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  • Brexiteers May Tolerate Boris Johnson’s Deal

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.European leaders are getting ready to gather in Brussels to clinch a deal that will see the U.K. part ways with the European Union. There are signs an agreement can be reached but officials from both sides downplayed the chances of a deal tonight. There has been progress on the stubborn sticking point of the customs border with Ireland, but issues remain, particularly the levying of VAT, a sales tax.Democratic Unionist Party Leader Arlene Foster dismissed as “nonsense” a report that her party was close to dropping its opposition to Boris Johnson’s latest proposals. The prime minister will need the DUP’s support if he is to get a deal through Parliament.Must read: Will U.K. Parliament Back a Boris Johnson Brexit? We Do the MathKey DevelopmentsEU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier briefed EU27 diplomats in Brussels that agreement has yet to be reachedJohnson needs a deal approved this Saturday or he will be told to seek an extension; that will likely prompt a legal battle with the risk of a no-deal exit‘We Are Working,’ Barnier Says (7:50 p.m.)EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier briefed the bloc’s ambassadors in Brussels for 75 minutes on the state of the talks.He told diplomats the outstanding technical issue is how to collect Value Added Tax in Northern Ireland if the U.K. decides to have a different rate from the EU after Brexit, an official said. The EU is surprised that this has suddenly become the biggest sticking point, according to the official said.“We are working,” Barnier told reporters as he left the meeting. Talks are continuing.Legal Activist Threatens Another Challenge (7:30 p.m.)Jolyon Maughan, the lawyer who took on the government over suspending Parliament and won, is threatening to throw another legal spanner in the works.He says he plans to seek an injunction against the government to stop it putting the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement before Parliament. He claims it breaks a law passed last year that makes it illegal to put Northern Ireland in a separate customs union.If successful, he says Johnson will have to request an extension under the Benn Act.Barnier: Issues Remain Open in Talks (7 p.m.)Michel Barnier briefed EU government envoys in Brussels that a deal has yet to be reached, as some issues remain open, two diplomats familiar with the meeting said.The EU’s Brexit negotiator insisted he is optimistic a deal is still possible, one of the officials said. It’s still unclear which exactly are the open issues and which are the next steps. Talks will continue tonight, they said.Two U.K. officials also played down the chances of an agreement tonight, saying it is unlikely.Macron ‘Wants to Believe’ Deal Being Finalized (5:45 p.m.)Two of the big players in the Brexit saga were meeting in Toulouse, France: France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel. Their backing is critical to any deal and they are headed to the summit tomorrow.Their words were being mined for meaning and immediately were open to interpretation. Macron said he “wants to believe” in a Brexit deal for tonight, a positive push as talks are in their final hours. Some took his words to mean a deal is being finalized.“We have also prepared the EU council that will be held tomorrow and Friday, on topics such as budget, enlargement and of course Brexit, on which I want to believe that a deal is being finalized and that we will be able to see tomorrow,” he said during a joint press conference with Merkel.Merkel, for her part, remarked that “the news we’re hearing from Brussels could be worse” and "now we’re in the final meters.” She said she’ll keep her fingers crossed.The fact that neither leader was openly pessimistic is a sign things could be moving towards an agreement.Brexiteers May Tolerate Johnson Deal (4:45 p.m.)Boris Johnson briefed his cabinet and backbenchers from his Conservative Party on the progress of negotiations in Brussels in two short meetings, telling them work still needs to be done.Steve Baker, chairman of the ERG group of hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs, said “the deal sounds like it could well be tolerable” after Johnson spoke to rank-and-file lawmakers in an eight minute private meeting. “It’s not our job to be more unionist than the DUP. But we’re not going to delegate our decision,” he said in reference to the group’s concerns about customs arrangements for Northern Ireland.Johnson said “the summit is still shrouded in mist,” according to Baker’s account after he left the meeting. “Until there’s a legal text we’re not going to make a decision,” Baker added.Johnson had earlier told cabinet that there is a chance of a good deal but it’s not there yet, his spokesman James Slack told reporters.Legal Text Needed Tonight, EU Diplomat Says (4:30 p.m.)An EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels that if there’s no agreed legal text tonight, there’s no chance that a deal will be struck at the leaders’ summit on Thursday.What will happen in that case, whether it’s a new summit, will depend on the outcome of talks in the meantime, the diplomat said.All this is now a negotiation between London and Belfast, the diplomat said, adding that it’s a situation he finds “very boring.”DUP Criticizes Varadkar’s Consent Comments (4:05 p.m.)Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s comments on restoring the devolved assembly in Northern Ireland were an “unhelpful intervention” a DUP lawmaker said, in the latest sign of strained relations between the party and the Dublin government.Reviving the assembly in Stormont is “entirely a matter for the parties in Northern Ireland and the U.K. Government,” said Paul Givan, a DUP lawmaker in the currently inactive assembly. "The Irish Government has no role in this area."Earlier Varadkar said the assembly’s consent mechanism should be re-examined as part of efforts to revive the body (see 1:05 p.m.).Barnier’s Debrief Postponed Again (3:45 p.m.)In a sign that Brexit talks are going to the wire and that there’s still no conclusion, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has again delayed his debrief to ambassadors from the bloc’s 27 remaining governments.Initially scheduled for 2 p.m. Brussels time, it was pushed back to 5 p.m. and now to 7 p.m. The plan is for Barnier to give the final overview of whether there’s a deal or not to take into Thursday’s summit.But there’s still too much uncertainty to give a conclusive assessment, officials said. The two negotiating teams remain locked away in the European Commission and are in contact with the most important EU capitals, particularly Dublin and London, where Boris Johnson’s cabinet has just been briefed on the latest.Pound Whipsawed (2:05 p.m.)The currency market hasn’t been this twitchy over Brexit since the aftermath of the referendum that set off the process in 2016. For the pound, today is all about volatility: The currency has swung between gains and losses as traders track every headline out of Brussels, London and Belfast. On Wednesday, sterling touched a five-month high as an end to the Brexit saga appeared to be in sight -- before paring those gains.Johnson to Visit Brussels? (2 p.m)The prime minister may travel to Brussels this evening if a deal is reached this afternoon, according to EU officials.Irish PM to Brief Party Leaders Today (1:45 p.m.)Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will brief opposition party leaders later today on the state of the Brexit negotiations. That’s usually a sign of progress -- though he went on to tell lawmakers that a legal text had yet to be “stabilized.” In recent years, that sort of language has preceded the various accords that have been reached.DUP Accepts Latest Proposals on Consent: RTE (1:22 p.m.)Consent Needs to be Revisited, Irish PM Says (1:05 p.m.)In comments unlikely to calm the DUP, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly’s controversial consent mechanism should be re-examined as part of efforts to revive the body.Under current rules, a third of assembly members can effectively block a measure they don’t like, using the so-called petition of concern, which could theoretically allow the DUP to veto any measures designed to install a border in the Irish Sea as part of a Brexit deal.Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman today fired a warning over the issue, saying U.K. & EU negotiators “have no business interfering in the processes for consent as currently set out.”Speaking to lawmakers in Dublin, Varadkar said the device had been “used in a way that I don’t think was ever anticipated,” though any reform needs the assent of the region’s biggest parties.DUP’s Wilson Warns Over Consent (12:15 p.m.)DUP Brexit Spokesman Sammy Wilson says the Good Friday Agreement “requires cross community consent for all controversial issues” passing through Northern Ireland’s power-sharing Assembly.U.K. Wants N Ireland in Customs Territory (12 p.m.)Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay reiterated Johnson’s commitment to keeping Northern Ireland in the U.K. customs territory, but refused to be drawn on whether discussions in Brussels include customs checks between the province and the rest of the U.K.“It is essential that Northern Ireland is part of United Kingdom customs territory,” he said in a question and answer session with a panel of MPs. “Once we start to get into the details, that is an issue that is part of the negotiations.” He said “sensitivities” over negotiations with the EU meant he couldn’t talk further about the government’s plans.Barclay dodged a series of questions from the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, in which he was asked if the government would ensure “cross-community” consent for any agreement on the Irish border. That would effectively give a veto for the DUP, which Wilson told him would be in line with the agreement that ended violence in the province.“We have a clear commitment to find solutions compatible with the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” Barclay said.Second Summit Is Now Being Talked About (11:43 a.m.)One EU diplomat said that the deal seems to be falling apart, and that an extra summit close to the weekend is probably going to be needed. It’s not a scenario the U.K. side are willing to contemplate right now.Nevertheless, in Brussels it’s becoming a definite possibility because EU sees Johnson as legally bound to seek an extension. If he does, then an emergency summit become unavoidable from their point of view.One possibility is Oct. 28, a Monday, three days before the U.K. is scheduled to leave.Was EU Sounding Too Optimistic Last Night? (11:35 a.m.)A U.K. official said the tone coming out of the EU on the state of talks was too optimistic last night. By tonight, there will be a clearer picture of whether both sides have got a deal.There are bigger stumbling blocks than just the sales tax, specifically the future customs relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (and thus the EU), and how to handle Johnson’s plans to give the Northern Ireland Assembly a veto of over future regulatory alignment with the EU.Barclay on Extension Letter (11:20 a.m.)Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who is still answering questions from MPs in Parliament, says he’s “not aware” of any plan for the U.K. to send a second letter to the EU in the event of no deal being reached.That’s after suggestions Johnson could send one letter to the EU on Saturday requesting an extension to comply with the Benn Act, followed by another to cancel the first.On Oct. 4 Johnson’s lawyers promised a Scottish Court that he will obey the law and request an extension from the EU, while also arguing that there’s nothing to stop the prime minister continuing to say he intends to leave on Oct. 31Emergency Summit Looming? (11:15 a.m.)It’s now too late for the Brexit deal to be formally approved by leaders at their summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, an EU diplomat said. Leaders will want to wait for the House of Commons to vote on Saturday for any deal before they give a final yes, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. That could mean an emergency summit before the end of the month.Level Playing Field: a Key Sticking Point (11.10 a.m.)One of the main sticking points, according to two officials with the deliberations is the so-called level-playing field -- the commitment of the British government that it won’t undercut the EU in areas such as taxation, state subsidies and environmental standards.This is a thorny issue that falls mostly in Political Declaration on the future relations between the two sides, rather than the exit agreement itself. However, reaching a deal on one without the other is impossible, as the two documents are seen as a package.Barnier Optimistic, But Three Roadblocks Key (10:56 a.m.)Barnier told EU Commissioners that he is optimistic a deal can be sealed today, RTE’s Europe editor Tony Connelly tweeted. But he says three problems remain:VAT: Sales tax has emerged as a last-minute roadblockConsent: The DUP is pushing for a tighter Stormont lockThe level-playing field provisionDUP return to Downing Street (10:54 a.m.)Barclay Rejects ‘Technical Extension’ Delay (10:40 a.m.)Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was asked by MPs in Parliament if he would be happy for the U.K. to have a short, “technical” delay to the Oct. 31 exit day deadline to pass the legislation required for the country to leave the EU. “No,” Barclay replied. “It is important that we leave on the 31st October:”Second EU Summit Possible, Varadkar Says (10:35 a.m.)Another EU summit before the end of October is a “possibility” if it is needed to nail down a Brexit deal, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said. He said there is still time to get an agreement.Varadkar spoke to Johnson this morning and has been “in contact” with the European Commission, he said. While talks are making progress, some issues remain unresolved on the questions of how customs checks on goods crossing the EU-U.K. border will work, and the kind of say over the new arrangements that Northern Ireland’s politicians will be given.The Irish leader hopes a deal could be reached today, but “there is still more time” if not.U.K. Will Seek Extension if No Deal Struck (10:15 a.m.)U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told a parliamentary committee that Johnson will write a letter to the EU on Saturday if no deal has been agreed by then, in line with a new law. So far, Johnson has refused to say whether he would send the letter, determined to secure a deal.“I confirm the government will abide by what is set out in that letter,” Barclay told MPs.EU: Brexit Deal Impossible Unless U.K. Moves (10:01 a.m.)Brexit negotiations in Brussels have reached an impasse, with two EU officials saying that a deal is going to be impossible unless the U.K. government changes its position in the negotiations.The remaining issues cannot be resolved in the negotiating room unless Johnson’s government gives a new order to his team in Brussels to shift their red lines, one of the diplomats said.The EU believes Johnson is trying but struggling to get the DUP -- his Northern Irish allies -- to support the draft deal which has been under discussion in the talks in Brussels, the person said.DUP’s Wilson Warns Money Won’t Help (9:35 a.m.)Sammy Wilson, an MP for the Democratic Unionist Party, denied reports that DUP leader Arlene Foster discussed a cash payment for Northern Ireland with Johnson yesterday to help secure her support for the Brexit deal.“This is an issue of whether or not the union is weakened. If the union is weakened no amount of money will get us to accept the deal,” Wilson said in an interview.The party has previously said it would support a deal that didn’t put a border in the Irish Sea, treated Northern Ireland the same as rest of the U.K. in terms of customs arrangements, gave a veto to the Northern Irish assembly and avoided checks at the border.Conservatives Will Take Lead from DUP: Davis (9 a.m.)Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, a committed Brexit-backer, said that securing the support of the Democratic Unionist Party will be key to getting Conservative MPs to vote for any deal Johnson secures from Brussels.“Quite a lot of Tory MPs will take their line from the DUP,” Davis told BBC radio Wednesday. That’s despite the suggestion on Twitter of Tory MP Steve Baker late Tuesday that his group of pro-Brexit Tory MPs are “optimistic” they’ll be able to vote for a deal following a meeting with Johnson’s team.DUP Is Resisting a Deal, U.K. Official Says (8:30 a.m.)The Democratic Unionist Party is resisting the proposed divorce agreement and the U.K. side now thinks the chances of getting an agreement are low, according to a British official who spoke on condition of anonymity.If Johnson can get a legal text approved in Brussels, he will then need to persuade Britain’s Parliament to vote for it, and for that he wants the DUP on side.But the DUP is a “unionist” party, which means its members prize maintaining the economic and political unity of Northern Ireland with the rest of the U.K. above all else. And there are suggestions the deal Johnson is putting together will effectively split Northern Ireland from mainland Britain, with a new customs “border” for checking goods traveling between the two. That would be difficult for the DUP to swallow.Both the U.K. and the EU want to avoid the need for customs checks on goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. In the past the DUP and the U.K. government have refused to contemplate a solution that involves a customs border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.Lib Dems Demand Referendum on Any Deal (Earlier)Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said her party is pushing for a second referendum whatever deal Johnson brings back from Brussels. “We will back a referendum -- whether it’s on Boris Johnson’s deal, whether it’s on Theresa May’s deal -- because we think it’s the public that should be in charge,” Swinson told BBC radio on Wednesday.Her party has put down an amendment to government legislation for Tuesday calling for a referendum, although other attempts to force a second vote could come as soon as Saturday.Earlier:Brexit Talks Make Progress But Leave Johnson’s Key Allies UneasyCan Johnson Get a Deal Through Parliament? Silence Is Golden\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Jessica Shankleman, Thomas Penny, Tim Ross, Peter Flanagan, Maria Tadeo, Dara Doyle, Patrick Donahue, Helene Fouquet, Robert Hutton and Viktoria Dendrinou.To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Nikos Chrysoloras in Brussels at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Edward EvansFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:57:41 -0400
  • How the U.S. Military Will Carry Out a Hasty, Risky Withdrawal From Syria

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    President Donald Trump's decision -- made in the span of a week -- to withdraw about 1,000 American troops from northern Syria caught the Pentagon, and the forces on the ground, off guard.To carry out the "endless wars" since Sept. 11, 2001, which Trump has vowed to wrap up, the American military has perfected the ability to build complex logistics pipelines that can funnel everything from armored vehicles to satellite internet access to gym equipment directly to combat outposts throughout the Middle East.Now, American troops are making a hasty withdrawal from Syria -- under pressure from encroaching Turkish proxy forces, Russian aircraft and columns armored by the Syrian government. This means the Pentagon will have to disassemble combat bases and other infrastructure that were built to stay for a mission that was supposed to last, all while protecting the troops as they withdraw amid a chaotic battlefield.Where did U.S. troops operate before the Turkish offensive?Before the Turkish offensive, American troops, mostly Special Operations forces, operated in an archipelago of about a dozen bases and outposts across northeastern Syria, mostly living alongside their Syrian Kurdish partners. They were divided into two main headquarters, known by their cardinal directions, East and West.The outposts are often a mixture of blast-resistant walls known as Hesco barriers, rudimentary structures and all-weather tents. The large air base in the city of Kobani is replete with a small tent city and some container housing units.The western headquarters, known as Advanced Operational Base West, oversaw roughly half a dozen smaller outposts that covered cities like Manbij and Raqqa. Roughly 500 troops are dedicated to the area overseen by AOB West.The eastern headquarters, known as AOB East, is closer to the Iraqi border and helps monitor some of the roughly 500 troops in that area around the Euphrates River Valley, with several smaller outposts around Deir el-Zour and some near the Iraq-Syria border in towns like Bukamal and Hajin. The number of forces in the east, however, is fluid, as units frequently move between Syria and Iraq.Where are those troops moving now?As the troops withdraw, they first will collapse inward by abandoning the outposts closest to the line of advancing foreign troops, in this case the Turkish military and its ill-disciplined Syrian militia proxies, along with Russian and Syrian regime forces. That strategy was made clear in a video posted online Tuesday, showing a Russian journalist standing in an abandoned American outpost west of Manbij and closest to Syrian government troops.Col. Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the American-led coalition based in Baghdad, confirmed in a Tuesday message on Twitter, "We are out of Manbij."The troops are likely to be repositioned to Iraq or potentially to Jordan. Some may return to the United States, officials said.What routes will the troops use in exiting Syria?The western and eastern headquarters are likely to withdraw independently of each other. In the west, American forces will, according to American military officials, most likely leave through the Kobani airfield, known as the Kobani Landing Zone. That base, with its long dirt runaway, can support C-17 transport aircraft and has a large Air Force contingent of maintenance staff. In the east, those forces will most likely exit overland and into Iraq in convoys, with some traveling via helicopter airlift.Are there risks in the withdrawal?The risk of confrontation with the medley of different ground forces -- both state-led and proxy -- is undoubtedly higher than it was several weeks ago.Convoys moving through contested territory and aircraft making repeated landings all might contribute to an accidental confrontation or a staged attack, especially from any Islamic State leftovers that might want to take advantage of the sudden withdrawal.One of the biggest risks to the remaining American troops as they pull back will most likely be attacks from Turkish-backed Syrian militia called the Free Syrian Army, which has spearheaded the Turkish offensive in many places along the border. Those troops are supported by Turkish army artillery and mortar fire, and Turkish air force strikes.American officials say these Turkish-backed militia are less disciplined than regular Turkish soldiers, and deliberately or inadvertently have fired on retreating American troops. Another emerging threat comes from Islamic State fighters, who had gone underground after the defeat of the final shards of the terror group's caliphate, or religious state, in northern Syria earlier this year.The hasty, risky nature of the withdrawal might actually require that the number of American troops in Syria be increased, at least temporarily. The military's Central Command is preparing to send hundreds of additional American forces to help secure bases where American Special Forces have been operating with their Syrian Kurdish partners -- many of whom have now left to fight the Turks -- and safely evacuate those Americans in the coming weeks."We are repositioning additional forces in the region to assist with force protection as necessary," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday.In a sign of the concern over the safety of the remaining American troops in Syria, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke Monday with his Russian counterpart about the deteriorating security in the country's northeast.And last Friday, the American military logged an attempt to attack a Marine KC-130 transport aircraft landing in Kobani with "surface-to-air fire," according to military documents obtained by The New York Times. The aircraft discharged flares as a defensive measure. The flight was unharmed and continued its approach, landing at the airfield.Will any American troops stay in Syria?Yes, there are roughly 150 troops at al-Tanf, a small base in southern Syria near the Jordanian border. While billed as a Special Operations mission to train local forces and go after the Islamic State group, the base serves as a tollbooth of sorts for Iranian, Russian and Syrian forces in the region that have to navigate around its kilometers-wide defense bubble. The presence of American forces there gives the United States visibility on the movement and actions of those other military forces.On the Jordanian side of the border, the American military keeps a quick reaction force staged there, including extra troops and artillery, in case anything were to go awry at the al-Tanf base.The base also watches over a nearby refugee camp that is run by the United Nations.What U.S. combat equipment will be left behind?That is unclear. Some of the various bases' hard structures, tents, tables, gym equipment and larger construction machinery might be left behind. What won't be abandoned is anything sensitive, such as radios, weapons, armored vehicles and important documents.American military officials say the hastier the withdrawal, the more equipment will be left behind or have to be destroyed. Much depends on the security conditions on the ground.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:50:14 -0400
  • The Latest: House measure condemns Trump's Syria withdrawal

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    The House has overwhelmingly voted its bipartisan condemnation of President Donald Trump's withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria. Despite stark divisions over Democrats' Trump impeachment inquiry, Democrats and Republicans banded together Wednesday and approved a nonbinding resolution by 354-60 vote. The resolution states Congress' opposition to the troop pullback and says Turkey should cease its military action in Syria.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:48:12 -0400
  • Donald Trump accused of undermining US efforts to broker ceasefire between Turkey and Kurds

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    Donald Trump was accused of undermining his own diplomats when he appeared to endorse Turkey's offensive into Northern Syria and compared the Kurdish groups they claim to be fighting to Islamic State.  Speaking as Mike Pence, the US vice president, and Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, flew into Ankara for emergency talks to persuade Recep Tayyip Erdogan to halt his offensive, Mr Trump said Kurdish forces US troops had recently fought alongside were "no angels" "The PKK, which is a part of the Kurds, as you know, is probably worse at terror and more of a terrorist threat in many ways than ISIS," he said at the White House.  The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state that has claimed thousands of lives. It is classified as a terrorist organization by most Nato states.  Turkey says the YPG, the dominant Kurdish group in the Syrian Democratic Forces militia that fought alongside US troops to defeat Islamic State, is an extension of the PKK. It launched an offensive into Syria to crush the group after Mr Trump ordered US forces out of northern Syria last week.  The comments were greeted with disbelief by senior US officials.  Smoke plumes from fires set by Kurdish forces to reduce visibility for Turkish aircraft near the town of Tal Tamr Credit: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP Lindsey Graham, the republican senator for South Carolina and a Trump loyalist, described Mr Trump's comments as "a complete and utter national security disaster in the making." "The statements by President Trump about Turkey’s invasion being of no concern to us also completely undercut Vice President Pence and Sec. Pompeo’s ability to end the conflict," he wrote on Twitter.  The remarks followed a day of reverses to US credibility in the Middle East that saw Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly defy US calls to halt his offensive and agree to fly to Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin instead. In an address to Turkey's parliament later, he said: "There are some leaders who are trying to mediate... There has never been any such thing in the history of the Turkish republic as the state sitting at the same table with a terror organisation." Recep Tayyip Erdogan said only a Kurdish surrender would end Turkey's offensive in Syria Credit: Aytac Unal/ Anadolu "Our proposal is for the terrorists to lay down their arms, leave their equipment, destroy the traps they have created, and leave the safe zone we designated, as of tonight...If this is done, our Operation Peace Spring will end by itself." Heavy fighting between Kurdish and Turkish-backed forces continued in key border city of Ras al-Ain on Wednesday, and Kurdish officials said Turkey resumed shelling around the city of Derik.  The Rojava Information Centre, an information agency run by international volunteers in Kurdish-held areas of Syria, said regime forces were supporting Kurdish fighters and that Turkish aircraft had ceased flying in the area since Russian and Syrian jets appeared overhead.  Meanwhile authorities in neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan said 800 refugees had fled across the border. The United Nations estimates over 160,000 people have been displaced since the Turkish offensive began on October 9.  Mr Trump's withdrawal from Syria has upended the geo-political balance in the region, leaving Russia as the undisputed power-broker in Syria and poised to fill a power vacuum left by the US across the Middle East.  The formerly US-allied Kurdish leadership announced they had agreed to align with Russia and the Syrian government in a bid to halt the Turkish attack on Sunday night. Turkish-backed Syrian fighters fire toward Ras al-Ain, a key border town at the centre of the fighting Credit:  NAZEER AL-KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images Syrian government troops and Russian forces started patrols in areas abandoned by US forces on Tuesday evening.  On Wednesday they entered Kobani, the strategic border town where Kurdish and US forces first defeated Islamic State  in 2015. The Kremlin said Mr Erdogan accepted an invitation to Moscow in the coming days during a phone call with Mr Putin on Tuesday night.  The two presidents discussed the need to "prevent conflict between units of the Turkish army and Syrian government armed forces," it said in a readout posted on its website. It said Mr Putin also warned Mr Erdogan was it would be "unacceptable" to allow Isil prisoners held by the Kurds to exploit the chaos unfolding on the ground. Mr Trump defended his decision on Wednesday, saying: "I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant."

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:44:28 -0400
  • Sudanese rebel group suspends peace talks after attack

    A Sudanese rebel group said Wednesday it suspended peace talks with the transitional government, accusing the military of attacking and detaining people in a southern area under its control, an early blow to negotiations that had just begun with high expectations in South Sudan's capital, Juba. The Sudan Liberation Movement-North said it canceled Wednesday's scheduled round of direct talks after the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces set up a checkpoint and detained 16 people in South Kordofan Province earlier this week. The Rapid Support Forces are led by Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, a member of the Sudan's Sovereign Council, who also leads the government delegation to the Juba talks.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:39:10 -0400
  • Pound Pares Gain as EU, U.K. Downplay Prospect of Deal Wednesday

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    (Bloomberg) -- The pound fell from a five-month high as European Union and U.K. officials downplayed the prospects of a deal Wednesday night out of last-ditch Brexit negotiations in Brussels.There are signs an agreement can be reached, but a sticking point remains how to redraw a customs border with Ireland. EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier told EU envoys that talks will continue tonight, according to diplomats.Sterling touched the strongest since mid-May on Wednesday after surging the most since 2008 in the past four days as an end to the Brexit saga appeared to be in sight. The currency earlier swung between losses and gains as the Democratic Unionist Party denied reports it may support some of the latest proposals, an issue that has risked collapsing this week’s talks.The pound traded at $1.2833 as of about 2 p.m. in New York, after touching a five-month high of $1.2877.Time is running out to secure a Brexit deal before this week’s summit of European leaders, as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggles to win the support of the DUP.\--With assistance from Vassilis Karamanis.To contact the reporters on this story: Charlotte Ryan in London at cryan147@bloomberg.net;Mark Tannenbaum in New York at mtannen@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Dobson at pdobson2@bloomberg.net, ;Benjamin Purvis at bpurvis@bloomberg.net, Neil Chatterjee, William ShawFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:25:32 -0400
  • Senators Defy China Threat to Press Ahead With Bill on Hong Kong

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    (Bloomberg) -- Republican senators said Wednesday they want to move quickly on legislation to support pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong despite a threat of retaliation from China.“Hong Kong is a high priority for me,” GOP Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said. “We’re going to move on it as rapidly as we can.”No date has been set yet for a vote on the Senate version of a measure that passed the House Tuesday to subject the city’s special U.S. trading status to annual reviews and provides for sanctions against officials deemed responsible for undermining its “fundamental freedoms and autonomy.”Following the House vote, China’s foreign ministry issued a warning of unspecified “strong countermeasures” if the U.S. enacts that legislation and a package of other measures backing a pro-democracy movement that has rocked the former British colony for more than four months.There is broad backing in both parties in Congress to show support for the protesters and punish China for any crackdown. The White House declined to comment on whether President Donald Trump would sign the Hong Kong legislation, but there are enough votes in the House to override a veto and no significant opposition in the Senate.The next step will be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who’ll set the schedule for a vote, and he’s being pressed by his Republican colleagues.“I think we’re going to get it up on the floor here fairly soon,” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a China critic, told reporters.Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang warned American lawmakers to stop meddling in China’s internal affairs “before falling off the edge of the cliff,” without specifying how it would retaliate. The House action “fully exposes the shocking hypocrisy of some in the U.S. on human rights and democracy and their malicious intention to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability to contain China’s development,” Geng said.Both Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have so far prevented the international uproar over Hong Kong from scuttling their trade talks. The two sides went ahead with negotiations and reached some broad agreements last week, even though the House vote was widely expected at the time.“I don’t think this will undermine the prospect of signing a partial deal next month,” said Wang Huiyao, an adviser to China’s cabinet and founder of the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing. “The Hong Kong bill is not a done deal and there is still room for redemption.”A spokesman for the Hong Kong government “expressed regret” over the House action, which came hours before Chief Executive Carrie Lam addressed a raucous session of the Legislative Council. She barely managed a few words before pro-democracy lawmakers forced her to stop talking. She ended up delivering her annual policy address via video instead.While the pro-democracy bloc only comprises about a third of lawmakers, Wednesday’s display showed they have the ability to shut down debate on major economic initiatives. That spells even more trouble ahead for an economy sliding into recession as protests against Beijing’s grip over the city grow increasingly violent.China’s retaliation threat against the U.S. roiled markets during Asian trading, at one point wiping out a 0.8% rally in the regional equity benchmark.U.S. lawmakers have embraced the Hong Kong protesters’ cause as the yearlong trade war fuels American support for pushing back against China, and they have hosted some of the city’s activists on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. The National Basketball Association’s struggle to manage Chinese backlash against a Houston Rockets executive’s support for the movement has only focused wider attention on the debate.On Tuesday, the House passed H.Res. 543, a resolution reaffirming the relationship between the U.S. and Hong Kong, condemning Chinese interference in the region and voicing support for protesters. Lawmakers also passed the Protect Hong Kong Act, H.R. 4270, which would halt the export to Hong Kong of crowd-control devices such as tear gas and rubber bullets.Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and a sponsor of the main Hong Kong bill, dismissed the threats from Beijing.“Retaliation, that’s all they ever talk,” Smith told Bloomberg TV. “They try to browbeat and cower people, countries, presidents, prime ministers and the like all over in order to get them to back off. We believe that human rights are so elemental, and so in need of protection. And that’s why the students and the young people are out in the streets in Hong Kong virtually every day.”The House also adopted a resolution by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York and the panel’s top Republican, Michael McCaul of Texas, urging Canada to start U.S. extradition proceedings against Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou. The resolution, H.Res. 521, also calls for the release of two Canadians detained in China and due process for a third sentenced to death for drug smuggling.Republican Senators Rick Scott of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri visited Hong Kong over the two-week congressional recess that ended Tuesday. Hawley met with local pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and got into a back-and-forth with Lam over whether Hong Kong is a becoming a “police state.”The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ local branch in the city issued a separate statement warning the U.S. against “playing the Hong Kong card.” “They are lifting the stone only to drop it on their own feet,” it said.David Zweig, an emeritus professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China Consulting Ltd., noted that the U.S. legislation stopped short of altering the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which provides the city’s special trading status. So both the bill and any Chinese retaliation would have limited impact.“China needs to posture with a retaliation of some kind,” Zweig said. “But this is really a secondary issue as long as they keep the Hong Kong Policy Act intact. The House could have gone much further with the Hong Kong Policy Act. And they didn’t.”\--With assistance from Li Liu, Sofia Horta e Costa, Christopher Anstey, Shelly Banjo and Eric Lam.To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Flatley in Washington at dflatley1@bloomberg.net;Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.net;Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Bill FariesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:23:29 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-No final Brexit deal on Wednesday -BBC political editor

    There will not be a finalised Brexit deal on Wednesday, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reported, citing an unnamed UK government source. "Government source has just told me there will not be a deal tonight," she said in a tweet, with European Union sources saying that Britain and the EU were on the verge of a deal. The political editor of the Sun newspaper also said there would be no Brexit deal on Wednesday.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 14:10:16 -0400
  • Brexit deal seen close as EU-UK talks go down to wire

    Golocal247.com news

    The EU and Britain looked to be close to nailing down an elusive Brexit deal late Wednesday, just in time to be submitted to a key European summit. If a text emerges forming the basis of a legal treaty, Britain could be headed for a managed withdrawal from the European bloc it has been part of for nearly half a century. "I'd like to believe a deal is being finalised," French President Emmanuel Macron said alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel in southern France as negotiators in Brussels worked frantically.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:54:59 -0400
  • Iraqi leaders discuss situation in Syria with US official

    Iraqi President Barham Saleh discussed Wednesday the situation in northern Syria with a visiting U.S. official saying they focused on ways to prevent Islamic militants from taking advantage of the chaos to rise again. There have been concerns in Iraq that the Turkish military operation against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria might affect the protection of prisons there, where some 10,000 IS members are being held. IS once held large parts of Iraq and Syria, where the extremists declared a so-called caliphate in 2014.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:45:37 -0400
  • Trump urges Italy's leader to increase defense spending

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    President Donald Trump urged Italy on Wednesday to increase its defense spending as he welcomed Italian President Sergio Mattarella to the White House. Trump says Italy is only spending 1.1 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, short of a goal set by NATO allies of spending 2 percent.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:30:03 -0400
  • Trump official vows Syria pullout won't impact Iran

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    A senior US administration official insisted Wednesday that President Donald Trump's pullout from Syria will not change his hard line on Iran, a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad. In a Senate hearing, Trump's Democratic rivals said he had strengthened adversaries by pulling US troops who had permitted de facto autonomy in northeastern Syria by Kurdish fighters, a force that led the battle to crush Islamic State extremists. Faced with a Turkish incursion, the Kurds asked Assad's regime to return to the northeast of the war-battered country for the first time in years, with Russia patroling in hopes of keeping the two sides apart.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:19:56 -0400
  • Could Klobuchar or Buttigieg be the best hope for centrist Democrats?

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    Klobuchar and especially Buttigieg proved more adept than Biden at making a coherent case for Democratic moderationThe American presidential campaign marathon is a grueling and seemingly endless experience, for candidates and voters alike. Already it seems to have gone on for ever and yet we’re still more than a year away from the election. But the value of this protracted ordeal is that it does make the candidates stronger and better campaigners. And by the time this fourth official Democratic debate had concluded, there was a glimmer of clarity as to how the race is likely to sort itself out.The big takeaway is that while many Americans still consider former vice president Joe Biden to be the frontrunner — and he’s still leading in some polls — the candidates themselves now see Elizabeth Warren at the head of the pack. That was reflected in several of them launching salvoes against her for the first time, which in turn gave her the most opportunities to respond and thus more speaking time than any other candidate.Warren handled the attacks well for the most part. She looked evasive at the start of the debate when she refused to acknowledge that her Medicare for All plan would raise taxes for middle-class voters, saying only that their overall costs would go down. But for the rest of the time she projected a front-runner’s loftiness, shrugging off the barbs of her rivals and focusing on making a case against Donald Trump and the capitalist status quo. She even reprised her 2011 speech about how wealthy people in America got rich in part because of government services paid for by the rest of society – an argument that then-president Barack Obama garbled the following year as, “You didn’t build that.” Warren didn’t sparkle in this debate as she has in the past, but neither did she stumble in any important respects.Bernie Sanders also had a successful performance, in part simply because he appeared undiminished by his recent heart attack. As in previous debates, he offered up red-meat socialist rhetoric about the need for a revolution to unrig the capitalist system, and also called for breaking up large media and agribusiness companies as well as tech companies such as Amazon. But he came across as less abrasive than in some past debates and received warm applause for his thanks to all who reached out to him during his hospitalization.Biden had his best debate so far, largely because he was out of the line of fire and for the first time had a largely gaffe-free performance. He didn’t offer a detailed defense of his son’s business dealings in Ukraine, but did forcefully maintain that neither he nor his son had done anything wrong. More importantly, for the first time he actually managed to make an affirmative case for his candidacy. He touted his age and experience as critical components of wise presidential leadership, boasted that he had more substantive legislative accomplishments and persuasive ability than all the other candidates, vowed to restore middle-class prosperity, and dismissed Warren’s and Sanders’ plans as impractical and vague.The sharpest criticism of Warren-Sanders progressivism, however, came from Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. Klobuchar, despite her Minnesota-nice affect, severely rebuked Warren’s often-repeated claim that anyone who disagrees with her plans is gutless and/or retailing Republican talking points, and also went after Andrew Yang for seeming to characterize Putin’s Russia and the US as morally equivalent. Buttigieg, too, hit Warren and Sanders for taking away Americans’ freedom of choice in health insurance and also had a sharp exchange with Tulsi Gabbard, calling her “dead wrong” for wanting US troops to leave Syria.Klobuchar and especially Buttigieg proved more adept than Biden at making a coherent case for Democratic moderation — meaning not Hillary Clinton-style neoliberalism so much as a concern for pragmatism, social cohesion, US world leadership, and at least some measure of bipartisanship. If Biden continues to sink in the polls, they have a chance to rise to top-tier status.None of the other candidates appear to have had the kind of breakout performance they needed, and the launch of the House impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump (which all the candidates supported) doesn’t seem to have changed the basic dynamic of the contest. So the rest of the campaign is likely to boil down to whether Biden, Buttigieg or Klobuchar will emerge as the top moderate candidate; whether Warren or Sanders will emerge as the progressive candidate; and who then ultimately will become the nominee. But it’s likely to be a long time indeed before any of these questions are answered definitively.• Geoffrey Kabaservice is the director of political studies at the Niskanen Center in Washington, DC

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:19:37 -0400
  • Three US diplomats held near Russian test site where mystery blast killed five

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    * US embassy says trio had proper paperwork to travel * August explosion causes radiation levels to surgeA Russian navy official works on the Akula nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine at the Severodvinsk site in July. The August explosion there killed at least five people. Photograph: Sergei Bobylev/TassThree American diplomats were briefly detained in Russia near the military test site where a mysterious explosion released radiation in August, several Russia state news agencies have reported.The US embassy has confirmed the incident, the Interfax news service reported. But it said the three diplomats had filed the proper paperwork to travel in the area.The report comes just days after the United States said the accident was caused by a nuclear reaction when Russia tried to retrieve a nuclear-powered cruise missile from the Barents Sea.The diplomats were detained on Monday on a train in the city of Severodvinsk, near where Russian authorities said they had been testing a rocket engine with a nuclear component before the accident took place.The diplomats, who have been identified by Interfax as military attaches, were later released, but could face administrative charges for traveling in a restricted military area, agencies reported.The blast at the military test site in August killed at least five people and caused panic after radiation levels jumped to 16 times their normal levels in nearby Severodvinsk.Russian authorities have given little information about the accident. But a US diplomat this week said that the accident took place when Russia attempted to retrieve a nuclear-powered cruise missile called Burevestnik from the Barents Sea.“The United States has determined that the explosion near Nyonoksa was the result of a nuclear reaction that occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile,” Thomas DiNanno, the diplomat, said during a speech at the UN.Russia’s plans for a nuclear-powered cruise missile that could in theory fly indefinitely were first revealed by Vladimir Putin during a speech last year. The missile is still undergoing testing, and some weapons experts doubt if it can ever be made operable.Russia’s military was attempting to retrieve the missile from another failed 2017 test when the accident took place.It was not immediately clear whether the diplomats were traveling to or from Nyonoksa, the village near the military testing site, when they were detained. But train timetables would indicate they were returning from the village when they were arrested close to 6pm in Severodvinsk.Russia has maintained a shroud of secrecy around the incident, closing off waters in the White Sea to foreign ships to prevent them from collecting information about the explosion.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:18:38 -0400
  • UN labor body: Qatar pledges to end 'kafala' employment laws

    The energy-rich nation of Qatar is pledging to fully eliminate a labor system that ties foreign workers to their employer and requires them to have their company's permission to leave the country. The ILO also says Doha also is considering a minimum wage. Qatar, whose citizens enjoy one of the world's highest per-capita incomes due to its natural gas reserves, partially ended the "kafala" system in 2018.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:13:36 -0400
  • Foreigners in S.Africa appeal to be relocated after attacks

    Golocal247.com news

    Hundreds of foreign nationals on Wednesday took to the streets of Cape Town, demanding to be relocated from South Africa after camping at the UN refugee agency offices for a week. The foreigners, many of whom described themselves as asylum-seekers, say they no longer feel safe in South Africa after a surge of xenophobic attacks last month. Many of the protesters have been camping at the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town since October 9, vowing not to leave the premises until the agency addressed their concerns.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:08:48 -0400
  • The news from the Brexit talks could be worse, Merkel says

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was slightly more optimistic that a deal could be reached on Britain's planned exit from the European Union given the news she had heard from Brexit negotiations in recent days. "The news we are hearing from Brussels could be worse," she said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron after a joint session of the two countries' cabinets in Toulouse on Wednesday. "I believe slightly more in the possibility of an exit deal being achieved based on what I have heard in recent days," she added, adding that she was waiting to see what the EU's chief negotiator and his team would come up with in talks with London.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:04:42 -0400
  • The Latest: Observers says Syrian troops enter border town

    Golocal247.com news

    A resident and a war monitor say Syrian troops have entered the northern town of Kobani, where Kurdish and U.S. forces first defeated Islamic State group militants together 4 years ago. Kobani, on the border with Turkey, was one of the first Syrian towns to fall to IS militants in 2014. The U.S.-led coalition supported Kurdish fighters with an intensive air campaign and supplies from the air, cementing the cooperation between the two for years to come.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:03:38 -0400
  • Trump: US has no stake in Turkey's fight in northern Syria

    Golocal247.com news

    President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that Turkey's attacks in Syria against Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American soldiers are not a U.S. concern. Dismissing outrage among even some of his staunchest supporters, Trump said the U.S. has no stake in protecting the Kurds, and he brushed off suggestions that the U.S. military exit has created a new opening for Russia in Syria.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 12:54:00 -0400
  • Pakistan says talks with Riyadh, Tehran 'encouraging'

    Golocal247.com news

    Pakistan's foreign minister said Tuesday that Prime Minister Imran Khan's talks with Tehran and Riyadh had been "encouraging" after visits to try to defuse rising tensions in the Gulf. Khan travelled to Iran and Saudi Arabia as a "facilitator" between the arch-rivals, following a series of attacks on oil infrastructure and tankers in recent months that have raised fears of war. "Our talks have been encouraging and the response that we got in the two countries was beyond our expectation," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a press conference in Islamabad after Khan's visit to Riyadh.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 12:51:07 -0400
  • Syrian forces enter key border town, blocking Turkish plans

    Golocal247.com news

    Syrian forces on Wednesday night rolled into the strategic border town of Kobani, blocking one path for the Turkish military to establish a "safe zone" free of Syrian Kurdish fighters along the frontier as part of its week-old offensive. The seizure of Kobani by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad also pointed to a dramatic shift in northeastern Syria: The town was where the United States military and Kurdish fighters first united to defeat the Islamic State group four years ago and holds powerful symbolism for Syrian Kurds and their ambitions of self-rule.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 15:06:09 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Trump says likely won't sign China trade deal until he meets with Xi

    U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he likely would not sign any trade deal with China until he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming APEC Forum in Chile. Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said the partial trade deal announced last week was in the process of being formalized. Last week, Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He announced the first phase of a deal to end the trade war between Beijing and Washington but did not offer many details.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 12:05:37 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson says almost there on Brexit deal - lawmakers

    Golocal247.com news

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a meeting of Conservative lawmakers the European Union and Britain were almost there on a Brexit deal but that the peak of the mountain was still partly shrouded in cloud, sources in the room told Reuters. "There was a sense of relief in the room that we are almost there, it has been a long slog," a Conservative lawmaker told Reuters on condition of anonymity. According to another lawmaker, Johnson said: "We’re not there yet.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:58:07 -0400
  • Paris says Iran has detained 2nd French researcher

    Iran has been holding a second French researcher in custody for months, France's foreign ministry said Wednesday, denouncing the detention as "unacceptable" and demanding his release. The confirmation that Roland Marchal is being held in Iran — as well as his fellow-academic Fariba Adelkhah — comes at a time of high tensions and diplomatic maneuvering in the Persian Gulf. French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to serve as a mediator between Tehran and Washington over Iran's nuclear program.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:53:08 -0400
  • Turkish patriotism on display amid Syria operation

    Golocal247.com news

    National soccer team players give military salutes during international matches, Turkish flags flutter from balconies and storefronts, songs extolling the glory days of the Ottoman Empire blare from a border town's loudspeakers, punctuated by the occasional boom of outgoing artillery. Since Turkey announced its incursion into neighboring Syria to clear out Kurdish fighters last week, patriotic sentiment has run high — as has bewilderment and anger at the overwhelmingly negative international reaction to Ankara's actions. "At times of this kind of Turkish operation, we as Turkish people feel prouder about our nation," said Cuma Gunay, a 47-year-old supermarket owner in the town of Akcakale, which sits on the border with Syria.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:44:24 -0400
  • GBP/USD: DUP-Related Drop May Precede A Brexit Deal Rally

    GBP/USD has been struggling as the DUP opposes the upcoming Brexit deal. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is ramping up efforts to convince the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to support the upcoming Brexit deal.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:41:43 -0400
  • UK PM Johnson sees chance of Brexit deal, not there yet - spokesman

    Golocal247.com news

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his cabinet of top ministers that there was a chance of agreeing a new Brexit deal with the European Union but the deal was not done yet, his spokesman said on Wednesday. The spokesman said that there remained outstanding issues in agreeing the deal, adding that talks with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party were ongoing. "The prime minister gave an update to cabinet on the progress in the ongoing Brexit talks, he said there was a chance of securing a good deal but we are not there yet, and there remain outstanding issues," the spokesman said.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:40:25 -0400
  • Pakistan says Saudis, Iran willing to pursue diplomacy

    Golocal247.com news

    Pakistan's foreign minister says Iran and Saudi Arabia have indicated a willingness to pursue diplomacy to end their disputes after Pakistan's prime minister traveled to both countries to try and ease tensions. Tensions between the rival Middle Eastern countries escalated following last month's attack on the Saudi oil industry. Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Wednesday that both the Saudi and Iranian leadership indicated a willingness to talk after meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who traveled to Iran on Sunday and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:29:43 -0400
  • VW Freeze on Turkish Plant Sparks Balkan Contest to Host Site

    (Bloomberg) -- Volkswagen AG’s decision to put its Turkish investment on ice has touched off a new round of contest among Balkan nations vying to host the 1.3 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) plant.Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are hoping that Volkswagen returns to its earlier shortlist of sites, which featured the Balkan nations and North Africa. The investment would be one of the biggest by a carmaker in any of the three countries, which have long struggled to combat corruption and improve crumbling infrastructure.“We’ve covered all requirements by the investor and we’ve offered more than that,” InvestBulgaria Agency CEO Stamen Yanev said by phone on Wednesday. “We’re still standing well as a factor of stability in the region, as a loyal partner and we’re awaiting the final decision.”Volkswagen on Tuesday delayed a decision on its auto factory in Turkey after the country’s military action in northern Syria prompted an international outcry. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the leaders calling for an immediate end to the operation, alongside European Union-wide comments condemning the offensive.Volkswagen declined to comment, saying that it is currently evaluating its options and will comment once it makes a decision.The world’s biggest carmaker has struggled to compete with Asian rivals because of high costs at its factories in western Europe, which has prompted its foray to the continent’s east. Volkswagen has production facilities across the region, though some under different brands, in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina.The three Balkan nations are banking on still-available skilled workforce, and relative stability versus a now-turbulent Turkey, according to officials.Serbia has also put itself out as a candidate. An investment by VW would “help stabilize the whole region,” along with the benefits for the carmaker as the area still has qualified labor for the industry, Marko Cadez, head of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce said by phone. Serbia is outside the EU so unlike Bulgaria and Romania, its workers don’t have access to jobs in member countries.\--With assistance from Andrea Dudik and Siddharth Philip.To contact the reporters on this story: Slav Okov in Sofia at sokov@bloomberg.net;Misha Savic in Belgrade at msavic2@bloomberg.net;Andra Timu in Bucharest at atimu@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Irina Vilcu at isavu@bloomberg.net, Balazs Penz, Tara PatelFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 11:21:49 -0400
  • Will U.K. Parliament Back a Boris Johnson Brexit? We Do the Math

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- Even if Boris Johnson can strike a Brexit deal with the European Union, does he have the numbers to get it past Parliament?That hurdle tripped up his predecessor, Theresa May. While British negotiators haggled with their European Union counterparts this week, trying to hammer out an agreement, another set of talks took place in London. Members of Parliament have been going into Johnson’s office to discuss whether they can support him.In charge of wooing MPs is Johnson’s political secretary, Danny Kruger, who has been speaking not just to Conservatives but to opposition lawmakers who might be tempted to support a deal. The opposite of his more famous and abrasive colleague Dominic Cummings, Kruger is a gentle and thoughtful former political speech-writer who has set up two charities to help people on the margins of society.But can it be done? Here’s how the numbers stack up.Target: 320Once non-voting MPs are accounted for, Johnson needs 320 MPs on his side to win any vote in the House of Commons.Baseline: 259The last time Theresa May tried to get her deal through, in March, she had the support of 279 Conservatives. They’re mostly likely to back a Johnson deal too, but there are some problems.Johnson expelled a group of MPs from the party in September after they backed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. They were joined by Amber Rudd, who resigned in sympathy. Also out of the party is Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives earlier this year in frustration at the Brexit deadlock.As a result there are question marks against 19 former Tories who previously backed May’s deal. On top of that number, one deal-backing Conservative, Chris Davies, lost his seat to a Liberal Democrat in a recall election. That leaves Johnson 61 votes short. Where can he go?‘Gaukeward Squad’: 19The expelled Tories, who take their name from former Justice Secretary David Gauke, are temperamentally loyalists -- some had never voted against their party before September. Many of them are looking for a way back in. Given that their objection to Johnson’s strategy was the fear he was pursuing a no-deal divorce, they may be happy to get back into line if he reaches an agreement.But it’s not certain. Gauke has questioned whether Johnson’s promises can be trusted, while former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has warned of the economic dangers of not having a close relationship with the EU. Several of them, including Antoinette Sandbach, have suggested the U.K. needs to hold another referendum.Johnson would be doing very well if he got all of them on side.Democratic Unionist Party: 10Johnson has worked hard to try to keep Northern Ireland’s DUP engaged, spending 90 minutes talking to them on Tuesday evening and meeting them again on Wednesday. They have deep reservations about anything that creates any kind of border between Britain and Northern Ireland. But they also fear a no-deal Brexit, or Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister. Backing Johnson’s deal might conceivably be the least-worst option.The DUP are the big prize, because they would unlock...The Spartans: 28The self-titled “Spartans” are Conservative MPs who refused to vote for May’s deal. They chose their name to recall the fearsome Ancient Greek warriors who held off a numerically superior Persian force at the Battle of Thermopylae.When Johnson became prime minister, the Spartans were adamant they opposed any but the most minimal Brexit agreement. But in recent weeks they have begun to see the virtues of compromise. This is the result of the Benn Act, legislation that aims to prevent the U.K. leaving on Oct. 31 unless Johnson has reached a deal. It’s made the Spartans fear losing Brexit altogether.The leader of the Spartans, Steve Baker, said on Tuesday he was optimistic Johnson could reach a “tolerable” deal. But another, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, was more critical. If the DUP are on board, most of the Spartans will fall into line. But even without the DUP, many are desperate to get Brexit over the line.Two Spartans, at least, are fairly sure to back a deal: Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers are both in Johnson’s Cabinet.Labour: 21May pinned her hopes on winning the support of a significant minority of MPs from the opposition Labour Party who believe the 2016 referendum result must be honored.She struggled to get more than five to vote with her, but 15 who didn’t back her last time joined some who did in signing a letter this month urging the EU to do a deal. That might imply a commitment to actually vote for such an agreement. There’s also Kate Hoey, a fierce supporter of Brexit, who’s likely to vote the same way as the Spartans.Against that is the fear of retribution from their party if they do so. Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team sense that defeating Johnson’s deal is a key step on their route to beating him at an election. Others in the party see defeating a deal as essential to securing another referendum.Any Labour MP voting with the government risks expulsion, though a handful are retiring at the next election anyway so might not see that as an effective threat.Independents: 5Four independent MPs backed May’s deal in March. A fifth, John Woodcock, might also be tempted.Other MPs: 2Two possible supporters defy categorization. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who is stepping down at the next election, represents a seat that voted to leave the EU and has been critical of his party’s anti-Brexit stance. And Jo Johnson, brother of the prime minister, voted against the deal in March, agreed to join his brother’s Cabinet, then resigned. Both could potentially back a deal to settle the issue.The Risks?This tally gives Johnson a pool of 85 votes from which to find the 61 he needs. It’s tight, but feasible. There is a question, however, of whether he might lose some support, for example among those Tories who voted for a deal in March and regretted doing so afterward.There’s also another intriguing possibility. When Theresa May was prime minister, she said a Brexit deal that split Northern Ireland from Great Britain was one that no prime minister could accept. Now she’s a former prime minister and if that’s the path Johnson takes, could she live with it?She’ll almost certainly stay loyal, but then Johnson did make her life very difficult, so it’s hard to be sure.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Adam BlenfordFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 10:59:05 -0400
  • Trump says likely won't sign China trade deal until he meets with Xi

    Golocal247.com news

    U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he likely would not sign any trade deal with China until he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming APEC Forum in Chile. Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said the partial trade deal announced last week was in the process of being formalized. Last week, Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He announced the first phase of a deal to end the trade war between Beijing and Washington but did not offer many details.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 10:36:50 -0400
  • Turkish invasion sparks NATO crisis but eviction is unlikely

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    Turkey's invasion of northern Syria — along with the criticism and threats of sanctions brandished by fellow NATO members at Ankara over the offensive — is close to sparking a crisis at the world's biggest military alliance. From the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 to France leaving its military command structure in 1967 — which forced the alliance to move its headquarters to Brussels in Belgium — to the deep split among allies over the Iraq war in 2003, NATO bonds have been tested. Beyond that, Turkey is of great strategic importance to NATO.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 09:26:36 -0400
  • China Threatens to Retaliate If U.S. Enacts Hong Kong Bill

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    (Bloomberg) -- Terms of Trade is a daily newsletter that untangles a world embroiled in trade wars. Sign up here. China threatened unspecified “strong countermeasures” if the U.S. Congress enacts legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters, in a sign of the deepening strain between the world’s two largest economies as they attempt to seal a trade deal.China’s foreign ministry issued the warning Wednesday after the U.S. House passed a package of measures backing a pro-democracy movement that has rocked the former British colony for more than four months. Among them was the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which subjects the city’s special U.S. trading status to annual reviews and provides for sanctions against officials deemed responsible for undermining its “fundamental freedoms and autonomy.”QuickTake: How the U.S. Congress Is Riling China on Hong KongWhile the legislation must also pass the U.S. Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump to become law, it already has strong bipartisan support in the Republican-run upper chamber. The Hong Kong measures were passed by the Democrat-controlled House by unanimous voice votes Tuesday.Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang warned American lawmakers to stop meddling in China’s internal affairs “before falling off the edge of the cliff,” without specifying how it would retaliate. The House action “fully exposes the shocking hypocrisy of some in the U.S. on human rights and democracy and their malicious intention to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability to contain China’s development,” Geng said.Both Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have so far prevented the international uproar over Hong Kong from scuttling their trade talks. The two sides went ahead with negotiations and reached some broad agreements last week, even though the House vote was widely expected at the time.“I don’t think this will undermine the prospect of signing a partial deal next month,” said Wang Huiyao, an adviser to China’s cabinet and founder of the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing. “The Hong Kong bill is not a done deal and there is still room for redemption.”A spokesman for the Hong Kong government “expressed regret” over the House action, which came hours before Chief Executive Carrie Lam addressed a raucous session of the Legislative Council. She barely managed a few words before pro-democracy lawmakers forced her to stop talking. She ended up delivering her annual policy address via video instead.While the pro-democracy bloc only comprises about a third of lawmakers, Wednesday’s display showed they have the ability to shut down debate on major economic initiatives. That spells even more trouble ahead for an economy sliding into recession as protests against Beijing’s grip over the city grow increasingly violent.China’s retaliation threat against the U.S. roiled markets during Asian trading, at one point wiping out a 0.8% rally in the regional equity benchmark.U.S. lawmakers have embraced the Hong Kong protesters’ cause as the yearlong trade war fuels American support for pushing back against China, and they have hosted some of the city’s activists on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. The National Basketball Association’s struggle to manage Chinese backlash against a Houston Rockets executive’s support for the movement has only focused wider attention on the debate.On Tuesday, the House passed H.Res. 543, a resolution reaffirming the relationship between the U.S. and Hong Kong, condemning Chinese interference in the region and voicing support for protesters. Lawmakers also passed the Protect Hong Kong Act, H.R. 4270, which would halt the export to Hong Kong of crowd-control devices such as tear gas and rubber bullets.Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican and a sponsor of the main Hong Kong bill, predicted that the Senate would pass the legislation and dismissed the threats from Beijing.“Retaliation, that’s all they ever talk,” Smith told Bloomberg TV. “They try to browbeat and cower people, countries, presidents, prime ministers and the like all over in order to get them to back off. We believe that human rights are so elemental, and so in need of protection. And that’s why the students and the young people are out in the streets in Hong Kong virtually every day.”In addition, the House adopted a resolution by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York and the panel’s top Republican, Michael McCaul of Texas, urging Canada to start U.S. extradition proceedings against Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou. The resolution, H.Res. 521, also calls for the release of two Canadians detained in China and due process for a third sentenced to death for drug smuggling.Republican Senators Rick Scott of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri visited Hong Kong over the two-week congressional recess that ended Tuesday. Hawley met with local pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and got into a back-and-forth with Lam over whether Hong Kong is a becoming a “police state.”The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ local branch in the city issued a separate statement warning the U.S. against “playing the Hong Kong card.” “They are lifting the stone only to drop it on their own feet,” it said.David Zweig, an emeritus professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China Consulting Ltd., noted that the U.S. legislation stopped short of altering the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which provides the city’s special trading status. So both the bill and any Chinese retaliation would have limited impact.“China needs to posture with a retaliation of some kind,” Zweig said. “But this is really a secondary issue as long as they keep the Hong Kong Policy Act intact. The House could have gone much further with the Hong Kong Policy Act. And they didn’t.”(Updates with legislative disruption in seventh paragraph)\--With assistance from Li Liu, Sofia Horta e Costa, Christopher Anstey, Anna Edgerton, Shelly Banjo and Eric Lam.To contact the reporters on this story: Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at imarlow1@bloomberg.net;Daniel Flatley in Washington at dflatley1@bloomberg.net;Dandan Li in Beijing at dli395@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, ;Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 09:23:16 -0400
  • Botswana Sees Trade With U.K. Continuing Unhindered After Brexit

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    (Bloomberg) -- Botswana, the world’s second-biggest diamond producer, expects its trade with the U.K. to continue unhindered after Brexit.The Southern African Customs Union, which comprises Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini, along with Mozambique last month agreed on a deal with the U.K. to govern trade should it leave the European Union at the end of the month. The deal mirrors the terms SACU currently has with the EU.“We have worked quite hard on ensuring there is no trade disruption,” Botswana’s Investment, Trade and Industry Minister Joy Kenewendo, who traveled to London last week to chair talks on concluding the accord, said in a phone interview from Gaborone, the capital. “We have really tried to cover all the possible bases.”British and European Union officials are trying to thrash out a Brexit deal as the U.K. prepares to withdraw from the economic bloc on Oct. 31, more than three years after Britons voted on the pull-out in a referendum.Opportunity KnocksBesides the trade accord, a memorandum of understanding guarantees the SACU members and Mozambique access to the U.K. market, while the protracted process of certifying their goods is under way, according to Kenewendo.“We are seeing opportunities that will come from having two markets now -- in the U.K. and with the EU,” she said.The minister also used her London visit to drum up foreign investment in Botswana. That’s been a key focus of President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who is standing for election this month and has been trying to reduce the nation’s reliance on diamonds and create jobs for the almost one in five workers who are unemployed.The government wants more of its minerals to be processed locally, and is encouraging investment in the manufacturing, agro-processing and services industries by offering tax breaks. Its cause has been aided by the fact that Botswana consistently ranks as one of Africa’s best-governed nations and has the continent’s highest credit rating at Moody’s Investors Service.“One of the challenges we have had is really low brand recognition and we are working on that,” Kenewendo said. “When you talk about peace, when you talk about good governance, when you talk about safety and security, all those fundamentals are in place.”Other highlights from the interview:The government is accelerating the process of identifying state companies that can be privatizedPlans to sell part of the national airline have attracted a lot of interestQatar Airways QCSC intends to start flights to Botswana; Kenya Airways Plc may do likewiseThe African Continental Free Trade Agreement that came into effect in May should work to Botswana’s advantage, giving it broader access to markets and enabling it to attract companies that want to expand across the continent.To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net, Hilton ShoneFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 09:11:33 -0400
  • Jordan calls on Israel to release woman on hunger strike

    Jordan is calling on Israel to release a Jordanian woman detained for over a month without trial on security charges. Heba al-Labadi's attorney said Wednesday that she was arrested Aug. 20 at the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has been on a hunger strike since Sept. 26. Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency says she is detained "because of suspicion of her involvement in serious security violations," without elaborating.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 09:00:05 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Policy shift anticipated as North Korea's Kim rides white horse on sacred mountain

    Aides to Kim Jong Un are convinced the North Korean leader plans "a great operation", state media said on Wednesday in a report that included lavish descriptions and images of the leader riding a white horse up North Korea's most sacred mountain. In the photos released by state media, Kim is seen riding on a large white horse through snowy fields and woods on Mt Paektu, the spiritual homeland of the Kim dynasty, along with his younger sister and other aides.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:49:14 -0400
  • AP Analysis: Gulf Arab states worry after US Syria pullout

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    For decades considered a U.S. national security priority, the Persian Gulf remains home to tens of thousands of American troops spread across sprawling bases protecting crucial routes for global energy supplies. Countries across the Persian Gulf wonder what they should take away from President Donald Trump's withdrawal of American forces from Syria after apparently acquiescing to Turkey's invasion of Kurdish territory.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:47:37 -0400
  • N.Ireland's DUP dismisses report on backing Brexit consent proposals

    The leader of the DUP, a small Northern Irish party backing Britain's minority government, dismissed a report on Wednesday that it had accepted the latest proposals on the role the region would play in how Northern Ireland is treated after Brexit. Needs to be a sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support," Arlene Foster said on Twitter, shortly after the report on Twitter by Tony Connelly, Europe Editor with Irish national broadcaster RTE. Connelly quoted two senior EU sources as saying the main stumbling block to a Brexit deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union had been removed with the DUP backing the latest proposals on consent for Northern Ireland.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:35:29 -0400
  • The daily business briefing: October 16, 2019

    1.China harshly criticized the U.S. House of Representatives for passing a bill seeking to allow sanctions against anyone who harms Hong Kong's autonomy. China's state news agency Xinhua called the House vote "arrogant and dangerous." Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China would respond with strong measures, accusing the U.S. lawmakers of "sinister intentions to undermine Hong Kong's prosperity and stability and contain China's development." The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which the House approved unanimously on Tuesday, requires the U.S. to review annually Hong Kong's special trade status, which treats the semi-autonomous Chinese territory as a separate entity from mainland China. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had to deliver a key policy speech to lawmakers via video after protesters interrupted her. [The Washington Post, The Guardian] 2.MGM Resorts International on Tuesday announced that it planned to sell its two Las Vegas resorts — Bellagio and Circus Circus — separately in deals worth about $5 billion. Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust will acquire the Bellagio for $4.25 billion in a sale-leaseback deal with MGM. An affiliate of Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin will buy Circus Circus Las Vegas For $825 million. MGM plans to use the money from the deals to "build a fortress balance sheet," said CEO Jim Murren. The casino operator also plans to return some capital to shareholders. The deals are expected to close in the fourth quarter. [Reuters] 3.European stocks struggled early Wednesday as European Union and U.K. negotiators continued last-ditch talks to prevent a disorderly no-deal Brexit ahead of an EU summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Despite reports of progress, the two sides remained at odds over a future trade deal, fair competition clauses, and how to handle the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and Ireland, an EU member. The two sides need to reach a proposed deal on Wednesday if it stands any chance of being approved by the EU and British Parliament before Oct. 19, when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be legally required to ask the EU to extend the current Oct. 31 Brexit deadline. [CNN, CNBC] 4.U.S. stocks closed up sharply on Tuesday after several major companies, including J.P. Morgan Chase and UnitedHealth, started the earnings season off with better-than-expected quarterly reports. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.9 percent, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq rose by 1 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. Through Tuesday morning, 29 of the 34 S&P 500 components reporting beat Wall Street's expectations, according to The Earnings Scout data. "The early reporters must not have gotten the memo from market bears stating that we are in an earnings recession," said Nick Raich, CEO of The Earnings Scout. U.S. stock index futures edged down early Wednesday as investors monitored Brexit negotiations ahead of a crucial two-day summit starting Thursday. [CNBC] 5.The NBA's business ties with China continued to generate unwanted publicity for the basketball league on Tuesday, as Hong Kong protesters lashed out at Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James for saying Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey "wasn't educated" and hurt people financially when he tweeted support for the semi-autonomous Chinese territory's pro-democracy demonstrations. Morey's tweet damaged relations between China and the NBA, prompting China's state television, CCTV, to cancel plans to broadcast exhibition games played in China last week. Several companies and state-run offices also severed ties with the NBA over the tweet and league Commissioner Adam Silver's response to it, in which he defended Morey's right to free speech. [ESPN]

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:30:00 -0400
  • What's Really in the Trade Deal Trump Announced With China

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    President Donald Trump portrayed the "Phase 1" agreement he announced Friday with China with typical fanfare, describing the pact as "massive" and "the largest contract" ever signed."We made a fantastic deal," Trump said during remarks Tuesday at the White House.There are good reasons to be skeptical about those claims. The deal appears likely to benefit American farmers by increasing Chinese purchases of agricultural goods and gives some other businesses more access to the Chinese market. But the "agreement in principle" is limited in scope and exact details have yet to be put in writing -- a process that has derailed negotiations with China in the past.U.S. officials said Friday that they would work with China on finalizing an initial agreement in the coming weeks, with hopes of signing a deal when Trump and President Xi Jinping attend a summit of global leaders in Chile in mid-November.Here's what we know so far about what the agreement might contain.What's in the Deal -- Agricultural ProductsFrom Trump's perspective, the centerpiece of the pact is a commitment by China to purchase between $40 billion to $50 billion of American agricultural products per year. Administration officials said that target would be reached within the second year of the pact's enactment.That volume would represent a huge increase over what China was purchasing before the start of the trade war. American farm exports to China peaked at around $25.5 billion in 2016, according to the American Farm Bureau, then dipped to $24.3 billion in 2017.Since then, exports of soybeans, pork and other products have collapsed under pressure from the trade war. American farm exports to China fell to just $13.4 billion in 2018 and are on track for a similar total this year, according to the same data.U.S. officials have not specified which products would be purchased, or how they arrived at a $50 billion figure. But to many analysts, that level of exports seems hard to achieve. Trump himself acknowledged this on Saturday, saying in a tweet that "there is a question as to whether or not this much product can be produced.""Our farmers will figure it out. Thank you China!" the president added.One factor that could sharply drive up China's imports is its African swine fever epidemic. China has already lost about 40% of its hog herd to the sickness, increasing demand for foreign pork and other meats.The $50 billion target may also include a generous estimate of how other parts of the agreement would affect sales. U.S. officials said they had negotiated speedier food safety checks for imports into China and approvals for genetically modified products, both of which could boost trade.Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, confirmed at a news conference Tuesday that China would speed up its purchases of American farm goods. "What the U.S. is saying is the actual situation, which is consistent with what we know," he said.-- No New Tariffs, For NowFrom China's perspective, the biggest win is a promise by Trump to cancel an Oct. 15 tariff increase, when taxes on $250 billion of Chinese goods were set to rise to 30% from 25%.U.S. officials could also cancel plans to impose a 15% tax on another roughly $150 billion of goods in December if things go well.But that still leaves a huge swath of tariffs intact. Since the start of the trade war, the United States has imposed tariffs on more than $360 billion of Chinese products, while China has placed tariffs on roughly $100 billion of American imports.-- Opening China's Financial MarketsTrump administration officials said that China has pledged to open its markets to American financial services firms and that banks and credit card companies would be the primary beneficiaries. But few details have been offered and many of these changes are already in the works for other countries.Under heavy American pressure, China has announced a series of moves over the past two years to open up its banking and other financial services sectors, allowing higher levels of foreign ownership or even removing ownership caps entirely. But China is unilaterally opening up its financial services sector to businesses from all over the world, not just from the United States.Some trade experts say the gains to American companies may be limited, pointing out that China has delayed opening its markets for so long that Chinese companies already dominate the financial sector.-- Protecting Intellectual PropertyThe White House initially began the trade war over concerns about China's treatment of American intellectual property, including what the administration called outright theft of technology and trade secrets.Trump said Friday that some measures concerning intellectual property and technology transfer would be included in the "Phase 1" agreement, with additional protections included in later phases. Officials have given few details, although people briefed on the negotiations said the measures include stronger protection for copyrights and patents.Chinese negotiators have pointed to a foreign investment law passed earlier this year as evidence that they have resolved some of the Trump administration's concerns. That law contained assurances that China would even the playing field for foreign and domestic businesses, but it had few details. The crucial implementing regulations are not scheduled to be issued until January.-- New Rules For Managing CurrencyThe agreement also includes new guidelines for how China manages its currency -- provisions aimed at resolving American complaints that China has intentionally weakened its currency to make its exports cheaper.People briefed on the agreement said the provisions look similar to the currency chapter in the Trump administration's revised North American Free Trade Agreement. It also closely resembles a pledge that China gave when the Group of 20 nations' finance ministers gathered in Shanghai in February 2016. Both texts call for countries not to devalue their currencies to achieve a trade advantage and to inform each other if they intervene by buying and selling large amounts of currency.Some experts question whether requiring the Chinese government to disclose more data will do much to curb intervention. Beijing could respond by doing more of its intervention almost invisibly through state-owned banks, and there are some signs in Chinese data it has already begun doing so."The more disclosure there is of China's formal intervention, the more China is likely to rely on shadow intervention," said Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Obama administration Treasury official.-- EnforcementA big question has been whether China will stick to the promises it makes. Robert Lighthizer, Trump's top trade negotiator, said the pact would set up "a very elaborate consultation process" with "escalation in various areas so that difficulties can be resolved." But he added that the details were still being worked out.U.S. officials have emphasized that their current tariffs, and the threat of future ones, will act as an enforcement mechanism. If China violates the agreement, the Trump administration could move forward with additional tariffs on Chinese products. And if China follows through on its promises, some of Trump's existing tariffs could be rolled back.What's Missing? -- Final TextNo agreement has yet been signed, and some of it remains unwritten. Trump said Friday that the deal was "subject to getting everything papered" but added he did not foresee a problem with that process.But the United States and China have reached trade truces before -- in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in December, and in Osaka, Japan, in June -- only to see them quickly crumble. That has left some critics hesitant."A deal that isn't written down isn't a real deal," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement.-- Structural IssuesLong-standing concerns about Chinese economic policies that disadvantage American companies do not appear to have been addressed.These policies, which are often called "structural issues," include China's generous subsidies to certain companies, the outsized role of the government in the economy and its systematic discrimination against foreign firms. In particular, the Trump administration has often criticized Beijing's ambitious plan to dominate cutting-edge technologies like advanced microchips, artificial intelligence and electric cars, called Made in China 2025.China has fiercely resisted any American demands that it sees as efforts to interfere with how it runs its economy. Negotiators have discussed some measures, like requiring China to disclose more information about how it subsidizes its industries, and people familiar with the talks say such talks will continue. But American officials made no mention of these issues with regard to the initial agreement.-- Nonfarm ProductsThe agreement also excludes provisions related to the manufacturing sector. And it appears to allow China to retain, for now, its high tariffs on American-made cars.That's notable because nonagricultural goods -- including cars, car parts and aircraft -- account for both the bulk of American exports to China, as well as the very large U.S. trade deficit with China that Trump has criticized.Trump tweeted Saturday that the deal would include $16 billion to $20 billion in purchases of Boeing planes, but U.S. officials have not shared any other details.-- Data and "21st Century" ProtectionsOfficials have made no mention of a point that is as crucial for American competitiveness as it is hard to resolve: China's treatment of data.Chinese laws block multinational companies from moving much of the data they gather on Chinese customers out of the country, meaning that many technology and retail companies must silo off their China business from the rest of their global operations. Chinese officials insist this is a matter of national security and have signaled they are unlikely to yield on this point.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:25:27 -0400
  • At best, EU summit can grant tentative approval of any Brexit deal

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    Any approval by European Union leaders at their Thursday-Friday summit in Brussels of a last-minute Brexit deal could only be conditional on the British House of Commons approving it later, three diplomats with the bloc said. A third diplomat added that, should there be an eleventh-hour agreement in technical talks between British and EU going on in Brussels, the summit could offer London a short delay to its departure date currently due on Oct.31 to polish the detail.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:20:02 -0400
  • Turkey's Erdogan coldly rejects Trump's Syria demands, says 'when Trump comes here, I'll be talking'

    Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien are traveling to Turkey on Wednesday for a Thursday meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The U.S. delegation will pass on President Trump's demand that Turkey, a NATO ally, halt its invasion of Syria and negotiate a ceasefire with the Kurds, whom Erdogan has vowed to crush. Trump has ordered sanctions on Turkish officials if Ankara doesn't comply.Late Tuesday, Erdogan pre-emptively rejected Trump's demands, saying Turkey will only end its offensive when the Kurdish fighters drop their weapons and leave the "safe zone" Turkey wants to carve out in northeastern Syria. "They say 'Declare a ceasefire' -- we will never declare a ceasefire," Erdogan told reporters en route to Ankara from Azerbaijan. "They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions." On Wednesday, Erdogan told Sky News he wouldn't meet with Pence or Pompeo: "I'm not going to talk to them. They will be talking to their counterparts. When Trump comes here, I'll be talking."Russia said Tuesday that Erdogan had accepted President Vladimir Putin's invitation to visit Moscow "in the coming days" to discuss the Syria situation.The Kurds, backed by U.S. Special Forces, controlled northeastern Syria area until Trump abruptly announced a U.S. withdrawal after an Oct. 6 phone call with Erdogan. The Kurds then reached a deal with Syria's government and its Russian allies. Russia also sent troops into the area to support the Syrian forces and prevent a direct Turkey-Syria confrontation, and they occupied newly deserted U.S. bases on Tuesday. The pullout of U.S. troops has turned out to be chaotic and dangerous -- Turkey and its allies nearly shelled U.S. forces on Friday and were warned off by U.S. Apache gunships on Tuesday as they marched toward U.S. forces.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:13:38 -0400
  • Libya's coast guard intercepts 90 Europe-bound migrants

    Libya's coast guard says it has intercepted 90 Europe-bound migrants off the country's Mediterranean coast. Spokesman Ayoub Gassim says a rubber boat with 90 African migrants, including seven women, was stopped on Tuesday off Khoms town, around 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of the capital, Tripoli. Gassim says the migrants, who arrived at the shores Wednesday, will be taken to a Tripoli detention center.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:06:01 -0400
  • Libyan official: Tripoli is restricting our oil revenues

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    The head of Libya's parallel government in the east said rival, U.N.-backed authorities in Tripoli have restricted oil revenues to areas under its control, as eastern-allied militias battle to seize control of the capital. Libya remains split between two governments — one based in the eastern city of Benghazi, the other in the historical capital of Tripoli — after descending into chaos in 2011, when an international military coalition helped rebels overthrow longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi. Benghazi-based Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani told The Associated Press Tuesday that the country's eastern regions were receiving only about $126 million monthly for public salaries, despite holding most of Libya's oil facilities.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 08:03:13 -0400
  • Winners and losers in the Democratic debate from columnist Glenn Harlan Reynolds

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    Vladimir Putin was among the surprise losers of the latest Democratic debate. Liberals now admit Russia is a foe.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 07:54:44 -0400
  • Turkey's Halkbank says US sanctions case punishment for Syria operation

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    Turkey's state-run Halkbank on Wednesday denied any wrong-doing after US prosecutors charged it with a scheme to evade sanctions on Iran, saying the case was introduced to punish Turkey for its military operation in Syria. The US Department of Justice said Tuesday it had charged the bank with six counts of fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offences -- arguing Halkbank was guilty of "illegally giving Iran access to billions of dollars' worth of funds".

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 07:24:05 -0400
  • Gazans call on Saudi Arabia to free imprisoned relatives

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    Several families of Palestinians detainees imprisoned by Saudi Arabia held a rare protest in Gaza Wednesday, calling on the kingdom to free them. Most of the nearly 50 detainees are believed to be affiliated with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza. Hamas officials say Saudi authorities intensified a crackdown on the Islamist group's supporters in the kingdom this year, rounding up dozens of Palestinian doctors, engineers and traders across the country.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 07:21:03 -0400
  • The best hotel, flights and holiday deals to look out for on Black Friday, according to Telegraph experts

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    It’s nearly here. Black Friday, that annual orgy of high street sales and bickering shoppers, is weeks away (November 29). But it’s not all flat-screen TVs and breadmakers, the travel industry is in on the act, too.  What can I expect in terms of travel deals? Plenty. Last year we saw return flights to Los Angeles for just £175 - with Air New Zealand, no less, half-price Maldives holidays and an all-inclusive week in Florida, peak season, for just £319 per person. There was also a whole raft of impressive hotel and spa offers, cruise deals and ski discounts.   This year the travel industry is in a state of flux after the failure of Thomas Cook. The collapse of the one of UK’s oldest tour operators has left some of the most popular European and winter sun hotspots with empty beds to fill. Hays Travel, which purchased almost all of Thomas Cook’s stores, may come out swinging with some remarkable offers. If other travel companies are still feeling the pinch, it is highly likely they will bring a new round of deals to the table in November. Anywhere in particular? Those destinations hit hardest by Thomas Cook’s demise could be a good place to start. Spain has lost as many as 1.3 million holidaymakers for its autumn and winter season, with 500 hotels said to be at risk of closure.  The Canary Islands could be a good bet Credit: Getty The country’s key destinations could therefore attempt to encourage visitors back with cut-price holidays. Keep your eye on the Balearics and the Canaries.  Tunisia and Turkey, two nations on the recovery trail after periods of instability, might also be ripe for deals. There will likely be offers on trips to Sri Lanka, with the island nation looking to return to prosperity after the Foreign Office imposed a temporary travel restriction in the wake of the Easter bombings earlier this year.  What about cheap flights? British Airways celebrated its 100th birthday this year, but also had to contend with a number of devastating strikes. It could yet see out the year of its centenary with some bumper offers.  Budget giants EasyJet and Ryanair have also had to handle some industrial action, as well as the uncertainty of Brexit. I’d expect some flash sales but nothing dramatic.  Norwegian has emerged as the last man standing in the low-cost, long-haul market, and has sought to consolidate its successful routes, and trim the fat on others. This could mean a raft of deals to US destinations, such as Tampa, New York and San Francisco. It might also look to attract more business to its Buenos Aires route. On the flip-side, keep an eye on rail operators such as Eurostar, who may look to capitalise on the growing environmental clamour around aviation emissions and tempt travellers with train deals.  15 cities you can reach by train in under six hours from London And cruise deals, too? Cruise operators could continue their drive to attract a younger audience, or they could look to capitalise on the growing popularity of river cruises. Figures released last year showed that more Britons than ever had taken to the continent’s waterways, with the Rhine and Danube fuelling growth. The Douro in Portugal and Russia’s rivers were also growing in popularity. Cruise on the Douro, anyone? How do I spot the best deals? No one is better at working up excitement over deals and discounts than the travel industry, and over the next few weeks we will be assailed by the most intensive barrage of offers and booking incentives of the year. It begins with the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and continues in January with the traditional promotion of next summer’s holidays. Many may indeed offer excellent value. After all, the great thing about travel from the consumer’s point of view is that it is date-stamped: you can’t sell yesterday’s empty airline seat or hotel room, so the closer you get to a departure date, the more power the buyer usually has.  Now is a good time to book last-minute holidays. Low demand means that until mid-December you will rarely find a cheaper time for a city break or some winter sun. A fabulous start to the ski season – as there was last season – could mean that, if you can get away before Christmas, you can take advantage of the cheapest and quietest weeks of the year. More probably, though, you are looking to next summer, and for this the industry has another agenda. It is not selling distressed stock, it wants as many bookings as it can get well in advance so it has money in the bank and can plan for the future.  Hence the incentives on offer every January. If you want to travel during the school holidays these deals can be worth snapping up since the earliest bookers get first pickings, which can make a big difference to a holiday, with flights or ferries that depart at civilised times, and the best located villas or hotels. So, if you are booking last minute or planning ahead, how do you judge what constitutes a real deal? Here are a few suggestions: Discounts  Don’t be distracted by the number in front of the percentage sign: it’s the number behind the pound sign that counts. 'Free’ extras  Be wary. You are probably overpaying for one element and subsidising another. This is often the case with so-called “free” child places, where the adults have to pay an extra supplement because the children are not being charged. Some extras may well be worth having – upgrades on a flight or room type, for example. Value versus price  They may not be directly related. It might be of particular value to you, for example, to know you have secured the holiday you want and don’t have to worry any more. Price-match promises  They sound reassuring, but are rarely invoked, and are often so hedged with caveats as to be pretty pointless. Low deposits  If cash is short after Christmas, these offers may help but should not be seen as something you can cancel later without taking too much of a loss. The small print nearly always requires you to pay the full deposit a few weeks later and this is payable even if you cancel. Inspiration for your inbox Sign up to Telegraph Travel's new weekly newsletter for the latest features, advice, competitions, exclusive deals and comment.   You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 07:15:00 -0400
  • Hong Kong’s leader delivers annual address by video after being drowned out by lawmakers

    Golocal247.com news

    Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam was drowned out by pro-democracy lawmakers and prevented from delivering her annual policy speech on Wednesday, eventually resorting to making the address by video. As Lam entered the city's Legislative Council chamber, her voice was overwhelmed as some lawmakers shouting out “Five demands, Not one less." Lam exited the chamber, only to return 20 minutes later to make a second attempt. Some lawmakers were seen wearing paper masks of Chinese President Xi Jinping, a not-so-subtle nod to the newly enacted ban on wearing face masks.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 07:14:00 -0400
  • Kim rides horse on sacred peak, vows to fight US sanctions

    Golocal247.com news

    North Korea released a series of photos Wednesday showing leader Kim Jong Un riding a white horse to a sacred mountain he has often climbed before making key decisions. The images and Kim's rhetoric appeared aimed at bolstering his leadership at home as the North tries to pressure the United States into making concessions in nuclear diplomacy. The photos showed a bespectacled Kim wearing a long, light-brown coat and riding on horseback up snow-covered Mount Paektu.

    Wed, 16 Oct 2019 06:58:19 -0400
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