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  • Iran Demands a $15 Billion Credit Before Resuming Talks With Trump and EU Sun, 22 Sep 2019 21:01:57 -0400

    Iran Demands a $15 Billion Credit Before Resuming Talks With Trump and EUPhoto Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily BeastForeign Minister Javad Zarif said Sunday that Iran would not resume talks with President Donald Trump and his administration until a French plan to credit Tehran $15 billion goes into full effect.“The credit we are talking about is not a charity. We are a wealthy nation,” Zarif told a group of reporters in New York Sunday. “The credit is in lieu of the oil [the French] were supposed to buy.” Zarif said Iran is requesting the the $15 billion credit extend until December at which point in time it would request $3 billion per month. “That was one way for the French—not just the French but the European Union—in order for them to come back into compliance with the JCPOA,” Zarif said, referring the Iran nuclear deal. He said the U.S. would eventually “lose its leverage” if it continued to block Tehran from selling its oil.“They are the ones who are dependent on the global market,” Zarif said.Iran has been in conversations with French President Emmanuel Macron for weeks about the possibility of pulling billions of dollars from either the French Central Bank or the European Central Bank to compensate for the money Iran lost in oil sales due to American sanctions. Trump Flirts With $15 Billion Bailout for Iran, Sources SayZarif, who is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, said the $15 billion deal was just one of several of the Iranian government’s demands for the European Union and the U.S. It also wants to be able to sell its oil and access the revenues made from oil sales. Zarif said the Trump administration’s sanctions campaign was “starving” the Iranian people and equated it to “economic terrorism”, saying Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should “be prepared to face the consequences in the International Criminal Court.”On CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday Pompeo said: “I don’t know why anyone listens to the Iranian foreign minister. “It’s beneath the dignity of anyone to listen to him.”Since the early days of 2017, the Trump administration, with the help of hawkish Washington think tanks and politicos, has rolled out what it calls a “maximum pressure campaign.” The policy relies almost entirely on the implementation of targeted economic sanctions on Iran’s most important leaders, sectors and industries. The plan was in part crafted by former National Security Advisor John Bolton. Following Bolton’s departure, it was unclear exactly how President Trump would move forward with Iran. He has long tried to avoid military confrontation with Iran but members of his administration, notably Pompeo and Brian Hook, the special representative for Iran, have quietly lauded Bolton’s maximum pressure campaign and aggressive attitude toward Tehran.On Friday, the Trump administration announced that it had placed the Iranian Central Bank under the strictest of sanctions, making it almost impossible for France or any other country to extend it a line of credit. Trump called them the sanctions package the “highest sanctions ever”. Zarif blamed Mark Dubowits, the CEO of Foundation for Defense (FDD) of Democracies, a right-leaning think-tank in Washington that has been instrumental in the shaping of the Trump administration’s Iran policy.“Mark Dubowitz wanted to make sure that neither this president or his successor will not be able to normalize relations with Iran,” Zarif said. “I think President Trump knowingly or unknowingly closed the door to negotiations on Friday.” In August, Iran blacklisted FDD, accusing it of “economic terrorism”.Now, Zarif said Iran is only going to agree to talks with the U.S. and the European Union if the cash starts flowing.“When we went and discussed all of that and [France] thought—and we respect their decision but that does not relieve them of [it’s] legal obligations—that [it] needed to get some green light from the U.S.,” Zarif said. “That’s a contradiction because if the U.S. is interested in maximum pressure, then they wouldn’t give them a green light and that’s what we warned them about.”The Daily Beast has previously reported that President Trump was considering the possibility of giving that green light to the French. But following the latest attacks on the Saudi oil facilities—described by Trump officials as “an act of war” by the Iranians—Trump seems to have completely written off any idea of approving a deal that would benefit Tehran. Zarif flatly denied any accusations that Iran was involved in those attacks, pointing the finger instead at “the Yemenis.” Saudi Arabia is currently investigating the exact origin of the drones and missiles that were used in the attack. “I think [Trump] is determined not to get involved in our country militarily,” Zarif said. “But there are others who are determined to drag him into a military conflict with Iran.”Zarif said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani would introduce a plan, titled “Coalition for Hope” at the United Nations this week. Although he did not provide reporters with the exact details, he said the coalition would include Iraq and other Persion Gulf Countries should they choose to join and would focus on freedom of navigation and energy security. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • France says top issue is de-escalation _ not US-Iran talks Sun, 22 Sep 2019 20:55:10 -0400

    France says top issue is de-escalation _ not US-Iran talksFrance's top diplomat said Sunday the most pressing issue following attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil installations is not a potential meeting between the leaders of the United States and Iran but whether it's possible to de-escalate the current "dangerous" situation. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a news conference that Iran's decision to violate the 2015 nuclear deal on three occasions recently was also a factor in increasing tensions. Iran has said it is responding to escalating U.S. sanctions following the Trump administration's withdrawal from the agreement and its difficulties doing business internationally.


  • 'Deficit of trust': At UN, leaders of a warming world gather Sun, 22 Sep 2019 20:04:07 -0400

    'Deficit of trust': At UN, leaders of a warming world gatherThe planet is getting hotter, and tackling that climate peril will grab the spotlight as world leaders gather for their annual meeting at the United Nations this week facing an undeniable backdrop: rising tensions from the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan and increasing nationalism, inequality and intolerance. Growing fear of military action, especially in response to recent attacks on Saudi oil installations that are key to world energy supplies, hangs over this year's General Assembly gathering. All eyes will be watching presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Hassan Rouhani of Iran, whose countries are at the forefront of escalating tensions, to see if they can reduce fears of a confrontation that could impact the Mideast and far beyond.


  • Markets face major risks over lax climate forecasts, top investors warn Sun, 22 Sep 2019 20:01:00 -0400

    Markets face major risks over lax climate forecasts, top investors warnFinancial markets risk major disruptions by relying on business-as-usual forecasts that underestimate the impact of climate-change policies that are expected to abruptly tighten next decade, a leading group of investors has warned. The report by the U.N.-backed Principles of Responsible Investing (PRI), representing investors with $86 trillion of assets under management, joins a growing chorus of warnings that forecasts and investments by oil and gas companies are out of sync with the pace needed to meet energy transition targets.


  • At UN General Assembly, Iran and US historically at odds Sun, 22 Sep 2019 19:49:53 -0400

    At UN General Assembly, Iran and US historically at oddsIran has often commanded center stage at the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders, turning the organization's headquarters into an arena for arguments over the Persian Gulf's daily complexities and hostilities. As Tehran's leadership prepares to address the U.N. General Assembly this week, there are fears that a wider conflict, dragging in Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States, could erupt after a summer of heightened volatility in the region. After the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal — and Washington hit Tehran with escalating sanctions —Iran has begun to break some of the limits that were set in return for sanctions relief.


  • Trump visits 2 key states with leaders of India, Australia Sun, 22 Sep 2019 19:45:54 -0400

    Trump visits 2 key states with leaders of India, AustraliaPresident Donald Trump's run-up to the U.N. General Assembly was a dash on Sunday through two key political states with two world leaders at events that felt like his raucous campaign rallies. In Wapakoneta, Ohio, Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited a recycled paper factory being opened by Anthony Pratt, an Australian businessman who is investing billions of dollars in the United States to create thousands of manufacturing jobs. "This great state of Ohio is open for business," Trump told the cheering crowd at a new Pratt Industries plant still under construction.


  • US emphasizes diplomacy in standoff with Iran Sun, 22 Sep 2019 19:26:52 -0400

    US emphasizes diplomacy in standoff with IranThe United States said Sunday it will make its case against Iran at the United Nations this week, insisting it wants to give diplomacy "every opportunity to succeed" in the wake of a devastating attack on a vital Saudi oil complex. Setting the stage for President Donald Trump's address to the annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put aside threats of US military retaliation against Iran for the attack.


  • UK opposition Labour to vote on Brexit stance Sun, 22 Sep 2019 18:07:21 -0400

    UK opposition Labour to vote on Brexit stanceBritain's Labour Party will on Monday decide between two possible Brexit policies: to campaign to remain in the European Union at a second referendum or defer a decision on what stance to take until after an election, a Labour source said on Sunday. The unexpected decision to put two possible policies to a vote of Labour members underlines the internal splits in the party over Brexit. A large number of party members and even some senior policy advisers prefer to campaign for remain, while others, including leader Jeremy Corbyn, want to delay the decision, wary of alienating 'Leave' supporting Labour members.


  • Billions of euros, millions of jobs: Europe's carmakers warn on no-deal Brexit Sun, 22 Sep 2019 18:01:00 -0400

    Billions of euros, millions of jobs: Europe's carmakers warn on no-deal BrexitA month before Britain is due to quit the European Union, the bloc's car-makers have joined forces to warn of billions of euros in losses in the event of a no-deal Brexit with production stoppages costing 50,000 pounds a minute in Britain alone. Britain is scheduled to quit the EU on October 31 but businesses have grown increasingly concerned at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's apparent lack of progress towards a new withdrawal deal to replace the proposals of his predecessor Theresa May, which the British parliament rejected three times. In a statement, groups including the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers and 17 national groups warned of the impact of "no-deal" on an industry which employs 13.8 million people in the European Union including Britain, or 6.1% of the workforce.


  • Pompeo to meet with Russia's top diplomat Lavrov at UN Sun, 22 Sep 2019 17:46:27 -0400

    Pompeo to meet with Russia's top diplomat Lavrov at UNNew York (AFP) - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will on Friday meet with top Russian diplomat Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the state department announced Sunday.


  • U.K. Labour Pledges to Fund Elderly Care as Brexit Splits Harden Sun, 22 Sep 2019 17:30:00 -0400

    U.K. Labour Pledges to Fund Elderly Care as Brexit Splits Harden(Bloomberg) -- Labour treasury spokesman John McDonnell will seek to reunite the U.K.’s main opposition party behind a pledge to guarantee free adult social care after a weekend of splits over Brexit.Labour’s National Care Service will provide older people with free help for daily tasks, including getting out of bed, bathing and preparing meals, McDonnell will say in a speech on Monday to the party’s annual conference.The announcement, with echoes of the party’s role in the foundation of the U.K.’s National Health Service, is expected to cost 6 billion pounds ($7.5 billion) in 2020/21, rising to 8 billion pounds in 2030/31, the party said in a statement.After a weekend of disputes over Brexit and internal democracy, the party leadership is seeking to unite activists behind policies focused on redistribution and social justice so they can mount an effective challenge to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an election expected this fall.“We know whose side we’re on. We’re on the side of the people against the super-rich establishment that Johnson represents,” Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a speech on the fringes of the conference on Sunday evening. “We stand for the many, the overwhelming majority who do the work and pay their taxes, not the few at the top who hoard the wealth and dodge their taxes.”An aging population is one of Britain’s biggest economic challenges and political parties have struggled to tackle the issue. During the 2017 election campaign, then Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to back down after her plan to make elderly people pay for the costs of their own care was dubbed a “dementia tax.” It was widely blamed for costing her Conservative Party its majority.Corbyn is again planning to focus on social and economic policies in the next general election and wants to use Labour’s annual conference to build a radical agenda for government. On Sunday, Rebecca Long-Bailey, the party’s business spokeswoman, said Labour has already drafted laws to deliver its pledge to nationalize water and energy utilities.McDonnell said in a speech Saturday that he and Corbyn want to deliver their ambition for an “irreversible shift in wealth and power to working people.”But the party’s ability to deliver that goal is being undermined by deep splits over Brexit.On Monday, party members are due to vote on Labour’s Brexit policy. Corbyn is trying to strike a balance, proposing to renegotiate a deal with the EU and then pitching it against remaining in the bloc in a second referendum. Labour would decide which side to take only once the terms of the deal are known.That stance has angered prominent Labour politicians, including Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry and deputy leader Tom Watson, who are pushing for unambiguous support for staying in the bloc.Watson, who survived an attempt to oust him on Saturday, said backing ‘Remain’ offers the party a clearer route to power.There’s little sign of a truce emerging. Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite labor union, Labour’s biggest financial backer, said members of the shadow cabinet who disagree with Corbyn should step aside.“We should be singing from the same hymn sheet,” he told Sky News.To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Eyeing elections, Britain's Labour plan care spending boost Sun, 22 Sep 2019 17:30:00 -0400

    Eyeing elections, Britain's Labour plan care spending boostBritain's opposition Labour Party will on Monday set out a 6 billion pound per year plan to help look after elderly people, as it pitches its economic agenda for a socialist-run country at the party's annual conference. Labour is hoping to use the Brexit chaos engulfing Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative government to win control of Britain's $2.8 trillion economy at an early election expected to be called later this year. Presenting himself as Britain's finance minister in waiting, veteran left-winger John McDonnell will set out a series of policies to reshape the pro-business, free-market orthodoxy that has guided the British economy for decades.


  • Johnson Takes Bid for Brexit Deal to New York as Clock Runs Down Sun, 22 Sep 2019 17:30:00 -0400

    Johnson Takes Bid for Brexit Deal to New York as Clock Runs Down(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson will start a week of intense diplomacy on Monday, as he tries to push for a Brexit deal on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.The U.K. prime minister will hold meetings with all the key players -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and European Council President Donald Tusk -- as he tries to persuade them to renegotiate the divorce deal they agreed with his predecessor, Theresa May.He’ll also try to look beyond Brexit, meeting U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday as he seeks to advance talks on a free-trade deal. A day earlier, he’ll announce a 1 billion-pound ($1.2 billion) fund to pay for the development and testing of new technology to tackle climate change in developing countries.But with the clock ticking down to the Oct. 31 deadline, the tortured negotiations over the U.K.’s departure from the European Union will dominate Johnson’s agenda. He has pledged to leave “do or die” on Halloween and without a deal if necessary -- though that would mean defying a law passed by Parliament this month requiring him to seek a delay to Jan. 31 instead.Supreme CourtJohnson’s New York visit also risks being overshadowed by a U.K. Supreme Court ruling on whether he broke the law when he suspended Parliament for five weeks. That decision is due this week.Equivocal statements from Johnson and those around him about how his government will respond have put his ministers in the unusual position of giving assurances that he will obey the law. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was the latest to do so on Sunday.“Of course we’ll respect whatever the legal ruling is from the Supreme Court,” Raab told the BBC. “It’s absolutely vital that we respect the role of the Supreme Court in our justice system, but also in our democracy.”The government has said the best way out of the impasse is to negotiate a deal with the EU that British politicians can support. But Johnson won’t be able to do so unless he can show the bloc viable alternatives to the contentious backstop, a measure to keep the Irish border free of checks that Johnson has vowed to remove from any divorce deal because it keeps the U.K. tied to EU rules.Brexit BlameRaab said he is optimistic about getting a deal at the Oct. 17 EU summit in Brussels, citing what he described as positive comments from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.In a recorded interview broadcast on Sunday, though, Juncker made clear the EU is not yet convinced Johnson has a solution to the Irish border. He also said where he thought the blame would lie for a no-deal Brexit.“The EU is in no way responsible for any kind of consequences entailed by Brexit,” he told Sky News. “That’s a British decision, a sovereign decision that we are respecting.”The key problem remains -- as it was for May -- how to deliver on three apparently incompatible aims: Moving from EU rules and striking independent trade deals; not having a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; and not having checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.Hard BorderJuncker said that a no-deal Brexit would mean a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland to protect the integrity of the EU single market.“We have to preserve the health and the safety of our citizens,” he said.Unless Johnson can find a solution, he risks becoming boxed in -- by the courts, the EU and Parliament. Even a general election -- if he can secure one -- looks risky if it comes after the U.K. is meant to have left the EU, with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party likely to attract disenchanted Conservative voters.Michael Gove, the minister responsible for no-deal Brexit planning, warned that the Conservative Party will suffer at the polls if it fails to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31. “We are on the razor’s edge of peril,” he wrote in the Sunday Times.Meanwhile it’s not only Johnson’s Tories that are struggling over Brexit. Splits are re-emerging in the main opposition Labour Party, overshadowing efforts to use the party’s annual conference to build a platform to win a general election.Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would renegotiate a deal with the EU in his first three months in office before holding a referendum. That would give voters the choice to back his agreement or remain in the bloc, though Corbyn has refused to say which side he’d support.That lack of clarity has angered lawmakers and party members, the majority of whom want to stay in the EU, and some are demanding an unambiguous commitment to campaign to remain.“If you believe in internationalism and if you believe in socialism, why on earth would you back Brexit?” Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emily Thornberry, said in a speech on the margins of the conference in Brighton. “We must not just campaign to remain, we must lead the campaign to remain.”To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Trump heads to UN amid tensions with Iran, questions over call with Ukrainian leader Sun, 22 Sep 2019 17:15:38 -0400

    Trump heads to UN amid tensions with Iran, questions over call with Ukrainian leaderPresident Donald Trump will join leaders from around the world as they converge in New York City this week for the United Nations General Assembly, an annual high-profile diplomatic gathering. "I think for President Trump at the U.N., the hope is the third time is the charm," said Jon Alterman, the director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "The first time President Trump went up to the U.N. in 2017, other leaders were so uncertain of what he would want to do that a lot of them stayed away," Alterman said.


  • Iran 'ready to release' British-flagged  tanker Sun, 22 Sep 2019 17:09:09 -0400

    Iran 'ready to release' British-flagged  tankerStena Impero, the British-flagged tanker detained by Iran on July 19, will be released soon, an Iranian maritime official said on Sunday, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. The Stena Impero was detained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in the Strait of Hormuz waterway for alleged marine violations, two weeks after Britain seized an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar. That vessel was released in August. “After the issuing of the ruling for the end of detention of the English tanker Stena Impero this vessel will soon, and after the passing of 65 days, begin its movement from the port of Bandar Abbas toward international waters,” said Allahmorad Afifipour, the head of the Ports and Maritime Organisation of Iran in Hormozgan Province. The process for the tanker to exit Iranian waters has been started but the legal case against the ship is still open and the results of the case will be announced, Afifipour said. He did not provide any additional information on when the tanker may be released. The head of the Swedish firm that owns the vessel said on Sunday that the tanker may be released within hours. A member of the Iranian National Guard on board the Stena Impero Credit: AFP Swedish public broadcaster SVT quoted Stena Bulk Chief Executive Erik Hanell as saying: “We have received information now this morning that it seems like they will release the ship Stena Impero within a few hours. So we understand that the political decision to release the ship has been taken.” “We hope to be able to head out within a few hours, but we don’t want to anticipate events. We want to see that the ship sails out of Iranian territorial waters,” Hanell told SVT, adding that his information came from Iranian authorities. Hanell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Swedish radio reported that he was currently travelling to Iran, according to Stena Bulk spokespersons. Stena Bulk spokesman Will Marks declined to confirm the company had been informed of a possible release on Sunday. “The vessel is still being held and the negotiations are ongoing, and until we have official confirmation and the vessel is lifting up its anchor and sailing out of Iranian waters we can’t confirm anything else,” he told Reuters. On Sept. 4, Iran released seven of the vessel’s 23 crew members. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said at the time that Sweden had been in daily contact with Iran at a high political level since the vessel was seized. The Foreign Office is understood to be monitoring the situation closely. A spokesman said: “We continue to call on Iran to immediately release the Stena Impero and her remaining crew, who continue to be illegally detained. Iran’s illegal seizure of a ship inside an internationally recognised shipping lane is unacceptable and undermines international law.”


  • Trump goes on offensive over Biden and Ukraine as Schiff ponders impeachment Sun, 22 Sep 2019 16:44:36 -0400

    Trump goes on offensive over Biden and Ukraine as Schiff ponders impeachment* Whistleblower scandal swirls over Washington * Q&A: What is the Trump-Ukraine scandal about?Donald Trump, his aides and allies went on the offensive on Sunday, over what the president claims is un-investigated corruption involving Joe Biden and his son in Ukraine.In return, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee said the president’s reported conduct in the matter may make impeachment “the only remedy that is coequal to the evil”.Donald Trump is reported to have pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate claims about Biden, the Democratic presidential frontrunner.On Saturday, Biden, who has denied all wrongdoing, accused Trump of an “overwhelming abuse of power”.On Sunday, leaving the White House for Texas and Ohio, Trump told reporters he was “not looking to hurt Biden, but he did a very dishonest thing”.Seeming to move closer to admitting he did discuss Biden with Volodymyr Zelenskiy, he added: “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place. Was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice-President Biden and his son, [contributing] to the corruption already in the Ukraine.”He added: “We had a great conversation. We had a conversation on many things.”> We may have crossed the Rubicon> > Adam SchiffRepublican claims about Ukraine concern Hunter Biden’s work for a gas company in the country and a visit by the then vice-president in March 2016, in which he pressed for the firing of the country’s top prosecutor.“You don’t get to approve a prosecutor in a foreign country unless something fishy is going on,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani claimed on Fox News Sunday.The firing of Viktor Shokin was in fact an aim of the US, its allies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.An investigation into the company for which Hunter Biden worked was dormant at the time of the vice-president’s visit. In May 2019, Ukraine’s prosecutor general told Bloomberg, “We do not see any wrongdoing” by the Bidens.In a disjointed interview with Fox News Sunday, Giuliani also tried to link the former vice-president to the billionaire philanthropist George Soros; to the production of a notorious dossier on Trump by Fusion GPS; and to “the $1.5bn that the Biden family took out of China while that guy was negotiating for us”, all without offering evidence.“This will be a lot bigger than Spiro Agnew,” Giuliani said, perhaps ill-advisedly referring to Richard Nixon’s vice-president who resigned in 1973, amid the Watergate scandal that would bring down the president.Giuliani has admitted seeking to pressure Ukrainian authorities. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that in a 25 July call with Zelenskiy, Trump asked eight times for the Bidens to be investigated.The call is reportedly the subject of an intelligence services whistleblower complaint which the White House is refusing to release to Congress.It has been suggested that Trump may have threatened to withhold military aid. About a month after the call, $250m in military assistance to a country fighting Russian-backed separatists was delayed. It was released this month, after the existence of the whistleblower complaint became public.Chris Murphy, a Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee, told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday: “The timing is obviously incredibly suspicious.”> I do think if Vice-President Biden behaved inappropriately …we need to get to the bottom of that> > Mike PompeoOn Friday the Ukrainian foreign minister said the aid was not discussed in the July call, which he said was “long and friendly”.On Sunday Trump said the conversation was “perfect” and there was “no quid pro quo”. He has not denied asking Zelinskiy to investigate the Bidens.The former vice-president, who in Iowa on Saturday said “Trump is using this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum”, has called for the transcript to be released. So have allies of Trump. In Texas, the president suggested he might do so.It is not certain the call is the subject of the whistleblower complaint which, against legal precedent, acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to release.Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee, told CNN’s State of the Union: “Clearly [Trump] is afraid of the public seeing such things.”Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNN and NBC showing the complaint to Congress “would be a terrible precedent”, as conversations between world leaders should be confidential and not released after “political complaints”.Mnuchin said he did not know what was said on the call between Trump and Zelinskiy.Joe Biden smiles for the media while frying steaks at the Polk County Democrats’ Steak Fry in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday. Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/ReutersSecretary of state Mike Pompeo went further, telling ABC’s This Week: “I do think if Vice-President Biden behaved inappropriately, if he was protecting his son and intervened with the Ukrainian leadership in a way that was corrupt, I do think we need to get to the bottom of that.”Schiff made unusually strong remarks about the prospects of Trump being impeached over Ukraine, as reports of his behaviour meant “we may have crossed the Rubicon”.Of Giuliani, he said: “Betraying your country … is one thing when it’s done by the court jester, another thing when by the man who would be king.”In a letter to Democratic lawmakers, House speaker Nancy Pelosi said failure to disclose the complaint to Congress would mark “a grave new chapter of lawlessness” and “a whole new stage of investigation”.House Democrats are already exploring impeachment over Trump’s links to Russia and its interference in the 2016 election. Schiff cited Senate Republican opposition to impeachment as one reason still to go slow, and said his party needed public support.Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014, backs separatists in the Donbass region of Ukraine. The Washington Post cited a former senior US official as saying Trump thought military aid to Ukraine “was pointless and just aggravating the Russians”.“The president’s position basically is, we should recognise the fact that the Russians should be our friends, and who cares about the Ukrainians?”Trump and Zelinskiy are due to meet at the United Nations in New York next week.


  • Chinese journalists will have to pass a government test on Marxism and President Xi Jinping to be granted press passes Sun, 22 Sep 2019 16:38:32 -0400

    Chinese journalists will have to pass a government test on Marxism and President Xi Jinping to be granted press passes'Pilot tests' will be issued to Chinese journalists starting next month via an app to test their loyalty to President Xi Jinping to get press passes.


  • UPDATE 2-France says main priority is to de-escalate U.S.-Iran tensions Sun, 22 Sep 2019 16:37:33 -0400

    UPDATE 2-France says main priority is to de-escalate U.S.-Iran tensionsFrance's foreign minister said on Sunday his country's main aim at this week's U.N. General Assembly meeting is to de-escalate tensions between the United States and Iran and that a meeting between their presidents was not the top priority. "The meeting between (U.S.) President (Donald) Trump and (Iranian) President (Hassan) Rouhani is not the number one subject. The priority subject is whether we can restart a de-escalation path with the different actors," Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.


  • Arab lawmakers in Israel endorse Gantz for prime minister Sun, 22 Sep 2019 15:59:22 -0400

    Arab lawmakers in Israel endorse Gantz for prime ministerThe Arab bloc in Israel's parliament abandoned its usual hands-off stance Sunday and endorsed former military chief Benny Gantz for prime minister, potentially giving him the edge over hard-line incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu. The historic move marked the first time in nearly three decades that the Arab parties backed a candidate for prime minster, reflecting their contempt for Netanyahu, who was accused of fomenting hatred of the Arabs during his re-election campaign. "Benny Gantz is not our cup of tea," said Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi.


  • World leaders feel the heat in upcoming climate summit Sun, 22 Sep 2019 15:51:06 -0400

    World leaders feel the heat in upcoming climate summitOnly those with new, specific and bold plans can command the podium and the ever-warming world's attention, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. As if to underscore the seriousness of the problem, the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization released a science report Sunday showing that in the last several years, warming, sea level rise and carbon pollution have all accelerated. Brazil's, Poland's and Saudi Arabia's proposals for dealing with climate change fell short, so they're not on Monday's summit schedule.


  • Iran accuses foreign forces of raising Gulf 'insecurity' Sun, 22 Sep 2019 14:53:41 -0400

    Iran accuses foreign forces of raising Gulf 'insecurity'President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday denounced the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf and said Iran will present a peace plan, after its arch-foe Washington ordered reinforcements to the tense region. "Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said before a military parade commemorating the Iran-Iraq war. Rouhani also said Iran would present a peace plan to the United Nations within days.


  • Iran's president warns America to 'stay away' as it unveils long range missiles that could strike US bases Sun, 22 Sep 2019 14:42:45 -0400

    Iran's president warns America to 'stay away' as it unveils long range missiles that could strike US basesIran’s president has warned American and other foreign forces to “stay away” from the region, as Tehran paraded long-range missile capable of reaching American bases.  Hassan Rouhani said the presence of such troops in the Gulf has always brought “pain and misery”, in a speech made at an annual military parade to commemorate the war with Iraq. Mr Rouhani spoke in response to an announcement made by the US on Friday that it was sending more troops to Saudi Arabia after an attack on Saudi oil facilities both nations blame on Iran. "Wherever the Americans or our enemies have gone, there has been insecurity afterward,” the Iranian president said. “The farther you keep yourselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be." At the parade, the Islamic republic displayed the Khordad-3 air defence system that shot down a US drone in June. It also showcased the long-range, surface-to-air Bavar 373 missile that can travel more than 1,250 miles, bringing it in range of US bases in the region and arch-foe Israel. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is seen during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran Credit: Wana News Agency  Saudi Arabia and the US accuse Iran of attacking Saudi oil facilities on September 14, the biggest such assault on the world’s top oil exporter. Iran denies involvement in the attack, which was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, a group aligned with Iran and currently fighting a Saudi-led alliance in the civil war. US President Donald Trump had said it would step up to protect Saudi but would take its cue from Saudi. Riyadh has said it has evidence Iranian missiles were used in last weekend’s attack and that they were launched from the north, but did not go so far as to say they came from Iranian territory. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran Credit: Wana News Agency  Should the accusation be proven, it would mark such a serious escalation in the long-running conflict between Saudi and Iran that the former could be forced to retaliate. "We hold Iran responsible because the missiles and the drones that were fired at Saudi Arabia were Iranian-built and Iranian-delivered," Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday. "But to launch an attack from your territory, if that is the case, puts us in a different category... this would be considered an act of war," he told CNN. Both sides are holding their nerve, hoping to make their case to the United Nations General Assembly later this week. Mr Rouhani, along with US sanctioned Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, will travel to New York on Monday, to present what he called a security plan for the Gulf. President Hassan Rouhani, left, listens to chief of the Revolutionary Guard Gen. Hossein Salami at a military parade marking 39th anniversary of outset of Iran-Iraq war Credit: Office of Iranian Presidency "In this sensitive and important historical moment, we announce to our neighbours that we extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood to them," he said. It is unclear what this would look like, with the president saying only that peace in the Strait of Hormuz could be achieved "in co-operation with various countries." The US has already formed its own maritime coalition in the Gulf to secure one of the world’s most vital oil trade routes with the UK, Saudi, Bahrain and even the UAE, which has tried to keep good relations with Tehran since the most recent tensions began. Members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) standing in formation during the annual "Sacred Defence Week" Credit: AFP British former diplomats said Iran, which has been hit by wave after wave of US sanctions after Mr Trump pulled the country out of the landmark nuclear deal last year, is counting on the US and Saudi not wanting to start war. “I think it is a matter of the hardliners in Iran looking to shore up their influence by keeping tensions with the US high, while still maintaining just enough deniability to preempt a full US response,” Charles Hollis, a British former diplomat in both Riyadh and Tehran, told the Telegraph. “Assisted by a growing belief that Trump may talk tough but is not willing to act.” In the US, Mike Pompeo, the American Secretary of State, squarely laid the blame for the attacks on the Saudi oil fields on Iran. “No reasonable person doubts precisely who conducted these strikes, and it is the Intelligence Community’s determination that it is likely the case that these were launched from Iran,” he said on  Face the Nation. “This was a sophisticated attack. These weapons systems had ranges that could not have come from the Houthis. It is crazy for anyone to assert that they did. Mike Pompeo dismisses Iranian denial of responsibility for oil field attacks Credit: Susan Walsh/AP “I mean, it is literally nuts on its face to make an assertion that this was an attack by the Houthis. This was Iran true and true, and the United States will respond in a way that reflects that act of war by this Iranian revolutionary regime.” Mr Pompeo dismissed the denial of responsibility by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “I don’t know why anybody listens to the Iranian foreign minister. He has nothing to do with Iranian foreign policy and he has lied for decades, and then he resigned. “It’s just – it’s not even worth – it’s not even worth responding to him. It’s beneath the dignity of anyone in the world to listen to someone who repeatedly makes the claim that the Houthis launched this attack.” Speaking on the same programme, Mr Zarif was pessimistic that conflict with the US could be prevented. "No, I'm not confident that we can avoid a war," Zarif said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "I'm confident that we will not start one but I'm confident that whoever starts one will not be the one who finishes it."


  • Retired British colonel helps secure release of Iranian soldier held by Somali pirates Sun, 22 Sep 2019 14:12:26 -0400

    Retired British colonel helps secure release of Iranian soldier held by Somali piratesAn Iranian sailor held hostage by Somali pirates was freed because he was dying of malnutrition, a former British army officer who helped negotiate his release has said. Three other Iranian hostages remain in Somalia. "This guy was dying – he looked like a skeleton. He was bleeding internally. He had severe malnutrition. I suspect the others are in a similar condition," John Steed, a retired British colonel, said. Col Steed has worked in the region for many years trying to free Somali hostages. Mohammad Sharif Panahandeh was among 21 crew members of a boat hijacked in March 2015. Eight of the hostages died, five escaped, and Iran freed four last year. The hostages had been split up by their captors after arguments over money, said Col Steed. Mr Panahandeh was released without payment because the pirates thought he would die. "He was released last weekend but we had him in (the northern Somali town of) Galkayo trying to get him fit to travel. A week of trying to get him fit to travel. We had to stabilize him," Col Steed said. “Nobody wants to pay for these guys because they are Baluchi,” he added. Poverty-stricken Baluchistan straddles the border between Iran and Pakistan and is riven by banditry and insurgency.


  • Tapper Corners Mnuchin: Wouldn’t You Find it Inappropriate if Obama Asked Ukraine to Investigate Trump’s Kids? Sun, 22 Sep 2019 13:40:33 -0400

    Tapper Corners Mnuchin: Wouldn’t You Find it Inappropriate if Obama Asked Ukraine to Investigate Trump’s Kids?Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin found himself in a rhetorical trap of his own making on Sunday when CNN’s Jake Tapper cornered the treasury chief as he defended President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.During his appearance on State of the Union, Mnuchin immediately deflected when pressed by Tapper as to whether or not it was common for presidents to push foreign leaders to investigate their political rivals, pivoting instead to Biden’s claim he hasn’t spoken to his son about his business dealings.“I haven’t heard that and I think you’re speculating on what the president said,” the Trump official said. “I would say these are confidential discussions between two foreign leaders but I think the bigger issue is Biden came out this weekend saying he never had any discussions with his son. His son came out and said he had had business discussions with his father so I think that the real issue is not what the president said, but what, indeed, did Biden’s son do.”Trump Whistleblower Saga Threatens to Blow Up 2020 CampaignMnuchin went on to repeatedly dismiss the reports on the president’s pressure campaign to get Ukraine to look into his political opponent as “speculation,” while at the same time saying it was a “terrible precedent” for Congress to be able to look at the whistleblower complaint because “conversations between world leaders are meant to be confidential.”Tapper, meanwhile, continued to grill Mnuchin on the matter despite the Trump Cabinet member’s attempts to evade, eventually confronting Mnuchin with a hypothetical situation.“Let me just close by asking, if for instance, President Obama had pressured a foreign leader, Putin or the president of Ukraine, anyone said 'I want you to look into Donald Trump Jr., or I want you to look into Eric Trump,' international businessmen, both of them, would you not find that inappropriate?” Tapper asked.“I’m not going to speculate on that,” Mnuchin replied. “What I do find inappropriate is the fact that Vice President Biden—at the time’s—son did very significant business dealings in Ukraine. I, for one, find that to be concerning and to me that is the issue perhaps that should be further investigated.”The CNN anchor, however, said he didn’t understand Mnuchin’s answer because it appeared he was saying it is “okay for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump to do business all over the world and okay for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world while President Trump is president and while Joe Biden is vice president his son shouldn’t be able to do business dealings.”As Mnuchin insisted he didn’t want to “go into more of these details,” Tapper fired back: “Well, you’re setting a precedent that the president is violating.”“Again, I think there is a significant difference in what you’re saying, okay,” Mnuchin contended. “What I was saying between Biden and his son’s relationship with the Ukraine oligarch and potential business dealings that the Trump Organization has had which predated his presidency.”The CNN host, for his part, made sure to end the conversation on this issue by pointing out that “the Ukrainian prosecutor said there is no evidence of any wrongdoing” by either Joe Biden or his son.Elsewhere on Sunday, allies of the president defended Trump’s collusion attempts to get a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 election while also calling for more scrutiny into the Bidens’ actions abroad. Appearing on Face the Nation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo endorsed Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s scheme to pressure Ukraine to open a probe into Biden.“If there was election interference that took place by [Vice President Joe Biden], I think the American people deserve to know,” he said.Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), meanwhile, told Fox News host Maria Bartiromo that while he wasn’t really on board with Congress being able to look at the phone call at the center of the whistleblower complaint because it set a bad “precedent,” he did feel that the Justice Department needed to investigate Biden and Ukraine.“So nobody’s looked at this, but somebody should, so I’m hoping that the Department of Justice will look at the Biden-Ukraine connection like we looked at the Trump-Russia connection,” he declared, adding: “There’s enough smoke here.”And then there was Trump himself. Speaking to reporters on Sunday morning, the president insisted that he wasn’t looking to “hurt” Biden and had “no problem” with Congress speaking to Giuliani about his Ukraine antics. At the same time, however, the president basically confessed that his call with Ukraine was centered on pressuring them into investigating the former vice president.“It was largely [about] fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” the president boasted.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • Career diplomat to represent US at UN climate summit Sun, 22 Sep 2019 13:34:01 -0400

    Career diplomat to represent US at UN climate summitAs world leaders head to New York for a climate summit called by the United Nations, the United States will be represented by a career diplomat. Marcia Bernicat, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, "will represent the United States at the UN Secretary General's Climate Summit," a State Department spokeswoman said.


  • Iraq officials: New strike targets military base, no damage Sun, 22 Sep 2019 13:23:52 -0400

    Iraq officials: New strike targets military base, no damageAn Iraqi security official and a militia commander say a new airstrike has targeted a military base in the western Anbar province. The airstrike was the latest in a series of unclaimed strikes on weapons depots and bases of Iran-backed militias in Iraq. The Popular Mobilization Forces blame the string of bombings on Israel, which frequently targets Iranian interests in neighboring Syria.


  • 'We do want a peaceful resolution to this': Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Iran Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:48:00 -0400

    'We do want a peaceful resolution to this': Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Iran'We do want a peaceful resolution to this': Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Iran originally appeared on abcnews.go.comAs tensions continue between the United States and Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "We do want a peaceful resolution to this. That is our objective."In his interview with ABC's "This Week" Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz, he added, "But make no mistake about it, if we are unsuccessful in that, and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Donald Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives. ...


  • 'Coherent strategy' with allies needed on Iran: Former Defense Secretary Mattis Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:38:00 -0400

    'Coherent strategy' with allies needed on Iran: Former Defense Secretary MattisIran is "continuing to do what they've done for nearly four decades now," former Defense Secretary James Mattis told ABC's "This Week," and the Trump administration needs to "build trust that we have a coherent strategy" on Iran following the country's alleged Sept. 14 attack on Saudi oil facilities. "They want to look like the leader and they're trying to craft a foreign policy that pushes others around.


  • Labour's Brexit Splits Risk Undermining Party Ahead of Election Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:37:01 -0400

    Labour's Brexit Splits Risk Undermining Party Ahead of Election(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is struggling to keep his party together as senior members demand an unambiguous commitment to staying in the European Union before a general election expected in the fall.Corbyn said his party is pledging to hold a second referendum on Brexit if it’s elected to government, pitting ‘Remain’ against a “credible” deal he negotiates with the EU -- but he wouldn’t say which side he’d campaign for.His attempt at forging unity began to unravel within hours, as Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who survived an attempt to oust him on Saturday, said backing ‘Remain’ offers a clear route to power.“We are a Remain party,” Watson said in a lunchtime speech on the sidelines of Labour’s annual conference on Sunday. “We are a European Party. We are an internationalist party. That is who we are. Not perfect, not pure. But overwhelmingly committed to Britain remaining in Europe and reforming Europe.”The argument threatens to undermine efforts to use Labour’s gathering in Brighton to build a platform to challenge Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in a national vote expected later this year. Corbyn said the majority of Labour members and voters want to stay in the EU but a “significant minority” want to leave, and he is aiming to strike a balance.Decision DelayCorbyn wants the party to promise that if it wins a general election it will negotiate a swift Brexit deal with the EU and there will be a referendum within six months. Remain will be the other option in the vote, he said. A decision on which side Labour will take in that campaign will be postponed until a special conference of members has discussed the options.“What I’ve tried to do all along is recognize the result of the referendum and respect it,” Corbyn told BBC TV, repeatedly refusing to say which side his party would support. He didn’t rule out campaigning for the deal his government agrees with the EU.“Absolutely depends what the deal is,” he said. “Let’s see what we get and we’ll put that final decision to the British people and make that decision at that time.”The Party’s ruling National Executive Council issued a statement later on Sunday backing Corbyn’s stance.“A Labour government will get Brexit sorted one way or another within six months of coming to power, allowing us to concentrate on all the issues that matter to people most,” it said. “It is right that the party shall only decide how to campaign in such a referendum, through a one-day special conference, following the election of a Labour government.”Staying OnThe 70-year-old veteran socialist also said he’s committed to serving a full five-year term as prime minister if he wins the election, amid speculation he is considering stepping down.It wasn’t just Watson, who has previously clashed with the party leadership on Brexit, questioning Corbyn’s stance on Sunday. On Sky News, former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said “there may come a point where we have to make more of a choice.”And Labour’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry pulled no punches in a speech to delegates on the margins of the conference.“If you believe in internationalism and if you believe in socialism, why on earth would you back Brexit?” she said. Whatever the terms of a Brexit deal and regardless of whether it was negotiated by Labour or the Conservatives, “we must not just campaign to remain, we must lead the campaign to remain,” she said.At the same event, fellow shadow cabinet member Nia Griffith said: “I will be campaigning to remain in all circumstances.”‘Pointless’Johnson’s Conservatives rejected Corbyn’s position, accusing him of “dither and pointless delay” in an emailed statement.Michael Gove, the minister responsible for no-deal Brexit planning, said a second referendum would lead to a bitter rift between the public and Parliament and that he was “profoundly concerned” at the prospect.“A second referendum would trigger deep popular anger and result in a tumultuous rejection of Parliament’s attempt to annul the first vote,” Gove wrote in the Sunday Times. He also warned that the Conservative Party will suffer at the polls if it fails to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31. “We are on the razor’s edge of peril,” he wrote.(Updates with NEC starting in 9th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman.To contact the reporters on this story: Stuart Biggs in Brighton at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in Brighton at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • The Latest: Arab lawmakers in Israel endorse Gantz for PM Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:29:24 -0400

    The Latest: Arab lawmakers in Israel endorse Gantz for PMThe Arab bloc in Israel's parliament has endorsed Blue and White party chairman Benny Gantz for prime minister. With that nod, Gantz looks to edge by incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu in the number of lawmakers who will endorse him. Representatives of the Joint List of Arab parties told President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday that they recommend the former military chief.


  • Climate Protesters and World Leaders: Same Planet, Different Worlds Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:28:15 -0400

    Climate Protesters and World Leaders: Same Planet, Different WorldsUNITED NATIONS -- This is the world we live in: Punishing heat waves, catastrophic floods, huge fires and climate conditions so uncertain that children took to the streets en masse in global protests to demand action.But this is also the world we live in: A pantheon of world leaders who have deep ties to the industries that are the biggest sources of planet-warming emissions, are hostile to protests or use climate science denial to score political points.That stark contrast comes at a time when governments face a challenge of a kind they have not seen since the beginning of the industrial era. In order to avert the worst effects of climate change, they must rebuild the engine of the global economy -- to quickly get out of fossil fuels, the energy source that the system is based upon -- because they failed to take steps decades ago when scientists warned they should.On Monday, at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, comes a glimpse of how far presidents and prime ministers are willing to go. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expects around 60 countries to announce what he called new "concrete" plans to reduce emissions and help the world's most vulnerable cope with the fallout from global warming.The problem is, the protesters in the streets and some of the diplomats in the General Assembly hall are living in separate worlds."Our political climate is not friendly to this discussion at this moment," said Alice Hill, who specializes in climate policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Multilateralism is under attack. We have seen the rise of authoritarian governments."We see these pressures as working against us," she said. "We don't have leadership in the United States to help guide the process."President Donald Trump, in fact, has rolled back dozens of environmental regulations, most recently reversing rules on auto emissions, saying that they were an unnecessary burden on the U.S. economy. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro wants to open the Amazon to new commercial activity. In Russia, Vladimir Putin presides over a vast, powerful petro-state. China's state-owned companies are pushing for coal projects at home and abroad, even as the country tries in other ways to tamp down emissions. Narendra Modi of India is set on expanding coal too, even as he champions solar power.The latest report by a U.N.-backed scientific panel, meanwhile, projected that if emissions continue to rise at their current pace, by 2040, the world could face inundated coastlines, intensifying droughts and food insecurity. Basically, a catastrophe.At a press briefing before the Monday summit, Guterres was bullish on what he described as a new willingness by governments and companies to address climate change seriously. He said he hoped "a very meaningful number of countries" would declare their aim to reduce carbon emissions significantly and aim to be carbon-neutral by 2050."All of a sudden I started to feel there was momentum that was gaining, and this was largely due to the youth movement that started a fantastic, very dynamic impulse around the world," Guterres said Saturday as a UN Youth Climate Summit began.There will be some important no-shows at the Monday meeting, though. The United States, the largest economy in the world, has not even asked to take the podium. Nor has Brazil, home to most of the Amazon rainforest, often referred to as the lungs of the planet. Nor Japan, an economic powerhouse and the world's seventh largest emitter of greenhouse gases.So, Guterres also tempered expectations. He told reporters at a briefing Friday that he did not expect announcements at the summit to yield emissions reductions that would measurably keep temperatures from rising to dangerous levels. At the current pace, global temperatures are set to rise beyond 3 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels by the end of the century even if every country on Earth meets its goals under the 2015 Paris pact, which calls on nearly 200 nations to set voluntarily targets to reduce their emissions. Many big countries, including the United States, are not on track to meet their commitments.At U.N. climate talks next year, countries face their next deadline to set more ambitious targets to reduce emissions. "The summit needs to be seen in a continuum," Guterres said.If anything, the Monday summit meeting, coming on the heels of huge youth protests worldwide, showed the vast distance between the urgency of climate action and the limits of diplomacy.Organizers estimated the turnout at the Friday protests to be around 4 million across thousands of cities and towns worldwide. Never has the modern world witnessed a climate protest so large and wide, spanning societies rich and poor, tied together by a sense of rage. "Climate emergency now," read banners in several countries.Whether youth protests can goad many world leaders into changing their policies is a big question mark at best, said Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia University. Some of them are closely linked to fossil fuel and extractive industries, he noted. Others have a record of crushing protests. And so the outcry, Gerrard said, may well fall on "intentionally closed ears."Guterres said he was offering time to speak Monday only to those countries that are taking "positive steps" of varying kinds. Russia is expected to say it will ratify the 2015 Paris Agreement. India is expected to promise more ambitious renewable energy targets. All eyes will be on China -- currently the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but on track to meet its Paris agreement pledges -- to see if it will announce that its emissions will begin falling sooner than it had originally predicted.Several dozen countries are expected to promise to reduce emissions to the point at which they will be carbon-neutral by 2050; Britain is the largest economy to have set that target. Some of the most ambitious announcements could come not from nations at all, but from banks, fund managers and other businesses.Still, the protesters and the diplomats have radically different expectations, and even a different sense of time.On Saturday, at the youth summit, Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist whose solo student strike has helped ignite a global youth movement, signaled that pressure would continue.Sitting next to Guterres, Thunberg took the microphone and said the millions of young people who protested around the world Friday had made an impact. "We showed them we are united and that we young people are unstoppable," she said.From Guterres came a hat tip. "I encourage you to go on. I encourage you to keep your initiative, keep your mobilization and more and more to hold my generation accountable."Those protests have buoyed the efforts of U.N. officials to push for more ambitious climate action but haven't necessarily made the job easy."The time window is closing and it's dramatically short for what we have to do," said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Development Program. "The protests are helpful because they show national leaders in their societies, in their countries, that the politics of climate change is changing and it is adding momentum and pressure to act."The U.N. is itself under pressure to do more to curb its own carbon footprint. A letter signed by more than 1,700 staff members urged Guterres to adopt greener travel policies, like encouraging the use of trains whenever possible. The letter also urged the U.N. Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels.Whatever comes out of the Monday summit meeting may well seem lackluster to those out on the streets -- the generation that will feel the intensifying impacts of climate change. That's the challenge facing Guterres, who has made climate action one of the top priorities for the world body at a time when several powerful world leaders have dismissed the science."It is a pretty exquisite balancing act to ally with Greta Thunberg and Xi Jinping to box in Donald Trump," said Richard Gowan, who follows the U.N. for the International Crisis Group. "Let's see if he can do it."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


  • UN Secretary-General: 'Climate is becoming an electoral issue' Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:27:19 -0400

    UN Secretary-General: 'Climate is becoming an electoral issue'The United Nations (UN) is intending to push countries to act on climate change, and believes that the global sentiment is ripe for states to further commitments.


  • A Crackdown on Islam Is Spreading Across China Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:14:46 -0400

    A Crackdown on Islam Is Spreading Across ChinaYINCHUAN, China -- In China's northwest, the government is stripping the most overt expressions of the Islamic faith from a picturesque valley where most residents are devout Muslims. Authorities have destroyed domes and minarets on mosques, including one in a small village near Linxia, a city known as "Little Mecca."Similar demolitions have been carried out in Inner Mongolia, Henan and Ningxia, the homeland of China's largest Muslim ethnic minority, the Hui. In the southern province of Yunnan, three mosques were closed. From Beijing to Ningxia, officials have banned the public use of Arabic script.This campaign represents the newest front in the Chinese Communist Party's sweeping rollback of individual religious freedoms, after decades of relative openness that allowed more moderate forms of Islam to blossom. The harsh crackdown on Muslims that began with the Uighurs in Xinjiang is spreading to more regions and more groups.It is driven by the party's fear that adherence to the Muslim faith could turn into religious extremism and open defiance of its rule. Across China, the party is now imposing new restrictions on Islamic customs and practices, in line with a confidential party directive, parts of which have been seen by The New York Times.The measures reflect the hard-line policies of China's leader, Xi Jinping, who has sought to reassert the primacy of the Communist Party and its ideology in all walks of life.The campaign has prompted concerns that the repression of Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang has begun to bleed into other parts of China, targeting Hui and other Muslims who have been better integrated than Uighurs into Chinese society. Last year, a top party official from Ningxia praised Xinjiang's government during a visit there and pledged to increase cooperation between the two regions on security matters.Haiyun Ma, a Hui Muslim professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland, said the crackdown was continuing a long history of animosity toward Islam in China that has alienated believers."The People's Republic of China has become the world's foremost purveyor of anti-Islamic ideology and hate," he wrote in a recent essay for the Hudson Institute. "This, in turn, has translated into broad public support for the Beijing government's intensifying oppression of Muslims in the Xinjiang region and elsewhere in the country."None of the new measures, so far, have approached the brutality of Xinjiang's mass detentions and invasive surveillance of Uighurs. But they have already stirred anxiety among the Hui, who number more than 10 million."We are now backtracking again," Cui Haoxin, a Hui Muslim poet who publishes under the name An Ran, said in an interview in Jinan, south of Beijing, where he lives.To Cui, the methods of repression that are smothering Uighur society in Xinjiang now loom over all of China. "One day, this model will not only target Muslims," he said. "Everyone will be harmed by it."'Sinicization of Islam'Islam has had followers in China for centuries. There are now 22 million to 23 million Muslims, a tiny minority in a country of 1.4 billion. Among them, the Hui and the Uighurs make up the largest ethnic groups. Uighurs primarily live in Xinjiang, but the Hui live in enclaves scattered around the nation.The restrictions they now face can be traced to 2015, when Xi first raised the issue of what he called the "Sinicization of Islam," saying all faiths should be subordinate to Chinese culture and the Communist Party. Last year, Xi's government issued a confidential directive that ordered local officials to prevent Islam from interfering with secular life and the state's functions.Critics of China's policies who are outside the country provided excerpts from the directive to The Times. The directive, titled "Reinforcing and Improving Islam Work in the New Situation," has not been made public. It was issued by the State Council, China's Cabinet, in April of last year and classified as confidential for 20 years.The directive warns against the "Arabization" of Islamic places, fashions and rituals in China, singling out the influence of Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam's holiest sites, as a cause for concern.It prohibits the use of the Islamic financial system. It bars mosques or other private Islamic organizations from organizing kindergartens or after-school programs, and it forbids Arabic-language schools to teach religion or send students abroad to study.The most visible aspect of the crackdown has been the targeting of mosques built with domes, minarets and other architectural details characteristic of Central Asia or the Arabic world.Taken in isolation, some of these measures seem limited. Others seem capricious: some mosques with Arabic features have been left untouched, while others nearby have been altered or shut down.But on a national scale, the trend is clear. Cui, the poet, calls it the harshest campaign against faith since the end of the Cultural Revolution, when so-called Red Guards unleashed by Mao Zedong destroyed mosques across the country.Targeting Domes and Arabic ScriptIn the state's view, the spread of Islamic customs dangerously subverts social and political conformity.In Ningxia, the provincial government banned public displays of Arabic script, even removing the word "halal" from the official seal it distributes to restaurants that follow Islamic customs for preparing food. The seals now use Chinese characters. That prohibition spread this summer to Beijing and elsewhere.The authorities in several provinces have stopped distributing halal certificates for food, dairy and wheat producers and restaurants. Chinese state media have described this as an effort to curb a "pan-halal tendency" in which Islamic standards are being applied, in the government's view, to too many types of foods or restaurants.Ningxia and Gansu have also banned the traditional call to prayer. Around historical mosques there, prayer times are now announced with a grating claxon. One imam in Ningxia's capital, Yinchuan, said authorities had recently visited and warned him to make no public statements on religious matters.Auuthorities have also targeted the mosques themselves. In Gansu, construction workers in Gazhuang, a village near Linxia, descended on a mosque in April, tearing off its golden dome. It has not yet reopened. Plainclothes policemen prevented two Times journalists from entering.In the southern province of Yunnan, where there have long been Hui communities, authorities last December padlocked mosques in three small villages that had been run without official permission. There were protests and brief scuffles with police, to no avail. The county issued a statement accusing the mosques of holding illegal religious activities and classes.In one of the villages, Huihuideng, Ma Jiwu carried his grandson outside the shuttered local mosque, which had operated inside a home.Ma, wearing the distinctive skullcap that many Hui wear, said the imams there had ignored warnings to move their services to the village's main mosque, where a Chinese flag hangs in the central courtyard and a large red banner exhorts worshippers, "Love your country, love your religion.""They did not listen," Ma said.Near the main mosque, a woman said the closing of the smaller one had stirred resentment, but also a feeling of resignation. She used a Chinese idiom for helplessness against a superior force, in this case the government: "The arm cannot twist the thigh."Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic studies at Minzu University in Beijing, defended the government's recent actions. He said that China's far-reaching economic changes over the last 40 years had been accompanied by a loosening of restrictions on religious practice, but that the laxity had gone too far."Now China's economic development has reached a certain height," he said, "and suddenly problems related to religious and other affairs are being discovered."In the case of Islam, he cited the proliferation of mosques and the spread of "halal" practices into public life, saying they conflicted with the cultural values of the majority Han Chinese population.Official statistics indicate that there are now more mosques in China than Buddhist temples: 35,000 compared with 33,500. In the last year, scores of mosques have been altered, closed or destroyed entirely, many of them in Xinjiang, according to officials and news reports.'The Major Enemy the State Faces'The party asserts that it has the right to control all organized religion. Critics ascribe that to its fear that religious organizations could challenge its political power. In the past, the party's repression has triggered violent responses.In 1975, during Mao's Cultural Revolution, the People's Liberation Army surrounded Shadian, a mostly Hui Muslim town in Yunnan province where residents had protested the closure of mosques. Clashes ensued, prompting a massive military intervention that razed the town and left more than 1,600 people dead.The current pressure has also been met with unrest, though not on that scale. In August 2018 in Weizhou, a village in Ningxia, protests erupted when the authorities sent demolition workers to a newly built mosque. After a tense showdown that lasted several days, the local government promised to suspend the destruction and review the plans.Nearly a year later, police officers still block the roads into the village, turning away foreigners, including diplomats and two Times journalists who tried to visit in May.China claims that it allows freedom of religion, but emphasizes that the state must always come first. The Ningxia government, asked about its recent restrictions on Islam, said that China had rules on religious practice just like any other country.Mosques that violate laws such as building codes will be closed, it said, and schools and universities will not permit religious activities."Arabic is a foreign language," the government said about the restrictions on public signage, adding that they had been imposed "to make things convenient for the general public."In an interview, Ma, the Frostburg State scholar, said the current leadership viewed religion as "the major enemy the state faces." He said senior officials had studied the role played by faith -- particularly the Catholic Church in Poland -- in the collapse of the Soviet Union and its dominion in Eastern Europe.Believers have little recourse against the intensifying crackdown. Ma predicted that it would not relent soon, but that it would ultimately fail, as other campaigns against Muslims have."I really doubt they can eliminate religious faith," he said. "That is impossible."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


  • Iran asks West to leave Persian Gulf as tensions heightened Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:09:59 -0400

    Iran asks West to leave Persian Gulf as tensions heightenedIran's president called Sunday on Western powers to leave the security of the Persian Gulf to regional nations led by Tehran, criticizing a new U.S.-led coalition patrolling the region's waterways as nationwide parades showcased the Islamic Republic's military arsenal. Hassan Rouhani separately promised to unveil a regional peace plan at this week's upcoming high-level meetings at the United Nations, which comes amid heightened Mideast tensions following a series of attacks, including a missile-and-drone assault on Saudi Arabia's oil industry. The U.S. alleges Iran carried out the Sept. 14 attack on the world's largest oil processor in the kingdom and an oil field, which caused oil prices to spike by the biggest percentage since the 1991 Gulf War.


  • Can We Make Destroying the Amazon a Crime Against Humanity? Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:07:32 -0400

    Can We Make Destroying the Amazon a Crime Against Humanity?Since August, as vast stretches of the Amazon rainforest were being reduced to ashes and outrage and calls for action intensified, a group of lawyers and activists who have been advancing a radical idea have seen a silver lining in the unfolding tragedy: One day, a few years from now, they imagined Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, being hauled to The Hague to stand trial for ecocide, a term broadly understood to mean the willful and widespread destruction of the environment, and one that, they hope, will eventually be on par with other crimes against humanity.There is no international crime today that can be used to neatly hold world leaders or corporate chief executives criminally responsible in peacetime for ecological catastrophes that result in the type of mass displacements and population wipeouts more commonly associated with war crimes. But environmentalists say the world should treat ecocide as a crime against humanity -- like genocide -- now that the imminent and long-term threats posed by a warming planet are coming into sharper focus.In Bolsonaro they have come to see something of an ideal villain tailor-made for a legal test case."He has become a poster boy for the need for a crime of ecocide," said Jojo Mehta, the co-founder of Stop Ecocide, a group that is seeking to give the International Criminal Court in The Hague the jurisdiction to prosecute leaders and businesses that knowingly cause widespread environmental damage. "It's awful, but at the same time it's timely."The first prominent call to outlaw ecocide was made in 1972 by Prime Minister Olaf Palme of Sweden, who hosted the United Nations' first major summit on the environment.In his keynote address at the conference, Palme argued that the world urgently needed a unified approach to safeguard the environment. "The air we breathe is not the property of any one nation, we share it," he said. "The big oceans are not divided by national frontiers; they are our common property." That idea got little traction at the time and Olaf died in 1986 having made little headway in the quest to establish binding principles to protect the environment.During the 1980s and 1990s, diplomats considered including ecocide as a grave crime as they debated the authorities of the International Criminal Court, which was primarily established to prosecute war crimes. But when the court's founding document, known as the Rome Statute, went into force in 2002, language that would have criminalized large-scale environmental destruction had been stripped out at the insistence of major oil producing nations.In 2016, the court's top prosecutor signaled an interest in prioritizing cases within its jurisdiction that featured the "destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land."That move came as activists seeking to criminalize ecocide had been laying the groundwork for a landmark change to the court's remit. Their plan is to get a state that is party to the Rome Statute -- or a coalition of them -- to propose an amendment to its charter establishing ecocide as a crime against peace. At least two-thirds of the countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute would have to back the initiative to outlaw ecocide for the court to get an expanded mandate, and even then it would only apply to countries that accept the amendment. Still, it could change the way the world thinks about environmental destruction.Richard Rogers, a lawyer who specializes in international criminal law and human rights, said that if ecocide campaigners and countries suffering the effects of climate change put forward a narrow definition of the crime, it could quickly garner widespread support. "We've seen in the past few years a huge shift in public opinion, and we're entering a phase where there is going to be huge pressure on governments to do more," said Rogers, a partner at Global Diligence, a firm that advises companies and governments on risk mitigation.Given the number of countries and businesses that would recoil at the prospect of being held criminally responsible for environmental damage, he said, it is vital to come up with criteria that reserve prosecution for cases in which "massive and systematic" environmental destruction is done "knowingly or intentionally."Environmental activists say there is no shortage of culprits who could be put on trial if the world were to decide to outlaw ecocide. But few are as compelling as Bolsonaro, a far-right former Army captain who campaigned on a promise to roll back the land rights of indigenous people and open protected areas of the Amazon to mining, farming and logging.From an evidentiary standpoint, Bolsonaro is an attractive potential defendant because he has been so starkly disdainful of his own country's environmental laws and regulations. He vowed to put an end to fines issued by the agency that enforces environmental laws. He has asserted that protecting the environment matters only to vegans. He complains that Brazil's 1988 Constitution set aside too much land to indigenous communities who "don't speak our language."Since Bolsonaro took office in January, deforestation in the Amazon has increased significantly, setting the stage for the thousands of fires that began raging last month. Government agencies tasked with protecting the environment warn meanwhile that they are at a breaking point as a result of budget and personnel cuts.Bolsonaro is by no means the only world leader reviled by environmentalists. President Donald Trump has been assailed for rolling back environmental regulations and pulling out of the Paris climate accord.Facing a cascade of international pressure and a boycott of some Brazilian exports, Bolsonaro last month ordered a military operation to put out fires in the Amazon. But the government's overriding message has been that the world's angst about the Amazon is an unwelcome and unwarranted intrusion on Brazil's sovereignty.Eloisa Machado, a law professor at Fundaçao Getulio Vargas University in Sao Paulo, said Bolsonaro's dismantling of environmental protections, which have decimated the Amazon's indigenous communities, may already meet the criteria of crimes against humanity under existing international law. They could, she said, amount to genocide. She and a team of scholars are drafting a complaint the International Criminal Court could use as a blueprint to open an investigation against Brazil.There is good reason to be skeptical that the International Criminal Court, which has long been criticized for slow prosecutions and for pursuing a narrow range of cases, could emerge as an effective bulwark against climate change. In nearly two decades the court has won only four convictions, and its caseload has consisted mainly of African leaders."The ICC never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity," Rogers said. "But I think it's a huge opportunity for the ICC to show that it's a court for the 21st century, a court that adapts to the needs of the people it needs to be serving."In the best of cases, campaigners to outlaw ecocide say it would take a few years to muster the support they need to amend Rome Statute. But merely raising the profile of the debate over penalizing ecocide could go a long way toward shaping the risk assessment of corporations and world leaders who until now have regarded environmental disasters mainly as public relations nightmares."We use criminal law as the line between what our culture accepts and what it doesn't," Mehta said. "Once you have a criminal law in place you start to change the culture."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


  • Standoffs With Iran Test Trump's Resolve to Use Military Force Sun, 22 Sep 2019 12:01:46 -0400

    Standoffs With Iran Test Trump's Resolve to Use Military ForceWASHINGTON -- By the time President Donald Trump met with congressional leaders on the afternoon of June 20, he had already decided to retaliate against Iran for shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone. But for once, he kept his cards close to the vest, soliciting advice rather than doing all of the talking."Why don't you go after the launch sites?" a Republican lawmaker asked."Well," Trump replied with a hint, "I think you'll like the decision."But barely three hours later, Trump had changed his mind. Without consulting his vice president, secretary of state or national security adviser, he reversed himself and, with ships readying missiles and airplanes already in the skies, told the Pentagon to call off the airstrikes with only 10 minutes to go. When Vice President Mike Pence and other officials returned to the White House for what they expected would be a long night of monitoring a military operation, they were stunned to learn the attack was off.That about-face, so typically impulsive, instinctive and removed from any process, proved a decision point for a president who has often threatened to "totally destroy" enemies but at the same time has promised to extricate the United States from Middle East wars. It revealed a commander in chief more cautious than critics have assumed, yet underscored the limited options in a confrontation he had set in motion.Three months later, some of Trump's own allies fear the failure to follow through was taken by Iran as a sign of weakness, emboldening it to attack oil facilities in Saudi Arabia this month. Trump argues his decision was an expression of long-overdue restraint by a nation that has wasted too many lives and dollars overseas.But he finds himself back where he was in June, wrestling with the consequences of using force and the consequences of avoiding it, except now Iran is accused of an even more brazen provocation, and the stakes seem even higher.As Trump again weighs retaliation against Iran, this time for the Saudi attacks, the choice he made in June is instructive in the insight it provides into how the president approaches a life-or-death decision committing U.S. forces against an enemy.This account of that day in June is based on interviews with White House aides, Pentagon officials, military officers, American and foreign diplomats, members of Congress and outside presidential advisers, most of whom asked not to be identified describing private conversations.That day clearly stays with Trump, who has ruminated on it over the past week."When I was running, everybody said, 'Oh, he's going to get into war, he's going to get into war, he's going to blow everybody up, he's going to get into war,'" he told reporters on Friday. "Well, the easiest thing I can do -- in fact, I could do it while you're here -- would say, 'Go ahead, fellas, go do it.' And that would be a very bad day for Iran."But as eager as he is to fight with 280 characters on Twitter, Trump has proved profoundly reluctant to fight with live ammunition on a real battlefield. "For all of those that say, 'Oh, they should do it, it shows weakness,'" he said, "actually, in my opinion, it shows strength."Proportional ResponseTrump came to office fixated on Iran as an enemy to be confronted. In abandoning the nuclear agreement negotiated by President Barack Obama in 2015 on the grounds that it was a bad deal, Trump set himself on a collision course with Tehran that was bound to test him.Strained by the "maximum pressure" sanctions that Trump has imposed, Iran this summer acted out aggressively, targeting oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and vowing to reconstitute its nuclear program. The overnight downing of the Global Hawk drone in June seemed to climax a campaign of escalation that would draw in Trump.Hours after the drone was destroyed, the president's team met for breakfast at 7 a.m. in the office of John Bolton, then the national security adviser. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were joined by two acting secretaries of defense, Patrick Shanahan, who had just announced his resignation and was days away from departing, and Mark Esper, his designated replacement.At the meeting, several strike options were discussed. The Pentagon's preferred plan was to attack one of the missile-laden Iranian boats that the United States had been tracking in the Gulf of Oman. American forces would warn the Iranians to evacuate the vessel, videotape them doing so, then sink the boat with a bomb or missile strike.The end result would be zero casualties, which Shanahan and Dunford argued would be a proportional response to the downing of a $130 million drone that had itself resulted in no loss of life.Bolton and Pompeo were concerned that would not be decisive enough and pushed for strikes on Iranian soil. Bolton argued for what was described as a "comprehensive list" of targets, but only so many could be hit if the operation was to be carried out quickly, so the officials settled on three Iranian missile batteries and radars.The same advisers reconvened along with more officials at 11 a.m. in the Situation Room to brief the president. The meeting lasted for about an hour as various possibilities were discussed.Four officials said that striking the three targets would result in about 150 casualties, a number derived from Iranian manning doctrine for these particular facilities, including operators, maintenance personnel and security guards.How much Trump was paying attention to that part of the briefing or what he absorbed was not clear in hindsight to some officials. But they said the casualty estimates were included as part of the target package presented to the president.'Loose and Stupid'The national security team emerged from that meeting convinced it had a decision from Trump to strike, and soon the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and other ships and aircraft were on the move, preparing for an attack around 9 p.m. Washington time, or just before dawn in the region.Still, there continued to be pushback from Pentagon civilians and Dunford. They argued that killing as many as 150 Iranians did not equate to the shooting down of a drone and could prompt a counterstrike by Iran that would escalate into a broader confrontation.Moreover, Dunford argued that a sustained conflict in the Middle East would require the United States to divert more forces to the region, including from the Pacific theater, which would benefit China.Trump seemed to be nursing doubts of his own, partly because of reports that the Iranian commander who shot down the drone had acted on his own, not on specific orders of the national government. Just after the Situation Room meeting, he sat down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who was visiting, and floated that scenario."I find it hard to believe it was intentional, if you want to know the truth," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office shortly after noon. "I think that it could have been somebody who was loose and stupid that did it."Bolton argued that it mattered little if Tehran gave the order or gave its commanders so much authority that they could take such action on their own. But it clearly did matter to Trump.It also mattered that he had been so critical of past presidents for being too quick to pull the trigger. In the days leading up to this moment, he had talked with Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, who reminded him that he had come to office to get out of endless wars, not start a new one.If he allowed himself to be pulled into a new conflict by the same people who got the United States into Iraq, then Trump could forget about his chances for reelection, Carlson told him.And beyond his own electoral prospects, Trump bristled at the idea of a wider war. "People underestimate how much emotionally he does not like the idea of Americans dying needlessly," said Christopher Ruddy, a friend and the chief executive of Newsmax.'Genuinely Worried'At 3 p.m., Trump convened a dozen congressional leaders from both parties in the Situation Room, a rare act of inclusion. Pence, Pompeo, Shanahan, Esper, Bolton and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, joined the meeting.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was late because she was meeting with Trudeau, and the group debated waiting for her, but with so much history of animosity between Democrats and Republicans, there was no small talk and the room fell into an awkward silence. Finally, they decided to go ahead with the discussion.Trump rambled on about how bad Obama's deal had been and insisted over and over again -- one lawmaker estimated a dozen times -- that his pressure campaign would force Iran to the bargaining table.He seemed less certain about what to do in response to the drone shootdown. Democrats suggested caution, warning that a military strike could destabilize the region and play into Iran's hands.Trump, for once, did not reject their views. Indeed, he seemed concerned about an overreaction. "At the end of the day, the impression I got was that the president was genuinely worried about stumbling into a broader conflict," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee."I think it was good that the president asked us over," he added. "And he was inclusive. He didn't just bring us over there to bark at us for an hour and a half. He listened. Which, frankly, surprised me a little bit."Trump disclosed no decision to the lawmakers, but forces were already in motion, and more than 10,000 sailors and airmen were on the move. The plan called for Tomahawk cruise missiles to be fired from at least two Navy ships in the region. Carrier-based fighter/attack planes would not participate in the original strike, but would be launched into the air above the North Arabian Sea to counter any attempt by the Iranians to retaliate.Trump still had time to rethink it -- the military calculated the "go/no go" point at which the first stage of the operation would begin and it would no longer be possible to call off.'The Order Didn't Come'As the hour approached, Trump was given the estimate that 150 Iranians would be killed in the attack. The president later said publicly that it came when he asked his generals, but in fact, multiple officials said the estimate was delivered to him by a White House lawyer who got it from a Pentagon lawyer.Pentagon lawyers typically prepare casualty estimates drawn from manuals listing how many personnel are believed to work at certain foreign facilities. One official said that White House lawyers demanded an estimate because they had to fill out a memo justifying military action under the president's Article II powers as commander in chief.Advocates of the strike angrily assumed the lawyers had pulled an end-run around the process and complained that the estimate was just a formula that did not account for the fact that the attack would be conducted at night when few if any personnel would be on duty.Why Trump suddenly latched onto the estimate at this point rather than when casualties were discussed at the earlier meeting remains a mystery to many officials. Some assumed he was influenced by Carlson or other allies that his reelection would be jeopardized and was looking for cover.But when the decision came, Pence, Pompeo and Bolton were all out of the White House, and the president did not call them for input. Instead, he told the Pentagon to call off the attack.Dunford called Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of the Central Command in Tampa, Florida, with new orders from the White House: The strike was off. The Tomahawk missiles stood down. Attack planes were called back.In the command center of the Abraham Lincoln, Rear Adm. Michael Boyle, the carrier strike group commander, had been waiting for the final order to attack. "All the systems were on, all the lights were green, we were waiting for the order," Boyle recalled. "And the order didn't come."'The Most Reluctant'When the president's top advisers returned to the White House and learned what happened, they were flabbergasted. Pompeo was described as incredulous, Bolton as aggravated.The advisers were stunned all over again the next morning when Trump took to Twitter to reveal that he had been "cocked and loaded" for a strike and then called it off. There was no need to publicly disclose how close they had come to acting, they thought; by doing so, the president risked making it look like he had blinked.The moment was all too reminiscent to them of Obama, who had warned Syria that using chemical weapons on civilians during its civil war would cross a "red line" prompting U.S. action, only to back off the threat when Damascus ignored him in 2013. Like Trump, Obama was mindful of getting the United States into another Middle East war, but the failure to follow through did lasting damage to his reputation.Also like Obama, Trump would find another way that had its own merits. Obama reached a deal with Russia to remove Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, which he argued did far more to save lives than a momentary strike would have, even though Syria later cheated. In Trump's case, he launched a cyberstrike that did considerable damage to Iran's ability of targeting shipping with no loss of life.But now allies like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and advisers like Bolton, who left the White House this month after deep disagreements with Trump, including over the aborted strike, argue that marching up to the line of a military operation and then calling it off only emboldened Iran."The president's repeated failure to militarily respond to Iranian actions has been a serious mistake," said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA official at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a group dedicated to countering Iran's influence. "To believe the reverse requires a certain deep dive into new-age, oh-so-Western psychology, where crippling caution becomes a virtue."Some said Trump has only himself to blame. "Trump is in a box of his own making," said Philip Gordon, who was a Middle East adviser to Obama. "He has put in place policies -- 'maximum pressure' on Iran -- guaranteed to provoke an aggressive Iranian response, but he's not prepared to respond aggressively in turn, and the Iranians know it.""So now he has to either back down or go down that slippery military slope," he added, "a terrible dilemma he should have considered before he went down this road in the first place."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


  • British expats take to streets in Spain to protest Brexit uncertainty Sun, 22 Sep 2019 11:45:37 -0400

    British expats take to streets in Spain to protest Brexit uncertaintyDozens of Britons took to the streets of Malaga in southern Spain on Sunday to raise awareness of their uncertain future once the UK leaves the EU.  The group of protesters held up placards which said "No Brexit" and "They're trying to make us leave the EU," while many were draped in EU flags, the Spanish flag and and Union Jacks.  Around 300,000 British expatriates live in Spain, which is particularly popular among elderly Britons as a retirement destination.  However, after Brexit, the end of EU free movement could make it harder for British expatriates to live and work in EU countries due to extra red tape, such as visa requirements.  Britons currently based in EU countries say they are yet to have received any concrete information from both the EU and the British government on what will happen to their legal status, despite repeated attempts to get some clarity.   "We feel really forgotten here in Spain," said Michael Soffe, a 61-year-old businessman who has lived in Malaga for 30 years. "Many here are pensioners - will they lose their healthcare overnight, for example?" he added. People and British nationals wave an European flag and a British flag as they take part in a protest against Brexit in Malaga Credit: AFP Spain is the most popular European retirement destination for Britons, with around a third of British residents aged over 65. Among foreign nationals, they are by far the biggest users of Spain's state-funded universal healthcare system. Many are concerned they will lose their free access to Spanish healthcare, currently assured by the European Union, as a result of Britain's exit from the bloc. Acting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who could be replaced following November elections, has sought to reassure Britons living in Spain, promising to protect their rights after Britain's exit from the European Union. One demonstrator on Sunday said Spain had done more for Britons living in the country than the British government, a sentiment that has been echoed by Britons in Germany and France.  A spokesman for Dexeu, the UK government department for leaving the EU, said: "The Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay held productive discussions with groups representing the British community in Spain while in Madrid last week and made clear that protecting the rights of both UK nationals in the EU and EU citizens in the UK is a key priority for this government. But we cannot protect the rights of UK nationals unilaterally. "We have made an unequivocal guarantee to EU citizens now living and working among us that their rights will be protected and that they can continue to live here as they do today. "We urge other EU member states to do the same for UK nationals living in their countries and give them the certainty they need by matching our generous offer."


  • British press spun 'positive' Brexit meeting with Boris Johnson: EU leader Sun, 22 Sep 2019 11:30:27 -0400

    British press spun 'positive' Brexit meeting with Boris Johnson: EU leaderEuropean Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said his meeting last week with British PM Boris Johnson regarding the looming Brexit deal deadline was "positive," despite negative reports from the British press.


  • Gabon to be first African nation paid to fight deforestation Sun, 22 Sep 2019 11:15:36 -0400

    Gabon to be first African nation paid to fight deforestationGabon will become the first African country paid with international funds to preserve its forests in an effort to fight climate change, the United Nations said Sunday. Norway will provide Gabon, which is almost 90 percent covered by forest, with $150 million (136 million euros) to battle deforestation, according to the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), which the UN launched to bring together the region's nations with Western donors. The "historic" 10-year deal will be awarded to Gabon for "both reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation, and absorptions of carbon dioxide by natural forests," CAFI said in a statement.


  • North Korean mother and son defectors die of suspected starvation in Seoul Sun, 22 Sep 2019 10:58:00 -0400

    North Korean mother and son defectors die of suspected starvation in SeoulA mother and son who defected from North Korea are believed to have died of starvation after their bodies were uncovered two months after they were last seen. The women who were mourning were North Korean defectors who had never met the deceased before but they claimed the same death could have occurred to one of them and that it was their fault that the victims died so isolated. The bodies were so badly decomposed that the National Forensics Service could not conclusively identify the cause of death after the bodies went undiscovered for over two months, according to police.


  • Tanzania rebuked by WHO amid suspicion of covering up Ebola cases Sun, 22 Sep 2019 10:37:41 -0400

    Tanzania rebuked by WHO amid suspicion of covering up Ebola casesThe World Health Organization has issued an unusual statement raising questions about whether Tanzania is covering up possible cases of the deadly Ebola virus, a significant cause for concern during a regional outbreak that has been declared a rare global health emergency. The statement Saturday says Tanzania's government "despite several requests" has not shared its clinical data, the results of its investigations or the possible contacts of a number of patients with Ebola-like symptoms. Tanzania's government, which has said it has no Ebola cases, could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday. The cases would be the first-ever Ebola infections confirmed in the East African country. The United Nations health agency says it was made aware on Sept. 10 of the death in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, of a patient suspected to have Ebola. A day later, it received unofficial reports that an Ebola test had come back positive. On Thursday, it received unofficial reports that a contact of the patient, who had traveled widely in the country, was sick and hospitalized. Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference on occasion of the Global Vaccination Summit in Brussels  Credit: Xinhua  A rapid response is crucial in containing Ebola, which can be fatal in up to 90% of cases and is most often spread by close contact with bodily fluids of people exhibiting symptoms or with contaminated objects. The WHO statement said the lack of information from Tanzania made it difficult to assess potential risks. The Ebola outbreak based in neighboring Congo has infected over 3,000 people and killed nearly 2,000 of them. A few cases have been confirmed in neighboring Uganda as well, and other neighboring countries have been preparing for the outbreak's possible spread.


  • Boris Johnson heads to UN, urging world to see beyond Brexit Sun, 22 Sep 2019 10:24:08 -0400

    Boris Johnson heads to UN, urging world to see beyond BrexitPrime Minister Boris Johnson headed for the United Nations in New York on Sunday to argue that post-Brexit Britain will be a dynamic world power taking the lead on tackling climate change and an unstable Middle East. Johnson is likely to be dogged by Brexit throughout his three-day trip to the General Assembly, the U.N.'s annual gathering of world leaders.


  • UPDATE 3-Pompeo says U.S. mission is to avoid war with Iran but measures in place to deter Sun, 22 Sep 2019 10:08:11 -0400

    UPDATE 3-Pompeo says U.S. mission is to avoid war with Iran but measures in place to deterThe United States aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops ordered to be deployed in the Gulf region are for "deterrence and defense," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday. Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Pompeo added that he was confident U.S. President Donald Trump would take action if such deterrence measures fail and that this was well understood by the Iranian leadership. "Our mission set is to avoid war," Pompeo said.


  • Iran rejects prospect of talks with Trump at UN and says country ready to resist 'militarily' Sun, 22 Sep 2019 10:07:48 -0400

    Iran rejects prospect of talks with Trump at UN and says country ready to resist 'militarily'Iran’s top diplomats have said they will not enter into negotiations until the US stops its campaign of “maximum pressure” on Tehran, making bilateral talks between leaders attending the meeting of United Nations General Assembly this week highly unlikely.Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told The Independent that “maximum pressure” from the United States has produced “maximum resistance” from Iran, and that Tehran will continue to resist.


  • Sudan's new PM launches probe into protesters' deaths Sun, 22 Sep 2019 09:49:43 -0400

    Sudan's new PM launches probe into protesters' deathsSudan's newly appointed prime minister launched an independent investigation into a deadly crackdown on protesters in June, which killed dozens of people and threatened to crush the country's pro-democracy uprising. According to the protesters, at least 128 people were killed and hundreds wounded when security forces violently dispersed the protesters' main sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, on June 3. The violence signaled a suppression of protests across Sudan that led to a breakdown in talks between the protesters and the ruling generals.


  • Israel begins cutting Palestinian electricity, citing debts Sun, 22 Sep 2019 08:51:22 -0400

    Israel begins cutting Palestinian electricity, citing debtsIsrael's national electric company says it has begun reducing power supplies to Palestinian areas of the occupied West Bank due to a financial dispute. The Israel Electric Co. said Sunday that it took the step because the Jerusalem District Electricity Co., the Palestinians' main power distributor, has debts of roughly $485 million.


  • Germany's Greens promise to strengthen climate plan after protests Sun, 22 Sep 2019 08:17:27 -0400

    Germany's Greens promise to strengthen climate plan after protestsGermany's Greens said on Sunday they planned to use their strength in the upper house of parliament to sharpen a government climate protection package that disappointed many activists. The party's Winfried Kretschmann - the popular premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg, one of Germany's richest and most industrialised states - said the package had been dominated by piecemeal measures and failed to take the key step: introducing an "honest and ambitious carbon price". The climate package, unveiled on Friday after extensive haggling between Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives and her Social Democrat coalition partners, set an initial carbon price of about 10 euros per tonne, well short of the 40 euros many activists were hoping for.


  • Corbyn Gambles on Keeping Referendum Stance Open: Brexit Update Sun, 22 Sep 2019 07:54:07 -0400

    Corbyn Gambles on Keeping Referendum Stance Open: Brexit Update(Bloomberg) -- U.K. opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would hold a second referendum on Brexit by June if it wins a majority in a general election this year -- but wouldn’t say which way he would vote. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said there will need to be a hard border in Ireland if the U.K. leaves the bloc without a deal.Key Developments:Juncker says the European Union must protect its single market and is not responsible for the consequences of a no-deal splitCorbyn says Labour would hold a referendum by June but won’t commit to ‘Remain’ Johnson travels to New York later Sunday for UN General Assembly and talks with EU leadersAttempt to oust Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson failedBenn Predicts Court Battle Over Brexit Delay (12:30 p.m.)Hilary Benn, the Labour MP who sponsored a law passed by Parliament to block a no-deal Brexit, said the battle will continue as Boris Johnson’s Oct. 31 deadline for leaving the EU approaches.He said he expects the prime minister to be taken to court -- and to lose -- if he refuses to seek a delay to Brexit on Oct. 19 if he can’t get a deal by then. The law says he must request a delay until Jan. 31 if he either can’t reach an agreement with the EU or win the support of Parliament to leave without an agreement.“I’m confident that if it goes to court the obligation on the prime minister would be upheld,” Benn said in an interview.Corbyn Under Pressure Over Referendum Stance (12:15 p.m.)Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s strategy (see 9:30 a.m.) to keep his party together on Brexit -- by promising a referendum but refusing to say which side he’ll campaign for -- is already coming under pressure from senior politicians in the party.“There may come a point where we have to make more of a choice,” former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett told Sky News on Sunday.Deputy Leader Tom Watson, who survived an attempt to oust him on Saturday, went further, telling Labour members that backing Remain in a second referendum would give the party a clear route to power.“Offering everyone in the country the final say is the best way to begin bridging this divide,” he said in a speech on the sidelines of Labour’s annual conference in Brighton. “We are a Remain Party. We are a European Party. We are an internationalist party. That is who we are. Not perfect, not pure. But overwhelmingly committed to Britain remaining in Europe and reforming Europe.Brexit the ‘Most Serious’ Risk Facing Portugal (10:30 a.m.)Brexit is the “most serious” risk faced by Portugal at the moment, Finance Minister Mario Centeno said in an interview with Publico.“Within the European Union, Portugal is prepared for the first impact,” he told the newspaper. “It will then have to be able to rebuild its relationship with the U.K. in the context of the European Union.”Raab: Govt Will Respect Supreme Court Verdict (10 a.m.)Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government will abide by the Supreme Court ruling when it comes this week -- whatever the judges decide. He reinforced that message by saying one of the reasons he supported Brexit was to strengthen the say of the British legal system over domestic affairs.“Of course we’ll respect whatever the legal ruling is from the Supreme Court,” Raab told BBC TV. “It’s absolutely vital that we respect the role of the Supreme Court in our justice system, but also in our democracy.”Raab also said he thinks there’s a Brexit deal to be done at the Oct. 17 European Council meeting, citing recent statements from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “If those words are matched with action and political will I’m confident that we’re going to have a deal,” he said.“But what we can’t do is just accept a series of requirements that either put a threat to the position of Northern Ireland or emasculate and undermine the referendum result,” he said.Back Corbyn or Leave, McCluskey Says (9:40 a.m.)Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite labor union, said MPs in the shadow cabinet who disagree with leader Jeremy Corbyn should step aside. "We should be singing from the same hymn sheet,” he said in an interview with Sky News.Prominent Labour politicians, including Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, Foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry and Deputy Leader Tom Watson, have pressed for a harder pro-Remain line from the party as Corbyn has sought to straddle both sides of the Brexit debate.McCluskey, who is one of Corbyn’s most outspoken supporters, said it was “fake news” that he was involved in a plot to oust Watson on Friday evening. But he said people are frustrated by Watson’s policy positions. “Unfortunately Tom gives the impression that every time he speaks it’s to undermine the leader,” he said.Corbyn Won’t Commit to Remain in Referendum (9:30 a.m.)Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly refused to say he’d back “Remain” in any second referendum on the U.K.’s membership of the European Union.In an interview on Sunday on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Corbyn said his party in office would seek to negotiate a “credible” option for leave, then pit that against an option for “remain, and hopefully reform” of the EU.“Let’s see what we get and we’ll put that final decision to the British people and make that decision at the time,” Corbyn said. A “special conference” would be convened to decide on strategy, he said, batting away multiple attempts by Marr to get him to commit to “Remain” or “Leave.”Corbyn -- a longstanding Euroskeptic -- is under pressure from influential members of his team including deputy leader Tom Watson, foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry and Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer, to make Labour a remain-backing party to counter the growing threat from the Liberal Democrats, who have vowed to cancel Brexit.Corbyn Says He Would Serve Full Term as PM (9:25 a.m.)Jeremy Corbyn said he would serve a full five-year term as prime minister if he wins a general election as leader of the Labour Party.There has been speculation that Corbyn, 70, wants to stand down as leader, but he told the BBC he is enjoying the job and doesn’t plan to do so.“I’m taking the party into the general election,” he said. When asked if he would serve a full term, he said “of course, why wouldn’t I?”Adviser on ‘Lies and Excuses’ of Corbyn Team (9:20 a.m.)Jeremy Corbyn confirmed that his senior adviser Andrew Fisher is quitting the party, and didn’t dispute that he complained of a “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency” and the “blizzard of lies and excuses” among the Labour leaders top team.The lines, in a memo leaked to the Sunday Times, were written “because he was extremely distressed about what was going on in the office at the time,” Corbyn told the BBC. Fisher will stay on the team during the election and the two men will continue to work together in the future, Corbyn said.The Labour leader also insisted that he has a good relationship with his deputy, Tom Watson, and that he was blind-sided by a failed attempt to oust Watson on Friday night. He intervened to stop the move, he said.Juncker: Ireland Will Need Border If No Deal (8:35 a.m.)European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said there will have to be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland if the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal.“We have to make sure that the interests of the European Union and of the internal market will be preserved,” Juncker said in a pre-recorded interview with Sky News. “An animal entering Northern Ireland without border control can enter without any kind of control the European Union via the southern part of the Irish island. This will not happen. We have to preserve the health and the safety of our citizens.”The EU doesn’t want a hard border and the border backstop is an important guarantee for the EU that will help preserve peace in Ireland, Juncker said. “The situation in Ireland has improved. We should not play with this,” he said. “Sometimes I have to question that some people are forgetting about the history.”He was clear that if a border does have to be constructed, the U.K. is to blame. “The EU is in no way responsible for any kind of consequences entailed by the Brexit,” he said. “That’s a British decision, a sovereign decision that we are respecting.”Gove Warns Against Repeat Referendum (Earlier)Michael Gove, the minister responsible for no-deal Brexit planning, warned against a second Brexit referendum, saying it would lead to a bitter rift between the public and Parliament.He said he is “profoundly concerned” about the prospect of a repeat plebiscite. “A second referendum would trigger deep popular anger and result in a tumultuous rejection of Parliament’s attempt to annul the first vote,” he write in an article for the Sunday Times.Gove also warned that the Conservative Party will suffer at the polls if it fails to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31. “We are on the razor’s edge of peril,” he wrote.Referendum by June, Corbyn Says (Earlier)Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that if his party wins a general election there will be a referendum within six months after he as negotiated a swift Brexit deal with the European Union.Remain will be the other option in the vote, he told the Sunday Mirror in an interview, in line with a draft statement produced by the party’s National Executive Committee on Saturday.“My job is to ensure we are to make the offer to the British people between leave with a trading arrangement with Europe which protects jobs or remain and hopefully reform,” Corbyn . “I’ll let you know at the time,” he said when asked which way he would vote. he would see himself as the “referee” between the Brexit factions, he said.Earlier:Labour Party Backs Away From Civil War as Conference Starts (1)Brexit Stirs British Class War as Corbyn’s Troops Target Eton\--With assistance from Joao Lima.To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in Brighton at tpenny@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in Brighton at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in Brighton at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart BiggsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Russia acts to protect Lake Baikal amid anger at Moscow, concerns over Chinese development Sun, 22 Sep 2019 05:30:00 -0400

    Russia acts to protect Lake Baikal amid anger at Moscow, concerns over Chinese developmentRussia has tightened environmental protection around Lake Baikal amid growing concerns over degradation, with Chinese development and tourism at the heart of recent debates on the nationally treasured Siberian lake.New protocols signed by President Vladimir Putin on September 12 clarify how authorities will monitor "compliance with the law on Lake Baikal's conservation and environmental rehabilitation".They also call for improved state environmental monitoring of the lake's unique ecosystem, aquatic animal and plant life; prevention of and response to risks; analysis of the pressure from fishing on its biological resources; as well as measures to conserve those unique aquatic resources.Observers say domestic issues " including a backlash over the government's hand in accelerating environmental damage " prompted the Kremlin to act, but concerns over Chinese activities in the area also played a part.Eugene Simonov, coordinator of the Rivers Without Boundaries International Coalition, said the protocols were a bid by Moscow to show it was concerned about the lake, where mismanagement and relaxed standards had damaged water quality and the ecosystem " drawing concern from Unesco, which has designated it a World Heritage Site.But it was also related to local concerns that an influx of Chinese money and tourists in the region was making matters worse."One of the leading causes of problems on Lake Baikal is the development of the lake shore for tourism these days, which, at least in the Irkutsk region, is greatly driven by Chinese business," said Simonov, who has worked extensively on the area's environmental issues.He pointed to the "not legal" hotels opened by local and Chinese businesses that cater to the increasing number of tourists from China, saying they stood out as easy scapegoats."The real driving force is the desire of locals to privatise the lake shore, illegally, but the Chinese demand is one of the reasons they want to privatise it, while Chinese businesses are among the most visible because they are foreign," he said.Public opposition to a water bottling plant being built by a Chinese-owned company pushed local authorities to halt the project in March. Photo: Weibo alt=Public opposition to a water bottling plant being built by a Chinese-owned company pushed local authorities to halt the project in March. Photo: WeiboSome 186,000 Chinese tourists visited the region last year, up 37 per cent from 2017, according to official Irkutsk figures. But while they accounted for about two-thirds of foreign visitors to the Irkutsk region, they made up only about 10 per cent of the 1.7 million tourists who visited last year.Concern about Chinese investment and development in the region reached a crescendo in March, when public opposition pushed local authorities to halt the construction of a water bottling plant operated by AquaSib, a Russian firm owned by a Chinese company called Lake Baikal Water Industry, based in China's Heilongjiang province.The Irkutsk government acted after more than a million people " more than the city's population " signed a petition calling for the "Chinese plant" to be halted."There were at least 10 problems [around Lake Baikal] that were much more important at that moment, but it was the Chinese plan that was the focus," Simonov said, noting the nationalism surrounding the lake as a Russian point of pride.Paul Goble, a Eurasia specialist who has been tracking the issues at Lake Baikal, said stirring up resentment over Chinese encroachment in Siberia and the country's Far East had long been a government tactic to quell dissent and unite popular opinion.But he said the new protocols showed Moscow realised that locals " facing the effects of a deteriorating environment including deforestation driven by China's domestic market demand " may not be satisfied with that explanation.Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev exchange documents after talks in St Petersburg on Tuesday. Photo: AFP alt=Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev exchange documents after talks in St Petersburg on Tuesday. Photo: AFP"People are angry not at China, as might have been the case a year ago or more, but they are angry at Moscow for not standing up to China and what it's doing," he said, pointing to this as the reason the Kremlin tightened environmental controls on the lake.Concerns about the impact of Chinese activities on Russia's environment come as the two neighbours are playing up closer diplomatic and economic ties. One of the outcomes of a three-day meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian heads of state last week was an agreement to increase bilateral trade to more than US$200 billion over the next five years.But how that investment could be sustainable for Russia " a key supplier of raw materials needed by China such as oil, gas and timber " remained to be seen, observers said."Our great relationship is going well, but we have not seen the accompanying rise in Chinese foreign direct investment into Russia " that remains very small, despite all the talk," said Artyom Lukin, an associate professor with the School of Regional and International Studies at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok."Russia is not satisfied with that, they would like to see more Chinese money, more Chinese greenfield investment coming into Russia, into more productive areas of the Russian economy, not just into the extraction sector like oil, timber or coal," he said.Lake Baikal has been seen as an area that could draw a lot of Chinese investment. Back in 2016 there were reports of a tourism development deal, worth up to US$11 billion, between Russian operator Grand Baikal and a consortium of Chinese firms, according to Russian state media reports.But so far most development from Chinese businesses has remained at the small and medium scale.The reasons for that, according to experts, range from the difficulty of competing with powerful local rivals and the need to tread carefully around anti-China sentiment. However, the burden and liability of complying with environmental standards also kept operations at a smaller scale."It's simpler and easier to operate smaller businesses and facilities, and it's easier to monitor and manage them," said Vitaly Mozharowski, a partner at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in Moscow, who specialises in environmental law, noting that concerns included management of waste water and garbage.Meanwhile, big complexes were obvious targets for scrutiny, and that would only increase with the new protocols in place, Mozharowski said. "Any large-scale initiatives would be considered from the very top of the Russian establishment," he said.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Are We Overestimating How Much Trees Will Help Fight Climate Change? Sun, 22 Sep 2019 05:21:38 -0400

    Are We Overestimating How Much Trees Will Help Fight Climate Change?Collart Hervé/GettyThis story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 220 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.By Jan Ellen Spiegel BOB MARRA navigated his way to the back of a dusty barn in Hamden, Connecticut, belonging to the state’s Agricultural Experiment Station. There, past piles of empty beehives, on a wall of metal shelves, were stacks of wooden disks — all that remains of 39 trees taken down in 2014 from Great Mountain Forest in the northwest corner of the state.These cross-sections of tree trunks, known as stem disks — or more informally as cookies — are telling a potentially worrisome tale about the ability of forests to be critical hedges against accelerating climate change. As anyone following the fires burning in the Amazon rainforest knows by now, trees play an important role in helping to offset global warming by storing carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide — a major contributor to rising temperatures — in their wood, leaves, and roots. The worldwide level of CO2 is currently averaging more than 400 parts per million — the highest amount by far in the last 800,000 years.But Marra, a forest pathologist at the Experiment Station with a Ph.D. in plant pathology from Cornell University, has documented from studying his fallen trees that internal decay has the capacity to significantly reduce the amount of carbon stored within.His research, published in Environmental Research Letters late last year and funded by the National Science Foundation, focused on a technique to see inside trees — a kind of scan known as tomography (the “T” in CAT scan.) This particular tomography was developed for use by arborists to detect decay in urban and suburban trees, mainly for safety purposes. Marra, however, may be the first to deploy it for measuring carbon content and loss associated with internal decay. Where there is decay there is less carbon, he explains, and where there is a cavity, there is no carbon at all.“What we’re suggesting is that internal decay in trees has just not been properly accounted for,” says Marra.While the first round of his research was a proof of concept that necessitated the destruction of 39 trees to show that tomography is accurate, his ultimate goal is a nondestructive technique to enable better assessments of carbon sequestration than those done annually by the U.S. Forest Service. Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, ratified in 1994, governments are required to report annual estimates of carbon holdings in all their managed lands. The most recent Forest Service figures show that U.S. forests offset about 14 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions each year.The Forest Service estimates that carbon makes up 48 to 50 percent of a tree’s biomass, so ones with decay will be less dense and therefore hold less carbon. But Marra contends that the visual signs monitored by the Forest Service, such as canopy and tree size, along with conspicuous problems such as lesions or cankers, don’t accurately reflect internal decay — a tree that looks healthy may have decay and one that appears problematic may be fine inside.In addition, he says, foresters typically use a mallet to hammer a tree to register a sound that might indicate it’s hollow. “You know that there may be a hollow, but you don’t know how big the hollow is,” Marra says. As a result, he believes the government’s baseline data used to estimate carbon storage are not accurate.“There are a lot of ways to improve our estimates of carbon being stored above ground in forests, and this decay component could certainly prove to be important,” says Andrew Reinmann, an ecologist and biogeochemist with the City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center. But, he added, “We haven’t really had the technology to explore this before — it’s still a little bit of an unknown.”* * *MARRA USED a two-stage system for his research: sonic tomography, which sends sound waves through the tree, followed by electrical resistance tomography, which transmits an electric current. Both processes are necessary to fine-tune each other’s readings.The system, which costs about $25,000 and fits in a backpack, is cheap and small by scientific equipment standards. Each reading takes no more than a few minutes and computerized visual renderings of the results appear instantly.Marra experimented with three northern hardwoods — sugar maple, yellow birch, and American beech — and included more than two dozen of each, along with some control trees with no decay. The researchers analyzed the lower bole — the first two meters or so — of each tree, which is the oldest part and closest to the soil, where most decay-causing fungi would come from.A dozen or so nails were tapped in a circle around the trunk and connected by cables to the tomograph; a sonic hammer then activated the system to get sound-wave measurements.For the electric resistance tomography, a second set of nails was hammered between the first, and electrodes — plus and minus — were attached to each.The various nail areas were painted in different colors to enable the computer renderings to be aligned later with photographs of the cookies after the trees were cut down.The cookies, about 4 inches thick and which Marra called “the truth,” were only taken from where the measurements were made — the areas with the paint markings.He analyzed 105 cookies from the 39 trees taken down. In the 11 cases where tomography found no decay, the cookies revealed only one small cavity. In the 32 cases where incipient, or early, decay was detected, the cookies showed one additional cavity. The cookies confirmed the tomography results in 36 cases where active decay was found, though eight small cavities were also detected. Tomography correctly identified cavities in the remaining 26 cookies, meaning that it missed a total of 10 cavities among the 105 cookies.“One thing to sort of mitigate against this failure, if you want to call it that — these were very small cavities,” Marra says of the ones the tomography missed. “So they would have very little impact on a carbon budget.”Then came the time-consuming process of measuring the actual amount of carbon in each tree. After air-drying the cookies for a year, the wood from 500 drilled holes was sent to a gas chromatography lab at the University of Massachusetts to determine the carbon levels.The tomography and lab results were then combined to calculate how much carbon was stored in the lower boles and to contrast that with the levels if the trees had been solid wood. Those calculations took until 2017 to complete.“You’re looking at anywhere from a 19 percent to a 34 percent carbon loss” for an actively decaying tree among those studied, Marra says. “But any place there’s a cavity you’ve lost all of your carbon.”* * *THE UPSHOT of his five years of research, says Marra, is that accurate tomographic readings are possible in just a few minutes. “And what our tomography tells us is the carbon content,” he says.At the same time, Marra is aware that tomography is not a practical substitute for the Forest Service’s carbon estimate system — which itself is a clunky and labor-intensive slog. But it could provide a valuable way to augment those estimates.“Those are very, very impressive results,’’ says Kevin Griffin, a tree physiologist at Columbia University and its Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “They obviously have obtained a lot of precision in the techniques.”“The results are important,” he adds, “but whether internal tree decay is the single most burning question? Probably not. There’s probably bigger fish to fry before we get there.”Among them, he says are forest growth rates and overall tree health and age, as well as the impact of harvesting and other kinds of losses, including disease.A tree’s architecture and height could also play large roles in carbon sequestration, says Reinmann of the City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center, as could the makeup of the forest landscape. His own research, for instance, found trees grow faster and have more biomass at the edge of fragmented forest.“I think they’re making a good point that we’re probably over-estimating” carbon storage levels, says Aaron Weiskittel, director of the University of Maine’s Center for Research on Sustainable Forests.Even so, Weiskittel and others — including Marra — say the research needs to be scaled up to many more tree types and full forests. For his part, Marra would like to sample forests randomly with many more trees and controlling for factors including species, age, and soil characteristics.The goal, he says, is to develop a methodology for generating data to provide better carbon estimates for more than three tree types in one small part of the country.“We need to use tomography to refine models so we’re more accurately assessing the role that forests are playing as sequesterers or climate change mitigators,” Marra says. “We don’t want to be over-estimating the roles that they play.”Jan Ellen Spiegel is a freelance writer and editor based in Connecticut. Her work appears regularly in numerous local and national publications, including The Connecticut Mirror, InsideClimate News, Yale Climate Connections, and The New York Times.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


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