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  • CIA Interrogator Testifies That He Threatened to Kill Prisoner's Son Wed, 29 Jan 2020 08:36:12 -0500

    CIA Interrogator Testifies That He Threatened to Kill Prisoner's SonGUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba -- It started out as questioning about CIA policy, contracts and cables. Then it shifted to a more visceral examination of what happened to the men accused of conspiring in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks while they were held in secret prisons, with a former interrogator testifying about chains, shackles, hoods and threats to kill one prisoner's son.In a pretrial hearing on Tuesday, David Nevin, the lawyer for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 plot, held up various pieces of evidence collected at one of the CIA's now-closed overseas detention and interrogation sites. He asked the witness, James E. Mitchell, a former CIA contract psychologist who worked in the secret prisons and helped devise the torture program, what they were.Shown a chain with a red lock and built-in blue metal device, Mitchell said it looked like something you could "cinch up like a horse collar" but declared the device "completely unfamiliar to me."His answers were much the same as he was confronted with questions about other accounts of how the prisoners were treated. Mitchell said he did not recognize a screeching rendition of the heavy metal song "Let the Bodies Hit the Floor," which detainees claimed was blasted at them in isolation. He disputed the fictional portrayal in the recent film "The Report" of Mohammed being violently waterboarded.Mohammed "didn't scream, grunt or do anything," Mitchell said, citing his recollection of the 183 times he waterboarded him in March 2003. Nevin responded to Mitchell's account by reading from a CIA cable that described Mohammed letting out a "whimper, whine and moan" as guards led him to the waterboard.It was the sixth day of testimony by Mitchell in a pretrial hearing focused on the torture of the defendants during their three and four years of CIA captivity, before they were sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.For much of last week, lawyers questioned Mitchell about documents, intelligence and alphanumeric codes used to mask the identities of people who worked at the black sites and obscure the locations of the prisons.But the tone changed dramatically on Monday, when Mitchell testified that he threatened to kill one of Mohammed's sons if there was another attack on America.He said he did so after he consulted a lawyer at the agency's Counterterrorism Center about how to make the threat without violating the Torture Convention.He said he was advised to make the threat conditional.So, before telling Mohammed "I will cut your son's throat," Mitchell said, he added a series of caveats. They included "if there was another catastrophic attack in the United States," if Mohammed withheld "information that could have stopped it" and "if another American child was killed."Mitchell said he made the threat in March 2003 as "an emotional flag" as he was transitioning from waterboarding and other violent "enhanced interrogation techniques" to more traditional questioning of Mohammed.Pakistani security forces reportedly seized Mohammed's sons, Abed, 7, and Yusuf, 9, in September 2002 in a joint raid with U.S. forces that apprehended Ramzi bin al-Shibh, another defendant in the 9/11 war crimes case. Mohammed would be captured in Pakistan six months later. He was at a CIA black site in Poland later that month when Mitchell made the threat.The boys were subsequently released and are believed to be living in Iran with their mother, but Mohammed apparently did not know their fate until many years later, after his transfer to Guantanamo Bay in 2006.It was one of the most emotional moments in the testimony by Mitchell on the question of torture to help the judge decide what evidence will be allowed at the death-penalty trial, which is scheduled to start next year.Mitchell was unapologetic.He said that eight children died in the 9/11 hijackings that killed 2,976 people in New York, in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Then he gestured toward Mohammed, who was sitting with his lawyers 25 feet away and declared, "He's smirking."The smirk, or any emotion, was not visible from a spectator's gallery at the back of the court. Mohammed appeared impassive throughout the testimony, occasionally fingering his long, orange-dyed beard, while his lawyer questioned Mitchell."Do you think that telling someone that might instill fear in that person?" Nevin asked."Yes, I do," Mitchell replied. "That was the only time that I made that threat to him."Mitchell said he also invoked Mohammed's children during interrogations again that same month, March 2003, in pressing for details on the whereabouts of Mohammed's nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi. Mitchell quoted himself as telling Mohammed that it would be "safer" for his family if he helped the United States find al-Baluchi rather than "have him running around and the U.S. dropping a missile on him."Al-Baluchi, who is charged in the same case with helping the 9/11 hijackers with money transfers and travel arrangements, was captured in Pakistan in April 2003 in a vehicle with another defendant in the case, Walid bin Attash.Zeke Johnson, a program director for Amnesty International who was watching the proceedings, said the threat to kill one of Mohammed's children no doubt broke the law."Threatening to kill a detainee's child would violate the Convention Against Torture and be illegal," Johnson said. "Anyone who broke the law must be held accountable -- from those at the top who ordered it to those who carried it out."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • Islamophobia in the US did not start with Trump, but his tweets perpetuate a long history of equating Muslims with terrorism Wed, 29 Jan 2020 08:21:25 -0500

    Islamophobia in the US did not start with Trump, but his tweets perpetuate a long history of equating Muslims with terrorismPresident Donald Trump retweeted a doctored image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wearing a hijab and Senator Chuck Schumer wearing a turban on Jan. 13. In the fake photo, both were seen standing in front of an Iranian flag with a caption saying: “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.” Trump was again criticized for promoting anti-Muslim sentiments and for being a social media troll who spreads false information. The image was, presumably, meant to criticize Pelosi and other Democrats for questioning Trump’s order to kill the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by positioning Pelosi and Schumer as defending America’s “enemy” – Iran. The image portrays the hijab, turban and Iranian flag in a derogatory manner. It’s not the first time Trump has promoted Islamophobia. With rhetoric like “Islam hates us” and policies such as banning the entry of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, Trump has reinforced the idea that Islam is a threat to the U.S. Trump may have brought Islamophobia into the highest office in the land, but American Islamophobia did not originate with Trump. As a scholar of the history of representations of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. media, I argue that Trump’s tweet plays into a long history of equating Arabs, Muslims and Iranians with terrorism and anti-Americanism. A series of political eventsRepresentations of Arabs, Muslims and Iranians as terrorists emerged after a series of political events starting in the late 1940s. In 1947, in the shadow of World War II and the Holocaust, the United Nations proposed that Palestine be partitioned to create the state of Israel. Most Palestinians rejected the U.N.’s proposal, seeing it as a transfer from British to Israeli colonial rule. They questioned why they would forfeit their land to compensate for the genocide committed by Nazi Germany.Subsequently two Arab-Israeli wars – one in 1948 and another in 1967 – were fought which resulted in the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories and the denial of civil rights to Palestinians.With the objective of recovering their land and bringing attention to their plight, Palestinian groups carried out a series of airplane hijackings. In 1972, at the Munich Olympics, they took members of the Israeli team hostage. These athletes were killed during the rescue attempt. “At the same time,” points out historian William L. Cleveland, “the Israeli government conducted operations against Palestinian leaders in Europe and Beirut and the Israeli air force killed scores of people in Jordan and Lebanon during its frequent raids.”What captured the Western world’s attention, however, was Palestinians’ terror activities. U.S. news reports focused on an “Arab enemy” and awe at the capabilities of the Israeli military. In the U.S., every president since the creation of Israel stated their unequivocal support for the country. Hollywood also frequently portrayed Palestinians as terrorists. The late media scholar Jack Shaheen found 45 Hollywood films from 1949 to 2001 that depicted Palestinians as terrorists, including the 1986 film “The Delta Force” and the 1996 film “Executive Decision,” both about Palestinians hijacking airplanes. Shaheen says “absent from Hollywood’s Israeli-Palestinian movies” are stories that reveal Palestinians as normal people – “computer specialists, domestic engineers, farmers, teachers and artists.” Developing the stereotypeWhile the terrorist stereotype emerged through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it developed an anti-American angle through a series of political events that followed. In 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries announced an oil embargo against several nations, including the United States, in retaliation for their support for Israel in the 1973 October War with Egypt and Syria. The six-month Arab Oil Embargo led to gas shortages, an increase in heating bills and an economic recession in the U.S. Soon thereafter, Hollywood films such as the 1976 “Network” and 1981 “Rollover” portrayed rich and greedy oil sheikhs who were a threat to the U.S. economy.Midcentury developments in Iran, an oil power, contributed to these stereotypes. In 1953, intelligence services in the U.S and England collaborated to oust the democratic secular prime minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, because he had nationalized the country’s oil industry, severing the U.S. and U.K. as beneficiaries. He was succeeded by Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, also known as the shah of Iran, who kept a pro-Western foreign policy and was seen by many as suppressing political opposition. His rule resulted in violent demonstrations. In 1979, he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution and Ayatollah Khomeini took over as the “supreme leader.” The overthrown shah, fleeing Iran, entered the U.S. seeking cancer treatment. Iranian students protested by holding U.S. Embassy staff and diplomats hostage for 444 days. They demanded that the shah be returned to stand trial. Known as the “Iran hostage crisis,” it became one of the most widely covered stories in U.S. As professor of international affairs Melani McAlister’s research shows, it was also a turning point in how Americans saw the Middle East.News reporting broadcast Iranian students burning the American flag and chanting “Death to America.” This reporting conflated Iran with Arabs and Islam in general. Iran also came to symbolize, as McAlister points out, virulent anti-Americanism and a threat to the U.S. The late scholar Edward Said, in his book on the Iran hostage crisis, documents how scholars and journalists cast Islam as a threat to the West by explaining the crisis as resulting from a “Shi’a penchant for martyrdom” and “the Islamic mentality.”Hollywood, again, furthered the conflation of Islam and terrorism. Films like “Not Without My Daughter,” about an American woman taken hostage by her husband and his primitive religion, Islam, and “Argo,” about the hostage crisis, depicted Iranians as unreasonable fanatical people. The terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001 entrenched this decades-long narrative of Arabs, Iranians and Muslims – as a conflated category – as the enemy. Advancing IslamophobiaFollowing President Trump’s retweet, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham was asked, “Why would the president take even the time to retweet something like this?” Grisham responded, “I think the president was making the point that the Democrats seem to hate him so much that they’re willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans.”Both President Trump’s retweet and this rebuttal tap into the deep-seated U.S. perception that Islam, Arabs and Iran are a threat to the U.S. [ You’re too busy to read everything. We get it. That’s why we’ve got a weekly newsletter. Sign up for good Sunday reading. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * Why Americans appear more likely to support Christian refugees * Why do Muslim women wear a hijab?Evelyn Alsultany does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


  • Britain is about to leave the EU – what's next? Wed, 29 Jan 2020 08:21:15 -0500

    Britain is about to leave the EU – what's next?Britain will shortly leave the European Union. So that’s it. Brexit is over, right?Wrong. To channel former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill – as every leading Brexit supporter seems to want to do – “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”Although Britain formally leaves the European Union on Jan. 31, little will change until the end of the year. Britain will still adhere to the four freedoms of the tariff-free single market – free movement of goods, services, capital and people – as well as rulings from the European Court of Justice. This transition period is intended to give Britain and the EU time to arrange their post-Brexit relationship. The EU wants to extend the transition period to 2022, in order to ensure a comprehensive deal. However, Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, has promised to wrap negotiations up by Christmas. I am a historian who studies the effect Brexit is having on British society and culture. It is clear to me that Johnson and the country face two problems. First, Brexit supporters want to leave the EU quickly. But they have different – and conflicting – goals they want Brexit to accomplish. Different economic futuresCritics who believe the EU too closely regulates business hope Brexit will turn their country into a buccaneering, deregulated, low-tax, free-for-all economy they call “Global Britain.” Other Brexit supporters, worried that Britain had surrendered its sovereignty to the EU, want to reassert control over immigration policy and halt European Court of Justice rulings that place EU law above British law. White, working-class supporters of Brexit, particularly those who used to vote for the center-left Labour Party, have different expectations. They hope for a return to the high-wage, export-driven economy of the period from 1945 to 1979, supported by nationalized industries and government subsidies for private enterprise, which promoted full employment and a comprehensive welfare state.In the December 2019 general election, these voters came together to give the center-right Conservatives an 80-seat majority in Parliament. But this electoral coalition is unwieldy. It reflects the way that now, a person’s opinion on Brexit largely determines how they vote.In 2019, a slight majority of British voters backed parties that wanted to prevent Brexit or maintain a close relationship with the EU. Those votes were shared between Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Greens and the centrist Liberal Democrats. But voters who wanted Brexit, irrespective of how they had voted before, had just one choice: to opt for the Conservatives. Conflicting views of the EUThe U.K. government has tried to balance the competing interests of its electoral coalition. Ministers have promised policies that will appeal to former Labour voters who last year shifted to the Conservatives: more funds for the National Health Service and investment in declining industrial regions. However, if this is the plan, no one has told Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the Exchequer. Javid, the British equivalent to the U.S. treasury secretary, recently stated that Britain should diverge from EU “regulatory requirements” designed to address health, safety and environmental concerns. The EU could respond by excluding British products from its markets, making the prospect of catastrophic economic damage from Brexit more likely. This would make it harder for the government to generate the revenue to support its spending promises. Balancing powerThe difficulties Britain faces reflect the ways in which pro-Brexit voices in government and the media have presented relations with the EU to voters.Traditionally, British policy toward Europe had one clear purpose: to prevent any one power from dominating the continent. Despite real differences about the outcome of EU withdrawal, Brexit supporters generally see the EU as a singular power that dominates the continent, threatening British interests and sovereignty. This analysis results in a misreading of history, presenting Britain as apart from Europe, not a part of Europe. In reality, the U.K. has always involved itself in European affairs, if only to shape the continent to its liking. For instance, in the mid-1980s, the British economy was growing rapidly, but European economies were faltering. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s administration argued that her country’s experiments with financial deregulation and privatizing nationalized industries were the difference. The U.K. encouraged its European neighbors to follow these policies, which resulted in the establishment of the tariff-free Single Market in 1993.The Single Market has benefited Britain. Currently, the EU accounts for 45% of British exports in goods and services. Britain sends to Europe around US$350 billion worth of food, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, financial services and other products a year.But paradoxically, Brexit may well leave Britain marooned in its long-feared predicament: subject to the whims of larger powers. Once it is no longer in the EU, no matter how close Britain is to the EU’s single market, its influence will fade. In order to trade, Britain will have to accept EU rules, but will not have a role in setting those rules. If it diverges from EU regulations and standards, it closes off itself from European markets. New opportunities?Some of the architects of Brexit argue that renewed links with the former British Empire, especially India and the so-called “Anglosphere” – including Australia, Canada and New Zealand – could make up for the loss of EU markets.This belief draws on a deep well of pride and nostalgia for imperialism. Unfortunately, it is not reciprocated by those living in the former empire. Recent talks with Australia fell apart over British demands for free movement of people between the two countries. The Australian government worried that this would lead to the U.K. trying to poach skilled workers, particularly doctors and nurses who could staff the perpetually understaffed National Health Service.Canada already has a large, rich market on its doorstep – the U.S.India has made clear that a trade deal would have to be accompanied by looser immigration restrictions. Other nations would be justified in making the price of “Global Britain” an overdue reckoning with the atrocities of empire. Nor are these markets particularly lucrative. The combined size of the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand economies is about $3.3 trillion. This is only $500 billion more than annual British GDP. The Indian economy is of a similar size to that of the U.K. By contrast, the EU generates $18.7 trillion of economic activity a year. None of this is to suggest that Brexit cannot be a success. But Britain is in a geopolitical pickle. It is reasserting itself as a nation-state at precisely the moment in which the world is reorganizing itself into powerful multi-national alliances and trading blocs.[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * Brexit poses a dilemma for Northern Ireland’s nationalists * Brexit could spell the end of globalization, and the global prosperity that came with itLuke Reader does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


  • EU's Barnier eyes loose association deal as basis for new British ties Wed, 29 Jan 2020 08:05:52 -0500

    EU's Barnier eyes loose association deal as basis for new British tiesBrexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the 27 EU states staying on together that a loose so-called association agreement like the one the bloc has with Ukraine should serve as the basis for a new relationship with Britain, diplomatic sources said. Barnier met Brussels envoys of the 27 countries earlier on Wednesday as part of preparations for looming talks on a new EU-UK deal that will start after Britain leaves the bloc on Friday. Diplomats briefed on the closed-door meeting told Reuters Barnier stressed the bloc would not give ground on its key principles and was ready to hold negotiating rounds with Britain every three weeks on a dozen-or-so issues in parallel.


  • Germany Lifts Economic Outlook, But Says Better Is Needed Wed, 29 Jan 2020 07:58:56 -0500

    Germany Lifts Economic Outlook, But Says Better Is Needed(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Germany’s government raised its growth projection for this year and pledged investment to keep Europe’s largest economy competitive as it turns more digital and climate-aware, and its population ages.The administration’s first major assessment this year comes amid signs that Germany is putting the worst of its troubles behind it. A car industry slump and a manufacturing recession held expansion to just 0.6% last year, the weakest since 2013.The government now sees the expansion improving to 1.1% in 2020 -- up from 1% previously -- and 1.3% in 2021, but Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said it needs to be better.“Current growth can’t be considered satisfactory,” he said. “We have to strengthen growth, competitiveness and productivity. Only then we will see the necessary investments in the future.”Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government highlighted a spending plan allocating more than 160 billion euros ($176 billion) through 2023 in areas such as digital infrastructure and transportation. While welcome, that falls short of the scale of fiscal stimulus many say the country needs to bolster growth.The country’s comfortable fiscal position -- it’s run surpluses for the past six years -- has given critics of Germany spending policy even more reason to make demands. But an improved economic outlook will allow Merkel to push back against such demands, and may also help her hold together a coalition that has begun to fray.The new projections are in line with last week’s update from the International Monetary Fund, which also noted that the reduction in trade tensions between the U.S. and China is good for global growth.While Germany predicts strong consumer spending and a pickup in exports, trade is still a major risk. President Donald Trump is keeping alive the threat of levies on European Union cars as the U.S. and Europe clash over issues from agriculture to digital taxes. Germany’s auto industry is already in the midst of a generational upheaval as it tries to shift toward electric vehicles.On top of that, the global backdrop so crucial to Germany’s export-dependent economy is facing a new threat from the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus.Economists are a little less confident in the outlook than the government. In a survey this month, they predicted 0.6% German growth in 2020, though the quarterly pace will improve in the second half of the year.If the pessimists wanted reason to doubt, a drop in business expectations in January was a reminder that the recovery won’t be plain sailing. On the positive side, however, that report also showed expectations in manufacturing, hugely important for Germany, rose for a fourth month.In its report, the government also took a stance on European Central Bank policy. While it noted financing conditions for companies and households are very favorable, it also pointed to risks for banks and financial markets as well as dangers of asset-price bubbles as a result of negative interest rates.(Updates with 2021 GDP forecast)To contact the reporters on this story: Fergal O'Brien in Zurich at fobrien@bloomberg.net;Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, ;Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Jana Randow, Raymond ColittFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Israeli president: Germany must win anti-Semitism fight Wed, 29 Jan 2020 07:50:42 -0500

    Israeli president: Germany must win anti-Semitism fightLamenting rising anti-Semitism in Europe, Israel's president said Germany “must not fail” in fighting it as he addressed German lawmakers Wednesday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz death camp's liberation. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's address to parliament capped a three-day visit to Germany that started when he flew to Berlin from anniversary events at the Auschwitz site on Monday with German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Rivlin, who recalled protesting when West Germany sent its first ambassador to Israel in 1959, praised today's Germany as “a beacon for democracy, for liberalism, for responsibility and moderate forces.” He said that gives Germany “enormous” responsibility at a time when there are “other trends” in Europe and elsewhere.


  • 10 things you need to know today: January 29, 2020 Wed, 29 Jan 2020 06:49:00 -0500

    10 things you need to know today: January 29, 20201.President Trump on Tuesday unveiled a Middle East peace plan that would give Israel control of a unified Jerusalem as its capital, and let it hold onto settlements in the West Bank. The proposal also called for a Palestinian state, but one with limited sovereignty and a capital in "eastern Jerusalem" cut off from the rest of the city by an Israeli military barrier. "My vision presents a win-win opportunity for both sides," Trump said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood by Trump's side as he announced the long-awaited plan. There was no Palestinian representative present. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Trump's proposal the "slap of the century," and thousands of Palestinians protested in Gaza and the West Bank. [The New York Times, Reuters] 2.President Trump's lawyers wrapped up the opening argument in their defense against charges that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Trump's legal team argued against subpoenaing former National Security Adviser John Bolton to testify in the Senate impeachment trial, saying his testimony would be irrelevant. "This should end now, as quickly as possible," White House counsel Pat Cipollone said. Bolton reportedly wrote in a draft of his upcoming book that Trump said last year he was withholding security aid to Ukraine until its leaders committed to investigating Joe Biden, a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. That news increased pressure from potentially key Republicans to have Bolton testify, which could derail the White House's push to finish the trial quickly. [The Associated Press] 3.During a meeting of Republican senators on Tuesday afternoon, GOP leaders announced that they do not have enough votes to stop witnesses from being called at President Trump's impeachment trial, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press report. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not share any numbers, but did acknowledge the votes aren't where he needs them to be, people with knowledge of the meeting said. The senators will vote later this week on whether to allow witnesses in the trial, and a new Quinnipiac poll shows 75 percent of voters want to hear witness testimony. Trump's lawyers finished their opening arguments on Tuesday, and declared the trial should end "as quickly as possible" without any witnesses. [The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press] 4.U.S. health officials on Tuesday expanded screening rules for international travelers in response to the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak that started in China. Beijing has confirmed more than 4,500 infections, and more than 106 deaths. Despite the increased precautions, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, "At this point Americans should not worry for their own safety." Hong Kong on Tuesday said it would cut rail links to mainland China and reduce flights. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded a travel warning to its highest level, urging U.S. citizens against travel to China after confirming a fifth case in the United States. [The Associated Press, Time] 5.The Los Angeles County coroner's office announced Tuesday that search crews had recovered the remains of all nine people who died in the crash of basketball legend Kobe Bryant's helicopter, which crashed in heavy fog on Sunday. Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, two of her teammates, their parents, a coach, and the pilot died when the helicopter slammed into a hillside on the way to a youth basketball tournament. Bryant's remains were among the first four identified. Investigators are trying to determine what caused the tragedy. Some experts have said the weather, which had left some other aircraft grounded, could have been a factor. The chartered helicopter did not have a recommended warning system designed to alert the pilot the aircraft was too close to the ground, National Transportation Safety Board officials said. [The New York Times] 6.The Congress Budget Office released a report Tuesday predicting U.S. debt will reach 98 percent of the country's GDP by 2030, up from the 81 percent the office foresees the deficit reaching by the end of 2020. The CBO projects the government will spend $1 trillion more than it collects in 2020. The prognostication is reportedly mostly a result of tax cuts and the assumption that the government will continue to increase spending. If the Trump administration's tax cuts enacted in 2017 are extended beyond their current expiration at the end of 2025, the latest CBO estimates may fall short. CBO Director Phillip Swagel expects the deficit level to eventually reach some historic highs, especially for a time of low unemployment. He said his office's projections will approach figures not seen "since World War II." [The Wall Street Journal] 7.Britain on Tuesday decided to allow Huawei to supply some high-speed 5G network equipment to wireless carriers, despite a warning from the Trump administration that it would stop sharing intelligence with any country that did not ban the Chinese tech giant. The British government's decision marked a first among major U.S. allies in Europe. The U.S. has warned that doing business with Huawei could put government secrets at risk because Huawei could give China's government access to data, a charge Huawei denies. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the U.K. would never do anything to threaten its national security, or that of its intelligence-sharing partners. "We know more about Huawei and the risks that it poses than any other country in the world," Raab said. [The Associated Press] 8.The U.S. military on Tuesday recovered the remains of two crew members who died when a U.S. military surveillance plane crashed in Afghanistan. The U.S. disputed claims by the Taliban that members of the Islamist extremist group shot down the aircraft, a Bombardier E-11A. The crash occurred in Taliban-controlled territory in Ghazni province. The Pentagon said the remains had been "treated with dignity and respect by the local Afghan community." U.S. forces recovered what was believed to be the plane's flight data recorder. "The cause of the crash remains under investigation, however there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire," the U.S. military statement said. [Reuters] 9.The Pentagon said Tuesday that 50 American service members suffered brain injuries in an Iranian missile attack on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq on Jan. 8. Thirty-one of the soldiers returned to duty after being treated in Iraq. Eighteen were transported to Germany for further evaluation. Immediately after the attack, President Trump said no Americans were injured, and as recently as last week he dismissed the injuries as "not very serious." "I heard they had headaches," he said. Iran fired the missiles from its own territory in what it said was retaliation for the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad. [The New York Times] 10.A 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck Tuesday in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and Cuba. The quake's center was six miles deep, about 70 miles northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica. The powerful tremor, one of the most powerful on record in the Caribbean, caused severe shaking in western Jamaica, with light shaking on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake was felt as far away as Miami in South Florida, where several buildings were evacuated. Authorities issued a tsunami warning, but it was later lifted. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The earthquake appeared to have been centered on the fault boundary between the North American and Caribbean plates. It was the fourth earthquake of magnitude 7 or greater recorded in the Caribbean since 2000. [USA Today]More stories from theweek.com It's 2020 and women are exhausted John Bolton just vindicated Nancy Pelosi The tragedy of Joe Biden


  • Containing Paranoia as Well as a Deadly Virus Wed, 29 Jan 2020 05:58:09 -0500

    Containing Paranoia as Well as a Deadly Virus(Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.China’s unprecedented decision to quarantine a city bigger than New York has prompted travel curbs that have spread around the world nearly as fast as the deadly virus they’re intended to stop.Many of those measures have found Chinese travelers — healthy or otherwise — facing suspicion, a sideways glance, or an awkward shuffle away. With nearly 6,000 cases in China alone and at least 132 deaths, the virus presents a major challenge for governments to limit the contagion.British Airways has stopped all flights to and from mainland China. Citizens in South Korea and Singapore are circulating petitions to ban all Chinese visitors. Hong Kong has halted most daily visitors from the mainland. Even within China, residents from the hard-hit quarantined city of Wuhan have faced greater scrutiny.The fact this virus came from China makes it more complicated. While Beijing says it is sharing information, it has a history of either reacting slowly to crises or being less than transparent on the details. At home, authorities have long sought to control what the public sees and hears.That backdrop could fuel fears officials either failed to respond fast enough or are now reacting so firmly because the virus is much worse than it’s letting on.That risks fueling paranoia against Chinese people in general. China is a rising economic and military power that’s challenging decades of U.S. dominance. A strong narrative in recent years has been fear of what the growing clout of the secretive Communist state might mean for the rest of the world. There’s much debate about the role of its telecoms giant Huawei in global networks and perceived threats to security.As governments move to protect their citizens from the virus, the balancing act is to avoid things tipping into anti-Chinese sentiment as a whole.Global HeadlinesDead on arrival? | Palestinian leaders swiftly rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, which heavily favors Israel and offers the Palestinians far less than they’d have received under two previous proposals they also deemed non-starters. While Arab leaders haven’t monolithically come out in opposition, winning support in their countries will be complicated by a lingering animus toward the Jewish state.Protests broke out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and are set to continue through the week. But the crowds never topped a few hundred in each place, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has urged a non-violent response.Question time | Senators will spend the next two days grilling Trump’s defense team and House impeachment managers, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell trying to salvage his plans for a quick trial. His strategy hinges on a pivotal vote, possibly Friday, on whether to call witnesses. McConnell told his Republican colleagues at a hastily called meeting yesterday that there weren’t yet the needed 51 firm votes to block witnesses. A failure would be a major blow to McConnell and the White House.Joe Biden’s resilience to attacks over his son Hunter’s work for a Ukrainian company could soon face its toughest test, Joshua Green reports, with Republicans threatening to subpoena the younger Biden as a an impeachment trial witness.High seas tensions | The U.S. Navy’s patrols of the South China Sea earned a rebuke from Beijing after a warship entered waters near the contested Spratly Islands. China, one of the archipelago’s six claimants, accused the U.S. of a “deliberate provocation” when the USS Montgomery sailed through without its permission, while the Navy’s Seventh Fleet said the maneuver was within the bounds of international law.Waning influence | Trump’s bid to convince U.S. allies to lock Huawei out of their fifth-generation telecommunications networks is expected to suffer another blow today when the European Union reveals its 5G guidelines. Facing threats of retaliation from both Washington and Beijing, the EU will probably follow the U.K.’s decision yesterday to exclude high-risk suppliers from core parts of their systems but reject an outright ban on Huawei.Jihadist raid | Islamist militants killed at least 39 people in a northern village of Burkina Faso in the West African nation’s deadliest attack this year. Eschewing their normal tactic of targeting teachers and soldiers, reports about the weekend assault say the insurgents surrounded a market, told the women to leave and executed the men. Violence in the region is spreading despite large contingents of French and United Nations forces.What to WatchGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners are no longer talking about trying to bring down her government or demanding big spending projects and will focus instead on fine-tuning economic policy when they meet tonight. The EU and the U.K. face tough negotiations over subsidies, taxes, fish, and workers’ rights, as they try to hammer out a post-Brexit trade deal by year’s end, Ian Wishart and Jonathan Stearns explain. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is set to meet U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London today before traveling to Ukraine to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a bid to persuade Kyiv that U.S. support remains amid the Trump impeachment saga.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally...South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe apologized for telling Trump that Africa loves him but warned of the continent’s growing anti-American sentiment, which he said may hamper investment. Motsepe’s remarks to Trump — who two years ago reportedly referred to African nations as “shithole countries” — at a dinner during last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos sparked a debate among his countrymen, who questioned his right to speak on behalf of the continent. \--With assistance from Karl Maier, Philip Heijmans and Amy Teibel.To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Kathleen Hunter at khunter9@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Bangladesh to improve schools for Rohingya refugee children Wed, 29 Jan 2020 05:41:43 -0500

    Bangladesh to improve schools for Rohingya refugee childrenAuthorities in Bangladesh in partnership with the United Nations will expand educational programs for hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya children living in refugee camps who are currently receiving only basic lessons, officials said Wednesday. The children, who fled with their families from neighboring Myanmar to the camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, now attend about 1,500 learning centers run by UNICEF that provide basic education, drawing and other fun activities. Under the new program starting in April, they will receive a formal education using a Myanmar curriculum from grade 6 to 9, the U.N. said in a statement.


  • Israeli Cabinet postpones vote on West Bank annexation Wed, 29 Jan 2020 05:10:41 -0500

    Israeli Cabinet postpones vote on West Bank annexationA senior Israeli minister said on Wednesday that a Cabinet vote to endorse annexation of parts of the West Bank will not take place early next week, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge a day earlier to act quickly after the U.S. released a plan to end the conflict that was rejected by the Palestinians. Netanyahu said he would ask the Cabinet to advance the extension of Israeli sovereignty over most Jewish settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, a move that would likely spark international outrage and complicate the White House's efforts to build support for the plan.


  • Say hello to invisible Brexit Wed, 29 Jan 2020 05:02:51 -0500

    Say hello to invisible BrexitBrexit arrived with a thunderclap, but it is leaving with a whimper.


  • Why Brexit Opponents Lost the Vote and the Argument Wed, 29 Jan 2020 04:58:44 -0500

    Why Brexit Opponents Lost the Vote and the Argument(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Britain will leave the EU at 11 pm London time on Friday, following Boris Johnson’s victory at last month’s general election. Much has been written, including in this column, about the results of the election, and in particular how the Labour Party lost it so badly. But Brexit also means another postmortem – why did the efforts to stop Brexit fall short?There were effectively two routes by which Brexit could have been stopped – either for parliament to legislate for a referendum with a “remain” option during last year’s standoff, or by electing a parliament that would do this. Neither succeeded.The Remainers were unable to convince enough lawmakers to back a plebiscite -- on two occasions nonbinding parliamentary votes were lost narrowly. The debate will continue indefinitely as to whether and to what extent Labour’s ambiguous Brexit position hurt Labour itself. But it clearly hurt the chances of a referendum.But nor could they convince voters to elect a parliament that would deliver a referendum. This is only partly explained by the fact that many voters whose support such an effort would have needed weren’t prepared to back Jeremy Corbyn as a possible prime minister.Smaller pro-European parties could have held the balance of power after the election. Yet the reality proved to be a series of mishaps and missed opportunities, from the botched launch of The Independent Group to the ups and downs of the Liberal Democrats, the failure of the two to work together when such an alliance would have been at its most powerful, and not forgetting the vast array of new anti-Brexit “center” parties.Yet these failures speak to something more fundamental. The Remainers didn’t win the argument. It’s often overlooked that public opinion hasn’t shifted much from the 52% to 48% outcome in 2016. Number Cruncher polling indicates that Brits were still evenly divided on Brexit at the time of the election, with 46% saying it was wrong, 44% saying it was right, and about 85% of voters on both sides backing their original vote.The shift in headline numbers has been glacial and is largely explained by compositional change -- those who have died since 2016 are much likelier to have been Leavers, while those newly eligible to vote are much likelier to be Remainers.Similarly, despite asking the question in many different forms, few polls showed more than narrow net support for a second referendum with an option to Remain.This paints a very different picture than the outpouring of enthusiasm for the EU shown by thousands marching and the millions signing petitions. Part of the difference is that many 2016 Remain voters -- particularly fiscally conservative, “status quo” types -- were quite happy to go along with David Cameron’s Remain campaign, but were never staunch Europhiles.Much like the parties, the anti-Brexit campaign groups were numerous, in some cases reflecting the intersection of Brexit and traditional party loyalties. There were certainly cases where this became an issue -- for most of the general election campaign the groups couldn’t even agree on tactical voting advice.Then there were doubts around democratic legitimacy. Remainers repeatedly argued that a democracy can change its mind, as many countries indeed did after referendums on the EU that failed to ratify a significant change.However I struggle to think of a comparable referendum in which the change option had been endorsed by the public, only for voters to be asked to vote again without the change being implemented. Attempts by some activists to delegitimize the 2016 vote, whether based on allegations of campaign overspending or foreign interference, failed to move the dial.It’s also worth considering the legacy of the 2016 Remain campaign, and what lessons were and were not learned. The predictions of a year-long recession after the referendum -- which never occurred -- made it relatively easy to dismiss all subsequent warnings about the costs of Brexit as “project fear.”What’s more, the cultural gap underlying the Brexit divide has not gone away. While many Remainers, particularly those on the economic left, have tried to explain Brexit through economics, this was not the main driver of the Leave vote.And finally, the fatigue factor. Many people were just fed up and wanted to move on from Brexit gridlock. Boris Johnson’s mantra of “Get Brexit done” stuck and his victory provided the killer blow. But ultimately, it may well be that stopping Brexit simply wasn’t on the cards once the referendum had delivered its verdict.To contact the author of this story: Matt Singh at matt@ncpolitics.ukTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Matt Singh runs Number Cruncher Politics, a nonpartisan polling and elections site that predicted the 2015 U.K. election polling failure.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Why Brexit Opponents Lost the Vote and the Argument Wed, 29 Jan 2020 04:58:44 -0500

    Why Brexit Opponents Lost the Vote and the Argument(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Britain will leave the EU at 11 pm London time on Friday, following Boris Johnson’s victory at last month’s general election. Much has been written, including in this column, about the results of the election, and in particular how the Labour Party lost it so badly. But Brexit also means another postmortem – why did the efforts to stop Brexit fall short?There were effectively two routes by which Brexit could have been stopped – either for parliament to legislate for a referendum with a “remain” option during last year’s standoff, or by electing a parliament that would do this. Neither succeeded.The Remainers were unable to convince enough lawmakers to back a plebiscite -- on two occasions nonbinding parliamentary votes were lost narrowly. The debate will continue indefinitely as to whether and to what extent Labour’s ambiguous Brexit position hurt Labour itself. But it clearly hurt the chances of a referendum.But nor could they convince voters to elect a parliament that would deliver a referendum. This is only partly explained by the fact that many voters whose support such an effort would have needed weren’t prepared to back Jeremy Corbyn as a possible prime minister.Smaller pro-European parties could have held the balance of power after the election. Yet the reality proved to be a series of mishaps and missed opportunities, from the botched launch of The Independent Group to the ups and downs of the Liberal Democrats, the failure of the two to work together when such an alliance would have been at its most powerful, and not forgetting the vast array of new anti-Brexit “center” parties.Yet these failures speak to something more fundamental. The Remainers didn’t win the argument. It’s often overlooked that public opinion hasn’t shifted much from the 52% to 48% outcome in 2016. Number Cruncher polling indicates that Brits were still evenly divided on Brexit at the time of the election, with 46% saying it was wrong, 44% saying it was right, and about 85% of voters on both sides backing their original vote.The shift in headline numbers has been glacial and is largely explained by compositional change -- those who have died since 2016 are much likelier to have been Leavers, while those newly eligible to vote are much likelier to be Remainers.Similarly, despite asking the question in many different forms, few polls showed more than narrow net support for a second referendum with an option to Remain.This paints a very different picture than the outpouring of enthusiasm for the EU shown by thousands marching and the millions signing petitions. Part of the difference is that many 2016 Remain voters -- particularly fiscally conservative, “status quo” types -- were quite happy to go along with David Cameron’s Remain campaign, but were never staunch Europhiles.Much like the parties, the anti-Brexit campaign groups were numerous, in some cases reflecting the intersection of Brexit and traditional party loyalties. There were certainly cases where this became an issue -- for most of the general election campaign the groups couldn’t even agree on tactical voting advice.Then there were doubts around democratic legitimacy. Remainers repeatedly argued that a democracy can change its mind, as many countries indeed did after referendums on the EU that failed to ratify a significant change.However I struggle to think of a comparable referendum in which the change option had been endorsed by the public, only for voters to be asked to vote again without the change being implemented. Attempts by some activists to delegitimize the 2016 vote, whether based on allegations of campaign overspending or foreign interference, failed to move the dial.It’s also worth considering the legacy of the 2016 Remain campaign, and what lessons were and were not learned. The predictions of a year-long recession after the referendum -- which never occurred -- made it relatively easy to dismiss all subsequent warnings about the costs of Brexit as “project fear.”What’s more, the cultural gap underlying the Brexit divide has not gone away. While many Remainers, particularly those on the economic left, have tried to explain Brexit through economics, this was not the main driver of the Leave vote.And finally, the fatigue factor. Many people were just fed up and wanted to move on from Brexit gridlock. Boris Johnson’s mantra of “Get Brexit done” stuck and his victory provided the killer blow. But ultimately, it may well be that stopping Brexit simply wasn’t on the cards once the referendum had delivered its verdict.To contact the author of this story: Matt Singh at matt@ncpolitics.ukTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Matt Singh runs Number Cruncher Politics, a nonpartisan polling and elections site that predicted the 2015 U.K. election polling failure.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Dutch court throws out case against Israeli military chiefs Wed, 29 Jan 2020 04:33:05 -0500

    Dutch court throws out case against Israeli military chiefsA Dutch court threw out a civil case Wednesday brought by a Dutch-Palestinian man seeking damages from two former Israeli military commanders for their roles in a 2014 airstrike on a Gaza house that killed six members of his family. The Hague District Court ruled that the case filed by Ismail Zeyada can't proceed because the commanders, including high profile former military chief Benny Gantz, have immunity. Zeyada was attempting to sue Gantz, who is now a prominent Israeli politician, and former Israeli air force commander Amir Eshel.


  • Confined at home, Chinese get creative to beat boredom Wed, 29 Jan 2020 04:08:31 -0500

    Confined at home, Chinese get creative to beat boredomChinese around the country confined to their apartments either by choice or by order are making the best of the situation as cities remain in lockdown in a desperate bid to contain a new, dangerous virus. A couple from Shantou, a coastal city in Guangdong province, recreated a childhood game at home for their children. In video posted on Douyin, a popular Chinese social media platform, the mom pretends to be a street vendor selling hoops made of cardboard paper.


  • Allies worry as US ponders cutting military forces in Africa Wed, 29 Jan 2020 04:00:39 -0500

    Allies worry as US ponders cutting military forces in AfricaAs extremist violence grows across Africa, the United States is considering reducing its military presence on the continent, a move that worries its international partners who are working to strengthen the fight in the tumultuous Sahel region. The timing is especially critical in the Sahel, the vast arid region south of the Sahara Desert, where militants with links to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have carried out increased attacks in the past six months. In Niger and Mali, soldiers have been ambushed and at times overpowered by hundreds of extremist gunmen on motorcycles.


  • Syrian troops capture key town in rebel-held Idlib province Wed, 29 Jan 2020 03:32:13 -0500

    Syrian troops capture key town in rebel-held Idlib provinceSyrian government forces captured one of the largest and most strategic rebel-held towns in the country's northwest, the Syrian military and opposition activists said Wednesday, part of a Russian-backed military assault that has displaced hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to safer areas. The town of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, which had been in rebel hands since 2012, sits on the highway linking Damascus with Aleppo and is considered critical to President Bashar Assad's forces.


  • Pompeo takes on growing rift with Brexit Britain Wed, 29 Jan 2020 03:23:28 -0500

    Pompeo takes on growing rift with Brexit BritainUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits London on Wednesday to repair a post-Brexit alliance with an old friend whose defiance on China and Iran underscores Washington's diplomatic isolation. In contrast to much of the hostile global reaction, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government gave the proposals a cautious welcome -- an increasingly rare moment of solidarity in the so-called "special relationship". The British premier, who is scheduled to meet Pompeo Thursday, will be eager to present a unified front as he eyes the prospect of a big new trade deal with the US that can fill the void of the UK's departure from the European Union on Friday.


  • RPT-WHO weighs science and politics in global virus emergency decision Wed, 29 Jan 2020 01:49:51 -0500

    RPT-WHO weighs science and politics in global virus emergency decisionGENEVA/LONDON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Most of the World Health Organization's (WHO) criteria for declaring a global emergency have been met, but it is awaiting clear evidence of a sustained spread of the new coronavirus outside China before doing so, some experts and diplomats said. The U.N. agency is seeking to balance the need to ensure China continues to share information about the virus while also giving sound scientific advice to the international community on the risks, according to several public health experts and a Western diplomat who tracks the WHO's work. Doing so can hurt host countries because it may lead to flight cancellations and travel or trade restrictions, dragging on the economy.


  • Crash-warning device might not have saved Bryant helicopter Wed, 29 Jan 2020 01:47:52 -0500

    Crash-warning device might not have saved Bryant helicopterThe helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant didn’t have a recommended warning system to alert the pilot he was too close to land but it’s not clear it would have averted the crash that killed nine as the aircraft plummeted toward a fog-shrouded hillside, federal regulators and experts said. Pilot Ara Zobayan had been climbing out of the clouds when the aircraft banked left and began a sudden and terrifying 1,200-foot (366-meter) descent that lasted nearly a minute. “This is a pretty steep descent at high speed,” Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.


  • London's 'City' is banking on wide appeal post Brexit Wed, 29 Jan 2020 01:33:13 -0500

    London's 'City' is banking on wide appeal post BrexitLondon's powerful "City" financial sector, facing reduced access to mainland European markets following Brexit, is banking on its global appeal to forge new ties and remain an international force. With Britain exiting the EU on Friday, the City will eventually lose "passporting" rights that has allowed the driver of Britain's dominant services sector to operate freely across the bloc. The long-standing bilateral arrangement, which has convinced especially large US and Japanese lenders to set up massive operations in London, formally ends with the conclusion of a Brexit transition period due December 31.


  • Israel could clash with international court on settlements Wed, 29 Jan 2020 01:26:12 -0500

    Israel could clash with international court on settlementsEmboldened by a supportive White House, Israel appears to be barreling toward a showdown with the international community over its half-century-old settlement enterprise in the West Bank. With the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court poised to launch a war crimes probe of Israel’s settlement policies, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday announced plans to move ahead with the potentially explosive annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, including dozens of Jewish settlements.


  • UAE confirms 4 Chinese tourists have virus, first in Mideast Wed, 29 Jan 2020 00:34:54 -0500

    UAE confirms 4 Chinese tourists have virus, first in MideastA family of four Chinese tourists in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday became the first cases in the Mideast of a new Chinese virus that causes flu-like symptoms, with an Emirati doctor saying the first to fall ill only showed symptoms after over a week on vacation. Dr. Hussein al-Rand, an assistant undersecretary at the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention, told The Associated Press that there was no reason to panic over virus.


  • GOP lacks votes to block Bolton, other impeachment witnesses Wed, 29 Jan 2020 00:09:46 -0500

    GOP lacks votes to block Bolton, other impeachment witnessesPresident Donald Trump's impeachment trial is shifting to questions from senators, a pivotal juncture as Republicans lack the votes to block witnesses and face a potential setback in their hope of ending the trial with a quick acquittal. After Trump's defense team rested Tuesday with a plea to “end now,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately told senators he doesn't yet have the votes to brush back Democratic demands for witnesses now that revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser, have roiled the trial. Bolton writes in a forthcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to withhold military aid from Ukraine until it helped with investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden.


  • Question time: What's next in Trump's impeachment trial Wed, 29 Jan 2020 00:06:41 -0500

    Question time: What's next in Trump's impeachment trialWith opening arguments wrapped up in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, senators will now get a chance to ask questions. The question-and-answer session, expected to last two days, will allow the lawyers on both sides to make their final points before the senators vote on whether to hear witnesses and, eventually, on whether to convict the president and remove him from office. The senators must submit their questions to the presiding officer, Chief Justice John Roberts.


  • The Five Big Flashpoints in Boris Johnson’s Battle With Brussels Wed, 29 Jan 2020 00:00:01 -0500

    The Five Big Flashpoints in Boris Johnson’s Battle With Brussels(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. When the U.K. rescued Flybe two weeks ago, alarm bells rang not only at the regional airline’s rivals but also atop the European Union.One of the EU’s biggest roles is limiting the subsidies member states can give companies to prevent them getting an unfair advantage over competitors. After Brexit, the EU wants the U.K. to go on playing by these rules. Flybe showed the British may not be so keen.That’s just one potential flashpoint as the EU and U.K. prepare to negotiate a landmark trade deal this year. For Europe, the trade-off is clear: The further Britain strays from the bloc’s rulebook, the more its access to the single market will be curtailed. This is essential to avoid undercutting the bloc’s economy. For Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brussels’s price for a deal may be too onerous.The European Commission, which will negotiate on behalf of the 27 remaining national governments, will on Wednesday ask them for a mandate setting out the details of the broad accord that the bloc wants to strike with the U.K. Member states plan to give their green light on Feb. 25, paving the way for the first round of talks at the start of March.That will trigger 10 months of tricky negotiations, with potential clashes everywhere you look. Here are five:Keeping Close or Moving Away?The EU insists on a level playing field, meaning that it wants the U.K. to stick to the same rules on tax, state aid, workers’ rights, and environmental protection as it did when it was a member. The U.K. doesn’t want to, as the whole point of leaving the EU in the first place was to break away from the diktat of Brussels.“There will not be alignment, we will not be a rule-taker,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid told the Financial Times this month.This quarrel is likely to hang over the entire negotiation. The EU wants both over-arching level playing field commitments as well as sector-specific ones. It says it’s ready to give the U.K. a free-trade deal without tariffs and quotas, and one that’s as least as comprehensive as its agreement with Canada, but Britain’s size and proximity means the bloc wants greater safeguards than in previous agreements.But how negotiators square the EU’s demand for alignment with the U.K.’s desire to leave the clutches of Brussels rule-making isn’t immediately apparent.Fish Versus Finance“You may have to make concessions in areas like fishing in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told the BBC this week.These are the two big bargaining chips. The U.K. wants to take back control of its waters, but knows France and Spain are desperate to go on fishing them; the EU thinks Britain wants its financial services industry to have as extensive a level of access to its single market as possible. In the Brexit divorce agreement, the two sides set themselves a June deadline to reach a deal on both.It’s why the EU is determined to negotiate simultaneously on as many of the matters in the future relationship as possible: It thinks it holds most of the cards -- as long as it can play them all in one go.“All this needs to be coordinated so that we maximize our negotiating leverage, because that is what each side tries to do in a negotiation,” Sabine Weyand, the commission’s director general for trade, said on Dec. 17.Geopolitical CloutThe U.K. has potential leverage in other areas, such as defense. Britain has nuclear weapons, Europe’s biggest defense budget, a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and an extensive intelligence network. All these make the country a key partner for the EU. Even as they argue about other things, both sides will want to continue co-operating on sanctions policy and combating terrorism.But the EU is wary about giving the U.K. access to some of its most sensitive data. That includes the Schengen Information System which police and border guards (including at the moment, those in the U.K.) use to check the whereabouts of suspicious people.With Britain and the EU sharing similar objectives, this shouldn’t become the biggest sticking point. But that’s exactly what many people said about the Irish border before the first set of negotiations. And remember how that turned out.Who’s In Charge?Central to any agreement will be how it is governed. Breaking away from the European Court of Justice was a key plank of the pro-Brexit campaign, yet the EU insists that only the ECJ can arbitrate on anything that relates its own laws -- in particular how any level playing field commitments are applied.If the British government hands out state aid, will the European Commission continue to have a say over whether it is lawful? Can London view a European court as a disinterested referee?This isn’t the most obvious bone of contention, but the issue wasn’t fully addressed in the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement and could return to haunt negotiators.EU UnityAside from the obvious U.K.-EU tensions, it’s possible that the remaining EU member states won’t always see eye-to-eye on what their common position should be. Will governments that have no interest in fishing in British waters jeopardize a trade deal that would greatly benefit their economies?The transition period following Britain’s exit from the EU is due to expire at the end of this year, making a new EU-U.K. trade accord essential to avoid an economically disruptive separation.The British have already signaled they will try to exploit any splits among EU members. They tried to do so during the withdrawal negotiations to little effect; but, with different countries having different priorities across the bloc, they hope that, this time, the strategy could prove to be a little more fruitful.\--With assistance from Samuel Dodge.To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Jonathan Stearns in Brussels at jstearns2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Edward EvansFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Hannity Says He’s ‘Not Recognizing’ Bolton, Angrily Demands He Come on His Show Tue, 28 Jan 2020 23:12:29 -0500

    Hannity Says He’s ‘Not Recognizing’ Bolton, Angrily Demands He Come on His ShowFox News primetime host Sean Hannity called out former National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday night and demanded that he come on his program to talk about Bolton’s assertions that President Donald Trump told him about a Ukrainian quid pro quo.With Republican senators facing increased pressure to call Bolton as an impeachment witness following the revelation that his upcoming book details the president leveraging military aid to get Ukraine to investigate his political foes, Hannity kicked off his Tuesday night show by calling the Bolton bombshell a “manufactured crisis.”After roundly dismissing the “B.S. surrounding Bolton,” Hannity went on to note that he’s known Bolton for over two decades, pointing out that the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was a longtime Fox News colleague before he snagged a White House job.“I remember when John was first up for the job of the national security adviser,” Hannity, sometimes referred to as the White House shadow chief of staff, declared. “I had heard through many sources John was calling everyone that would listen, asking them to put in a good word for him with President Trump. He wanted this job badly.”“I spoke on an occasion to John Bolton,” he continued. “And I asked him why he wanted the job and I also remember asking him, ‘You know, Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions are very different than your foreign policy positions. Would you be willing to serve his agenda, not yours?’ Again, I’ve known him for two decades.”Grousing that he’s “not recognizing” the man he thought he knew, Hannity then went on to demand Bolton appear on his show to detail the book’s revelations.“John Bolton, I say to you tonight, you have something to say, John, come here,” the Fox News host exclaimed. “You worked here. This is your old home. Come on the show. Have your say on this show. We’ve invited you repeatedly. Radio and TV, over the past number of weeks.”Hannity would then go on and say that even if everything that’s been reported on Bolton’s manuscript is true, it doesn’t matter and the “case is over” because the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian president doesn’t explicitly reveal a quid pro quo. "John Bolton, come on the show," Hannity reiterated moments later. "Your country wants to hear from you. I would like to hear from you. You have a story to tell the country, John. Stop playing games! This is not a game when it’s the presidency of the United States. It’s not a game when you’re pushing the boundaries of executive privilege, which George Washington used, and every president pretty much in between and since!"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.


  • Merkel’s Partner Wants to Forget That Talk of Ditching Coalition Tue, 28 Jan 2020 23:00:00 -0500

    Merkel’s Partner Wants to Forget That Talk of Ditching Coalition(Bloomberg) -- Talk of bringing down Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government or demanding huge concessions has all but evaporated as Germany’s Social Democrats prepare for coalition talks.Back in December, the party’s newly-elected leftist leaders, Saskia Esken and Norbert Walter-Borjans, were still threatening to withdraw from the coalition unless Merkel agreed to massive investments, a sizable minimum wage boost and other spending projects.But when party chiefs meet for coalition talks Wednesday night, it’ll be about minor adjustments not major shifts in economic policy. Instead of the 450 billion euros ($495 billion) in investment that the SPD leaders had demanded, they will discuss how best to use a 13 billion euro surplus from last year’s budget. They’ll also bicker as to whether the chancellor should take a firmer stand against the farmers’ lobby on fertilizers.Behind the SPD’s backpedaling essentially is a party that’s too weak to really make any demands. Lingering at near-record lows in the polls, it would lose around a third of its force in parliament were it to trigger snap elections. So both sides have softened their stance, according to party officials who asked not to be named.Read MoreMerkel’s Paths to Power Don’t Guarantee a Strong GovernmentThe Former Parcel Courier Who Could Bring Down Angela MerkelMerkel’s Bloc Draws Red Line for Talks With Coalition PartnersGerman SPD Gives Merkel a Reprieve But Signals Tough Talks AheadKevin Kuehnert, the SPD’s rabble-rousing youth leader whose support helped enable the election of Esken and Walter-Borjans, is no longer pushing for a breakup, according to a person with knowledge of his thinking who asked not to be named.Merkel’s Christian Democrats know they could ride out the rest of her term with a minority government. But the chancellor is keen to keep the SPD on board and aware of the need to give its leaders something to show for at their next party convention, according to senior lawmakers in her party.Also, with a record budget surplus last year and government projections on Wednesday expected to show marginally improving economic growth, there’s slightly more fiscal room to maneuver.Earlier in the week Esken said she will continue to push for substantial investments and wanted to discuss ways of strengthening collective labor negotiations as a way to improve working conditions. She toned down earlier demands for a minimum wage of 12 euros per hour, saying there should be “some progress“ toward that goal.The CDU, meanwhile will push for a small-scale corporate tax cut proposed by Economy Minister Peter Altmaier.“All parties should have some fun in this coalition, we will therefore fight for a corporate tax reform,” caucus leader Ralph Brinkhaus said on Tuesday.While the SPD could go along with such a proposal it would want to see something in return. In addition, the party has yet to consult its wider leadership next month on key policy proposals. All that will take time.“I don’t think that we will reach a conclusion on any of these many points at this stage,” said CDU caucus whip Michael Grosse-Broemer in reference to Wednesday’s scheduled talks.To contact the reporters on this story: Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.net;Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond ColittFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Swan song: N.Ireland looks to post-Brexit future Tue, 28 Jan 2020 22:26:17 -0500

    Swan song: N.Ireland looks to post-Brexit futureViolin-maker Martin McClean carves amber wood and plucks at delicate strings in his studio in Northern Ireland, surrounded by stacks of slender glinting tools and precious timber. Britain leaves the EU on Friday and for McClean, Brexit represents the loss of a patron.


  • Activist visits to Mexico's migrant centers up in air Tue, 28 Jan 2020 20:55:38 -0500

    Activist visits to Mexico's migrant centers up in airMexico's immigration agency announced Tuesday that it has temporarily suspended visits by civic, activist and religious groups to migrant detention centers, though its parent department later seemed to be backing away from the move. The U.N. Human Rights office in Mexico wrote that the work of such civic groups “is a key contribution” to migrants.


  • Pentagon: 50 troops suffered brain injuries in Iran strike Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:45:24 -0500

    Pentagon: 50 troops suffered brain injuries in Iran strikeThe Pentagon on Tuesday raised to 50 the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran's missile strike earlier this month on an Iraqi air base, the third time the number of injuries has been increased. The new casualty total belies President Donald Trump's initial claim that no Americans were harmed. Last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members were hurt.


  • Pentagon now says 50 service members suffered brain injuries from Iran attack Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:35:00 -0500

    Pentagon now says 50 service members suffered brain injuries from Iran attackThe Pentagon now says 50 American military service members suffered traumatic brain injuries following Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on a base in western Iraq that was housing the U.S. military personnel. Initially the Pentagon said there were no injuries in the missile attack, but as more symptoms were diagnosed, the number was updated to 11, then 34 and now 50.


  • Virus cases in China top SARS as evacuations begin Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:34:14 -0500

    Virus cases in China top SARS as evacuations beginCountries began evacuating their citizens Wednesday from the Chinese city hardest-hit by a new virus that has now infected more people in China than were sickened in the country by SARS. The death toll rose to 132, which is still lower than the 348 people who were killed in China by SARS. A Japanese flight that brought back evacuees from the city of Wuhan included four passengers with coughs and fevers.


  • Trial highlights: Trump defense urges end to impeachment Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:28:24 -0500

    Trial highlights: Trump defense urges end to impeachmentPresident Donald Trump’s legal team on Tuesday concluded its three-day presentation as they started it — arguing that the Democrats’ case amounted to partisan politics that would undo the results of the 2016 presidential election and drive Trump from office. Trump's lawyers argued forcefully against calling former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness, saying his yet-to-be-published manuscript contains unproven allegations that would be “inadmissible” during a typical trial. Meanwhile, Democrats and some moderate Republicans pressed to call Bolton and other witnesses as the case headed to the phase of questions and answers.


  • Boris Johnson Plans Law for Control of U.K. Fisheries After Brexit Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:01:00 -0500

    Boris Johnson Plans Law for Control of U.K. Fisheries After Brexit(Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Boris Johnson’s government plans to reclaim control over British fisheries with a law allowing the U.K. to decide who can fish in its waters and on what terms.The legislation to be published Wednesday will end current automatic rights for European Union vessels to fish in British waters, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in an emailed statement. Under the proposal, the U.K. will leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at the end of December -- after an 11-month post-Brexit implementation period has ended.“This new Fisheries Bill takes back control of our waters, enabling the U.K. to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long term health of British fisheries,” Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said. “Leaving the EU’s failed Common Fisheries Policy is one of the most important benefits of Brexit. It means we can create a fairer system which will allow marine habitats to thrive, with new powers to support our fishing sector.”Fisheries are shaping up to be one of the flash points of the U.K.’s forthcoming talks to shape its future relationship with the European Union: currently EU vessels catch more fish in British waters than British vessels do, and the EU has said any trade deal it strikes with the U.K. must be underpinned by a fisheries agreement. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Monday suggested that if the U.K. wants access to EU markets for its financial services, it might have to allow EU fishermen to trawl British waters.Read more - What Brexit Will and Won’t Change on Jan. 31: QuickTake“What happens in these things is trade-offs, you know, for example, the United Kingdom has a very strong position on fisheries,” he told the BBC. “You may have to make concessions in areas like fishing in order for us, in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services.”The U.K.’s fishing industry has been in decline for decades and is relatively small -- with a catch valued at just under 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) a year. At the same time, it was championed by Brexiteers during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, and some of the areas that voted most strongly to leave the EU were coastal towns once known for their fishing fleets. One of the most bizarre moments of the referendum campaign saw U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage and rock star Bob Geldof trade insults from rival flotillas along London’s River Thames.The legislation to be published Wednesday will include the following provisions:EU vessels’ automatic right to fish in U.K. waters will end.Foreign boats will need U.K. licenses and will have to follow British rules.Plans will be made for every fish stock to ensure sustainable fishing.The U.K. will take into account climate change impacts on its fisheries.Fisheries plans will recognize that many fish stocks are “shared stocks” requiring negotiation with other coastal states to ensure sustainable catches.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, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Key points in Trump's Mideast peace plan Tue, 28 Jan 2020 18:34:53 -0500

    Key points in Trump's Mideast peace planThe Mideast peace plan announced by President Donald Trump on Tuesday supports the Israeli position on nearly all of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict. Where previous presidents tried to cajole Israel and the Palestinians into compromising on thorny issues like the borders of a future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of refugees, Trump's Mideast team largely adopted the Israeli position.


  • AP source: McConnell says he can't yet block new witnesses Tue, 28 Jan 2020 18:15:13 -0500

    AP source: McConnell says he can't yet block new witnessesSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators privately Tuesday he does not yet have the votes to block new witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. McConnell convened a closed-door meeting of GOP senators shortly after Trump's legal team made its closing arguments in the trial, the third and final day of defense proceedings punctuated by revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. The GOP leader faced a handful of potential defections, but several days remained before any potential witness vote would be taken.


  • 'Danger! Danger! Danger!' Is Trump's team alarmed about their own case? Tue, 28 Jan 2020 18:04:07 -0500

    'Danger! Danger! Danger!' Is Trump's team alarmed about their own case?The president’s lawyer Jay Sekulow warned senators that the republic was in peril but testimony from John Bolton could devastate his defence“Danger. Danger! DANGER!” Jay Sekulow, a lawyer defending Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the US Senate, turned himself into a human klaxon on Tuesday, repeating the word “danger” 15 times.By his lights, Sekulow was warning Democrats of the danger of a partisan, politically motivated impeachment that would lower the bar for imposing the ultimate sanction – the political equivalent of the death penalty – on future presidents.But another interpretation would be that the combative attorney and talkshow host was warning Republicans of the danger allowing of John Bolton, the former national security adviser, to testify at the trial, potentially causing the president’s entire defence to unravel.Sekulow’s argument went something like this. Look, what Bolton says isn’t true. But even if it was true, it’s still not impeachable. Not that it is true, you understand. It really isn’t. But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, it was true. You still can’t impeach for that. Got it? Am I clear?The trial had been going so well for the White House until the New York Times’ weekend revelation that Bolton, in an upcoming book, writes that Trump did indeed make military aid to Ukraine conditional on the Ukrainian government announcing an investigation into his potential election rival, Joe Biden.Now there is a Capitol Hill clamour for Bolton to testify. The defence spent most of Monday avoiding the mustachioed elephant in the room until Alan Dershowitz – whose past clients include OJ Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein, Roman Polanski, Mike Tyson and Harvey Weinstein – finally uttered his name.Sekulow took up the cause on day seven of the trial. Standing at the lectern, with blue tie and blue pocket handkerchief, he began: “What we are involved in here, as we conclude, is perhaps the most solemn of duties under our constitutional framework: the trial of the leader of the free world and the duly elected president of the United States.“It is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts. That’s politics, unfortunately, and [Alexander] Hamilton,” – yes, him again – “put impeachment in the hands of this body, the Senate, precisely and specifically to be above that fray. This is the greatest deliberative body on Earth.”He added: “In our presentation so far, you’ve now heard from legal scholars from a variety of schools of thought, from a variety of political backgrounds. But they do have a common theme with a dire warning: danger, danger, danger!“To lower the bar of impeachment based on these articles of impeachment would impact the functioning of our constitutional republic and the framework of that constitution for generations.”It was a point he made over and over again. This attempt to take the moral high ground was pretty rich coming from a team that has pushed bogus conspiracy theories about Biden.Sekulow also repeatedly entreated senators to put themselves in Trump’s shoes. Brimming with indignation, he ran through a parade of Fox News villains: the Steele dossier, FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, Fisa warrants, former FBI director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller. The unspoken message was that Trump is the victim of deep state conspiracy.What, you may ask, did all this have to do with coercing Ukraine? Sekulow insisted: “You can’t view this case in a vacuum. You are being asked to remove a duly elected president of the United States and you’re being asked to do it in an election year.”Indeed, Democrats would agree this is not occurring in a vacuum. During their presentation, House managers carefully explained how Trump’s bullying of Ukraine, which is in constant peril from Russia, goes hand in hand with his peculiar affection for Vladimir Putin. Trump’s phone call to Ukraine’s president came a day after Mueller’s congressional testimony.Inevitably, Sekulow griped about the backlash against his team’s criticism of Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. “Do we have, like, a Biden-free zone?” he demanded. “You can impeach a president for asking a question?”Then he returned to the Bolton imbroglio. Sekulow dismissed “an unpublished manuscript that maybe some reporters have an idea of maybe what it says ... I don’t know what you’d call that. I’d call it inadmissible, but that’s what it is … You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation.”Sekulow quoted Trump and Mike Pence’s office denying Bolton’s allegation. He warned against an impeachment based on policy differences. Democrats looked underwhelmed. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota whispered behind her hand to Chris Coons of Delaware, who smiled.Again that cry of “Danger, danger, danger!”Klobuchar sighed.Meanwhile, Senator Mitt Romney, among those who may well vote to call Bolton and other witnesses, was reportedly told off for breaking Senate rules by bringing in a bottle of chocolate milk. He later came back with it in a glass instead.In what may come to look like wild overconfidence, the defence rested its case after using less than half its allotted 24 hours. Clips of Democrats warning against the Bill Clinton impeachment two decades ago were played, culminating with Chuck Schumer, now Senate minority leader, saying: “My fear is that when a Republican wins the White House, Democrats will demand payback.”The White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, looked at Schumer and said: “You were right.” The senator’s face remained a mask frozen with a bemused smile.But this could not be described as a barnstorming finish. Cipollone claimed they had made a “compelling case” and pleaded for senators to “respect and defend the sacred right of every American to vote and to choose their president” a few months from now.There was an outbreak of muttering among Democrats. It was as if, collectively, they were saying: is that all you got?


  • UN discussing resolution to endorse plan for peace in Libya Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:37:26 -0500

    UN discussing resolution to endorse plan for peace in LibyaThe U.N. Security Council is discussing a resolution that would endorse a plan for restoring peace in Libya and urge progress toward a cease-fire, amid new clashes between the country’s two rival governments. The initial British-drafted resolution welcomes the peace plan adopted Jan. 19 at a conference in Berlin attended by leaders of 12 countries, including the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council.


  • Americans pass health test after being evacuated from China Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:26:50 -0500

    Americans pass health test after being evacuated from ChinaA plane evacuating 201 Americans from the Chinese city at the center of the virus outbreak continued Wednesday on to Southern California after everyone aboard passed a health screening test in Anchorage, where the aircraft had stopped to refuel. All the passengers had already been through two screenings in China and were screened twice more in Anchorage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One passenger received medical attention for a minor injury that happened before boarding the airplane in China, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska's chief medical officer, told an early morning news conference after the plane left.


  • China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:00:36 -0500

    China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus(Bloomberg Opinion) -- China has a bigger and more sophisticated toolbox to combat any economic slowdown from the coronavirus than in 2003, when it battled the SARS pandemic. The challenge now is a worsening backdrop both domestically and abroad, and how both hamper the effectiveness of Beijing's response.It's hard to be precise about the damage given the situation is still unfolding. Bloomberg Economics is likely to downgrade its projection for China’s first-quarter growth from its current forecast of 5.9%. When Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome raged in the second quarter of 2003, China's expansion cooled to 9.1% from 11.1% in the prior three months.Trouble is brewing beyond China's shores, too. With trade wars, heightened tension between Iran and the West and declining demographics, there were plenty of challenges before this outbreak. The International Monetary Fund is penciling in growth of 3.3% this year, after crawling along at 2.9% in 2019. Yet that pace has stalled from the 3.4% estimate just a few months ago. In 2003, the world economy expanded more than 4% and approached 6% in 2007.China has changed dramatically in the past 17 years. For starters, its economy is roughly eight times the size. But on a more granular level, key elements of monetary- and currency-policy frameworks have evolved. Most notably, the country has a more flexible exchange rate, to put it mildly. While the central bank still manages the contours of the yuan's moves, the currency was pegged at 8.3 to the dollar for a decade until July 2005. Moreover, the People’s Bank of China now uses an array of rates to manage borrowing costs. In 2004, it was considered almost revolutionary when China raised interest rates, a measure that hadn’t been deployed as a tool of economic management in nine years.These changes allow policy shifts to come more frequently. Faced with the trade war and a cooling domestic economy, the PBOC began 2020 with a statement of intent: The central bank cut the required reserve ratio for lenders by half a percentage point, the latest in a series of reductions. This signals that officials were aiming to shore up liquidity in the private sector well before the Wuhan outbreak. Damage from the coronavirus might conceivably tip the central bank's hand.Yet China’s perilous corporate-debt burden could remain a constraint. Over the course of last year, worries that a benchmark interest-rate cut wouldn't reach the private sector kept the PBOC from acting, despite expectations it would do so. Whether easier monetary policy in China would trickle through the rest of the global economy remains an open question. Many multinational firms have already started to relocate their supply chains as a result of the trade war.When SARS broke out, China was still basking in the glow of its entry to the World Trade Organization in late 2001. Six years later, growth reached a peak of 15%. Executives and officials the world over marveled at the mainland economy and Beijing’s decision-making prowess. Globalization was still very much in vogue and China became shorthand for a flattening world. Few dared offending Beijing, let alone consider imposing tariffs. (The idea of a trade war horrified President George W. Bush’s administration.) American economic diplomacy amounted to the Treasury Department’s gentle prodding that maybe China could, pretty please, end the yuan's hard peg to the greenback.Many of the people who went out of their way to praise China also urged it to rebalance its economy, to focus less on exports and investment and more on consumption. That shift has largely happened. But now China is more susceptible to changes in household sentiment — precisely the slice of the economy that a fresh outbreak will hit hardest. Since late last week, travel has been curtailed and Lunar New Year holiday activities were curbed in many parts of China.The good news is that Beijing can deploy more weapons to address this slowdown than in 2003. But given the scale of the changes since then, that may not matter much. Nor will this arsenal be particularly effective if the global economy, which China feeds and relies upon, remains a shadow of its former self.To contact the author of this story: Daniel Moss at dmoss@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously he was executive editor of Bloomberg News for global economics, and has led teams in Asia, Europe and North America.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:00:36 -0500

    China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus(Bloomberg Opinion) -- China has a bigger and more sophisticated toolbox to combat any economic slowdown from the coronavirus than in 2003, when it battled the SARS pandemic. The challenge now is a worsening backdrop both domestically and abroad, and how both hamper the effectiveness of Beijing's response.It's hard to be precise about the damage given the situation is still unfolding. Bloomberg Economics is likely to downgrade its projection for China’s first-quarter growth from its current forecast of 5.9%. When Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome raged in the second quarter of 2003, China's expansion cooled to 9.1% from 11.1% in the prior three months.Trouble is brewing beyond China's shores, too. With trade wars, heightened tension between Iran and the West and declining demographics, there were plenty of challenges before this outbreak. The International Monetary Fund is penciling in growth of 3.3% this year, after crawling along at 2.9% in 2019. Yet that pace has stalled from the 3.4% estimate just a few months ago. In 2003, the world economy expanded more than 4% and approached 6% in 2007.China has changed dramatically in the past 17 years. For starters, its economy is roughly eight times the size. But on a more granular level, key elements of monetary- and currency-policy frameworks have evolved. Most notably, the country has a more flexible exchange rate, to put it mildly. While the central bank still manages the contours of the yuan's moves, the currency was pegged at 8.3 to the dollar for a decade until July 2005. Moreover, the People’s Bank of China now uses an array of rates to manage borrowing costs. In 2004, it was considered almost revolutionary when China raised interest rates, a measure that hadn’t been deployed as a tool of economic management in nine years.These changes allow policy shifts to come more frequently. Faced with the trade war and a cooling domestic economy, the PBOC began 2020 with a statement of intent: The central bank cut the required reserve ratio for lenders by half a percentage point, the latest in a series of reductions. This signals that officials were aiming to shore up liquidity in the private sector well before the Wuhan outbreak. Damage from the coronavirus might conceivably tip the central bank's hand.Yet China’s perilous corporate-debt burden could remain a constraint. Over the course of last year, worries that a benchmark interest-rate cut wouldn't reach the private sector kept the PBOC from acting, despite expectations it would do so. Whether easier monetary policy in China would trickle through the rest of the global economy remains an open question. Many multinational firms have already started to relocate their supply chains as a result of the trade war.When SARS broke out, China was still basking in the glow of its entry to the World Trade Organization in late 2001. Six years later, growth reached a peak of 15%. Executives and officials the world over marveled at the mainland economy and Beijing’s decision-making prowess. Globalization was still very much in vogue and China became shorthand for a flattening world. Few dared offending Beijing, let alone consider imposing tariffs. (The idea of a trade war horrified President George W. Bush’s administration.) American economic diplomacy amounted to the Treasury Department’s gentle prodding that maybe China could, pretty please, end the yuan's hard peg to the greenback.Many of the people who went out of their way to praise China also urged it to rebalance its economy, to focus less on exports and investment and more on consumption. That shift has largely happened. But now China is more susceptible to changes in household sentiment — precisely the slice of the economy that a fresh outbreak will hit hardest. Since late last week, travel has been curtailed and Lunar New Year holiday activities were curbed in many parts of China.The good news is that Beijing can deploy more weapons to address this slowdown than in 2003. But given the scale of the changes since then, that may not matter much. Nor will this arsenal be particularly effective if the global economy, which China feeds and relies upon, remains a shadow of its former self.To contact the author of this story: Daniel Moss at dmoss@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously he was executive editor of Bloomberg News for global economics, and has led teams in Asia, Europe and North America.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Giving B-52 Bombers To Israel Would Be More Trouble Than Its Worth Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:00:00 -0500

    Giving B-52 Bombers To Israel Would Be More Trouble Than Its WorthIt would raise tensions with Iran.


  • Trump shores up support for newest GOP congressman in Jersey Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:30:28 -0500

    Trump shores up support for newest GOP congressman in JerseyMoving on several fronts toward shoring up support for his reelection bid, President Donald Trump capped off a busy Tuesday by heaping praise on the newest Republican member of Congress and savaging Democrats he said are engaged in “demented hoaxes” like his impeachment trial. On the day his legal team wrapped up its opening arguments on the Senate floor, Trump spoke to an enthusiastic audience in New Jersey in support of Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who recently switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP after breaking ranks over impeachment.


  • UN envoy: Stop `alarming' military escalation in Yemen Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:24:46 -0500

    UN envoy: Stop `alarming' military escalation in YemenThe U.N. special envoy for Yemen is urging a halt to the “alarming military escalation” in fighting between the Saudi-led military coalition and Houthi Shiite rebels, the U.N. spokesman said Tuesday. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said envoy Martin Griffiths warned the Security Council at a closed meeting that the recent drastic escalation jeopardizes progress made by the warring parties in de-escalating the conflict and on confidence building. In the video briefing, Griffiths “reiterated the importance of stopping the ongoing military escalation before it is too late,” Dujarric said.


  • Impeachment Season Is Going Strong — But, Where Is Melania Trump? Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:05:47 -0500

    Impeachment Season Is Going Strong — But, Where Is Melania Trump?As President Donald Trump is only the third president in history to be impeached, there isn’t a well-worn map for how to navigate the trial and everything that comes with it. Trump is, of course, coping with the news of his impeachment really well: he’s curated a Twitter feed closely resembling an unfiltered stream of consciousness, attacking people online, and calling out Democrats for the “witch hunt” to which they are unfairly subjecting him. The Trump family is, for obvious reasons, on more of a high alert than ever before. But within all the discourse of Trump’s Senate trial (and even Ivanka’s recent reporter quarrel), we have just one question to ask: where is Melania Trump?Not a day goes by without at least a little news about Donald Trump, be it impeachment-related, his nerve wracking interactions with Iran, or his recent appearance at the World Economic Forum. Meanwhile, recent news of Melania Trump is scarce: it barely includes walking onto the field with her husband at the College Football Playoff National Championship in New Orleans, LA to stand for the national anthem earlier this month. Beyond that, it seems that Melania Trump is hibernating this winter much like the rest of us.According to Melania’s Twitter, she appears to be spending most of her time in Washington D.C. renovating the East Room of the White House. In her Twitter post, she says the renovations are in hopes that the room will be a “source of pride for its citizens.” On top of this laborious task, Melania is focusing most on her Be Best initiative which strives to combat cyberbullying and opioid abuse in children and teens.But Melania’s own support of the anti-bullying initiative seems a bit conditional in practice. Most recently, her husband openly attacked 17-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg after she was recognized as TIME’s Person of the Year. Trump went after Thunberg twice — once after her front-page honor, and again at the World Economic Forum last week. Melania was silent throughout the attacks, and despite a ton of criticism. But, she did not apply the same practice of silence when her 13-year-old son, Barron, was referenced by Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan during the impeachment proceedings. Karlan mentioned Barron’s name when asked to compare the modern presidency to the tyranny of kings the constitution was created to guard against. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” Karlan now-famously said. Melania responded by releasing a statement saying, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”Prior to defending her son’s honor, Melania Trump made no public comments about the impeachment — and it doesn’t look like she will anytime soon. It’s possible that Melania Trump has no incentive to make a public appearance or statement right now (just a slight possibility). But not necessarily for obvious reasons — Trump hasn’t exactly helped or promoted her work either. According to Politico, presidents historically make sure to mention the work of the First Lady in their annual remarks to lawmakers. For the last three years, Melania’s big Be Best initiative has been left out, particularly in Trump’s senate speeches. Given Trump’s penchant for online rants and targeting people online, dedicating part of a speech to praise the work of an anti-cyberbullying initiative seems hypocritical at best. Amid the constant influx of Trump news, Melania’s absence proves somewhat concerning. But, her trademark stoicism isn’t exactly new to anyone. Over the course of Trump’s White House tenure, the First Lady has largely stayed on message and out of the public eye as much as possible, but we wonder at what point would she break character and speak publicly about the impeachment? As the annual State of the Union address approaches on February 4, Melania will likely be in the spotlight again — for better or worse — as her husband addresses the nation mid-impeachment. So we can all just stay tuned until then, I guess.Related Content:Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Melania Trump Booed By Teens In BaltimoreAnna Wintour Snubs Melania Trump In New InterviewMelania Bringing Bullied Student To SOTU


  • The Crypto Mogul Who’s Got the Ear of China’s Central Bank Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:00:00 -0500

    The Crypto Mogul Who’s Got the Ear of China’s Central Bank(Bloomberg) -- Leon Li is the rarest of Chinese crypto magnates -- one who’s won Beijing’s backing. The founder of Huobi Group is now set to play a pivotal role in China’s effort to build a homegrown crypto-industry.The former Oracle Corp. coder, who started one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges six years ago, enjoys unusual access to China’s central bank and government officials thanks to methodical engagement and measured expansion. While rivals Binance and OKEx irked regulators by stoking Bitcoin mania, Li curried favor by discouraging speculation, co-founding the country’s first state-backed blockchain platform along the way. Huobi even set up a Communist Party committee in-house -- a first for any crypto firm.That’s why, keen to explore homegrown alternatives to Facebook Inc.’s Libra and a Western-led blockchain, Chinese central bank and government officials are turning to Li -- among others -- to help develop a local blueprint for crypto supremacy. The still-nascent blockchain arena offers the world’s second-largest economy a rare chance to become an early influencer. Washington’s concerted campaign to contain China has only strengthened Beijing’s resolve to wean itself off American technology.“Once in a lifetime,” said Li, a bookish-looking 36-year-old with thick black glasses. “It’s my hope that we’ll not just be a participant but a driver, even the leader of blockchain history.”Read more: Why China’s Rushing to Mint Its Own Digital Currency: QuickTakeLi co-founded Huobi in the fall of 2013 and later received backing from well-connected ZhenFund and Sequoia China. But the tale of how he and Huobi came to occupy its privileged position really begins in 2017, at the height of Beijing’s paranoia about the potential for unchecked Bitcoin speculation to foment social upheaval.Word trickled down to Li in the summer of that year that officials were preparing a major crackdown on the industry. His instinct was to rush back from medical leave and instruct his team to get Huobi’s almost 2 million registered users to withdraw their funds. But he also began delivering daily progress reports to local regulators and briefed officials whenever requested.Watching his counterparts collapse like dominoes, he realized that regulators meant life-or-death in his world. Li’s since made it his mission to get on Beijing’s good side, from hosting seminars and classes for officials to organizing conferences under the auspices of local government.In addition to consulting for the People’s Bank of China on Libra, Huobi more recently threw itself behind research into blockchain applications that serve the real economy -- a passion project of President Xi Jinping. It’s one of 14 founding members of China’s first state-backed blockchain platform -- an effort led by the country’s top economic planner that will power everything from storing digital contracts to tracing food and drug deliveries. Other members include state enterprises like China Telecom Corp. and China UnionPay Co.“Huobi could play an important role in the local crypto industry, because authorities would probably prefer to see trade go through an entity that they trust, rather than being pushed underground,” said Emily Parker, co-founder of Asia-focused blockchain data site and incubator LongHash. Good relations with Beijing “could be viewed as a sign of stability, as well as a local advantage over a company like Binance, which does not appear to enjoy the same level of trust.”Those years of cultivation paid off during a late-2019 clampdown. While Binance and its co-founder got tossed off Chinese microblogging site Weibo and other outfits got shut down, Huobi emerged unscathed. As the crackdown wound down in December, Li hosted a days-long conference on the fast-liberalizing southern island of Hainan that serves as his second base after Beijing, in a show of support for local government efforts to become a global hub for blockchain technology.At the event, Li pledged to lend his company’s cloud and blockchain expertise to nations participating in Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, and called on his country to counter Libra. “From the perspective of safeguarding national financial sovereignty, autonomy and control are really important issues,” he told delegates. “Can we rely on ourselves to build something as good as Libra?”A spokeswoman for Binance said its larger user base is among its key advantages over Huobi. OKEx representatives declined to comment for this story.Read more: From Pigs to Party Fealty, China Harnesses Blockchain PowerIn the years since Binance and other competitors fled China, Huobi was one of the few major crypto businesses that stayed put and thrived. True, he moved Huobi’s main exchange business to Singapore. But the company’s blockchain consultancy and training arm, Huobi China, remains in-country and around 100 staffers work out of sleek offices built on reclaimed wasteland on Hainan.That unit -- which the company says is profitable -- has instructed more than 1,000 students from Party cadres to executives at state-owned and private companies. Huobi’s own senior executives, Li included, are based in Beijing, as are key teams from coding to business development. His exchange is estimated to have raked in roughly $680 million in revenue for 2019, according to Bloomberg calculations of data by Huobi on token buybacks.Success has come at a cost of personal freedom for Li, who was born into a working-class family in central China and graduated from Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University -- Xi’s alma mater. After China shut down exchange trading, the heads of Chinese crypto platforms were reported to have been banned from departing the country. Li said he’s never received any official notice prohibiting him from leaving China but he’s chosen not to, unsure of the risks that would entail.In the longer term, his company’s closeness with Beijing could also be a liability.“Huobi may be aiming for a global leadership role in the industry by molding to regulatory requirements,” said Matthew Graham, chief executive officer of Sino Global Capital, a Beijing-based blockchain consultancy. “Certainly one risk is that this could lead to a loss of trust with overseas customers.”To contact the reporters on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at zhuang245@bloomberg.net;Colum Murphy in Beijing at cmurphy270@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net, Edwin ChanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Sanders' Social Security 'adjustments' undercut Biden attack Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:39:26 -0500

    Sanders' Social Security 'adjustments' undercut Biden attackAs a congressman in the 1990s, Bernie Sanders expressed an openness to making “adjustments" to the tax and benefit structure of Social Security. Sanders' presidential campaign and allies have highlighted similar remarks by Joe Biden to attack the former vice president and make the explosive charge that Biden was an outspoken proponent of slashing the program. With Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses less than a week away, Sanders' remarks from decades ago are surfacing as a counterpunch to the criticism of Biden, as the two top candidates in the Democratic race escalate a feud over the nation's most popular entitlement, an issue that has particular reach among older voters.


  • The Daily Caller Sued Over ‘Relentless,’ ‘Xenophobic’ House IT ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:22:36 -0500

    The Daily Caller Sued Over ‘Relentless,’ ‘Xenophobic’ House IT ‘Conspiracy Theories’A former House information-technology staffer who became the center of fevered right-wing conspiracy theories about espionage and extortion filed a lawsuit Tuesday against The Daily Caller, alleging the conservative website defamed him and his relatives.The 23-page complaint from former Democratic IT staffer Imran Awan was filed Tuesday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court. Awan and the other plaintiffs—his wife, two of his brothers, and a friend, all of whom worked with Awan in Democratic House IT services—named as defendants The Daily Caller, the nonprofit Daily Caller News Foundation, DCNF reporter Luke Rosiak, and conservative publisher Regnery, which published a 2019 book Rosiak wrote about Awan. The Daily Caller was founded in 2010 by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.The Awans’ lawsuit accused the defendants of both defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, subjecting them to “a relentless, xenophobic campaign of defamatory attacks.” The Awans’ lawyer, Deepak Gupta, told The Daily Beast that the heart of the complaint lies in the notion that “the victims of fake news and right wing conspiracies are not just our politics and our discourse—it’s also real people, whose lives can be ruined.”“The state of our politics is so polarized and so combative that people can forget that there are real people who might find themselves in the crosshairs,” Gupta said. “That’s what happened here.”The Awans claimed that they received death threats, were forced to move, and their children were forced to change schools as a result of The Daily Caller stories. One of the plaintiffs attempted suicide, according to the complaint.“It’s hard to overstate the degree to which this has ruined their lives,” Gupta said. “They lost their jobs. Their children were targeted.”“This all put a strain on Imran and Hina’s marriage,” he added.Awan immigrated to the United States from Pakistan as a teenager, and his relatives were thrust into pro-Trump conspiracy theories after the House Inspector General investigated their use of House servers and adherence to technology procurement rules. That investigation prompted conservative media outlets like The Daily Caller to portray the Awans as somehow subversive elements within the House, with one story written by Rosiak in 2017 declaring that representatives had been “compromised by rogue IT staff.”“Other outlets piled on, no doubt aware that a ‘national security scandal’ involving Pakistani-born Muslims would find a predisposed audience,” the lawsuit alleged. Reporting from The Daily Caller and other conservative outlets fueled speculation on the right-wing internet about the Awans, including claims that they worked for the Pakistani intelligence service or the Muslim Brotherhood. Other outlets seized on the baseless claimed that the Awans, not Russian hackers, were behind the 2016 Democratic National Committee email hacks. The Daily Caller’s reporting was also picked up by President Donald Trump, who called Awan a “Pakistani fraudster” and a “Pakistani mystery man” in tweets. The president even discussed Awan during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018. “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC?” Trump said. The Awans eventually lost their jobs amid the heightened scrutiny. The House Inspector General report found only that they had shared login credentials, inappropriately used government servers for personal use, and structured some technology purchases to avoid inventory reporting rules. (The Awans’ lawsuit alleged the purchases were made with approval from the Democratic representatives who employed them.)Imran Awan eventually pleaded guilty to making a false statement on a home loan, which was sparked by a Department of Justice bank fraud investigation his lawyers claim was the result of “political pressure from the highest levels of the Trump Administration.” Awan was charged after falsely claiming a property as his primary residence in an attempt to secure what his lawyers describe as money for his ailing father.He was sentenced to time served in the case after prosecutors sought no jail time in the case and federal Judge Tanya Chutkan blasted “scurrilous media attention” leveled against him and his family. The stories about Awan and his associates prompted an unusual statement from the Department of Justice in Awan’s plea deal, which disproved speculation about him.“The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems,” read the plea agreement. “Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members’ offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information.”Despite that, Rosiak kept up his criticisms of the Awan family after the Justice Department statement, according to the complaint, claiming the Awans were involved in blackmail and receiving money from Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. Rosiak and Regnery published a book in early 2019 about Awan, Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats, that quickly rose up the Amazon book sales ranks and earned blurbs from Carlson and fellow Fox News host Sean Hannity.  “People who were not public figures—who were just doing their jobs and living quiet lives—were targeted because of their race and their religion and thrust into the spotlight with a series of conspiracy theories and attacks,” Gupta told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Those claims were amplified on every possible mass communications platform.”Feds Debunk Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory ‘Pakistani Mystery Man’ Leaked DNC EmailsThe Awans’ lawsuit alleges that Rosiak’s book is “riddled with outrageous, false, and defamatory attacks against the Awans,” including claims that he “hacked the House,” solicited a cash bribe, and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in government equipment. Awans’ attorneys say Rosiak even claimed that Awan boasted about having his enemies tortured in Pakistan.“Imran Awan is basically an attempted murderer, an extortionist, a blackmail artist, a con man,” Rosiak said in a July 2019 interview with right-wing newspaper The Epoch Times. In an appearance on Lou Dobbs’s Fox Business show, Rosiak allegedly implied that the Awans had stolen “millions” from the U.S. government.“These guys are out free, probably running around in Pakistan with the millions of dollars that they funneled from Congress over to Pakistan,” Rosiak said, according to the lawsuit. Gupta said the Awans now just want to “clear their names” and “move on.” “They’re looking for an end to this campaign of lies against them,” he said. “It’s very important that nothing like this be allowed to happen to other people like them.”The Awans’ lawsuit marks the latest complaint filed by the targets of right-wing conspiracy theories. Their legal team includes two Texas lawyers who have sued conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his InfoWars website on behalf of families whose children were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting.Rosiak, The Daily Caller, and Regnery did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast on Tuesday.Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Hina and Imran’s marriage was not “ended” by the conflict described in the lawsuit, as Gupta first stated erroneously. 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.


  • Reporter who wrote book on Saudi crown prince was allegedly targeted by hackers Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:44:44 -0500

    Reporter who wrote book on Saudi crown prince was allegedly targeted by hackersState department investigates after New York Times journalist Ben Hubbard says his phone was targeted in 2018A New York Times reporter was allegedly targeted with spyware linked to Saudi Arabia in 2018, at a time when the kingdom was targeting several Saudi dissidents around the world.A new report by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School found that Ben Hubbard, who has written a book about Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, was targeted by spyware known as “Pegasus”, which is made by Israel’s NSO Group.The State Department said on Tuesday that they were aware the report and were “looking into it”. The news, which was also reported by Hubbard in the New York Times, represents the latest revelation about how Saudi Arabia has allegedly used spyware owned by NSO Group, among other technologies, to target dissidents and journalists.The attempted hack – in late June 2018 – occurred about six weeks after a phone belonging to Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, is alleged to have been targeted by Saudi Arabia after receiving a WhatsApp message from the account of Mohammed bin Salman. An unrelated private investigation has found that the hack probably resulted in the exfiltration of large amounts of data from Bezos’s phone.Two independent United Nations investigators are investigating the matter and have expressed confidence in the conclusions of the investigation that was commissioned by Bezos and conducted by FTI Consulting. Saudi Arabia has called the allegation “absurd”.“This is yet another example of a journalist being targeted for doing their job. Efforts to intimidate journalists and potential sources should be of concern to everyone. We will stay focused on our mission to seek the truth and help people understand the world,” said a spokesperson for the New York Times.According to Hubbard’s own account, the reporter received an Arabic text message on his mobile phone on 21 June 2018 that read “Ben Hubbard and the story of the Saudi royal family” and a link to a website, arabnews365.com. Hubbard said the link struck him as “fishy”, so he declined to click on it.“The attempt on my phone, a month after the reported hack of Mr Bezos, was less dramatic but no less scary in its implications,” Hubbard wrote. “An examination of my phone turned up no indications that it has been compromised, but technology researchers who inspected the message I received concluded that I was targeted with powerful software sold by NSO Group, an Israeli company, and deployed by hackers working for Saudi Arabia.”Hubbard, who is an American, said he was the fifth person that had been identified by name by researchers at Citizen Lab as having been “hacked by operators that appeared to be working for Saudi Arabia”. The four others are: Omar Abdulaziz, a dissident based in Canada who was close to Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi journalist, Ghanem al-Masarir, the London-based satirist, dissident Yahya Assiri, and a staff member of Amnesty International. All five were allegedly targeted between May and June in 2018.Citizen Lab was not involved in any of the analysis into the alleged hack of Bezos. But the alleged hack of the Amazon chief executive occurred on 1 May 2018, in line with the other alleged attempts to hack the three dissidents, the Amnesty activist, and Hubbard. The investigation into the alleged Bezos hack did not conclude the kind of malware that was allegedly used to target him.An NSO spokesman reportedly told Hubbard that it was “entirely deceptive” to suggest that its technology was responsible for all such phone hacking attempts, because other companies offered similar tools.NSO has said that its technology is only designed to be used by clients to fight terrorism and other crimes. It has said it investigates allegations that its technology is abused.Hubbard said that the alleged attempt on his phone came after he covered Saudi Arabia for five years, and a more recent focus on Prince Mohammed.NSO on Tuesday said it was wrong to assume that “every missed call, SMS, or video call is Pegasus”.NSO also criticised Citizen Lab, which has been at the forefront of seeking to expose allegations of abuse by cyberwarfare companies.“Regardless of CitizenLab’s enduring efforts to accuse NSO Group as being responsible for every alleged cyber intelligence misuse, NSO Group is proud of its work in assisting law enforcement agencies around the globe who are on the frontlines fighting serious organised crime and terrorism,and saving lives,” NSO said.


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