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Updated: 17 hours 13 min ago

Why Nikki Haley isn't jumping off the Trump train any time soon

November 11, 2019 - 8:00am

In her new book, Haley is doubling down on her support for Trump – and hoping it will lead to fame and fortune in the Republican party‘Haley is making a bet that her future depends on devotion to Trump and his brand of populism.’ Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty ImagesHistorians know that there are two types of political memoirs. The first are the books that politicians write at the end of their careers. These are often self-centered and biased, but they at least generally tell us something useful about the past. Such books take time to write – Barack Obama still hasn’t finished his. Then there is the second type of memoir, those books that are dashed off quickly by politicians and their publicists in order to take their career to the next level. These memoirs tell us more about how the author imagines the future than they do about the past.Nikki Haley’s new memoir, With All Due Respect, is the second type. Haley has written the book in just over a year since leaving her job as United States ambassador to the United Nations. Haley also sat in Donald Trump’s cabinet, and she would undoubtedly have some interesting stories to tell if she chose to. For the most part, she does not. Instead, Haley is using the book to try to position herself for fame and fortune in the Republican party of the future. Specifically, Haley is making a bet that her future depends on devotion to Trump and his brand of populism.While others who worked for Trump have tried to suggest they acted as a check on his worst instincts, Haley does the opposite. She says that she refused to support the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff, John Kelly, when they confided in her that sometimes ignoring or undermining Trump was necessary to “save the country”. The subtext – nefarious agents of the deep state being resisted by a loyal devotee of the president – could hardly be clearer, or more calculated to appeal to the president and his supporters.During her time as ambassador to the United Nations, Haley developed an undeserved reputation in some quarters as a moderate who was willing to push back against the administration. But the statements that won her this reputation – such as saying that women who have accused Trump of sexual assault “should be heard” – barely counted as criticisms at all. They only made waves because the rest of the president’s party was engulfed in cowardly silence.So, even though she might think that those women “should be heard”, she still went to work for a man who has bragged of sexual assault. She might be of immigrant heritage, but she still defended family separation at the border against criticism from the United Nations, claiming that the policy was necessary to “control our borders and protect our people”. And she might have privately complained to Trump about his “both sides” remarks following the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, but she declined to do so in public – instead saying that “no one can question that he’s opposed to bigotry and hate in this country.”> She clearly sees a future in which bigotry and populism will continue to define the Republican brandIn a recent interview, Haley even defended the racist taunt that Trump directed at four Democratic members of Congress, all women of color, who he said should “go back” to their countries. While calling the president’s remark “not appropriate”, she also said “I can appreciate where he’s coming from”, because the congresswomen in question “bash America”. Haley frequently rationalizes Trump’s actions in such a way, portraying the president as the defender of “real people” against bigoted and corrupt elites. She dismisses the impeachment investigation against the president in similar terms.That someone with a reputation – however undeserved – for putting daylight between herself and the president would choose instead to double down on Trumpism in such a way is telling. It is doubly so given that Haley, an Indian-American, is the most prominent woman of color in the Republican party. She clearly sees a future in which bigotry and populism will continue to define the Republican brand, and believes that her personal survival requires her to toe the party line as closely as possible. Meanwhile, hate crimes against Indian-Americans are surging, and advocacy groups blame the party’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric.This crude attempt to ride the populist wave all the way into the Oval Office, which seems to be Haley’s ultimate goal, confirms just how narrow and insular the Republican party has become. But it also says something about Haley herself. Had she possessed the necessary moral fiber, she could have made a shot at redemption, calling out Trump’s bigotry and corruption. Haley is young, and will be in Republican politics for many decades yet – long enough for Trumpism to be exorcised, if there are those willing to do it. Instead, she opted to be a follower and not a leader, and to follow the Republican party into dark places, even if she quibbles a little along the way. The real memoirs, when they get written, will not be kind. * Andy Gawthorpe is a historian of the United States at Leiden University in the Netherlands


Court orders Dutch state to repatriate children from Syria

November 11, 2019 - 7:31am

A Dutch court says the government must attempt to bring home children whose mothers traveled to Syria to join Islamic extremist groups. The decision Monday at a court in The Hague came in a case filed by lawyers on behalf of 23 women and their 56 children who are housed in camps in northern Syria. The government has long said it is too dangerous to go to Syria to repatriate Dutch citizens.


UN: Top Iraqi Shiite cleric backs reforms to resolve unrest

November 11, 2019 - 7:26am

The United Nations top envoy to Iraq, seeking support for a roadmap to resolve massive anti-government protests, said Monday that the country's most powerful Shiite religious leader backs serious reforms but is concerned politicians will not carry them out. At least 12 protesters were also wounded in fresh confrontations with security forces in and around Khilani Square, in Baghdad. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the U.N. Special Representative to Iraq, met with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to discuss the series of reforms put forward by the U.N. a day earlier.


Why Bolivian Politics Suddenly Matters to Putin

November 11, 2019 - 7:20am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Russian opposition leaders rejoiced at the forced resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales, while the Russian foreign ministry branded it an “orchestrated coup.” The interest in the drama playing out so far from Moscow is understandable, and not just because Morales had handed lucrative projects to Russian state companies. In 2024, President Vladimir Putin faces the same choice that Morales faced this year — to obey the constitutional term limit or to sweep it aside and try to keep power.Bolivia has a long history of military coups and aborted presidencies. Carlos Mesa, the current opposition leader, resigned after two years as president in 2005 amid mass protests. That paved the way for the first electoral victory of Morales in December of that year. The new president declared that power now belonged to the indigenous people of Bolivia and that the country’s natural resources would be nationalized — a decision that had been backed by a referendum held during Mesa’s presidency but not implemented by him.Morales, who doesn’t have a college degree, has turned out to be the most successful leader in Bolivia’s dolorous history of poverty, strife and military defeat. Poverty declined during his rule.Per-capita economic output, meanwhile, rose faster than the regional average.Morales, however, was an authoritarian ruler who quickly found rapport with the leaders of Cuba and Venezuela — and with the Putin regime in Russia, which finds it easy to do arms and energy business with autocrats. Rosatom Corp., the Russian state nuclear monopoly, got a contract to build a $300 million nuclear center near La Paz, the Bolivian capital, and began negotiating a concession to develop Bolivia’s large lithium reserves. Gazprom PJSC, the Russian state-controlled natural-gas company, has been present in Bolivia since 2010. Russia also has been trying to sell weapons to Bolivia, especially helicopters; Putin himself has tried to talk Morales into it, but actual sales have been held back by Bolivia’s shortage of funds.Bolivia’s constitution has included a two-term limit for presidents since 2009, meaning Morales could serve for three terms because his first one started before the limit took effect. In 2016, he tried to remove the cap but lost a referendum.Morales appeared to accept that he’d have to leave, but in 2017, the country’s constitutional court controversially ruled against the term limit, and he was allowed to run again. Rosatom reportedly even sent a team of Russian election experts to back his campaign and thus protect the Russian state companies’ interests. On Oct. 20, however, Morales was still unable to beat Mesa by the margin he needed to avoid a runoff, and then major vote-counting irregularities became so obvious that mass protests erupted and even Bolivia’s labor unions turned against the president.But Morales only resigned when the military said it wouldn’t crush the protests and urged him to go. Clearly, Bolivian generals have learned the lessons of 2003, when they followed then-President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s orders to use force against protesters demanding the nationalization of the country’s natural-gas deposits. At least 67 people were killed and some 400 injured; Lozada was sued by the victims’ families in the U.S., where he lives now, but was cleared last year because the judge found the evidence of his culpability insufficient. (Mesa, who served as Lozada’s vice president, had opposed the violence).Morales described the events that forced him to resign as a coup, and his words were echoed not just by Russia, whose contracts in Bolivia are at risk now, but by a roster of  international leftists, ranging from U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Putin’s opponents in Russia were, on the contrary, encouraged.Corruption fighter Alexei Navalny tweeted a photo of Morales with Putin, accompanied by this caption: “A corrupt president who was illegally holding on to power through lies and falsifications, has fled the country. For now, just the one on the left.”Leonid Volkov, another leading opposition figure, tweeted, “I really wish we could be like Bolivia.”The jubilation and the envy won’t pass unnoticed in the Kremlin. Putin has more than four years to explore his options for 2024, when his own presidency comes up against a constitutional term limit, but there is no obvious quasi-legitimate scenario that would allow him to stay in the Kremlin. There appears to be no appetite for a risky move to a parliamentary republic, which would make the prime minister’s office the most powerful and allow Putin to get re-elected as many times as he can. And ruling by proxy, as Putin did during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency between 2008 and 2012, clearly disappointed Putin himself since he moved to undo Medvedev’s feeble attempt at liberalizing the country.The most obvious option is simply to alter the constitution to remove the term limit. But the Morales example shows the pitfalls of this strategy. While he’s respected and his contribution to reducing poverty is widely acknowledged, even his supporters are tired of him after 13 years in power; it’s only natural for people to grow restless without change. When that happens, critical decisions must eventually be taken by the military and the police.In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has managed to keep the military loyal, and he still hasn’t been deposed. In Bolivia, Morales had retained the military’s support throughout his rule because he didn’t demand too much from his enforcers. But when popular protest reached a high point, the generals wouldn’t move against them, and Morales was finished.All this Latin American experience, closely monitored in Moscow because of state companies’ business dealings in the region, will serve to convince Putin that an authoritarian’s natural term limit isn’t the one specified in the constitution. In reality, he can rule until his enforcers decide they can’t afford to follow his orders. That means Putin must keep buying the loyalty of Russia’s vast security apparatus, which is already costing the government about 10% of its non-classified budget. The National Guard, which includes riot police, is slated for big spending increases in the next four years.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.


Why Bolivian Politics Suddenly Matters to Putin

November 11, 2019 - 7:20am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Russian opposition leaders rejoiced at the forced resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales, while the Russian foreign ministry branded it an “orchestrated coup.” The interest in the drama playing out so far from Moscow is understandable, and not just because Morales had handed lucrative projects to Russian state companies. In 2024, President Vladimir Putin faces the same choice that Morales faced this year — to obey the constitutional term limit or to sweep it aside and try to keep power.Bolivia has a long history of military coups and aborted presidencies. Carlos Mesa, the current opposition leader, resigned after two years as president in 2005 amid mass protests. That paved the way for the first electoral victory of Morales in December of that year. The new president declared that power now belonged to the indigenous people of Bolivia and that the country’s natural resources would be nationalized — a decision that had been backed by a referendum held during Mesa’s presidency but not implemented by him.Morales, who doesn’t have a college degree, has turned out to be the most successful leader in Bolivia’s dolorous history of poverty, strife and military defeat. Poverty declined during his rule.Per-capita economic output, meanwhile, rose faster than the regional average.Morales, however, was an authoritarian ruler who quickly found rapport with the leaders of Cuba and Venezuela — and with the Putin regime in Russia, which finds it easy to do arms and energy business with autocrats. Rosatom Corp., the Russian state nuclear monopoly, got a contract to build a $300 million nuclear center near La Paz, the Bolivian capital, and began negotiating a concession to develop Bolivia’s large lithium reserves. Gazprom PJSC, the Russian state-controlled natural-gas company, has been present in Bolivia since 2010. Russia also has been trying to sell weapons to Bolivia, especially helicopters; Putin himself has tried to talk Morales into it, but actual sales have been held back by Bolivia’s shortage of funds.Bolivia’s constitution has included a two-term limit for presidents since 2009, meaning Morales could serve for three terms because his first one started before the limit took effect. In 2016, he tried to remove the cap but lost a referendum.Morales appeared to accept that he’d have to leave, but in 2017, the country’s constitutional court controversially ruled against the term limit, and he was allowed to run again. Rosatom reportedly even sent a team of Russian election experts to back his campaign and thus protect the Russian state companies’ interests. On Oct. 20, however, Morales was still unable to beat Mesa by the margin he needed to avoid a runoff, and then major vote-counting irregularities became so obvious that mass protests erupted and even Bolivia’s labor unions turned against the president.But Morales only resigned when the military said it wouldn’t crush the protests and urged him to go. Clearly, Bolivian generals have learned the lessons of 2003, when they followed then-President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s orders to use force against protesters demanding the nationalization of the country’s natural-gas deposits. At least 67 people were killed and some 400 injured; Lozada was sued by the victims’ families in the U.S., where he lives now, but was cleared last year because the judge found the evidence of his culpability insufficient. (Mesa, who served as Lozada’s vice president, had opposed the violence).Morales described the events that forced him to resign as a coup, and his words were echoed not just by Russia, whose contracts in Bolivia are at risk now, but by a roster of  international leftists, ranging from U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Putin’s opponents in Russia were, on the contrary, encouraged.Corruption fighter Alexei Navalny tweeted a photo of Morales with Putin, accompanied by this caption: “A corrupt president who was illegally holding on to power through lies and falsifications, has fled the country. For now, just the one on the left.”Leonid Volkov, another leading opposition figure, tweeted, “I really wish we could be like Bolivia.”The jubilation and the envy won’t pass unnoticed in the Kremlin. Putin has more than four years to explore his options for 2024, when his own presidency comes up against a constitutional term limit, but there is no obvious quasi-legitimate scenario that would allow him to stay in the Kremlin. There appears to be no appetite for a risky move to a parliamentary republic, which would make the prime minister’s office the most powerful and allow Putin to get re-elected as many times as he can. And ruling by proxy, as Putin did during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency between 2008 and 2012, clearly disappointed Putin himself since he moved to undo Medvedev’s feeble attempt at liberalizing the country.The most obvious option is simply to alter the constitution to remove the term limit. But the Morales example shows the pitfalls of this strategy. While he’s respected and his contribution to reducing poverty is widely acknowledged, even his supporters are tired of him after 13 years in power; it’s only natural for people to grow restless without change. When that happens, critical decisions must eventually be taken by the military and the police.In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has managed to keep the military loyal, and he still hasn’t been deposed. In Bolivia, Morales had retained the military’s support throughout his rule because he didn’t demand too much from his enforcers. But when popular protest reached a high point, the generals wouldn’t move against them, and Morales was finished.All this Latin American experience, closely monitored in Moscow because of state companies’ business dealings in the region, will serve to convince Putin that an authoritarian’s natural term limit isn’t the one specified in the constitution. In reality, he can rule until his enforcers decide they can’t afford to follow his orders. That means Putin must keep buying the loyalty of Russia’s vast security apparatus, which is already costing the government about 10% of its non-classified budget. The National Guard, which includes riot police, is slated for big spending increases in the next four years.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.


Briton who helped found Syria's White Helmets dies in Turkey

November 11, 2019 - 7:19am

A former British army officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer organization in Syria, was found dead in Istanbul early Monday, Turkish officials and the group said. James Le Mesurier's body was found near his home in the Beyoglu district by worshippers on their way to a mosque, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The Istanbul governor's office said "comprehensive administrative and judicial investigations" had been initiated into Le Mesurier's death.


Nigel Farage Won’t Fight Tories in Election Boost for Boris Johnson

November 11, 2019 - 7:14am

(Bloomberg) -- Nigel Farage dramatically boosted Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chances of winning a majority by announcing his Brexit Party won’t fight the Conservatives at next month’s general election. The pound rose.The Brexit Party leader told a rally in Hartlepool, northeast England, on Monday that it was a difficult decision to stand down candidates in the 317 seats the Tories won at the last election in 2017, but he is reassured by Johnson’s plans for a sharper split with the European Union.Farage said he hopes to create a pro-Leave alliance that would stop pro-EU politicians being elected and triggering a second referendum to cancel Brexit.“I have got no great love for the Conservative Party,” Farage said. “But I can see right now that by giving Boris half a chance by keeping him honest and holding him to account,” it will be possible to deliver the Brexit which voters want.Farage’s decision will be a relief for Conservative strategists. The biggest headache for Johnson has been the prospect of Farage’s Brexit Party splitting the euroskeptic vote in key districts. That could allow Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, or the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, to gain seats at the Tories’ expense.If that happened, it would significantly undermine Johnson’s chances of winning a majority. With the Brexit Party out of the way in these districts, pro-Brexit voters will have little choice but to vote for Johnson’s Conservatives.‘Ignite the Campaign’“This is set to really ignite the campaign,” Andrew Hawkins, chairman of the polling company ComRes, said in an interview. “Until this point it was unclear if the Leave vote was as divided as the Remain vote. Voters identify more with their Brexit position than their party, and two-thirds of constituencies voted to leave, so this will definitely help the Tories.”The Tories can win in key northern Tory-Labour marginal seats, he said, because the Labour vote is going to be split.“I’m glad that there is a recognition that there’s only one way to get Brexit done and that is to vote for us and vote for the Conservatives,” Johnson told reporters during a campaign visit to Wolverhampton, which returned three Labour MPs in 2017. “We have a fantastic plan for this country.”Bookmakers’ odds also suggest Johnson now has an easier route to an overall majority in Parliament. Betway said there’s now about a 66% chance, compared with about 55% before Farage’s announcement.SkepticalNot everyone is convinced it will be the game changer on Dec. 12, because Farage still intends to field Brexit Party candidates in seats the Tories hope to gain from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said Farage’s move is “not offering the Conservatives much help” except in seats targeted by the Liberal Democrats. The gains made by the pro-EU party via its pro-Remain electoral pact with the Greens and Plaid Cymru -- covering about 60 seats -- have been “reversed” by the Brexit Party move, he said.Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly also appeared to play down the significance of Farage’s decision, while welcoming what he called “the pragmatic thing to do.” He told the BBC on Monday he still sees a risk that the Brexit Party standing in Labour- or Liberal Democrat-held seats “might actually prevent the chances of a majority Conservative government.”(Updates with Johnson comment in eighth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Robert Hutton, Greg Ritchie and Dara Doyle.To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in Hartlepool at tross54@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Brexit Party won't challenge Conservatives in UK vote

November 11, 2019 - 7:07am

In a major shift, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said Monday his party will not run against Conservative candidates in almost half of the U.K. seats available in Britain's Dec. 12 election to make sure it doesn't split the pro-Brexit vote. Farage said the party will not put forward any candidates in the 317 seats that the Conservatives won in the last election, an announcement that should boost the chances that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives win a majority. Farage said he was putting country before party by unilaterally forming a "leave alliance" with the Conservatives at the expense of parties seeking to slow or stop Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.


Bolivia Faces Power Vacuum and More Chaos After Morales Quits

November 11, 2019 - 7:07am

(Bloomberg) -- Bolivia is in chaos after another night of arson attacks and clashes as the resignation of President Evo Morales left the nation with no clear leadership and no date set for new elections.Morales quit on Sunday after election irregularities triggered weeks of violence and intervention from the armed forces. His vice president also quit, which should mean that power passes to the head of the senate, but she resigned too, as did the head of the lower house, leaving the country with a power vacuum.Before he quit, Morales didn’t set a date for new elections, and it’s unclear when these will be held. The head of the electoral authority also resigned on Sunday, after the Organization of American States published a report saying the Oct. 20 presidential election had been marred by serious irregularities.Several regional voting centers have been damaged by arson attacks, which will add to the difficulty of holding another vote. Jeanine Anez, an opposition senator and deputy-chair of the Senate, is a leading contender to be interim leader, according to local press reports.Morales took office in 2006, and was the lone survivor of the so-called pink tide of leftist leaders that reshaped the continent’s politics during the 2000s. Unlike his ally Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela, he presided over strong economic growth, rising incomes and falling poverty. But his democratic credentials were questioned after he ignored the result of a 2016 referendum on presidential term limits.Bolivia’s top soldier General Williams Kaliman Romero on Sunday called on Morales to step down to restore peace to the country. Russia joined leftist governments in the region, including Mexico, Venezuela and Cuba, in denouncing what the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said on Monday appeared to have been “an orchestrated coup” against Morales. The U.S., which on Sunday criticized the “flawed” elections, kept a low profile over Morales’s departure.Morales said he was leaving office to avoid violence, adding that he wouldn’t flee the country since he hadn’t stolen anything. Even so, the violence continued. Morales said in a post on Twitter Monday that his house and his sister’s house were attacked, and that his ministers have received threats.Read More: OAS Urges Bolivia to Hold New Elections as Unrest GrowsRussia hasn’t received a request for asylum from Morales, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday on a conference call. The crisis in Bolivia should be resolved without interference from other countries, he said.Russian President Vladimir Putin called Morales “our partner and friend” during the Bolivian’s visit to Moscow in July, saying relations with Bolivia were “genuinely strategic” with extensive investments by Russian state-owned energy companies including Gazprom and Rosatom.Political consultants linked to the Kremlin went to Bolivia to try to help Morales win October’s election, using online social media campaigns that targeted his opponents, the Proekt news website reported last month, citing three officials it didn’t identify. The goal was to secure the long-term presence of Russian companies working in Bolivia, it said.An Aymara Indian in a country historically ruled by a wealthier, white elite, Morales swept to power promising to “nationalize everything.” In practice, his Movement Toward Socialism party was much more pragmatic.Morales could have remained in power and held another election had he not lost the support of the army, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a group representing U.S. businesses.“Even today in Latin America, the arbiter remains the security forces, and that was proven today in Bolivia,” said Farnsworth, who worked on Latin American issues at the White House during the Bill Clinton administration.To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Bristow in Bogota at mbristow5@bloomberg.net;Eric Martin in Mexico City at emartin21@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Juan Pablo Spinetto at jspinetto@bloomberg.net, ;Matthew Bristow at mbristow5@bloomberg.net, Tony Halpin, Paul AbelskyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Nigel Farage Stands Down Hundreds of Candidates, Handing Election Boost to Boris Johnson

November 11, 2019 - 6:57am

REUTERS / Phil NobleJust over a week ago, President Donald Trump urged his two closest allies in British politics—Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage and the Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson—to “come together” and attempt to rescue the calamitous Brexit project. Today, he got his wish.Farage, who committed to standing more than 600 candidates in next month's general election at his campaign launch last week, has handed Johnson a boost by dramatically scaling back his ambitions. The Brexit Party leader announced he will not stand candidates in the 317 seats which were won by the Conservative Party at the 2017 general election.At a press conference on Monday, Farage said his climbdown came after months of trying to create a pro-Brexit alliance with the Conservatives. He said he'd now decided was time to put the Brexit project before his party's ambitions and to set up a “unilateral Leave alliance.”The Brexit Party leader said he had concluded that, if his party had stood a candidate in every seat in England, Scotland, and Wales, it would split the Brexit vote and hand dozens of seats to the pro-EU parties, preventing the Conservatives from securing a majority.“The Brexit party will not contest the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election,” said Farage. “We will concentrate our total effort into all the seats that are held by the Labour party, who have completely broken their manifesto pledge in 2017 to respect the result of the referendum, and we will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties. We will stand up and fight them all.”While Farage's rollback is welcome news for Johnson, it's far from a guarantee that he will win the majority of seats he will need to be able to force through his vision of Brexit. By standing in every seat the Conservatives didn't win in 2017's election under Theresa May, Farage will still make it very difficult for Johnson to make any gains. May's 317 seats fell short of a majority, forcing her to make a deal with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party and severely undermining her power.However, Farage appears to believe that his announcement will help keep the pro-Brexit vote from splitting in Conservative seats and prevent them from being lost to pro-EU parties such as the Liberal Democrats, which has advocated for a second EU referendum or unilaterally cancelling the Brexit process with the agreement of European leaders.Farage has been highly critical of the Brexit deal agreed between Johnson and the EU in Brussels last month, and previously said he would only stand aside if the prime minister pledged to abandon the deal.Explaining his change of heart, Farage said: “I have got no great love for the Conservative party at all, but I can see right now that by giving Boris half a chance … and stopping the fanatics in the Liberal Democrats—they even want to revoke the result of the referendum—I think our action, our announcement today prevents a second referendum from happening.”The other parties seized on Farage's announcement. Even for many Conservatives, Farage's brand of populist anti-immigration rhetoric is toxic and the scent of some kind of arrangement between him and Johnson could go down badly among swing voters. That appears to be the hope of the Labour Party, which attacked the announcement Monday.Ian Lavery, the Labour Party Chairman, said: “This is a Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson alliance with Donald Trump to sell out our country and send £500 million per week from our NHS to US drugs companies. We urge voters to reject this Thatcherite 1980s tribute act, which would lead to more savage Tory attacks on working class communities.”Anna Soubry, a former Conservative member of parliament who resigned from the party over Brexit and is now standing as a candidate and leader of the pro-EU Independent Group, echoed that statement. She wrote: “It’s official the Conservative Party just became the Brexit Party. One Nation Conservatives will now lend their votes to the Remain Alliance and other moderate centrists.”Johnson appeared pleased by the announcement, telling Sky News shortly afterwards: “I'm glad that there is a recognition, that there's only one way to get Brexit done.” However, he refused to say whether or not Farage's climbdown will help his chances in the election.The move was also welcomed by Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly who said he was glad Farage had belatedly recognized the risk of his candidates “preventing a stable majority government.” But he added there was still a “danger” the party could split the vote in target seats, leading to the election of lawmakers who could “frustrate the Brexit process.”Despite Monday's goodwill gesture, which will undoubtedly help Johnson's quest for a majority, Farage and his Brexit Party still have the potential to be an electoral barrier that stands in the way of the very thing they claim to value most.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? 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Palestinian leader boasts he has 'slapped' US in the face

November 11, 2019 - 6:50am

The Palestinian president says he has "slapped" the U.S. Administration in the face by rejecting President Donald Trump's promised peace plan. Trump has not yet released the plan or said when it will be released.


Israel says Expo 2020 in Dubai is a bridge to Arab world

November 11, 2019 - 6:46am

Israel's commissioner to Expo 2020 in Dubai says next year's world fair offers the country an opportunity to present a fresh face to the Arab world. Elazar Cohen says Monday he's sure Israel will draw much interest from the Emirati hosts and various Arab visitors, particularly regarding the country's technological prowess.


Farage Lifts Johnson by Standing Aside in Tory Seats: U.K. Votes

November 11, 2019 - 6:32am

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Nigel Farage said his Brexit Party will stand aside in 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, to avoid damaging Boris Johnson’s efforts to secure a parliamentary majority to end the impasse over leaving the European Union. The pound rose the most in more than three weeks.Read more: Farage Won’t Fight Tories in Election Boost for U.K.’s JohnsonKey Developments:Farage says he wants to prevent a second referendum on Brexit; pledges to “take the fight” to LabourPound rises 0.8%Three weekend polls give Tories double-digit lead over LabourTories say ‘eye-watering’ Labour spending plans to cost 1.2 trillion pounds; Labour calls the analysis ‘fake news’GDP figures show U.K. returned to growth in third quarter, but figures were weaker than expectedFarage Plan ‘Doesn’t Make Much Difference’ (1:20 p.m.)John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University and a prominent U.K. polling expert, said Nigel Farage’s decision not to challenge Boris Johnson’s Tories in seats they won in 2017 was “not offering the Conservatives much help.”Curtice told the BBC that while it will give Johnson a boost in those seats, the Brexit Party can still hurt the Tories by standing in key districts the Tories hope to gain from Labour. “In truth, Nigel Farage’s statement today doesn’t make much difference.”Johnson Welcomes Farage Decision on Tory Seats (1 p.m.)Boris Johnson welcomed the Brexit Party’s decision not to stand candidates in the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017 (see 12:25 p.m.).“We welcome Nigel Farage’s recognition that another gridlocked hung Parliament is the greatest threat to getting Brexit done,” Johnson said in a tweet. “Only a Conservative majority can get Brexit done by the end of January with a deal that’s agreed and ready to go.”Asked in a Sky News interview if Farage’s decision boosts his chances, Johnson said: “What we’re saying to the country is that we only need nine more seats to get a working majority government. If we get a working majority in Parliament, then we will have a Parliament that works for the British people.”Analysts Cautious on Farage Impact (12:40 p.m.)The pound surged on the back of Nigel Farage’s announcement (see 12:25 p.m.) and bookmakers quickly shortened their odds on the Dec. 12 general election yielding a parliamentary majority for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.But not everyone is convinced it will have a deciding impact.“It is good news for the Conservatives, but not great news,” Tim Bale, deputy director of The U.K. In a Changing Europe think tank, said in an interview. “Farage is still standing Brexit candidates in seats the Tories hoped to take from the Labour Party, and all the research shows that the Brexit candidate is more likely to take votes from the Tories than from Labour.”Meanwhile Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly told the BBC that Farage’s decision was the “pragmatic thing to do,” but added he still sees a risk in the Brexit Party standing in Labour- or Liberal Democrat-held seats that “might actually prevent the chances of a majority Conservative government.”Farage Hands Johnson Boost (12:25 p.m.)Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he will not contest the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, a move that potentially alters the course of the election in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s favor. At a rally in Hartlepool, northern England, Farage said his party will instead concentrate efforts in “taking the fight” to the Labour Party.Farage said he made the decision on Sunday night because he didn’t want to risk a majority of Remain-supporting MPs in the House of Commons who could then hold a second referendum on Brexit and put the whole project in jeopardy.“If we do field 600 candidates, there will be a hung Parliament,” Farage said. “This announcement today prevents a second referendum from happening, and that to me is -- right now -- the most important thing in this country.”Farage said private polling showed significant Liberal Democrat gains, including in southwest London and southwest England, if the Brexit Party stood against the Tories in those areas.Javid Attacks Labour’s Economic Plans (12:10 p.m.)Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid defended his party’s analysis of the Labour Party’s spending plans after Javid’s opposite number, John McDonnell, earlier dismissed the Tory estimate as “fake news.”In a series of broadcast interviews, Javid described Labour’s plans as “economic vandalism” and challenged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to provide an alternative figure if it disagreed with the Conservatives’ 1.2 trillion-pound estimate. “If it isn’t 1.2 trillion, then what is it?”But pressed on how much a Conservative government would borrow if they win the election, Javid refused to give a figure. “If we win the election, then we will have within weeks our first budget as a new government,” Javid told Bloomberg TV. “In that budget you would expect to see the detail and the independent research from the Office of Budget Responsibility about the impact of our spending and tax decisions.”Javid also said his Conservative Party sees no need to extend Mark Carney’s term as Bank of England governor, and that a new central bank chief would be appointed “very, very, quickly” if it wins the election.Bookmakers Say Johnson Headed for Win (11:15 a.m.)Boris Johnson is the overwhelming favorite to remain as prime minister after the Dec. 12 general, according to bookmaker Paddy Power. At odds of 3/1 on to lead the next government, the betting firm effectively gives Johnson a 75% chance of keeping his job.But the odds suggest he’s not guaranteed an overall majority in Parliament -- which he has repeatedly said he needs to end the impasse over Brexit. Most betting firms rate his chances of winning an overall majority in the House of Commons at about 50:50, though with sentiment toward a Conservative majority. On Monday, Ladbrokes placed a 60% chance on a Johnson majority.Gove Attacks Labour on Immigration (9:45 a.m.)Cabinet minister Michael Gove accused Labour of reneging on its 2017 pledge to end freedom of movement after Brexit. “Labour is now explicitly in favour of unlimited and uncontrolled immigration,” Gove wrote in the Times newspaper.An alliance between Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon would put a “huge strain” on public services and make Briton’s “less safe” by allowing unfettered immigration, he wrote. “The Corbyn-Sturgeon policy is extreme, dangerous and out of touch with the British people.”A motion passed at the Labour Party’s annual conference said it would extend free movement if elected to government, and Corbyn said last week he wants to “make sure that all those European Union nationals do remain here, can come here, will stay here.”When asked Sunday in a BBC interview how that differed from the EU principle of free movement, Labour’s campaign chief Andrew Gwynne said there would be “bespoke” agreements with EU countries. He said he’d be able to answer “more clearly” whether the party’s 2019 manifesto would pledge to end free movement after it’s finalized on Saturday.U.K. Avoids Recession, Economy on Weak Footing (9:30 a.m.)Britain dodged a recession ahead of the now-postponed Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, providing an election boost for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.The economy grew 0.3% between July and September, avoiding a second straight quarter of contraction, the Office for National Statistics said on Monday. Still, the figures were weaker than expected and showed the economy had little momentum as it entered the fourth quarter.Read more: U.K. Avoids Recession But Ends Third Quarter on Weak FootingCorbyn’s Pacifism Under Spotlight (8:20 a.m.)Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifism is under the spotlight again -- just as it was during the 2017 campaign. Asked in a BBC radio interview to name any occasion when the Labour leader had supported the use of British armed forces, the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emily Thornberry, said: “No, not off the top of my head.”“In principle, Jeremy is not a pacifist; we are not pacifists,” Thornberry said. “There will be times when we need to use military force, but when we use it, we need to ensure that the use of that military force actually makes the situation better in the long term.”While Corbyn has in the past said he wouldn’t be prepared to use Britain’s nuclear weapons, Thornberry said he “would do anything to protect our country,” adding, “it’s wrong for us to say in advance in what circumstances we would use nuclear weapons.”Within minutes of the interview, the Conservatives released their attack lines in a statement from Defense Minister Johnny Mercer. “If Jeremy Corbyn is unable to make crucial decisions to keep our country safe, he is not fit to be Prime Minister,” he said.Parties Announce Benefits for Armed Forces (Earlier)As it’s Armistice Day, both the Tories and Labour are touting new policy proposals to boost the armed forces and veterans. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is pledging fair pay, decent housing and better schooling for the children of armed forces.Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will be in the West Midlands, is offering childcare and incentives for employers to hire ex-soldiers. Johnson will also offer legal protection to veterans, the Telegraph says. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace did a morning broadcast round touting plans to end repeat prosecutions over historical allegations against forces who served in Northern Ireland.“This isn’t an amnesty,” Wallace told the BBC. “This is about repeated and vexatious claims.”Tories Attack Labour Spending Plans (Earlier)The Conservatives attacked Labour spending plans, which Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid described as “eye-watering” and said could force the U.K. into an economic crisis within months of the opposition assuming power. The Tories said on Sunday the cost of all Labour’s policy announcements would total 1.2 trillion pounds over five years.Their 36-page analysis was dismissed as “fake news” by Javid’s Labour counterpart, John McDonnell, who promised his party would produce a fully-costed manifesto -- just as it did in 2017.Polls Give Conservatives Double-Digit Lead (Earlier)Three weekend polls gave Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a double-digit lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, while a fourth put the margin at 8 percentage points.U.K. Recent Election Polls Summary: Conservative 39%, Labour 27%A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times puts the Tories on 39%, unchanged from its previous survey, with Labour down a point on 26%. The Liberal Democrats are up a point on 17% and the Brexit Party are up 3 points on 10%.An Opinium poll and a Deltapoll survey both gave the same results for the Conservatives (41%), Labour (29%) and the Brexit Party (6%). Opinium has the Liberal Democrats on 15% compared to 16% for Deltapoll.A BMG survey for the Independent on Sunday put the Tories on 37%, with Labour on 29%, the Liberal Democrats on 16% and the Brexit Party on 9%.Earlier:U.K. Tories Switch Focus to Economy, Attack Labour’s SpendingConservatives Attack Labour Spending Plans: U.K. Campaign TrailWhich Political Party Has the Best Track Record for U.K. Stocks?Tories Get Nervous as Chaos Hits Johnson’s U.K. Election TrainBritain’s Election Gamble -- What You Need to Know: QuickTake\--With assistance from David Goodman, Dara Doyle, Peter Flanagan, Robert Hutton and Alex Morales.To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net;Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Pound Jumps After Nigel Farage Promises Not to Contest Tory Seats

November 11, 2019 - 6:14am

(Bloomberg) -- The pound rallied on increased conviction the Conservatives will win December’s election after Brexit champion Nigel Farage pledged not to fight the ruling party.The currency rose the most in more than three weeks after Farage, whose Brexit Party could have split votes for the Conservatives, said he wanted to prevent a second Brexit referendum and pledged to concentrate his efforts on preventing Labour Party candidates entering Parliament.The pound has rebounded to near $1.29 since hitting a near three-year low in September, on the back of Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally managing to secure a Brexit deal. For now markets are fixated on the Dec. 12 election and ignoring most other developments, with volatility rising as the vote comes into view.“This means the market will price Conservatives getting a majority at this stage,” said Jordan Rochester, a strategist at Nomura International Plc. “This is ‘pound higher by 1% today’ sort of stuff.”The currency’s focus on politics above all else was once again on show Monday, as the pound barely reacted to U.K. GDP growth, only to move close to 1% on the political developments. Strategists had said a coalition between the Brexit Party and the ruling Conservatives could have been the worst outcome for the pound, as Farage’s lawmakers would likely seek a more distant relationship with the EU and even push for a no-deal Brexit.Still, though the news is positive for the U.K. currency, it’s not “a game changer,” according to Rochester. Even if the Conservatives were to keep all of their seats from last time, that would still mean a hung Parliament, and the Brexit Party still plans to stand in seats which were won by the opposition Labour party last time.The pound climbed nearly 1% to $1.2898, the biggest gain since Oct. 17. The currency strengthened by 0.6% to 85.70 pence per euro after touching a six-month peak.(Writes through.)\--With assistance from Anooja Debnath.To contact the reporter on this story: Charlotte Ryan in London at cryan147@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Dobson at pdobson2@bloomberg.net, William Shaw, Neil ChatterjeeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Giuliani Associate Says He Gave Demand for Biden Inquiry to Ukrainians

November 11, 2019 - 6:12am

Not long before the Ukrainian president was inaugurated in May, an associate of Rudy Giuliani's journeyed to Kyiv to deliver a warning to the country's new leadership, a lawyer for the associate said.The associate, Lev Parnas, told a representative of the incoming government that it had to announce an investigation into Trump's political rival, Joe Biden, and his son, or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing-in of the new president, and the United States would freeze aid, the lawyer said.The claim by Parnas, who is preparing to share his account with impeachment investigators, challenges the narrative of events from Trump and Ukrainian officials that is at the core of the congressional inquiry. It also directly links Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, to threats of repercussions made to the Ukrainians, something he has strenuously denied.But Parnas' account, while potentially significant, is being contradicted on several fronts. None of the people involved dispute that the meeting occurred, but Parnas stands alone in saying the intention was to present an ultimatum to the Ukrainian leadership.Another participant in the meeting, Parnas' business partner, Igor Fruman, said Parnas' claim was false; the men never raised the issues of aid or the vice president's attendance at the inauguration, lawyers for Fruman said.Giuliani denied Parnas' contention that he had delivered the warning at the direction of Giuliani. "Categorically, I did not tell him to say that," Giuliani said.The dispute represents the clearest indication yet that Parnas, who was indicted along with Fruman last month on campaign finance charges, has turned on Trump and Giuliani.Parnas and Fruman, both Soviet-born businessmen from Florida, worked with Giuliani for months in Ukraine outside normal diplomatic channels to further Trump's interests. The men have been subpoenaed to testify before Congress, and Parnas' lawyer has said his client will comply to the extent he can without incriminating himself. It is unclear if Parnas will ultimately be called to testify.Parnas' account of the meeting, if corroborated, would reveal the earliest known instance of U.S. aid being tied to demands for Ukraine to take actions that could benefit Trump's 2020 reelection campaign. It would also represent a more extensive threat -- to pull Pence from the inaugural delegation -- than was previously known.Trump froze nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine shortly before a July 25 call with the country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump personally sought investigations into the Bidens and claims that Ukrainians had meddled in the 2016 election. In the call, Trump did not explicitly link the aid and the investigations.Trump has denied a quid pro quo involving aid, and Zelenskiy has said he never felt pressured to pursue an investigation.The meeting in Kyiv in May occurred after Giuliani, with Parnas' help, had planned a trip there to urge Zelenskiy to pursue the investigations. Giuliani canceled his trip at the last minute, claiming he was being "set up."Only three people were present at the meeting: Parnas, Fruman and Serhiy Shefir, a member of the inner circle of Zelenskiy, then the Ukrainian president-elect. The sit-down took place at an outdoor cafe in the days before Zelenskiy's May 20 inauguration, according to a person familiar with the events. The men sipped coffee and spoke in Russian, which is widely spoken in Ukraine, the person said.Parnas' lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, said the message to the Ukrainians was given at the direction of Giuliani, whom Parnas believed was acting under Trump's instruction. Giuliani said he "never authorized such a conversation."A lawyer for Fruman, John M. Dowd, said his client told him the men were seeking only a meeting with Zelenskiy, the new president. "There was no mention of any terms, military aid or whatever they are talking about it -- it's false," said Dowd, who represents Fruman along with the lawyer Todd Blanche.In a statement on Friday, Shefir acknowledged meeting with Parnas and Fruman. But he said they had not raised the issue of military aid. Shefir said he briefed the incoming president on the meeting. Shefir was a business partner and longtime friend whom Zelenskiy appointed as his chief adviser on the first day of his presidency."We did not treat Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman as official representatives, and therefore we did not consider that they could speak on behalf of the U.S. government," Shefir said. He added that Parnas and Fruman had requested that Zelenskiy meet with Giuliani.Shefir said in his statement that he had told Parnas and Fruman "that we could consider meeting with Mr. Giuliani, but only publicly and officially and only after the inauguration of the newly elected president."The statement from Shefir, issued in response to an inquiry from The New York Times, did not directly address Parnas' claims that he had delivered an ultimatum about U.S. aid in general and Pence's attendance at the inauguration. A representative for Zelenskiy did not respond to a request for further comment.Bondy, Parnas' lawyer, challenged Shefir's characterization. "It would simply defy reason," he said, "for Mr. Shefir to have attended a meeting with Mr. Parnas if he did not believe Mr. Parnas spoke for the president, and also for Mr. Parnas not to have conveyed the president's message at this meeting."Pence did not attend the inauguration. His office said in response to questions from The Times that it had told Ukrainian officials on May 13, a week before the swearing-in, that the vice president would not be there.Giuliani is under investigation by Manhattan prosecutors and the FBI over whether he illegally engaged in lobbying for foreign interests in connection with the Ukraine efforts. He has denied any wrongdoing, saying he was working for his client, Trump.That investigation grew out of one into Parnas and Fruman. An indictment unsealed on Oct. 10 accused the men of illegally routing a $325,000 contribution to a political action committee supporting Trump through a shell company and linked them to an effort to recall the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was the subject of criticism from many of Trump's allies. The men were also charged with funneling campaign contributions from a Russian businessman to other U.S. politicians to influence them in support of a marijuana venture. The two men, and two co-defendants, have pleaded not guilty.The impeachment inquiry was started after a whistleblower complained about the July phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into Burisma, a Ukrainian company that gave Biden's son Hunter a seat on its board and paid him as much as $50,000 a month. Trump suggested to Zelenskiy that Ukraine should contact Giuliani and the United States attorney general, William P. Barr, about the Bidens.With Trump by his side at the United Nations General Assembly in September, Zelenskiy told reporters that his July call with the president had been "normal" and that "nobody pushed me," adding that he did not want to become entangled in U.S. elections.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


Cash, Trolls and a Cult Leader: How Russia Meddles Abroad for Profit

November 11, 2019 - 6:06am

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar -- The Russians were hard to miss. They appeared suddenly last year in Madagascar's traffic-snarled capital, carrying backpacks stuffed with cash and campaign swag decorated with the name of Madagascar's president.It was one of Russia's most overt attempts at election interference to date. Working from their headquarters in a resort hotel, the Russians published their own newspaper in the local language and hired students to write fawning articles about the president to help him win another term. Skirting electoral laws, they bought airtime on television stations and blanketed the country with billboards.They paid young people to attend rallies and journalists to cover them. They showed up with armed bodyguards at campaign offices to bribe challengers to drop out of the race to clear their candidate's path.At Madagascar's election commission, officials were alarmed."We all recall what the Russians did in the United States during the election," said Thierry Rakotonarivo, the commission's vice president. "We were truly afraid."Of all the places for Russia to try to swing a presidential election, Madagascar is perhaps one of the least expected. The island nation off the coast of southeastern Africa is thousands of miles from Moscow and has little obvious strategic value for the Kremlin or the global balance of power.But two years after the Russians' aggressive interference in the United States, here they were, determined to expand their clout and apply their special brand of election meddling to a distant political battleground.The operation was approved by President Vladimir Putin and coordinated by some of the same figures who oversaw the disinformation around the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to dozens of interviews with officials in Madagascar, local operatives hired to take part in the Russian campaign and hundreds of pages of internal documents produced by Russian operatives.The meddling in Madagascar began just a few weeks after Putin sat down with the nation's president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, in Moscow last year. The meeting, which has never been reported, also included Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close confidant of Putin who was indicted in the United States for helping to orchestrate Russia's effort to manipulate the 2016 U.S. election, according to Rajaonarimampianina and another government minister present on the trip to Moscow.Putin has repeatedly denied any official effort to tamper with foreign elections. But his sit-down with Madagascar's president -- Prigozhin by his side -- points to his involvement in Russia's electoral interference in even the smallest, most remote countries.In some vital ways, the Madagascar operation mimicked the one in the United States. There was a disinformation campaign on social media and an attempt to bolster so-called spoiler candidates. The Russians even recruited an apocalyptic cult leader in a strategy to split the opposition vote and sink its chances."What surprised me is that it was the Russians who came over to my house without me contacting them," said the cult leader, known as Pastor Mailhol. "They said, 'If you ever need money, we are going to pay all the expenses.'"But while Russia's efforts in the United States fit Moscow's campaign to upend Western democracy and rattle Putin's geopolitical rivals, the undertaking in Madagascar often seemed to have a much simpler objective: profit.Before the election, a Russian company that local officials and foreign diplomats said is controlled by Prigozhin acquired a major stake in a government-run company that mines chromium, a mineral valued for its use in stainless steel. The acquisition set off protests by workers complaining of unpaid wages, canceled benefits and foreign intrusion into a sector that had been a source of national pride for Madagascar.It repeated a pattern in which Russia has swooped into African nations, hoping to reshape their politics for material gain. In the Central African Republic, a former Russian intelligence officer is the top security adviser to the country's president, while companies linked to Prigozhin have spread across the nation, snapping up diamonds in both legal and illegal ways, according to government officials, warlords in the diamond trade and registration documents showing Prigozhin's growing military and commercial footprint.Last year, three Russian journalists were gunned down while investigating his activities there."Prigozhin had tremendous success in 2016, and he is now the guy everyone is watching," said Paul Stronski, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "He's got some boots on the ground, people peddling stuff in different countries in Africa. These are countries with authoritarian-style leaders who need a little extra help to win. And in return, he gets access to some of the goodies."But Russia's forays abroad have been far from flawless. For all its efforts, the operation in Madagascar missed its mark at first, plagued by a startling incompetence and corruption that undercuts Russia's image as a master political manipulator.Campaign materials were riddled with grammatical mistakes. Ballpoint pens meant as election giveaways misspelled Rajaonarimampianina's name. Some operatives appeared to undermine the campaign for their own personal gain, demanding fake receipts with double the actual price of publishing the newspaper so they could pocket the difference."They paid well, but they were messing around," said the printing house owner, Lola Rasoamaharo.One person working for the campaign described packets of gold and precious stones piled on the bed in the room of a Russian operative, another sign that the people entrusted with the mission were often more interested in profit than politics.They also chose the wrong candidate. As it became clear that Rajaonarimampianina had little hope of winning, even with their help, Russian operatives pivoted quickly, dumping the incumbent, whom they referred to as "the piano," and shifting their support to the eventual winner, Andry Rajoelina."The piano is very weak," Yaroslav Ignatovsky, a manager of the operation, wrote to a colleague in a text exchange obtained by the Dossier Center, a London-based research organization. "He'll never make it. But we have to make it somehow."The maneuver worked. After the Russians pirouetted to help Rajoelina -- their former opponent -- win the election, Prigozhin's company was able to negotiate with the new government to keep control of the chromium mining operation, despite the worker protests, and Prigozhin's political operatives remain stationed in the capital to this day.'Everything Is Possible in Politics'It all started with a secret meeting.News reports described Rajaonarimampianina's three-day trip to Moscow in March 2018 as mundane: He attended an investment forum, met a foreign ministry official and received an honorary degree from a local university.But at some point, his plans veered from the published itinerary.Slipping away from the press pool, he made his way to the Kremlin. There, in the private office of the Russian president, he met for no more than 30 minutes with Putin and Prigozhin.In an interview, Rajaonarimampianina explained that Prigozhin had set up the meeting and even met him at the airport in Moscow. But he insisted that the presidential election, scheduled for that fall, was not discussed.Others remembered things differently. Harison Randriarimanana, a former agriculture minister who accompanied the president to Moscow, said that after the meeting his boss proudly announced that Putin had agreed to assist with his reelection campaign."Putin said he wanted to help him," Randriarimanana recalled the president saying. "He was going to help us with the election."Just weeks later, local residents were startled by the sudden appearance of Russian operatives in Antananarivo, Madagascar's capital.The operation happened alongside an aggressive push by the Kremlin to revive relations with a number of African countries. For Moscow, Africa had been an important ideological battlefield during the Cold War, and Putin, who makes no secret of his nostalgia for the Soviet Union, views the continent as an important front for combating the West's global influence.Last month, Putin played host to more than 40 African heads of state, including Madagascar's, at a summit meeting in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi to showcase Russia's growing stature as a player in the region and present his country as a partner preferable to the West."We see how a number of Western governments have resorted to pressuring, bullying and blackmailing the governments of sovereign African countries," Putin said before the meeting. By contrast, he added, "Our African agenda has a positive, aspirational character."In recent years, many African leaders have paid visits to the Kremlin seeking lucrative deals with Russia's giant state-run companies, including for weapons.In dollar terms, Russia is no match for China or the United States, which have tens of billions of dollars worth of economic investment in the continent. But for some leaders in search of a political edge, Russia has developed a handy tool kit, which is where Prigozhin comes in.After being indicted on charges of intervening in the 2016 U.S. election, he has traveled the world, proffering his services. In Africa, he has found a highly receptive market. He and his operatives have been active in nearly a dozen African countries, including Libya, Sudan and Zimbabwe, analysts said.In the interview, Rajaonarimampianina described his meeting with Putin as run-of-the-mill for someone of his stature. During his tenure, he had met with the leaders of China and India and twice visited the White House.But unlike those encounters, the meeting with Putin and Prigozhin was kept secret.Rajaonarimampianina insisted that he took "not one penny from the Russians" for his campaign, although he did not rule out that the Kremlin worked to assist him without his knowledge. "Everything is possible in politics," he said.He stumbled a bit when shown a letter with his signature written to a Russian political operative named Oleg Vasilyevich Zakhariyash. In the letter, written in French and stamped "Projet Confidentiel," the president requests the Russian's help "to resist attempts by international institutions to interfere" in Madagascar's election. Western diplomats had, in fact, been concerned that the president was trying to delay the vote."I am convinced," the president's letter said, "that certain forces will attempt to call into doubt" the election.Rajaonarimampianina confirmed that the signature on the letter was his and acknowledged meeting Zakhariyash in Madagascar, but he said he did not recall writing the letter.Zakhariyash, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, was later quoted by RIAFAN, a Russian news outlet connected to companies owned by Prigozhin, blaming the United States, Britain and France for interfering in the Madagascar elections.Local residents hired by the Russian operation in Madagascar described Zakhariyash as "the boss." Likewise, one of the Russian unit's internal spreadsheets identified him as the "head of department." He is also one of two authors of a confidential report detailing plans for the Madagascar campaign, including the creation of a "troll factory" to focus on social media, echoing the tactics Prigozhin is accused of unleashing on the United States.The documents -- along with text exchanges and emails between Russian operatives -- were obtained and analyzed by the Dossier Center, a London-based investigative organization founded by Putin's longtime nemesis, former oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Through interviews with officials, candidates and local operatives in Madagascar, The New York Times independently confirmed much of the information in the documents, which the Dossier Center said were provided by moles working within Prigozhin's organization.The spreadsheets name more than 30 Russians working in the country before the election, calling them media managers, lawyers, translators and a "counterpropaganda technologist." People in Madagascar hired by the Russians to work on the campaign verified many of the operatives' identities.Many of them appear to be from St. Petersburg, where Prigozhin's so-called troll factory is based. But not all. Several worked for the Russian-backed separatist government in eastern Ukraine. One attracted attention this year when his wife posted a photo of her battered and bruised face on Facebook, accusing her husband of beating her.Few appeared to have much expertise on Madagascar or on Africa at all -- and it showed, locals said. They often used a translation application on their phones to communicate and had little understanding of local politics."They're always going around with money, they're always going around with women," said one Malagasy man who worked with the Russians and feared reprisals. "They just thought it was all very simple in Madagascar. They arrived and that's it, let's go. That's why it all fell apart."'A Powerful Country Came to My House'Nearly two decades ago, Andre Christian Dieudonne Mailhol, founder and pastor of the Church of the Apocalypse, said he received a message from God that he would be president of Madagascar one day.He did not predict, however, that three Russians would turn up like Magi on his doorstep 18 years later with an offer to help fulfill that prophecy."They said that they came here to help me with the presidential election," he said.The three gathered in his brightly painted living room in 2018, peppering him with questions: "How old are you? Why do you want to run for the presidency?"Mailhol explained God's plan for him, and they offered him cash, promising to fully fund his campaign.They never fully explained who they were, he said, beyond giving their first names -- Andrei, Vladimir and Roman -- and never said what they wanted in return. Mailhol didn't ask."I just thought, a powerful country came to my house and suggested helping me. Why would I bother them with questions like, 'Who are you? What are you here for?'" the pastor, 59, recalled. "No other foreign countries came to help me. They were the only ones, so I did not want to ask much. I was OK with that."The strategy of supporting so-called spoiler candidates is another echo of the 2016 plot to subvert the U.S. election, in which Russian social media bots encouraged support for figures like Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate -- as a way, officials said, to draw votes away from Hillary Clinton.Mailhol said his Russian team wrote some of his speeches and paid for campaign posters and television advertising. On one internal spreadsheet, the "Pastor Group" is identified as Andrei Kramar, Vladimir Boyarishchev and Roman Pozdnyakov. Shown photos of the men from Facebook, Mailhol and his assistants confirmed they were the men who worked with his campaign.They made for a curious team. A photo of Boyarishchev posted to a Russian social media site in 2012 shows him shirtless, flexing his biceps and wearing the blue beret of a U.N. peacekeeper. Other social media posts suggest he served in a U.N. mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mailhol said he spoke excellent French, which many educated Malagasy know well.The other two have equally colorful histories. In a Facebook post from a decade ago, Kramar describes himself as a member of Putin's political party, United Russia, but later he popped up in eastern Ukraine as a functionary in a Kremlin-backed separatist enclave that has been fighting a war against Ukraine since 2014.Ukrainian authorities said the third operative, Pozdnyakov, is also involved with the pro-Kremlin rebels. His wife, once a United Russia member of Parliament, is the head of the separatist government's election commission.Other presidential candidates in Madagascar gave similar accounts of Russians turning up out of the blue, some with bags of cash.Onja Rasamimanana, who worked for a history professor-turned-candidate named Jean Omer Beriziky, said she coordinated with a Maksim, an Anastasia and a Margo, who was the interpreter. "And then a Grigori showed up," she said."They were looking for fresh faces," she said. "They didn't explain anything. They didn't mention anything regarding their motivations."She said that her candidate, Beriziky, later told her the Russians offered $2 million in campaign funding but ultimately provided less than $500,000.Two Russians also approached a pop megastar running for president, Rasolofondraosolo Zafimahaleo, also known as Dama. Over four meetings, Zafimahaleo said, the Russians tried to pressure him to support a delay in the election so that the incumbent had more time to campaign."They made big promises," Zafimahaleo said. "'If you do what we want you to do, we'll help your campaign,'" he said they told him. He refused, he said, suspecting that the Russians had come to exploit Madagascar's natural resources.Only three of the Russian operatives identified by local hires of the campaign responded to requests for comment. All acknowledged visiting Madagascar last year, but only one admitted working as a pollster on behalf of the president.The others said they were simply tourists. Pyotr Korolyov, described as a sociologist on one spreadsheet, spent much of the summer of 2018 and fall hunched over a computer, deep in polling data at La Residence Ankerana, a hotel the Russians used as their headquarters, until he was hospitalized with measles, according to one person who worked with him.In an email exchange, Korolyov confirmed that he had come down with measles but rejected playing a role in a Russian operation. He did defend the idea of one, though."Russia should influence elections around the world, the same way the United States influences elections," he wrote. "Sooner or later Russia will return to global politics as a global player," he added. "And the American establishment will just have to accept that."'We Were So Dumb'As the election approached, the Russians grew nervous and frustrated. In one text message, Ignatovsky, who helped oversee the operation, describes Madagascar as a "black hole." One of his colleagues complains that "everything is ass-backward" and that the "unhappy locals" were impeding the team's work.But the Russians were setting off alarms, too.An op-ed in a local newspaper warned that after meddling in the United States, Russia had set its sights on Madagascar."Russia badly wants to make good use of its impressive experience in destabilization" by intervening in Madagascar, the article said. "Vodka will flow like water if they achieve their goal."Relations with the various candidates Russians were backing began to sour. By September, they had dumped the incumbent, Rajaonarimampianina, deciding he was too unpopular to win, according to internal communications.In the interview in Paris, Rajaonarimampianina said he was aware the Russians were supporting other candidates and became indignant when told of the Russians' conclusion that he was a losing bet. "How could they know that I will lose the election?" he said.In the first round, he received less than 9% of the vote, finishing a distant third.The Russians shifted their support to Rajoelina, a young former mayor who had been Madagascar's transitional president after a coup in 2009.In the campaign's final weeks, Mailhol said, the team of Russians made a request: Drop out of the race and support Rajoelina. He refused.The Russians made the same proposal to the history professor running for president, saying, "'If you accept this deal, you will have money,'" according to Rasamimanana, the professor's campaign manager.When the professor refused, she said, the Russians created a fake Facebook page that mimicked his official page and posted an announcement on it that he was supporting Rajoelina.The members of the so-called Pastor Group -- Kramar, Pozdnyakov and Boyarishchev -- were arrested and deported last year after organizing a protest in front of the French Embassy. They left without fully paying what they owed their local operatives, said Niaina Rakotonjanahary, the pastor's campaign spokeswoman."It happened to all of us who worked there," she said. "We were so dumb."As in the U.S. election, it is not clear whether the Russians directly colluded with the eventual winner, Rajoelina, or simply operated a parallel campaign to support him. Before switching sides, the Russians had local hires write articles disparaging Rajoelina, according to one of the people who worked for them."They asked me to write bad things about Andry Rajoelina -- that he sold our lands to the Chinese," said the person, speaking anonymously for fear of reprisals. "During the second round of the presidential election, though, they asked me to write good things about Andry Rajoelina."Rajoelina declined to comment, but an official from his campaign said that his team was aware of Russian payments to other candidates.In the end, the Russians retained their prize -- control over the chromium operation. They now maintain a staff of 30 in the country, including engineers and geologists. The contract gives them a 70% stake in the venture, said Nirina Rakotomanantsoa, managing director of the Malagasy company that owns the remaining share."The contract is already signed," he said. "I am thankful the Russians are here."Not all the Russian operatives appeared satisfied. In a moment of doubt, Yevgeny Kopot, a Prigozhin functionary who appears to play a coordinating role for operations in different African countries, sent a text message to a colleague in Madagascar in January."Do you think that we're disgracing our country?" he asked, according to texts obtained by the Dossier Center. "Or devaluing her name?"The colleague told him not to worry. "If you think about it," she replied, "the whole planet is disgraced. Not the planet, precisely, but humanity."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


Turkey’s Digital Tax Will Inspire Others

November 11, 2019 - 5:57am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- The global debate on innovation and regulation is about to take a new turn with a Turkish plan for an all-encompassing digital tax. The tax, which is expected to be approved by parliament this week, will apply not only to electronic marketplaces like eBay and digital-advertising giants like Google and Facebook, but also to e-commerce platforms involved in the sale of digital goods and services, like Spotify and Netflix. This goes beyond the scope of the French digital tax which entered into force a few months ago and the abortive European Union proposal of last year. Turkey’s proposed tax has rekindled the debate on the fairness of globalization and the role of international governance. The severity of the regulatory framework being contemplated is in many ways a by-product of the failure of multilateralism and its inability to redress the grievances of nations that perceive the system as being rigged against their economic interest.National governments have long grappled with the need to tax the digital behemoths. Authorities in Europe and in the emerging world are seeking a formula that would give them tax revenues that reflect the share of business conducted by these global companies on their territory. They’ve tried direct negotiations with companies, with mixed results. In the absence of common taxation rules applicable in all relevant jurisdictions for cross-border digital transactions, there have been several non-replicable, non-transparent individual deals between governments and companies. The companies have failed to achieve their aim of policy and tax predictability, governments have struggled to get the buy-in of companies for easily transposable settlements. You’d think the disparate approach to taxing internet-enabled business models and its impact on the distributional benefits of globalisation would provide an ideal opportunity for multilateral governance to demonstrate its effectiveness. The G-20, in summit declaration at Buenos Aires, has acknowledged the importance of a global deal on digital taxation. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has advanced an agenda for a set of common rules. But multilateralism has so far failed to produce the consensus needed to address ongoing divisions—whether between companies and governments, or between nations like the U.S. and China, that have nurtured large digital companies, and the rest of the world, The failure of the multilateral track has now provided an opening for non-consensual and protectionist digital policies to emerge. What can be witnessed in this area is a race to the bottom. Following the example set by France, Turkey is seeking to tax digital companies at 7.5%, more than double the French rate. What’s more, the tax is to apply regardless of whether the companies are profitable or not. It is not clear whether the proposed measures comply with Turkey’s international obligations under the World Trade Organization, or under its bilateral tax treaties. Even if they are, there are concerns that a digital tax would serve as a disincentive for foreign investment in a booming industry where Turkey had succeeded in creating a dynamic ecosystem. Turkey is home to highly successful mobile-gaming creators, as well as Turkish-language Android and IOS apps.Even so, there’s a good chance the Turkish example will be followed by governments in other emerging nations that believe that the industrialized world—and by extension, the multilateral system—has for too long been unresponsive to their anxieties about the consequences of unfair globalisation. A fragmentation of global regulations affecting the digital economy is afoot.The multilateral institutions may have one last chance to stop the trend. The OECD is holding a stakeholders meeting this week to gather views on its proposed approach to taxing the digital economy. The plan is for a set of proposals to be formally adopted by the G-20 at its meeting in Riyadh next year. But any agreement will be conditional on the Trump administration demonstrating flexibility toward the expectations of the other OECD nations. The hope is that the U.S. will ultimately see that a set of common tax rules, even if it would impact the few American digital giants, would still be a better outcome for the global economy than a grab-bag of divergent approaches to regulating and taxing digital entrepreneurship.To contact the author of this story: Sinan Ulgen at sulgen@edam.org.trTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Sinan Ulgen is the executive chairman of Istanbul-based think tank EDAM and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


China, Greece agree to push ahead with COSCO's Piraeus Port investment

November 11, 2019 - 5:40am

China and Greece agreed on Monday to push ahead with a 600 million euros investment by COSCO Shipping into Greece's largest port, Piraeus, as part of efforts to boost its role as a hub in rapidly growing trade between Asia and Europe. The agreement, part of 16 trade deals signed between Greece and China, came during an official visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Athens on Monday. The two countries have drawn closer since 2009 when COSCO won a 35-year concession to upgrade and run container cargo piers in Piraeus .


UPDATE 3-Election gift for PM Johnson: Brexit Party stands down in Conservative seats

November 11, 2019 - 5:39am

Prime Minister Boris Johnson won the most significant boost of the British election campaign to date when Nigel Farage's Brexit Party pulled out of 317 Conservative-held seats in a bid to prevent opponents of Brexit controlling the next parliament. The move dramatically increases the chances that Johnson will stay prime minister, and then finally deliver on the 2016 referendum result to take Britain out of the European Union.


Brexit Party's Farage says will not challenge PM Johnson's Conservatives in 317 seats

November 11, 2019 - 5:17am

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said on Monday that his party would not contest the 317 seats won by the Conservative Party in the 2017 election but would contest nearly all other seats. In a significant boost for Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of a Dec. 12 election, Farage said he did not want anti-Brexit parties to win the election so was standing down candidates in 317 of the 650 seats up for grabs. "The Brexit Party will not contest the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election," Farage said.


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