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Brexit Party's Farage says will stand down no more candidates

November 13, 2019 - 7:38am

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would stand down no more candidates beyond the 317 Conservative seats his party has already withdrawn from. When asked if he would stand down any further candidates, he said he would not. "No. That's just a sort of attempt at intimidation that has come from elements of the press.

‘Sack Them All,’ Billionaire Stephen Lansdown Says of U.K. Politicians

November 13, 2019 - 7:27am

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.U.K. politicians should be wary of seeking Stephen Lansdown’s backing for their election campaigns.The co-founder of financial-services firm Hargreaves Lansdown Plc is furious about Britain’s delayed departure from the European Union. If he had his way, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the country’s other lawmakers would be ousted from their jobs. With the U.K. poised for a third election in four years to try and break the Brexit deadlock, Lansdown may get some of what he wishes.“It’s such a farce,” he said of the U.K.’s faltering efforts to leave the EU. “We should have been able to deal with Brexit. We should never have got ourselves into this position.”Still, the U.K.’s political gridlock hasn’t hurt Lansdown financially. He’s sold more than $500 million of stock in Hargreaves Lansdown since the nation voted to leave the EU in 2016, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Moreover, he’s pocketed that cash tax-free after moving a decade ago to Guernsey, the British crown dependency that doesn’t apply levies on capital gains. His remaining stake in Bristol, England-based Hargreaves Lansdown is worth about $1 billion.Bloomberg spoke with Lansdown, 67, last month, ahead of his appearance at an event highlighting research from trade group Guernsey Finance on wealthy families and sustainable investing. The billionaire, who left Hargreaves Lansdown’s board in 2012, declined to discuss Neil Woodford, the U.K. fund manager who received backing from Hargreaves Lansdown for his now-collapsed investment firm. Comments have been edited and condensed.When did you set up your family office?After we moved to Guernsey, I started managing my own portfolio from home. After the second or third consecutive day of my wife and I being in the house all day, I realized that was more her domain, so I found a desk in an office to use and we’ve grown it from there. It was fun for about five minutes to manage everything myself after going from Hargreaves Lansdown, where everything was done for me, but then you realize all the little things you’re doing are a bit tedious.We’ve now got a team of about half-dozen in a bigger office. I still lead on what we should be investing in. Pula -- the name of my family office, meaning “rain” in Botswana’s national language -- has interests in sport, aviation, unquoted businesses that include my sustainable portfolio, and land and lodges in southern Africa. Separate teams run the outside businesses.Did you grow up wanting to be super rich?Going through school, I didn’t ever imagine I was going to be where I am now. When we started Hargreaves Lansdown, we wanted to be a success, to earn a good living and look after our family, but did we ever think it would be as successful? No. We got it right from not incurring any debt, so we paid our bills as we went. We didn’t take any money out of the business either for the first 10 years -- which people don’t believe. We only took out just enough to live off. Eventually, the opportunity to float the business gave me an opportunity to step back and do other things.How involved are you in Pula’s investments?When I started, I wanted to be fully involved. But I’ve learned I can contribute better by challenging and guiding, and I don’t get involved as much anymore. If you get emotionally involved in a company, you perhaps don’t make the right decisions, particularly if your life and soul doesn’t depend on it. When we started Hargreaves Lansdown, it had to work. We had nothing else, so we really focused on it. But when you’re investing into different pockets, you can’t look after all of them. You need a good team around you to take on responsibilities.What’s your view on U.K. politics?It’s such a farce. I know that is a generalization, and some of them are probably quite good, but you look at all the political parties and politicians and you wouldn’t give any of them a job. They are just looking after themselves all the time or their party and not doing their job. I just wonder really if there’s some way the country could call an annual general meeting and sack them all.I was in favor of Brexit. That aside, we need to get on with things. Whatever the situation, there will be entrepreneurs and people in the country that don’t do so well. But people need the opportunity to be able to get going, and politically it’s just been a stalemate. That’s highlighted how poor our politicians are, and also how poor our civil service is probably. We should have been able to deal with Brexit. We should never have got ourselves into this position.How do your sustainable investments compare?I’ve made sustainable investments for about 10 years now, and I’ve had good returns on a couple. Unlike buying a share on the stock exchange where you can see what happens minute-by-minute, it tends to be a project you’re investing in -- a wind farm or a water purification system -- and it takes a long time to get to the market. If I look to make 10% to 15% per year over a long period of time on sustainable investments, that would be very good. I’ve now got almost 10% of my portfolio in sustainable investments. Could it be higher? Probably.How do you balance sustainability with your private jet?The private jet is my downside in sustainability, but I’m looking to calculate how much carbon dioxide we’re burning and then offset it. As long as there’s a major positive in that way, I think your conscience can be clear, and I think you’re going to see more and more people taking that route.How involved are your children with your family office?My son runs our sport group in Bristol and my daughter is very involved in what we do in Africa. Until now, they’ve been on the fringes. Everything is going to be theirs eventually, so it makes sense they’re involved. What we do and where we focus our investments are decisions we will take together on an ongoing basis.What are your future plans?I will always carry on investing. I love looking at businesses. I will always meddle, which is not a great thing to say but I think it’s inevitable I will take some interest. My main role in Pula’s portfolio is to focus where I think the best areas are going forward and be more like a chairman. I’m really focused on our work in Africa. That’s taking up more and more of my time.What’s life like in Guernsey?Guernsey gives me security, good governance and also the political situation is stable -- a premium these days. There’s no capital gains tax, too, and that has allowed me to sell down my holding of Hargreaves Lansdown shares -- from about 28% when I left to 9% today -- and reinvest in sports, Africa and Guernsey businesses. Sometimes you don’t invest due to the tax position, but I can always make a decision without worrying about it. That’s the real joy.(Updates with details on Neil Woodford in fifth paragraph, comments on future plans in penultimate.)To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Stupples in London at bstupples@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at, Steven CrabillFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Greta Thunberg Is Heading to Spain on a Catamaran

November 13, 2019 - 7:24am

Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg is heading to the next round of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Spain.

Trump impeachment: Russia says claims against US president 'far-fetched' as public hearings begin

November 13, 2019 - 7:24am

Russia has said the claims against Donald Trump that have prompted the impeachment hearings are "far-fetched".As Congress prepared to interview the first two witnesses in the public phase of the inquiry, Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov downplayed their significance.

Swedes arrest Iranian suspect in ’88 crimes against humanity

November 13, 2019 - 7:20am

An Iranian citizen has been jailed in Sweden on suspicion of carrying out crimes against humanity and murder in the late 1980s in Iran, a Swedish prosecutor said Wednesday, the same time period of mass executions by Tehran. Prosecutor Karolina Wieslander said the unidentified man is suspected is of committing the crimes between July 28, 1988, and Aug. 31, 1988, in Tehran. The man’s alleged crimes correspond with the end of Iran’s long war with Iraq, which began when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980.

Auditors urge EU to quickly fix migrant policy shortfalls

November 13, 2019 - 7:12am

Auditors on Wednesday urged the European Union to improve its approach to easing migrant pressure on Greece and Italy as people languish in camps on the Greek Islands, and to draw lessons from its shortcomings before a new crisis hits. Greece and Italy were overwhelmed, and the arrivals sparked a political crisis as nations bickered over who should take charge and whether to help. As pressure from member countries built for a quick response, the EU came up with a series of stop-gap emergency measures and funds.

Greta Thunberg hitches low-carbon ride across Atlantic

November 13, 2019 - 6:56am

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg left North America on a return trip across the Atlantic on Wednesday, hitching a renewable-energy ride with an Australian family aboard their 48-foot (15-meter) catamaran. Thunberg tweeted that they set sail from Virginia after the family answered her urgent appeal for a ride back to Europe, where she hopes to arrive in time for the United Nations climate meeting that was moved to Madrid in early December. Thunberg spoke with The Associated Press Tuesday inside the tight confines of the boat’s cabin as it was docked in Hampton, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

UN: Al-Shabab remains 'potent threat' in Somalia and region

November 13, 2019 - 6:54am

Al-Shabab extremists in Somalia remain "a potent threat" to regional peace and are now manufacturing home-made explosives, expanding their revenue sources and infiltrating government institutions, U.N. experts say. The report said al-Shabab's assault on Jan. 15 on a commercial business complex in Nairobi, Kenya, containing the DusitD2 Hotel "illustrates the danger the group continues to pose to regional peace and security." That attack killed 21 people as well as four gunmen.

Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s Houthi rebels in indirect peace talks

November 13, 2019 - 6:41am

Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Iran-backed rebels are holding indirect, behind-the-scenes talks to end the devastating five-year war in Yemen, officials from both sides have told The Associated Press. The negotiations are taking place with Oman, a Gulf Arab country that borders both Yemen and Saudi Arabia, as mediator. Oman has positioned itself as a quiet mediator in the past and in a possible sign the back-channel talks could be stepping up, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman arrived in Muscat on Monday.

Juan Guaido Backers Enter Venezuela Embassy in Brazil in Bold Move

November 13, 2019 - 6:35am

(Bloomberg) -- Supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido entered the country’s embassy in Brasilia on Wednesday, a move coinciding with the arrival of Russian and Chinese leaders for an international summit.Freddy Meregote, the embassy’s charge d’affaires representing the government of Nicolas Maduro, said in an interview that the embassy was “invaded” and asked the Brazilian government to provide protection. Guaido representative Maria Teresa Belandria said in a statement that a group of embassy workers defected, recognized Guaido as president and opened the doors of the building.Tensions flared as leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Brasilia for a summit of the world’s largest emerging markets, known as the BRICS. While Russia and China continue to back Maduro, Brazil is the only BRICS member and one of the roughly 50 nations worldwide that recognizes the opposition leader as Venezuela’s rightful head of state. Still, Guaido’s efforts to remove Maduro have stalled after a botched uprising in April.Read more: Brazil to Urge Emerging Market Peers to Review Venezuelan TiesMeregote said he sought help from leftist lawmakers and members of social organizations. Paulo Pimenta, a deputy for the Workers’ Party, came to the embassy to aid Maduro’s envoy as dozens of supporters of Guaido and Maduro exchanged insults outside the building.Guaido supporters entered the embassy at around 4:00 a.m. local time. Pro-Maduro diplomats living at the site say their families are at risk.A representative from Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is on the grounds and speaking with both sides. Brazilian police have also gathered at the entrance of the embassy, but have not gone inside.The meeting of the BRICS heads of state is taking place Nov. 13-14 in Brasilia.\--With assistance from Mario Sergio Lima.To contact the reporter on this story: Samy Adghirni in Brasilia Newsroom at sadghirni@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at, Matthew Malinowski, Patricia LayaFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

A Ukrainian Billionaire Fought Russia. Now He's Ready to Embrace It.

November 13, 2019 - 6:01am

KYIV, Ukraine -- In the last five years, more than 13,000 people have died in a de facto war between Ukraine and Russia -- a fight, many here say, to shake off the shackles of a colonial master and to move closer to the West.A crucial figure in the effort was a billionaire named Ihor Kolomoisky, who spent millions of dollars to field and equip fighters and helped stop the Russian advance in 2014.But Kolomoisky, widely seen as Ukraine's most powerful figure outside government, given his role as the patron of the recently elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has experienced a remarkable change of heart: It is time, he said, for Ukraine to give up on the West and turn back toward Russia."They're stronger anyway. We have to improve our relations," he said, comparing Russia's power to that of Ukraine. "People want peace, a good life, they don't want to be at war. And you" -- America -- "are forcing us to be at war, and not even giving us the money for it."His comments appeared to reflect, at least in part, his self-interested frustration that Western diplomats and the International Monetary Fund have been leaning on the president to prevent Kolomoisky from regaining control of the bank seized from him and a co-owner in 2016 amid allegations of a multibillion-dollar embezzlement.But whatever his motivations, Kolomoisky's geopolitical views matter, because analysts and Western diplomats believe he has extensive sway with the administration of Zelenskiy, a comedian whose television shows were carried on Kolomoisky's channel.While Zelenskiy continues to pursue closer ties with the West, he also appears to be prepared to engage with Russia more directly than his predecessor. Zelenskiy recently offered to meet with Putin without Western leaders present, the former president of Kazakhstan said Tuesday.In the impeachment hearings in recent weeks, U.S. officials have described Kolomoisky's influence as one of the biggest problems facing Zelenskiy's new administration.The IMF is reportedly holding up financing for Ukraine in part because of concerns that Zelenskiy is not doing enough to recover funds that Kolomoisky is accused of stealing from his Ukrainian bank, Privatbank, which cost the government in Kyiv $5.6 billion to bail out in 2016.Kolomoisky, who denies any wrongdoing and says the government illegally seized his bank, has previously criticized the IMF and what he sees as an excessively assertive Western role in Ukraine, insisting in an emotional interview -- as he has in the past -- that Zelenskiy should be prepared to default on the fund's loans.But he described the impeachment proceedings now gripping Washington as a last straw, and he spoke in blunt terms about the logic of embracing Russia as a partner. It has become clear that the European Union and NATO will never take in Ukraine, he said, so it would be best to accept reality and not even try."You all won't take us" in the alliance, Kolomoisky said in the interview, in a conference room at his offices in Kyiv. "There's no use in wasting time on empty talk. Whereas Russia would love to bring us into a new Warsaw Pact."Five years ago, Kolomoisky, now 56, had a far different perspective. With Ukraine under attack from Russian-backed separatists, the billionaire accepted an offer to become governor of his home Dnipropetrovsk region near the war's front line. He financed a pro-government militia that held the battle lines before the regular army could deploy enough troops to keep the separatists at bay.As a fixture in Ukraine's Jewish community, he countered the notion advanced by the Kremlin that the new pro-Western government in Kyiv was run by neo-Nazis.In 2017, Kolomoisky left Ukraine for Switzerland and Israel after the government under then-President Petro O. Poroshenko seized Privatbank and accused him of a large-scale fraud that threatened to destabilize Ukraine's economy. He returned this past May after the election of Zelenskiy, the comedian whose hit sitcom about a good-at-heart teacher turned president of Ukraine appeared on Kolomoisky's television channel.Kolomoisky now insists he still has no love lost for Russia, mentioning the mass famine in the 1930s as one of the tragedies that befell Ukraine because of its association with Moscow. But, he told The Times in a profanity-laced discussion, the West has failed Ukraine, not providing enough money or sufficiently opening its markets.Instead, he said, the United States is simply using Ukraine to try to weaken its geopolitical rival. "War against Russia," he said, "to the last Ukrainian." Rebuilding ties with Russia has become necessary for Ukraine's economic survival, Kolomoisky argued. He predicted that the trauma of war will pass."Give it five, 10 years, and the blood will be forgotten," Kolomoisky said. "I showed in 2014 that I don't want to be with Russia," he added. "I'm describing, objectively, what I'm seeing and where things are heading."He said financing from Russia could replace loans from the IMF, which has pushed for anti-corruption reforms that annoy Ukraine's entrenched business interests."We'll take $100 billion from the Russians. I think they'd love to give it to us today," Kolomoisky said. "What's the fastest way to resolve issues and restore the relationship? Only money."For Kolomoisky, the enmity toward the United States is personal. He says he believes he is a target of the FBI, which is reported to have started a financial-crimes probe into his activities.Fiona Hill, the former Europe and Russia adviser at the White House, told lawmakers that she was "extremely concerned" by Kolomoisky's influence with Zelenskiy. George D. Kent, a senior State Department official, said he had told Zelenskiy that his willingness to break with Kolomoisky -- "somebody who had such a bad reputation" -- would be a litmus test for his independence.And William Taylor, the acting ambassador in Kyiv, said he had warned Zelenskiy: "He, Mr. Kolomoisky, is increasing his influence in your government, which could cause you to fail."Kolomoisky said that if he were Ukraine's president, he would proceed with the investigations sought by Trump. Asked if that risked exposing Ukraine to blowback if a Democrat were to win next year's presidential election, Kolomoisky responded: "If they get smart with us, we'll go to Russia.""Russian tanks will be stationed near Krakow and Warsaw," he said. "Your NATO will be soiling its pants and buying Pampers."Zelenskiy campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, pledging to rid Ukraine of the influence of the business tycoons who seized control of the country's key assets after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He pledged that Kolomoisky would have no special sway over his administration.But there are mounting signs that Kolomoisky's influence is rising, and the oligarch's comments about the importance of rebuilding ties with Russia are likely to increase concern among critics of Zelenskiy who already believe that the president is prepared to undermine Ukrainian interests in his pursuit of a Kremlin peace deal.Kolomoisky said he was feverishly working out how to end the war, but he refused to divulge details because the Americans "will mess it up and get in the way."Kolomoisky said he remains intent on regaining ownership of Privatbank or being compensated. He said those like Poroshenko responsible for the bank's seizure must be punished, "and the death penalty must be brought back for them."With international investors jittery over Kolomoisky's role, Zelenskiy has insisted publicly that he will not return the bank to its former owners."He knows it wasn't stolen," Kolomoisky countered, referring to the money Kolomoisky and his partner were accused of embezzling from the bank, which both deny. "He's saying what you all want to hear."Kolomoisky rejected the reports about his hidden influence on Zelenskiy's government. But he warned that he was starting to believe that depiction of himself, and that he had the ability to make it come to life."If I put on glasses and look at myself like the whole rest of the world, I see myself as a monster, as a puppet master, as the master of Zelenskiy, someone making apocalyptic plans," Kolomoisky said. "I can start making this real."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

North Korea issues warning over US-South Korea drills

November 13, 2019 - 6:00am

North Korea’s supreme decision-making body lashed out Wednesday at planned U.S.-South Korean military drills and warned that the United States will face a “bigger threat and harsh suffering” if it ignores North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-year deadline to salvage nuclear talks. In a statement carried by state media, an unidentified spokesperson for the North’s State Affairs Commission said the drills would violate agreements between Kim and President Donald Trump on improving bilateral relations and compel North Korea to raise its war readiness. The statement is North Korea’s latest expression of displeasure over the military drills and slow pace of nuclear negotiations with Washington.

Officials: Missile attack kills 5 soldiers in central Yemen

November 13, 2019 - 5:40am

Officials from Yemen's internationally recognized government say a missile attack has killed five soldiers in a central province. At least 12 soldiers were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to brief the media.

U.K.’s Liberal Democrats See Opportunity in Brexit Party Retreat

November 13, 2019 - 5:32am

(Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s Liberal Democrats are poised to cash in on Nigel Farage’s decision to ally himself to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives because it clarifies the choice for voters, according to party leader Jo Swinson.Farage’s announcement that his Brexit Party won’t run candidates in Tory-held seats means moderate supporters of the prime minister’s party will turn to the pro-EU Liberal Democrats to block a chaotic split from the European Union, Swinson said.“It makes it easier for us to appeal to those one-nation Conservative voters who will be appalled that Boris Johnson has cooked up this deal with Farage,” Swinson said in an interview. “It makes it absolutely clear that the Conservative Party is a hard-Brexit party that’s prepared to risk a no-deal Brexit at the end of next year.”The Liberal Democrats are trying to rebound from elections in 2015 and 2017 when they won just 8 and 12 seats out of 650 in Parliament -- down from a high of 62 in 2005. With an offer of canceling Brexit altogether, they’re appealing to disaffected Tories who reject the EU divorce deal struck by Johnson, and to Labour supporters frustrated by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to renegotiate Brexit before a second referendum.It’s in Tory-held seats where the Liberal Democrats are most likely to challenge. In 2017, 29 of the 38 seats where they came second were won by Tories. Two years later, Swinson said, the Tories “have gone off to the extremes,” and the Liberal Democrats are looking to pick off their voters.Trump ImpactFarage presented his decision as a “unilateral” alliance and Johnson has insisted there wasn’t a deal -- but that isn’t stopping Swinson from claiming the Tories are tarred by association. U.S. President Donald Trump urged them to work together, something she is keen for voters not to forget.“There are many Conservatives who voted Remain, or are in that one-nation Conservative tradition, who look on in horror and are seriously thinking about coming to the Liberal Democrats,” she said. “This deal between Farage and Johnson, very much egged on by President Trump, is certainly going to make that part of our task that little bit easier.”A YouGov poll after the Brexit Party pullout put the Tories on 42%, Labour on 28% and Swinson’s party on 15%.Many Liberal Democrat target seats are in Brexit-supporting southwest England, making their pledge to stay in the EU a tricky sell. Swinson twice refused to be drawn on whether the Brexit Party pullout damages their chances there because it will unify pro-Brexit support behind Tory candidates.Alliances“Brexit is hugely important, but it isn’t the defining issue for every single person,” she said, listing policies on mental health care, education, and climate change. For voters seeking change, in many seats her party is best-placed to beat the Tories, she said.The Liberal Democrats have struck a pact in 60 seats with the Greens and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru in which candidates will stand aside to give the other parties a clearer run. Swinson said the negotiations weren’t easy, and that deals in other seats aren’t “massively likely.”On Tuesday, she suffered a blow when one of her candidates pulled out of the race in Canterbury in order to give the pro-EU Labour candidate a better chance. The move appeared not to have be cleared by the leadership, and the party said they would field a new candidate.Swinson has repeatedly said she’s standing to be the country’s next prime minister -- a grand ambition for someone whose party won less than 2% of the seats in 2017. A more likely outcome is a hung Parliament, but she ruled out propping up either Johnson or Corbyn, and suggested her support is unlikely even if the party leaders change.As for her ambition to be premier, she refused to lower her expectations.“I’m not saying that I don’t recognize the scale of the challenge, but I am saying that I’m determined for us to be more ambitious than ever before,” she said. “I look at Boris Johnson on the one hand, and Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand, and I’m absolutely certain that I could do a better job than either of them.”(Updates with opinion poll in eighth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Thomas Penny, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Mina Chang: Senior Trump official 'faked Time magazine cover and inflated claims in CV'

November 13, 2019 - 5:24am

A senior State Department's impressive resume appears to be loaded with exaggerated claims that inflate her credentials and experience, according to reports.NBC News claims that Mina Chang, a deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, also faked an issue of Time magazine with her face on the cover and made false claims about graduating from Harvard University and her appointment to a nonexistent position with the United Nations, among other misleading lines in her State Department biography and LinkedIn experience.

Syrian suspected of IS killings denies charges in Hungary

November 13, 2019 - 4:56am

A Syrian man on trial in Hungary denied charges Wednesday that he took part in a beheading and other killings in his homeland while a member of the Islamic State group. Prosecutors have charged the 27-year-old identified only as Hassan F. with participating in the beheading of a religious leader in the city of al-Sukhnah in Homs province and involvement in the killings of at least 25 people. Prosecutors said it was Hassan F.'s job to compile a list of those to be killed, which was then approved by IS leaders, and oversee the killings.

British PM Johnson, on campaign trail, to pledge swift resolution on Brexit

November 13, 2019 - 4:09am

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will promise on Wednesday to end the delays over Britain's departure from the European Union if he wins next month's election and he will describe the opposition Labour Party's plans as political "onanism". Johnson was scheduled to make a campaign speech at a factory in the West Midlands where, according to prepared remarks, he will say that the rest of the world cannot understand why so much time has been spent agonising over Brexit. Britons will vote on Dec. 12 in an election called to end three years of deep disagreement over Brexit that has sapped investors' faith in the stability of the world's fifth largest economy and damaged Britain's standing in the world.

Ex-Tory minister advises public to vote against party

November 13, 2019 - 4:08am

A former Conservative Party Cabinet minister said Wednesday that giving the party a majority in next month's election would be "disastrous" for the U.K., in the latest example of how the Brexit debate has shattered traditional party alliances in this deeply divided country. David Gauke, who served as justice secretary until July, said an outright victory for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's party would likely result in Britain leaving the European Union without an agreement ensuring unfettered trade with the bloc. The comments underscore the upheaval underway in British politics, triggered largely by differing views on how and whether Britain should leave the EU.

Voter suppression: 'It's the only way Republicans can protect themselves'

November 13, 2019 - 4:00am

Given what’s at stake next year, the effort to prevent people voting will be fierce. We’ve been here before – and we can stop it‘Like an ageing boxer whose taken too many blows, the United States doesn’t have another 100 years to waste on destroying democracy.’ Illustration: Richard Chance/The GuardianAmerica hangs in the balance. The elections in November next year will determine whether the United States continues down the road of authoritarian dynastic rule or reclaims the work of expanding and improving our democracy. Those are the choices.That expansion was born out of the civil war, which left 1.2 million dead or wounded, but resulted in the 15th amendment, which made clear that the right to vote could not be denied or hampered because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The subsequent struggles led to women’s right to vote, opening the franchise to those 18 and over, and the “single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress,” the Voting Rights Act, which protected the franchise from states with a demonstrated history of racial and linguistic discrimination.But in 2013, the supreme court declared that racism was essentially a thing of the past and gutted the Voting Rights Act. The results have been calamitous. More than half the states passed a series of voter suppression laws that targeted minority voters, breached a key firewall that protected American democracy, and greased the pathway to install a man in the White House whose racism, greed, and unfitness for office was well known.series boxWhat’s become clear over the course of three harrowing years is that the only real effective throttle that has slowed down the nation’s descent into authoritarian rule has been the throng of engaged, determined voters. The turnout in the 2018 midterm election, the highest since 1914, aided by a massive effort of civil rights organizations, was so overwhelming that control of the House of Representatives flipped to the Democrats and accountability finally began to creep back into the political landscape. As Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution, wrote: “The last line of defense against a lawless, oathless president is the electoral process.”Similarly, the only way that Republicans can protect themselves and a rogue president is to suppress the votes of minorities, the young, and the poor (all of whom vote overwhelmingly for Democrats). In 2020, we’re poised to see more voter intimidation, criminalizing of voter registration drives, disguised poll taxes, attempts to maintain extreme partisan gerrymandered districts, draconian and flawed voter roll purges, squashing access to voting on college campuses, widespread purchase of hackable voting machines, and a slew of unqualified, rightwing judges appointed to the federal bench to provide legal sanction to the destruction of democracy.In One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy, I traced a history and a pattern of bureaucratic violence against American citizens’ right to vote. Given what’s at stake in 2020, I expect a similar range of tactics, wrapped in the veneer of law, that are designed to further undermine Americans’ access to the ballot box: Intimidation of minority votersWe’re likely to see more abusive use of state power to intimidate and criminalize Asian Americans, African Americans and Hispanics for voting or registering minorities to vote. Georgia, in fact, has been notorious in this regard. And continues to be so.In Texas, meanwhile, acting secretary of state David Whitley announced in January 2019 that he had a list of 95,000 non-citizens (immigrants) who were registered to vote in the state. Worse yet, he claimed, 58,000 of them had already cast a ballot in an election. He quickly turned over the names of these apparent miscreants to Texas’ attorney general to pursue criminal prosecution.Whitley’s claim was, in the end, a lie. The list, as Whitley well knew, was structurally flawed and contained tens of thousands of naturalized citizens who had the right to vote. Texas, in short, was getting ready to remove American citizens from the voting rolls simply because they had once been immigrants.Equally abhorrent, Whitley’s stunt sent the signal to Texas’ burgeoning Hispanic population that if they registered to vote, as their American citizenship allowed them to do, their names could easily be turned over to the attorney general for further investigation. In an era where Ice has been allowed to run loose and terrorize documented and undocumented populations, this was a clear warning shot. Keep your head down, don’t register, don’t vote, and you just might be safe.It’s the same message of voter suppression that has haunted America’s political landscape since 1867. Curbing voter registrationAnother tactic, which Tennessee tried after 2018, is to criminalize voter registration drives. Initially, it would seem that a state ranked at the very bottom in the nation in voter turnout and close to the bottom in those registered to vote would try to improve their citizens’ participation in democracy. Instead, as the New York Times reported, when “tens of thousands of new black and Latino voters were registered in Tennessee in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections” the Republican-dominated legislature complained that many of the registration forms were incomplete and that the only viable solution was to hold those who held these voter registration drives criminally and financially accountable. Although a judge has struck down the law, the threat of what Tennessee Republicans are willing to do hangs there. Felon disenfranchisementFlorida has also tried to stem the tide of new voters coming to the polls. After a citizen-led ballot initiative passed to restore voting rights to 1.4 million felons who had served their sentences, Republicans began searching for some way to neutralize the effect. Given that more than 20% of all African American adults were disenfranchised in Florida because of a felony conviction, and that the overwhelming majority of blacks vote for Democrats, the Republicans added a rider to “clarify” that a completed sentence required paying all of the court fines, fees, and penalties accrued during the trial and incarceration before the returning citizens’ voting rights would be restored. No matter how many ways the GOP tried to dress this up, this was a poll tax. It made access to the ballot box solely dependent upon the ability to pay.A federal judge has temporarily blocked the Florida law. But, he left enough room in his decision that the legislature could tweak, tweak, tweak until it has sowed the kind of confusion about eligibility that depresses voter turnout. Election security issuesWhile Florida reached back to 19th-century Jim Crow to try to institute a poll tax, other states like Georgia are inviting full-fledged 21st-century hacking to tilt elections. There is already the 127,000 missing votes in the 2018 lieutenant-governor’s race. That was so mysterious that experts, but not Georgia’s election officials, tracked the discrepancy down to predominantly black precincts on election day. The missing votes did not come from white Democratic-leaning precincts or black precincts where voters used absentee ballots or early voting. The discrepancy happened only to those in predominantly black precincts, who used the machines on election day. Their votes just disappeared.The voting machines used in the 2018 election were easily hackable, had no auditable paper trail, and ran on Windows 2000. As journalist Timothy Pratt noted: “Security vulnerabilities in the state’s election system had been repeatedly exposed: by Russian operatives, friendly hackers, and even a Georgia voter who, just days ahead of the 2018 midterms, revealed that anyone could go online and gain access to the state’s voter registration database.”Georgia has now rushed to buy new machines, but the state settled on a similarly vulnerable machine that does not have a paper trail that the human eye can decipher. Instead, voters get a slip of paper with a barcode that is no more legible than that on a can of soup at the grocery store. Moreover, the state ignored the warnings of scientists from the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford, Georgia Tech, and Yale, who raised serious concerns about the cybersecurity of the voting apparatuses.While multiple states are spending over a hundred million dollars on this flawed equipment, Republicans have refused to enact election security legislation, even as Vladimir Putin, when asked if Russia will interfere in the 2020 elections, “jokes”, even taunts, that: “I’ll tell you a secret: yes, we’ll definitely do it.” Given that Russian cyberattacks in 2016 targeted African Americans and voting systems in all 50 states, this bodes ill for 2020. Partisan courthousesThe final, and overarching ominous sign is Senate Republicans’ determination to pack the federal courts with judges, more of whom than ever before have been rated “unqualified” by the American Bar Association and whose only expertise is hostility to civil rights, including the right to vote. As Dahlia Lithwick wrote, this is a “dangerous game of ‘How Many More Judges Can They Ram Through Before Democracy Breaks?’”So far, the federal courts have beat back the most egregious voter suppression tactics, like Tennessee’s voter registration law, but if the Republicans can hold on to the Senate after 2020, the federal judiciary will hit a tipping point that will eviscerate what’s left of this democracy.We’ve been here before. After the civil war, the supreme court gutted the constitutional amendments defining citizenship, due process, and the right to vote. It took more than 100 years, numerous legal battles, and an epic civil rights movement to recover from that debacle.But like an ageing boxer whose taken too many blows, the United States doesn’t have another 100 years to waste on destroying democracy. We can, however, save it in 2020. * Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University, a Guardian contributor, and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.

Trump Nears Defining Hour as Case Goes Public

November 13, 2019 - 3:45am

(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.Congressional Democrats have a tall order ahead.Their challenge, at the start of public impeachment hearings today against President Donald Trump, is to shift public opinion in an already-polarized nation.Americans are roughly split on whether Trump should be removed from office for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his chief Democratic rival, Joe Biden. Unlike the Watergate scandal, though, TV, radio and social media more openly cater to the right or left and will spin the events furiously.Democrats led by House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff are hoping people will turn against Trump after watching veteran U.S. diplomats say he tied aid to Ukraine to it probing Biden and his son Hunter over business dealings there. Republicans argue there was no explicit quid pro quo and, even if it there was, that it’s not an impeachable offense.Expect the hearings to get testy given the bitterly partisan climate. In the end, while the House is expected to vote for impeachment, chances the Republican-controlled Senate will agree are remote.A defiant Trump may suffer political damage and the Democrats will face charges the process was a waste of time and money.But as the 2020 election campaign gathers steam, both sides will probably end up where they started: all square.Global Headlines“Unthinkable” consequences | Hong Kong announced it would close public schools as officials — along with China’s state media — warned of consequences from the violence that’s rocked the city for days. Still, further rallies are expected tonight after activists disrupted the morning rush-hour commute and held demonstrations in the glitzy financial center in the afternoon.Latin America crises | Bolivian opposition Senator Jeanine Anez declared herself interim president to replace socialist leader Evo Morales. She has the backing of Carlos Mesa, the runner-up in a disputed October election, while Morales supporters continue to clash with police. Morales has fled to Mexico as nations in the region take sides over his ouster.Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera called for a national agreement on peace and a new constitution as security forces struggled to control protests across central Santiago. It was some of the worst violence Chile has seen since civil unrest erupted on Oct. 18.Digging in | The French government is bracing for major strikes next month over planned pension reforms — which risk morphing into a renewal of the “Yellow Vest” mass unrest. While Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told Bloomberg yesterday the government won’t delay the changes, he did indicate it may be prepared to sweeten the deal for unions.Read here for Philippe’s view on European bank consolidation and the call by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz for a banking union.Putin’s shadow | Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan both got what they wanted in northern Syria last month, but when they meet at the White House today, the next critical issue up for discussion might be harder to crack. As Selcan Hacaoglu reports, Turkey’s deployment of a Russian missile-defense system shows President Vladimir Putin is enjoying some success in driving a wedge between NATO and Turkey.Climate debate | Australia’s record on tackling climate change is getting tougher to defend for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as bushfires ravage the east coast. His government refuses to discuss whether global warming has contributed to a longer dry season: One lawmaker even questioned if environmentalists had increased the threat of the fires that have killed three people and destroyed around 2.5 million acres of farmland and bush.What to WatchTrump warned yesterday the U.S. will increase tariffs on China if they can’t agree on the first step of a broader trade agreement, but also said they’re close to an initial deal. Lebanon faces more violence after President Michel Aoun told anti-government demonstrators to go home yesterday, provoking unrest in which one man was killed. Floods in northern England have forced hundreds of people from their homes, prompting Prime Minister Boris Johnson to deploy troops as his Conservatives vie for votes in the region in next month’s elections. Spain’s long-stalled politics are moving again after acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sealed a pact with rival Pablo Iglesias to form a government. Click here to see what happens next.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at finally ... Among Lagos’s 21 million residents dealing with shortages of everything from water to electricity and decent roads, the concept of formal recycling isn’t widespread. But informal collectors of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are finding they can earn serious money. As Yinka Ibukun explains, that’s led regulators, sustainability groups, and representatives of the local units and distributors of Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and PepsiCo to hash out a standard allowing drinks companies to package products in recycled plastics. \--With assistance from Karen Leigh.To contact the author of this story: Karl Maier in Rome at kmaier2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Winfrey at, Rosalind MathiesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.