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  • Underwater bombs damage Syria's offshore oil facilities

    Golocal247.com news

    Bombs planted underwater off Syria's coast exploded Monday, damaging oil facilities used to pump oil into one of Syria's two petroleum refineries, state media and the oil minister said. Oil minister Ali Ghanem told state TV that the bombs were planted by divers in the facility used to pump oil to the coast. "The aim of the attack is to cease (oil) imports into Syria," Ghanem said, adding the ministry's experts are evaluating and fixing the damage.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 13:42:10 -0500
  • Behind The Auschwitz Commemorations, A Raw Putin Power Play

    Golocal247.com news

    JERUSALEM—Before he even headed to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp liberated 75 years ago on an equally icy January 27, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s first task on landing in Warsaw was to make peace with Polish President Andrzej Duda.Kate Middleton’s Secret Photos of Holocaust Survivors UnveiledDuda was of one the few conspicuous absentees from the commemoration Rivlin hosted last week in Jerusalem, when Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, observed the event in the presence of some 50 world leaders, including Vice President Mike Pence and Russian President Vladimir Putin.In fact, Putin was the reason Duda stayed away.The Russian president has advanced a revisionist account of World War II in which Moscow’s notorious non-aggression pact with the Nazi regime is erased, and Poland, which was invaded by both Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin in September 1939, is cast as the guilty party collaborating with the Nazis.In 1941, when Hitler tore up the nonaggression pact and launched his invasion of the Soviet Union, Stalin became an ally of the United States and Great Britain. But he had already murdered, in his own right, millions of his own subjects. In 1940 his troops massacred systematically some 22,000 of Poland’s military officers and members of the intelligentsia.When Polish President Duda heard that Putin would give a keynote address in Jerusalem, he demanded equal time. But Yad Vashem, a public institution, refused, so Duda stayed conspicuously away.But there is more to it than this dispute over Putin’s reimagined Russian history. Behind the controversy lies a web of rivalries and power struggles pitting independent nations once under Soviet dominion against Putin’s broader effort to recover what he sees as the glory—and at least some of the territory—of the Soviet empire.In a parallel channel, the controversy is fed by a feud between two Jewish billionaires leveraging the Auschwitz commemorations to vie for international influence.On one side, is former U.S. Ambassador Ronald Lauder, scion of the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune and president of the World Jewish Congress, based in New York, who has long sponsored the annual memorial celebrations at the gates of Auschwitz in Poland.On the other is the oligarch Viatcheslav “Moshe” Kantor, a Moscow-born fertilizer magnate who is close to Putin. Kantor heads the European Jewish Congress and its subsidiary, the World Holocaust Forum Foundation.Rivlin is Israel’s titular head of state. When he dreamed of Israel hosting an event to mark the Nazi defeat, he did not imagine that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of government, would still be running for office more than a year after dissolving the parliament, or that Netanyahu would be managing a campaign while facing criminal indictments.Netanyahu’s Big Win Means His Party Is in Real TroubleAs the event approached, and Netanyahu encroached, hoping the moment would bolster his candidacy as “Israel’s face to the world,” Israel’s low-budget presidency found itself in want of a sponsor.Enter Kantor, for whom the commemoration became a platform to prove his international usefulness to Putin.“It wasn’t Yad Vashem’s event, nor Rivlin’s, nor even the ministry of foreign affairs’,” said Ofer Aderet, history correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, who has followed Israel’s increasingly fraught relations with the eastern European nations in which much of the Holocaust took place. “It was a one man show run by Moshe Kantor, a guy whose name is not known to Israelis, who understood this to be an Israeli event, something official.”Rivlin’s office estimated that the event cost about $5.7 million, but acknowledged paying only “several hundred thousand shekels”—a sum ranging anywhere from $60,000 to $260,000—for Wednesday night’s formal dinner for heads of state.Jonathan Cummings, Rivlin’s spokesman, said it was “accurate” to report that Kantor had, in effect, footed the entire bill—an undisclosed sum—for a three-day event Israel billed as one of the most important diplomatic showcases in its entire history.The question of why Israel would outsource a major diplomatic achievement to a Russian oligarch remains officially unanswered. But it was vigorously debated in Israeli cafés in recent days, especially by Israelis of Russian origin, many of whom, having left post-Soviet Russia for Israel, are no great fans of Putin or of the loose cast of ultra-rich men who surround him.“It’s all about propaganda,” says tour guide Igor Schwartz. Now 46 years old, Schwartz has lived in Israel for 21 years, but was born in Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg, which was still called Leningrad in those days.He was unmoved by the 25-foot tall sculpture Putin and Netanyahu unveiled in Sacker Park, Jerusalem’s largest green space, to honor about 1 million Russians who died during the Nazi Siege of his old hometown.“Here and in all the world,” Schwartz said, “Putin is the enemy. He’s been the leader of Russia in one way or another for about 20 years, and what has happened during that time? Russia has gone only down.”In a message to followers, an exultant Netanyahu summed up the diplomatic whirlwind in Jerusalem as “the morning with Vladimir Putin, midday with world leaders at Yad Vashem and the evening with Vice President of the United States.”But the result was clear: “It was a huge victory for Putin,” Aderet said, a triumphant prance around the jewel of Jerusalem, in which he publicly cemented his role as the new face of power in the Middle East.In a Jerusalem speech that left many stunned, and made no mention of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Putin said that worse than the Nazis, were their “accomplices… often crueler than their masters. Death factories and concentration camps were served not only by the Nazis, but also by their accomplices in many European countries.”“He won,” Aderet said. “He succeeded in creating a situation in which he was transformed into the supreme hero, a revered king to whom everyone here pays obeisance, as if he himself opened the gates of Auschwitz.”Greeting Putin at Ben Gurion airport, Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz, the son of Polish-Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, said “Israel is appreciative of the great sacrifices the Russian people made in World War II and the overwhelmingly important contributions of the Red Army in defeating the German Nazis and liberating the concentration camps, among them Auschwitz.”“We know exactly who did the liberating. We know the historical truth,” Katz said.The Soviet Army did liberate Auschwitz—but in fact, Russian troops did not. The Red Army’s First Ukrainian Front opened the gates of hell, commanded by Ukrainian officers then subordinate to the Soviet command. In an elegant gesture, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ceded his delegation’s seats at the Jerusalem event to Holocaust survivors, few of whom secured invitations. Space was so tight at Yad Vashem, and so many personalities had to be accomodated, that only 30 out of the 780 seats at the ceremony were reserved for those who had endured the horrors of the death camps.“Israel comes off as a miserable failure,” Aderet lamented, “prepared to bend history for any immediate domestic interest.” He noted that in recent years, Poland’s right-wing populist government has indulged in its own revisionism, even passing a law criminalizing any comment implying Polish collaboration with the Nazi final solution, such as the term “Polish death camp” instead of a Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. Putin’s tactic is to suggest that he and those he supports, especially separatists in Ukraine, are still fighting the old fight against modern fascists and Nazis. And on Monday, Putin boycotted the ceremony at Auschwitz, where Lauder and Duda are the hosts.Rivlin’s first act upon landing there was to lay a wreath at a memorial to Witold Pilecki, a Polish hero who, as a leader of the anti-Nazi underground, volunteered to be imprisoned at Auschwitz and gather intelligence, which he transmitted to the west.Then, expressing sorrow that Polish-Israeli ties have been harmed in the past by “political intervention in questions of history,” Rivlin attempted to repair some of the wounds opened by the week’s jamboree of remembrances.“We remember that Poland and the Polish people are victims of the Second World War,” he said, in formal remarks.Israel, he said, remembers that “over one million Jews were exterminated at Auschwitz,” and that “Nazi Germany initiated, planned and implemented the genocide of the Jewish people in Poland… and takes full responsibility for its actions.”“We remember that during the war the Polish people fought with courage and strength against Nazi Germany. But we also remember that many Poles stood by and even assisted in the murder of Jews.”The diplomatic statement, acknowledging both Poland’s truth and the truth of Europe’s Jews, is typical of Rivlin, a fellow member of Netanyahu’s nationalist Likud party who has spent a significant part of his presidency mitigating damage caused by the prime minister’s headstrong determination to hold onto power. On Monday, Netanyahu was in Washington D.C. with his great political ally President Donald Trump, who has promised to settle the long, painful Israeli-Palestinian dispute by unveiling “the deal of the century,” which most analysts believe will die aborning.At the very moment that Netanyahu tweeted on Monday that he was “At the White House. Making History. Keeping Israel safe,” Rivlin made his way along rows of about 200 Holocaust survivors who attended the commemoration at Auschwitz, slowly shaking hands, exchanging words with each of them, and finally marching with other world leaders on the dark path the Nazis forced on the Jews.  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.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 13:29:35 -0500
  • An Iranian plane overshot the runway and skidded onto a busy highway — and incredibly no one was hurt

    Golocal247.com news

    The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 aircraft, which was traveling from Tehran to Mahshahr Airport in Mahshahr, Iran, was carrying 135 passengers and 7 crew members, local media reported.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 12:17:00 -0500
  • IS vows to attack Israel and blasts US Mideast plan

    Golocal247.com news

    The Islamic State group vowed in an audio message released Monday that the extremists will start a new phase of attacks that will focus on Israel and blasted the U.S. administration's plan to resolve the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite carrying out deadly attacks throughout the world over the past years, IS has rarely targeted Israel. The audio appears to try to win the extremist group popularity in the region at a time when President Donald Trump's “Deal of the Century” is expected to be announced in the U.S. soon.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 10:15:28 -0500
  • Obama warned Trump was 'fascist' in 2016, according to Hillary film

    Golocal247.com news

    * Tim Kaine quotes Obama in forthcoming Hulu documentary * Trump’s standing against Democrats improves, poll showsBarack Obama called Donald Trump a “fascist” during the 2016 election, according to Virginia senator Tim Kaine.The incendiary comment is included in Hillary, a forthcoming Hulu documentary which has already stoked controversy.Remarks Hillary Clinton made about Bernie Sanders, her challenger for the Democratic nomination four years ago, went viral last week.This weekend, NBC News, the Atlantic and other outlets reported that the film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday, shows Kaine, Clinton’s pick for vice-president, in conversation with his running mate at an unspecified time during the 2016 campaign.“President Obama called me last night,” he says, “and said: ‘Tim, remember, this is no time to be a purist. You’ve got to keep a fascist out of the White House.’”Clinton says “I echo that sentiment” and adds: “But that’s really – the weight of our responsibility is so huge.”Obama has been critical of Trump’s policies and character but never in such direct terms – warning for example of the danger of “homegrown demagogues” in a speech at the Democratic convention in July 2016.The 44th president will be a key campaign presence for whichever Democrat wins the nomination to face Trump at the polls in November.Obama and Kaine did not immediately comment on the reported “fascist” remark. Nor did Trump. But at Sundance on Saturday, Clinton discussed it with Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg.“If you look at the definition [of fascist], which I’ve had the occasion to read several times,” she said, “I think we can agree on several things.“[Trump] has authoritarian tendencies and he admires authoritarian leaders, [Vladimir] Putin being his favorite.“He uses a form of really virulent nationalism. He identifies targets: immigrants, blacks, browns, gays, women, whoever the target of the day or week is …“I think you see a lot of the characteristics of what we think of [as] nationalistic, fascistic kinds of tendencies and behaviors.”Clinton also said Obama never called Trump a fascist in conversation with her.But she said Obama “observed … this populism untethered to facts, evidence, or truth; this total rejection of so much of the progress that America has made, in order to incite a cultural reaction that would play into the fear and the anxiety and the insecurity of people – predominantly in small-town and rural areas – who felt like they were losing something.“And [Trump] gave them a voice for what they were losing and who was responsible.”The Hulu documentary will be available from 6 March.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 10:05:36 -0500
  • UN report: Chilling details of Libya migrant center strike

    Golocal247.com news

    The United Nations revealed on Monday chilling new details about an airstrike that smashed into a migrant detention center in Libya, killing at least 50 people. The July attack, which ranked among the deadliest assaults on civilians since the start of Libya’s civil war, sparked international condemnation and accusations of war crimes. It also documented numerous violations of international law by warring Libyan militias and urged further investigation to ensure accountability.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 09:47:56 -0500
  • Alabama fire chief confirms deaths as fire destroys 35 boats

    Golocal247.com news

    Boaters leaped into the water to escape a fire that consumed at least 35 vessels docked along the Tennessee River early Monday. The blaze was reported shortly after midnight as people living in the boats were sleeping, and consumed the wooden dock and an aluminum roof that covered many of the vessels, cutting off escape routes and raining debris into the water. "There were numerous people rescued from the water who had escaped by going into the water," Jackson County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Rocky Harnen told The Associated Press shortly after dawn.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 09:25:40 -0500
  • Steve Mnuchin's wife defends Greta Thunberg after US treasury secretary said climate activist should get economics degree

    Golocal247.com news

    Greta Thunberg’s ability to cause otherwise powerful men to lose control of their tempers is legendary, with both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin being among those unable to contain their animosity for the teenage climate activist.But in a new twist, after Ms Thunberg’s tireless environmental work caused yet another hot-headed senior US politician to publicly attack her, it appears the man’s wife stepped in to defend her.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 08:59:37 -0500
  • Emails cast further doubt on Pompeo's claim NPR reporter lied to him

    Golocal247.com news

    * Mike Pompeo’s claimed Mary Louise Kelly lied before interview * Opinion: Kelly’s Pompeo interview was like satire. If only Newly released emails between the office of Mike Pompeo and NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly cast further doubt on the secretary of state’s extraordinary claim that the journalist lied to him before a contentious interview.Pompeo, who reportedly subjected Kelly to an expletive-ridden rant in his private living room after an interview during which he was asked about his role in the Ukraine scandal, issued a statement in which he accused the reporter of violating “the basic rules of journalism and decency”.Kelly maintained that her meeting with Pompeo after the recorded interview was not agreed to be off the record.NPR has stood by its reporter and emails quoted by the Washington Post show Kelly clearly expressing that Ukraine would be discussed.Donald Trump weighed in over the weekend, questioning the legitimacy of the independent nonprofit media outlet, one of America’s most trusted news sources.In a tweet on Sunday, Trump agreed with comments that labelled the station, which reaches 120 million monthly listeners, a “big-government, Democrat party propaganda operation” and asked: “Why does NPR still exist?”“A very good question!” the president responded.Pompeo was subjected to rigorous questioning on the administration’s handling of Iran and the Ukraine scandal last Friday by Kelly, a veteran foreign policy reporter. He grew audibly frustrated as the interview continued.The secretary of state, at the centre of the scandal that has engulfed Trump’s presidency and led to his impeachment, was asked why he had not expressed support for the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted from her position as Trump pressed for investigations into his domestic political rivals.The email exchanges obtained by the Post, between Kelly and Pompeo press aide Katie Martin, were sent a day before the interview and clearly show Pompeo’s office was told he should expect questions on the issue.“Just wanted to touch base that we still intend to keep the interview to Iran tomorrow,” Martin stated. “Know you just got back from Tehran so we would like to stick to Iran as the topic as opposed to jumping around. Is that something we can agree to?”Kelly replied: “I am indeed just back from Tehran and plan to start there. Also Ukraine. And who knows what the news gods will serve up overnight. I never agree to take anything off the table.”

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 08:57:44 -0500
  • Iranian general warns of retaliation if US threats continue

    Golocal247.com news

    The chief of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard warned Monday that it will retaliate against American and Israeli commanders if the U.S. continues to threaten top Iranian generals. The U.S. killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who headed the expeditionary Quds force, in a drone strike outside of Baghdad's airport in Iraq on Jan. 3. Five days later, Iran retaliated by launching ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing American troops, causing injuries but no fatalities among soldiers there.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 08:47:49 -0500
  • Survivors return to Auschwitz 75 years after liberation

    Golocal247.com news

    Survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp gathered Monday for commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, using the testimony of survivors to warn about the signs of rising anti-Semitism and hatred in the world today. In all, some 200 survivors of the camp are expected, many of them elderly Jews who have traveled far from homes in Israel, the United States, Australia, Peru, Russia, Slovenia and elsewhere. Many lost parents and grandparents in Auschwitz or other Nazi death camps, but today were being joined in their journey back by children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 08:41:18 -0500
  • Defending Long Career, Biden Has Sometimes Stretched the Truth

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    Former Vice President Joe Biden remains atop most national polls before the first votes are cast next month in the Democratic presidential primary. Before the Iowa caucuses, The New York Times reviewed recent statements he made defending his decadeslong career, stressing his standing in the black community and highlighting his perceived strength on foreign policy. Here's a fact check.WHAT THE FACTS ARE:Biden tried to defend his record on Social Security and birth control with questionable claims.WHAT WAS SAID:Antonia Hylton, a reporter for Vice News: "Do you think, though, that it's fair for voters to question your commitment to Social Security when in the past you've proposed a freeze to it?"Biden: "No, I didn't propose a freeze."-- at the Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum last week in IowaFalse. In 1984, faced with budget deficits under the Reagan administration, Biden was a co-sponsor of an amendment with two Republican senators that froze for one year nearly all military and domestic spending, including cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security benefits.Pressed by Hylton after his inaccurate denial, Biden said that his proposal came "in the context of we saved Social Security during the Reagan administration" and noted that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a liberal stalwart, voted for the plan.When President Ronald Reagan entered office in 1981, Social Security was running low on funding and Reagan did propose to make deep cuts to benefits. But he ultimately endorsed and signed bipartisan legislation in 1983 -- which Biden and Kennedy both voted for -- to assure the fund's continuing solvency. Changes included postponing cost-of-living adjustments, and the Biden campaign said that the former vice president was referring to this episode."It is easy to believe Biden thought minor cuts in the program in the short run would represent a better outcome than the much bigger cuts President Reagan and his advisers seemed to favor," Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said. "In those days, 'compromise' was not a dirty word in the eyes of most members of Congress."Biden's own freeze plan, though, came "well after the Social Security rescue was over," said Paul C. Light, a professor at New York University who wrote a book on the 1983 effort.Rather, the plan was another step in a decadeslong "mating dance between centrist Democrats and Republicans to come up with a grand bargain on the deficit," said Eric Laursen, author of "The People's Pension: The Struggle to Defend Social Security Since Reagan."Biden said as much in April 1984, as he decried "gargantuan deficits" and argued that not accepting a one-year freeze to cost-of-living adjustments would lead to a "a fundamental debate over whether or not there should be COLAs in Social Security" at all. The amendment that he co-sponsored ultimately failed by a vote of 65-33 (Kennedy voted against it).Biden's overall record on Social Security includes both actions that would slow or reduce spending and those that would protect benefits.He voted for an amendment in 1995 to require a balanced federal budget that he and other Democrats warned would endanger the Social Security fund. He was open to raising the eligibility age for Social Security in 2007. And he brokered a deal with Republican lawmakers in 2010 that extended the Bush-era tax cuts and created a holiday for the payroll tax, which funds Social Security, that temporarily reduced the tax by 2 percentage points.But Biden also voted for an amendment to that balanced budget legislation in 1995 that would have excluded Social Security from its aims. From 2001 to 2008, he repeatedly voted against privatizing Social Security and for improving the trust fund's solvency, according to the Alliance for Retired Americans, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO that represents union retirees. In 2008, Biden's last year in the Senate, he received a lifetime score of 96 out of 100 from the group. He spoke out against Social Security privatization in the 2012 vice-presidential debate and his current plan vows to protect the safety net.--WHAT WAS SAID:Lauren Kelley, New York Times Editorial Board member: "You also originally argued for greater exemptions to the contraception mandate in Obamacare. So I think there's some concern out there --"Biden: "No, I didn't, by the way."-- in an interview with The New York Times Editorial Board published Jan. 17This is disputed. The Obama administration announced in January 2012 a rule requiring most insurance plans to cover birth control free of charge, including for the employees of hospitals, schools and charities run by Catholic groups.The making of the rule sparked an internal debate in the White House. Reporting from news outlets cast Biden as part of the camp arguing for a less stringent rule.According to ABC News and Bloomberg, the vice president and William Daley, then the chief of staff to President Barack Obama, warned of the political fallout with Catholic voters who backed Obama in the 2008 election and argued that the issue would be framed as an attack on religious liberty. The Times reported that officials had initially sought a year to work out a compromise, but "a group of advisers had bested Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and others and sold the president on a stricter rule."The announcement fueled a fierce backlash from Catholic organizations and Republicans. As the Obama administration contemplated the fallout, Biden did not publicly oppose or defend the rule, but hinted during a radio interview that it would be softened."There's going to be a significant attempt to work this out, and there's time to do that," he said on Feb. 9, 2012. "And as a practicing Catholic, you know, I am of the view that this can be worked out and should be worked out and I think the president, I know the president, feels the same way."Biden also said in the interview that the administration wanted to "make sure women who need access to birth control are not denied that," according to The Wall Street Journal.A day later, the administration revised the rule to shift the responsibility of providing contraception to insurers, rather than the religiously affiliated institutions themselves.--WHAT THE FACTS ARE: Biden overstated his support among young black voters and his role in the civil rights movement.WHAT WAS SAID:Hylton: "Why is Sen. Sanders leading you with voters under age 35?"Biden: "He is not leading me with black voters under the age -- look, just all I know is, I am leading everybody, combined, with black voters."-- at the Brown & Black forumThis is exaggerated. Biden is correct that in most polls, he leads Democratic candidates among black voters overall, but he is wrong to deny Sen. Bernie Sanders' edge with younger African Americans.A January poll conducted by The Washington Post and Ipsos, a nonpartisan research firm, found that Biden held a wide lead among black Democrats with 48% support, but Sanders led with those between ages 18 and 34 at 42% while Biden placed second at 30%.An Ipsos survey conducted with Vice this month asked black Americans who they would consider voting for and found that 56% would consider voting for Sanders and 54% for Biden, a statistical tie. Among those between ages 18 and 34, Sanders' support increased to 81% compared with 65% for Biden, according to a breakdown provided by Chris Jackson, the vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs.In a poll by the political action committee BlackPac and released in December, Biden led all black voters with 38%, but trailed Sanders in support among black voters between ages 18 and 24 at 14% compared with 30% for Sanders. Support for the two candidates was nearly identical among black voters between the ages of 25 and 39, with 24% supporting Biden and 25% supporting Sanders.The Sanders campaign also pointed to an array of surveys demonstrating the same generational gap: a fall poll from Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics where Sanders was the first choice of black voters between ages 18 and 29, a January poll from Chegg Media Center where Sanders led with black college students with 43% and a September survey from Essence Magazine where Sanders had the most support of black women between ages 18 and 34 with 19%.--WHAT WAS SAID:"I was involved in the civil rights movement."-- at the Brown & Black forumThis is exaggerated. Over his long political career, Biden has occasionally suggested he played a greater role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s than he actually did. While there are accounts of Biden participating in a few desegregation events, he has also said he would not consider himself an activist in the movement.Biden has said that he protested a segregated movie theater in demonstrations in Wilmington, Delaware, at the Rialto Theater in the early 1960s. His account is backed by a former president of the state chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a former president of the Delaware AFL-CIO.A 1987 edition of "Current Biography Yearbook," a magazine that profiles American figures, noted that Biden had participated in "anti-segregation sit-ins at Wilmington's Town Theatre during his high school years."During his first bid for president, Biden wrongly said in 1987 that he had "marched with tens of thousands of others" in the civil rights movement. Later, a spokesman for Biden clarified that he had participated in actions to "desegregate one restaurant and one movie theater." Biden himself conceded that "I was not an activist.""I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Delaware. I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. But I was not out marching," he said in a news conference that fall. "I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans."He struck a similar tone in interviews with the journalist Jules Witcover, who wrote the book "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption.""I didn't do any big deal, but I marched a couple of times to desegregate the movie theaters in downtown Wilmington," Biden said in the book. But he acknowledged that "I wasn't part of any great movement."--WHAT THE FACTS ARE:Biden inaccurately characterized one element of President Donald Trump's North Korea policy.WHAT WAS SAID: "The president showed up, met with them, gave him legitimacy, weakened these sanctions we have against him."-- at the Democratic presidential debate in JanuaryThis is misleading.Biden is referring to Trump's efforts to engage diplomatically with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un. There is a widespread consensus that the president's willingness to meet with him provided Kim with additional credibility at home and abroad without giving the United States and its allies much in return.At the same time, Trump's meetings with the North Koreans have increased support from China and Russia for easing United Nations sanctions on North Korea, as the Biden campaign pointed out. Soo Kim, a policy analyst at the RAND Corp., a research group, pointed out that South Korea has also recently been testing the waters for securing sanctions relief for its northern neighbor.But the Trump administration itself has not lifted the United States' own sanctions and has opposed the calls from China and Russia to ease the international sanctions."As far as I know, sanctions have not been eased," said Jim Walsh of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Certainly the international U.N. sanctions continue unabated, and I am unaware of any significant sanctions relief granted by the administration."A spokeswoman for the Treasury Department said Biden's statement was inaccurate and that the agency "has sanctioned 261 individuals and entities under its North Korea authorities, accounting for more than half of North Korea-related sanctions ever imposed."Nearly every month from March 2017 to March 2018, the department announced sanctions on North Korean nationals and companies, as well people and entities around the world linked to North Korea. After Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June 2018, Treasury imposed more sanctions in August, September, October, November and December of that year.In March 2019, shortly after Trump met again with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, the president issued a confusing statement on Twitter announcing that he had rolled back newly imposed sanctions on North Korea, though restrictions announced a day earlier on two Chinese companies linked to North Korea were not actually revoked. The White House press secretary at the time, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, explained that Trump "doesn't feel it's necessary to add additional sanctions at this time."A month later, Trump said the sanctions on North Korea are "at a fair level" and should remain in place. More were announced in June, August and September. The United States opposed lifting U.N. sanctions on North Korea in December and sanctioned two more entities January.Biden's theory that Trump's personal appeals to Kim has weakened the resolve of other countries to enforce sanctions is a matter of interpretation.This line of argument "was trotted out every time Obama engaged in diplomacy," Walsh said. "We don't know if diplomacy with North Korea has had the effect of reducing the impact of sanctions. Maybe. But as with all things North Korea, it's hard to say."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 08:15:29 -0500
  • Egyptian court gives life sentence for 8 IS-linked militants

    An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced eight people to life in prison, after they were convicted of joining a local affiliate of the Islamic State group spearheading an insurgency in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The Cairo Criminal Court gave 29 others sentences ranging from 15 to 1 year in prison. The court said the defendants were accused of forming and joining IS cells that were active in several provinces including the capital, Cairo, from 2015 to early 2018.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 07:57:20 -0500
  • EU’s Top Diplomat Cites ‘Quite Worrying’ Violence in Libya

    (Bloomberg) -- Europe’s top diplomat warned of renewed violence in Libya recently and said international powers must put pressure on the warring parties to end the conflict.The European Union’s top foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that recent developments were “quite worrying” and that a Jan. 19 meeting of world leaders in Berlin had not halted Libya’s civil war. “We knew, everybody, that the result of the Berlin conference would not result in automatic implementation,” Borrell told reporters in Berlin on Monday alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “Everybody knew it wasn’t an agreement that would be enforced tomorrow.”His comments come after the United Nations warned that foreign powers were setting the stage for more not less fighting in the OPEC nation. Libya’s internationally-recognized government said Sunday that repeated attacks by rival commander Khalifa Haftar have rendered a fragile truce all but meaningless.“We don’t have any illusions that this will be a difficult path, and that the largest part of it lies ahead of us,” Germany’s Maas said.Frailty of Libya Accord on Display In Merkel-Erdogan SquabbleAt stake for Europe is the stability of a major oil producer in its backyard and the threat of a growing sphere of influence of Russia and Turkey, which effectively control developments there by sending support to the warring parties. The idea for Europe to have its own military presence in Libya is far from consensual and would require an effective cease-fire first.German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted the Berlin meeting in an attempt to stanch the conflict but the precariousness of the accord was on display during her visit to Istanbul on Friday, where she and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan bickered publicly over the terms of the deal.The UN on Saturday said none of the parties involved in the Berlin conference --- which also grouped Turkey, Russia and Egypt -- were honoring the terms of the deal.(Updates with context, tweets)\--With assistance from Taylan Bilgic.To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at pdonahue1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond Colitt, Caroline AlexanderFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 07:56:13 -0500
  • Mike Pompeo is a disgrace

    Golocal247.com news

    Here is a modest proposal for future presidents of the United States: Secretaries of state — who act as the nation's chief diplomat — should actually be diplomats.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has neither the education nor the instincts of a diplomat, a flaw that becomes apparent nearly every time he encounters a female journalist. So it was last week when he was interviewed by NPR's Mary Louise Kelly and she asked him questions about President Trump's Ukraine scandal. Pompeo cut the interview short, and then — according to Kelly — privately and profanely chewed her out. He even challenged her to find Ukraine on a mapAnd then, when the incident was publicized, he attacked her integrity and smarts."It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity," Pompeo said in a statement released by the State Department.This kind of behavior is boorish, bullying, misogynistic, and needlessly offensive. It is anything but diplomatic.That is no surprise. Pompeo serves a president for whom bullying is more than a tool for getting things done — it appears to be his raison d'etre. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted an apparent threat against Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has served as one of the leaders among the House impeachment managers. At the same time, a recording emerged of a 2018 dinner in which Trump ordered the end of Marie Yovanovitch's term as ambassador to Ukraine with the words, "Take her out." Trump can't fire somebody without sounding like a cheap movie mobster ordering a hit.But the truth is that Pompeo doesn't need Trump's influence to be a jerk; his own ability to negotiate situations sensibly and peacefully is questionable. Resolving disputes without playing tough guy isn't really his thing. Pompeo went to West Point — as we've been told repeatedly, he graduated first in his class. He earned a reputation as a hawk during his time in Congress, particularly where Iraq was concerned. And when Trump came to office, Pompeo went to work running the CIA, a job that includes overseeing drone attacks and other covert operations against America's enemies. As secretary of state, he urged the assassination of Iran's General Qassem Soleimani. The entirety of his public service has been spent in arenas where disputes are often settled with violence, or threats of violence.The secretary of state is one of the most important positions in the United States government — its influence in foreign affairs aside, the office is fourth in the presidential line of succession. When President Nixon resigned from office in 1974, he didn't write the letter to Vice President Gerald Ford, but to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.Given the office's importance, it is odd that so few of its modern practitioners bring diplomatic experience to the job. Rex Tillerson, Pompeo's successor, was previously an oil executive, which was nearly relevant — the job involved hammering out oil contracts with Russia. But trying to make a profit in the energy industry isn't the same thing as trying to keep peace in the world.Some of America's most notable secretaries of state since World War II — George C. Marshall, Alexander Haig, and Colin Powell — served as high-ranking military officers before heading up the Department of State. Many of the rest — Dean Rusk, William P. Rogers, Cyrus Vance, George Schultz, Warren Christopher, and John Kerry — had either served in the military or the Department of Defense during their adult lives. Pompeo is part of the latter group.That might not immediately seem odd, but ask yourself a question: How many secretaries of defense during the same time period spent any part of their previous career in America's diplomatic corps?As far as I can tell, just one: Donald Rumsfeld, who served as defense secretary under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, was also briefly the U.S. ambassador to NATO in the early 1970s. NATO, of course, is famously a military alliance.Mike Pompeo's ugly treatment of a reporter is problematic — and undemocratic — on its own terms. It also hints at why he isn't qualified to hold the job he has, and exposes broader problems with America's approach to the world. He isn't the exception to the rule. All too often, our top diplomats are better prepared — by training and temperament — to fight. Is it any surprise that America's foreign policy often seems over-militarized?Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.More stories from theweek.com Republican senator tellingly claims John Bolton revealed 'nothing new' George Conway suggests Trump's impeachment lawyers knew exactly what was in Bolton's book GOP senators reportedly 'blindsided' by Bolton revelations

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 07:48:40 -0500
  • Tripoli Warns of Talks Boycott Amid Libya Truce Violations

    (Bloomberg) -- Libya’s internationally recognized government warned it might not participate in future peace talks after alleging repeated truce violations and attacks on civilians by rival forces of commander Khalifa Haftar.The administration headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj said on its official Facebook page on Monday that nations which brokered the cease-fire must shoulder their responsibility and help end the infractions.The government, in light of the “continuing breaches, will be forced to reconsider its participation in any talks,” it said.Each side has accused the other of breaching the truce, which they agreed to earlier this month. World leaders gathered at a conference in Berlin Jan. 19 hoped to cement the deal and begin winding down what has become a proxy war involving regional powers Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as Russia.Adding to concern over the truce, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, described the spiraling violence as “quite worrying” and said international powers must put pressure on the two sides to end the conflict.“We knew, everybody, that the result of the Berlin conference would not result in automatic implementation,” Borrell told reporters in Berlin on Monday alongside German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “Everybody knew it wasn’t an agreement that would be enforced tomorrow.”On Sunday, the eastern-based commander’s Libyan National Army, the country’s most organized military force, launched an offensive about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of the city of Misrata, but was repelled by fighters allied with Sarraj.The LNA’s spokesman said the operation was intended to send a message to opposing militias, and didn’t amount to a breach of the cease-fire.The United Nations warned on Saturday that none of the parties were honoring the terms of the accord, which was now threatened by the “ongoing transfer of foreign fighters, weapons, ammunition and advanced systems” to combatants.Libya’s Fragile Truce Clouded Further by Fresh Assaults (2)The UN had been working for years for peace in Libya without much enduring success. Efforts were ramped up after fighting for control of the capital, Tripoli, intensified as Russian mercenary forces entered the war on behalf of Haftar.The Russian deployment -- and a subsequent decision by Turkey to send military backing for Sarraj -- deepened fears of an expanding conflict in a country where years of instability following the 2011 uprising that ousted Moammar al-Qaddafi enabled human traffickers and Islamist militants to put down roots.(Updates with EU foreign policy chief comments from fourth paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Tarek El-Tablawy in Cairo at teltablawy@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Riad Hamade at rhamade@bloomberg.net, Mark Williams, Michael GunnFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 07:44:13 -0500
  • COLUMN-For China, communication and control are key to tackling virus: Peter Apps

    When the SARS virus spread across China in 2002-3, the government in Beijing reacted with secrecy and obstruction. This year's coronavirus outbreak is being tackled very differently – a key test for President Xi Jinping and the increasingly sophisticated authoritarian system he presides over. One thing is certain: China has been able to respond in a way it's almost impossible to imagine any other country beginning to be capable of.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 07:36:25 -0500
  • Palestinian PM rejects Trump peace plan ahead of unveiling

    Shtayyeh spoke to his Cabinet as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was visiting Washington for the announcement of President Donald Trump's plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians have not yet seen the plan but have already rejected it, saying the Trump administration is biased in support of the Israelis. The Trump administration took several steps in recent years that angered the Palestinians.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 06:51:11 -0500
  • Greece: 14 injured in suspected migrant smuggling car crash

    A car carrying Syrians crashed early Monday in northern Greece, police said, injuring all 14 people in the vehicle that is believed to have crossed the border clandestinely . Police said the car had been travelling along an old highway in northern Greece toward the country’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki around 2 a.m. when it failed to stop for a police check. Greek police said all were from Syria: 11 men, one woman and two teenage children.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 06:20:43 -0500
  • Merkel Aims for West Balkan-EU Agreement With Macron by March

    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to reach an agreement with French President Emmanuel Macron for Albania and North Macedonia to begin accession talks with the European Union at the meeting of the group’s leaders in Brussels on March 26.“We want both these states to be brought closer to the European Union,“ Merkel said on Monday in Berlin before a meeting with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.Merkel’s comments renew pressure on Macron, who in October vetoed the EU’s plan to start accession talks with the two countries during the first half of 2020. He had insisted on tougher scrutiny to ensure their respect for the rule of law. Macron’s snub provoked political discontent in the western Balkans, and North Macedonia’s prime minister, Zoran Zaev, subsequently resigned.Both Albania and North Macedonia had achieved a lot on their way into the EU and therefore deserved the beginning of accession talks, Merkel said. Germany is scrambling to revive the membership hopes of both these countries in an effort to avoid political instability in a region still grappling with the aftermath of the Yugoslav civil war in the 1990s. Berlin is also concerned about the growing influence of Russia and China in the Balkans.Read More:Snubbed by EU, Balkan Hopefuls Stumped by Challenge From ECB TooTo contact the reporter on this story: Arne Delfs in Berlin at adelfs@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Raymond Colitt, Richard BravoFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 06:05:22 -0500
  • Mother of Jailed Israeli Backpacker Hopes for Russia Pardon

    (Bloomberg) -- The mother of an Israeli woman imprisoned on drug-smuggling charges in Russia said she’s hopeful President Vladimir Putin will pardon her daughter.Naama Issachar, a 26-year-old U.S.-born Israeli army veteran, was sentenced in October to 7 1/2 years for carrying a small amount of hashish in her luggage on a transit flight via Moscow after a backpacking trip to India. Her plight has become a cause celebre in Israel, where it’s widely seen as politically motivated.Putin met with Issachar’s mother, Yaffa, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Thursday, on the sidelines of an international forum on the Holocaust. He assured her that “everything will be all right,” and on Sunday, Naama Issachar applied for a presidential pardon, her lawyers said.When asked in a text message exchange whether she expects her daughter to return to Israel soon, Yaffa Issachar replied: “I hope so.” The request for a pardon has been received and “all necessary legal procedures are being carried out at the moment so the president can take a decision on this issue in the nearest future,” Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call Monday.A decision to free Issachar, who’s been in detention since April, could bolster Netanyahu, who’s been indicted on corruption charges and is fighting for his political survival at the country’s third election in less than a year in March.The Kremlin said last week that Israel and Russia are also making progress in settling a dispute over the ownership of Russian Orthodox Church property in Jerusalem, which Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said could form part of a quid pro quo to secure Issachar’s release.The Russian leader has previously rebuffed multiple pleas from Netanyahu for Issachar’s sentence to be commuted.Her case for a time became entangled with that of a Russian national, Alexei Burkov, whom Israel extradited to the U.S. in November on charges including hacking and credit card fraud. Russia had offered to swap the two, according to Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and Israeli politician.(Adds Putin spokesman’s comment in 4th paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net;Irina Reznik in Moscow at ireznik@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Amy Teibel, Tony HalpinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 05:39:07 -0500
  • Iran's Rouhani sounds alarm for 'democracy' after candidates barred

    Golocal247.com news

    Iran's president warned Monday of threats to the Islamic republic's "democracy and national sovereignty", after a body dominated by his ultra-conservative rivals disqualified thousands of candidates, weeks before elections. President Hassan Rouhani's moderate conservatives and their reformist allies are locked in a public quarrel with the Guardian Council over the disqualification of thousands of candidates -- including 92 sitting MPs.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 05:34:54 -0500
  • Labour Front-Runner Starmer Warns Brexit Risks Breaking Up U.K.

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Keir Starmer, the front-runner to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, said Brexit risks breaking up the U.K. as he called for a “radical” redistribution of power to towns and regions.In a series of broadcast interviews on Monday, Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman, said politicians have spent the past three years arguing about what sort of divorce agreement to strike with the European Union, without focusing on the underlying causes of Brexit. That risks creating a “vacuum” that’s filled by nationalism, he said.“There’s a very deep feeling, and this did come out in the referendum, that the power, the wealth, the resource, the opportunities are all in London and they’re not in the regions: We’ve got got address that,” Starmer told Sky News. He then told the BBC: “We are at risk of watching the breakup of the United Kingdom.”The U.K. is due to leave the EU on Friday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson stormed to an 80-seat majority last month, enabling him to push his withdrawal agreement through Parliament. With 2020 set to be dominated by negotiations on the shape of future economic ties with the bloc, the premier has also said he’s keen to move onto domestic priorities including the health service, public transport and policing.But Starmer argued that people around the U.K. want to see more decisions being taken locally. He said in an emailed statement he plans to tour the U.K. during the leadership contest -- scheduled to end on April 4 -- arguing “for a radical redistribution of power, wealth and opportunity based on a new federal structure.”Power Monopoly“We need to end the monopoly of power in Westminster and spread it across every town, city, region and nation of the United Kingdom,” Starmer said.Starmer’s message chimes with that of Lisa Nandy, another candidate for the leadership, whose campaign -- focused on empowering towns -- has turned her into a genuine contender in the contest.Starmer, Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey -- viewed as Corbyn’s preferred successor -- have all crossed the threshold of support from unions, affiliated groups and local parties they need to make it onto the final ballot paper, while the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emily Thornberry, has until Feb. 14 to get there.To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert Hutton, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 05:23:22 -0500
  • The UK's 'colonial' view of the world means it will lose to the EU in Brexit trade talks says Leo Varadkar

    Golocal247.com news

    The Irish premier said the UK is stuck in its "colonial" past and will be beaten by the EU in Brexit trade talks.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 04:59:55 -0500
  • Trump Has a ‘Peace Plan,’ but His Mideast Policies May Be Bad News for Israel

    Golocal247.com news

    JERUSALEM—President Donald Trump is pushing a new peace plan and trying to show how pro-Israel he is by sidelining the Palestinian leadership. But at the same time the United States is retreating from other areas of the Middle East, letting Russia and Turkey make plays for greater influence, and it’s ever more apparent that Trump’s view of U.S. policy is narrow, unilateral and transactional.If Trump sees Israel through that same lens of dollar and cents costs and benefits, the bottom line could put Israel’s long-term interests in jeopardy.Israel’s Bad Bet on ‘Friends’ in the Middle EastTrump makes no secret of his interest in ending the U.S. involvement in “endless wars” and letting local powers do more. He has also supported European countries or others taking the place of U.S. forces in areas like Syria. There, he has withdrawn from areas, claimed to have “secured the Oil,” and then said Kurds and Turks should fight it out among themselves.In contrast to President George H.W. Bush’s holistic “new world order,” this is a U.S. foreign policy whittled down to the absolute minimum. It jettisons both idealism and realism in favor of “let’s make a deal.” Washington even demands foreign countries pay for U.S. troops to remain, or risk losing their protection.Meanwhile, this administration has paid lip-service to pushing the most pro-Israel policies in U.S. history. That has included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, recognizing the Golan as part of Israel, reversing course on legal views of Israeli control of the West Bank as inconsistent with international law, ending support for UNRWA (the Palestinian relief agency), leaving UNESCO due to its alleged anti-Israel bias, and, yes, pushing a peace plan that is supposed to be very pro-Israel. None of these policies involve an obvious material cost to the U.S. On the contrary, they are mostly symbolic or, indeed, reduce U.S. involvement in dealing with issues like security training for Palestinians in the West Bank or U.S. AID for Palestinians scattered throughout the region.For Israel these are auspicious times. Almost 50 world leaders gathered in Jerusalem for the World Holocaust Forum in January, showcasing Israel’s international clout. But U.S. support is key to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, keeping UN condemnations at bay, and assisting in multilateral operations such as Israel’s recent joint military Blue Flag exercise with the U.S., Italy, Germany and Greece. And Trump is basically skeptical about multilateral efforts.The one area where the Trump administration has appeared to increase its role in the Middle East is confronting Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Jan. 24 that the U.S. was working with Gulf States, Israel and European countries to confront Iran. But U.S. sanctions on Tehran are primarily an economic initiative. When it comes to military actions Trump eschewed airstrikes in June after Iran downed a drone and has only approved actions in Iraq and Syria where U.S. forces are already operating. During the draw-down of forces from Syria the U.S. indicated it might shift forces to Iraq to “watch over Iran.” Then came the assassination of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, which looks like a one-off. In the wake of the Iranian ballistic missile attack that came as retaliation, there doesn’t appear to have been a shift of U.S. forces to Iraq, even as Trump dismisses the brain injuries of dozens of U.S. troops as "headaches."This leaves questions about how the shift in U.S. posture to a more narrow transactional relationship in the Middle East could affect Israel in the long term. Trump Wants to Turn America’s Alliances Into Protection RacketsIn Syria, the Israel Defense Forces' annual threat assessment continues to see Iranian threats emerging as Iran transfers weapons to Hezbollah. Abdicating a robust U.S. role in Syria mean Russia, Turkey and Iran, the main players in the Astana peace process, will control Syria’s future. None of these countries are Israeli allies and Israel is particularly concerned about Turkey’s role in the region. Turkey’s decision to lay claim to Mediterranean waters off the coast of Libya in a November deal seems to lay astride Israel’s plans for a pipeline with Greece and Cyprus.Trump appears to see traditional U.S. roles in the Middle East as a “sunk cost,” the idea that past investments do not justify further investment. The U.S. has wasted lives and treasure in the Middle East, in this analysis, and U.S. interests don’t justify more waste. Where does Israel factor into that? Israel receives roughly $3.8 billion a year according to a 10-year memorandum of understanding that began last year. Around 75 percent of that is spent back in the U.S. for weapons systems like the F-35. There may come a point where Trump’s instinct to ask “what do we get out of this” will grate on the president. So far the U.S. has expressed full support for Israel’s actions against Iran. The key for Trump is that Americans not be expected to do the fighting for Israel, or for Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies.In the long term Washington’s decision to focus on a more narrow footprint in the Middle East, potentially outsourcing conflicts from Syria to Libya, Yemen and elsewhere to locals, will affect Israel. The instability growing from North Africa to Afghanistan when the U.S. reduces its presence will affect Israel as it has in the past when rulers like Saddam Hussein or Gamal Abdel Nasser emerged. That will also force Israel to compromise and foster closer relations with Russia, India and other countries to make up for a diminished U.S. role in the region. 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.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 04:48:54 -0500
  • Nighttime attack on US Embassy in Baghdad injured 1

    Golocal247.com news

    A top U.S. commander said on Monday mortars were used in an attack on the American embassy in Baghdad that injured one person and caused some material damage the previous night, not katyusha rockets as was initially reported by staffers and a statement from the military. Gen. Frank McKenzie, a top U.S. commander for the Middle East, told reporters traveling with him that the mortar attack started a fire that was put out. The two staff members of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media, said initially it had been rockets that slammed into a restaurant inside the American compound.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 04:45:54 -0500
  • The Distortions of Holocaust History by Russia and Poland Are a Disgrace

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- On Jan. 27, 1945 — 75 years ago today — the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, the concentration camp that stands for the worst crimes ever committed, by Germans or anybody in history. It was already hard enough to find the right tone to mark this occasion — sensitive to Holocaust survivors and descendants of the victims and yet exhortative to all people, including the descendants of the perpetrators, to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again. But now some people are making it so much harder, by deliberately choosing cynical words intended not to commemorate and reconcile, but to distort and divide.The main culprits are the presidents of Russia and Poland, Vladimir Putin and Andrzej Duda. At a ceremony in Poland today at the site of the camp, Duda will present his nationalist government’s interpretation. In this story, the Poles were victims of the Hitler-Stalin pact to carve up eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union (true), then victims of the Nazis (true) and of the Soviets (also true), but never collaborators (not true).Putin is demonstratively boycotting this event. But he already spoke a few days ago in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, an event that Duda boycotted in turn. In the narrative Putin has developed in recent months, it was in fact the Poles with their own provocative maneuvers in the 1930s who left the Germans and Soviets no choice but to form a pact (a jaw-dropping distortion of the facts). The only heroes in Putin’s tale are the Russians and other Soviets who liberated Auschwitz and defeated the Nazis (true) but otherwise committed no noteworthy atrocities against Poles. That is manifestly untrue: In 1940, the Soviets massacred 20,000 Poles in Katyn Forest, to name just one of their crimes.Both men apparently want to create the impression that the deeper disease of anti-Semitism is largely somebody else’s problem. That’s offensive, coming from leaders of nations with long traditions of pogroms. Yes, there were Poles and Soviets who heroically rescued Jews in the 1940s; but there were others who abetted or condoned their murder. And yet Poland’s right-wing government, already the European Union’s bête noire for undermining judicial independence, has tried to make it a crime to say that some Poles collaborated in the Holocaust.Let’s call this ludicrous pseudo-controversy what it is: not remotely a debate about what really happened in the past but a full-bore propaganda battle. Poland’s government wants to stoke nationalism among its supporters, by cultivating a narrative of perennial (and ongoing) victimhood and grievance — against Germany, Russia and indeed the whole EU. Russia in turn wants to exacerbate those tensions between Warsaw, Berlin and Brussels, hoping to undermine the EU, which Putin disdains.What’s tragically getting lost in this deceitfulness is the objective of genuine commemoration. It should be an occasion for soul-searching, for the sort of honest and disturbing look inside not only our own national cultures but also our individual human consciences. We’ll never be able to satisfactorily explain how something like the Holocaust could happen, nor can we ever be sure that it won’t happen again. But we know the answer has something to do with the depths of the human psyche, the infinitely complex and often contradictory capacities it has to be both good and evil.It was in this spirit of humility that Germany’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeiner, addressed the audience of survivors, descendants and world leaders at Yad Vashem, with Putin looking on.  To spare the victims the trauma of having to hear the sounds of the German language again in this context, he spoke in Hebrew and then English. “I stand here laden with the heavy, historical burden of guilt,” he said, before warning against the renewed rise of anti-Semitism and hatred, in Germany and elsewhere, and vowing to fight it forever.Steinmeier also grasped the other purpose of commemoration, which is to bring together human beings who once were on opposite sides. It’s a crucial step on the path to salvation and whatever solace survivors may still find. “My soul is moved by the spirit of reconciliation,” Steinmeier said, “this spirit which opened up a new and peaceful path for Germany and Israel, for Germany, Europe and the countries of the world.” That’s a dignified way to remember the liberation of Auschwitz. What Putin and Duda are doing is the opposite, a defilement and profanation.To contact the author of this story: Andreas Kluth at akluth1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Andreas Kluth is a member of Bloomberg's editorial board. He was previously editor in chief of Handelsblatt Global and a writer for the Economist. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 03:19:19 -0500
  • Clashes in crisis-hit Lebanon as lawmakers pass budget

    Golocal247.com news

    Lebanese lawmakers on Monday passed a controversial state budget for 2020 that aims to tackle the country's crippling financial crisis, as angry protesters threw stones at security forces massed outside the Parliament. Security forces were heavily deployed during the legislative meeting and beat back anti-government protesters, detaining several as well. The protesters had in turn blocked roads farther afield in an effort to stop lawmakers from reaching the building, but security forces managed to keep a single road open.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 03:04:52 -0500
  • Irish PM says EU has upper hand in Brexit trade talks with UK

    Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the European Union will have the upper hand in post-Brexit trade talks with the United Kingdom and questioned Prime Minister Boris Johnson's timetable of striking a deal by the end of the year, the BBC reported. Varadkar, in an interview with the BBC, compared the two sides to soccer teams and suggested that the EU would have the "stronger team" due to its larger population and market.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 02:11:18 -0500
  • Aging Iran airliner crash-lands on highway, injuring only 2

    Golocal247.com news

    An aging Iranian passenger airliner carrying 144 people crash-landed on a runway and skidded onto a major highway next to an airport Monday, the latest crash in the Islamic Republic as U.S. sanctions bar it from parts or new aircraft. Authorities said two people suffered injuries in the hard landing of the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 flown by Caspian Airlines in Mahshahr, a city in Iran's oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province. Passengers, apparently in shock, calmly exited the aircraft with their carry-on baggage out of a door near the cockpit and another over the plane's wing, video from Iran's Civil Aviation Network News showed.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 01:52:35 -0500
  • Can Boris Johnson Double U.K. Growth? Don’t Bet on It

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- As part of his promise to deliver the benefits of Brexit after the U.K. leaves the European Union this Friday, Boris Johnson has set a goal of doubling the rate of economic growth after the U.K. leaves the European Union. That aspiration could be treated as a rhetorical flourish, like Donald Trump’s belief that the United States can get to 4% or even 5% annual growth by following “Trumponomics,” but I will take it seriously.At first glance the hope is ambitious but not outrageous. The International Monetary Fund baseline forecast is just under 1.5% growth per year for the expected five years of this Johnson government. The trend growth rate pre-financial crisis through the chancellorships of Kenneth Clarke and Gordon Brown – between 1993 and 2007 -- was around 2.75%. So the Johnson proposition is that Britain can return to its pre-crisis economic performance or a bit better.One obvious negative is the impact on growth of the government's policy to tighten immigration controls as the U.K. “takes back control” of its borders. Net immigration – around 225,000 a year – currently accounts for two-thirds of population growth; a rough calculation based on GDP per head suggests that contributes to about 0.6% of GDP growth annually. So if population growth is halved, say, there is a potential hit of 0.2% per year of annual growth.Another negative is potentially weak demand at home and abroad. Unlike the pre-crisis period, there is no longer a booming world economy and the IMF is warning of global growth downgrades. Weak business investment at home caused by last year’s Brexit uncertainty may get a temporary boost this year from the clear election result. But there will be a long period of negotiation over terms of U.K. access to the EU and those countries where there is an EU Association agreement. The decoupling of trade and investment arrangements is bound to impose costs and inhibit investment even if you believe it will be skillfully managed by the Johnson government.Meanwhile, households are again approaching pre-crisis debt levels, making any consumer boom underpinned by credit improbable and risky in equal measure. Household debt rose to 146% of disposable income in the crisis year of 2008, from 85% in 1997. It is now back to 140% of disposable income and forecast to reach 150% by 2024.After a decade of quantitative easing, there is little scope for further monetary stimulus to offset weak consumer demand. Much hinges on the promised fiscal boost to public investment and the more relaxed approach to the public sector deficit and debt.Some relaxation is necessary and welcome, especially to fund productive infrastructure, but any suspicion in the bond markets that the U.K. has abandoned fiscal discipline will test what Bank of England Governor Mark Carney referred to as the “kindness of the strangers” who lend to us, drive down sterling and prompt higher interest rates. This is in marked contrast to Japan, whose government can comfortably borrow for public spending since Japanese savers are willing to lend even at derisory interest rates.Essentially, what lies behind the prime minister’s growth optimism is the hope that there will be a near-miraculous productivity spurt. But it is difficult to see where it will come from. Whatever the outcome of U.K.-EU trade talks, there will be new frictions that are bound to place a drag on growth. The U.K. has already had a decade of supply-side reforms based on deregulation, cuts in corporate tax, and labor markets that are among the most flexible in the developed world. Leaving the EU gives no additional flexibility in the big remaining regulatory challenges like the rules governing building permissions, where politics and economics collide. The Conservative Party’s traditional supporters, largely middle class and wealthier home-owners, rely on planning restrictions to support their inflated housing prices. There is no sign that this government has any appetite for a new burst of Thatcherism.More positively, there does seem to be a recognition of the importance of science and innovation, of improving transport and internet connectivity in depressed areas of the country, and of the value of industrial strategy to support high productivity sectors. The unlikely electoral coalition which gifted Boris Johnson his majority – the well-heeled, privileged English home counties alongside frustrated, “left behind” parts of Britain – will be hard to hold together in 2024, so ministers will want to see projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail (a large-scale project to improve and further develop rail links in the country’s more deprived northern regions) breaking ground and making a visible difference.But these welcome projects will not in themselves solve the drag on the economy from low levels of mathematical and scientific literacy, deficient provision of skills training and apprenticeships. Indeed, inadequately supported life-long learning will also take decades to turn around.It is entirely understandable that the government should try to develop a positive narrative about post-Brexit Britain. But talking up the growth rate of the economy has to be based on more than wishful thinking. Forecasting is more an art than a science but I have rather more confidence in the realist art of the IMF than the impressionism of the prime minister. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid’s suggestion in Davos that the government might now downgrade growth as an objective suggests that perhaps the Treasury is coming around to the realist school too.To contact the author of this story: Vince Cable at emailvincecable@gmail.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Vince Cable is a former U.K. secretary of state for business and was leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2017 to 2019. He was previously chief economist at Royal Dutch Shell. He is currently a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. His next book, "Politicians and the Politics of Economics," will be published later this year. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 01:30:36 -0500
  • Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

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    (Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on what's moving European markets in your inbox every morning? Sign up here.Good morning. Stocks and oil are starting the week firmly lower as the coronavirus spreads, the populist leader of Italy’s League party suffered defeat in a key regional election and the U.S. embassy in Iraq came under fire. Here’s what’s moving markets.Virus Hits MarketsStocks and crude oil are tumbling once again, with havens including the yen and Treasuries jumping, as fears deepen about the impact of the deadly coronavirus on near-term growth. The death toll from the illness climbed to at least 80, while confirmed cases in China surpassed 2,700. The Chinese government has extended the Lunar New Year holiday amid reports that the infection’s spread is accelerating around the globe. Outbreak worries have now also become a  source of unrest in Hong Kong.Salvini Defeat Italy’s Matteo Salvini suffered a stinging defeat in a key regional vote, providing a much-needed boost to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s fragile government and making a snap general election less likely. Interior Ministry figures showed a center-left bloc led by the Democratic Party, a partner in Conte’s ruling coalition, at 51.3% in Emilia-Romagna. A center-right group headed by Salvini’s anti-migrant League trailed at 43.8%. The defeat for the populist firebrand, after a failed power grab last year, will likely settle nerves in the market and could push yields on Italian government debt lower. Here’s a list of the stocks that could be in the spotlight Monday.U.S. Embassy HitFive Katyusha rockets were fired at the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad Sunday night, one directly hitting the U.S. Embassy building, Iraq’s security forces reported, while local media said U.S. helicopters were seen evacuating injured people. While the U.S. said it did not comment on injuries, it  noted there have been 14 attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq since September. Such attacks by Iran-linked militia groups have increased since the U.S. airstrike this month that killed Iran’s top commander Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah.Talking TradeThere’s much trade news to digest, starting with comments from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said he’s focused on getting a deal with the U.K. this year. Officials in London, meanwhile, downplayed concern over the impact of Britain’s dealings with Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co. on discussions with Washington. Elsewhere, the European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier,  said he’ll work “night and day” for a pact with the U.K., just as EU officials said they hope to achieve a breakthrough in relations with America, possibly by using shellfish.Coming Up…We ease into the week with a distinct lack of corporate earnings in Europe, but don’t get comfortable, there’s a whole bunch of reports scheduled to be released in the coming days, starting Tuesday with Dutch health tech giant Philips NV and French luxury goods group LVMH. Meanwhile, in macroeconomic data, we’ll get the German Ifo business climate survey index after Friday’s better-than-expected manufacturing purchasing managers index for January. What We’ve Been ReadingThis is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours. Kobe Bryant’s brilliant and complicated legacy.  Billie Eilish sweeps top four prizes at Grammy Awards. U.K. to relax visa rules for top scientists. Kim Jong Un’s aunt reappears years after husband’s execution. Monzo in funding talks with Softbank, Telegraph reports.  Turkey quake kills at least 38. New Boeing jet takes to the skies.Like Bloomberg's Five Things? Subscribe for unlimited access to trusted, data-based journalism in 120 countries around the world and gain expert analysis from exclusive daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. Find out more about how the Terminal delivers information and analysis that financial professionals can't find anywhere else. Learn more.To contact the authors of this story: Joe Easton in London at jeaston7@bloomberg.netChiara Remondini in Milan at cremondini@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Phil Serafino at pserafino@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 01:24:25 -0500
  • Downing of jet in Iran reveals Islamic Republic's wider woes

    The Ukrainian jetliner stood ready for takeoff at Iran's main international airport bound for Kyiv, packed with passengers and so many bags on one of the cheapest routes to the West that the ground crew rushed to unload some luggage to make its weight for flight. Nearly an hour late, Tehran air traffic controllers finally cleared Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 for takeoff, carrying a newlywed couple, Iranian students bound for universities in Canada and others seeking a better life abroad. The plane would be shot down only minutes later by Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 01:23:05 -0500
  • Elizabeth Warren seeks a spark in the final sprint to Iowa

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    Elizabeth Warren is fighting to regain momentum in the turbulent tussle for the Democratic presidential nomination amid lingering questions about her consistency and ability to defeat President Donald Trump. Warren was considered a leader in the crowded race through the fall, yet just days before Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses, allies, adversaries and new polling suggest that progressive rival Sen. Bernie Sanders has a slight advantage — at least in the battle for the party's left wing. Warren's uncertain status raises questions about whether any female candidate will emerge from Iowa's Feb. 3 caucuses with the political strength to go deep into the primary season, a challenge that will almost certainly require early victories to generate the energy and campaign cash needed to continue.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 00:18:29 -0500
  • Organization becomes critical in final week before Iowa vote

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    At nearly nine p.m. on Saturday, Samy Amkieh was about to head back to his office after braving 20 degree temperatures to knock on doors for three hours in East Des Moines. “When you think you can’t go any more — that house is too far away, it looks really icy down the street — just remember that every single person you’ve talked to, the odds are they haven’t been pulled in by us or by anyone,” he told a crowd of nearly 100 Sanders volunteers Sunday, aiming to rally them to head out into the cold yet again to knock doors for the Vermont senator. One week before the Iowa caucuses, Amkieh is one of hundreds of campaign staffers and volunteers fanning out across the state doing the behind-the-scenes work that can lead a candidate to victory.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 00:14:44 -0500
  • AP FACT CHECK: Trump misstates the record on John Bolton

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    President Donald Trump stated falsely Monday that House Democrats never called his former national security adviser to testify in their impeachment inquiry. Trump's tweet about John Bolton came as the Senate enters the second week of the impeachment trial and followed a fresh disclosure that Bolton claims Trump told him directly that he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped with investigations into Joe Biden and Democrats. Bolton's assertion, in his forthcoming book, contradicts key assertions by Trump and his defense team's argument that there is no evidence the president conditioned aid to Ukraine on an investigation of his political rivals.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 00:12:18 -0500
  • GOP defends Trump as Bolton book adds pressure for witnesses

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    Pressure is increasing on senators to call John Bolton to testify at President Donald Trump's impeachment trial after the revelation that a draft of a book by the former national security adviser undercuts a key defense argument — that Trump never tied withholding military aid to Ukraine to his demand the country help investigate political rival Joe Biden. Bolton writes in the forthcoming book that Trump told him he wanted to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid from Ukraine until it helped him with investigations into Biden. Trump's legal team has repeatedly insisted otherwise, and Trump tweeted on Monday that he never told Bolton such a thing.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 00:10:29 -0500
  • A Warning to Johnson From Those Who Have Faced the EU Before

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    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. If U.K. officials harbor any hopes of reaching a post-Brexit deal with the European Union quickly or easily, they need only speak to others who have faced the bloc across the table to be disabused.Negotiators who have worked on other market access deals with the EU describe the process as deeply frustrating. “Europe still tends to see itself as the center of universe,” says Aloysio Nunes, who as Brazil’s then foreign minister helped to negotiate the landmark agreement between the EU and Mercosur group of South American countries.Other diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, are more forthright than Nunes. One described the attitude of European Commission teams as condescending, a second said the EU’s executive arm won’t shy away from outright manipulation of diplomats on the opposite side of the table, while a third resorted to repeated profanity.The success of these tactics depends on how much Prime Minister Boris Johnson actually wants a comprehensive deal following Britain’s exit from the EU on Jan. 31. The two sides haven’t even formally begun thrashing out the terms of their future relationship, but are already at odds: Johnson wants to break free from what he sees as restrictive Brussels rules, while Brussels wants to keep the U.K. tightly aligned. For the EU, any divergence will cost Britain access to it biggest and closest market.Trade negotiations have long been notoriously tense events with hard-nosed teams seeking to gain the upper hand behind closed doors. In that respect, the EU simply uses its economic heft to wring-out concessions from partners keen for access to a lucrative export market. The risk for the EU, however, is that its demands may be so onerous that Johnson decides against pursuing even a narrow trade deal -- a failure that would hurt both economies.The commission will start talks with the U.K. on behalf of the EU’s 27 remaining states next month. Diplomats who have worked on accords with the bloc say it tends to adopt a take-it-or-leave-it approach in negotiations, presenting a template, often copied and pasted from its own previous deals. It then, as one official describes it, tells the opposite side: “we’re big and you are small, so suck it up.”The U.K. has already experienced this during the tense talks over its departure from the EU. And the strategy has worked well for Brussels. The terms of Britain’s withdrawal -- including the separation bill, citizens’ rights, and the future of Northern Ireland -- are all largely based on the commission’s initial proposals.‘Colonial’ ApproachAs it negotiates, the EU often presents its ideas as well-intended, aimed at promoting the interests of the other side, according to two officials. “They introduce themselves as nice, civilized negotiators -- but they skin you alive,” one of them said. The other lambasted this approach as “colonial.”One standard maneuver from the commission playbook is to demand everything upfront, including full tariff elimination and other concessions, while at the same time excluding areas from discussion, citing the sensitivity of EU member states.“It’s not easy to speak on behalf of so many countries with so many domestic sensitivities,” Brazil’s Nunesadmits. These internal considerations, in effect the national interests of big EU member states, can often be used to hold up the process, another official says.One key area in which Britain may encounter this roadblock is fishing. The EU wants to maintain access to U.K. waters and says the entire future relationship depends on getting a deal here -- an unprecedented demand in trade negotiations according to one European diplomat.Johnson, on the other hand, has vowed to regain control of U.K. waters after Brexit. With fishermen being complaint-prone constituencies in both Britain and France, this battle is almost certain to be the big early row. The U.K. shouldn’t budge, one diplomat advises. Giving up fishing immediately, as the EU demands, would amount to relinquishing the single most valuable point of leverage, he noted.Experienced NegotiatorsThe officials said negotiations with the commission tend to drag on and on, until a deal is eventually reached. But the U.K. won’t have this option because Johnson has ruled out extending the transition period beyond the year-end, whether there is a post-Brexit deal or not.Extracting a beneficial accord from the EU in such a short time frame will be a challenge, not least because the commission has decades of experience negotiating trade agreements -- most recently with Canada, Japan and the Mercosur countries.The U.K., on the other hand, like all EU member states, had outsourced the task of trade negotiations to the commission and it lacks institutional memory, as well as sufficiently experienced staff, in this area.“Europeans are tough negotiators,” Nunes says. That may be an understatement.\--With assistance from Jonathan Stearns.To contact the reporters on this story: Nikos Chrysoloras in Brussels at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.net;Samy Adghirni in Brasilia Newsroom at sadghirni@bloomberg.net;Bryce Baschuk in Geneva at bbaschuk2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans, Richard BravoFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Mon, 27 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0500
  • Sanders Leads and Klobuchar Climbs in Iowa: Campaign Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Senator Amy Klobuchar has broken into the top three Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa for the first time, a poll released Sunday showed. It was the third poll of the day to show her rival, Bernie Sanders as the frontrunner in an early state.An Emerson University poll showed Sanders leading in Iowa with 30% while Joe Biden followed with 21%. Klobuchar was in third with 13% ahead of Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg who had 11% and 10%, respectively. The poll was conducted from Jan. 23-26 and has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.Since December, Sanders has risen 8 percentage points in the Emerson poll. Conversely, Buttigieg fell 8 percentage points. Klobuchar’s rise comes on the heels of an endorsement from The New York Times.Two New Hampshire polls released Sunday morning by CNN/University of New Hampshire and NBC News/Marist both also found Sanders in first.Sanders Slams Biden on Social Security, Again (9:20 p.m.)Bernie Sanders kept up his challenge to Joe Biden’s claims that he never proposed cuts or freezes to social security.“Joe Biden continues trying to hide his efforts to help Republicans cut Social Security,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, said in a statement.The campaign pointed to instances throughout Biden’s career in which the former vice president suggested cutting or freezing Social Security benefits including a 1995 vote for an amendment to the balanced budget bill which would have frozen Social Security expansions.Both Biden and Sanders are running for the Democratic presidential nomination on a platform of protecting Social Security. Biden has said his plan to shore up Social Security would expand the program. Sanders has called on expanding benefits from the retirement program.Bloomberg Opposed Trump’s Iran Deal Withdrawal (4:16pm)Michael Bloomberg, in a speech designed to attract Jewish voters to his Democratic presidential campaign, said Sunday that despite his opposition to the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, he also opposed the way President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it, saying it was “tantamount to giving Iran permission to re-launch its nuclear program.”In remarks prepared for delivery, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said he spoke out against the 2015 deal at the time because it should have done more to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and other concerns. But Trump shouldn’t have left the deal made with the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany because Iran is once again moving toward the development of a nuclear weapon after years of compliance, he said.“As president, I will work to make the strongest deal possible to constrain the Iranian regime’s aggression and territorial ambitions, and put an end to their nuclear program, because the world must never allow Iran to threaten Israel and the whole region with a nuclear attack,” Bloomberg said in his prepared remarks.Bloomberg also addressed the rise in anti-Semitic violence in America. He said that while one person can’t be blamed for it, Trump’s rhetoric, support of conspiracy theories and silence about racist groups means “there is just no escaping the direct line between his conduct in office and the rise of violent attacks targeted at minority groups.” He vowed to launch a national effort to crack down on violent extremists.The former New York mayor also said Trump is harming the U.S. relationship with Israel because the president is “trying to use Israel as a wedge issue for his own electoral purposes,” adding, “We must never let Israel be a football that American politicians kick around in an effort to score points.”Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.Sanders goes after JPMorgan’s Dimon in new ad (1:51 p.m.)Bernie Sanders goes after Jamie Dimon in a new campaign ad, labeling the JPMorgan Chase & Co. chief executive officer “the biggest corporate socialist in America today.”The jab continues criticism by the Vermont senator and presidential candidate after Dimon knocked socialism in an op-ed published last week in Time magazine as part of its coverage of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.“Are you kidding me?” a Sanders aide exclaims in the ad, which was posted on Twitter. The spot cites Dimon’s pay, including $31.5 million last year, and says JPMorgan received bailouts after the global financial crisis 12 years ago.Dimon, a 63-year-old billionaire, has previously said JPMorgan, which expanded during the crisis by acquiring collapsing rivals, didn’t need a bailout to survive at the time. In 2012, he said his firm temporarily accepted money from a Treasury Department program because “we were asked to” so weaker rivals could tap it without being singled out.CBS Says Iowa Race Tight, Fluid in Final Days (12:56 p.m.)Bernie Sanders, with 26% support, and Joe Biden, with 25%, are at the top of the Democratic pack in Iowa but the race is tight and fluid heading into the final week of campaigning for the state’s first-in-the-nation caucus, CBS News said Sunday.In addition to hoping for a strong showing, candidates are in a battle for delegates, with Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren also in the hunt, according to results of the YouGov survey, which was conducted Jan. 16-23 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.Biden, the former vice president, could get a boost from his status as the second choice of those backing Amy Klobuchar, polling at 7%, if they switch to him on caucus night, CBS said. After months of candidate visits, events and TV advertising only a little over a third of Iowa voters surveyed said they’ve “definitely” made up their minds.Sanders had the most solidly committed supporters, at 48%, the poll showed. That compared with Warren at 40% and Biden backers at just 27% committed. Warren picked up an endorsement Saturday from the Des Moines Register, the state’s largest newspaper.Biden scored high marks on the question of being prepared to be commander in chief, at 84% among Iowa Democrats. Sanders outpaced the field on the measure of being seen as someone who “fights for people like you.” -- Ros KrasnyYang Makes February Democratic Debate Stage (12:06 p.m.)Businessman and outsider Democratic candidate for president Andrew Yang has earned a spot in the upcoming eighth democratic debate in New Hampshire.In order to make the stage for the debate on Feb. 7, candidates have to receive at least 5% in four Democratic National Committee--approved polls or 7% in two early-state polls. Candidates also have to receive at least 225,000 individual contributions. Yang had already met the donor threshold. He earned 7% in a national poll from a Washington Post and ABC News poll and 5% in a Fox News poll, both released Sunday.He had received 5% in a December NPR/PBS/Marist national poll and 5% in an early January Quinnipiac University national poll.Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren have already qualified. Candidates who come out of the Iowa caucus with at least one pledged delegate to the Democratic convention also automatically qualify for the debate.The entrepreneur did not qualify for the last debate in Des Moines. He’s currently on a 17-day bus tour of Iowa ahead of the Feb. 3 caucus in that state. -- Emma KineryBiden, Sanders ahead in ABC-WaPost Poll: (10:53 a.m.)Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, representing rival visions for the Democratic Party, are solidifying their status as frontrunners in the crowded presidential field, according to a Washington Post-ABC News national poll.Just a week before voters finally get to have their say in the Iowa caucuses, the polls show Biden with 32% overall among registered voters who lean Democratic, while Sanders registered support from 23%. Both are doing slightly better than in the same poll in October.Senator Elizabeth Warren, once considered a front-runner and with endorsements from the New York Times a week ago and the Des Moines Register in Iowa on Saturday, has seen a significant drop in her support. She was at 12% in this poll, down from 23% in October.Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent $250 million on advertising since getting a late start in the race and will not compete in the first contests, pulled in support from 8%. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.Businessman Andrew Yang, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was also endorsed by The New York Times, were all mired in single digits. The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone January 20-23, 2020. Results have an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.Separately, an NBC News/Marist poll for New Hampshire released on Sunday showed Sanders and Buttigieg leading in the state. -- Magan KraneCOMING UP:Some of the Democratic candidates will debate again in New Hampshire on Feb. 7.The first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses will be held Feb. 3. The New Hampshire primary is Feb. 11. Nevada holds its caucuses on Feb. 22 and South Carolina has a primary on Feb. 29.CNN will host town halls featuring eight presidential candidates in New Hampshire on Feb. 5 and 6.(Disclaimer: Michael Bloomberg is also seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. He is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.)\--With assistance from Ros Krasny, Magan Crane, Emma Kinery and Todd Shields.To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Ros Krasny, Magan CraneFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 22:27:07 -0500
  • AP source: Bolton says Trump tied Ukraine funds to probe

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    President Donald Trump said he wanted to maintain a freeze on military assistance to Ukraine until it aided political investigations into his Democratic rivals, former national security adviser John Bolton recounts in a draft of his forthcoming book. The revelation challenges the defense offered up by Trump and his attorneys in his Senate impeachment trial and raises the stakes as the chamber decides this week whether to seek sworn testimony from Bolton and other witnesses. Bolton's account was first reported by The New York Times and confirmed to The Associated Press by a person familiar with the manuscript on the condition of anonymity to discuss the book, “The Room Where It Happened; A White House Memoir," ahead of its release March 17.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 19:42:25 -0500
  • Bloomberg Opposed Iran Nuclear Deal But Also Trump’s Withdrawal

    (Bloomberg) -- Michael Bloomberg said Sunday that despite his opposition to the U.S. nuclear deal with Iran, he also opposed the way President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018, saying it was “tantamount to giving Iran permission to re-launch its nuclear program.”In a speech in Miami to launch his outreach to Jewish voters, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said he spoke out against the 2015 deal at the time because it should have done more to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and other concerns. But Trump shouldn’t have left the deal made with the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany because Iran is once again moving toward the development of a nuclear weapon after years of compliance, he said.“As president, I will work to make the strongest deal possible to constrain the Iranian regime’s aggression and territorial ambitions, and put an end to their nuclear program, because the world must never allow Iran to threaten Israel and the whole region with a nuclear attack,” Bloomberg said in his prepared remarks.Bloomberg also addressed the rise in anti-Semitic violence in America. He said that while one person can’t be blamed for it, Trump’s rhetoric, support of conspiracy theories and silence about racist groups means “there is just no escaping the direct line between his conduct in office and the rise of violent attacks targeted at minority groups.” He vowed to launch a national effort to crack down on violent extremists.The former New York mayor also said Trump was harming the U.S. relationship with Israel because the president is “trying to use Israel as a wedge issue for his own electoral purposes."“We must never let Israel be a football that American politicians kick around in an effort to score points,” Bloomberg said. Bloomberg also vowed never to impose conditions on U.S. military aid to Israel, including missile defense, and said he wouldn’t wait three years to release an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. His remarks came just days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main election challenger, former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz accepted invitations to the White House this week ahead of Trump’s planned release of his long-awaited plan.It was a public embrace of his Judaism by Bloomberg, who launched a “United for Mike” national coalition Sunday with a council of Jewish community leaders to rally support from Jewish voters in his bid for the Democratic nomination. In his speech Bloomberg discussed the connection between his faith and American values and the 2020 race against Trump.“Sometimes democracy is a birthright,” Bloomberg said. “Sometimes it is a gift. And sometimes it is a fight. Today, it’s a fight -- and I’m asking you to stand and fight with me as proud Americans, and as proud Jews.”Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg.  (Updates with additional comments from fifth paragraph.) To contact the author of this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, Magan SherzaiRos KrasnyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 18:18:07 -0500
  • In divided America, some voters tuning out impeachment trial

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    For all the gravity of a presidential impeachment trial, Americans don’t seem to be giving it much weight. As House impeachment managers make their case to remove President Donald Trump from office, voters in several states said in interviews with The Associated Press that they’re only casually following the Senate trial, or avoiding it altogether — too busy to pay close attention, bored of the legal arguments, convinced the outcome is preordained or just plain tired of the whole partisan saga. Web traffic and TV ratings tell a similar story, with public interest seeming to flag after the House voted last month to impeach a president for only the third time in U.S. history.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 14:46:43 -0500
  • The Final Battle for Syria Has Begun

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    GAZIANTEP, Turkey—Syrian activists report that the Assad regime has launched its most intense assault since the beginning of the war almost nine years ago. The target is Idlib, the last opposition holdout in northwestern Syria. All indicators suggest that the campaign will produce a new humanitarian disaster and be the beginning of a final confrontation between the Syrian National Army (SNA)—an alliance of Turkish-backed armed opposition forces—and Russian-Iranian-backed pro-Assad units.Amid Iran Crisis, Russia’s Mideast Presence Just Keeps GrowingThe fighting undermines the perception of a seamless Turkish-Russian rapprochement and reveals the hidden gridlock that exists even after years of negotiations over key issues that are critical to Turkey’s security and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political prospects. The unbridgeable gap between Moscow and Ankara has created space for the United States to acquire more leverage in its relationship with Turkey by acting as a counterweight to Moscow’s ambitions, if the Trump administration chooses to do so. “The situation here is shit,” says Abd al-Rahman al-Aissawi a local activist in the town of Mara’at al-Nu’aman, which has iconic status as a holdout against the regime. “In nine years of war, this is the worst bombing we’ve ever seen. This is worse than the regime’s assault on east Aleppo [in 2016]. At least then, we negotiated a way out. This time, there’s nowhere to go, we have to fight. The regime knows this, and is paving the way for a truly scorched earth.”In addition to a stepped up Syrian-Russian air campaign, the war zone in Idlib looks further set to escalate due to increased involvement by powers with ties to the Syrian opposition, in particular Turkey and to a lesser extent the United States. Since the most recent reboot of hostilities on January 16, SNA units reportedly received a new influx of American-made TOW anti-tank missiles that they used to repel regime advances around the town of Abu Jurayf, about 10 miles northeast of the rebel stronghold of Mara’at al-Nu’aman. (TOW stands for Tube launched, Optically tracked, Wire data link auto-guided missile.)“We’ve since been able to take back the towns of Samaka, al-Barsa and Mushaymis and destroy a large number of regime firepower with the recent influx of TOW missiles,” says Abu Muhammad, a high ranking SNA commander. Rumors circulating at the time suggested that meetings held between Turkish defense officials and SNA leaders were attended by representatives from the United States as well.Mustafa Sayjari, a prominent leader within the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) fighting against regime forces in Idlib, has his own history of working with the United States. He told Syrian opposition television that he could confirm “via direct meetings I’ve had with the Americans, that Washington will support all Turkish efforts [with regards to Idlib].” Expectations are that the U.S., Turkey and other western countries will take joint efforts to stave off a Syrian regime advance in order to prevent a new influx of refugees pouring across the Turkish border. As al-Aissawi noted Syrian displaced persons in Idlib have nowhere to flee in the event Idlib falls except to Turkey. Throughout 2018, Idlib became the final refuge for an outpouring of SNA and opposition activists from key rebel strongholds in Homs, Damascus and the southern Dara’a province that fell to pro-Assad forces. Now, as the saying goes, “There’s no Idlib for Idlib.” But the prospect of further refugees is one President Erdoğan is keen to avoid. Turkey’s assault on northeast Syria three months ago, in addition to removing the threat of U.S.-backed Kurdish forces along its border, was supposed to carve out a safe zone Ankara could use to relocate an unspecified percentage of Turkey’s 5 million Syrian refugees. The long-term presence of Syrian refugees in Turkey has recently stoked xenophobic sentiments in the country, with populists blaming them for Turkey’s recent economic downturn.Last June, Erdoğan’s AK Party lost Istanbul in municipal elections for the first time since 2002. The defeat was seen as a major blow to Erdoğan personally that was partially brought about by the latter’s perceived lax stance towards refugees. Shortly after coming to power, the opposition CHP party in Istanbul launched a new wave of arrests and deportations of Syrian refugees in a series of high profile cases that sparked outrage at home and abroad. With these high stakes, Turkey has signaled that it takes the latest escalation by the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad very seriously. On Friday, sources told The Daily Beast, Erdoğan convened a closed meeting with Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and high-ranking SNA commanders declaring that ongoing Turkish attempts since July 2018 to reach a political solution with Russia over the status of Idlib had reached an impasse. “Erdoğan called in to the meeting convened with Hakan Fidan, effectively telling us that the political process in Syria was over,” claimed SNA commander Abu Muhammad, who attended the meeting. “The President advised us to make final preparations to take a final stand and defend ourselves, giving assurances as well that Turkey would not abandon the SNA.” The arrival of TOW missiles and Erdoğan’s acknowledgement of the failure of more than a year and a half of talks could signal a potential shakeup in the much-touted Turkish-Russian rapprochement that since 2015 has seen both countries significantly expand cooperation in the defense and energy sectors. This also occurs nearly two weeks after news that Ankara sent 2,000 SNA fighters and an unspecified number of Turkish troops to the Libyan capital of Tripoli to halt the advance of Russian-backed rebel general Khalifa Haftar against the beleaguered Turkish-backed Libyan government of Fayez al-Sarraj.After years of seeking common ground, in recent weeks Turkey finally appears willing to get tougher on Moscow. But the lengths to which Ankara is willing to go actually to hold off the regime advance in Idlib remain in question.In Syria, as in Other ‘Frozen’ Conflicts, Putin Plays Peacemaker But Wants Controlled ChaosOver the weekend, the tide on the battlefield appears to have turned once again, with regime forces and their Russian and Iranian allies unleashing an unprecedented wave of bombing and advancing to Wadi Dayf, a town directly adjacent to and on the outskirts of Mara’at al-Nu’aman. Russian, Iranian and pro-Assad forces are said to be mobilizing for a renewed push on the outskirts of the city that will begin within days. The widespread presence throughout Idlib province of Ha’it Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra, provides a convenient pretext for the Russian and Iranian assault, and hobbles the American ability to intervene more directly.If Mara’at al-Nu’aman falls, it would represent the third major victory for regime forces in Idlib in the last six months, following the December 25 fall of Jarjanaz, and the capture on August 22 of Khan Sheikhoun (photo above was taken during that assault). Khan Sheikhoun was the site of the regime’s chemical attack in April 2017 that prompted U.S. airstrikes on the Syrian Shayrat airbase. The prospect of such a fall, for now, appears plausible. “Other than the TOW missiles, the situation on the ground is the same as it was before, we haven’t received any new support from our allies,” claimed Abu Muhammad. When asked on television about the SNA’s ability to repel further regime advances, SNA leader Mustafa al-Sayjari made sure to say, “We’re confident that keeping the city of Idlib in the hands of the opposition isn’t just a Syrian priority, but a Turkish one as well.”The city of Idlib, located nearly 30 miles north of Mara’at al-Nu’aman, is the main population center in the rebel held province of the same name, and for now remains largely outside the scope of regime attacks. But Sayhari’s omission of the names of the frontline towns that are threatened by the regime was ominous.  Lastly, the heavy presence of Iranian-backed militias on the front lines in Idlib suggests that Tehran’s projection throughout the region has not been scaled back since Trump's January 2 assassination of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. Many suspect that the U.S. strikes may in fact be pushing Tehran to assert itself further in order to avoid appearing weak. Although Russia is believed to hold the upper hand in military decisions on the ground in Syria, the significance of Iranian forces cannot be overstated: the Russians attempts on their own to advance on Idlib throughout 2018 and early 2019 fell short and failed to achieve any major successes. The fall of Khan Sheikhoun in late August 2019 was largely made possible by the arrival of a large contingent of Iranian-backed forces following new power sharing agreements between Tehran and Moscow on the frontlines. Now, Iranian backed Lebanese Hezbollah and Afghan Fatimiyun Shi’a militias are the shock troops leading the assault on Mara’at al-Nu’aman under the cover of Russian air power. Sitting in a small operations room in a town outside Mara’at al-Nua’man, activist Abd al-Rahman al-Aissawi combs through a database of enemy military communications between Afghans speaking Dari that have been intercepted and leaked in real time by Turkish-backed SNA forces. Unfortunately, neither he nor anyone else can do much with them. In a last ditch effort on social media, he sends out a blast to anyone willing to listen, “Does anyone speak or know anyone who speaks Afghan? We need translators in Idlib; are willing to pay money.”As The Daily Beast went to press, he had failed to get any responses. 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.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 14:09:26 -0500
  • Three Jordanians charged for IS-inspired attack in court

    Three Jordanian men appeared in court Sunday to face charges connected to the stabbing of eight people at a popular archaeological site in northern Jordan in November in an attack allegedly inspired by the Islamic State group. The military judge presiding over the trial accused the men of supporting Islamic State ideology and carrying out the attack at Jerash to avenge the death of late IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. November's incident took place in Jerash, one of Jordan's most visited archaeological sites, an ancient city whose ruins include a Roman amphitheater and a columned road.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 13:59:56 -0500
  • Libya’s Fragile Truce Clouded Further by Fresh Assaults

    (Bloomberg) -- Libya’s internationally recognized government said Sunday that repeated attacks by rival commander Khalifa Haftar have rendered a fragile truce all but meaningless, as the United Nations warned that foreign powers were setting the stage for even more fighting in the OPEC nation.The Tripoli government said that its forces had repelled an attack by Haftar’s Libyan National Army around 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of the city of Misrata. “We affirm, once again, that we did not start this war, but it is us who will determine its duration and where it ends,” the government said on its official Volcano of Anger Facebook page.Repeated violations of the truce mean the cease-fire is now no better than the lack of one, it said.Ahmed Mismari, a spokesman for Haftar, said in a press conference, “Our operations are preemptive and a message to the militias. It’s not a violation to the cease-fire agreement.”Dueling AccusationsBoth sides have repeatedly accused the other of breaching the cease-fire, which they agreed to earlier this month. A conference in Berlin, convened by Germany’s chancellor, had sought to cement the deal and pave the way for an end to what has become a proxy war of regional powers in the North African nation. However, the United Nations on Saturday said none of the parties involved in the Berlin conference --- which also grouped Turkey, Russia and Egypt -- was honoring terms of the deal.Frailty of Libya Accord on Display In Merkel-Erdogan SquabbleThe conflict has battered Libya’s crucial oil output, dragging it down to 284,000 barrels a day as a result of “illegal blockades,” the state-run National Oil Corp. said on Twitter. The country holds Africa’s largest crude reserves, and NOC said it was pumping 1.22 million barrels a day until it declared force majeure on Jan. 18.“This fragile truce is now threatened by the ongoing transfer of foreign fighters, weapons, ammunition and advanced systems to the parties by member states, including several who participated in the Berlin Conference,” the UN mission said in a statement. “The mission condemns these ongoing violations, which risk plunging the country into a renewed and intensified round of fighting.”An attempt to bring the Libyan rivals to the table failed in Moscow earlier this month when Haftar left Russia without signing a permanent cease-fire. That refusal was backed by the U.A.E. and Egypt, which oppose Turkish gains in Libya, including a maritime agreement supporting Turkey’s claims to gas-rich Mediterranean waters.Turkey’s DoubtsPresident Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government has dispatched military advisers, armed drones and Syrian militiamen, has cast doubt on Haftar’s commitment to peace -- claims which have been dismissed as self-serving by Egypt and other Arab states.In his latest rebuke, Erdogan said Sunday that he didn’t expect Haftar to respect the truce. “Haftar fled Moscow and hid in a hotel in Berlin,” he said. “It’s not possible to expect mercy about a truce from such a person.”Mismari, the Haftar spokesman, called Erdogan’s comments provocative and possibly aimed at breaking the cease-fire.Turkey’s deployment sought to bolster the Tripoli-based government against Haftar, whose push on Tripoli has increasingly been spearheaded by Russian mercenaries.(Adds Haftar spokesman in paragraphs 4 and 11.)\--With assistance from Samer Khalil Al-Atrush.To contact the reporters on this story: Taylan Bilgic in Istanbul at tbilgic2@bloomberg.net;Mohammed Abdusamee in Tripoli at mabdusamee@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Riad Hamade at rhamade@bloomberg.net, Bruce Stanley, Tarek El-TablawyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 13:43:54 -0500
  • GOP Senator, military veteran defends Trump's comments on soldiers' brain injuries

    Golocal247.com news

    Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a U.S. military veteran, stood by President Trump in wake of the backlash against the commander-in-chief's comments describing brain injuries suffered by U.S. troops after an Iranian missile attack on a base in Iraq earlier this month as "headaches" and "not very serious."CBS' Margaret Brennan asked Cotton during Sunday's edition of Face the Nation if Trump should apologize to the soldiers, 34 of whom it turned out suffered traumatic brain injuries. She pointed out that Veterans of Foreign Wars, a prominent U.S. veterans advocacy group, called on Trump to apologize for his "misguided" comments about potentially dangerous injuries, while also noting Cotton likely knew several people who suffered from similar injuries during his time in the military, which included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.Cotton, though, argued Trump wasn't "dismissing" the soldiers' injuries, but simply "describing them." > NEW: @SenTomCotton defends @realdonaldtrump 's comments about soldiers impacted by the Iran strike, says Trump wasn't "dismissing" traumatic brain injuries by calling them "headaches" pic.twitter.com/HH8daFhsIv> > -- Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 26, 2020More stories from theweek.com Republican senator tellingly claims John Bolton revealed 'nothing new' George Conway suggests Trump's impeachment lawyers knew exactly what was in Bolton's book GOP senators reportedly 'blindsided' by Bolton revelations

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 13:31:00 -0500
  • Defense resumes in key impeachment week; Dems seek witnesses

    Golocal247.com news

    President Donald Trump's impeachment trial enters a pivotal week as his defense team resumes its case and senators face a critical vote on whether to hear witnesses or proceed directly to a vote that is widely expected to end in his acquittal. The report by The New York Times was later confirmed by The Associated Press.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 12:50:16 -0500
  • Iran's military knew it accidentally shot down a passenger plane moments after it happened, and a stunning new report details how it was covered up — even from Iran's president

    Golocal247.com news

    Iran knew almost immediately that it was responsible for shooting down a passenger plane with 176 people on board, according to a new report.

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 12:25:16 -0500
  • Iran's President Rouhani reportedly threatened to resign over attempts to cover up downing of airliner

    Golocal247.com news

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to resign over the downing of a Ukrainian jet carrying 176 passengers earlier this month, The New York Times reports.Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accidentally shot down the passenger plane amid heightened tensions with the United States that have since cooled a bit. A series of communication errors reportedly led to an officer firing missiles at the plane, believing it was a hostile U.S. aircraft. Upon realizing what had actually happened, the IRGC began to cover their tracks, refusing to even tell Rouhani the truth for days.Rouhani, left in the dark, reportedly deflected phone calls from other world leaders because he had no answers for them, and military commanders were doing the same thing to him when he tried to reach them. When finally informed of the truth, officials close to Rouhani told the Times, the president was "livid," demanding that Tehran admit the mistake and face the consequences. Military officials reportedly argued with Rouhani out of fear that the news would destabilize the country. That's when Rouhani said he would resign.Eventually, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei got a message to the military, siding with Rouhani and ordering a public statement acknowledging what happened. Read more at The New York Times.More stories from theweek.com Republican senator tellingly claims John Bolton revealed 'nothing new' George Conway suggests Trump's impeachment lawyers knew exactly what was in Bolton's book GOP senators reportedly 'blindsided' by Bolton revelations

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 12:24:00 -0500
  • Anatomy of a Lie: How Iran Covered Up the Downing of an Airliner

    Golocal247.com news

    When the Revolutionary Guard officer spotted what he thought was an unidentified aircraft near Tehran's international airport in Iran, he had seconds to decide whether to pull the trigger.Iran had just fired a barrage of ballistic missiles at U.S. forces, the country was on high alert for an American counterattack, and the Iranian military was warning of incoming cruise missiles.The officer tried to reach the command center for authorization to shoot but couldn't get through. So he fired an anti-aircraft missile. Then another.The plane, which turned out to be a Ukrainian jetliner with 176 people on board, crashed and exploded in a ball of fire.Within minutes, the top commanders of the Guard realized what they had done. And at that moment, they began to cover it up.For days, they refused to tell even President Hassan Rouhani, whose government was publicly denying that the plane had been shot down. When they finally told him, he gave them an ultimatum: come clean or he would resign.Only then, 72 hours after the plane crashed, did Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, step in and order the government to acknowledge its fatal mistake.The New York Times pieced together a chronology of those three days by interviewing Iranian diplomats, current and former government officials, ranking members of the Guard and people close to the supreme leader's inner circle and by examining official public statements and state media reports.The reporting exposes the government's behind-the-scenes debate over covering up Iran's responsibility for the crash while shocked Iranians, grieving relatives and countries with citizens aboard the plane waited for the truth.The new details also demonstrate the outsize power of the Guard, which effectively sidelined the elected government in a moment of national crisis, and could deepen what many Iranians already see as a crisis of legitimacy for the Guard and the government.The bitter divisions in Iran's government persist and are bound to affect the investigation into the crash, negotiations over compensation and the unresolved debate over accountability.TUESDAYAround midnight on Jan. 7, as Iran was preparing to launch a ballistic-missile attack on U.S. military posts in Iraq, senior members of the Guard deployed mobile anti-aircraft defense units around a sensitive military area near Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport.Iran was about to retaliate for the American drone strike that had killed Iran's top military commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad five days earlier, and the military was bracing for an American counterstrike. The armed forces were on "at war" status, the highest alert level.But in a tragic miscalculation, the government continued to allow civilian commercial flights to land and take off from the Tehran airport.Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guard's Aerospace Force, said later that his units had asked officials in Tehran to close Iran's airspace and ground all flights, to no avail.Iranian officials feared that shutting down the airport would create mass panic that war with the U.S. was imminent, members of the Guard and other officials told The Times. They also hoped that the presence of passenger jets could act as a deterrent against an American attack on the airport or the nearby military base, effectively turning planeloads of unsuspecting travelers into human shields.WEDNESDAYAfter Iran's missile attack began, the central air defense command issued an alert that American warplanes had taken off from the United Arab Emirates and that cruise missiles were headed toward Iran.The officer on the missile launcher near the airport heard the warnings but did not hear a later message that the cruise missile alert was a false alarm.The warning about American warplanes may have also been wrong. U.S. military officials have said that no American planes were in or near Iranian airspace that night.When the officer spotted the Ukrainian jet, he sought permission to fire. But he was unable to communicate with his commanders because the network had been disrupted or jammed, Hajizadeh said later.The officer, who has not been publicly identified, fired two missiles, less than 30 seconds apart.Hajizadeh, who was in western Iran supervising the attack on the Americans, received a phone call with the news."I called the officials and told them this has happened and it's highly possible we hit our own plane," he said later in a televised statement.By the time Hajizadeh arrived in Tehran, he had informed Iran's top three military commanders: Maj. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, the army's commander in chief, who is also the chief of the central air defense command; Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Armed Forces; and Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, commander in chief of the Guard.The Guard, an elite force charged with defending Iran's clerical rule at home and abroad, is separate from the regular army and answers only to the supreme leader. At this point, the leaders of both militaries knew the truth.Hajizadeh advised the generals not to tell the rank-and-file air defense units for fear that it could hamper their ability to react quickly if the U.S. did attack."It was for the benefit of our national security because then our air defense system would be compromised," Hajizadeh said in an interview with Iranian news media this week. "The ranks would be suspicious of everything."The military leaders created a secret investigative committee drawn from the Guard's aerospace forces, from the army's air defense, and from intelligence and cyberexperts. The committee and the officers involved in the shooting were sequestered and ordered not to speak to anyone.The committee examined data from the airport, the flight path, radar networks, and alerts and messages from the missile operator and central command. Witnesses -- the officer who had pulled the trigger, his supervisors and everyone involved -- were interrogated for hours.The group also investigated the possibility that the U.S. or Israel may have hacked Iran's defense system or jammed the airwaves.By Wednesday night, the committee had concluded that the plane was shot down because of human error."We were not confident about what happened until Wednesday around sunset," Salami, the commander in chief of the Guard, said later in a televised address to the Parliament. "Our investigative team concluded then that the plane crashed because of human errors."Khamenei was informed. But they still did not inform the president, other elected officials or the public.Senior commanders discussed keeping the shooting secret until the plane's black boxes -- the flight data and cockpit voice recorders -- were examined and formal aviation investigations completed, according to members of the Guard, diplomats and officials with knowledge of the deliberations. That process could take months, they argued, and it would buy time to manage the domestic and international fallout that would ensue when the truth came out.The government had violently crushed an anti-government uprising in November. But the American killing of Soleimani, followed by the strikes against the U.S., had turned public opinion around. Iranians were galvanized in a moment of national unity.Authorities feared that admitting shooting down the passenger plane would undercut that momentum and prompt a new wave of anti-government protests."They advocated covering it up because they thought the country couldn't handle more crisis," said a ranking member of the Guard who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. "At the end, safeguarding the Islamic Republic is our ultimate goal, at any cost."That evening, the spokesman for the Joint Armed Forces, Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, told Iranian news media that suggestions that missiles struck the plane were "an absolute lie."THURSDAYOn Thursday, as Ukrainian investigators began to arrive in Tehran, Western officials were saying publicly that they had evidence that Iran had accidentally shot down the plane.A chorus of senior Iranian officials -- from the director of civil aviation to the chief government spokesman -- issued statement after statement rejecting the allegations, their claims amplified on state media.The suggestion that Iran would shoot down a passenger plane was a "Western plot," they said, "psychological warfare" aimed at weakening Iran just as it had exercised its military muscle against the U.S.But in private, government officials were alarmed and questioning whether there was any truth to the Western claims. Rouhani, a seasoned military strategist himself, and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, deflected phone calls from world leaders and foreign ministers seeking answers. Ignorant of what their own military had done, they had none to give.Domestically, public pressure was building for the government to address the allegations.Among the plane's passengers were some of Iran's best and brightest. They included prominent scientists and physicians, dozens of Iran's top young scholars and graduates of elite universities, and six gold and silver medal winners of international physics and math Olympiads.There were two newlywed couples who had traveled from Canada to Tehran for their weddings just days earlier. There were families and young children.Their relatives demanded answers. Iranian social media began to explode with emotional commentary, some accusing Iran of murdering its own citizens and others calling such allegations treason.Persian-language satellite channels operating from abroad, the main source of news for most Iranians, broadcast blanket coverage of the crash, including reports from Western governments that Iran had shot down the plane.Rouhani tried several times to call military commanders, officials said, but they did not return his calls. Members of his government called their contacts in the military and were told the allegations were false. Iran's civil aviation agency called military officials with similar results."Thursday was frantic," Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, said later in a news conference. "The government made back-to-back phone calls and contacted the armed forces asking what happened, and the answer to all the questions was that no missile had been fired."FRIDAYOn Friday morning, Rabiei issued a statement saying the allegation that Iran had shot down the plane was "a big lie."Several hours later, the nation's top military commanders called a private meeting and told Rouhani the truth.Rouhani was livid, according to officials close to him. He demanded that Iran immediately announce that it had made a tragic mistake and accept the consequences.The military officials pushed back, arguing that the fallout could destabilize the country.Rouhani threatened to resign.Canada, which had the most foreign citizens on board the plane, and the U.S., which as Boeing's home country was invited to investigate the crash, would eventually reveal their evidence, Rouhani said. The damage to Iran's reputation and the public trust in the government would create an enormous crisis at a time when Iran could not bear more pressure.As the standoff escalated, a member of Khamenei's inner circle who was in the meeting informed the supreme leader. The ayatollah sent a message back to the group, ordering the government to prepare a public statement acknowledging what had happened.Rouhani briefed a few senior members of his government. They were rattled.Rabiei, the government spokesman who had issued a denial just that morning, broke down. Abbas Abdi, a prominent critic of Iran's clerical establishment, said that when he spoke to Rabiei that evening, Rabiei was distraught and crying."Everything is a lie," Rabiei said, according to Abdi. "The whole thing is a lie. What should I do? My honor is gone."Abdi said the government's actions had gone "far beyond" just a lie."There was a systematic cover-up at the highest levels that makes it impossible to get out of this crisis," he said.Iran's National Security Council held an emergency meeting and drafted two statements, the first to be issued by the Joint Armed Forces followed by a second one from Rouhani.As they debated the wording, some suggested claiming that the U.S. or Israel may have contributed to the accident by jamming Iran's radars or hacking its communications networks.But the military commanders opposed it. Hajizadeh said the shame of human error paled compared with admitting his air defense system was vulnerable to hacking by the enemy.Iran's Civil Aviation Agency later said that it had found no evidence of jamming or hacking.SATURDAYAt 7 a.m., the military released a statement admitting that Iran had shot down the plane because of "human error."The bombshell revelation has not ended the division within the government. The Guard want to pin the blame on those involved in firing the missiles and be done with it, officials said. The missile operator and up to 10 others have been arrested but officials have not identified them or said whether they had been charged.Rouhani has demanded a broader accounting, including an investigation of the entire chain of command. The Guard's accepting responsibility, he said, is "the first step and needs to be completed with other steps." His spokesman and lawmakers have demanded to know why Rouhani was not immediately informed.Rouhani touched on that concern when he put out his statement an hour and 15 minutes later. The first line said that he had found out about the investigative committee's conclusion about cause of the crash "a few hours ago."It was a stunning admission, an acknowledgment that even the nation's highest elected official had been shut out from the truth and that as Iranians, and the world, turned to the government for answers, it had peddled lies."What we thought was news was a lie. What we thought was a lie was news," said Hesamedin Ashna, Rouhani's top adviser, on Twitter. "Why? Why? Beware of cover-ups and military rule."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company

    Sun, 26 Jan 2020 11:52:18 -0500
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