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UPDATE 2-Pompeo says NATO must change, or risk becoming obsolete

November 8, 2019 - 5:18am

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday NATO must grow and change or risk becoming obsolete, a day after French President Emmanuel Macron said the alliance was dying. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected Macron's comments, in an interview with British weekly The Economist, as "drastic" and Pompeo said on Thursday the alliance was perhaps one of the most important "in all recorded history".


French haulier counts cost of Brexit impasse

November 8, 2019 - 5:04am

French road haulage boss Bruno Beliard bet on the potential for no-deal Brexit border chaos, hiring UK-based drivers, spending cash on customs clearance training and overhauling his business model. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's own gamble to call a December election to "get Brexit done" has left Beliard in the dark over the rules that will govern how he carries goods between Europe and the UK. "The fact of not knowing whether it's Brexit or no Brexit, deal or no deal, I tell you, people in my company are stressed out by this," said Beliard as a forklift loaded goods destined for London, Bristol and northern England in a trailer.


Iran earthquake kills five, leaves 300 injured

November 8, 2019 - 4:33am

An earthquake rocked northwestern Iran before dawn on Friday, killing at least five people and injuring more than 300 in crumbling and collapsed buildings. The 5.9-magnitude quake struck at 1:17 am (2247 GMT Thursday) about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of the city of Tabriz, in East Azerbaijan province, the Iranian Seismological Centre said. Described as "moderate", the quake was eight kilometres (five miles) deep and was followed by five aftershocks.


Turkey's Erdogan says he will discuss Halkbank case with Trump- NTV

November 8, 2019 - 4:14am

President Tayyip Erdogan said he will discuss the case of Turkish lender Halkbank with U.S. President Donald Trump during talks in Washington next week, broadcaster NTV and other media reported on Friday. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Oct. 16 charged the bank with taking part in a multibillion-dollar scheme to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, in a case that has strained relations between Ankara and Washington. Halkbank's shares were up more than 4% after Erdogan's reported comments.


What Britain does better

November 8, 2019 - 3:55am

This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine.It is admittedly a peculiar time to envy our cousins in the United Kingdom, torn asunder as they are by Brexit. The Brits' national division is as deep and rancorous as ours, and when they sever their unfettered economic access to the 27 nations and 500 million people in the European Union, the rift will be permanent. But here's what I envy: When Parliament recently voted to hold a new election to determine whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson has enough popular support to go ahead with his Brexit plan, it set a date of Dec. 12. Johnson and his adversaries will have six weeks in total to campaign before the citizens decide their nation's future. How very reasonable -- especially when compared with the U.S.'s permanent presidential campaign.On the day he took office in 2016, President Trump officially filed to set up his re-election campaign and soon began fundraising. A stampede of two dozen Democratic candidates began jumping into the race in mid-2017. After six months of campaigning, speeches, and debates, we're still three months away from the Iowa caucuses; after that, we will be engulfed in nine more months of primary and general-election politicking, with the two parties spending as much as $10 billion to carpet-bomb us with ads. As the Brits might say, A bit excessive, don't you think? It's also admirable that the British treat their prime minister with no great deference, but rather as a hired public servant to be held to account. Every week, the PM must go before Parliament for Question Time, during which rivals and adversaries demand that he or she explain and defend his or her policies. There's plenty of wit in the exchanges, and sharp, even insulting language. It's a fine spectacle, and for the PM, a humbling one. In the U.S., it would be considered disrespectful to speak to any president this way; we have turned our presidents into kings. Given why we declared independence from Britain, that's a bit ironic, don't you think?


Western Order Reels on Berlin Wall Anniversary

November 8, 2019 - 3:49am

(Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.The stage is set at the Brandenburg Gate, the dignitaries are assembling — but 30 years on, is there much cause to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall?The iconic moment of 1989 crowned a year of revolution that toppled communist regimes across the Soviet bloc, marking the end of the Cold War and the start of a hopeful new era.The global divisions caused by the 1991 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq stopped that in its tracks. Optimism quickly turned to cynicism, economic boom to bust, and electorates began to look for new answers.Today, the western liberal order that prevailed in 1989 is crumbling. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is resurgent, communist China is the world’s second-biggest economy, and the U.S. under Donald Trump openly scorns multilateralism, belittles NATO and calls the European Union a foe.In Europe, far-right nationalist forces thought banished after World War II have made a comeback, notably in the former communist east.But even as the west looks spent, it’s too early to administer the last rites.The global climate emergency upends politics as we know it and represents a chance for the west to lead, even if Greta Thunberg complains it’s not enough. Europe is a green energy powerhouse. Environmental concerns top the EU’s agenda. Germany’s Green party is vying for first place in opinion polls.A Green chancellor of Europe’s dominant country: Few could have imagined that in 1989.Global HeadlinesPower struggle | Two of Trump’s most senior aides, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, are clashing over who should direct the president’s response to the House impeachment inquiry, Saleha Mohsin and Jordan Fabian report. Cipollone views the impeachment push as a legal matter, while Mulvaney believes he’s in charge because impeachment is political.Click here for the latest from the transcripts made public by House investigators.Reaching out | Trump has alienated large swathes of minority communities during his presidency but thinks he has an argument that can win some of them over in the 2020 election: the economy. He plans to announce a new group — “Black Voices for Trump” — today to recruit and engage African-American voters after launching a Hispanic outreach campaign earlier this year.Joe Biden took the stage at a Catholic college in Iowa and invoked a religious upbringing he’s betting will pry a key constituency from Trump.Moderate Democratic lawmakers are crafting alternatives to Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax, amid concerns it wouldn’t pass — even if the party captured both chambers of Congress in 2020. Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, is again considering a 2020 run, with an adviser saying he’s concerned the current Democratic contenders can’t defeat Trump.Corbyn’s moment? | The U.K. opposition Labour party is divided, confused on Brexit, behind in the polls and facing charges of anti-semitism. Yet leader Jeremy Corbyn could still win the Dec. 12 election against gaffe-prone Boris Johnson. Voters might just want change after nine years of austerity under the Conservatives. Pollsters have famously underestimated Corbyn’s popularity before.Criminals walk | A Brazilian Supreme Court ruling that convicted criminals should only be imprisoned after all their appeals are exhausted may allow former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other high-profile prisoners to walk free. The decision reverses a recent practice of jailing individuals whose convictions were upheld on a first appeal that was key to the success of the Carwash anti-corruption probe.Living with the past | Forty-four years after western Europe’s last right-wing dictator died in his bed in Madrid, Francisco Franco looms large over this weekend’s national election. It’s not just the furor caused when Socialist Premier Pedro Sanchez had the generalisimo’s remains dug up last month. After four years of political gridlock, the divisions from the Civil War years have been laid bare again as modern Spain struggles to decide what it wants to be.What to WatchThe death of a Hong Kong student who fell in a parking garage near a demonstration could potentially inflame protests planned for this weekend. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s relationship with deputy Yemi Osinbajo is in the spotlight after he went on a private overseas trip without handing over temporary authority to his vice president. Jeff Sessions said he’ll run for the Alabama Senate seat he vacated in 2017 to became Trump’s first attorney general, though a return to politics could be challenging given his tumultuous relationship with the president.Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). Which world leader this week described NATO as being in a state of “brain death”? Send us your answers and tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... The politics of pollution in India’s capital are as noxious as the city’s air. While New Delhi chokes, politicians squabble in an annual phenomenon that lasts for an intense few weeks at the start of winter. No surprise, then, that they’ve yet to find sustainable solutions to one of the world’s worst air-pollution crises that the World Bank says costs as much as 8.5% of the country’s GDP, or around $221 billion, each year. \--With assistance from Ruth Pollard, Ben Sills and Flavia Krause-Jackson.To contact the author of this story: Alan Crawford in Berlin at acrawford6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Kathleen Hunter at khunter9@bloomberg.net, Karl MaierFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


For Kurds on the Syrian Front Line There’s No Ceasefire

November 8, 2019 - 3:00am

Delil Souleiman/GettyHASAKAH, Syria—The sun was setting when the car turned right toward the town of Serekanye last Saturday, leaving behind a fairly busy road and the last checkpoint before the war zone. The hour-long drive had been a race against time. “We need to get there before dark, it is way too dangerous at night,” said Tolheidan, a twentysomething Kurd dressed in loose pants and a green jacket. He is one of the fighters who came to pick us up to bring us to the front line. Normally, no journalists are allowed. “Drones and planes are all over this area, we need to be careful, sometimes they strike anything that moves,” he said, driving at a very high speed while listening to loud Kurdish rap songs. The road was empty, just a few motorbikes were traveling at regular speed. Each village we passed seemed empty, though in a few cases grey-haired men were sitting outside smoking and chatting.In Syria, as in Other ‘Frozen’ Conflicts, Putin Plays Peacemaker But Wants Controlled ChaosAt 4:30 p.m. the car entered a small village with no more than 20 mud houses. The last rays of the sun colored everything in a warm orange light, creating a magical atmosphere. We stopped under a tree in a yard where dozens of hens and two turkeys were strolling around picking bread crumbs from the ground. Their small noises made us aware of the wider silence, which seemed almost unreal. A little mosque next door was not playing the Azan, the call to evening prayer. Doves began singing as night was falling. Then the quiet was interrupted by a couple of distant shots. And then a female voice: “Keramke,” or “come in” in Kurdish. Berivan stood before us, a big smile lighting her face, and for a moment it erased the fatigue in her eyes. “We have been waiting for you, why are you so late?” she joked as she greeted us with a vigorous handshake and a hug.We went through a white metal door leading to a room with pale carpets and red pillows on the floor. On the walls: pictures of elderly couples, and a traditional Kurdish red flower tapestry. The family who used to live in this house had fled no more than 10 days before. They took everything with them that they could carry, but that was not everything they owned. They knew that this time they might not be able to come back, but they knew as well there was no time to waste.This area has been safe for the past six years, ever since Kurdish-led forces managed to defeat al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra and some Free Syrian Army (FSA) cells working with it. Once it was secured, the self-administration of Rojava, the Syrian Kurdish area of Syria, also known as Western Kurdistan, took over. For years the Kurds worked hard to develop an inclusive democratic project for the whole of this part of Syria. They call it the “third way,” not with the Assad regime nor with the opposition. They built a haven for ethnic and religious minorities, marked by an emphasis on ecology, feminism, and direct democracy. The established a co-chair system, men and women sitting in the position of power throughout the self-administration and military. The system works around communes which organize daily life, economy, education, justice, and health. Now all of this is at stake.In the past month, everything changed in the region, including alliances. There are daily twists and pivotal changes.* * *THE FATAL CALL* * *It all started with a phone call that overturned the life of more than 5 million people living in the area, and it almost broke the alliance between the SDF—the Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella organization that includes Kurds, Arabs, Syriacs fighters—and the United States in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.On Oct. 6, U.S. President Donald J. Trump in a conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to withdraw American special operations forces from northeast Syria. Trump announced the change in a tweet in the middle of the night in Syria, catching everyone off guard including the Pentagon. For months before that, the Turkish president had made public threats to the region while the U.S. acted as a mediator. Turkey has never accepted the Syrian Kurds creating an autonomous region along its border. If the political project succeeds in northeast Syria, Kurds in Turkey might want to emulate the system and claim more autonomy from the state.  Over the summer top U.S. officials worked on a deal between the SDF and Turkey to prevent a conflict in the area.  In 2011, when the Syrian crisis started the Kurds established the YPG—the People’s Protection Units—as a self-defense force. Some of the members were former PKK Syrian fighters. In 2015, the SDF was set up by the International Coalition against ISIS and it changed the balance—the majority of fighters were actually Arabs. In the past four years SDF’s priority has always been fighting ISIS, and there were no attacks north of the borders towards Turkey. According to a report by the Rojava Information Center, an independent research study group, in the first half of 2019 there has been at least 30 cross-border attacks from Turkey to Rojava. Just one in the opposite direction.  In August, the SDF agreed to dismantle its fortifications in a designated area at the border and allowed Turkey to patrol there with U.S. forces. For Ankara that was not enough, and three days after the U.S. moved its forces out of the way, on Oct. 9, Turkey started an invasion, shelling most of the major cities of Rojava. It created chaos, killed civilians, and forced thousands to flee their homes. Turkey’s “Operation Spring of Peace” concentrated its efforts on two cities: Serekanye (Rais Al Ain) and Gire Spi (Tal Abyad) both on the border and about 110 km (68 miles) apart. Turkey shelled hospitals and nonmilitary targets, committing what are widely alleged to have been war crimes. Turkish militias known as the TFSA executed “in cold blood” Hevrin Khalef, a 35-year-old politician serving as a secretary general of the Future Syria Party. She was “dragged out of her car, beaten and shot dead,” according to Amnesty International. The coroner’s report added graphic details posted on Twitter by New York Times correspondent Rukmini Callimachi. One day later, on Oct. 13, Gire Spi fell, but Serekanye resisted. TFSA advanced, supported with air coverage from the second-largest army in NATO. On Oct. 17, the U.S. and Turkey agreed on a 120-hour ceasefire, during which the SDF retreated from Serekanye, and moved its troops 32 km (19 miles) away from the border. Erdogan calls this region where he will impose Turkish control,  a “safe zone” and plans to resettle some 2 million Syrian refugees, most of whom come from other parts of the country.* * *THE RUSSIANS AND 'THE REGIME'* * *There followed another agreement on Oct. 22, this time between Turkey and Russia, which aimed to contain Erdogan’s ambitions to expand the area under his control. The 13 points of this memorandum agreed at a summit in Sochi, Russia, made clear that Turkey should stay in the designated area while other parts of the border would be patrolled by Russian military police and the Syrian regime. Ankara never really respected the Sochi accords and, continuing its offensive despite the truce, and widening the attacks. SDF commander in chief Mazloum Abdi repeatedly exposed the violations of the truce. The village we were staying in is outside the “safe zone” and the fight has been intense. “It was the strangest ceasefire I have ever seen in my life,” said Berivan, our weary-looking 35-year-old host. She sat on the floor smoking a cigarette as we talked. She has always been a heavy smoker. Originally from the city of Qamishli, Berivan is a leading commander, and has fought in the war against ISIS since the battle of Kobane in 2014. She has long brown hair and speaks good English. Of the current confrontation with Turkey, she says, “We never really stopped fighting, they continued the shelling. Some days were very heavy and we couldn’t move.” Everything is different in this war, she admitted. There is little ground combat, the SDF is taking many casualties due to the intensive air and artillery campaign. Drones scan the territory, then the heavy weapons target houses. So far at least 1,000 people have died, half of them civilians, says Berivan. According to medical reports over 90 percent of the victims died because of wounds from shell and shrapnel. Turkey also has been accused of using white phosphorus on nonmilitary targets. So far no one has agreed to test the sample. The Times of London and Newsweek recently reported that various NATO countries have asked the U.N. watchdog agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, not to investigate this alleged offense by a NATO ally.“We just ask for a no-fly zone, we don’t want other armies to fight for us,” said Berivan. The Syrian regime has sent troops, but they are said to be poorly equipped with no real willingness to participate in the fight. When interviewed, one experienced Syrian team leader, Omar Abed Almajid, told The Daily Beast that the situation was chaotic. “They sent us to die,” he said while lying in a bed at the hospital in Tel Tamer on Oct. 29. “Our leaders told us we were not going to fight, we were just going to patrol the border. Instead Turkey massacred us with heavy weapons”Almajid was injured while trying to open a corridor for civilians to escape. His troops didn’t have any armored cars or heavy weapons to protect themselves. The Kurds Gave Their Lives to Defeat the Islamic State. Trump Just Pissed It All Away.Most of the soldiers of the Assad regime’s SAA–Syrian Arab Army–expected air coverage to be provided by Moscow, with which they’ve had an active alliance since 2015. They were wrong. So far the Kremlin has stayed out of the fight while patrolling certain areas. The Syrian regime retreated from the front lines several times to try to come back the day after. This has happened almost everywhere and on a daily basis. Berivan also recalled the story of a regime unit stationed on her side of the front surrendering to the TFSA militias.  “They had orders not to fire back because of the ceasefire. We begged them not to give up, they needed to at least defend themselves.” They didn’t listen. Straight after being captured, they all got executed, she said, and a video circulated online.* * *'SO MANY BAGHDADIS'* * *Berivan’s group, two women and three men, had been caught out of contact with the world for almost 10 days. Communication is strictly over the radio, and brief. They have no internet because they are afraid armed drones can pick up their GPS coordinates if they access it. She didn’t know about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death. At first, she was in disbelief and then started laughing as we explained the details of the raid“We have so many Baghdadis that his death doesn’t make a difference,” said Shero, sitting next to her. He chain smoked while checking on the progress of the different factions. The area is flat, and villages are used as FOBs–Forward Operating Bases. As the hours passed the movements around us increased. We could hear some shelling, though after a few hours the night went on as quiet. Both Berivan and Shero stayed up until 5:00 a.m. to check on the situation. The fight resumed around 9 a.m., and movement was impossible for about two hours. We could hear planes and drones overhead with shelling around us. We wanted to get to Zergan (Abu Rasin), a major town in the area. “Now it is not safe,” said Berivan. We waited under a tree, drinking tea, for a couple of hours. Then we started out.Less than a mile north, a small settlement was completely abandoned. The few houses were around a deserted church. There were a lot of Christians in the area. Now they’ve all left. They knew if the TFSA arrived their lives could be in danger. The SDF forces in the area are highly suspicious of the people who stayed. This is an active war zone. “When civilians leave is not good because it means we are fighting. When they stay we fear they are giving away positions to the enemy,” said Berivan.A group of fighters arrived at the scene. They constantly move from village to village in small numbers. There were seven of them, all from Iraqi Kurdistan. They arrived when the fight started three weeks ago. “We came to support the fighters of Rojava and protect the people from being massacred,” said Hajar Karoikh, from Sulaymaniyah. Karoikh explained that at least 100 young people just from Iraqi Kurdistan had joined the fight. They are not alone. The Turkish invasion of northeast Syria inspired many Kurdish young men and women to join the fight. Many have traveled from Europe. We met people from Rojhalat, Iranian Kurdistan, in a house on the outskirts of Zergan (Abu Rasin). “This is a fight for dignity. We can’t leave our brothers and sisters alone,” said Azad, the commander of a six-man team. They recently changed base since their old one was targeted by a drone. He showed a picture on his phone. “We were sitting outside when they struck us. No one was injured, we were lucky this time,” he said with a smile. Zergan is a ghost town. On the main street, all the shutters are down, they are painted in purple and grey, colors replaced the Syrian flag in regime controlled areas. A few skinny dogs were walking around. A group of four women was chatting outside. As soon as they saw us, they started giggling and went inside. Everyone but one. Rema Abdullah, in her fifties, was wearing a light-colored scarf and a darker green dress. Her children left, but she had to stay behind because her husband is disabled. They are originally from another village; they moved just a few miles.“The TFSA looted my house, may Allah not help them win this war,” she said. As soon as she finished speaking we could see several vehicles approaching. The regime was moving to the front with heavy weapons now, and soldiers. As they passed by they all made the victory sign. It was already 3 p.m., and time to move again before the sunset. Now it was Berivan’s team’s turn to go to the next village just a couple of miles up the road. “You can’t come with us, not today,” she explained. They expected another big push by the Turks and their militias with drones and airplanes. She hugged us and said goodbye: “We will resist this invasion,” she said and added the typical Kurdish salute: “Serkeftin.” Until victory.  Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Nord Stream 2 Faces Hurdles as Germany Dismisses Waiver Plan

November 8, 2019 - 2:59am

(Bloomberg) -- The controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline faces potential delays as a German government adviser denied the country was drawing up legislation that would waive the project from European Union energy laws.Lawmakers in Germany are set to anchor the revised EU gas rules into national law, according to Stefan Rolle, an adviser in Germany’s Economy & Energy Ministry, who described as “complete nonsense” media reports that the bill would provide an exemption for the Russian-German pipeline. Legislators are expected to approve the bill next week. A vote was postponed Thursday.The EU law requiring separate ownership of gas and transmission lines extends into pipelines from third countries. It offers an exemption to links completed by May 23, a provision that Nord Stream 2 says should apply to its business. The company behind the project can seek a waiver from the law though the German energy authority, the Bundesnetzagentur.“It is not 100% that Bundesnetzagentur will decide negatively on the derogation, but I would say it is rather probable they cannot decide positively on the derogation,” Rolle said on Thursday. “And I do not see any scope for a derogation for Nord Stream 2.”The European Union gas directive came into effect in May, and member states are obliged to adopt it into their domestic laws by Feb. 24. The German law implementing the EU directive “probably” will become effective in the beginning of December, according to Rolle.Nord Stream 2 wasn’t immediately available to comment.Bild Zeitung and Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition was working to set up its domestic law in a way that would allow Nord Stream 2 to redefine the legal definition of the project’s “completion.”The 1,230-kilometer (764-mile) undersea pipeline from Russia to Germany is 87% complete and the company still has to lay 336 kilometers of the infrastructure. It was initially planned to start at the end of this year.Nord Stream 2 could consider creating an independent pipeline operator to comply with Europe’s gas directive, Rolle said.Project owner Gazprom PJSC is preparing to create a legal entity that will comply with the directive, the Handelsblatt newspaper reported on Thursday.Last PermissionThe pipeline overcame a major hurdle last week when it received approval to cross Denmark’s waters. But it could take several months between when the pipeline is completed and flows ramp up.Other obstacles could delay the process even more.The link has drawn the threat of sanctions from the U.S., which wants Europe to buy its liquefied natural gas. It has also divided EU governments, with nations led by Poland concerned about the bloc’s increasing dependence on Russian gas.Ukraine, one of the biggest routes for Russian gas to Europe, called on Germany not to waive parts of the EU gas directive for Nord Stream 2. Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said Thursday that it would “mean a violation of the consensus decision adopted by all EU member states.”“You can’t really count on Nord Stream 2 to be operational in the first half of next year,” said Thierry Bros, a senior research fellow of The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies and a member of the EU-Russia Gas Advisory Council.“It is always harder to lay down the pipeline during the winter,” he said. “Also, ramping up is a challenge. If you look at Nord Stream 1, it took from five to six years to ramp up. And people can appeal. Other things can happen.”French electricity and gas firm Engie SA, OMV AG, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Uniper SE and Wintershall DEA, are also investors in the Nord Stream 2 project along with Gazprom.(Updates with more comments from Germany’s Economy & Energy Ministry)\--With assistance from Brian Parkin.To contact the reporters on this story: Vanessa Dezem in Frankfurt at vdezem@bloomberg.net;Ewa Krukowska in Brussels at ekrukowska@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net, Andrew ReiersonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Joint US-Chinese operations against fentanyl led to trafficking gang's downfall

November 8, 2019 - 2:30am

Thursday's sentencing of a gang of drug traffickers in a smoggy city in northern China that few outsiders are likely to have ever heard of offers a rare insight into how the US authorities are working with their Chinese counterparts to tackle a deadly scourge that has devastated communities across the United States.After the conclusion of the case " which saw one gang member given a suspended death sentence and eight others jailed, two of them for life " a group of Chinese and American law enforcement officers gathered in Xingtai, an industrial city in Hebei province, to share details of how their joint investigation had brought down an international fentanyl smuggling operation.It was the first public example of how the two countries have been working together to target the trade. Their cooperation began in 2012, when a spike in the number of overdoses linked to the synthetic opioid prompted American officials to reach out to China, the biggest supplier of the drug and its related forms and compounds.While issues such as soybeans, tariffs and 5G technology have dominated the US-China dialogue in recent years, the sale of Chinese-made fentanyl has also become a factor in the trade talks, with US President Donald Trump complaining that China is not doing enough to stop the drug from reaching America.Nine members of a drug gang were sentenced by a court in Hebei province on Thursday. Photo: AFP alt=Nine members of a drug gang were sentenced by a court in Hebei province on Thursday. Photo: AFPBut this debate has taken places against a backdrop of overdose deaths, homelessness and devastated families and communities, spurring law enforcement to carry on their collaboration throughout the ebb and flow of tensions between the two countries."If there's one area of cooperation globally that a lot of countries who don't see eye-to-eye on many things, like trade, do see eye-to-eye on, it's organised crime, criminality and trafficking," said Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia and the Pacific."That doesn't mean cooperation is always easy [but it is] hugely important".A major priority for the US has been to stop Chinese fentanyl from flooding the US black market, both through direct mail order to American customers and dealers, as well as being indirectly smuggled over the border by Mexican cartels that ship the drug and its chemical components through Pacific ports."The drug overdose crisis in the United States is the worst that we have seen historically ... in terms of other public health problems, this surpasses firearm deaths and is on par with motor vehicle deaths," said drug policy expert Bryce Pardo.He noted the increasing role in past the six years of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin and in 2017 accounted for around 40 per cent of the over 70,000 drug overdoses in America, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention."It's very important that these two sides work together, and this requires a positive and constructive political working environment," said Pardo, who is an associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation think tank's Washington office.Thursday's meeting between US and Chinese drug enforcement officials comes at a time when the two nations are circling around an interim trade deal, although it is unlikely to include any further measures to tackle the issue.However, the two sides still have plenty of issues beyond the balance of trade to resolve, including the export of the drug from China to the US."If [Trump] can add to the scope of his agreement with Xi by referencing things that China might do with respect to the fentanyl trade, that could be seen to be adding to what he has been able to achieve," said Stephen Kirchner, director of the trade and investment programme at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.The synthetic opioid has been at the heart of the US drug crisis in recent years. Photo: AP alt=The synthetic opioid has been at the heart of the US drug crisis in recent years. Photo: APThe issue became a subject of conversation in talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Argentina on December 1, and reared its head again in August as Trump prepared to levy additional tariffs and raise existing ones."[M]y friend President Xi said that he would stop the sale of Fentanyl to the United States " this never happened, and many Americans continue to die!" Trump tweeted on August 1, as he announced further levies on Chinese goods.A provisional agreement at the talks in Argentina led China to tighten its drug regulations as of May to treat all variants of fentanyl as controlled substances.It was an effort to close a loophole in which producers were making minor changes to the chemical compounds for fentanyl to get around China's existing regulations on the drug, which the country's booming pharmaceutical industry produces legally for medical use.That move and increased attention to the issue in China does appear to be having an effect, at least in the short term, according to Pardo, who said there has been a steep drop in the appearance of chemical analogues of the drug in the US, as well as reduced fentanyl seizures by US postal and delivery services."But there's still a lot of fentanyl showing up," he said, noting that this could be from chemicals produced by China and sent to Mexico for manufacturing, illicit cargo shipments, or even stockpiles already in the United States." Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2019Part of the challenge of stemming the tide lies with law enforcement officials in China who are tasked with ensuring that legally produced fentanyl pills or the component chemicals are not being smuggled out the "back door" of factories for shipment, according to the UN's Douglas.Many of the chemicals involved originate from China's large chemical industry, where the compounds used to make a range of everyday products such as food additives or pharmaceuticals originate."That is a massive challenge because you can imagine some chemicals simply get diverted out the back door of a factory or misappropriated ... it's very hard to regulate."International investigations, meanwhile, need to keep up with criminal syndicates that may involve a host of players from China, Mexico and US " making international collaboration by law enforcement crucial."There's definitely been progress in that relationship, and the Chinese side has been very much trying to make an effort, they are really making a push to show good faith to the US," Douglas said, that has included "clamping down" on the back-door transactions that see drugs shipped overseas.But the extent to which the role of China in the global production of the drug and its component chemicals has diminished is difficult to gauge, and observers agree that China remains a key part of the supply chain."The producers and Big Pharma certainly have tightened up, but we know for a fact that there are stockpiles of that product ... and we know that clandestine markets have been created in the wake of these regulations," said Roderic Broadhurt, a professor of criminology at Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific.He noted that unlike drugs such as heroin or cocaine, fentanyl can also be easily produced anywhere without the "long difficult logistic trains from the hills of northern Burma or western provinces of Mexico and Colombia" as long as the necessary chemicals are available.China defended its record on this front in September, with a senior narcotics commission official Liu Yuejin saying that Trump's claims that authorities were not stopping trafficking were "completely groundless and untrue".No fentanyl smuggling cases between the US and China have been uncovered since the new measures were implemented, Liu said at that time.Details of the cooperation between the two sides have been scant so far, and the decision to publicise the results of the recent joint investigation could be a goodwill effort, according to several experts, to show that progress is being made on a sensitive issue.This case began with a tip-off from US law enforcement in 2017 when officers from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Orleans found the telephone number of a woman suspected of smuggling fentanyl.The US authorities passed the number on to their Chinese counterparts, leading to the arrest of members of the gang that was sentenced on Thursday and "three major criminal arrests" being made in the United States.Members of the Chinese gang were convicted last year of a range of offences, including manufacturing the drug, advertising it on English language websites and shipping it to the US.Law enforcement officials have indicated that there are two further cases in the pipeline, one of which is an ongoing investigation while the other is expected to be wrapped up soon.Yu Haibin, deputy director of China National Narcotics Control Commission, and Austin Moore, an attache for US law enforcement, at a press conference after the sentencing of the drug gang. Photo: AFP alt=Yu Haibin, deputy director of China National Narcotics Control Commission, and Austin Moore, an attache for US law enforcement, at a press conference after the sentencing of the drug gang. Photo: AFPOn Thursday, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy welcomed the prosecutions as a "positive step in following through the agreement" between Trump and Xi, adding: "We look forward to further cooperation to stop the flow of these deadly substances into the United States."It said these would include establishing regular law enforcement cooperation meetings, responding "rapidly" to new leads, expanding detection and narcotics laboratory capabilities, as well as carrying out more joint investigations.But while such successes remain good examples of international collaboration, the real challenge will be how these law enforcement efforts are able to track what experts see as an inevitable shift of manufacturing out of a stricter China and into South and Southeast Asia.Douglas said the challenge was that China was only one country out of many that could become involved in the drug supply."There are other countries where synthetic drugs can be produced," he continued, "and we just hope that doesn't become the case that fentanyl production shifts to other locations, some of which don't have the capacity to control substances like China does."This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


Corbyn’s U.K. Labour Party Is a Mess But Can Still Win Power

November 8, 2019 - 12:28am

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.They are divided, unpopular and have been accused by their own former colleagues of racism. But Jeremy Corbyn and his allies in the U.K.’s Labour Party could yet win next month’s general election.After Prime Minister Boris Johnson had a terrible first day campaigning on Wednesday, it was Corbyn’s turn on Thursday.But as bad as Corbyn looks on paper, he has a potential path to power. The Conservatives have been in office so long that austerity-bitten voters want change. Opinion polls have misjudged the public mood before. Johnson is a gaffe-prone leader who is a divisive figure in the Brexit landscape.If Corbyn shores up his support in Labour heartlands in northern and central England, and with Johnson viewed increasingly with suspicion in Scotland, an unpredictable election could see the prime minister ousted.The Labour leader himself is a deeply divisive figure in his own tribe. Just this week, his deputy quit and a former Labour member of Parliament publicly urged the country to vote Conservative. The Jewish Chronicle newspaper then ran a front page article describing Corbyn as an anti-Semite.It was a grim narrative for a political opposition hoping to persuade the country to put it into power on Dec. 12. Labour could be doing so much better.The Conservatives have been in office for nine years, and have been tearing themselves apart over Brexit for the past three. Johnson is now seeking to do something relatively rare for a government in British elections and increase the number of seats his ruling party has in parliament.Polling BadlyCorbyn meanwhile has been calling for an election ever since the last one, in June 2017, put him within striking distance of replacing the Tories as the government. Yet with the campaign now under way, the opinion polls tell a very different story.After rating close to the Conservatives for much of the last two years, Labour goes into the race behind. According to YouGov Plc, it hasn’t polled above 27% in six months. The Conservatives are on 36%.Corbyn, in particular, polls badly. Just 23% of people say they have a positive view of him -- against 59% who say they have a negative view. More than half of people who voted Labour in the 2017 election think Corbyn should be replaced as leader.It’s a view shared privately by many Labour MPs, including some inside his shadow cabinet team. Others, like Ian Austin, have gone so far as to quit the party in protest at his leadership. “I regard myself as proper, decent, traditional Labour,” Austin told the BBC. “I just think Jeremy Corbyn’s not fit to run the country.” Saying people should vote for Johnson instead, he added: “I can’t believe it’s come to this.”‘Racist Views’For Austin, the final straw was the rise of anti-Semitism within Labour under Corbyn. On Friday, the Labour leadership insisted it had taken steps to address anti-Semitism.“In recent times we have seriously improved our processes, in a way that we took too long to do,” party spokeswoman Shami Chakrabarty told BBC Radio. “Because we dragged our feet for so long, there is a trust gap,” she said. Labour has “got to demonstrate” over time how serious it is about tackling anti-Semitism.The Jewish Chronicle accused Corbyn of “near total inaction” which it said had emboldened anti-Semites in the party. “How can the racist views of a party leader -- and the deep fear he inspires among an ethnic minority -- not be among the most fundamental of issues?” it asked.Within Labour, Watson had been the figurehead of internal opposition to Corbyn, staying in place despite attempts to sideline or remove him. Though he said his decision was “personal, not political,” it was notable that his letter of resignation expressed no desire to see either a Labour government or Corbyn as prime minister.Corbyn’s team is likely to be happy to see the back of Watson, but his departure raises the same question for Labour that Philip Hammond‘s did for the Conservatives earlier this week: What does it say about the party that lifelong members no longer see a future representing it in parliament?Johnson’s WeaknessAfter decades in which Labour has aimed for the center ground of politics, talking about wealth creation as well as public spending, Corbyn has moved it firmly to the left. It’s not simply about taxation and spending. On foreign policy, Corbyn’s position is far outside the consensus of post-war British politics. He’s a critic of NATO, viewing it as a “danger to world peace.”Yet none of this means Corbyn can’t become prime minister next month. The 2017 election saw him shrug off criticism of his views, and pick up votes where they mattered.Corbyn’s strategy then included a series of voter-pleasing offers such as extra bank holidays. Those tactics seem to be in play again. On Friday, Labour will announce a package of measures to improve working conditions for women, included a strategy to reduce the gender pay gap, extra maternity pay and the ability for both women and men to choose working hours that suit them.For his part, Johnson’s holds a Brexit position that has forced him into a strategy where he risks losing seats in pro-EU cities, the south of England, and Scotland. If he is to retain power and win a majority, Johnson must prevail in northern and central England -- but many of these are Labour strongholds that the Tories have never won.When they tried this strategy in 2017, they came within a few thousand votes of losing power entirely. Lifelong Labour voters in these industrial districts may still balk at ditching their tribal allegiances in order to vote for the Tories, a party many have spent their lives hating.Britain’s Election Gamble -- What You Need to Know: QuickTakeThere’s another factor counting in Corbyn’s favor. If the Conservatives are the largest party after the election but fall short of an overall majority, they will probably find it difficult to form a coalition or even a looser alliance to prop up Johnson.In another so-called hung parliament, Corbyn would have more potential allies among smaller parties. The Scottish National Party has said they would never work to keep Johnson in office but could help Corbyn in exchange for a referendum on independence for Scotland.The smaller Liberal Democrats have ruled out supporting a Corbyn government, but party leader Jo Swinson might face the same choice as Austin: Corbyn or Johnson. And as an opponent of Brexit, she couldn’t back the Tory leader.(Updates with Chakrabarti comment in 12th paragraph.)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, Alex MoralesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Brexit Bulletin: Don’t Write Off Corbyn

November 8, 2019 - 12:24am

Days to Brexit deadline: 84(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to get the Brexit Bulletin in your inbox every weekday.Today in Brexit: Despite a tough start to the election campaign, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn could yet win power.What’s happening? They may be divided, unfancied and accused of racism, but Jeremy Corbyn and his allies still see a path to 10 Downing Street. As Bloomberg’s Rob Hutton explains, there’s plenty going for them: austerity-bitten voters have seen the Tories in office for so long, opinion polls have been wrong before and Boris Johnson is running a high-risk election strategy.Like Theresa May before him,  Johnson is hoping to win a national vote by picking up pro-Brexit seats in Labour heartlands in northern and central England, trying to exploit the opposition’s perceived weakness on the question of leaving the EU. That plan failed in 2017, as lifelong Labour voters in industrial districts balked at ditching their tribal allegiances. The same could well happen again.Labour is also offering a populist spending splurge. Speaking Thursday, their economy spokesman John McDonnell pledged £250 billion of infrastructure investment over 10 years, plus more money for education, health care and social housing. In what looks like an arms race of giveaways, the Tories also unveiled significant plans to loosen the purse strings.And though Brexit is a key issue in the campaign, Corbyn is also trying to play up Labour’s historic strength on the much-loved National Health Service, repeatedly accusing Johnson of planning to “sell it out” in a trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump. On Friday, Johnson will announce plans for special visas to make it easier to recruit doctors, as he tries to shore up his support on health care.Today’s Must-ReadsNeed a debrief on the election? Bloomberg’s Kitty Donaldson answers all your questions. The Bank of England made dovish noises Thursday, highlighting risks to growth from Brexit and a weaker global economy. Boris Johnson’s charisma is the best hope for the Tories in this general election, Iain Martin writes in the Times.Brexit in BriefOn The Markets | Pound traders took the BOE’s caution in their stride, keeping their focus on the significant changes to Britain’s economy that could come from the December election, Bloomberg’s Charlotte Ryan and Anooja Debnath write. The pound was trading at $1.2812 early Friday in London.Remain Alliance | The pro-EU Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru agreed to step aside for each other in 60 seats across England and Wales, in a bid to concentrate the anti-Brexit vote. But the effect may be limited: a BBC analysis showed the move would not have changed any of the results at the 2017 election.Swaps Move | German banking giant DekaBank has moved more than 7,000 swap transactions from London to Frankfurt, boosting the city’s standing as a post-Brexit finance hub.Ads Controversy | Tech giant Facebook defended its policy of not fact-checking political ads in the U.K. general election, saying it would’ve allowed a controversial recent video by the Tories — which was doctored to cast doubt on Labour’s Brexit policy — to run as an advert on its platform.‘No MPs, Mr Farage’ | A leading political academic said Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party won’t win any seats at the election, as more of their candidates stood down and urged voters to back Johnson. Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at Kent University, told the Telegraph that Farage risks denying the Tories a majority and helping thwart Brexit.Want to keep up with Brexit?You can follow us @Brexit on Twitter, and listen to Bloomberg Westminster every weekday. It’s live at midday on Bloomberg Radio and is available as a podcast too. Share the Brexit Bulletin: Colleagues, friends and family can sign up here. For full EU coverage, try the Brussels Edition.For even more: Subscribe to Bloomberg All Access for our unmatched global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.To contact the author of this story: Joe Mayes in London at jmayes9@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Caitlin Morrison at cmorrison59@bloomberg.net, Iain RogersFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Secret chats involving Republican lawmaker reveal fresh evidence of plots and paranoia

November 8, 2019 - 12:00am

Messages from network involving Matt Shea provide insight into ‘patriot movement’ – and the extent of their conspiracy thinkingWashington state congressman Matt Shea in April this year. Shea’s network includes other rightwing politicians alongside activists associated with militia groups and pro-gun activists. Photograph: Ted S Warren/APLeaked Signal messages from an online chat network around six-term Washington state Republican representative Matt Shea show new evidence of violent fantasies, surveillance of perceived adversaries, conspiracy thinking, Islamophobia, and support for white nationalists.The messages from the chat group, exchanged between October 2017 and October 2018, show Shea’s network includes other serving, former and aspiring rightwing politicians from Idaho and Washington, alongside activists associated with militia groups, anti-environmental causes, and pro-gun activism.They also show participants, including Shea, preparing for economic and societal collapse even as they campaign for the secession of eastern Washington from the remainder of the state.The messages provide a rare insight into the inner workings – and paranoia – of the so-called patriot movement, whose members have participated in standoffs with the federal government in Nevada and Oregon, and whose far-right beliefs have been controversially promoted by Shea.Lindsay Schubiner, a program director at the progressive Western States Center, said of the chats: “The chat messages reveal Shea acting more like a militia leader than an elected official. His conspiratorial and violent mindset are on full display. If it was not already clear, Shea has demonstrated that he is unfit for public office. Now it’s time for his colleagues in the Washington house of representatives to hold him accountable.”Shea is currently under investigation by the Washington state house after reporting on his activities by the Guardian and local media outlets. The networkThe group chat the messages appeared in was repeatedly described by participants as an “intel” channel for sharing information among a large group of Shea’s associates, including: * Washington state representative Matt Shea, who posts in the chat under a frequently used online alias Verrumbellator. * Two-term Idaho state representative Heather Scott. * Former Spokane Valley councilman and Shea ally Mike Munch. * Former Spokane Valley councilman and podcaster Caleb Collier. * An account posting as “Marble”, attached to a phone number registered to Anne Byrd, who with husband Pastor Barry Byrd leads the secretive Marble Community Church, headquartered in a compound in remote north-east Washington. * Broadcaster and Shea lieutenant Jack Robertson, also known as John Jacob Schmidt. * Patriot movement activist and Malheur standoff participant Anthony Bosworth. Bosworth runs a patriot movement group called Liberty For All, once ran for Yakima county sheriff, and was charged with assaulting his daughter in downtown Yakima. Also present in the chat were a number of rightwing activists, some from the region incorporating eastern Washington, north Idaho, and surrounding areas, which they have christened “the American Redoubt”. These activists included: * Former Spokane county employee and retired air force officer John Christina. * Former candidate for Washington commissioner of public lands Steve McLaughlin, who told the SPLC in 2016 that he was pulling back from involvement the patriot movement * Jay Pounder, a former Shea confidant who leaked the chats to the Guardian.Shea and the other sitting legislator, Heather Scott, are members of the chat for its entire length, and both weigh in on a wide range of topics.The Guardian confirmed participants by cross-checking phone numbers in the chat with public phone records. Civil warParticipants frequently expressed a belief civil war was coming.In particular, they were exercised by false rumors of an “antifa insurrection” on 4 November 2017, which circulated widely in far right and conservative media throughout the previous month.During that month, the chat also circulated false news, unattributed memes and fabricated intelligence about the supposedly impending insurrection.The Guardian previously reported on the messages of a smaller chat involving members of this larger group, which was also planning for the supposed antifa uprising. That chat saw Bosworth and Robertson fantasizing about sadistic violence, and promoting surveillance and opposition research about local activists.A rightwing rally in Portland last year, where far-right protesters and antifa counter-protesters clashed. Photograph: John Rudoff/Rex/ShutterstockAt one point in late October 2017, the larger chat took an unattributed meme listing supposed “planned riots” in the region to be accurate.This led to chat members ventilating fantasies of a violent response.“Sometimes, ya just gotta go out and pick a fight with the philistines,” Robertson wrote on 29 October 2017. “Knock some heads. Bring back some foreskins. Lol!”Later that day, Jack Robertson wrote: “We could have a contest … see how many communists we could knock out, before getting knocked out or arrested!”Bosworth responded: “OK. Now this is starting to sound fun.”But there were no protests in the region, and only small ones in other parts of the country: peaceful events which had been planned by a group associated with the Revolutionary Communist party.Other events were taken as portents of civil war.In July 2018, when the Trump-backed congressional challenger Katie Arrington was badly injured in a car crash after ousting Mark Sanford in a primary, the chat took it as a sign of impending civil collapse.“Every day shows more and more we are sitting on the edge of civil war between two governmental factions. I don’t think we’re going to make six years before we see shots fired,” Bosworth remarked.Christina replied: “Agreed. Banana republic sums it up quite well. Never thought I would see it come to my country in my lifetime.” Islam and leftistsIslam – a frequent bugbear in Shea’s public speeches – is seen in dark hues by many members of the chat. Muslims and leftists are held to be working together to subvert the United States.Violent, paranoid reveries were aired about both groups by members of the chat.In December 2017, Robertson warned: “Expect acid throwing attacks. Low tech, low cost. Effective and brutal. Since the announcement of moving out embassy to Jerusalem, things are about to get sporty. Be vigilant when you travel to large metro areas.”In February 2018, after accepting as true faked photographs of Parkland shooter Nicholas Cruz that depicted him as a leftist, the group ventilated more violent fantasies and conspiracy theories.“The communist bastards need to be shot,” Bosworth wrote.“Communist Islam,” Shea responded.In May 2018, Shea wrote: “Please remember tomorrow is the first day of Ramadan begins Tuesday/Wednesday. Higher likelihood of terror attacks.”Robertson days later wrote: “Wow. Ramadan began yesterday. Avoid crowds when possible, be vigilant, stay armed, and keep a combat rifle accessible when practical.”Leftists are equally feared and despised in the chats. In June 2018, the chat responded to news of the occupation of an Ice facility in Portland with more fantasies of violence and vigilantism.Bosworth said of potential police violence at the facility: “I don’t agree with federal agents clubbing them. I think they should let the people club the commies.”Robertson responded: “Agreed! Commies should get the baby seal treatment from the citizens.”Bosworth later added: “The American people need to stomp communism into the dust. They need to be hunted down and destroyed. It’s not the government’s job to do it. It is ours, the rightful heirs to liberty fought and won by our founders.”Requests for surveillance on perceived political opponents also permeate the chat, many coming from Shea.He asked whether a local conservative is a “friend or foe” and at one point Bosworth shared images of what appears to be the FBI file of a Shea critic. Liberty stateA central topic in the chats is the campaign to carve out a 51st state from eastern Washington, to be named Liberty state.The campaign for Liberty state has underpinned activism in the Shea network, but has also provoked fears among opponents who believe that proponents are seeking to implement a dominionist theocracy.At one point Bosworth asked if they can shake off federal and state control: “People need to know what the new state is going to look like. Is it going to operate without federal control? If so our first step would be to show the people of the new state that we can operate without Olympia’s control.”Later in the chat, McLaughlin offered a view of what a successful Liberty state movement would look like: “People standing up and applying the elements of power to undo lies, destroy the commie movement and taking political control. Elements of power are economic, diplomatic, information dominance and force.”Elsewhere, speaking of Liberty state opponents, Jack Robertson opined that “skull-stomping godless communists does have a very strong appeal”.Heather Scott replied: “Sounds like the name of a rock band.”Bosworth replied: “I’m all for Christians doing some skull stomping in defense of their faith.” G2Apart from direct participants, the chat sees the repeated dissemination of intelligence from outside sources. One source, described in the chat only as “G2”, frequently provided alarming updates on geopolitical events.His prognostications were of intense interest to the group, including Shea, and taken to indicate impending global catastrophe.Christina was the contact with G2, and would relay messages to the group.Members, including Shea, would solicit updates from G2 on international incidents. Solicitations of G2’s advice occur throughout the chats, and members treat him as an authoritative source.On November 6 2017, Shea asked: “A lot coming out right now about DPRK [North Korea]. What is the status with G2?”A chance remark about a family death has allowed the Guardian to identify G2 as Ronald Jessee, Christina’s nephew, who runs a popular “open source intelligence” Twitter account called Intellipus.On Twitter, the Intellipus account has 48,000 followers. But according to his LinkedIn page, 42-year-old Jessee has never worked in any military or intelligence capacity, and his last listed employment was with an open-source intelligence startup which folded in 2018. James AllsupThe group engages in extended, and ultimately supportive conversation about James Allsup, a white nationalist, Charlottesville marcher and far-right personality who was excluded from the Washington State University College Republicans, and eventually the Spokane county GOP, for neo-Nazi associations.The group began discussing Allsup just days after the Daily Beast published a story about him being elected as a precinct committee officer for the local Republican party.After prolonged conversation in which Robertson, in particular, defended Allsup after local Republicans “threw this guy under the bus”, Shea proposed they contact Allsup. “Here’s my two cents. Anthony I think you should reach out to him and if he is legit (not racist or a plant) make an ally.”None of the named chat participants with the exception of Jay Pounder responded to the Guardian’s requests for comment. Sitting legislators Shea and Scott did not respond to detailed requests made by email.Pounder himself was an active participant in the chats and in Shea’s movement until late last year. “I was on board. I was a believer until I had a moment of conscience,” he said in a telephone conversation.Still a devout Christian, he said: “God got a hold of my heart and told me, no man, this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.”Shea remains under investigation by the Rampart Group, which was hired by the clerk of the Washington state house to “assess the level of threat of political violence posed by these individuals and groups” associated with Shea, following reporting in the Guardian and local outlets about secret chats and documents produced by Shea’s network. They are due to present their report on 1 December.


Macron Is Playing With Fire on Immigration Quotas

November 8, 2019 - 12:00am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Emmanuel Macron wants to “take back control” of immigration in France. At first glance, his government’s forthright language — and its aspirations for a system of numerical “quotas” similar to Canada’s or Australia’s — sounds a lot like the populist clarion call that won Nigel Farage the Brexit referendum.There are differences, of course. This is about migration from outside the European Union, whereas Farage and his fellow Brexiters were angry about the U.K.’s lack of control over migrant numbers from eastern Europe. And Macron would no doubt say that he just wants the right level of immigration to meet the needs of the French economy. But he appears to have one eye too on trying to neutralize his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen, who’s tied with Macron in the polls. It’s a political ploy that risks backfiring.In 2018, non-Europeans accounted for about 256,000 French residency cards, or titres de sejour. That sounds huge, but the proposed quotas would only hit those moving explicitly for work, which was a small slice of the pie at about 33,500 last year. The rest are mainly students, family members, and asylum-seekers. And even though “quotas” sounds draconian, these ones look more like aspirational targets defined by corporate sectors. They’ll probably end up very close to current levels anyway.As with the rest of the western world, France certainly needs immigration. By 2050 it will have about 9 million more over-65s than it did in 2013. Somebody will have to do the work to pay for that ageing population. Even in an economy where more than 2.5 million people are unemployed, there are jobs that go unfilled because of a shortage of skills or lack of interest from locals.At the same time as talking tough, the Macron administration wants to double the number of foreign students to about 500,000 by 2027, remove the bureaucratic blocks to getting visas and attract engineering talent from China, India and the U.S. via flexible “tech visas.”So it’s evident that talking up quotas is almost entirely political, a way of trying to pacify voters over the inevitable future upward trajectory of immigration. This isn’t just a French problem: Voter attitudes are hardening across Europe, with a 2018 Pew survey of 10 EU countries finding 51% on average wanted fewer migrants. Macron wants to nullify the populist threat on this issue.So far at least, his effort to address blue-collar concerns doesn’t appear to be alienating his core white-collar support. An Elabe poll this week found 64% of French people were in favor of “economic migrant” quotas, with most support among center-right and centrist voters. Le Pen’s supporters were less impressed. She pointed out, not entirely unfairly, that Macron didn’t want to cut immigration at all.Regardless of his actual intentions, Macron is playing a risky game. Right-wing opponents will accuse him of not going far enough, while tougher rhetoric on migrant workers would upset his urban base. His predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy also tried to win support for immigration quotas in 2007, but his lurch rightward didn’t deliver a second term.The U.K. example is instructive. Prime Minister David Cameron’s failed promise to cut net yearly migration to the “tens of thousands” led directly to the Brexit vote. Taking back control is an alluring promise to voters, but the cost of failure is high.To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at llaurent2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Macron Is Playing With Fire on Immigration Quotas

November 8, 2019 - 12:00am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Emmanuel Macron wants to “take back control” of immigration in France. At first glance, his government’s forthright language — and its aspirations for a system of numerical “quotas” similar to Canada’s or Australia’s — sounds a lot like the populist clarion call that won Nigel Farage the Brexit referendum.There are differences, of course. This is about migration from outside the European Union, whereas Farage and his fellow Brexiters were angry about the U.K.’s lack of control over migrant numbers from eastern Europe. And Macron would no doubt say that he just wants the right level of immigration to meet the needs of the French economy. But he appears to have one eye too on trying to neutralize his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen, who’s tied with Macron in the polls. It’s a political ploy that risks backfiring.In 2018, non-Europeans accounted for about 256,000 French residency cards, or titres de sejour. That sounds huge, but the proposed quotas would only hit those moving explicitly for work, which was a small slice of the pie at about 33,500 last year. The rest are mainly students, family members, and asylum-seekers. And even though “quotas” sounds draconian, these ones look more like aspirational targets defined by corporate sectors. They’ll probably end up very close to current levels anyway.As with the rest of the western world, France certainly needs immigration. By 2050 it will have about 9 million more over-65s than it did in 2013. Somebody will have to do the work to pay for that ageing population. Even in an economy where more than 2.5 million people are unemployed, there are jobs that go unfilled because of a shortage of skills or lack of interest from locals.At the same time as talking tough, the Macron administration wants to double the number of foreign students to about 500,000 by 2027, remove the bureaucratic blocks to getting visas and attract engineering talent from China, India and the U.S. via flexible “tech visas.”So it’s evident that talking up quotas is almost entirely political, a way of trying to pacify voters over the inevitable future upward trajectory of immigration. This isn’t just a French problem: Voter attitudes are hardening across Europe, with a 2018 Pew survey of 10 EU countries finding 51% on average wanted fewer migrants. Macron wants to nullify the populist threat on this issue.So far at least, his effort to address blue-collar concerns doesn’t appear to be alienating his core white-collar support. An Elabe poll this week found 64% of French people were in favor of “economic migrant” quotas, with most support among center-right and centrist voters. Le Pen’s supporters were less impressed. She pointed out, not entirely unfairly, that Macron didn’t want to cut immigration at all.Regardless of his actual intentions, Macron is playing a risky game. Right-wing opponents will accuse him of not going far enough, while tougher rhetoric on migrant workers would upset his urban base. His predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy also tried to win support for immigration quotas in 2007, but his lurch rightward didn’t deliver a second term.The U.K. example is instructive. Prime Minister David Cameron’s failed promise to cut net yearly migration to the “tens of thousands” led directly to the Brexit vote. Taking back control is an alluring promise to voters, but the cost of failure is high.To contact the author of this story: Lionel Laurent at llaurent2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Brussels. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Boris Johnson Wants the Hardest of EU Trade Deals

November 8, 2019 - 12:00am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- British voters are being hit over the head with the key message of Boris Johnson’s campaign for the Dec. 12 election: In speeches and on posters and on campaign flyers is the promise that his government would “get Brexit done” quickly and move on to other things.The Conservative Party is in a hurry. Johnson’s team is promising that Brexit will happen so fast that he won’t need the full time available to negotiate a trade deal with the European Union. Britain could if it wanted push this process out to 2022, but Trade Secretary Liz Truss tweeted this week that “we will not be extending the Brexit transition period beyond 2020. The British people have waited long enough.” On Tuesday, her cabinet colleague Michael Gove promised the U.K. would have a trade deal by the end of next year.If we’re being generous, we’d say this is normal campaign bravado, intended to keep hardline Brexit voters warm. If it’s not, Britain is heading for a much harder Brexit than most people realize.The 11th-hour agreement Johnson struck with the EU provides for an orderly exit (the divorce part of things) and then a transition period during which the all-important trade relationship will be negotiated. That deal will determine the entirety of the U.K.’s relationship with the EU, including trade in goods and services, but also security and other ties. The government has until July 1 to request an extension of one or two years.The real cost of Brexit, and the opportunity for new trade deals with the U.S. and other nations, will depend on that second negotiation. Johnson says it can be fast and advantageous. Neither is likely.The prime minister says he wants a bare-bones free trade agreement with the EU, often referred to as “Canada plus plus,” signifying something similar to the EU’s agreement with Canada alongside extra provisions on services and security. Canada’s deal took seven years to agree. Johnson claims a U.K.-EU free trade deal would be a comparative cinch because the two sides are starting from a harmonized position.But most trade deals are about advancing integration, not decoupling. Some of these discussions will be fraught. Moreover, there will only be a few months between negotiations beginning in earnest and the July deadline for extending the transition. That gives the EU nearly all the leverage.As for Johnson’s claim that this will be advantageous, compared to what? A simple free trade agreement would be at the very hard end of a hard Brexit as it avoids participation in the single market, the EU customs union and it wouldn’t promise a level playing field on competition, tax and social and environmental protections.Such an agreement would seriously limit the U.K.’s market access to the EU. It would avoid the potential for a truly destabilizing no-deal Brexit and it would be better than just trading on World Trade Organization terms, but not by a big margin. It would cost the U.K. more than the Brexit deal agreed by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, according to research by the U.K. in a Changing Europe think tank.The best Britain can hope for is the removal of tariffs and quotas on goods. But, as the Center for European Reform’s Sam Lowe points out in a paper published this week, even that will depend on how far it submits to the EU’s level playing field demands.And tariffs and quotas aren’t the only trade frictions. Trade deals include so-called rules of origin provisions that require exporters to prove that their products were largely made in the U.K. Many companies would find the compliance costs too high to bother.Lowe also notes that EU companies exporting to third countries with whom the EU has trade agreements — such as Korea or Canada — would no longer be able to count British parts in their own rules-of-origin certifications, an exclusion that would put U.K. car industry suppliers at a serious disadvantage.Then there are the customs declarations, inspections, payments of tariffs (where they exist), Value Added Tax and excise duties. The EU’s ultra-strict regime for food and animal-product checks also means extensive inspections and controls.A longer transition period would let U.K. companies adjust. Some would want to move to manufacture within the EU. Relocating would be especially attractive for services companies, who would face particular frictions under new trading rules.The question of services has received very little discussion, perhaps because things like insurance contracts are less tangible than car parts. It’s hard to envisage a trade agreement scenario that won’t hurt U.K. services. While grants of EU “equivalency” for British services and other mutual recognition agreements would protect some of the services trade, Lowe estimates in another CER paper that the impact of a bare-bones free trade agreement would be substantial.Such an agreement would also need to be scrutinized by members of Parliament. The 2010 Constitutional Reform and Governance Act allows lawmakers to object to its ratification. But we don’t yet know, of course, whether the new intake of MPs will prove as rebellious on Brexit as the last lot.So we’re back to guessing what Brexit will mean in the end, the question that dogged May in her botched election campaign in 2017. Johnson can possibly have a quick trade deal, or he can have one that reduces some of the cost of Brexit. He can’t have both.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


France reopens contested Jewish tomb in east Jerusalem

November 7, 2019 - 11:21pm

French authorities reopened one of Jerusalem's most magnificent ancient tombs to the public for the first time in over a decade, despite a dispute over access to the archaeological-cum-holy site in the city's volatile eastern half. After several aborted attempts, the French Consulate General reopened the Tomb of the Kings last month. France, which has managed the property since the late 19th century, closed the site for an extensive $1.1 million restoration in 2009.


This Trade Rally Is One Tweet Away From a Crash

November 7, 2019 - 11:18pm

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Everything is awesome in financial markets. The sense that a trade deal may finally be on the cards sent stocks and crude soaring in the U.S. Thursday, while flight-to-safety trades such as bonds and gold slumped. Both sides seem to be moving toward a phase one agreement that would involve jointly reducing tariffs in return for vaguer concessions on the underlying issues.“If there’s a phase one trade deal, there are going to be tariff agreements and concessions,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Bloomberg.“If China, U.S. reach a phase-one deal, both sides should roll back existing additional tariffs,” China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said earlier.There’s a laconic warning buried inside both of those statements: “If.”It’s certainly possible that President Donald Trump is tiring of the trade war and as desperate to get an agreement on the table as Beijing seems to think. But the current febrile atmosphere appears to have left the fundamentals of this dispute behind. A single tweet from @realdonaldtrump could be enough to puncture the party mood.Consider some of the things you might expect to be seeing if a significant agreement was really in the works. China is well aware of the importance of the bilateral trade deficit in Washington, and one of the most promising areas for any agreement is to sharply increase imports of American agricultural and mineral products.Yet China's biggest oil producer, state-owned PetroChina Co., is behaving as if the opposite plan is underway. In results last week, the company reported its trailing 12-month capital spending rose to the highest level since 2014, thanks to a government push to lessen China’s dependence on imported fuel.PetroChina’s returns on invested capital are already the worst of the oil majors, and pressure to extract more oil and gas from China’s unpromising geology will make that situation worse. A country that was serious about balancing out the trade relationship with the U.S. and making the most productive use of state companies’ cash would be looking for ways to tap America’s energy boom instead.It’s a similar case with agriculture. China could increase its imports of poultry, beef, pork and other products by as much as $53 billion just by removing current constraints on trade, according to a study last year by Minghao Li, Wendong Zhang and Dermot Hayes of Iowa State University.If anything, that’s probably low-balling it: You could add $10 billion to the total just by taking soybean imports back to where they were before the current round of trade tensions cut that trade close to zero. One only needs to look at China’s trade data released Friday to see that the opposite is happening. The surplus with the U.S. may be narrowing, but on a global, trailing 12-month basis it was the widest it’s been since May 2017. Part of that is simply the weakness of domestic demand. But hosting jazzy import conferences won’t change the fact that President Xi Jinping’s praise of zili gengsheng, or self-reliance, is just as pointed a retreat from trade as Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra.All this comes before even touching on issues around intellectual property, technology transfer and state involvement in the economy, which were ostensibly the reasons for this trade war in the first place. China continues to make quiet progress on the first front as if the trade war wasn’t happening; and formal technology transfer is shrinking, too, although stories of outright industrial espionage abound. On the third point, the Chinese state is, if anything, becoming an even more dominant economic actor than it was hitherto.What about this backdrop makes a deal seem so imminent? Beijing appears unlikely to make the sorts of concessions on the main issues under contention that would allow Trump to present an agreement as a personal victory. Trump, for his part, is presiding over a stock market that — thanks in part to all the optimism about a trade deal — hits fresh records every day, giving him no incentive to sign on to a deal that looks like a climb-down.Right now, markets are behaving as if the whole structure of trade impediments built up over the past two years could start getting dismantled within weeks. It’s quite as likely that, in the white heat of a breakdown, the levies suspended last month are reinstated, only to be followed by the final round still due to kick in Dec. 15. Should that come about, the current exuberance could turn into a hangover awfully quick.To contact the author of this story: David Fickling at dfickling@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.David Fickling is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering commodities, as well as industrial and consumer companies. He has been a reporter for Bloomberg News, Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Guardian.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Brussels Edition: Spanish Stalemate, Tariff Reprieve

November 7, 2019 - 11:15pm

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every weekday morning.Spaniards head for the polls on Sunday for another general election that again may not change much, or at least not immediately. Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s failure to form a government over the summer made a fresh round of voting inevitable, but the outcome may be the same political stalemate as the last ballot held in April. Tensions in Catalonia, the exhumation of the late dictator Francisco Franco and slowing economic growth have all served to sharpen animosities and blunt the chances of compromise. The threat of a barely tolerable fifth election in as many years may, however, concentrate minds. What’s HappeningTaxes and Libra | After yesterday’s Eurogroup exposed familiar divisions over banking-market integration, finance ministers will today get a chance to butt heads over zombie taxes on everything from booze to tech giants. They’ll also discuss how to regulate crypto assets like Facebook’s Libra, with a common stance targeted for next month.Tariff Reprieve | Donald Trump won’t impose duties on European cars next week as threatened, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. “Trump will ruffle a bit, but there will not be any automobile tariffs,” according to Juncker, who is usually right when he’s so categorical. But then Trump isn’t known for his predictability.Romanian Poll | Romanian President Klaus Iohannis looks to be on course for a second term in power. Voters this weekend will probably reward him for helping put the country’s most powerful politician behind bars for corruption and steering a course back toward the EU’s mainstream. A runoff two weeks later will likely be required to seal his victory.Eastern Challenges | Shrinking populations, eroding competitiveness, unwise social policies. After three decades of unprecedented advances in incomes and living standards, the EU’s eastern economies that abruptly swapped communism for capitalism when the Berlin Wall fell are facing new challenges.Week Ahead | EU foreign ministers on Monday will try to put a brave face to the imminent death of the Iran nuclear deal and will probably adopt the legal framework for the imposition of sanctions on Turkey over its drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean. On Tuesday, defense ministers may seek an accord over the participation of non-EU companies in joint military projects. In Case You Missed ItWar of Words | Another fissure between Germany and France opened up after French President Emmanuel Macron declared NATO was undergoing “brain death.” Merkel, who happened to be hosting Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin yesterday, called Macron’s words “drastic” and NATO “irreplaceable.”U.K. Latest | The U.K. election campaign is in full swing, with the two main rivals competing on pending pledges, and the Tories are fighting for survival in key battlegrounds. Here’s everything you need to know about Boris Johnson’s latest gamble. Data Deals | EU merger watchdogs will take a close look at any deals driven by a desire to combine user data, antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager warned in response to questions about Google’s $2.1 billion bid for smartwatch maker Fitbit. She is considering new rules to rein in how companies collect and use information, calling tech giants “robot vacuum cleaners.” Big Spenders | By Christine Lagarde’s own definition, the European Central Bank president’s desire for a government spending boost in the euro area can now focus on a dozen of its members. These are the countries, which, according to the latest EU projections, have space to spend money for stimulus.Wall Fallout | The world saw German reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago as a historic success, but for the people of East Germany, it was a different story. Here’s more on how the battle to unify the country still rages.Chart of the DayThe Commission cut its euro-area growth and inflation outlook amid global trade tensions and policy uncertainty, warning that the bloc’s economic resilience won’t last forever. The EU’s executive arm sees momentum remaining muted through 2021, forecasting an expansion of 1.2% for that year. At 1.3%, inflation is projected to remain well below the ECB’s goal.Today’s AgendaAll times CET.8 a.m. EU finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss climate finance, digital taxation and education  EU education ministers meet in Brussels to discuss lifelong learning, artificial intelligence and debate the importance of education for the economy with their finance counterpartsLike the Brussels Edition?Don’t keep it to yourself. Colleagues and friends can sign up here. We also publish the Brexit Bulletin, a daily briefing on the latest on the U.K.’s departure from the EU. For even more: Subscribe to Bloomberg All Access for full global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.How are we doing? We want to hear what you think about this newsletter. Let our Brussels bureau chief know.\--With assistance from Andrew Langley, Nikos Chrysoloras and Alexander Weber.To contact the authors of this story: Viktoria Dendrinou in Brussels at vdendrinou@bloomberg.netCharles Penty in Madrid at cpenty@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Harris at hharris5@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


North Korea hits out at 'reckless' US and South Korea, labels Japan's Abe an 'idiot'

November 7, 2019 - 10:20pm

North Korea has lashed out against “reckless military moves” by South Korea and the US after they opted to go ahead with a joint aerial drill amid deteriorating relations with Pyongyang over stalled nuclear diplomacy talks.  In a separate jibe, the North called Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, an “idiot and villain” who should not even dream of setting foot in Pyongyang after he criticised one of their recent weapons tests.  The US and South Korea have cancelled or scaled back their regular joint military exercises since talks over the North’s nuclear and weapons programme began in 2018.  Last year’s “Vigilant Ace” airforce drill was cancelled to allow diplomacy with Pyongyang some breathing space. However, the Pentagon confirmed on Thursday that a flying event would proceed in December on a reduced scope.   "The most important thing to us in the Korean theatre is maintaining readiness, being ready to 'fight tonight,'" said US Joint Staff Vice Director Navy Rear Admiral William Byrne. "A year ago, we canceled the exercise Vigilant Ace, and that was based on the environment on the peninsula at the time. This year, we are conducting a combined flying event." North Korea, which views any joint military ventures as a rehearsal for invasion, reacted with fury, warning that the exercise would amount to “throwing a wet blanket over the spark” of nuclear negotiations that are “on the verge of extinction.” Kim Jong-un and President Trump first met in June 2018 Credit: Evan Vucci/AP Kwon Jong Gun, a roving ambassador for the North, said on Thursday that its patience was nearing the limit and that North Korea “will never remain an onlooker” to “the reckless military moves.”  Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, has set an end-of-year deadline for Washington to make progress on denuclearisation talks.  Nuclear proliferation experts have warned that failure to do so could see a return to hostilities and a revival of nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests.  Diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington has not recovered from the failure of the Hanoi summit in February when Kim and Donald Trump, the US president, walked away with no deal.  An attempt to kickstart working level negotiations in early October also ended without any progress or agreement for a future meeting, although Mark Lambert, the US envoy for North Korea did meet this week for five minutes with a senior regime official at a Moscow conference, reported Yonhap.  Pyongyang reserved some of its ire on Thursday for Japan’s Prime Minister Abe after he criticised its test of a “super-large multiple rocket launcher” on October 31. Japan believes the test likely involved ballistic missiles that violated UN sanctions.  "Abe is an idiot and villain as he is making a fuss as if a nuclear bomb was dropped on the land of Japan, taking issue with the DPRK's [North Korea’s] test-fire of super-large multiple rocket launchers," the North's KCNA state news agency said. The statement, attributed to Song Il Ho, the North Korean ambassador for ties with Japan, put paid to Mr Abe’s stated ambition to meet Kim. "Abe would be well-advised not to dream forever of crossing the threshold of Pyongyang as he hurled a torrent of abuse at the just measures of the DPRK for self-defence,” said the statement, according to Reuters.


Macron’s Vision of European Security Is Half-Baked

November 7, 2019 - 10:00pm

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- In a remarkably frank interview with the Economist, French President Emmanuel Macron laid out a vision of a European security architecture that includes more cooperation with Russia and less with the U.S. than today. It’s courageous but flawed.“To my mind, what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron announced, due to “no coordination whatsoever of strategic decision-making between the United States and its NATO allies.” The U.S., according to him, doesn’t share its European allies’ interests. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. treats Islamist terrorism and Russia’s actions in Ukraine as Europe’s problems because they play out in Europe’s neighborhood, far from U.S. shores. All that the U.S. does is provide a defense umbrella in exchange for an exclusive commitment to buy U.S. products. “France didn’t sign up for that,” Macron said, making it clear that he doubts Trump’s commitment to NATO’s mutual security guarantee, spelled out in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.This insecurity explains Macron’s efforts to involve more European countries in defense cooperation, which he admits won’t yield immediate results. It also explains his reluctance to go along with what he calls a “really tough” U.S. stance on Moscow. Russia, to Macron, has no long-term alternative to “a partnership project” with Europe, and so Europeans must engage with it and figure out on which issues there can be immediate cooperation (for example, fighting terrorism) and on which it’s advisable to start with mere deconfliction (for example, cyberwarfare). To make this possible, Macron wants to discuss what guarantees Russia needs to feel more secure, and he’s even open to talking about “an EU and a NATO guarantee of no further advances on a given territory.”This worldview has an obvious internal logic, especially if the U.S. isn’t a fully committed ally: “We have the right not to be outright enemies with our friends’ enemies.”The problem with this logic is that it appears to be built on a long-term view of Russia’s options and a short-term view of U.S. ones. That’s what undermines Macron’s agitation for a European defense bloc that would exist parallel to NATO.Macron told the Economist that Russia faces a menu of just three strategic options: trying to be a superpower in its own right; becoming China’s vassal; and “re-establishing a policy of balance with Europe.” According to Macron, only the third option is viable. Obviously, Russian President Vladimir Putin would feel uncomfortable making his country China’s junior partner. And the superpower path is difficult because Russia’s shrinking, aging population can’t sustain it, and Putin’s “identity-based conservatism” prevents him from having “a migration policy.” So only rapprochement with Europe remains.That’s a mistake. For starters, Russia is a big country of immigration. Its official statistics on population flows are unreliable because of visa-free policies with former Soviet countries, but it’s the sixth biggest source of international migrant remittances, just behind Germany and well ahead of France. Putin’s ideological constructs only exist for propaganda’s sake. His real policies are focused on taking Russia down the solitary great power path. In his mind, and in the minds of his foreign policy advisers, Russia has no other options. One of the Russian president’s favorite quotes — which he has used ostensibly in jest — belongs to Czar Alexander III: “Russia only has two allies, its army and its navy.” Within this mindset, Putin is happy to take any concessions Europe may offer him, such as Macron’s intervention in favor of giving back Russia’s vote in the Council of Europe. But they’re not going to make him drop what Macon calls his “anti-European project” born of his “conservatism.” Europe is not a potential ally for Putin, it’s a playing field in what he sees as Russia’s big game with the U.S.Putin’s great power project isn’t necessarily forever and the possibility exists that a future Russian leader will think of Russia as part of some broad European project, as Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin did for a while after the Soviet Union’s collapse. But waiting for that requires an extremely long-term view. With the U.S., the situation is almost exactly the opposite. Trump’s isolationist project is as new as his presidency, and none of his realistic Democratic rivals in the 2020 election would like to continue with it. The U.S. already has a long-standing cooperation project with Europe, which started with the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift and hasn’t quite ended with Trump, given the strong EU-U.S. trade relationship. There’s a high likelihood that whenever Trump leaves office, be it in 2020 or four years later, the U.S. will try to patch things up — and it’ll be much easier for Europe to accept its advances than to establish a cooperative pattern with Russia.Just as Macron says, it’s getting harder and harder to pin down what NATO membership really means and what threats the bloc is capable of confronting. But it’s a working structure that has conducted real military operations and practiced coordinating national armies; Macron himself calls the interoperability within NATO “efficient.” Setting up a parallel defense architecture can only undermine this working mechanism, no matter how many times Macron repeats that any EU military project is going to be complementary to it. Is that worth doing because of what looks to many like a temporary threat from Trump — and for the sake of a long shot with Russia? That’s the underlying question that makes it difficult for Macron’s EU military ambitions to go beyond talk, pilot projects and some defense industry coordination. More decisive progress will only be possible if Trumpian behavior becomes the norm in the U.S. — and if Russia suddenly turns demonstrably pro-European, reversing, for example, its current policy on Ukraine.Macron sounds bold, strategic, even prophetic at times — but his geopolitical judgments aren’t indisputable or even universally attractive. Most of all, they’re unproven. Waiting seems more attractive at this point than feverishly developing an expensive, politically iffy project. It’ll take much more than his eloquence to make Europe’s geopolitical repositioning a reality.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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