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  • Iran's Zarif praises Macron nuclear crisis suggestions

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

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 11:33:10 -0400
  • Macron Opposes Mercosur Trade, Saying Brazil ‘Lied’ on Climate

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    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. Outraged over the Amazon fires, Emmanuel Macron branded Brazil’s president a liar and threatened to block the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur countries as he prepares to whip the Group of Seven leaders into climate action.The French president’s office said that it has become clear that Jair Bolsonaro wasn’t serious about his commitments on tackling climate change when he spoke to world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka earlier this year."The president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him in Osaka," at the G-20, the statement said. "Under these conditions, France is opposed to the Mercosur deal."A day before he’s due to welcome G-7 leaders to Biarritz, Macron said he would make the burning of the Amazon jungle a priority at the summit. That provoked an angry response from Bolsonaro, who accused him of acting like a colonialist."The news is really worrisome, but we need to lower the temperature, there are fires in Brazil every year," Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told reporters in Brasilia. "There were fires in Portugal, in Siberia, there were fires all over the world and Brazil wasn’t questioning them."Trade, ClimateThe way that an environmental dispute escalated so quickly into a new front in the global trade tensions shows the growing importance of climate as a fundamental plank of geopolitics. Even before Macron’s announcement, Ireland said it could not vote for the Mercosur agreement and Finland wants the EU to consider a ban on Brazilian beef.The EU has sought to leverage the size of its market to pressure trading partners into doing more to reduce emissions and is also concerned that its companies will be undercut by rivals operating in places with looser restrictions.But the configuration of the G-7 right now will make it difficult for Macron to make a lot headway. Donald Trump famously ripped up last year’s communique and does not want to be cornered. U.K.’s Boris Johnson is eager to tighten his bond with the U.S. president and at odds with European allies over Brexit. Italy is mired in a messy political crisis at home and has no prime minister. Japan is unlikely to stick its neck out -- it is more concerned about the potential fallout from the U.S. trade war with China.In fact, the run-up to the G-7 was overshadowed by China whacking the U.S. with higher tariffs on soybeans, cars and oil in retaliation for Trump’s latest planned levies.And Trump himself has signaled where his priorities lie. On waking up he began tweeting against the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and China’s Xi Jinping -- not on the Amazon fires. A U.S. official said that the U.S. are deeply concerned about the impact of the fires while indicating the administration did not see it as part of the broader climate issue. The EU wrapped up 20 years of negotiations to seal an accord with South America’s leading customs union just weeks ago, in what was then seen as a major retort to Trump’s attacks on the global system of free trade. The deal could affect almost 90 billion euros ($100 billion) of goods and Brazil expects to see its economy increased by about $90 billion over the next 15 years.Officials on both sides are still fine-tuning the agreement and it still needs to be approved by EU governments before it can enter into force. A Brazilian official, with direct knowledge of the government’s position, said that the EU-Mercosur deal is not ready to be signed yet, and that while the deal could be rejected or put to one side, it could not be changed.The official added that France stood to lose a lot if the agreement didn’t go through, citing the presence of supermarket chain Casino Guichard-Perrachon SA and carmakers such as Renault SA and Peugeot SA.Another senior government official however said that France’s position is a cause of concern and that the Bolsonaro administration needed to change the narrative. There are signs that the president is already poised to do that.Speaking on Friday morning in Brasilia, Bolsonaro said the government is considering declaring a state of emergency in the region, allowing the president to deploy armed forces and extra funding to the region: “We discussed a lot of things and whatever is within our reach we will do. The problem is resources.”(Adds graph on Trump and on the record comments from Brazilian minister.)\--With assistance from Arne Delfs, Alex Morales, Kati Pohjanpalo, Peter Flanagan, Rachel Gamarski, Mario Sergio Lima and Josh Wingrove.To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Bairritz, France at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net;Simone Iglesias in Brasília at spiglesias@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Ben SillsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 11:26:52 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Trump asks who is bigger enemy, Fed Chair Powell or China's Xi?

    President Donald Trump reacted furiously on Friday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spoke about the trade war with China and economic risks to the United States, asking whether his appointee to the U.S. central bank was a greater "enemy" than China's leader Xi Jinping. "As usual, the Fed did NOTHING! It is incredible that they can 'speak' without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly," Trump wrote on Twitter.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 11:14:06 -0400
  • China Says U.S. Is Using Fentanyl Feud as Political Weapon

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

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 11:10:28 -0400
  • Report: West, Central Africa violence closes 9,000 schools

    Then people fired guns, shooting at and killing at least one of his teachers in his northern Burkina Faso village. "I used to love school, to read, to count and to play during recess," the boy, identified only by his first name, told the United Nations Children's Agency. More than 9,000 schools have closed and more than 1.9 million children in West and Central Africa have been forced out of school because of increasing violence in the region and attacks specifically targeting education facilities, UNICEF said Friday, saying it's triple the amount closed in 2017.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 10:47:47 -0400
  • Russia says isotope in doctor's tissue caused by diet, not accident

    Russian authorities said on Friday that a doctor who treated those injured in a mysterious accident this month had the radioactive isotope Caesium-137 in his body, but said it was probably put there by his diet. The deadly accident at a military site in northern Russia took place on Aug. 8 and caused a brief spurt of radiation. Russian President Vladimir Putin later said it occurred during testing of what he called promising new weapons systems.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 10:43:07 -0400
  • The Latest: Cleric issues edict forbidding US troops in Iraq

    A leading Shiite Muslim cleric followed by some Iraqi militants has issued a public religious edict forbidding the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. The fatwa issued Friday by Iran-based Grand Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri comes after Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq accused the United States of being behind recent attacks on their bases and weapons depots in Iraq.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 10:42:57 -0400
  • Turkey vows to tackle violence after woman's brutal killing

    Turkey's ruling party has vowed to tackle violence against women and children after the brutal killing of a woman in front of her 10-year-old daughter appalled the country. Emine Bulut, 38, was stabbed in the neck by her former husband at a restaurant in Kirikkale, in central Turkey, on Aug. 18. Bulut's final words "I don't want to die" have been trending on social media, with users calling for harsher measures to tackle domestic violence.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 10:38:23 -0400
  • Putin orders Russia to respond after US missile test

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

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 10:33:30 -0400
  • The EU Can Push Bolsonaro to Save the Amazon

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- French President Emmanuel Macron dropped a bombshell on Friday: His office said France is opposed to the ratification of the European Union’s latest big trade deal, with the Mercosur group of South American countries, because one of the group’s members, Brazil, has shown a lack of commitment to preserving the Amazon rain forest.The deal, reached in June by the European Commission after 20 years of negotiations, still needs to be approved by each EU member state and the European Parliament. It’s a key part of the legacy of the outgoing commission, headed by Jean-Claude Juncker, the biggest deal the EU has ever struck in terms of tariffs eliminated (4 billion euros, or $4.4 billion, a year), the first major trade agreement struck by Mercosur since it was formed in 1991. It also sends a political message to a world rocked by U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China: That the EU is still the major force behind free trade. But, if all of this is weighed against out-of-control deforestation in the Amazon, Macron is right and the agreement needs to be revised in a few specific ways that would make it work for, not against, climate goals.Macron is outraged about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s contemptuous attitude toward rain forest conservation, thrust into focus by reports of wildfires raging in the Amazon as deforestation has accelerated under Bolsonaro and the country’s environmental agencies have become markedly less active in trying to safeguard the jungle from illegal logging. The far-right Brazilian leader has made no secret of prioritizing agriculture over forest protection. His policies have led Germany to suspend the funding of conservation projects in Brazil; in response, Bolsonaro told German Chancellor Angela Merkel to “take your dough and reforest Germany,  OK?”That makes Merkel Macron’s potential ally in blocking the Mercosur deal as it stands. The increasingly powerful Greens are the strongest rivals of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party (and also potential coalition partners), and though the chancellor is strongly pro-trade, the optics of pushing for the deal’s approval now would be politically unfavorable.The deal has other potential opponents, too. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has threatened to nix it because of Bolsonaro’s attitude – and in any case, he’d rather not allow cheap Brazilian beef on the European market, where it’ll be a threat to Irish farmers.Even though European officials have defended the deal, saying it already imposed a commitment on the South Americans to follow their climate goals laid out in the 2016 Paris agreement and to avoid deforestation, it has been shown that more openness to trade increases deforestation rates in Brazil. So it’s appropriate for Macron and other European leaders to reconsider the Mercosur trade agreement in response to Bolsonaro’s behavior.There’s no need, however, to bury the deal altogether. There is a way to revise it so that it’s still beneficial for the parties without hurting the Amazon.In 2017, the  U.S. Department of Agriculture put out a report on international trade and deforestation. The main idea of the study behind it was to figure out which products are the most deleterious to forests in different countries. In Mercosur members Brazil and Argentina, according to the report, beef and soybeans contribute the most to deforestation. As things stand, the deal’s sustainability chapter relies on private initiatives to limit these commodities’ impact; it mentions the so-called soy moratorium in Brazil – a voluntary pledge not to buy soy grown on recently deforested land in the Amazon (which led to increased deforestation in Brazil’s savanna, not covered by the moratorium). But under Bolsonaro, such initiatives aren’t likely to be effective.The final edition of the trade deal should explicitly link trade quotas on forest-risk commodities, such as beef and soybeans, to keeping the forested area constant or even increasing it. It also should set up a reliable monitoring mechanism: Earlier this month, the head of the Brazilian institute that tracks deforestation was fired after Bolsonara called the institute’s data “lies.”“You have to understand that the Amazon is Brazil’s, not yours," Bolsonaro told European journalists last month. Well, he needs to understand that the European market is the EU’s to regulate as it sees fit. Increased sales to this lucrative market should only be possible against firm environmental guarantees. And if the Mercosur deal could wait for 20 years, it can certain wait some more while this matter is cleared up.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 10:28:14 -0400
  • Israel blamed for hit on Iran-backed militia depot in Iraq

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    Israel was responsible for the bombing of an Iranian weapons depot in Iraq last month, U.S. officials have confirmed, an attack that would mark a significant escalation in Israel's long campaign against Iranian military entrenchment in the region. The confirmation comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hinting strongly that his country is behind recent airstrikes that have hit bases and munitions depot belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary forces operating in Iraq. The mystery attacks have not been claimed by any side and have left Iraqi officials scrambling for a response, amid strong speculation that Israel may have been behind them.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:54:42 -0400
  • Trump weighs in on Hong Kong to gain leverage in China trade talks

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    Donald Trump has shifted his stance on the unrest in Hong Kong in recent days to show greater solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters after coming to view the issue as a point of leverage in trade negotiations with China.For months, Trump administration officials described the Hong Kong uprising as an internal matter for China, aware of how delicate the issue is for president Xi Jinping and other Communist Party officials.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:54:36 -0400
  • Israeli teen dies of wounds in West Bank attack, 2 wounded

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

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:47:37 -0400
  • UN: Ebola outbreak in Congo has killed nearly 2,000 people

    The World Health Organization's emergencies chief said the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo is approaching a "stark" milestone with nearly 2,000 people killed by the virus in the year-long epidemic. In a press briefing on Friday, Dr. Mike Ryan said that although the U.N. health agency has the vaccines and drugs that could potentially change the course of the outbreak, delivering those to the people who need them is still proving problematic.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:45:03 -0400
  • As G7 leaders arrive, barricaded Biarritz leaves swimmers out in the cold

    Come rain or shine, every morning of the year Biarritz's White Urchin swimmers' club take a one kilometre swim around the Bay of Biscay. The scene comes less than 24 hours before world leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump, arrive for a G7 summit in France's southwest surfing capital to navigate their differences on issues ranging from climate change to Iran and tariffs. "I find the G7 an aberration.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:37:09 -0400
  • G-7 Is Well Timed to Fight a Recession, But Its Leaders Are Unlikely to Act

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    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. It ought to be good news that leaders from the Group of Seven are gathering for a retreat on the Bay of Biscay as the global economy slows, trade wars escalate and major economies like Germany slide toward recession.But the allies are so divided that they may squander the chance to find a solution. Any hope for progress was complicated Friday with China’s new tariffs on U.S. goods, a central banker pushing for a rate cut and France threatening a regional trade deal over climate. At any other time in history, the expectation from such a summit would be for a coordinated response to loosen fiscal purse strings and walk away from protectionism -- an approach that came out of similar meetings called to respond to the far more dire global financial crisis a decade ago. This weekend, as France’s Emmanuel Macron hosts leaders including the U.K.’s new prime minister, Boris Johnson, along with U.S. President Donald Trump, disagreements over everything from Brexit to the future of the global trading system likely will stand in the way of unified solutions. China on Friday roiled the summit by imposing additional tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods in retaliation for Trump’s planned levies on Chinese imports.The best economic hope for the meetings in the Atlantic port city of Biarritz may be that divisions don’t get any worse, and that central bankers conducting their own retreat some 5,000 miles away in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, save the day.Driving that reality is Trump’s world view, which isn’t showing any signs of changing.Read More: G-7 Wonders Which Boris Johnson Will Show Up: Balance of PowerThe broad consensus from economists and other G-7 leaders is that the global economy would benefit most from an end to Trump’s trade wars. But the U.S. president has dismissed accusations that his tariff assault on China and threats to impose duties on Europe’s auto industry are contributing to any slowdown.Currency WarsMoreover, rather than seeking harmony, Trump is threatening to turn his trade wars into currency wars.“Fight or go home!” Trump told the Federal Reserve in a tweet Thursday bemoaning negative yields on German bonds and a strong dollar that he views increasingly as a threat to U.S. growth.Ahead of this weekend’s meeting, Trump administration officials insisted the U.S. economy and the president’s agenda of tax cuts, deregulation and cracking down on unfair trade ought to be envied rather than scorned, particularly in Europe where growth has slowed.And they are traveling to Biarritz with an ask for Germany’s Angela Merkel: to boost spending to head off a recession. Germany has taken tentative steps toward fiscal stimulus but so far the government is sticking to its zero-deficit principle.Read More: Johnson’s G-7 Goal: Be Serious and Get Something From EveryoneSome Trump aides argue concerns over the global economy are overblown thanks to the policy responses from the European Central Bank and others that are already underway, especially if those are paired with German fiscal action.“A stronger Europe will mean stronger demand for U.S. exports and more rapid U.S. growth,” said Peter Navarro, one of Trump’s closest advisers on trade and economic policy.“Such bullish help appears to be on the way with near certain ECB rate cuts, an increasing likelihood of a German fiscal stimulus, and a possible resolution of Brexit, which will both remove Brexit uncertainty now suppressing some investment and clear the way for a possible U.K.-U.S. trade agreement,” he said.Rate CutBold action by the Federal Reserve, such as a 100-basis-point cut in the target rate sought by Trump, would bolster the U.S. economy and the world’s too, Navarro said. Such a move is intended to shift the U.S. from “good growth in the 2% range to great growth in the 3% range,” he said, rather than reflect any fears of recession.Navarro, who is a longstanding critic of Germany’s economic policies, is far from alone in viewing German fiscal stimulus as one of the keys to a global turnaround. Yet the push also highlights that the biggest division inside the G-7 over how to respond to a slowing world economy lies between Trump and Merkel.Read More: Terms of Trade: Europe’s Shaky Union Faces Trump G-7 Stress TestWhile the Trump administration would like to see a bold German move to abandon its obsession with balanced budgets, in Berlin there isn’t much appetite to cough up cash to help prevent a global slowdown they attribute in part to Trump’s trade wars.The German government isn’t ready to commit to meaningful stimulus at home or at the G-7. Nor is it in much of a hurry. Spending money now when factory utilization is still rather high, would simply stimulate imports or savings rather than domestic output, the argument goes.Contingency plans are being drawn up and Merkel has talked about “clouds” darkening the economic outlook, however. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said in principle Germany could muster some 50 billion euros ($55 billion) in times of a crisis and the German government is aware that the ECB has limited room to respond and that a hard Brexit could tip the balance toward more rather than less action.Recession RiskThe U.K., like Germany, is at risk of slipping into a recession after recent data showed a second-quarter 0.2% decline in gross domestic product. But Johnson’s month-old government echoes the U.S. view that delivering Brexit come Oct. 31 will end the uncertainty that has shadowed the U.K.’s economy and boost growth.In Japan, preparations are underway for an increase in government spending to counteract an October sales tax increase. Finance Minister Taro Aso also signaled Tokyo’s readiness to deploy further fiscal stimulus if it’s warranted after a G-7 ministers meeting in July.“Along with Germany, Japan is likely to add momentum toward fiscal policy in the global economy,” said Kyohei Morita, chief Japan economist at Credit Agricole Securities Asia.But there are still questions over whether Japanese households can withstand the tax hike. A similar increase in 2014 triggered a sharp contraction and this time foreign demand is unlikely to provide a buffer. Japan’s exports have fallen for eight straight months thanks to the Trump trade wars and reduced demand from China.Read More: Donald Trump Is Coming for Europe’s Most Important AllianceThat’s one reason the U.S. position and the damage being done by its trade battles is what worries some economists most. With the International Monetary Fund predicting global growth of 3.2% this year, a downgrade that nonetheless remains broadly in line with trend, and unemployment at record lows in many G-7 economies, there are reasons to be hopeful. That doesn’t reduce the risks, however.‘What’s the Panic?’“You do ask the question, ‘What’s the panic?’ Why are central banks looking to lower interest rates?” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank. “The answer to that question is that the trade war continues to linger and continues to be a huge cloud hanging over the global economy.”Years ago, leaders were able to find consensus to boost the economy. As the global financial crisis grew in 2008, then President George W. Bush called an emergency G-20 meeting at which leaders agreed to a roadmap to combat the slowdown.That November 2008 summit was followed by others at which the world’s leading economies agreed to avoid protectionism and to other coordinated actions widely seen as having helped avoid a deeper downturn.Some attending this weekend’s G-7 summit appear determined to press their case for Trump to at least modify his tactics in his bid to rebalance global trade.European Union officials say Donald Tusk, who will be the bloc’s chief representative at the meeting, will argue trade tensions are the single most important factor impeding global growth.So too will Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who is intent on selling himself as a vocal advocate of pluralism and multilateralism, with an election just weeks away.“Our government has responded to this new world by rejecting populism,” Trudeau said in a speech this week. “My message will be clear” at the G-7, he added. “We need to build a future where everyone can benefit from economic growth and where we invest to help the middle class.”(Updates with China tariffs, Fed comments, France threat in second paragraph.)\--With assistance from Theophilos Argitis, Alex Morales and Rich Miller.To contact the reporters on this story: Shawn Donnan in Washington at sdonnan@bloomberg.net;Raymond Colitt in Berlin at rcolitt@bloomberg.net;Toru Fujioka in Tokyo at tfujioka1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Sarah McGregorFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:25:50 -0400
  • Security in Kashmir tightened following call for march

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    Authorities intensified patrols Friday in Indian-controlled Kashmir's main city after posters appeared calling for a public march to a United Nations office to protest New Delhi's tightened grip on the disputed region. Police and paramilitary soldiers re-imposed restrictions on traffic in areas where they had been eased, putting steel barricades back up and laying razor wire across roads, bridges and intersections. On Aug. 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist-led government revoked Muslim-majority Kashmir's decades-old special status guaranteed under Article 370 of India's Constitution and sent thousands of troops to the region, which is split between archrivals Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:24:58 -0400
  • Syrian TV: Troops in control of northern Hama countryside

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    Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops seized control of a string of villages in the northern countryside of Hama province, completing their takeover of the formerly rebel-held region just south of Idlib province for the first time since 2012, Syrian state TV and a war monitoring group said Friday. The TV said troops seized the villages of Latamneh, Latmeen, Kfar Zeita and Lahaya, as well as the village of Morek, where Turkey maintains an observation post, on Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported Friday that government troops were in control of the entire northern Hama countryside after capturing a series of towns of villages.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 09:12:53 -0400
  • Bavarian couple sue German government over reunification tax

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    A couple in Bavaria are suing Angela Merkel’s government over their tax bill — on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The couple, who have not been named, are challenging a decision by Mrs Merkel’s government to retain a tax that was supposed to be a short-term measure to pay the costs of German reunification. Almost 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germans still face a 5.5 per cent surcharge on their annual income tax bills to pay the cost of raising living standards in the former communist East to match the rest of the country. The Solidarity Surcharge, or “Soli” as it is popularly known, amounts to an extra €487 (£441) on the tax bill of some one earning €50,000 (£45,000) a year. It was originally introduced for a year in 1991 to pay the unexpected costs of reunification and the Gulf War, and was reintroduced in 1995 to pay the ongoing costs of reunification. Olaf Scholz, the German finance minister, has announced plans to keep the tax for the top 10 per cent of earners Credit: CLEMENS BILAN/EPA-EFE/REX  The legal challenge is expected to be the first of many after Mrs Merkel’s government dropped plans to scrap the controversial tax next year. Olaf Scholz, the finance minister, announced that the government will instead raise the minimum threshold for the tax so that it only applies to the top 10 per cent of earners from 2021. The Bavarian couple behind the legal challenge argue the move is unconstitutional because the tax was only approved as a temporary measure and its mandate expires this year. They are being represented in court by Michael Sell, a lawyer who was head of the finance ministry’s tax department until last year. The lawsuit is also backed by the the Federation of German Taxpayers (BdST), which says it is ready to take the case to Germany's highest court if necessary. “Because the mandate expires at the end of the year, the Soli no longer has any legitimacy,” Reiner Holznagel, the BdST president said.  “We want the politicians to live up to the promises they have been making for decades and abolish the Soli completely and for everyone by 2020.”

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 08:32:45 -0400
  • Yemeni government forces rout separatists from southern city

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    Forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized government have taken full control of a key southern city after overnight clashes with separatists there, Yemeni security officials said Friday. Clashes over Ataq, the capital of oil-rich Shabwa province erupted late Thursday night and lasted until Friday morning, said the security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because there were not authorized to talk to the media. The city of Ataq was previously divided between the government forces of Saudi-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and a separatist militia, trained and armed by the United Arab Emirates.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 08:29:50 -0400
  • Iran's Zarif says nuclear talks with Macron were "productive" -ILNA agency

    Iran's foreign minister said talks he held on Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron about a landmark 2015 nuclear deal were "productive", according to the ILNA news agency. "France had presented some suggestions and we presented some suggestions about how to carry out (the nuclear deal) and the steps that both sides need to take," the minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 08:23:32 -0400
  • Macron Riles Bolsonaro, Setting Up G-7 Fight Over Amazon Fires

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    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.Emmanuel Macron said Group of Seven leaders gathering in Biarritz, France, Saturday must tackle head on the fires in the Amazon jungle, establishing the summit’s first flash point.“Our house is burning. Literally,” the French president wrote in a tweet late Thursday. “It is an international crisis.” He plans to introduce the topic in his opening remarks at the informal dinner on Saturday, and it will be the first topic of discussion on Monday.But by placing the environmental emergency at the top of the G-7 agenda, he risks a geopolitical fight he cannot win if he tries to prise a response to from Donald Trump, who has already pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and is a long-term skeptic on threats to the environment.Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro, who has echoed Trump’s approach on environmental issues, has already reacted angrily. He said that discussing the fires without his country’s involvement showed a “colonial mentality that isn’t appropriate for the 21st century.”“I regret that President Macron is seeking to use the internal matters of Brazil and other Amazon countries for political gain,” Bolsonaro said in a tweet.France and Brazil have history when it comes to the Amazon. In the 1980s, Francois Mitterrand provoked outrage in South America when he suggested Brazil cede sovereignty over parts of the rain forest arguing that it was the heritage of all humanity. Brazil’s concerns about its sovereignty over the Amazon were a key turning point in environmental politics ahead of the 1992 Rio environmental summit.Brazilians are, on the whole, more accepting of international concerns these days. But with mounting criticism of the record number of fires this year, the government in Brasilia is getting defensive.While Macron is trying to rally a global response to the climate emergency, Trump has been working to roll back restrictions on CO2 emissions in the U.S. This week he attacked automakers for their opposition to a plan to ease fuel efficiency requirements.The French leader is sure to find an ally in Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Germany’s Angela Merkel. Merkel already had a run-in with Bolsonaro at June’s G-20 in Osaka after she criticized his environmental policy and cut financial aid for the Amazon. Bolsonaro told Merkel that she had an obsession with the environment and she should use the money for reforestation in Germany.German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Friday that Merkel backs Macron’s call because the "alarming and threatening" burning of the Amazon, is an international issue. U.K. Prime minister Boris Johnson’s spokeswoman, Alison Donnelly, told reporters in London said he is "extremely concerned" and would use the G-7 to call for a "renewed focus on protecting nature and tackling climate change.”But the configuration of the G-7 right now will make it difficult for Macron to make headway. Trump famously ripped up last year’s communique and does not want to be cornered. Johnson is eager to tighten his bond with Trump and at odds with European allies over Brexit. Italy is mired in a messy political crisis at home and has no prime minister. Japan is unlikely to stick its neck out -- it is more concerned about the potential fallout from the U.S. trade war with China.All this points to Macron winding up isolated on the issue if he tries to achieve anything meaningful on the fires. A French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they couldn’t pre-judge what Trump’s position will be -- or indeed what concrete action could be taken by the group.(Updates with Johnson’s spokeswoman.)\--With assistance from Ben Sills, Arne Delfs, Alex Morales and Bill Faries.To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Ben SillsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 07:52:18 -0400
  • Putin Needs to Bury This Relic of Stalin

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- As Europe marks 80 years of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which carved up eastern Europe between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, Russia is trying to defend the agreement again. There is no political benefit to doing this. President Vladimir Putin needs to abandon his Stalinist inheritance of a foreign policy based solely on national interest.If Moscow needed any reminder that many in eastern Europe still hold the treaty against it and still consider it a threat, plenty came on the anniversary. The governments of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania – the countries directly affected by the pact’s secret protocol – issued a joint statement saying the document “sparked World War II and doomed half of Europe to decades of misery.”More than a million people gathered to celebrate the Baltic Chain, the 419-mile (675 kilometer) long line of people who protested Soviet rule on Aug. 23, 1989. The demonstrators didn’t pick that day at random – they, too, were making the point that the subjugation of their countries by the Soviet Union began with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.Russia is fighting back. In Moscow, the original of the treaty is now exhibited alongside documents relating to both the 1938 Munich Agreement, where British and French leaders sanctioned the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland, and Poland’s subsequent invasion of part of Czechoslovakia.At the opening of the exhibition earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke of Britain and France’s treachery: By cosying up to Hitler, they forced the Soviet Union to sign a deal with the Nazis to ensure its own security, he said. Had the Western Europeans listened to the Soviets and set up a collective security system, the bloodshed of World War II could have been averted. Lavrov was making a clear analogy with Russia’s efforts to build an alternative security architecture in today’s Europe – an idea the Kremlin hasn’t abandoned despite the rest of Europe’s lack of interest.For its part, the Russian mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the group the Kremlin sees as the foundation for its alternative security architecture, tweeted on Aug. 20 that lots of other countries had signed pacts with the Nazis before the Soviet Union did.Kremlin officials can say all this until they go hoarse, but that can’t erase the undeniable fact that the Soviet Union’s security didn’t require it to grab the Baltics and parts of Poland and Romania. Poland, which tried to benefit from the Nazis’ aggression, has admitted it was in the wrong when it invaded part of Czechoslovakia. President Lech Kaczynski apologized for it in 2009.In 1989, the Soviet Union, too, officially condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact – but subsequent Russian communications about it, including an entire article signed by Putin himself in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, have come with the caveat that lots of others were at it, too.These excuses are a major reason other European countries don’t trust Russia: To them, Putin and his subordinates are saying that Moscow would do something like this all over again if its interests dictated it, small countries be damned.Concern this might happen was what drove eastern Europeans into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The reality of the annexation of Crimea – another opportunistic move dictated ostensibly by Russian security considerations – is pushing Ukraine in the same direction.If Putin’s goal was to inspire trust and start a meaningful conversation about collective European security in an age of increasing global competition, an unconditionally apologetic stance would work much better. Refraining from invading neighboring countries would be an even more meaningful step.I suspect, however, that Putin doesn’t really believe in such goals, because, like Stalin, he thinks a deal with the devil, based on common interest rather than trust, is the best.My epiphany about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact came when I read the long-lost diary of Alfred Rosenberg, Nazi ideologue and Hitler’s one-time minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Rosenberg was skeptical about the deal and recoiled in horror when fellow Nazi Richard Darre told him of Joachim von Ribbentrop’s comment that he had “felt as though among old party comrades” when meeting the Soviet leadership.Incredulously, Rosenberg recounted that during Ribbentrop’s visit, Stalin raised his glass not just to Hitler but also to Heinrich Himmler, the Nazi security chief, calling him “the guarantor of order in Germany.”“Himmler has eradicated communism, i.e. those who believed in Stalin, and this one – without any need for it – raises a toast to the exterminator of his faithful,” Rosenberg noted.For Stalin, any kind of ideology took a back seat to expediency. He was a man of interests, not values. In that sense, Putin, an avowed anti-communist who has condemned Stalin on many occasions, is following the dictator’s realpolitik. His adherence to his current Orthodox Christian brand of social conservatism is as flimsy as Stalin’s link to leftist idealism was. If Putin can do a deal that will promote what he sees as Russia’s interests, he will do it with anyone. He will wear any hat required of him while doing so, and raise any toast. He is oblivious to Molotov-Ribbentrop’s biggest lesson of all: That such agreements don’t hold.That’s why eastern Europeans, and especially Ukrainians, are so worried about the possibility of a grand bargain between Putin and a U.S. president, most recently Donald Trump. The consequences for them could be comparable to those of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.What’s needed from Russia isn’t an apology for carving up Europe with Hitler, but a different foreign policy is – one in which principles trump interests. Only such a change can bring closer the idealistic vision of a Europe that stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok, a goal to which both Russian and European leaders still like to refer. And that shift shouldn’t come at a moment of weakness, as it did in the waning years of the Soviet Union. Restoring trust should be a conscious process. It will take some time.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 07:52:10 -0400
  • Putin Needs to Bury This Relic of Stalin

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- As Europe marks 80 years of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which carved up eastern Europe between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, Russia is trying to defend the agreement again. There is no political benefit to doing this. President Vladimir Putin needs to abandon his Stalinist inheritance of a foreign policy based solely on national interest.If Moscow needed any reminder that many in eastern Europe still hold the treaty against it and still consider it a threat, plenty came on the anniversary. The governments of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania – the countries directly affected by the pact’s secret protocol – issued a joint statement saying the document “sparked World War II and doomed half of Europe to decades of misery.”More than a million people gathered to celebrate the Baltic Chain, the 419-mile (675 kilometer) long line of people who protested Soviet rule on Aug. 23, 1989. The demonstrators didn’t pick that day at random – they, too, were making the point that the subjugation of their countries by the Soviet Union began with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.Russia is fighting back. In Moscow, the original of the treaty is now exhibited alongside documents relating to both the 1938 Munich Agreement, where British and French leaders sanctioned the Nazi annexation of the Sudetenland, and Poland’s subsequent invasion of part of Czechoslovakia.At the opening of the exhibition earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke of Britain and France’s treachery: By cosying up to Hitler, they forced the Soviet Union to sign a deal with the Nazis to ensure its own security, he said. Had the Western Europeans listened to the Soviets and set up a collective security system, the bloodshed of World War II could have been averted. Lavrov was making a clear analogy with Russia’s efforts to build an alternative security architecture in today’s Europe – an idea the Kremlin hasn’t abandoned despite the rest of Europe’s lack of interest.For its part, the Russian mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the group the Kremlin sees as the foundation for its alternative security architecture, tweeted on Aug. 20 that lots of other countries had signed pacts with the Nazis before the Soviet Union did.Kremlin officials can say all this until they go hoarse, but that can’t erase the undeniable fact that the Soviet Union’s security didn’t require it to grab the Baltics and parts of Poland and Romania. Poland, which tried to benefit from the Nazis’ aggression, has admitted it was in the wrong when it invaded part of Czechoslovakia. President Lech Kaczynski apologized for it in 2009.In 1989, the Soviet Union, too, officially condemned the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact – but subsequent Russian communications about it, including an entire article signed by Putin himself in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, have come with the caveat that lots of others were at it, too.These excuses are a major reason other European countries don’t trust Russia: To them, Putin and his subordinates are saying that Moscow would do something like this all over again if its interests dictated it, small countries be damned.Concern this might happen was what drove eastern Europeans into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The reality of the annexation of Crimea – another opportunistic move dictated ostensibly by Russian security considerations – is pushing Ukraine in the same direction.If Putin’s goal was to inspire trust and start a meaningful conversation about collective European security in an age of increasing global competition, an unconditionally apologetic stance would work much better. Refraining from invading neighboring countries would be an even more meaningful step.I suspect, however, that Putin doesn’t really believe in such goals, because, like Stalin, he thinks a deal with the devil, based on common interest rather than trust, is the best.My epiphany about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact came when I read the long-lost diary of Alfred Rosenberg, Nazi ideologue and Hitler’s one-time minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Rosenberg was skeptical about the deal and recoiled in horror when fellow Nazi Richard Darre told him of Joachim von Ribbentrop’s comment that he had “felt as though among old party comrades” when meeting the Soviet leadership.Incredulously, Rosenberg recounted that during Ribbentrop’s visit, Stalin raised his glass not just to Hitler but also to Heinrich Himmler, the Nazi security chief, calling him “the guarantor of order in Germany.”“Himmler has eradicated communism, i.e. those who believed in Stalin, and this one – without any need for it – raises a toast to the exterminator of his faithful,” Rosenberg noted.For Stalin, any kind of ideology took a back seat to expediency. He was a man of interests, not values. In that sense, Putin, an avowed anti-communist who has condemned Stalin on many occasions, is following the dictator’s realpolitik. His adherence to his current Orthodox Christian brand of social conservatism is as flimsy as Stalin’s link to leftist idealism was. If Putin can do a deal that will promote what he sees as Russia’s interests, he will do it with anyone. He will wear any hat required of him while doing so, and raise any toast. He is oblivious to Molotov-Ribbentrop’s biggest lesson of all: That such agreements don’t hold.That’s why eastern Europeans, and especially Ukrainians, are so worried about the possibility of a grand bargain between Putin and a U.S. president, most recently Donald Trump. The consequences for them could be comparable to those of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.What’s needed from Russia isn’t an apology for carving up Europe with Hitler, but a different foreign policy is – one in which principles trump interests. Only such a change can bring closer the idealistic vision of a Europe that stretches from Lisbon to Vladivostok, a goal to which both Russian and European leaders still like to refer. And that shift shouldn’t come at a moment of weakness, as it did in the waning years of the Soviet Union. Restoring trust should be a conscious process. It will take some time.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 07:52:10 -0400
  • The Latest: Israeli teen dies of wounds in West Bank attack

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    Israel's national rescue agency says a 17-year-old Israeli girl died of wounds from an explosion in the West Bank earlier in the day that the Israeli military has described as a Palestinian attack. Initially, three Israelis were said to have been wounded in the blast on Friday near the Dolev settlement, northwest of Jerusalem. The Israeli rescue agency, known as Magen David Adom, says the girl's 21-year-old brother was in a serious condition.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 07:28:14 -0400
  • G-7 Offers a Chance for a Truce in the Tariff Wars

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    The Group of Seven (G7) summit will convene this weekend in Biarritz. President Donald Trump’s trade policies will undoubtedly take center stage again, as they did at last year’s meeting.The topic is increasingly important to those in attendance—the leaders of the world’s seven most economically advanced countries. U.S. tariffs on China are already being felt by American companies. They are paying more for imported basic and intermediate inputs—materials needed for American workers to produce finished goods and services. And while the tariffs haven’t hit Americans too hard in the pocketbook yet, the longer and harder they are applied, the greater the likelihood that U.S. consumers will start feeling the pinch.The uncertainty surrounding trade is largely the reason for significant volatility in global financial markets in recent weeks. There are also warning signs of a potential economic slowdown in Europe—a slowdown that could be aggravated by possible U.S. auto tariffs.Now, one thing the G7 countries should be able to agree upon this weekend is the need for a united front against the predatory behavior and imperialistic ambitions of Xi Jinping’s China. All G7 members perceive the threat to the global trading system posed by China, which has gamed that system’s rules ever since being admitted to the World Trade Organization twenty years ago. In fact, one of the main reasons Trump has been unable to strike a deal with the Chinese is the difficulty of coming up with an enforcement mechanism that would assure Beijing refrains from committing what White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro calls China’s “seven deadly sins.” Those sins include theft of intellectual property, forced transfers of technology, cyberwarfare against computer systems, and heavily subsidizing China’s state-owned enterprises. The administration is loath to scale back its tariffs without enforceable assurances that Beijing will abandon these predatory practices.Apart from the China problem, G7 member countries should be able to agree to mitigate real or threatened trade policies that could have a direct negative impact on their own economies. Trump’s call for an end to U.S. and EU tariffs, nontariff barriers, and subsidies—first issued at last year’s G7 Summit in Canada—would be a great place to start.To achieve that very difficult goal, the toughest part would be getting rid of hugely wasteful agricultural subsidies on both sides of the Atlantic. Another irritant that should be reversed is France’s recently imposed “digital services tax,” which is obviously aimed at American technology companies such as Google and Facebook.The United States and the EU could make progress on all of these goals in Biarritz. And progress could be made on bilateral issues, as well.For example, Trump could promise the Canadians that he does not intend to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement before Congress approves its replacement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.And the president should reassure British prime minister Boris Johnson of America’s commitment to a U.S.-UK free trade pact post-Brexit, and to urge European leaders to make the UK’s transition out of the EU as painless as possible.The G7 summit affords Trump an opportunity to seize the moral high ground on trade, urging other G7 leaders to join him in reaffirming the values of market-based Western democracy and economic freedom.And that high ground should not be surrounded by a protectionist moat.James Roberts is a research fellow for economic freedom and growth at The Heritage Foundation.Image: Reuters

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 07:07:00 -0400
  • Britain unlikely to change Iran stance at G7 despite Trump meeting

    Britain is unlikely to alter its approach on Iran despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting U.S. President Donald Trump, as the 2015 deal remains the best way to ensure Tehran does not get nuclear weapons, a British diplomatic source said on Friday. "We are strong supporters of the JCPOA (Iran deal).

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 07:04:15 -0400
  • Putin vows 'symmetric response' to US missile test

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday he has ordered the military to prepare a "symmetric response" after Washington tested a formerly banned missile. Putin said he had ordered an analysis of "the level of threat for our country created by the actions of the US and to take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetric response". The US Department of Defense said Monday it had tested a type of ground-launched missile that was banned under the 1987 INF agreement, which limited the use of nuclear and conventional medium-range weapons.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 07:00:29 -0400
  • Sweden 'receives indications' Iran is ready to release British tanker

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    Sweden has reportedly received “very strong indications” from Iran that it will release the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker sometime in the coming days.  Sweden’s foreign ministry believes that the ship, which is operated by a Swedish firm, will be set free in the near future, according to Swedish public television.  The report emerged after Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, met with his Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallstrom, in Stockholm earlier this week. The Iranian minister also met with the chief executive of Stena Bulk, the ship’s operator.  A spokeswoman for Sweden’s foreign ministry would not confirm or deny the STV report.   “We look positively at what Foreign Minister Zarif himself has said publicly about hopes for a possible quick solution for Stena Impero, but we do not disclose what is said in the meetings,” the spokeswoman said.  The Stena Impero was seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on July 19 in apparent retaliation for Royal Marines seizing the Iranian Grace 1 tanker off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4. Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, met with his Swedish counterpart Credit: REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo The Grace 1, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, was released from Gibraltar over the weekend. British officials hoped its release would pave the way for the release of the Stena Impero.  Iran has so far given no indication when, or if, it plans to release the British-flagged tanker.  Iranian officials initially indicated that the Stena Impero had been seized in response to the Grace 1’s seizure but now claims that the ship violated maritime rules in the Persian Gulf.  Tehran has said that a court in the southern port of Bandar Abbas will decide the ship’s fate. British officials believe Tehran is hiding behind legalism when the ship’s seizure and release are in reality in the hands of political decision makers.   The US has continued to pursue the Grace 1 after it left Gibraltar and has warned European states not to give the ship safe harbour as it sails east across the Mediterranean.  That warning has now been extended to any European shipping firms that might interact with the tanker. “The shipping sector is on notice that we will aggressively enforce US sanctions,” a US official told Reuters.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 06:48:17 -0400
  • G-7 Leaders Squabble as World Economy Teeters

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    (Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.Historians may look back at this weekend’s gathering of world leaders in the French port city of Biarritz as a squandered opportunity.The global economy is weakening, trade wars are escalating and major economies like Germany are sliding toward recession. But Group of Seven allies are so divided there’s little hope for the type of coordinated response that sprang from similar meetings a decade ago.Amid the growing financial crisis in 2008, then-President George W. Bush called an emergency G-20 meeting that yielded a roadmap to combat the worldwide slowdown. Along with subsequent multilateral actions, it’s widely seen as having helped avoid a deeper downturn.Now disagreements over everything from Iran’s nuclear program to Brexit to the future of the global trading system likely will stand in the way of unified solutions.U.S. President Donald Trump has dismissed accusations his tariff assault on China and threats to impose duties on Europe’s auto industry are contributing to any slowdown.As Shawn Donnan, Raymond Colitt and Toru Fujioka write, the brightest economic hope for this round may be just that things don’t get any worse.And while the world’s political leaders squabble, it may be left to central bankers conducting their own retreat some 5,000 miles away in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to save the day.Global HeadlinesAmazon brouhaha | French President Emmanuel Macron’s call on the G-7 to tackle the fires raging in the Amazon jungle has set up the summit's first flash point. It’s sure to irritate Trump, who pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, and has already riled Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who said discussing the issue without his nation’s involvement reflects a “colonial mentality.”Seeds of discontent | Top Trump officials met yesterday to consider options for quelling a backlash in politically important farm states, Jennifer A. Dlouhy and Mario Parker report. The topic of discussion? Recent administration moves that would slow biofuel use. They’re trying to blunt anger in Iowa and other states critical to the president’s re-election in 2020.Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has produced a new film called “Claws of the Red Dragon” attacking Huawei Technologies, an attempt to steel the president’s resolve to confront China. Click here for more on why — even if Trump faces another Republican primary challenger — it’s unlikely to lead to much. Online army | The technology underpinning Hong Kong’s leaderless protests is a major reason there’s no end in sight: Online discussion groups are the movement’s backbone, and authorities who've tried to subdue it can’t simply lock up the masterminds and send everyone home. And no single leader has emerged with enough clout to call demonstrators off — or negotiate with the government. One of the biggest tests of unity will come this weekend, when netizens are again planning to disrupt airport operations.Tiring of war | From his heavily fortified compound west of Libya’s capital, Ghassan Salame has a ringside seat as two forces battle for control of the country. The United Nation’s special envoy, his mission is to end fighting between the internationally-recognized government and its chief rival, commander Khalifa Haftar, that’s been fueled by the ambitions of regional powers. His argument, writes Samer Khalil Al-Atrush? No one can win this deadlocked contest.Pyongyang criticism | North Korea’s top diplomat has blamed Michael Pompeo for stalled nuclear talks with the U.S., saying the secretary of state “casts a dark shadow” over the negotiations. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Pompeo was more focused on his own political aspirations than getting a result. It’s the latest statement from North Korea seeking a more favorable negotiating framework before Kim Jong Un restarts talks.What to WatchItalian President Sergio Mattarella gave the center-left Democrats until Tuesday to form a coalition with their long-time rivals, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, following the government’s collapse. Trump’s lawyers will be in a New York court today trying to block Democrats’ access to financial records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One — and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has much at stake over the outcome.And finally ... Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes a U.K. economy free of the EU will see depressed British port cities roar back into life as tax-exempt zones. He’d be well advised to have a look at the concrete bunker on the edge of Luxembourg’s airport. As Hugo Miller and Stephanie Bodoni report, the reality can be a nightmare as such duty-free facilities face growing criticism for being conduits of money laundering and tax evasion. \--With assistance from Karen Leigh.To contact the author of this story: Kathleen Hunter in London at khunter9@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Karl MaierFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 06:02:55 -0400
  • 80 Years Ago This Week, Hitler and Stalin Cut the Deal That Triggered WWII

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    Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettyBy the spring of 1939 Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and Joseph Stalin’s USSR had been “pouring buckets of shit on each other’s heads” for decades, as Stalin later said.During the 1920s and 1930s they vied for power in Europe, blaming each other for all economic and social ills, and battling through proxies in the Spanish Civil War.  Their diametrically opposed far-left and far-right philosophies and economic strategies culminated in the German-led Anti-Comintern Pact of 1936-37 creating an alliance between the Third Reich, Imperial Japan and eventually Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy against the spread of Communism, and more specifically the threat of a Soviet invasion.D-Day Did Not Turn the Tide in WWII. That Happened in 1941.Early on, Hitler had feared that the USSR and the Western democracies would make an anti-Nazi alliance to curtail German expansion.  He gave them three chances to do so, and they flubbed them all. In 1936 when Hitler “remilitarized” the Rhineland, an extant Russia-France pact could have been called into play and both countries could have invaded Germany. France did not insist on doing so, and its similar reluctance to pincer the Third Reich allowed Hitler’s Anschluss with Austria in early 1938 and the Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland part of Czechoslovakia that followed the Munich Accord in October 1938.  Stalin was irate at being excluded from the Munich talks.  His absence allowed Britain’s Neville Chamberlain and France’s Edouard Daladier, urged on by Mussolini, to hand the Sudetenland to Hitler without Russian objections. Stalin blamed Soviet Foreign Secretary Maxim Litvinov, a Jew born Meir Henoch Wallach of Bialystok, for being boxed out of Munich. Until then, Litvinov had done very well by the USSR and by Stalin. An old-line Communist who prior to the Revolution had spent time in jail and in exile in the party’s service, in 1921 he had been appointed by Vladimir Lenin as deputy commissar for foreign affairs, and after Lenin died, in 1930 Stalin had elevated Litvinov to the top position. He then succeeded in getting formal recognition of the USSR by the United States of America and acceptance into the League of Nations; he also birthed the non-aggression alliances with Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, and Turkey that provided the USSR with a border of buffer states against a German invasion.But as the Nazis continued to expand the Third Reich, Stalin became convinced that the buffer states were not enough protection for the USSR at just the moment when it could not sustain a war because his purge of the Soviet military had left it too weak for large-scale combat. Hitler, for his part, had been vocally anti-Soviet until he began listening to former Champagne salesman Joachim von Ribbentrop.  Married to a wealthy woman and known for lavish spending, pretensions, and incompetence, von Ribbentrop joined the Nazi Party in 1932.  He steadily gained traction in the foreign ministry by loudly opposing the foreign minister, Konstantin von Neurath, with the aid of the Schutzstaffel, better known by the initials SS—Ribbentrop liked to wear his SS general’s uniform for diplomatic occasions, even as ambassador to Great Britain.  Hitler had steadily become disenchanted with von Neurath and a foreign ministry that slow-walked every bold stroke he attempted. So after shaking up the German military, in early 1938 Hitler upended the foreign ministry and appointed von Ribbentrop as top dog.  The salesman had already begun selling Hitler hard on the attractiveness of a pact with the USSR: in case of war it could prevent the Third Reich from having to fight on two fronts, and could assure continued access to raw materials—grains, soybeans, oil, and phosphates—in the likely event of a British and French naval blockade of Germany.Hitler’s hatred for Jews was well-known, and for some time his minions had been complaining to Stalin’s about their chief negotiator, the Jew whom they referred to as “Litvinov-Finkelstein,” implying that great progress could be made between the two countries if he was removed. Stalin sacked Litvinov on May 3.  He was arrested by the NKVD, his phones cut, his office locked, his aides interrogated. Too prominent in the West to be summarily executed, he was dispatched to Washington, D.C., as ambassador, and Stalin replaced him as foreign secretary with his most loyal protégé, Vyacheslav Molotov.  As with the name ‘Litvinov,’ ‘Molotov’ was a Revolutionary moniker.  In Russian it meant “the hammer,” and he functioned as the hammer to Stalin’s sickle. When informed that his Party colleagues called him Comrade Stone-ass for his ability to sit through interminable meetings, Molotov corrected them by saying that Lenin himself had dubbed him Comrade Iron-ass.The switch of Molotov for Litvinov was an unmistakable signal that collective security via the USSR’s alliances with buffer states and Western democracies was dead.  And Hitler had already sent another unmistakable signal: that his next target was the German-speaking area of Poland known as the Danzig Corridor.  Did the Western democracies miss these signals and the potential for a Hitler-Stalin alliance?  No, but fear of confrontation, based on the terrible experience of the Great War, and the lack of bloodshed so far in Hitler’s take-overs had lulled them into complacency.But the dictators were ready to act. On May 17, a Russian attaché in Berlin told his German counterpart that there were no foreign policy conflicts between the two countries. As von Ribbentrop would shortly put it in a missive to Moscow, “There is no question between the Baltic and the Black Sea which cannot be settled to the complete satisfaction of both [Soviet and German] parties.”London and Paris did not react as quickly. As though there were no urgency, their first delegation did not arrive in Moscow until June 15,  and it was half-hearted: military officials only authorized to make tentative commitments, subject to ratification at home. They conveyed that Great Britain and France would indeed give the USSR a free hand in the Baltic States and Finland, and the right to enter Poland and Rumania—but only if Germany invaded Poland or Rumania.  Hitler could offer the USSR the same territorial conquests, and without having to fight Nazi Germany to obtain them.  Those territory grabs were the essence of the “secret protocol” of the eventual Nazi-Soviet pact, a few paragraphs whose existence would not be acknowledged until the Nuremberg Trials of 1945, that Molotov would continue to deny until his dying day, and that Vladimir Putin shrugged off as fake news.  It gave the Soviets carte blanche in the Baltic states and the eastern half of Poland.  After three months of incremental progress produced a draft document that both sides liked, on Aug. 21 a Stalin telegram arrived in Berlin authorizing von Ribbentrop to fly to Moscow on Aug. 23. As von Ribbentrop’s motorcade was making its way from the airport to the Kremlin, he was astonished to pass through streets lined with cheering Russians waving swastika flags and other Nazi banners.  The flags and banners had been confiscated from a nearby film studio that had been making an anti-Nazi  propaganda film. The film was never completed. Negotiations went so well that von Ribbentrop was stunned.  He had to phone for instructions regarding a hitch over who would gobble up what portions of Latvia.  Hitler consulted a map and phoned back with a concession to Stalin.  Once von Ribbentrop and Molotov had signed the pact, the German phoned again to Obersalzberg, Hitler’s mountain retreat, where he was readying the Poland invasion plans with the senior military staff.  It was three in the morning. Architect Albert Speer was in the room as Hitler took the call: “Hitler stared into space for a moment, flushed deeply, then banged on the table so hard that the glasses rattled, and exclaimed in a voice breaking with excitement, ‘I have them!  I have them!’”   In the next moments, he green-lit the invasion of Poland for September 1, having earlier postponed it so that the pact with the USSR could be signed.  And he assured his generals that once they had occupied Poland and taken over France and the Low Countries, the Nazi juggernaut would overrun the USSR.Stalin, in the Kremlin, was ecstatic, breaking out the Champagne and caviar, and toasting Hitler.  Stalin had reason to gloat, for with a single stroke he had reassembled almost the entire Romanov Empire at the start of the Great War. Within months, 50 million more people in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and parts of Finland would be under his control.On Aug. 24, the public part of the non-aggression pact was publicized around the world.  A few days later, Stalin managed not to mention the secret protocol part to a group of top aides when he told them that a war was about to begin “between two groups of capitalist countries for the redivision of the world, for the domination of the world!  We see nothing wrong in their having a good hard fight and weakening each other. It would be fine if, at the hands of Germany, the position of the richest capitalist countries (especially England) were shaken.”Even before von Ribbentrop returned to Berlin, an aide, Hans von Herwarth, quite upset over the secret protocol, gave a copy to his friend Chip Bohlen, then serving in the American embassy in Moscow. Bohlen reported this quickly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but the U.S. did not share the information with Great Britain or France prior to Sept. 1, 1939. On that date, Hitler’s forces invaded Poland, their supreme commander secure in the knowledge that Soviet forces would not oppose them.  France and Britain, although already mobilized, were nonetheless underprepared for the swiftness and ferocity of the German blitzkrieg. Other than declaring war they made rather minimal responses to the invasion of Poland, a country they had pledged to defend. Some French troops advanced east of the Maginot Line to the German border, but did not cross into Germany. British air raids did little damage. The naval blockade was begun, but did nothing to halt the advance of German troops. In mid-September, after German troops reached the Polish capital, Warsaw, Stalin gave the go-ahead for Russian troops to enter Poland. Later he said that he was worried that the Germans would simply take the remainder of Poland if Russian troops did not claim that territory. The Russian Army’s entrance prevented 200,000 to 300,000 Polish troops from escaping to the south, where they might have survived in exile and served with the forces of the democracies. When the American Press Bent the Rules to Fight HitlerWhen Britain and France learned of the Russian invasion, they pulled back the French troops from the German border to behind the Maginot Line, and ceased the air raids. By Sept. 28, 1939 Poland no longer existed. The first phase of World War II was over; the next phase would be dubbed “the phony war” because the belligerents appeared not to be engaging in active combat. That phase would end in May 1940 with Hitler’s invasion of France and the Low Countries.When von Ribbentrop had gone to Moscow, Hitler had sent along his personal photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, to record the event and to bring back a photographic record of Stalin’s earlobes—if they hung loose from his head, then he was Aryan, but if they were attached, Stalin must be a Jew.  Hoffman returned with close-ups that assured Hitler that Stalin’s earlobes were unattached—and that therefore, in Hitler’s eyes Stalin was a worthy partner, at least for the time being.  Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 05:03:41 -0400
  • America’s Key to Keeping ISIS Defeated

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    Louai Beshara/GettyEastern Syria sits at the crossroads of critical policy decisions in Washington. The region is at the center of an escalating crisis in U.S.-Turkey relations, while maintaining America’s presence there blocks Iranian and Russian gains in Syria. It also is key to keeping ISIS defeated. Washington should see eastern Syria as one of the most important strategic pieces of “real estate” to emerge out of the last half-decade of conflict in the Middle East.The area of northeast Syria where the U.S. today plays a critical role, roughly the size of West Virginia, is now a kind of Gordian Knot. While American adversaries, such as Russia or Iran, have a clear goal in Syria, keeping the Bashar al-Assad regime in power and entrenching their influence, the U.S. policy goal is less clear. ISIS, Assad, and Turkey Are Waging a Shadow War on U.S. Allies in SyriaTurkey, a historic U.S. ally, recently threatened to launch a military operation into eastern Syria against key U.S. partners who helped defeat the so-called Islamic State, leaving Washington with a devil’s bargain: leave eastern Syria and watch five years of fighting ISIS and working with local forces collapse, or continue to fuel a crisis with Turkey. The U.S. chose a temporary solution, telling Ankara it would work on a “safe zone” along the Syria-Turkey border.Is eastern Syria just a sunk cost for Washington? The reality is that the U.S., partly by accident and partly by mission creep, has found itself sitting astride the most important nexus of four foreign policy axes connecting the Middle East and the world. One is Iran’s regional strategy, another is Russia’s plans and a third is Turkey’s goals. Lastly, the area keeps ISIS contained. It’s because it ties in to so many agendas that this triangle of land is so important, and so combustible.It didn’t begin this way. Northeast Syria was a poor, neglected part of the country for most of the 20th century. The Obama administration deepened U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict initially through support for anti-Assad rebels but shifted to focus on defeating Islamic State after 2015. Eventually a coalition of 75 countries signed on to fight ISIS in Iraq, with a handful supporting U.S. anti-ISIS operations in Syria. It was an open-ended war with a mandate to defeat the extremists, morphing into supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces as the central partner on the ground fighting ISIS. The Pentagon wanted a “by, with and through” approach that implied a small U.S. footprint, backing mostly Kurdish fighters. President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from Syria in December 2018, then slowed down. ISIS lost its last major foothold in March 2019 but thousands of its former fighters formed sleeper cells.A Pentagon report released on Aug. 6 says the U.S. has completed a partial withdrawal at a time when the SDF “needed training and equipping to respond to ISIS resurgent cells.” Efforts at stabilization and security, which foresee the training of 110,000 local forces, are continuing but are strained by contradictory policies. U.S. efforts to get the U.K., Germany or France to commit troops to backfill the slow U.S. withdrawal and support a safe zone have come to naught. Leaving eastern Syria now means creating a vacuum and giving ISIS breathing space. It would also mean abandoning partners on the ground, reducing U.S. influence.A second U.S. policy in Syria emerged in the fall of 2018. Although the Trump administration ended support for the rebels, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the U.S. would remain in Syria until Iran left. Officials realize that controlling a swath of Syria, including a military base at Tanf near the Jordanian border, puts pressure on Iran’s support for the Syrian regime and its entrenchment in Syria. America’s presence stymies the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, keeping it from expanding its activities across Iraq and Syria. This is a key concern for Israel which has carried out more than 1,000 airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria to interdict Iranian support to Hezbollah.Turkey has slammed the U.S. role in Syria, accusing it of training terrorists linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and creating a “terrorist corridor” that threatens Ankara. Washington attempted to assuage Ankara’s anger, putting a bounty on three PKK leaders in 2018 and agreeing to work jointly with Turkey on a safe zone along the Syrian border. But the tensions with Turkey include other, perhaps larger problems, such as Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 air defense system. Some of these contretemps stem in part from Turkey’s dim view of U.S. policy in eastern Syria. In the process, Russia and Turkey have grown closer. Iran also now boasts of its growing ties with Turkey. Ankara has threatened repeatedly over the last year to launch a military operation into eastern Syria where U.S. forces are based, even saying it has informed Moscow of its intentions. The U.S. warned it against unilateral action on August 6 and promised to do more to create a “safe zone” for Turkey.Such solutions are short-term, and Washington has been cagey about playing a grander role, despite its influence on the ground. Meanwhile Iran, Russia and Turkey regularly meet in the framework of the Astana peace talks on Syria, excluding the U.S. Eastern Syria is now a hinge on which the door to U.S. influence in the region opens or shuts. It is intricately linked to stability in the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, which is a close U.S. partner. American allies such as the United Arab Emirates, whose regional policies tend to be at odds with Turkey and Qatar, oppose Turkey’s desire to launch an operation. "There is no excuse for Turkish control of Syrian land,” The National in the UAE argued on August 8, building on a similar editorial on July 14. But come what may, the White House doesn’t want another “forever war” like Afghanistan.As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hezbollah Readies for War With IsraelAreas from Raqqa to Qamishli in Syria are no longer just an area to be stabilized against the resurgence of ISIS, or a region used as a bargaining chip with Iran. It is too combustible for either simple mission. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus are eager for American humiliation and seeking to exploit U.S.-Turkey tensions. Washington allies, from the Gulf to Israel, would see a setback if the U.S. withdraws suddenly. That means the U.S. also has leverage over these allies and could encourage more buy-in from Riyadh or Abu Dhabi, to support stabilization and reconstruction. They also oppose Iran’s growing influence, and are at odds with Turkey, so for them northeast Syria is important.Recognizing eastern Syria as more than the sum of its parts is the best way to understand the long-term challenge there. It is the strategic real estate in the Middle East upon which the ambitions of four powers rest, and where U.S. strategy is made or broken.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 05:02:44 -0400
  • Trump Aide Who Floated Sending Migrants to Sanctuary Cities Gets Promotion

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    Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/GettyA Trump administration official who pushed the idea of releasing undocumented immigrants into “sanctuary cities” has been promoted to the Office of the White House Counsel, according to two sources familiar with move. She’s a rising star in the White House, and an ally of Donald Trump’s senior policy adviser.In her new post, May Davis will work on immigration and domestic policy, giving top policy adviser and immigration hardliner Stephen Miller another ally in the counsel’s office.“I can confirm May works and reports to the White House Counsel’s Office, and continues to be a very valued member of the White House,” a White House official told The Daily Beast. “We look forward to her contributing to the President’s agenda in a legal capacity in her new role.”Davis, a Harvard Law graduate and immigration hawk, is poised to play an important part in helping guide some of Trump’s most consequential policy moves, particularly on executive orders that are screened and closely examined by the counsel’s office. On Wednesday, the president again claimed that his administration was “seriously” looking at ending birthright citizenship, a potential executive order that would likely fall under Davis’s portfolio.Three administration officials described Davis as an ally of Miller, with one saying she was a staunch supporter of the “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in the separation of migrant families on the U.S. southern border. Since the early days of the Trump campaign, Miller has driven Trump’s hardline immigration stances and has helped craft some of his most controversial policies, including his travel ban on people from seven majority-Muslim countries.“May is a total professional and one of the most level-headed people in the White House,” said a former White House official who worked with Davis. “She knows the ins and outs of the administration and will be a huge asset as the administration navigates various policy proposals in the upcoming months.”Davis previously served as a White House policy coordinator and largely dodged media attention during her time in the administration––with one prior exception. In an email The New York Times reviewed, Davis floated to DHS officials that they release detained undocumented immigrants into so-called sanctuary cities.  “The idea has been raised by one to two principals that, if we are unable to build sufficient temporary housing, that caravan members be bused to small- and mid-sized sanctuary cities,” Davis wrote, noting the White House had not reached a final decision on the idea.Her route to the White House Counsel’s Office has been circuitous. After the Senate confirmed Kelly Craft as Trump’s United Nations ambassador last month, Davis was apparently tapped as her chief of staff, according to the State Department directory viewed by The Daily Beast. (She was listed as chief of staff as recently as Tuesday.)In the White House, Davis has participated in the Miller-led Immigration Strategic Working Group, according to White House communications reviewed by The Daily Beast. The group includes more than 30 Trump administration officials who gather regularly to work on immigration policy and enforcement. Participants include officials from the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Security Council, and the State Department. Davis will work alongside Steven Menashi, another lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office who has also participated in Miller’s working group. Menashi is currently awaiting confirmation to be a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.She previously worked in the office of the White House staff secretary, serving under Rob Porter, who left early last year after his ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse. During that period, Miller felt Porter’s office interfered too much in the speechwriting process, according to a person familiar with the situation. In the time since, Miller and Davis grew to be allies in the Trump administration, particularly on immigration policy, multiple sources noted.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 05:01:49 -0400
  • S. Korea says will share military intel with Japan through US

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    South Korea said Friday it will share military intelligence with Japan through the United States after terminating a pact that enabled the two key Washington allies to exchange such information directly. Seoul's decision on Thursday to end the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat measures that have brought relations between South Korea and Japan to their lowest point in years. Under the GSOMIA, originally signed in 2016, the two had directly shared military secrets, particularly over North Korea's nuclear and missile capacity.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 04:52:52 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Freed Kremlin critic Navalny predicts bigger opposition protests

    Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Friday used his first statement after being released from jail to predict that opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and protests against the authorities would only grow. Navalny, who tries to garner popular support by exposing what he says is appalling official corruption, was speaking minutes after being freed from prison where he had served 30 days for encouraging a protest calling for free elections. "I have no doubt that despite genuine acts of intimidation and terror that are happening now as random people are being arrested that this wave (of protests) will increase, and this regime will seriously regret what it has done," he said.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 03:43:46 -0400
  • Emmanuel Macron's Bittersweet Brexit Victory

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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is barreling through Europe’s capitals with nothing concrete to say on Brexit beyond an unappealing offer of “new deal or no deal.” With Angela Merkel offering a response so cryptic that Germany was still explaining it a day later, France’s Emmanuel Macron was on hand to clarify: The European Union’s red lines, including upholding the single market and peace in Ireland, won’t shift.The French president was also sending a more subtle message to his fellow EU leaders: I told you so.It was Macron after all who predicted that the Brits would try to delay and renegotiate Brexit rather than jump over the cliff of a no-deal withdrawal back in March – something that duly happened. It was Macron who then guessed correctly that anything longer than a technical extension to that original March Brexit day would be seen by London as a chance for a do-over of the agreed deal. And it was Macron who angered his fellow member states after rejecting talk of pushing back Brexit until 2020 – a softer position supported by Merkel – in favor of an Oct. 31 deadline.The hard-Brexit antics of Johnson since he took power from Theresa May and Nigel Farage’s Brussels-baiting after his recent success in the European Parliament elections have vindicated Macron’s realism. Merkel’s “good cop” will probably have less sway at the next EU summit.Yet it’s hard to see this confirmation of Macron’s perspicacity as anything other than bittersweet. There was nothing from Johnson that promised viable alternatives to the thorny Irish backstop (the guarantee of no hard border between north and south) that would let him go home with a new deal. Failing some 11th-hour miracle, such as a successful U.K. parliamentary revolt blocking no deal and delivering an impasse-breaking general election or second referendum, Britain is on its way out. That leaves some big questions for Macron, Merkel and the rest of the EU about what they should do next.Most attention is usually given to putting out immediate economic fires. How can Brussels ease the estimated hit of losing up to 1.5% of the EU’s annual output post-Brexit, especially as recession looms on the continent? And how can Macron avoid political blowback if French fishing fleets find themselves barred from British waters and blame the Elysee Palace? The answers might involve some sticking plasters to make sure no-deal contingency plans work, more public spending to support business, and even more European Central Bank stimulus.But Brexit isn’t just about trade and money, it’s about geopolitics too. The U.K. is a nuclear power with a permanent seat at the UN Security Council, and Johnson took care to remind Macron that British helicopters were transporting French troops in Mali. Although Macron has been making enthusiastic noises about multilateral problem-solving ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit in Biarritz, a U.K. that’s shifting its focus back across the Atlantic toward Washington adds to the long list of reasons for the EU to feel isolated in a hostile world.U.S. President Donald Trump is openly anti-EU. This week he lobbed Twitter bombs at the German economy, Europe’s reliance on the NATO umbrella and ECB policy. The G7 has been disrupted by Trump in the past, and having his pal Johnson there will up the ante. Meanwhile, China is exploiting European divisions to try to deepen its presence in EU member states such as Italy.Ideally the EU would rise to the challenge of what Sciences Po Professor Zaki Laidi calls its “De Gaulle” moment – the realization that it must defend its interests alone. That requires more support for the federalist ambitions sketched out by Macron, especially from Merkel and her successor.There are glimpses of hope. France and Germany are planning to build a fighter plane together, while the continent appears to be taking a common stand against Trump’s trade threat. Christine Lagarde’s imminent coronation at the ECB gives heart to those who believe the euro zone needs to develop a common fiscal policy, rather than always depending on ineffective quantitative easing. The former Polish deputy prime minister Jacek Rostowski thinks Germany’s economic struggles will give Macron the upper hand in trying to pursue deeper ties.Nevertheless, crises have a habit of creating disunity. The combination of Brexit, the recession threat, trade spats and disputes with Italy could easily push things further apart. Macron will be perfectly aware of that.To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at llaurent2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 03:00:22 -0400
  • Anti-Putin Leader Alexey Navalny Freed After 30 Days in Prison

    (Bloomberg) -- Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was freed after 30 days in prison for urging supporters to join an unsanctioned election protest.Navalny accused the authorities of carrying out “acts of intimidation and terror in relation to the arrests of random people” to try to break opposition protests, after he walked out of detention in Moscow on Friday. The wave of protest “will grow and this regime will greatly regret what it has done,” he told reporters. Navalny was jailed last month after calling on followers to attend a July 27 protest against the exclusion of dozens of opposition candidates from Moscow city council elections in September. While in prison, he was briefly taken to hospital for treatment to what his doctor said was “a toxic reaction to an unknown chemical substance,” leading Navalny to ask whether he had been poisoned.Unlike a number of other opposition leaders, Navalny wasn’t immediately detained by police after his release, his press secretary Kira Yarmush said on Twitter.Riot police have detained thousands of protesters in brutal crackdowns on demonstrations over the authorities’ refusal to register opposition and independent candidates for the Sept. 8 elections in Moscow. The issue has revived the anti-Kremlin movement and led to as many as 60,000 joining a sanctioned protest this month, the biggest opposition demonstration since Vladimir Putin regained the presidency in 2012. Another protest is planned for Aug. 31.To contact the reporter on this story: Scott Rose in Moscow at rrose10@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Tony HalpinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 02:46:52 -0400
  • Five things to know about Japan-South Korea intel-sharing pact

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    South Korea's decision to scrap a key intelligence-sharing pact with Japan has far-reaching geopolitical implications and shows the two neighbours are still struggling to come to terms with a bloody history. To general surprise, South Korea announced late Thursday it would not renew a pact with Japan to share military intelligence, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). Under the pact, originally signed in 2016, the two US allies directly share military secrets, particularly over North Korea's nuclear and missile capacity.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 02:30:02 -0400
  • How the B-2 Bomber Would Strike Iran, North Korea or China in a War

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    Northrop had been working on stealth since at least the mid-1960s. The B-2 Spirit is one of three strategic heavy bombers in U.S. Air Force service. Originally conceived to infiltrate the Soviet air-defense network and attack targets with nuclear weapons, over the decades its mission has grown to include conventional precision attack. The B-2 is the most advanced bomber in U.S. service, and the only one of three types that still carries nuclear gravity bombs.(This first appeared in 2017.)In the late 1970s, the administration of President Jimmy Carter opposed the high-speed B-1A bomber as a waste of government money. Carter had been briefed on the new field of stealth technology and was responsible for the development of the F-117A stealth fighter. Instead of the B-1A, Carter authorized development of the Advanced Technology Bomber, or Stealth Bomber. Little was known about the bomber at the time except that it would incorporate new radar-evading technologies and possibly a dramatically different shape than previous bombers.What a War Between China and Japan Would Look Like. The U.S. Air Force sent out a Request for Proposal in 1980, and in October 1981 Northrop won a $7.3 billion initial contract to produce 127 Advanced Technology Bombers. Northrop was a curious pick—after all, it had not produced any bombers since World War II.Northrop had been working on stealth since at least the mid-1960s. At a research facility in Rancho Palos Verdes, California Northrop had been working on radar-evading aircraft shapes and radar-resistant materials. The company lost the competition to build the Experimental Survivable Test Bed (XST), what would later become the stealth fighter to Lockheed, but did win the opportunity to build another stealth test bed, Tacit Blue. Tacit Blue featured 360 degree stealth, a must-have for a penetrating strategic bomber.What a War Between America and China Would Look Like. Engineers had long known that flying wings had a minimal radar signature, and flying wings were a Northrop specialty. The company had produced four flying wings: the Northrop N-9M, the XB-35 and YB-49, and the YB-49A. None had been picked up by the Air Force, but it gave Northrop a great deal of experience with the aircraft form. A flying wing properly shaped to further confound radar and use of advanced composite materials would create the ultimate penetration bomber, undetectable by radar.What a War Between NATO and Russia Would Look Like. The B-2 was developed as a black program, with all of the pluses and minuses that entails. On the plus side, it was developed with a high level of secrecy, and until rollout in 1988 few were sure exactly what the B-2 looked like. On the other hand costs—and development problems that caused them to rise—were kept secret until 1988. The cost of the overall B-2 program rose from 35.7 to 42.8 billion dollars. Approximately one billion was spent strengthening the wing, an Air Force requirement, should the bomber ever be required to fly at low altitude. There were also allegations of fraud and overcharging, at least one of which was settled out of court. The poisoned relationship between the Air Force and Northrop is regarded by some as one reason why the Advanced Technology Fighter competition, which produced the F-22A Raptor fighter, went to competitor Lockheed Martin and not Northrop.On November 22, 1988 the first B-2 was rolled out at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, and given the name “Spirit.” The bomber looked like a boomerang, with a serrated rear section. Like previous Northrop designs it lacked a tail, seamlessly blended wing and body, and buried its four General Electric F118-GE-100 non-afterburning turbofans deep within the aircraft fuselage. Spectators were kept 200 feet from the aircraft to prevent close inspection of the plane’s features.At the time of rollout, the B-2’s unit cost was estimated at $515 million each, making it the most expensive plane ever made. The value of stealth had not been proven in battle, and Congress began to fret about the cost of the projected 132 aircraft. On top of cost and effectiveness issues Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika reforms had considerably lowered tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, reducing the likelihood of nuclear conflict. The number of aircraft was eventually trimmed to just twenty-one.The B-2 is sixty-nine feet long and seventeen feet high. It has wingspan of 172 feet—exactly the same as that of the XB-35 and YB-49. It has a speed of 680 miles an hour, and had a maximum altitude of 50,00 feet. It has an unrefueled range of 6,000 miles, and has midair refueling capability.The new bomber was one of the first military aircraft to make widespread use of new composite materials. Nearly 80 percent of the aircraft is made from woven composites that incorporated glass, carbon, and graphite fibers, while the remainder is made of aluminum and titanium. The Spirit also has a radar absorbent coating whose sole purpose is to further reduce the radar signature. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Larry Welch has stated that the B-2 has a radar cross section in the “insect category.”The B-2 has two weapons bays built into the belly section that together can hold up to 60,000 pounds of ordnance. Each bay carries eight bomb racks, and in the nuclear role the bomber can carry an assortment of up to sixteen B61-7 bombs (10–360 kilotons), B61-11 bombs (400 kilotons) or B-83-1 thermonuclear bombs (1.2 megatons). The Spirit will also carry the new B-61-12 bomb with a “dial-a-yield” configuration, giving it a yield of .3, 1.5, 10 or 50 kilotons. The B-2 does not carry any nuclear-armed missiles at this time but will carry the Long Range Standoff nuclear cruise missile when it enters service.The need to penetrate advanced air-defense networks in the post–Cold War era led to B-2s acquiring a conventional strike capability. The bomber can carry up to sixteen Joint Directed Attack Munition (JDAM) satellite-guided 2,000 pound bombs. In the past it has also carried CBU-87 Combined Effects Munitions and CBU-90 Gator mine dispensers, but submunition-dispensing munitions are being phased out in U.S. inventories. The bomber also carries the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon, a glide bomb with a range of up to fifty miles and a GPS-based guidance system. For standoff attacks, the Spirit can carry the AGM-158 Joint Air Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) and the new, longer-range JASSM-ER (extended range). Finally, the B-2 can carry two 30,000 pound twenty foot long Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) bombs for attacking hardened targets, one per weapons bay.The B-2 has seen extensive use in the conventional role. The Spirit first dropped bombs in anger in the 1999 Kosovo War, followed by the Iraq War in 2003. B-2s were among the first to drop bombs on the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11, and bombed Libyan forces in 2011. The bombers are restricted to flying from a handful of locations, due to their need for special climate controlled accommodations to protect their radar-absorbent coatings. Flight time from the home of the Spirit fleet, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Iraq is thirty-eight hours and includes 4–5 aerial refuelings. Small numbers of B-2s can also operate from Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam in the Pacific and RAF Fairford in the UK.B-2 bombers would almost certainly take part in any attack on North Korea’s nuclear program, which would almost certainly be a part of or escalate to a larger war between Pyongyang, its neighbors and the United States. While the B-1B bomber can launch cruise missile strikes against exposed targets, the B-2 would be sent after the North Korean leadership itself. The Spirit would drop Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs on hardened and underground North Korean command and control system, ideally disrupting its ability to issue orders to launch missiles. Spirits would also drop MOPs on any hardened leadership facilities suspected of hiding North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and any concrete-protected nuclear storage and missile launch facilities.Conventional or nuclear, the B-2 Spirit can handle almost any precision attack mission in any environment imaginable, located at practically any point on Earth. The new B-21 Raider bomber, set to enter service in the mid-2020s, appears very similar to the B-2. Meanwhile, the current B-2 fleet will likely fly for another twenty years or more. All of this adds up to the Air Force flying bat-winged, stealthy bombers for another forty or even fifty years, a testament to the original flying wing stealth design that dates all the way back to World War II.Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.Image: Wikimedia

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 02:00:00 -0400
  • UN envoy challenges Malaysia's claim to near zero poverty

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

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 01:25:02 -0400
  • A U.S.-Iran War Would Be a Total Disaster. Here's Why.

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    Iran would enjoy a range of options to respond to the U,S. attacks. The Trump administration appears ready to decertify Iranian compliance with the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), despite a lack of evidence of Iranian violations. For critics of the JCPOA, this represents a move in the right direction; the goal of U.S. policy should be the end of the Islamic Republic and the overthrow of the existing regime in Tehran. As long as this regime exists, no matter how constrained it is by bilateral and multilateral agreements, it will seek to undermine the stability of the established order in the Middle East through overt and covert military means. This position is held in the United States by figures such as Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and by policymakers such as Sen. Tom Cotton. The desire for regime change is also shared by some in the Middle East, including significant elements of the Israeli and Saudi national security states.(This first appeared last year.)To be fair, few of these voices have called for a military campaign to overthrow the Islamic Republic, and generally for good reason; there is little prospect for success and little appetite for paying the costs necessary to succeed. Still, it’s worth evaluating what a war for regime change might look like. The decision of the Bush administration to commit itself to regime change in Iraq undoubtedly helped lead to the war, even if war was not initially the intention. If the Trump administration similarly commits itself to regime change, then war may come sooner or later.Recommended: Why North Korea's Air Force is Total Junk Invasion?Invading Iran and dictating terms to an occupied Tehran would be one way to achieve regime change. However, the United States would struggle to directly overthrow the Islamic Republic regime through force of arms. The United States lacks regional bases necessary to build up the forces that would be required to invade Iran, destroy its armed forces, displace the revolutionary regime in Tehran, and then control the country on behalf of a new, more amenable government. Conceivably, the U.S. military could deploy in Iraq, but this would likely require another war of regime change against the current Baghdad government. Alternatively, the U.S. could ameliorate some of the basing requirements by undertaking an amphibious forced entry into Iran. This would make U.S. forces particularly vulnerable to Tehran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles, however, likely incurring very heavy casualties. Moreover, it would not resolve the problem of occupying the country post-conflict.Recommended: Why Doesn't America Kill Kim Jong Un? StrangulationOne of the core critiques of the JCPOA from regime change advocates is the argument that the sanctions regime installed by the United States could have, eventually, induced the collapse of the Islamic Republic. Consequently, any military campaign of regime change would likely concentrate on undercutting the economic stability of Iran, in the hopes of creating popular discontent and a counterrevolution. Instead of an invasion, the United States would probably try to induce regime collapse through a policy of military and economic strangulation, led by airstrikes, sea-launched cruise missile strikes and the vigorous employment of special operations forces.Recommended: The F-22 Is Getting a New Job: SniperAn economic strangulation campaign would lean very heavily into the U.S.’ financial and trade toolkits in order to limit Iran’s commerce with the rest of the world. However, since few international partners are likely to be enthusiastic about the campaign, it would probably include some kinetic measures designed to prevent the transit of cargoes to and from Iran, especially of sensitive technical equipment.The early stages of the campaign would target Iran’s existing military infrastructure, including air bases, naval bases and ballistic missile installations. These attacks would do significant damage, notwithstanding existing Iranian air defenses, which would also come under attack. Iran’s naval and air forces would suffer terribly, and widespread strikes would also exact a toll on Iran’s missile forces. Basing would presumably be provided by U.S. Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, although the willingness of the Saudis to sponsor a long-term military campaign against Iran is in serious question.While attacks on Iranian military and political infrastructure would inflict serious damage, the U.S.’ goal would be undermining domestic support for the Iranian government. To this end, the U.S. could target Iran’s economy, including oil installations and transport infrastructure. Such attacks could effectively destroy Iran’s oil industry, at least in the short term, and cause serious economic damage to the Islamic Republic (not to mention its trading partners). However, attacks against civilian industrial and economic targets would risk running afoul of U.S. policy and the Law of Armed Conflict. The U.S. could argue that Iran’s economic infrastructure represent a legitimate military target because of Iranian state control and the military utility of transport infrastructure, but this would be a hard sell, especially as civilian casualties mount. Still, the United States successfully targeted ISIS oil infrastructure during the recent air campaign. This allowed the destruction of ISIS oil facilities, as well as transportation assets such as tanker trucks.This campaign would take place in concert with the aggressive support of Iranian anti-government groups, such as those associated with the People's Mujahedin of Iran. This would include the transfer of weapons, intelligence, and training to any available resistance forces, as well as the recruitment of new forces, possibly in Kurdistan. However, building a viable ground force would take a very long time. Without a significant ground force to compel Iranian army units to deploy and maneuver, it would be difficult for U.S. air attacks to significantly degrade Iranian ground capabilities. Moreover, many Iranian Army and Revolutionary Guard units would likely deploy in urban areas, both to undercut the prospects of domestic disturbance and to avoid attacks by intermingling with civilians.Iranian ReactionIran would enjoy a range of options to respond to the U,S. attacks. Iran could step up efforts to destabilize Iraq and Afghanistan through the use of proxies and arms shipments. Similarly, it could try to induce its proxies in the region to attack U.S. allies. Iran could use its extensive fleet of ballistic missiles to attack U.S. bases, ships, and the military and economic installations of U.S. allies, although this missile force would represent a depreciating asset as its numbers declined over time. Most likely, however, is that Iran could simply wait, under the logic that international opinion against the U.S. campaign would steadily build until Washington could no longer maintain its belligerence.ConclusionRegime change is unlikely to succeed, and is more likely to exacerbate the problems it was designed to solve.First, any attack against Iran will likely trigger a nationalist backlash, making the public more supportive of the regime in the short term. An attack would also enable the regime to install more draconian social and economic controls. These controls might generate backlash over time, but counterrevolution is by no means certain.Second, the United States lacks broad international support for a campaign of regime change. Even allies such as Saudi Arabia and Israel would likely blanch at the long-term costs that the war would create. Neither Russia nor China would support the war at all, and both would likely intervene in ways designed to ease the pressure on Tehran. Europeans would react with heavy public disapproval, eventually forcing even sympathetic leaders in France and the U.K. to distance themselves from Washington.Third, it is unclear how such a military intervention would end. The U.S. lacks the international support to undertake the sort of militarized containment that is used against Iraq during the 1990s. International sympathy for Iran would only increase over time, a fact that Iran’s leaders surely understand. If the Islamic Republic didn’t not collapse, the U.S. would eventually have to either admit defeat or open the door to dangerous escalation.On the upside, even if the campaign failed to dislodge the Tehran government, it could cause significant long-term damage to Iran’s military, economic and scientific infrastructure, setting back Tehran’s military ambitions in the region. This outcome is probably most amenable to US allies in the Middle East, who don’t worry overmuch about the prospect of committing the United States to an open-ended military conflict with Iran.Regime change might work, but there’s little good reason to believe the chances of such are high. A war would incur serious costs on Iran, but would also commit the United States to the destruction of the Islamic Republic, a process that could take decades, if it succeeds at all.Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is a Visiting Professor at the United States Army War College. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.Image: Flickr

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 01:15:00 -0400
  • The Most Dangerous Fighter Jet on the Planet? It Might Be Israel's F-35

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    That strike targeted Iranian advisers and a ballistic missile shipment, the report cited sources as saying.Israel has expanded its operations against Iranian targets to Iraq, where Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I stealth fighters have struck twice in ten days.According to The Times of Israel, IAF fighter jets commonly strike in Syrian territory where they target Iranian missile shipments meant for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah to use against the Jewish state by conducting, but strikes in Iraq by Israel have not been reported since the 1981 bombing of a nuclear reactor (Operation Opera).Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic-language newspaper published in London, cited Western diplomatic sources as saying an Israeli F-35I Adir fighter jet was behind a Jul. 19, 2019 strike on a rocket depot in a Shiite militia base north of Baghdad.The Saudi-based al-Arabiya network reported that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah had been killed in the strike. It said the base had received Iranian ballistic missiles, which had been hidden inside trucks shortly before the strike.Iraq’s military said at the time that one fighter was killed and two Iranians wounded, saying the strike was carried out by an unmanned drone. The US denied involvement.According to Asharq Al-Awsat Israel was behind another strike in Iraq too. On Jul. 28 Israel in fact conducted a strike against Camp Ashraf, the former headquarters of the exiled People’s Mujahedin of Iran, located 40 kilometers northeast of Baghdad and 80 kilometers from the Iranian border.That strike targeted Iranian advisers and a ballistic missile shipment, the report cited sources as saying.The report also mentioned a strike in Syria last week blamed on Israel, in which nine were killed including six Iranians fighting for the Syrian regime, claiming it was meant to prevent Iran from taking over a strategic hill in the Daraa province in the country’s south.Israeli missiles targeted “military positions and intelligence facilities belonging to Iran and [pro-Iranian] militias” in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra early on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at the time.The other three killed in the strike were pro-regime Syrian fighters, it added.Israel does not usually comment on specific reports of strikes, but does insist it has the right to defend itself by targeting positions held by Iran and Hezbollah.Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi boasted last week that Israel is the only country in the world that has been “killing Iranians.”In a speech to the UN General Assembly last September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “Israel will do whatever it must do to defend itself against Iran’s aggression. We will continue to act against you in Syria. We will act against you in Lebanon. We will act against you in Iraq. We will act against you whenever and wherever we must act to defend our state and defend our people.” This first appeared in Aviation Geek Club here. Image: U.S. Department of Defense

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 01:00:00 -0400
  • North Korea Made Its Very Own AK-47: Meet the Crazy Type 88 Rifle

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    The latest North Korean assault rifle is the Type 88. One of the largest armies in the world has adopted one of the most unusual variants of the AK-series of assault rifles.The North Korean People’s Army Type 88 rifle is similar to the Soviet-era AK-74 with one key difference: unusual helical magazines that carry up to five times as many rounds as conventional 30-round magazines.(This first appeared late last year.) Over the past sixty years, the Korean People’s Army (KPA) has consistently ranked as one of the largest armed forces in the world. The size and strength of the KPA has fluctuated over time and are not made public but are thought to number today an estimated 1.19 million men and women under arms. The vast majority of the KPA belongs to the ground forces, with the air force and navy a distant second and third.The KPA was trained and equipped in the late 1940s by the Soviet Union and received considerable support throughout the Cold War. Like most communist bloc countries, North Korea manufactured and fielded its own version of the AK-47. The AK-47 itself became the Type 58 assault rifle, while the improved AKM became the Type 68 rifle. Both rifles used the 7.62x39 round, simplifying logistics considerably and requiring the country to stock only a single common rifle caliber in vast quantities. According to small arms historian Edward Clinton Ezell, the rifles were manufactured at the Number 61 and 65 small arms factories at an annual rate of 150,000 a year.The latest North Korean assault rifle is the Type 88. The Type 88 is a copy of the AK-74 assault rifle, whose primary advantage over the AK-47 was the adoption of the smaller, lighter 5.45-millimeter round. Exactly when the Type 88 was adopted is not clear, but the type designation, in this case, may indicate the year of adoption—1988. The rifle is now a staple of North Korean military parades and is frequently seen in the hands of North Korean special operations troops and leader Kim Jong Un’s bodyguards.As a copy of the AK-74, the Type 88’s performance is likely identical to the original Soviet (and now Russian) rifle. The AK-74 is approximately 37.12 inches long, though a North Korean rifle could have a shorter overall buttstock and overall length to suit shorter North Korean soldiers. The lighter recoil and weight of the 5.45-millimeter round over the older 7.62-millimeter round was likely considered enough of an advance to warrant changing calibers. The AK-74 weighs 6.5 pounds and has a rate of fire of approximately 600 to 650 rounds per minute. Unlike previous rifles which were blued steel with wooden furniture, the Type 88 is all black in appearance, likely a purely cosmetic feature meant to give it a modern look like South Korea’s Daewoo K2 and American M4A1 carbine.The rate of issue for the Type 88 can only be guessed at. Although previous North Korean assault rifles were produced in prodigious quantities, the collapse of the North’s economy in the 1980s probably slowed production. Unlike the Type 58 and Type 68, Pyongyang does not appear to be producing the Type 88 for export. Sufficient numbers of Type 88s have probably been produced for the country’s 200,000 special purpose and special operations forces, including army and navy sniper brigades, airborne units, light infantry brigades and commando units, and perhaps the country’s mechanized infantry units. Given the country’s relative poverty and the diversion of funds to the nuclear program, combat service support and other rear area troops, as well as reservists, almost certainly still carry Type 58 and 68 rifles.Beginning in 2010, North Korean troops with Type 88 rifles were photographed with a strange new accessory: helical ammunition magazines. The cylindrical magazines were larger the traditional 30-round “banana” magazines and estimated to carry between 100 and 150 rounds. That’s up to five times more firepower than conventional magazines. How reliable this new magazine is anyone’s guess, but one thing is for sure: it will certainly be heavier. A 100 round magazine will add 2 pounds in ammunition alone, and probably another two to three pounds in magazine body, spring, and follower. Suddenly the 6.5 pound Type 88 is a 11-pound weapon—a difficult weapon for a 150-pound soldier to carry.Why the new magazine? The end of the Cold War shut off the flow of new arms technology to North Korea, and since then the country has sought to maximize the use of existing tech. The KPA, for example, mounts anti-tank guided missiles on main battle tanks to increase their killing range and man-portable surface to air missiles to armored personnel carriers. More firepower is always better. The helical magazine may be a similar attempt to increase firepower for ground troops, especially in the suppressive fire role during infantry attacks. Another new innovation appears to be mating the Type 88 with a bolt action grenade launcher and a new, previously unseen optic.North Korea’s arms industry is poor and backward but full of surprises. Pyongyang’s infantry and special operations forces make up a disproportionate amount of its armed forces and a major part of its offensive capability, giving it considerable incentive to provide new technology when possible. The Type 88 rifle will probably see further improvements in the coming years, but how much new tech North Korea can sustain across hundreds of thousands of rifles remains to be seen.Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-founded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.Image: Reddit.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 00:30:00 -0400
  • North Korea foreign minister calls Pompeo 'poisonous plant'

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    North Korea's foreign minister on Friday called U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a "poisonous plant of American diplomacy" and vowed to "shutter the absurd dream" that sanctions will force a change in Pyongyang. The North's blistering rhetoric may dim the prospect for an early resumption of nuclear negotiations between the countries. A senior U.S. diplomat said earlier this week that Washington was ready to restart the talks, a day after U.S. and South Korean militaries ended their regular drills that Pyongyang called an invasion rehearsal.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 00:24:50 -0400
  • Cheap combo pill cuts heart, stroke risks, study finds

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    A cheap daily pill that combines four drugs cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure in a large study, suggesting it could be a good way to help prevent heart problems especially in poor countries. The pills contained two blood pressure drugs, a cholesterol medicine and aspirin. Many people can't afford or don't stick with taking so many medicines separately, so doctors think a polypill might help.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 00:12:18 -0400
  • The F-52 Fighter Can't Be Killed In Battle for 1 Reason

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    Congress had mandated that the Advanced Tactical Fighter program—which resulted in the F-22—be a joint effort between the Air Force and the Navy.President Donald Trump last year told reporters that the United States had delivered the F-52 to Norway. The statement was obviously a mistake; there is no such thing as an F-52 yet. The aircraft only exists in the context of a video game called “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”—however, there was once a real world concept that looks similar to the fiction jet.(This first appeared earlier in the year.)“In November we started delivering the first F-52s and F-35 fighter jets,” Trump said. “We have a total of 52 and they’ve delivered a number of them already a little ahead of schedule.”The aircraft that appears in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is clearly based on early 1990s-era Lockheed Martin concepts for the Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter and the later A/F-X—both of which were based on the YF-22 demonstrator aircraft that eventually became the F-22 Raptor.Congress had mandated that the Advanced Tactical Fighter program—which resulted in the F-22—be a joint effort between the Air Force and the Navy. Even though the service had dropped out of the ATF program, the U.S. Navy still had a vote on which aircraft would be selected for what became the Raptor program. The Navy’s choice was the naval variant of the YF-22 design, which looked like bizarre hybrid of a Raptor and F-14 Tomcat with variable geometry wings.Recommended: 5 Places World War III Could Start in 2018Recommended: How North Korea Could Start a WarRecommended: This Is What Happens if America Nuked North Korea“The team, working hard on every detail of our NATF [Naval Advanced Tactical Fighter] design in late 1989 and early 1990, produced a very stealthy swing-wing fighter that could supercruise. It was very suitable for carrier operations,” according to Sherm Mullin, the Lockheed Skunk Works lead for the ATF program. “The Navy still got a vote in the ATF competition, and, as we found out later for certain, it cast it for our F-22 team.”The Navy was not fond of the naval derivative of the YF-23, which had a canard configuration the service found less than appealing. In fact, because the Navy’s reaction was so favorable, Lockheed later pitched a modified version of its NATF proposal for the ill-fated AF-X project that the Navy was ultimately forced to cancel in favor of the Joint Strike Fighter program. Some Navy officials are bitter about that fact to this day.However, if one were to look at the proposed naval version of the F-22 or the proposed AF-X, the resemblance to the F-52 is remarkable. Clearly, the game designers based the fictional aircraft on the old Lockheed concept designs.There might one day be an F-52, but technology has advanced a long way since the days of the YF-22 and YF-23. Thus, tomorrow’s aircraft will look very different from today’s planes. Mostly likely, given current trends, engineers will have to adopt a flying wing configuration without protruding tail surfaces for the sake of advanced stealth. But certainly, a future F-52 will not resemble is fictional counterpart.Dave Majumdar is the former defense editor for The National Interest.Image: Frontline Videos.

    Fri, 23 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0400
  • Tears, fear as Russian students jailed over opposition protests

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    In a court on the outskirts of Moscow, fellow students of Yegor Zhukov started weeping as he delivered a speech via a video link from jail. The 21-year-old is among a group of young protesters with bright futures risking criminal convictions and life-changing jail terms as Russia attempts to quell dissent. Zhukov is the most prominent among them thanks to his popular YouTube clips where he criticises President Vladimir Putin's regime and backs the anti-corruption campaign of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 23:55:25 -0400
  • Top North Korea Diplomat Says Pompeo Undermining Talks With U.S.

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    (Bloomberg) -- North Korea’s top diplomat blamed Michael Pompeo for stalled nuclear talks with the U.S., saying the secretary of state “casts a dark shadow” over the negotiations.Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Pompeo “lacks logical thinking and rational judgement” and was more focused on his own political aspirations than getting a result, according to a report Friday by the official Korean Central News Agency. The U.S. side was “miscalculating” by relying on “confrontational sanctions,” Ri said, adding, without elaborating, that North Korea would “make the U.S. realize what they must do for denuclearization.”The statement is the latest in a series from North Korea seeking a more favorable negotiating framework before Kim Jong Un restarts nuclear talks with the U.S. The remarks come a day after U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said in Seoul that he was “ready to engage” as soon as he hears back from Pyongyang.While Pompeo has been a repeated target of North Korean criticism -- with the regime demanding his removal from talks in April -- the personal attack from Ri represented an escalation. Still, North Korea has been careful not to criticize President Donald Trump, who often cites his personal relationship with Kim as central to future talks.On Tuesday, Pompeo urged Kim to return to the negotiating table, saying that it would “be better for the North Korean people” and the world.To contact the reporter on this story: Jihye Lee in Seoul at jlee2352@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Niluksi Koswanage at nkoswanage@bloomberg.net, Brendan Scott, Karen LeighFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 22:42:12 -0400
  • Amazon fires: Emmanuel Macron brands Brazilian president 'liar' and blocks EU-South America trade deal as row intensifies

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    President Emmanuel Macron of France has accused his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro of lying to him at the G20 summit earlier this year on Brazil's stance on climate change. As a result, France will now block a trade deal between the EU and South American nations, aides said on Friday. "Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka summit," said the French presidential official  as the war of words flared between the two leaders over wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest. The official said Brazil's comments and policies over the last weeks showed that Mr Bolsonaro did not want to respect obligations on climate change. "Under these conditions, France will oppose the Mercosur (Free Trade Agreement with the EU) as it stands," the official added. Mr Macron's broadside came after Mr Bolsonaro accused the French president of having a "colonialist mentality" for rallying G-7 countries to address wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest. "The French president's suggestion that Amazon issues be discussed at the G-7 without participation by the countries in the region evokes a colonialist mentality that is out of place in the 21st century," Mr Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter on Thursday. Mr Macron is using an issue that is a domestic one for Brazil and other regional countries for personal political gain, Brazil's leader said, calling Mr Macron's tone "sensationalist." Mr Macron tweeted earlier on Thursday that fires burning in the Amazon amount to an international crisis and should be discussed as a top priority when the G-7 countries meet this weekend in France. "Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest - the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet's oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days!" Mr Macron said on Twitter. His call was backed by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.  Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told journalists in Berlin on Friday: “The extent of the fires in the Amazon area is shocking and threatening, not only for Brazil and the other affected countries, but also for the whole world. “When the G7 comes together this weekend, then the chancellor is convinced that this acute emergency in the Amazon rainforest belongs on the agenda.” Reacting to Mr Macron's tweet, Mr Bolsonaro noted that he had also posted a photo of a fire in the Amazon that is at least 16 years old and has been seen often in recent days on social media posts about the fires. Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest - the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen - is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let's discuss this emergency first order in two days! ActForTheAmazonpic.twitter.com/dogOJj9big— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 22, 2019 Mr Bolsonaro fired back with his own tweet: "I regret that Macron seeks to make personal political gains in an internal matter for Brazil and other Amazonian countries. The sensationalist tone he used does nothing to solve the problem." The threat to what some call "the lungs of the planet" has ignited a bitter dispute about who is to blame during the tenure of a leader who has described Brazil's rainforest protections as an obstacle to economic development and who traded Twitter jabs on Thursday with France's president over the fires. Onyx Lorenzoni, Mr Bolsonaro's chief of staff, earlier in the day accused European countries of exaggerating environmental problems in Brazil in order to disrupt its commercial interests. "There is deforestation in Brazil, yes, but not at the rate and level that they say," said Mr Lorenzoni, according to the Brazilian news website globo.com. A handout picture made available by Rio Branco Firemen shows the fight against the fire in Rio Branco, in the Amazonian State of Acre, on 17 August Credit: Rio Branco Firemen HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/REX His allegation came after Germany and Norway, citing Brazil's apparent lack of commitment to fighting deforestation, decided to withhold more than $60 million in funds earmarked for sustainability projects in Brazilian forests. The debate came as Brazilian federal experts reported a record number of wildfires across the country this year, up 84 percent over the same period in 2018. Satellite images show smoke from the Amazon reaching across the Latin American continent to the Atlantic coast and Sao Paulo, Brazil's biggest city, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted: "In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected." Smoke billows during a fire in an area of the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State Credit: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo Federal prosecutors in Brazil's Amazon region launched investigations of increasing deforestation, according to local media. Prosecutors said they plan to probe possible negligence by the national government in the enforcement of environmental codes. Bolivia is also struggling to contain big fires, many believed to have been set by farmers clearing land for cultivation. Mr Bolsonaro said there was a "very strong" indication that some non-governmental groups could be setting blazes in retaliation for losing state funds under his administration. He did not provide any evidence. Brazil's president, who won election last year, also accused media organisations of exploiting the fires to undermine his government. "Most of the media wants Brazil to end up like Venezuela," he said, referring to political and economic turbulence in the neighbouring South American country. This Aug 20 satellite image provided by Nasa shows the fires Credit: AP London-based Amnesty International blamed the Brazilian government for the fires, which have escalated international concern over the vast rainforest that is a major absorber of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The rights group this year documented illegal land invasions and arson attacks near indigenous territories in the Amazon, including Rondonia state, where many fires are raging, said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty's secretary general. "Instead of spreading outrageous lies or denying the scale of deforestation taking place, we urge the president to take immediate action to halt the progress of these fires," Mr Naidoo said. The WWF conservation group also challenged Mr Bolsonaro's allegations about NGOs, saying they divert "the focus of attention from what really matters: the well-being of nature and the people of the Amazon." Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, whose degradation could have severe consequences for global climate and rainfall. Mr Bolsonaro, who has said he wants to convert land for cattle pastures and soybean farms, won office after channeling outrage over the corruption scandals of the former government. Where there's smoke: the city of Porto Velho, state capital of Rondonia, in the upper Amazon River basin, on Aug 16 Credit: Rex Filipe Martins, an adviser to Mr Bolsonaro, said on Twitter that the Brazilian government is committed to fighting illegal deforestation and that many other countries are causing environmental damage. The Amazon will be saved by Brazil and not "the empty, hysterical and misleading rhetoric of the mainstream media, transnational bureaucrats and NGOs," Mr Martins said. Sergio Bergman, Argentina's environment minister, appealed for people to overcome political or ideological divisions to protect the environment. He spoke at a five-day U.N. workshop on climate change in Brazil's northern state of Bahia. "We all, in a way, understand that it is not possible to keep using natural resources without limits," Mr Bergman said.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 21:57:40 -0400
  • Bolsonaro's Conspiracy Theories Are Making Brazil's Rainforest Wildfires Worse

    Golocal247.com news

    Far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro followed the authoritarian playbook when he claimed, without evidence, that non-governmental organizations and environmental groups caused the forest fires currently destroying large swathes of the Amazon rainforest.“On the question of burning in the Amazon, which in my opinion may have been initiated by NGOs because they lost money, what is the intention? To bring problems to Brazil,” Bolsonaro said on Wednesday.In a Facebook live broadcast later that day, he added that “Everything indicates” that NGOs wanted to “set fire” to the Amazon. He then admitted that he had no evidence to back up the claims.Bolsonaro’s statements are, of course, a lie. While it’s difficult to trace the precise cause of the nearly 75,000 fires currently burning in the Amazon, his far-right administration has empowered ranchers, loggers and farmers to clear land for their own benefit, destroying huge swathes of the rainforest in the process.As the Huffington Post noted, after his inauguration Bolsonaro appointed a foreign minister who said that climate change was a leftist “ideology,” an environment minister who questioned whether humans contributed to climate change, and shifted oversight of indigenous reservations to the Ministry of Agriculture, which is allied with the agribusiness lobby.The indigenous population of the Amazon, already severely at risk because of Bolsonaro’s genocidal policies, has been hardest hit by Brazil’s poor stewardship of the environment. Armed groups have staged attacks on indigenous communities, cutting down trees, planting grass and starting fires to allow large businesses and criminal enterprises to encroach on their land.A video went viral on Wednesday showing an Indigenous Pataxó woman near tears as she explained how land on her reservation had been set on fire to make way for cattle ranching.It’s hard to overstate just how dangerous the destruction of the Amazon is for the entire world. Containing 40 percent of the world’s rainforest and 15 percent of the world’s biodiversity, it effectively acts as the world’s lungs, and is vital to any chance of fighting back against global climate change.Scientists are terrified that the sharp rise in forest fires and the dramatic increase in deforestation (there’s been an 84% increase since last year, and the clearing of forested land hit a new monthly record of 1,345 sq km in July) would lead to an unrecoverable “tipping point,”  after which the Amazon would lose its water-recycling capability and change from a rainforest into a savannah, severely diminishing its ability to absorb carbon.“There are a number of tipping points which are not far away. We can’t see exactly where they are, but we know they are very close,” Philip Fearnside, a professor at Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research, told the Guardian. “It means that we have to do things right away. Unfortunately that is not what is happening. There are people denying we even have a problem.”Bolsonaro’s “strategy” of blaming NGOs for the fallout from his own ecologically disastrous policies echoes similar moves made by other authoritarians.In 2012, after his return to the Russian Presidency, Vladimir Putin launched a crackdown on NGOs in Russia, requiring them to register as “foreign agents”. In 2014 he went on to accuse NGOs of creating dissent in Ukraine which led to the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.“We will not accept a situation like what happened in Ukraine,” Putin said. “In many cases it was through non-governmental organizations that nationalist militants and neo-Nazi groups, which become the shock troops in the anti-constitutional coup d’etat, received funding from abroad.”Similiarly, authoritarian President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. has claimed that NGOs obstructed justice in his war on drugs, which has left thousands dead at the hands of police and paramilitary death squads. In 2017, Duterte instructed police to shoot anyone who obstructed police business, even if they included human rights or NGO workers.“Shoot those who are part of [drug activity],” Duterte said. “If they [members of human rights organizations] are obstructing justice, you shoot them.”This article originally appeared at Think Progress on August 22, 2019.Luke Barnes covers politics and the far right for ThinkProgress.Image: Reuters.

    Thu, 22 Aug 2019 21:45:00 -0400
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