth has slowed to levels unseen since 1992; US economic forecasts have also been cut.American farmers were the first to feel the result, as China has canceled orders, and manufacturers are increasingly gloomy. So far US consumers have not felt the pinch but JP Morgan estimates the average US household will end up paying $1,000 a year for goods if the latest set of tariffs go through.The unanswerable question is whether any of this will sway Trump. If his supporters continue to see a trade war with China – and the pain it will cause – as the necessary price to Make America Great Again, then the answer is probably no.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 16:10:16 -0400
  • Putin orders Russia to respond after US missile test

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    President Vladimir Putin ordered the Russian military on Friday to work out a quid pro quo response after the test of a new U.S. missile banned under a now-defunct arms treaty. In Sunday's test, a modified ground-launched version of a U.S. Navy Tomahawk cruise missile accurately struck its target more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) away. The test came after Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 15:53:06 -0400
  • With no-deal Brexit on the horizon, US farmers are sensing a lucrative opportunity

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    With the UK facing an uncertain future as Boris Johnson marches the country towards a no-deal Brexit, American farmers can’t help but see something of a golden opportunity to bring their goods into a new market.While many US farmers have historically been turned away from trading with the United Kingdom over fears for the implications of practices like washing chickens in chlorine, or the use of genetically modified crops, Britain’s impending exit from the EU has left some dreaming of a change to that situation.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 15:52:19 -0400
  • N. Korea says it will remain 'threat' to US, slams Pompeo

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    North Korea on Friday launched a scathing attack on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling him a "diehard toxin" and saying it was "sceptical" whether it can negotiate with him. Pyongyang also vowed to remain the United States's "biggest 'threat'" and said annual US-South Korea joint military drills had "complicated" nuclear talks between the two countries. "We are ready for both dialogue and stand-off," North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said in a statement.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 15:22:31 -0400
  • Japan Built a Killer Kamikaze Jet Weapon: A World War II Winner?

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    While plans called for producing almost 500 Kikkas by the end of 1945, those plans were dashed by Japan's surrender on August 15. Just one aircraft had been completed by war's end.​It is a fallacy that Germany was the only nation to develop combat jets in World War II. In truth, while Germany had the most advanced technology, all of the major powers had jet aircraft projects during World War II, including the United States, Britain, Russia, Italy and Japan.(This first appeared several months ago.)The most well-known Japanese jet—and the only one that saw combat—was the Okha, a rocket-propelled and human-piloted kamikaze. But another Japanese jet actually flew before the war ended, and would have seen combat had it continued: the Nakajima Kikka.Japanese scientists had actually studied jet engines as far back as the 1930s, despite little government support, and even a turbojet prototype by 1943. Tokyo also knew of German research due to Japanese observers who witnessed early tests of the legendary German Me-262 jet fighter in 1942, But it wasn't until the summer of 1944, when U.S. B-29 bombers began to pound Japan, that the Japanese Navy asked for the Kokoku Heiki No. 2, or Kikka ("orange blossom").Recommended: America’s Battleships Went to War Against North KoreaRecommended: 5 Places World War III Could Start in 2018Recommended: How North Korea Could Start a WarThat the Kikka resembled an Me-262 is no coincidence—nor was it a matter of simple imitation. Japan's jet program was heavily derived from German research, but the aid was hardly straightforward. In July 1944, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering ordered that Japan be provided with blueprints for the Me-262, the Junkers Jumo 004 and BMW 003 turbojet engines, and even an actual Me-262 aircraft.Yet the Japanese submarine carrying the plans from Germany to Japan was sunk by U.S. forces, though not before a Japanese envoy got off at Singapore with just a single cutaway drawing of the BMW 003 (arguably just as important as the blueprints for the Me-262, given that early jets were only as good as their unreliable engines). That was enough for Japanese engineers to build the Ne-20 turbojet, an engine that was superior to the homegrown Ne-12 that was originally supposed to power the Kikka.There were two striking aspects to the Kikka. The most obvious is that it looks like a smaller version of the Me-262, though the similarities were mostly skin-deep. Unlike the German jet, the Kikka had straight instead of swept-back wings, which hampered its performance. The other striking aspect was that it was originally designed as a kamikaze. "In keeping with the shimpu [kamikaze] mission of the aircraft, the initial design had no landing gear and was to be launched from catapult ramps, boosted with RATO [rocket-assisted take off] units," writes aviation historian Edwin Dyer. "The calculated range was a mere 204km (127 miles) due to the designated engine, the Ne 12, which burned fuel at a rapid rate. At sea level the estimated speed was 639km/h (397mph). A single bomb fixed to the aircraft was the only armament. Another feature was the inclusion of folding wings to allow the aircraft to be hidden in caves and tunnels and protected from bombing attacks."By March 1945, the Kikka's mission changed to a tactical bomber, and an interceptor armed with 30mm cannon. Its engine changed from the Ne-12 turbojet to the Ne-20 (though shortages of key metals reduced the Ne-20's efficiency). But design was one thing: building jets in 1945 while Japanese aircraft and engine factories were being pounded by U.S. bombers was another. Nonetheless, on August 7, 1945—the day after Hiroshima became the first atomic victim—test pilot Lt. Cdr. Susumu Takaoka made the first (nonkamikaze) flight of a Japanese jet. However, a second flight on August 11, two days after Nagasaki, resulted in a crash landing that damaged the Kikka prototype beyond repair.Not that it mattered. While plans called for producing almost 500 Kikkas by the end of 1945, those plans were dashed by Japan's surrender on August 15. Just one aircraft had been completed by war's end.How did the Kikka compare to the Me-262s that worried the Allied air forces in 1944–45? The Me-262A1A had a top speed of 540 miles per hour, which left in the dust American pilots flying P-51D Mustangs (maximum speed 437 miles per hour). Plans for the interceptor version of the Kikka called for a maximum speed of 443 miles per hour. In other words, its maximum speed was about the same as a Mustang, and the early jets of World War II were neither known for maneuverability or engine reliability.The most intriguing question, of course, is whether Japanese jets could have changed the outcome of the Pacific War had they been fielded in time. The best answer is to look at what happened to Germany, which actually produced 1,400 Me-262s, some of which saw combat between November 1944 and May 1945. Though quite disturbing to the Allies, the jets didn't save the Third Reich. There were too many Allied aircraft, the Anglo-American air forces mounted standing patrols over airfields to catch the Me-262 during their vulnerable take-off and landing runs, and Nazi Germany was being overrun Allied tanks.With an even worse fuel and raw-materials situation than Germany, Japan probably would have fared no better. The Kikka would have been overwhelmed by the massive U.S. land-based and carrier-based formations that roamed over Japan in the last days of the war. If it had been fielded earlier, perhaps it could have made some difference over battlefields such as the 1944 U.S. invasion of the Philippines. Yet even there, the Kikka's short range would have rendered it unsuitable for the long-distance flying that characterized the Pacific War. The Kikka might have been relegated to a defensive role over the home islands, intercepting daytime B-29 raids—except the Americans eventually switched the B-29s from day raids to night, when the radar-less Kikka could not fly.Like its big brother the Me-262, the Kikka was too little, too late.Suggested Reading: Japanese Secret Projects 1: Experimental Aircraft of the IJA & IJN 1939-1945, by Edwin Dyer.Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.Image: Wikipedia.(This article first appeared earlier this year and is being republished due to reader interest.)

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 15:00:00 -0400
  • After Beating and Hernia, American Prisoner Paul Whelan Refused Hospitalization by FSB Doctors

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    KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEVMOSCOW–Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen held in Russia on suspicion of spying, looked pale and sick when his prison guards brought him to Lefortovo court on Friday. He said he had been beaten and is suffering from a hernia, but his condition is hardly a surprise after eight months in Moscow’s Lefortovo, a prison run but the Russian Federal Security Service, FSB, and it looks like Whelan has learned only too well how incarceration there operates.Whelan is facing 20 years in Russian prison for spying, after accepting a flashcard that allegedly contains some sensitive information. His family is far away, he does not speak the Russian language, and on top of everything the 49-year-old security manager for a Michigan-based auto parts company is suffering from a painful inguinal hernia, with part of his intestine having ruptured the abdominal wall.Paul Whelan, Accused U.S. Spy Held in Moscow, Says a Russian Investigator Threatened His LifeWhen the judge suggested calling an ambulance in the middle of the hearing on Friday morning, Whelan rejected the idea, as a useless waste of time: “The nurses won’t take me to a hospital, they will only check my blood pressure, temperature, and say, ‘You are fine,’” he told the court.By now Whelan must have learned the rules and brutal methods in Russian prisons. “No ordinary ambulance can take a prisoner who is under FSB investigation to the hospital,” Alexander Cherkasov, chair of the Memorial Human Rights Center told The Daily Beast. “There is a specialized hospital 20 where they normally take sick prisoners, after a certain bureaucratic procedure.”Also, no Russian nurse working for an ambulance carries strong painkillers. (Russian doctors are not allowed to prescribe strong drugs even for people dying in agonizing pain, so Russians suffer from pain all over the country, many committing suicide.)Whelan looked and sounded doomed. He said that his health condition worsened after his prison guard beat him. The incident happened earlier this month, when Whelan was being moved from one cell to another. Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told The Daily Beast, “I have checked: prison guards did not know that my client had a hernia, they made him carry all his stuff himself to a different cell. The treatment in Lefortovo is inhuman.”  On Friday, Whelan told the judge, “If you call for a doctor who would hospitalize me, I don’t mind calling for the ambulance.” But just as he predicted, the nurses on call checked him right at Lefortovo Court and decided against his hospitalization.Whelan, who holds U.S., Canadian, British, and Irish passports, was arrested on December 28 in his hotel room a few steps away from the Kremlin. His lawyer Zherebenkov predicted early on the way the case was likely to develop: “They will pickle Paul for a year or more, as he is clearly just a pawn; and then they will swap him for some important Russian kept in American prison,” the lawyer told The Daily Beast in January.Almost eight months later Zherebenkov still has not seen any solid evidence establishing his client’s guilt. “The FSB  investigation has not presented us with a single solid piece of material, so our truth in this case is even stronger than half a year ago–that’s why FSB want more time,” the lawyer said.Meet Putin’s American Prisoner, Paul WhelanAccording to Media Zona, a group of journalists reporting on news about Russian prisons and court cases, at least 99 detainees died in detention centers and prisons used by investigators in 2016. Many more died in prison camps. “It is hard for us to find out what causes the deaths of prisoners—when prison guards crack somebody’s head open, they say that the detainee fell down and died in an accident,” Dmitry Shvets, a Media Zona reporter told The Daily Beast. But the problem is not just physical violence. “Lefortovo prison is famous for psychological torture by isolation. The inmates cannot communicate with each other, no prisoner has a chance to use a phone.”Whelan’s family was aware that the FSB wanted to extend the time for investigation for two more months. ”This morning's hearing was more theatrical than his previous hearings—ejecting the media, calling an ambulance—but we were not surprised by the result,” Whelan’s twin brother, David, told The Daily Beast.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 14:42:12 -0400
  • Putin promises 'symmetrical response' to US missile test after end of nuclear treaty

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    Vladimir Putin has promised a “symmetrical response” to the US test of a missile banned under a nuclear weapons treaty rubbished this month by the Trump administration amid fears of a new arms race. A new land-based version of the navy's Tomahawk cruise missile fired from an island in California struck a target more than 310 miles away on Sunday, according to the Pentagon. The recently defunct 1987 US-Russian intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty banned land-based missiles with ranges between 310 and 3,410 miles. On Friday, Mr Putin told his security council that the test just 16 days after the treaty's demise proved that the United States had long been developing weapons in violation of the agreement, while accusing Russia of the same as part of a “propaganda campaign”. He argued that the use of an Mk41 launcher on Sunday confirmed Russia's longstanding complaints that US missile defence installations in Romania and Poland could be repurposed to fire offensive weapons. By leaving the agreement, Washington wanted to “untie its hands for the deployment to different regions of the world of missiles that were previously banned,” Mr Putin said. “American politicians at a high level are saying that the deployment of new systems could start in the Asia Pacific region, but that also touches on our vital interests, since this is all close to Russia's borders,” he said.  He ordered the defence and foreign ministries to “analyse the level of the threat to our country created by the aforementioned actions of the United States and take exhaustive steps to prepare a symmetrical response”.  The US defence department on Sunday tests a land-based cruise missile that would previously have been banned  Credit: Scott Howe/Department of Defence/UPI/Barcroft While he did not say exactly what that would be be, it was reported in February that Russia could begin producing a land-based version of its Kalibr cruise missile with a range of 1,600 miles by the end of the year.  “For a symmetrical response, it would be enough to take Kalibr and put it on land and conduct a launch,” defence analyst Alexander Golts told The Telegraph. “That wouldn't take a huge effort.” Donald Trump's announcement in February that he would withdraw from the INF treaty, which ended the deployment of US ballistic missiles to Europe and of Soviet nukes targeting them, raised fears of a new arms race. European leaders persuaded Mr Trump to give Russia six months to end its 9M729 missile programme, which the United States had said was in violation of the treaty. Moscow denied this and accused Washington of undermining the agreement with its missile defence plans.  The Pentagon has claimed that the Mk41 launcher used in Sunday's test was not the same as the Aegis Ashore missile defence system in Romania, which is also being deployed to Poland. In his statement, Mr Putin insisted Russia would not be drawn into an “arms race that is destructive for our economy”. But he also noted that Russia was developing weapons “with no equivalent,” a reference to prospective arms announced last year including a hypersonic glider warhead, underwater nuclear drone and nuclear-powered cruise missile.  The tit-for-tat “response” announced by the president could also include tests of these weapons, according to Mr Golts. “We can assume that everything Russia has to demonstrate its power will be moved out under the guise of symmetrical measures,” he sad.  While the Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missile is already in deployment, the United States has claimed that tests of the nuclear-powered cruise missile ended in crashes.  The mysterious engine test explosion that killed at least five and caused a radiation spike in northern Russia this month was believed by some to be related to this programme.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 14:23:36 -0400
  • As G7 leaders gather in Biarritz, the group is more divided than at any time in its 45 year history

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    This weekend's G7 summit is unlikely to produce a joint communique amid deepening divisions between the world's seven richest nations over everything from Brexit to trade, climate change, and how to deal with China, Iran, and Russia.  It will be the first time the forum of leading economies has failed to produce a statement of common intention and agreement since it began as the Group of Five in 1975, in the latest blow to the post-Cold War consensus of free trade, democracy, and globalisation that it once represented.  Emmanuel Macron will host Boris Johnson,  Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Canada's Justin Trudeau, and Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte for the 45th summit of the world's leading industrialized nations in the surfing resort of Biaritz this weekend.  An early sign of trouble came last week, when Donald Trump repeated his call for Russia to be readmitted to the group. Vladimir Putin has been persona-non-grata at G7 meetings since he annexed Crimea and sent troops to support a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine in 2014.  Mr Macron immediately shot that down, warning it would be “strategic error” to let Russia back into the club while it continued to fuel the war in east Ukraine.    Vladimir Putin's banishment from the G7 has become a point of contention between Mr Trump and the other leaders Credit: Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/ REUTERS “I think to say that without any conditions Russia can return to the table would be signing off the weakness of the G7,” he said.     Boris Johnson, widely seen as a rare European ally of Mr Trump, was equally lukewarm on Russia returning: “Given what happened in Salisbury,” he noted after meeting Mrs Merkel this week,  “the case has yet to be made.”   But differences over how to handle Mr Putin are only the tip of the iceberg.  On Friday night a series of tweets by Mr Trump raised fears that the escalating trade war between the US and China will tip the global economy into recession. He said he had "ordered" American companies to leave China after Beijing announced tariffs on $75 billion worth of US goods. Mr Macron has made the forest fires in Brazil the top priority for the summit, and has also said he wants to use the summit to push for an overhaul a “crazy” global tax system that sees tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook get away with paying minimal taxes no matter where they operate.  Winning over Mr Trump, who leads by far the biggest economy in the room and enjoys considerable influence with other populists, including Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, is key to achieving those goals.  But Mr Trump has a much more sceptical attitude to climate change than his G7 colleagues, and sees the notion of a “digital tax” as an attack on US flagship businesses. He has threatened to slap tariffs on French wine in retaliation. The seven are also divided over rising strategic challenges.  U.S. President Donald Trump meets French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in 2018 Credit: CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS In 2018 Mr Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and adopted a policy of maximum economic pressure intended to force Tehran to accept tighter nuclear restrictions and end its ballistic missile program and backing for armed groups across the Middle East.  The European members of the club, including Britain, remain committed to the agreement and have attempted to continue to trade with Iran in a bid to keep the deal alive, despite US pressure.  Ironically, Mr Macron may be relying on that French wine - among other delicacies - to raise the mood at what are expected to be contentious talks.  The Elysee palace has hired five Michelin-starred local chefs to prepare Basque specialties for the lunches and dinners where the most serious talking will be done.  The G7, consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, began in the 1970s as an annual meeting of the leaders of the world's largest developed economies.   Russia joined as a full member in 1998, making it the G8. It was suspended following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and left permanently in 2017.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 14:15:06 -0400
  • Jair Bolsonaro blamed for turning a blind eye to degradation in the name of 'progress'

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    During a recent visit to the Amazon where he proposed opening up mining in an ecological reserve the size of Denmark, the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro summarised his approach to the rainforest. “Let’s use the riches that God gave us for the well-being of our population,” Mr Bolsonaro said, before adding to any would-be prospectors: “You won’t get any trouble…” Ever since he took office in January this evangelism, populism, and total disregard for the vital ecological role the Amazon serves have been the hallmarks of Mr Bolsonaro’s tenure. The apocalyptic wildfires of recent days – more than 9,000 individual blazes have been recorded across the Amazon in the past week alone – are being blamed largely on the approach taken to the world’s largest rainforest by the man nicknamed ‘Captain Chainsaw’. To put the destruction into context: this year there have been more than 70,000 wildfires recorded in Brazil, an 84 per cent increase on the same period last year. In the past month alone some 1,000 square kilometres (386 square miles) of the rainforest has been engulfed by wildfire.  Mr Bolsonaro has decried the fact that 15 per cent of Brazil’s territory is reserved for indigenous tribes Credit: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters During the dry season in Brazil – the largest country in Latin America which contains 60 per cent of the Amazon – it is common for wildfires to occur in the rainforest but experts say the current rate is unprecedented and the direct result of demons unleashed by Mr Bolsonaro in his pledges to turn a blind eye to environmental degradation in the name of economic progress. “It is absolutely clear those who are starting these fires are doing so because they feel empowered by the rhetoric they have heard from the Brazilian president,” says Mike Barrett, WWF-UK’s executive director of science and conservation. Mr Bolsonaro, a 64-year-old former army captain, was elected on the back of the country’s worst recession in history. During his controversial campaign he successfully courted the support of Brazil’s powerful evangelical churches - who were attracted by his ultra-conservative messages - and ran on a ticket of removing environmental red tape and attracting development to previously protected parts of the country.  Official data has shown an 84 per cent increase in wildfires in the Amazon this year Credit: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters Lands belonging to Brazil’s indigenous tribes have in particular provoked his ire. Mr Bolsonaro has decried the fact that 15 per cent of Brazil’s territory is reserved for indigenous tribes despite their numbers adding up to fewer than 1m people. “Let us together integrate these citizens and bring value to all Brazilians" he tweeted in January.  The previous month he had bluntly told reporters: “Why in Brazil do we have to keep them as inmates in reserves, as if they were animals in a zoo?” Since taking office Mr Bolsonaro has handed control of the country’s indigenous affairs to its Ministry of Agriculture and slashed the budget of Brazil’s environmental protection agency by 24 percent.  There have been numerous accounts of unpermitted development and land grabs on indigenous reserves, while the environmental regulatory issued fewer fines than at any point since 1995 during the first two months of his presidency. The president has suggested Brazilian tribes should be taken out of reserves and "integrated" into society Credit: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters In a statement released on Friday, the Coordination of Indigenous Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB) expressed its “extreme concern” about the rapid destruction of the Amazon rainforest, adding: “Loggers are taking our land and irresponsible landlords are taking advantage of the weakening of environmental surveillance to advance into our homes.” In July a tribal chief from the Amapa region was murdered. According to media reports, witnesses saw a number of gold miners enter the protected reserve of the Wajãpi community, then stab their leader to death. In response to the incident the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, decried the killing and characterised it as part of a larger issue of “encroachment on indigenous land".  Mr Bolsonaro’s response was typical, suggesting the victim may not have been murdered at all.  Mr Bolsonaro has claimed NGOs may be responsible for setting the fires in order to tarnish Brazil's image, but has provided no evidence when pressed Credit: Rio Branco Firefighters/REX Such pugnaciousness is a hallmark of a president determined to face down any perceived criticism. Earlier this month the director of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) – which has provided the data showing the rise in deforestation – was fired by Mr Bolsonaro who dismissed its findings as “lies” designed to harm Brazil.  Striking a similarly aggressive tone, this week he has sought to blame the wildfires on NGOs operating in the Amazon whom he has previously accused of “sticking their noses into Brazil”. When pressed he admitted he could not provide any evidence to confirm his claims. As the forest burns, and miners, loggers and cattle ranchers move in to exploit the land, Mr Bolsonaro has also reopened the door to a series of new hydroelectric dam projects in the Amazon, reversing a decision taken by the previous administration due to the feared ecological impact on the forest. Yet it is wrong to blame all the Amazon’s current woes on Mr Bolsonaro. Certainly the recent deforestation is a problem far from confined to Brazil.  After a decade or so of gradual progress, deforestation has suddenly exploded across the Amazon, which spans nine countries containing 40 per cent of earth’s rainforest and 10-15 per cent of all its terrestrial species. Weather satellites have shown the extent of the wildfires from space Credit: NASA/NOAA/Reuters Cattle ranchers are believed to account for roughly 80 per cent of deforestation in the region, with Brazil's Amazon one of the world's largest exporters of beef. Experts warn a tipping point could soon be reached where the deforestation becomes irreversible and much of the Amazon turns into dry savannah, transforming from a vital sink for global emissions to releasing an estimated tens of billions of tonnes of carbon into the air. Last week the Telegraph reported from the Colombian Amazon where deforestation has rapidly increased from 124,000 hectares in 2015 to 197,000 hectares in 2018, 66 per cent of which is concentrated in the Amazon region. There, as in Brazil, starting fires is deemed the quickest way of levelling swathes of land to turn into cattle pastures. The animals are left to graze among charred stumps standing as headstones to the pristine forest that once stood there. Despite rising international condemnation of the destruction, Mr Bolsonaro’s approach remains resolute. “Brazil does not owe the world anything when it comes to environmental protection”, he said in March. The Amazon, Captain Chainsaw insists, is his to do with as he pleases.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:48:22 -0400
  • Israeli teen dies of wounds in West Bank attack, 2 wounded

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    An explosion Friday near a West Bank settlement that Israel said was a Palestinian attack killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl and wounded her brother and father, Israeli authorities said. Initially, three Israelis were reported wounded in the blast on Friday near the Dolev settlement, northwest of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered condolences to the family and vowed to pursue the perpetrators and "strengthen" Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:44:09 -0400
  • Revealed: Felix Sater Did Extensive Work for U.S. Intelligence

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    Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty/APBefore appearing in the Trump-Russia probe, Felix Sater traveled throughout Central Asia gathering intelligence on the Taliban for the U.S. government, according to a decade-old court filing unsealed Friday. In 1998, the Russian-American businessman began cooperating with the U.S. government after pleading guilty to participating in a $40 million stock-fraud case involving New York mafia figures. After entering his plea, Sater spent years working hand-in-hand with the CIA and the FBI to target New York organized crime families and Al Qaeda, according to a 2009 letter filed by prosecutors requesting a reduced sentence for Sater due to his cooperation. The judge obliged, assigning him a $25,000 fine and no prison time. “[T]he agents who worked with Sater found him to be dependable, insightful, and hard-working,” the letter said.Sater drew immense public interest during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of links between the Trump campaign and Russia because Sater helped President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen negotiate a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Those talks unfolded secretly in the heat of the 2016 presidential campaign, even as Trump publicly claimed he had “nothing to do with Russia.” In an eye-popping email, Sater even told Cohen that Russian President Vladimir Putin could help Trump win the election if the deal went through.Sater, unsurprisingly, drew scorching criticism for this activity. But he has defended himself by claiming to be a patriot who worked closely with American spies at great personal risk. The filing by federal prosecutors, known as a 5K1 letter, indicates there is some truth to those claims.Benton Campbell, the then-U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, sent the letter on August 27, 2009 to Judge Leo Glasser, who presided over Sater’s case. Felix Sater: The Crook Behind the Trump-Russia ‘Peace’ PlanU.S. officials have alluded in the past to Sater’s cooperation. In her Senate confirmation hearing to be attorney general in 2015, for instance, Loretta Lynch praised his work with the Justice Department. But the newly unsealed letter is the most detailed statement from the feds on Sater’s work for Uncle Sam.  The letter begins by describing a serendipitous find: In an abandoned storage unit that police seized in January 1998, someone had left loaded guns and documents detailing the criminal enterprise that Sater was involved in. Sater was overseas at the time. When he learned law enforcement were looking for him, he immediately contacted American intelligence officers, and, in an effort to shore up goodwill, offered information about Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, which was fighting the Taliban. U.S. intelligence officials took him up on the offer, and he spent the spring and summer of 1998 traveling through Central Asia and gathering information about the Northern Alliance, including details on their interest in selling Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the U.S. (including those missiles’ serial numbers), as well as information about the Taliban and Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.That year, he got in touch with an ex-KGB officer-turned-arms dealer who had information about threats to the U.S. emanating from Central Asia and Afghanistan. Sater shared the arms dealer’s information with the CIA and the FBI. The contact told Sater about the missiles, as well as what was believed to be bin Laden’s satellite phone number and information about the people who supplied the terrorist leader with weapons.Sater also worked with a precious stones dealer who had Taliban contacts. The FBI paid for a phone that Sater sent to the dealer, according to the letter. The two used it to stay “in constant contact.” That individual shared ample information with Sater that he passed on to the U.S. government, including details on bin Laden’s location after the September 11 attacks, information on Al Qaeda’s structure and finances, the purported location of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, details on the casualties of U.S. airstrikes, details on a plot to assassinate President George W. Bush, and information on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.The letter notes that Sater traveled to dangerous parts of Central Asia to gather much of this information.  In December 1998, Sater returned to the U.S., surrendered, entered a guilty plea, and explained to prosecutors the significance of the storage unit’s contents. And he kept cooperating. Sater shared detailed information with the prosecutors about organized crime in New York. Most importantly, prosecutors said he helped them secure the conviction of Frank Coppa Jr., a member of the Bonanno crime family. A footnote in the letter notes that Coppa then began cooperating, which led to the conviction and cooperation of Joe Massino, the boss of the Bonanno crime family. Massino’s subsequent cooperation with the feds was historic: one federal judge said he “may be the most important cooperator in the modern history of law enforcement efforts to prosecute the American Mafia.”Sater also helped the feds investigate access device fraud and money-laundering schemes that started in Russia, according to the letter. The letter concludes with a full-throated endorsement of Sater’s work. “Felix went above and beyond what is expected of most cooperators and placed himself in great jeopardy by so doing,” it said.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:42:03 -0400
  • At the G7, Trump Is One of the Popular Ones

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Donald Trump is an unpopular president. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average as of Friday afternoon, only 43.3% of Americans approve of his performance. FiveThirtyEight, which weights polls by quality, sample size and partisan lean, puts the average at 41.6%.But as the president meets with leaders of the other G7 countries in the French resort city of Biarritz this weekend, he can take solace in the fact that he’s more popular than almost all of his peers. The lone exception seems to be Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, whose cabinet’s approval rating is 48.8% (to only 35% disapproval) in the Japan Political Pulse poll aggregator maintained by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.Only 32% of Germans polled for broadcaster ARD a few weeks ago said they were satisfied with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating was 41% in one recent poll and 39% in another (and in the second poll, by Ipsos, only 33% agreed that he “has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected”). In the U.K., only 31% have a positive opinion of brand-new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to YouGov. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte just resigned, so while he remains in office until a new government is formed and the current governing coalition still has a majority in polls, I don’t think he can really be counted as riding on a wave of approval.Then there is French President Emmanuel Macron, the one other more or less directly elected head of state (as opposed to leader of a parliamentary government) coming to Biarritz. In so many ways, he’s the diametric opposite of Trump: young, cosmopolitan, well-spoken, technocratic. He’s the least popular of the lot, with a 28% approval rating in the most recent poll listed by the diligent editors of the “Opinion polling on the Emmanuel Macron presidency” Wikipedia page and 22% percent in the one before that.Trump’s approval rating has of course been remarkably stable, stuck since early 2018 in a narrow band between 40% and 45%. This may be the result of extreme partisan polarization — Trump remains very popular, if not quite as popular as he says he is, among Republicans — or of the personalization of the presidency. Or maybe it’s just that a reasonably healthy economy and a chaotic presidential performance have so far mostly canceled each other out. In any case, approval ratings seem to be less stable in other countries, and with the world and Europe in particular in the midst of an economic slowdown, their common direction at the moment seems to be down. Macroeconomic fluctuations aside, there also seems to be a more general dissatisfaction afoot in many rich, Western democracies that makes it tough for incumbents to remain popular.In the U.S., Trump has enjoyed both economic good times and a seemingly inalienable base of about 25% of Americans — that is, the people who say in polls that they “strongly approve” of his performance. There’s another 40% or so who “strongly disapprove” of him, though, and recent signs of economic sputtering seem be dragging Trump’s overall approval rating down at least a little. By all appearances, this is rattling the president. While in Biarritz he might want to consider chilling out and enjoying the fact that, relative to that crowd, he still counts as quite beloved.To contact the author of this story: Justin Fox at justinfox@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:25:05 -0400
  • At the G7, Trump Is One of the Popular Ones

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Donald Trump is an unpopular president. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average as of Friday afternoon, only 43.3% of Americans approve of his performance. FiveThirtyEight, which weights polls by quality, sample size and partisan lean, puts the average at 41.6%.But as the president meets with leaders of the other G7 countries in the French resort city of Biarritz this weekend, he can take solace in the fact that he’s more popular than almost all of his peers. The lone exception seems to be Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, whose cabinet’s approval rating is 48.8% (to only 35% disapproval) in the Japan Political Pulse poll aggregator maintained by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.Only 32% of Germans polled for broadcaster ARD a few weeks ago said they were satisfied with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating was 41% in one recent poll and 39% in another (and in the second poll, by Ipsos, only 33% agreed that he “has done a good job and deserves to be re-elected”). In the U.K., only 31% have a positive opinion of brand-new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, according to YouGov. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte just resigned, so while he remains in office until a new government is formed and the current governing coalition still has a majority in polls, I don’t think he can really be counted as riding on a wave of approval.Then there is French President Emmanuel Macron, the one other more or less directly elected head of state (as opposed to leader of a parliamentary government) coming to Biarritz. In so many ways, he’s the diametric opposite of Trump: young, cosmopolitan, well-spoken, technocratic. He’s the least popular of the lot, with a 28% approval rating in the most recent poll listed by the diligent editors of the “Opinion polling on the Emmanuel Macron presidency” Wikipedia page and 22% percent in the one before that.Trump’s approval rating has of course been remarkably stable, stuck since early 2018 in a narrow band between 40% and 45%. This may be the result of extreme partisan polarization — Trump remains very popular, if not quite as popular as he says he is, among Republicans — or of the personalization of the presidency. Or maybe it’s just that a reasonably healthy economy and a chaotic presidential performance have so far mostly canceled each other out. In any case, approval ratings seem to be less stable in other countries, and with the world and Europe in particular in the midst of an economic slowdown, their common direction at the moment seems to be down. Macroeconomic fluctuations aside, there also seems to be a more general dissatisfaction afoot in many rich, Western democracies that makes it tough for incumbents to remain popular.In the U.S., Trump has enjoyed both economic good times and a seemingly inalienable base of about 25% of Americans — that is, the people who say in polls that they “strongly approve” of his performance. There’s another 40% or so who “strongly disapprove” of him, though, and recent signs of economic sputtering seem be dragging Trump’s overall approval rating down at least a little. By all appearances, this is rattling the president. While in Biarritz he might want to consider chilling out and enjoying the fact that, relative to that crowd, he still counts as quite beloved.To contact the author of this story: Justin Fox at justinfox@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:25:05 -0400
  • Boris Johnson prepares to take his place on world stage

    Golocal247.com news

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has endeavored to lead his country since he was a boy, will get his first moment on the world stage in his new role at the Group of Seven summit in France this weekend. The man who has said his life's ambition as a child was to be "world king" could be the shortest-serving prime minister in British history if he fails in his high-stakes gambit to force the European Union to reopen Brexit talks. As Johnson prepares to meet with world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, at the seaside resort of Biarritz, opponents at home are plotting to bring him down with a no-confidence vote after Parliament returns from its summer recess next month.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:20:17 -0400
  • Pompeo says Huawei CEO is not a bargaining chip in Trump-China trade war

    Golocal247.com news

    Mike Pompeo has rejected claims that detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is being used for leverage in the US-China trade war. Speaking with his Canadian counterpart, Chrystia Freeland, in Ottawa on Thursday, the US secretary of state appeared to rule out dropping the extradition request for Ms Meng to ease tensions with Beijing, insisting it is a legal matter. In December, US president Donald Trump implied he might intervene in the case to help secure a trade deal with China. “Whatever’s good for this country, I would do,” he said at the time. The US alleges Ms Meng – the Chinese technology company’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its chief executive – helped  Huawei circumvent sanctions on Iran. According to Vancouver court documents released this week, she told a Canadian border official that the company has an office in Iran. The US has charged Ms Meng, 47, with bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit both. She is currently on bail living under house arrest in one of her Vancouver mansions while her lawyers fight her extradition to the US. Asked on Thursday if she is a “bargaining chip” in US-China trade talks, Mr Pompeo replied simply: “No.” Since Ms Meng’s arrest in Vancouver airport on a US arrest warrant in December, ties between Ottawa and Beijing have fallen to a historically low ebb. Two Canadians, businessman Michael Svapor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig, were arrested and charged with espionage shortly afterwards in what is widely viewed as a reprisal by Beijing. “Our team is focussed on helping those two Canadians be released,” Mr Pompeo said later ahead of a meeting with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Mr Trump spoke directly to Chinese president Xi Jinping about their “arbitrary detention” in June, he told journalists. Mr Pompeo, 55, also slapped down a question comparing their confinement with that of Ms Meng, accusing the journalist of taking “the Chinese line”. Mr Pompeo was visiting Canada ahead of the G7 meeting in France, where relations with China will be discussed. On Friday, Beijing escalated the trade dispute, announcing fresh tariffs on US imports worth $75 billion (£61 billion).

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 12:45:02 -0400
  • Syria retakes territory in NW held by rebels since 2012

    Golocal247.com news

    Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops seized control of a string of villages in the northern countryside of Hama province, completing their takeover of the formerly rebel-held region just south of Idlib province for the first time since 2012, the Syrian army and a war monitoring group said Friday. The army said troops seized the villages of Latamneh, Latmeen, Kfar Zeita and Lahaya, as well as the village of Morek, where Turkey maintains an observation post, pressing ahead its offensive toward Idlib. The army advance represents the latest in a series of losses for rebels who have, for eight years, fought to topple Assad.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 12:38:07 -0400
  • Iran's Zarif praises Macron nuclear crisis suggestions

    Golocal247.com news

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Friday that suggestions by French President Emmanuel Macron about defusing the crisis over Iran's nuclear drive went in the right direction, but that more work needed to be done. "President Macron made some suggestions last week to President (Hassan) Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet," Zarif told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in an interview after meeting Macron for rare talks in Paris. "We had a good discussion today," Zarif said.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 12:29:37 -0400
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