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Probe: State Department Punished Staffer Over Iranian Heritage, Politics

November 13, 2019 - 4:15pm

GettyA long-awaited State Department watchdog report will find that the Trump administration’s point man on Iran, among other officials, retaliated against an agency employee in part because of her Iranian-American background, two knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast.The Daily Beast has previously reported that the State Department inspector general’s office was prepared to suggest disciplinary action for Brian Hook for political retaliation against employees in his policy planning office, including a career department official and Iran expert, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh. But the inspector general’s report, set for release on Thursday in between the first two public hearings in the impeachment of the president, found that top State Department officials, including Hook, retaliated against Nowrouzzadeh in part because she is Iranian. Politico first reported the finding.The allegation derives from a cache of emails that show officials within Hook’s policy planning office and other departments talking about Nowrouzzadeh’s background ahead of the premature end of her detail to the prestigious office. Some of those emails, previously reported by The Daily Beast, described Nowrouzzadeh as being among “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s agenda.” And one official falsely suggests that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran.He’s Trump’s Point Man on Iran—and Under InvestigationHook has vociferously denied retaliating in 2017 against Nowrouzzadeh based on her heritage. Neither Hook nor the State Department immediately responded to a request for comment.The State Department IG’s office has for months held onto its report for final review before sending it to Capitol Hill. Two individuals with knowledge of the report’s drafting told The Daily Beast that the report was originally due for public release sometime over the summer. The IG’s office picked up the investigation into Hook and other State Department officials for their perceived political retaliations after multiple whistleblowers approached lawmakers on the Hill about their experiences working on the policy planning team under Hook.The release of the report comes at a time when the State Department is under the microscope by investigators on Capitol Hill looking into how officials in Foggy Bottom worked to convince Ukraine to open up specific investigations in exchange for a presidential White House visit and the delivery of U.S. military aid. And multiple impeachment witnesses have criticized Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s treatment of career diplomats. The details provided in the inspector general’s report about Hook can only serve to further undermine the department’s credibility in the way it conducts foreign policy. In a different case, however, the inspector general did not find political retaliation. Ian Moss, a State Department official who served in the office for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility during the Obama administration, began the Trump administration on a detail to the White House’s National Security Council. Moss’ performance evaluations were consistently laudatory. By the time Moss returned to State later in 2017, he entered an atmosphere where chief deputies to then-Secretary Rex Tillerson were assessing the department’s political leanings based in part on officials’ association with Obama administration priorities— such as closing Guantanamo. Moss found himself reassigned to the Freedom-of-Information Act office, from which he launched a retaliation claim first reported by CNN. State IG Set to Recommend Discipline for Trump’s Top Iran HandAmong the evidence the inspector general collected is an email between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the deputy White House chief of staff, discussing Moss with Tillerson’s chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin. The email chain concludes with an exhortation to continue the conversation over the phone. Yet the inspector general stopped short of assessing that Moss was the victim of political reprisal. Moss, formerly a U.S. Marine, told The Daily Beast the inspector general’s findings in his case are a “pathetic whitewash.” “While they were targeting experienced career officials on account of their ethnicities and on account of perceived political affiliation, they were hiring C-list YouTubers and wine bloggers,” Moss said. “It is hard to find evidence when you don’t even bother to interview witnesses and deliberately choose not to follow glaring leads. [State Department Inspector General Steve] Linick has no honor.” Moss put the saga of political retaliation at the State Department in the context of Trump’s impeachment. Over a half-dozen witnesses from the State Department, NSC, and elsewhere in the government have told the House impeachment inquiry about a shadow foreign policy to Ukraine run by Rudy Giuliani, Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Those witnesses, typically career or long-experienced diplomats, have said this shadow effort was designed to benefit Trump rather than the United States and routed around those most expert in Ukraine because of their perceived disloyalty. Moss considers his and others’ experience in 2017 to have been a harbinger of the apparently highly parochial shadow initiative. “This is what happens when you let nefarious behavior go unchecked,” he told The Daily Beast.   Over the summer the State Department hired the Iranian-American woman who publicly advocates for the ousting of the government in Tehran to work with Hook and other senior officials.Mora Namdar, an Iranian-American lawyer from Texas, is working with top department officials, including Brian Hook, the administration’s special representative on Iran. She is also working on a controversial project to build a U.S. pavilion at the World’s Fair in Dubai in 2020.This is the second team to take on the task of raising $60 million for the event. The first team disbanded this spring when several individuals on the board quit because of internal mismanagement and allegations of influence-peddling by leadership. One of the managers, Alan Dunn, is also the CEO of IP3, the firm attempting to push forward a nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia. Dunn used his position on the team to advance the interests of his firm, The Daily Beast reported in August.Namdar’s law school brief from 2011 mimics that of the current Trump administration’s policies on Iran, including the need for economic sanctions, increased pressure on Tehran to scale back its nuclear program, and directly targeting Iranian officials by freezing their assets. But she says the U.S. should go one step further.“It is logical to ascertain that it would be in the best interest of not only the Iranian people but the United States to support regime change in Iran,” Namdar wrote.Namdar went on to say that “encouraging the United States to stay out of the internal conflict with the Iranian elections… can now be seen as poor advice.”The department first took notice of Namdar during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Dallas this spring, when he met with members of the Iranian-American diaspora in a roundtable session, according to two State Department officials. Namdar was pictured sitting next to Pompeo during that event.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Germany, France, UK, condemn North Korean missile launches

November 13, 2019 - 3:43pm

Germany, France and Britain on Wednesday strongly condemned the dozen sets of ballistic missile launches by North Korea since May and urged Pyongyang to engage in “meaningful negotiations” with the United States on its nuclear and missile programs. The three European countries said the tests, “including what appears to be a medium-range missile launched from underwater,” undermine regional security and violate unanimously adopted Security Council resolutions.


Doctors: Warmer world is unhealthier place for children

November 13, 2019 - 3:21pm

Children are growing up in a warmer world that will hit them with more and different health problems than their parents experienced, an international report by doctors said. With increasing diarrhea diseases, more dangerous heat waves, air pollution and increases in mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, man-made global warming is already harming public health around the world, the annual climate change and health report from the medical journal The Lancet said Wednesday. “A child born today as they go through their lives they are going to be increasingly exposed to more and more harms that I did not experience,” said study co-author Dr. Renee Salas, a Boston emergency room physician and professor at Harvard.


Dazed and confused at the Democrats' impeachment hearing

November 13, 2019 - 3:12pm

The best thing that can be said about Wednesday's impeachment hearing is that at least some people got to drink because of it. The bars in Washington were open early, and members of my profession were able to conduct themselves much as they had in happier times.I do wonder what George Kent had inside that water bottle. The bow-tied deputy assistant secretary of state doesn't strike me as the day-drinking type, but you never know. He spent most of the morning sounding like an over-eager president of the George Washington University Model United Nations addressing his peers at an invitation-only conference in Cambridge, but by about 2 p.m. he looked like a broken man.Who can blame him? Wednesday was a confused and confusing slog for everyone involved. On balance, I would say that the Democrats had a slightly worse day, but only because the contest was unequal. This was supposed to be their chance to sell the American people on impeachment, while all the GOP members had to do was The hearing was televised a la Watergate, and Adam Schiff was supposed to be in his element pretending to be a character from The West Wing.The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee reminded us why he never made it as a screenwriter. With a few exceptions -- the miniature speech from counsel about "quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, abuse of power of the office of the presidency" -- he allowed his members to get bogged down in the details of a narrative that almost no one in the room has mastered. The long-winded summaries from both witnesses of the ever-evolving state of relations between the United States, Ukraine, and Russia in the post-Soviet era served mainly to underscore the fact that President Trump has taken Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive policies much more seriously than his predecessor ever did. It is difficult to argue that the president is guilty of a hideous crime because he seems to have considered withholding aid that Barack Obama was never willing to offer in the first place.One sentence in the testimony of William Taylor, the interim charge d'affaires in Ukraine, is being called "a significant new development" and even a "bombshell." I would be lying if I said I understood its significance vis-a-vis all the other third-hand conversations upon which the serious charges against the president are supposed to rest. Taylor was apparently told that a certain unnamed "staffer" heard Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, talking to Trump about unspecified "investigations," presumably a reference to the abortive probe of the Biden family's activities in Ukraine. This is supposed to have taken place the day after the president's infamous phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.Phew. That summary is longer than the actual account Taylor himself gave. If it meaningfully alters your understanding of the underlying issue -- whether Trump did anything wrong -- then you probably belong to the small class of dedicated observers who already know that the anonymous staffer is likely a man named Donald Holmes. But the point of these hearings was to present unambiguous evidence of wrongdoing to the American people, not to confuse them with (in this case literal) games of telephone involving an entire phone book's worth of names.Republicans understood all of this perfectly. If you had asked me on Wednesday morning whether it was still worth it for the GOP to bang on about chronology, I would have said no. But Jim Jordan, on loan from the Judiciary Committee, turned the messiness to his advantage: "We have six people having four conversations in one sentence, and you just told me this is where you got your clear understanding?" he said in response to Taylor's allegedly epoch-making revelation. If there is one exchange from the hearing that could work on its own as a soundbite, it must be this one.This is not to suggest that members of both parties did not find ways to embarrass themselves. When Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) yelled "Fine!" after being procedurally outmaneuvered by the chairman, he sounded like a 15-year-old boy who is totally not mad about being grounded. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) might have been making an interesting formal argument about epistemology when he claimed that "Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct," but for some reason I doubt it. For me the star of the hearing was Rep. Teri Sewell (D-Ala.) who referred to the suddenly all-important Eurasian republic with a definite article. I say this not just because I like old-fashioned place names but because referring to Ukraine in a manner that suggests it is really just Russia's southwest border undercuts the major premise of both parties -- namely, that taking Kyiv's side against Putin is a top priority of American foreign policy. If you want proof that national security is epiphenomenal in relation to partisan bickering, look no further.What about Trump himself, who has insisted that he would not be watching any of the hearings? At his press conference after the end of proceedings, he sounded unusually winded. Is it possible to tweet till you are out of breath? Whatever he was worked up about, it certainly wasn't the prospect of being removed from office by his own party, a never likely possibility that now looks more remote than it has at any point since September.More stories from theweek.com The coming death of just about every rock legend The president has already confessed to his crimes Why are 2020 Democrats so weird?


U.S. Congress panel leader reports slow progress negotiating 2020 Pentagon budget

November 13, 2019 - 3:08pm

U.S. legislators are making slow progress negotiating the bill that will set spending policy for the Department of Defense in 2020, the head of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee said on Wednesday. The Democratic-majority House and the Republican-controlled Senate have each passed their own versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets spending policy. Negotiations to reach a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the bill have been under way since September https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-defense-spending/border-wall-iran-space-force-among-hurdles-for-700-billion-u-s-defense-bill-idUSKBN1W42XL, but have progressed slowly, Smith said, citing several canceled meetings with Republicans.


Electric Cars and Floods Stall Johnson’s U.K. Election Drive

November 13, 2019 - 2:30pm

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson found himself arguing that Britain’s future was in making electric cars, just as Tesla announced they’d chosen Germany to build a factory over the U.K. He’s having that sort of campaign.The prime minister had started the day visiting flood victims in Northern England. They weren’t as pleased to see him as he might have hoped. “What more can we do?” he asked one woman. “It’s a little bit too late now,” she replied.Burned by their disastrous 2017 election under Theresa May, the Conservatives chose Johnson as their leader partly because they felt he was a winner, a superstar politician who enjoyed the campaign trail. But on Wednesday, he didn’t look like he was having much fun.It would be dangerous to read too much into this: It’s still a month until polling day, and every poll has the Conservatives comfortably ahead. Johnson is also ahead of opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on questions about who would make the best prime minister.As Britain Votes, Your Enemy’s Enemy Is Your Friend: QuickTakeBut anyone looking for things to worry about in Johnson’s performance could find them. There was the way that he was standing in an electric car factory, making a speech about how Britain was going to lead a technology revolution, on a day when Elon Musk had explained that the uncertainty around Brexit made it “too risky” for Tesla Inc. to build a factory in the U.K.Then there was the speech itself. One of the prime minister’s officials said privately they’d accepted that getting other people to write his speeches is a waste of time – he simply rewrites them afterward.But that is a time-consuming process for a man with a country to run and a campaign to fight.The result can seem confused. For his speech, at an electric taxi factory near Coventry, central England, Johnson had a series of announcements to make about his plans for a revolution in British science. They included:An Advanced Research Projects Agency, modeled on the U.S. Department of Defense’s science wingAn increase in the target for wind-generated electricityInvestment in carbon capture and storage infrastructureInvestment in electric vehicle charging points, so no one in England and Wales is more than 30 miles from a charge pointJohnson failed to mention any of them in his speech. The information was handed out afterward by his staff.None of this may matter. Johnson has long played politics by a different set of rules from the rest of the world, and it’s taken him to the top. His team is counting on that run continuing. They’re also sure that, faced with a choice between Johnson and Corbyn, enough voters will choose the Tory leader.That’s why they’ve agreed to head-to-head televised debates, the first of which takes place Nov. 19.Election debates are a relative novelty in the U.K., introduced in 2010, and repeated in different forms at subsequent elections. The problem arranging them is usually getting the parties to agree to the format. Debates are a zero-sum game, and if one of the two main parties -- Labour and the Conservatives -- thinks it can benefit, the other side usually refuses.The ease with which this year’s debates were agreed stems from the fact that both the Tories and Labour think their candidate will look better for standing next to the other man. It’s likely that one of them is mistaken.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, ;Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Egypt says looting attempt causes oil pipeline fire; 7 dead

November 13, 2019 - 2:26pm

A pipeline for oil products caught fire Wednesday when thieves tried to tap into it to siphon off gasoline in the Nile Delta province of Beheira, and at least seven people were killed, Egyptian officials said. The looters caused a leak when they tapped into the pipeline, spilling gasoline into the nearby area, including down a drain, Egypt’s petroleum ministry said. The fuel then caught fire, it said.


Bill Taylor Reveals New Trump Call on Ukraine: Impeachment Takeaways

November 13, 2019 - 2:09pm

(Bloomberg) -- Two State Department officials responsible for U.S. policy in Ukraine testified Wednesday in a House impeachment hearing, giving the public its first live, televised look at the evidence against President Donald Trump.Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent answered questions from Democratic and Republican staff and members of the House Intelligence Committee for several hours.Neither were on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.These are the key takeaways from the hearing so far:Taylor reveals newly disclosed Trump exchange on UkraineTaylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, testified about a previously undisclosed exchange between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on July 26 — the day after the Trump-Zelenskiy call. Taylor said he learned of Sondland’s conversation with Trump only last week from an embassy staffer.According to Taylor’s account, Sondland called Trump by mobile phone from a Kyiv restaurant where U.S. officials were dining after meeting with Zelenskiy. Trump was speaking so loudly that one of Taylor’s staff members could hear both sides of the call.The staffer said Trump asked Sondland about “the investigations.” Taylor understood that term as referring to Trump’s request that Zelenskiy investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and Burisma Holdings, an energy company on whose board Hunter Biden served.Sondland responded that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.Taylor said his staff member asked Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine.“Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for,” Taylor said.Diplomats uncomfortable with Giuliani’s ‘irregular’ channelBoth diplomats were deeply skeptical of the role Rudy Giuliani — the former New York mayor and Trump’s personal lawyer — was playing in Ukraine policy.“In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani’s efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelenskiy’s desire for a White House meeting,” Kent said.Kent said Giuliani was engaged in an effort to “smear” the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and other U.S. diplomats.Taylor said he realized in July that there was an “irregular policy channel” guided by Giuliani working to condition a White House meeting on Ukrainian investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 U.S. elections.Both men said Giuliani was pushing Trump’s political interests.“I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle,” Kent said.“I agree with Mr. Kent,” Taylor said.Republicans push back on ‘fourth-hand rumors’Republicans defending Trump presented a variety of procedural and substantive arguments against the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the intelligence committee, said the witnesses’ testimony was “typically based on second-hand, third-hand, and even fourth-hand rumors and innuendo.”Nunes said the diplomats were “remarkably uninformed” about Trump’s theory that it was Ukraine — not Russia — that sought to interfere in the 2016 election. That gave Trump good reason to send Giuliani to Ukraine to investigate, he said.But at times, Republicans resorted to arguing that Trump’s use of his personal lawyer to conduct Ukraine policy was unusual but not impeachable.“In fairness, this irregular channel of diplomacy, it’s not as outlandish as it could be, is that correct?” said Steve Castor, the attorney handling questioning for the Republicans.“It’s not as outlandish as it could be,” Taylor said, laughing. “I agree with that.”Witnesses explain why withholding of aid was ‘alarming’Both witnesses conceded that they hadn’t spoken to Trump — or even Giuliani — and so could not testify directly about Trump’s aims in withholding aid.But they were able to testify from the front lines of diplomacy about the importance that the new Ukrainian government placed on American support. Zelenskiy, who had just formed a government when he spoke to Trump, wanted a meeting in order to convey legitimacy and give him leverage against Russian President Vladimir Putin, they said.“It’s one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House,” Taylor said. “It’s another thing, I thought, to leverage security assistance, security assistance to a country at war dependent on both the security assistance and the demonstration of support.“Security assistance was much more alarming,” he said.But Republicans countered that there was no harm because the aid was eventually released.“Two facts,” said Representative Elise Stefanik of New York. “Number one, Ukraine received the aid. Number two, there was no investigation.”(Updates with new item.)To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Korte in Washington at gkorte@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wendy Benjaminson at wbenjaminson@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


GBP/USD Forecast: Unable To Attract Investors, Neutral Above 1.2800

November 13, 2019 - 2:02pm

GBP/USD Current Price: 1.2839 UK inflation came in below the market’s expectations in October. Conservatives keep leading polls, underpinning hopes for a deal Brexit. GBP/USD unable to attract investors, ...


Listen To An Exclusive Excerpt From Greta Thunberg’s New Book

November 13, 2019 - 1:00pm

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks to AFP during an interview aboard La Vagabonde, the boat she will be taking to return to Europe, in Hampton, Virginia, on November 12, 2019. – Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg said November 12, 2019 that US President Donald Trump’s climate change denialism was “so extreme” that it had helped galvanize the movement to halt long term planetary warming. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)Greta Thunberg, despite her short career as a climate-change activist, is a masterful speech-maker. During the past year, she has traveled around the world making speeches everywhere from the U.N. to Capitol Hill to various street protests that have made grownups quake in their shoes.With the release of her new book No One Is Too Small to Make A Difference this week, you’ll be able to read a collection of the 16-year-old climate activist’s public addresses in one place. And courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio, we have exclusive audio excerpts from the book so you can hear her speeches in her own voice. In the first one, Thunberg addresses the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland, on December 15, 2018. She excoriates the adults in the room: “You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared of being unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is to pull the emergency brake. You are not mature enough to tell it like it is.”In the second one, Saskia Maarleveld, an award-winning audiobook narrator (whose voice you may recognize from the whistleblower statement), reads Thunberg’s speech — the famous one she ends with “We are the change, and change is coming” — from the Global Climate Strike in Montreal on September 27, 2019.“They say, ‘Let children be children,'” Thunberg said to a crowd of at least 500,000. “We agree. Let us be children. Do your part. Communicate these kinds of numbers instead of leaving that responsibility to us. Then we can go back to ‘being children.'”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Here's Why Greta Thunberg Just Rejected An AwardGreta Thunberg & Gen Z's Quest To Save The WorldHow To Join The Fight Against Climate Change


UPDATE 1-Sterling steady as hopes of Conservative election win overshadow weak data

November 13, 2019 - 9:20am

The pound traded stable on Wednesday as weak economic data, which should hurt sterling, were more than offset by supportive political developments in Britain. The pound however continued to derive support from Monday's news that in the Dec. 12 general election the Brexit Party will not contest seats the Conservative Party won at the last election in 2017. The move appeared to increase the chance that Boris Johnson would remain as prime minister to implement his deal to take Britain out of the European Union.


Guaido, Maduro supporters face off inside Venezuela embassy in Brazil: officials

November 13, 2019 - 9:18am

Brasília (AFP) - Military police surrounded Venezuela's embassy in Brazil Wednesday as rival supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaido and President Nicolas Maduro faced off inside in a struggle for control of the diplomatic compound. The embassy drama unfolded as President Jair Bolsonaro met nearby at the foreign ministry with China's President Xi Jinping ahead of a summit of the BRICS countries.


Iraq protests heat up as Baghdad faces renewed pressure

November 13, 2019 - 9:00am

Anti-government rallies swelled in Iraq's capital and south Wednesday as Baghdad faced new pressure from the street, Washington and the United Nations to respond seriously to weeks of demonstrations. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he told Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi that he "deplored the death toll" and to address the popular movement's "legitimate grievances". The protests had slowed for a few days following a deadly crackdown by security forces in Baghdad and major southern cities but flared again Wednesday with demonstrations by striking students and teachers.


Skeletons Exit Closet in U.K. Social Media Election Shakedown

November 13, 2019 - 8:40am

(Bloomberg) -- It’s been a decade since unwise social media posts began destroying political candidates’ fledgling careers, but the evidence in Britain is that the lesson hasn’t yet been learned.Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s snap general election has meant political parties have spent the past few weeks rushing to select candidates for each of the 650 parliamentary seats that are up for grabs. In theory, this is supposed to be done from lists of wannabes whose pasts have already been carefully screened for unwise outbursts on Twitter and Facebook.That hasn’t been how it’s worked out. Instead, Labour the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and Brexit Party have all been forced to defend -- or boot out -- people over past comments.The election campaign has only being going a week, but long-standing allegations of anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and Islamophobia among Johnson’s Tories have led to a higher level of candidate scrutiny and the clatter of social media skeletons falling from closets.A Labour candidate in Scotland stood down after a blog emerged in which she compared Israel to an abused child. But another is still representing the party after she apologized over tweets from five years ago saying she would celebrate the deaths of former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.A Tory contender in northern England quit after a historic social media post emerged in which he referred to the U.K. capital as “Londonistan,” while another post from 2010 suggested Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi could hide in Bradford, a northern city with a large Asian population.In Essex, east of London, a Liberal Democrat was also forced to stand aside due to racist and homophobic language in tweets between 2009-10.Even so, it’s not always racism or sexism that leads to candidates getting the boot. According to the Yorkshire Post, a Brexit Party candidate was taken off the ballot after social media posts revealed she believed aliens are in league with world governments and she comes from the star Sirius.\--With assistance from Robert Hutton.To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Read: Chairman Adam Schiff's opening statement at today's impeachment hearings

November 13, 2019 - 8:25am

Read House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff's prepared opening remarks below. In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West, and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire. Earlier this year Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine on a platform of ending the conflict and tackling corruption.


US opposes new EU label rule for Israeli settlement products

November 13, 2019 - 8:22am

The U.S. State Department says it’s “deeply concerned” by a new EU requirement for businesses to label products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The statement came in response to Tuesday’s ruling by the EU Court of Justice that settlement products must provide an "indication of that provenance" to better inform consumers. The State Department said Wednesday that the ruling encourages the BDS movement, a Palestinian-led campaign that promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.


Johnson Deploys Troops as Floods Bring Backlash: U.K. Votes

November 13, 2019 - 7:55am

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson deployed troops to flood-hit parts of northern England, as the threat of further rain underlined the risk of holding a general election in December. The prime minister faced criticism from opposition parties over his response, and got a frosty reception from some voters during a visit to affected communities. He’ll try to shift the focus back to campaigning with a speech in the key election battleground of the West Midlands later.Key Developments:Johnson speaks at 4.30 p.m., warning that a government led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would offer “more political self-obsession and onanism”Corbyn said a Labour government would not allow a referendum on Scottish independence in its first termFormer Tory minister David Gauke urges voters not to back JohnsonCabinet minister Michael Gove says a majority Conservative government would get a free-trade agreement with the EU done by the end of the Brexit transition period in Dec. 2020Judge Blocks Postal Strike During Election (2:40 p.m.)A London judge blocked a potential strike by Royal Mail Plc workers during the peak Christmas holiday season, which this year includes the Dec. 12 general election. The Communication Workers Union members voted 97% in favor of action, but Royal Mail complained of “potential irregularities” in the ballot.The court’s decision removes the risk that large numbers of postal votes could be caught up in strike action ahead of the general election.Brexit Cost U.K. Tesla’s Gigafactory (2:30 p.m.)There was bad news for Boris Johnson’s claim that Brexit will unleash commercial opportunities, as Elon Musk said Tesla Inc. has rejected the U.K. as “too risky” for its European gigafactory.The U.K. was once a candidate for the company’s research and manufacturing facilities, Musk said as he announced he has opted for Germany instead. The uncertainty around the U.K. leaving the European Union made it far too risky a proposition, he told Auto Express.Corbyn: No Scottish Referendum in First Term (12:10 p.m.)Jeremy Corbyn said a Labour government would not allow a referendum on Scottish independence in its first term.“No referendum in the first term for a Labour government because I think we need to concentrate completely on investment across Scotland,” Corbyn said in pooled comments. “I’m very clear that a Labour government’s priority is investment in Scotland.”The issue is a key one because Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have repeatedly said a vote for Corbyn means a vote for two referendums next year -- one on Brexit and one on Scottish independence.Lib Dems See Boost in Farage Pullback (11:45 a.m.)The Liberal Democrats are trying to cash in on Nigel Farage’s decision to pull Brexit Party candidates out of Conservative-held seats.In an interview, party leader Jo Swinson said Farage’s gambit makes it easier for her party to appeal to moderate Tory voters who are appalled by the association with the Brexit Party. She’s also keen to remind voters that U.S. President Donald Trump urged Farage and Johnson to work together.Read more: U.K.’s Liberal Democrats See Opportunity in Brexit Party RetreatVoter to Johnson: Flood Aid ‘Too Late Now’ (10:15 a.m.)Boris Johnson’s visit to flood-stricken areas of northern England has not yet produced the kind of footage the prime minister will have been hoping for.Walking around with reporters and TV cameras in tow, he asked a local woman: “What more can we do?”“It’s a little bit too late now,” she replied, filming the encounter on her smartphone. Another voter declined to discuss the issue with Johnson, turning away when the premier approached.Speaking to Sky News, Johnson said there’s “a lot more still to be done” to help areas affected by flooding, and to prevent recurrences.Labour Pledges ‘Rescue Plan’ for NHS (10 a.m.)The opposition Labour Party pledged to end what it described as a “crisis” in the state-run National Health Service with a funding boost of 26 billion pounds ($33.4 billion). The increase in health spending by an average 4.3% a year will be funded by higher taxes on businesses and the wealthiest taxpayers, Labour said in an emailed statement. The party said it represents 6 billion pounds more in real terms than the government announced last year.“The world-class health service we all need and depend on needs proper funding,” Labour’s economy spokesman John McDonnell will say in a speech in London on Wednesday, according to the party. “Labour’s policies to tax the richest in society and invest for the future through our Social Transformation Fund mean we will be able to improve millions of lives.”Johnson to Vow to End Brexit ‘Groundhoggery’ (9:40 a.m.)In a speech later on Wednesday, Boris Johnson will vow to end the “groundhoggery” of Brexit if he wins a majority in the Dec. 12 election and “unleash Britain’s potential” with a clean energy revolution.“We can get out of the rut,” Johnson will say, according to lines briefed by his office. A coalition formed by Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party lies in wait for the U.K. if the Tories don’t succeed, he’ll say.“The country can either move forwards with policies that will deliver years of growth and prosperity, or it can disappear into an intellectual cul-de-sac of far-left Corbynism,” Johnson will say. “We can honor the wishes of the people, or else we can waste more time, at the cost of a billion pounds per month, and have two more referendums, one on Scotland and one on the EU -- an expense of spirit and a waste of shame, more political self-obsession and onanism.”Gove: Tory Majority Only Way to Get Brexit Done (8:30 a.m.)Cabinet minister Michael Gove disputed David Gauke’s assertion (see 7:30 a.m.) that voting for the Conservatives risked a hard split from the European Union. During his broadcast round, Gove told the BBC that Gauke was “precisely wrong” and said a parliamentary majority for the Tories would allow the government to deliver a free-trade agreement with the EU by the end of 2020.“The only way we can get Brexit done and move on with the people’s priorities, investing in policing and education, is by making sure that we have a functioning majority government,” Gove said. He said politicians’ warnings of a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020 are attempts to “raise bogeys and make people’s flesh creep.”Gove also addressed the flooding in northern England that has rapidly become a key campaign issue. He said the government is releasing extra funds to help affected communities. “It’s certainly an emergency and it deserves a national response.”Gauke: A Vote for Johnson Means ‘Hard Brexit’ (7:30 a.m.)Former Tory Cabinet minister David Gauke urged voters not to support Boris Johnson, warning that “a Conservative majority after the next election will take us in the direction of a very hard Brexit.” Gauke told BBC radio it’s doubtful a free-trade deal with the European Union can be negotiated by Dec. 2020, when the Brexit transition period is due to end.“I think in reality the prime minister is so boxed in that the Conservative Party would not allow him to extend the implementation period even if he wanted to -- and he shows no signs of wanting to do so,” said Gauke, who plans to stand as an independent candidate.Gauke also said he’s “impressed” by Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson. “I think if I was living in a lot of constituencies, I would lend my vote to the Liberal Democrats.”Earlier:Johnson Asks Troops to Fight Floods as Weather Hits U.K. BallotU.K. Recent Election Polls Summary: Conservative 40%, Labour 29%Brexit Bulletin: Johnson Told He Can’t Avoid EU ResponsibilitiesJohnson Aims Not to Be Swept Away By Floods: U.K. Campaign TrailTo contact the reporters on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Tesla and Berlin Are a Perfect Match

November 13, 2019 - 7:50am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Elon Musk’s announcement that Tesla Inc. will build a factory and a research center near Berlin makes perfect sense as a loud statement. Berlin isn’t known as a car city but it does have a vigorous tech scene and Tesla isn’t so much a car company as a tech one. But it’s also reasonable from other points of view.Musk, who has spent some time deciding on a European factory location, has decided on Gruenheide in Brandenburg, the German state that surrounds Berlin, and the research facility is to be located near Berlin’s yet-to-open new international airport.That the new factory should be in Germany is logical. Germany is Europe’s biggest market for electric vehicles and the one with the biggest potential. Germany is Europe’s most populous country, Germans are in love with cars and worried about the environment, as evidenced by the recent electoral successes of the Greens.It also matters that Germany is a country with some of Europe’s strongest incentives for electric car buyers. It recently decided to increase the maximum subsidy for buyers of battery vehicles to 6,000 euros ($6,600) from 4,000 euros and extend it until 2025. France, Italy and Slovenia offer roughly as much. One could regard Musk’s move as a cheeky foray into the land of its top competitors. Volkswagen AG has launched an all-out electrification strategy that pits it directly against Musk’s mass-market hope, the Model 3 (which apparently won’t be made at the new Berlin factory, at least to start with). In September, the German giant launched the ID.3, the first car on its new platform meant for electric vehicles. Berlin is flooded with electric Golfs that VW made available this year for WeShare, the company’s nascent car-sharing operation. And even before VW starts turning out tens of thousands of cars especially developed as EVs, the e-Golf is already among the Model 3’s strong competitors in Germany, along with Bayerische Motorenwerke AG’s somewhat clunkier i3 and some other European electric cars.But then, it makes sense to keep close to the competition, work with the same suppliers and be able to poach star managers, engineers and designers. Tesla isn’t the cheeky challenger here — the German automakers are, when it comes to EVs. Musk, in a sense, is buying insurance against being overtaken technologically. That could even justify the large differential in workers’ wages: While the average Tesla assembly worker at in California makes $18 per hour, the lowest-paid German auto worker makes about 27 euros per hour, almost $30. There’s also some symbolism to Tesla’s move into Berlin in particular. The capital city was the first German location for Ford, which started assembling Model T’s there in 1926, not fearing competition from German automakers who were slower to catch on to mass production.  And yet Berlin and its surrounding area aren’t obvious locations for an auto industry operation. Though BMW makes motorcycles in Berlin, Daimler AG has production sites both in and outside the city and VW has a design center in Potsdam, most of Germany’s car production, engineering and design take place elsewhere.  Instead, Berlin has a flourishing startup culture. According to Deutscher Startup Monitor, 16% of Germany’s startup companies are located in Berlin. Only the country’s most populous state, North Rhein-Westphalia, has a bigger share. And when it comes to the number of tech workers, Berlin has more of them per 100,000 residents than any German state except Hamburg and Hesse. Arguably, as a European tech hub the German capital ranks second only to London and possibly Paris. Musk said Brexit ruled out the U.K. as a potential site, and France has such restrictive labor laws that it’s difficult to imagine Tesla opening a 10,000-job operation there when there are other choices.“Berlin rocks,” Musk said as he announced Tesla’s plans.On the other hand, it could be argued that the heart of the automotive industry is shifting east, and it won’t be beating too far from Berlin in the near future. Zwickau in Saxony, three hours’ drive from the capital, is where VW has started production of the ID.3. Saxony is an emerging auto-industry hub that includes BMW and Porsche factories; IG Metall, the  labor union that represents many auto workers, counts Saxony as  part of the same area as Berlin and Brandenburg.  In other words, Musk’s choice of Tesla’s next production and development site is a considered one, even if an impulse to take the battle to Tesla’s deep-pocketed German challengers on their home turf has played an obvious role.To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@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.


France Won’t Pretend Everything Is OK With NATO, Philippe Says

November 13, 2019 - 7:43am

(Bloomberg) -- France can’t keep pretending all is right within NATO, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said, another sign it will continue its public critique of an entity that’s been Europe’s security umbrella since World War II.Speaking on Tuesday at an interview in his offices in Paris, Philippe defended President Emmanuel Macron’s comments -- he said last week that NATO is suffering a “brain death” -- which have spurred a backlash from leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior officials in eastern Europe.“To question what this alliance is for, to question its ability to respond to the great challenges of the world today, this too seems appropriate to me,” Philippe said. “To do so in striking terms seems to me to be useful in stimulating debate.”Macron on Tuesday said world powers must not be “lazy” in efforts to overhaul global institutions. “I’ve perhaps offended a few people here in recent days or weeks. I think we need truth: Prudishness and hypocrisy doesn’t work these days,” he said at a conference in Paris. “Laziness -- intellectually or in action -- is not a solution.”Europe Expands Defense Projects Amid Macron Warnings on NATOThe French president’s recent remarks reflect his desire for a more independent foreign policy in Europe, one that relies less on the U.S. or NATO. He has pushed for a while for Europe to deepen its own military integration.He has also shown unease over NATO member Turkey’s recent military operation against Kurdish fighters inside Syria. Macron said in Brussels last month NATO had made “a heavy mistake” in its handling of Turkey’s behavior on Syria.But the public way he is critiquing NATO has also raised questions about whether he could end up undermining it. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told the Financial Times that Macron’s actions were “dangerous,” calling NATO “the most important alliance in the world when it comes to preserving freedom and peace.”The sniping comes as NATO prepares for a brief summit in the U.K. next month to mark its 70th anniversary, where Macron is expected to further set out his concerns.That could see him aligned somewhat with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has also been a frequent critic of NATO, albeit for somewhat different reasons. Trump says America has shouldered too much of NATO’s defense budget for too long. And he’s created tensions with traditional allies via his “America First” policy. His Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said earlier this month that NATO risked becoming irrelevant.Macron Bid to Be Europe’s Leader Means Bruises for French AlliesDespite Trump’s rhetoric, U.S. commitments of troops and money to Europe’s defense have increased at a faster pace, and NATO has been more active in deploying forces for potential collective defense during his administration, than at any time since the end of the Cold War.Asked about France’s future commitment to NATO, Philippe spoke about the deployment of its troops in operations both within and outside the organization’s remit. In doing so he cited “other European countries which are sometimes very vocal about their attachment to the American umbrella but less present when it comes to direct intervention.”France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly told parliament on Wednesday there were "serious doubts" about the U.S. security guarantee under Article 5, which deals with the principle of collective defense. "There are serious questions about allied security when Turks are attacking those fighting Daesh and then there is a screaming lack of EU funding," she added, using another term for Islamic State. Macron is looking to flag these matters in the run up to the summit, Parly said, and plans to meet Trump beforehand. "It’s healthy to have real strategic thinking with allies and on the strength of our commitment within it. We will soon make proposals for that."Speaking in the interview, Philippe did not reference a country by name. But he said NATO had issues within its ranks.“To put it in diplomatic terms, yes, there are attitudes that are rather uncooperative between NATO countries,” he said.“We can all pretend that the alliance is doing tremendously well, we can try not to see the uncooperative attitude of some of its members, we can all try not to see the unpredictable attitudes of a number of allies. But this attitude, this difficulty, this question, it exists,” he added. “So let us ask it, and let us ask it publicly, because the questions of sovereignty and security are profoundly democratic.”(Updates with defense minister comments.)\--With assistance from Helene Fouquet, Geraldine Amiel and Ania Nussbaum.To contact the reporters on this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net;Chad Thomas in Berlin at cthomas16@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Wes Kosova at wkosova@bloomberg.net, Rosalind Mathieson, Ben SillsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


UPDATE 1-PM Johnson will pledge to get Britain out of Brexit rut

November 13, 2019 - 7:41am

On a campaign trip to central England, Johnson will reiterate that only he can break the deadlock over Britain's departure from the European Union. The election was called to end three years of disagreement over Brexit that has sapped investors' faith in the stability of the world's fifth largest economy and damaged Britain's standing since it voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU. "The UK is admired and respected around the world but people are baffled by our debate on Brexit and they cannot understand how this great country can squander so much time and energy on this question and how we can be so hesitant about our future," Johnson will say, according to his office.


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