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  • Hong Kong Leaders Rebuff Protest Demand as Violence Persists Sun, 19 Jan 2020 13:13:10 -0500

    Hong Kong Leaders Rebuff Protest Demand as Violence Persists(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s government again pushed back on a key demand of protesters as a downtown rally turned violent, showing the unrest that began last June still has no end in sight.In a lengthy statement on Sunday, a government spokesman recapped failed attempts to implement a promise of universal suffrage since China took control of the former British colony in 1997. It said the Hong Kong’s residents need a “clear understanding” that any chief executive elected by all citizens shall also be accountable to Beijing.“This is the constitutional order under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle which should not be ignored,” the spokesman said. “The community needs to attain a consensus on these principles, and premised on the legal basis, to narrow differences through dialogues under a peaceful atmosphere with mutual trust.”“Any constructive discussion on the issue of constitutional development would be difficult to commence if the aforesaid cannot be achieved,” it added.The statement, which mimics the same stance Beijing has held on universal suffrage since 2014, shows that Lam’s government still isn’t budging on the core demand still driving the protests. The unrest has plunged Hong Kong into its first recession since the global financial crisis, with the retail and tourism sectors particularly hard hit.Traffic through Hong Kong International Airport declined across the board last year as protesters conducted sit-ins and disrupted transport routes. The airport handled 71.5 million passengers in 2019, down 4.2% from a year earlier, the Airport Authority Hong Kong said Sunday. Flight movements fell 1.9%, while total cargo throughput declined 6.1% from a year ago to 4.8 million tonnes.Head WoundsThe demonstration on Sunday started peacefully in Chater Garden in the Central business district, with speeches and music drawing in thousands of people. But police ordered the rally to end early, citing violent behavior by protesters who fanned out from the approved meeting area.Four officers were injured, including two from the Police Community Liaison Office, who suffered head wounds after being attacked with wooden sticks and other weapons near the rally, according to the police. Ng Lok-chun, the police force’s senior superintendent of operations, refuted accounts by the organizers to the media that the officers who were attacked had disguised themselves in plain clothes. Ng said that’s not true because these officers have been in contact with the organizers in the past.“This is certainly ridiculous and irresponsible,” Ng said at a late night briefing. “The organizer certainly is acquainted with those injured officers.”One of the organizers of Sunday’s rally, Ventus Lau of the Hong Kong Civil Assembly team, said his goal was to get the world to focus on the city again after global headlines turned to Taiwan’s election and the crisis involving Iran. He also insisted protesters would keep fighting for meaningful elections.“If the government refuses to give us universal suffrage, this is a clear sign that they are still suppressing our human rights, our freedom and our democracy,” Lau said.During the rally, police scuffled with demonstrators and handcuffed a number of people who blocked roads and set fire to barricades. Tear gas was used to disperse the crowd, Ng said.Eight people who were stopped and searched -- a practice the organizers opposed -- were also arrested for carrying items such as hammers, spanners and batons, which have been used to attack police officers in the past, he said. One of the organizers was also arrested for “repeatedly” obstructing officers, Ng said, without identifying the person. The South China Morning Post said Lau was arrested. ‘Loves the Country’Beijing has stuck to a proposal for universal suffrage that it outlined in August 2014, triggering the Occupy protests. The plan would’ve required nominees to be screened by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists Hong Kong before being put to a public vote, with a requirement that the person “loves the country and loves Hong Kong.”The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office reaffirmed that proposal in September, saying that Beijing would never allow Hong Kong’s opposition to pick a leader who wasn’t accountable to the central government. “Today, anyone who harbors such an idea will get nowhere,” Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told reporters at the time.The protests were ignited by a bill to allow extraditions to mainland China that the government subsequently withdrew. The demonstrators’ demands have broadened to include an independent inquiry into police conduct and universal suffrage for both the Legislative Council and chief executive.Foreign OpinionsLisa Lau, a former member of the Independent Police Complaints Council, the group the government has tasked with finding accountability, said the body is hobbled by a lack of investigative powers, Ming Pao reported Sunday. She added the group has not yet met with the police commander in charge of the July incident in Yuen Long when subway riders were violently attacked, it said.Lam is due to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week to “remind global political, business and media leaders” of the city’s resilience. Her government’s statement on Sunday also condemned protester calls for foreign governments to sanction alleged human rights offenders from Hong Kong.“Foreign governments, legislatures or organizations have absolutely no role in matters relating to the constitutional development of Hong Kong, and should not express any opinion or take any action in an attempt to influence or interfere in the discussions of related matters in Hong Kong,” it said.(Updates with details from police briefing from eighth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Lam in Hong Kong at elam87@bloomberg.net;Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at amcnicholas2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at dtenkate@bloomberg.net, James LuddenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Britain's Johnson warns Putin over Skripal poisoning Sun, 19 Jan 2020 12:49:34 -0500

    Britain's Johnson warns Putin over Skripal poisoningBritish Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday used his first official meeting with Vladimir Putin to warn the Russian leader not to repeat the 2018 chemical attack that almost killed former spy Sergei Skripal. Downing Street said Johnson told the Kremlin chief on the sidelines of a summit on the Libya crisis in Berlin that ties between Moscow and London would not return to normal until Russia ended its "destabilising" activities. Johnson "was clear there had been no change in the UK’s position on Salisbury, which was a reckless use of chemical weapons and a brazen attempt to murder innocent people on UK soil," Downing Street said in a statement.


  • More than 100 killed in Yemen missile, drone attack Sun, 19 Jan 2020 12:43:35 -0500

    More than 100 killed in Yemen missile, drone attackMore than 100 people were killed and dozens wounded in a missile and drone attack blamed on Huthi rebels in central Yemen, officials said Sunday. Saturday's strike follows months of relative calm in the war between the Iran-backed Huthis and Yemen's internationally recognised government, which is supported by a Saudi-led military coalition. The Huthis attacked a mosque in a military camp in the central province of Marib -- about 170 kilometres (105 miles) east of the capital Sanaa -- during evening prayers, military sources told AFP.


  • Pompeo angry over death of US citizen jailed in Egypt Sun, 19 Jan 2020 12:26:47 -0500

    Pompeo angry over death of US citizen jailed in EgyptU.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “expressed outrage” to Egypt’s president on Sunday at the death of an American citizen who insisted he had been wrongfully held in an Egyptian prison, according to a State Department spokeswoman. Pompeo’s sharp remarks signal the U.S. government was putting the death of Mustafa Kassem, 54, following his protracted hunger strike last week, high on the diplomatic agenda. Pompeo raised his concerns to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about Kassem’s “pointless and tragic death” on the sidelines of an international peace summit in Berlin that aims to end Libya’s civil war.


  • Trump Fans or Not, Business Owners Are Wary of Warren and Sanders Sun, 19 Jan 2020 12:17:31 -0500

    Trump Fans or Not, Business Owners Are Wary of Warren and SandersWhen it comes to President Donald Trump's economic policies, there is not much that appeals to Grady Cope, the founder of a machining and assembly company in Englewood, Colorado.He does not approve of tariffs, which have disrupted his supply chains and raised costs. He is turned off by the president's disparagement of immigrants. And while small businesses routinely thank the administration for hacking through a regulatory thicket, he said of the pre-Trump rulebook, "I can't think of one time that it affected me or slowed growth."I lean more to the liberal side of things," said Cope, who employs 47 people at his firm, Reata Engineering and Machine Works. Yet even though he supports a higher minimum wage and is open to the idea of "Medicare for All," he is leery of two of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination."I probably won't go as far left on issues as Sanders and Warren," he said.Wall Street's disdain for the bottom-up populist campaigns of Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont has gotten a lot of attention. The candidates' full-throated attacks on corporate greed, extreme wealth and banking excesses are backed up by ambitious plans to upend the industry's everyday operations.Wariness extends far beyond an elite financial fellowship, though, to many small and medium-size businesses whose executives are not reflexively Republican but worry that the ascendancy of a left-wing Democrat would create an anti-business climate. In their view, sweeping plans to remake the health care system or slash the cost of higher education will mean higher taxes for businesses and the middle class, no matter what candidates promise.But if policy is an issue, so is tone. In campaign speeches and debates, some said, Sanders and Warren portray businesses as exploiting the American economic system instead of building it and of contributing to income inequality instead of creating wealth.Michael Brady, owner of two employment franchises in Jacksonville, Florida, is one of the independent business executives interviewed who feel unappreciated. "I get up before 6 o'clock every morning and work hard," he said. "I put 200 people to work every week."Brady, 53, said he voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Since then, he said, some of the president's actions and "some of his tweets" have made him cringe.He said he could vote for a Democrat this year. But he finds several of the economic proposals from the party's left wing off-putting, mentioning free college tuition and a nationwide $15-an-hour minimum wage.What particularly irks Brady, though, are some of Warren's statements about successful entrepreneurs' not having built their businesses entirely on their own. Attacks on the country's wealthy elite have also grated."When did the word millionaire or billionaire become a bad word?" he asked. "I cheer those people on because they've lived the American dream."Warren has explained for years that she, too, cheers hard-driven capitalists but adds that as important as private enterprise is, its successes are built on governmental investments like roads, education, police officers and firefighters. And so the winners, she argues, need to share more of their haul.To Brady, though, the comments sound like an insult. "It's strictly the pro-business mentality that drives me to vote," he said.In the meantime, Trump has fueled such feelings by referring to the Democrats as "radical socialists."Democratic moderates warn that a leftward tilt in the party's presidential nomination could alienate potential swing voters like Brady. Some point to Obama's recent warning that "the average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system.""Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality," Obama told a group of donors in November.Candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden; former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have sought to dominate the political center lane. But none has matched the degree of enthusiasm and devotion that Warren and Sanders have generated among supporters inspired by prospects of visionary change.The belief that voters are yearning for another moderate alternative recently helped motivate former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts to reverse their decisions to forgo the 2020 election.The billionaire Bloomberg, who announced his candidacy in November, has emphasized his background as a self-made business executive. In an early advertisement, he described himself as "a middle-class kid who made good." Patrick, a friend of Obama's, has positioned himself as someone who wants to bring people together and looks for middle ground.But even with the first Democratic contests weeks away, the November presidential election can seem far off.Beri Fox, president and chief executive of Marble King in Paden City, West Virginia, possibly the last U.S. manufacturer of toy marbles, said she had not yet focused on the candidates' overall plans, just "bits and pieces."Making sure U.S. companies can compete with China is a priority for her, said Fox, who employs 28 people. She hopes that Trump's confrontational approach on trade will work in the long run but also feels that Biden cares deeply about domestic manufacturers. She has not decided whom to support for president.For some, the battle for the Democratic nomination is still mostly background noise.With so many candidates still in contention, "it just doesn't seem worth my time to pick a heartthrob at this time," said Rick Woldenberg, chief executive of Learning Resources in Vernon Hills, Illinois, a family-owned manufacturer of educational materials and toys.Woldenberg's primary concern is the future of his business, which employs more than 200 people. The 2017 tax cuts engineered by Trump and his party helped generate more cash for investment, he said, but tariffs on imports have been punishing, raising the cost of materials and straining relations with customers and international vendors.He also finds the president's routine combativeness unsettling, not to mention his impeachment."I tend to favor politicians who are more moderate in their views," Woldenberg said. "And I would not consider Trump to be especially moderate."Yet neither are Sanders and Warren, he said. Labeling them "very extreme," he said that expensive plans like Medicare for All would depress the economy and that a wealth tax would be "catastrophic."The generally positive economic outlook, of course, could shift significantly in the coming year. The recent flare-up in tensions between the United States and Iran was a reminder that by the time of the election, international events could eclipse domestic ones.At the moment, though, executives are focused on their businesses.Tom Gimbel, founder and chief executive of LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based employment agency, is looking for a candidate who will promote economic growth."Trump may be a loose cannon on international stuff, but domestically Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are loose cannons on restricting business," Gimbel said. "Giving things away for free is a slap in the face for people who played by the rules. Where does it stop? Are we going to start paying off mortgage debt?"He mentioned several other concerns about Sanders and Warren, including a wealth tax, broader eligibility for overtime pay and pro-worker rulings that could come from a liberal National Labor Relations Board."We don't need the opposite of Trump," Gimbel said. "We don't need an opposite of crazy. We need a moderate."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


  • No give: Trump's impeachment defense, prosecutors dig in Sun, 19 Jan 2020 12:00:34 -0500

    No give: Trump's impeachment defense, prosecutors dig inAdvocates for and against President Donald Trump gave no ground Sunday on his Senate impeachment trial, digging in on whether a crime is required for his conviction and removal and whether witnesses will be called. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was shedding no light on what will be the same as — and different from — the precedent of President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999. All sides agitated to get on with it, none more than the four Democratic senators running for president and facing the prospect of being marooned in the Senate heading into Iowa's kickoff caucus on Feb. 3.


  • US marks King holiday amid fears of deep racial divisions Sun, 19 Jan 2020 11:34:18 -0500

    US marks King holiday amid fears of deep racial divisionsTo commemorate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Nicholas Thomas and more than 100 other volunteers will board up vacant houses, install school safety signs and make other improvements to a Detroit neighborhood. As Thomas fans out across the neighborhood with hammer and nails, King’s legacy of peace and racial and social justice will be foremost in his mind. As the nation marks the holiday honoring King, the mood surrounding it is overshadowed by deteriorating race relations in an election season that has seen one candidate of color after another quit the 2020 presidential race.


  • U.S. Agencies Stonewalling to Avoid Trump’s Ire, Democrat Says Sun, 19 Jan 2020 10:26:55 -0500

    U.S. Agencies Stonewalling to Avoid Trump’s Ire, Democrat Says(Bloomberg) -- Congress is being stonewalled by intelligence agency officials who refuse to testify in public for fear of drawing President Donald Trump’s ire, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said.“Part of their job is to speak truth to power,” Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said Sunday on “This Week” on ABC. “The intelligence community is reluctant to have an open hearing,” Schiff said, “because they’re worried about angering the president.”Schiff’s committee has in the past held annual public hearings to discuss global security threats, with leaders at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency among those testifying. A hearing hasn’t been set for this year.Document disclosure is another problem area, he said.“The intelligence community is beginning to withhold documents from Congress on the issue of Ukraine. They appear to be succumbing to pressure from the administration,” he said. The Senate Intelligence Committee a year ago heard from the heads of key agencies, including the CIA and NSA, who said North Korea and Islamic State remained critical security threats. In response, Trump called the agency heads “extremely passive and naive” in a tweet to his millions of followers. Schiff said the NSA is refusing to provide “potentially relevant documents” on Ukraine, and also withholding documents that may be relevant for senators in Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial. “That is deeply concerning,” he said.The lawmaker said the CIA may be on the same course, but didn’t elaborate.“We are counting on the intelligence community not only to speak truth to power, but to resist pressure from the administration to withhold information from Congress because the administration fears that they incriminate them,” he said.To contact the reporter on this story: Steve Geimann in Washington at sgeimann@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Matthew G. Miller at mmiller144@bloomberg.net, Ros KrasnyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Yemeni president condemns rebel attack as death toll rises Sun, 19 Jan 2020 09:46:04 -0500

    Yemeni president condemns rebel attack as death toll risesYemen’s president condemned on Sunday an attack by Houthi rebels on a government military camp, as authorities said fatalities had risen to at least 79 troops. Ballistic missiles smashed into a mosque in the training camp in the central province of Marib late Saturday, wounding 81 others during evening prayers, according to Abdu Abdullah Magli, spokesman for the Yemeni Armed Forces. The missile strike was the bloodiest attack in Marib since the beginning of Yemen's long-running civil war, marking a military escalation in a rare spot of relative stability.


  • Bodies of Ukrainian victims of downed plane repatriated from Iran Sun, 19 Jan 2020 09:42:37 -0500

    Bodies of Ukrainian victims of downed plane repatriated from IranAround a thousand people including President Volodymyr Zelensky bid farewell to Ukrainians who died in a plane mistakenly shot down by Iran during a spike in tensions with Washington. Zelensky laid flowers on the flag-draped coffins of the 11 Ukrainian victims -- nine flight crew and two passengers -- during the solemn ceremony at Kiev's Boryspil airport and briefly spoke to their relatives. The caskets were to remain for several hours at the terminal so that relatives, Ukraine International Airlines staff and ordinary Ukrainians could say their last goodbyes.


  • Couple together for nearly 65 years die on the same day Sun, 19 Jan 2020 09:24:12 -0500

    Couple together for nearly 65 years die on the same dayJack and Harriet Morrison's beds were placed next to each other in their final hours, allowing them to hold hands, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Harriett, who was 83, died later on Jan. 11. "They went to a little diner and never separated from that day on," Wagener said.


  • Clones help famous elm tree named Herbie live on, for now Sun, 19 Jan 2020 09:15:10 -0500

    Clones help famous elm tree named Herbie live on, for nowA massive elm tree nicknamed Herbie is long gone, but it is going to live on, thanks to cloned trees that are being made available to the public. At 110 feet and more than 200 years, Herbie was the tallest and oldest elm in New England and survived 14 bouts of Dutch elm disease because of the devotion of his centenarian caretaker, Frank Knight, the late tree warden of Yarmouth, Maine. The duo became famous after Knight spent half of his life caring for the tree, which he referred to as “an old friend.” Knight realized he couldn't save the town's elms as they succumbed by the hundreds to Dutch elm disease.


  • Candidates seek new caucus voters in trailer parks, rallies Sun, 19 Jan 2020 08:43:08 -0500

    Candidates seek new caucus voters in trailer parks, ralliesBernie Sanders is sending organizers to convenience stores across Iowa and staking out drug stores and even nursing homes. Pete Buttigieg has a more technocratic model. The approaches are as different as the two men themselves, but represent one of the most important tactical pieces of a presidential campaign in Iowa: getting people to attend the caucuses for the first time.


  • Brexit, Facebook, Endowments and Other Errors Sun, 19 Jan 2020 08:00:43 -0500

    Brexit, Facebook, Endowments and Other Errors(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Every year for the past decade I have been making a list of what I got wrong. This act of contrition allows me to own my mistakes, recognize my fallibility and learn from the experience. I hope you find some value in doing the same exercise.Let’s get to the errors:No. 1. Trading commissions: Last February, I cited a Morningstar survey that found that “fees fell 8 percent in 2017, the largest one-year decline ever reported.” It seemed, according to data on fees, that the point of diminishing returns had been reached. “The race to zero may be reaching its natural limits,” I wrote.Boy, did Charles Schwab Corp. prove me wrong.Although commission-free trading has been around awhile, it was either a niche product or offered as a teaser for other products. After investment giant Schwab said in October that it would offer commission-free trading, everyone from Fidelity to Vanguard to TD Ameritrade followed suit.One caveat: There is no free lunch, and free trading means that offsetting fees may be hidden or buried in the fine print. I continue to believe that, at least in finance, cheap is better than free. No. 2. University endowments underperform: Each October, many college endowments release their investment performance data for the past fiscal year. I wrote about the Ivy League endowments and how they had failed to beat benchmark returns.But I made an assumption that the benchmark these endowments were being compared against was a globally diversified portfolio. I was wrong. As it turns out — buried in a footnote of the research I relied on — the benchmark used for the study was a domestic portfolio.  This is not a good comparison because the endowments invest globally. It stands to reason that they would look like laggards in a period of U.S. market outperformance versus the rest of the world. The lesson learned: The footnotes matter — a lot.No. 3. Brexit: I have been saying that the British will eventually come to realize that Brexit is a self-destructive and needless exercise and eventually would reverse the referendum mandating that the U.K. leave the European Union. I said it here, here and here.The election as prime minister of Boris Johnson, an opportunistic Brexiteer, pretty much means that the exit is going to be fast-tracked in a way that his predecessor, Theresa May, could never manage. There is no need to wait for it to be official: I was wrong about Brexit. The only argument left is whether the U.K. will leave the EU with or without a deal setting the terms of the departure.No. 4. Fiduciary rule: I have long argued that the brokerage industry owes consumers a higher level of care than now on offer and that putting client interests first should be the standard. In other words, rules should require brokers to serve as fiduciaries rather than as the glorified used-car salesmen that they historically have been.Despite opposition from the brokerage industry to any rule change, investors have been voting with their dollars and hiring financial advisers that conform to this better standard. It is all but inevitable, I wrote, that this fiduciary standard would be adopted by the industry, albeit with a nudge from the government.But I underestimated what the deeply motivated and deep-pocketed brokerage industry can accomplish in a deeply corrupt Washington. For now, rules requiring the adoption of the fiduciary standard are on hold.No. 5. Facebook didn't flip the 2016 election: I made a mistake on the long-running debate about the role of a weaponized Facebook in the 2016 election, arguing that very few people change their minds based on social media. Mostly, I argued, social media is a giant echo chamber and that people aggressively avoid ideas that challenge their established opinions.Given how close the 2016 election was — decided by a tiny share of the votes cast in three or four states — I am willing to admit that maybe Facebook content did persuade a few people to change their votes or stay home. Theoretically, this could have swung the election. And while I was predisposed to discount the role of social media in 2020, I now believe it could matter a lot. Let’s hope the 2020 election isn’t so close that the role of social media even matters.To contact the author of this story: Barry Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Barry Ritholtz is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is chairman and chief investment officer of Ritholtz Wealth Management, and was previously chief market strategist at Maxim Group. He is the author of “Bailout Nation.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Cyber Strife Between U.S. and Iran Is Nothing New Sun, 19 Jan 2020 08:00:41 -0500

    Cyber Strife Between U.S. and Iran Is Nothing New(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Experts are warning that the U.S. should expect more cyberattacks by Iranian hackers in retaliation for the death of General Qasem Soleimani in a targeted drone strike. Maybe they’re right. But let’s not kid ourselves:  Iran would be launching lots of cyberattacks anyway.And the danger of escalation would be ever-present.So far, despite the warnings, security researchers report that little has yet materialized. But that doesn’t mean nothing major will happen. Iranian’s official and semi-official hackers are among the best in the world, and both the U.S. government and private industry are bracing for possible attacks. Crucial sites are much better protected than they were a few years ago, but no protection will ever be perfect.Infrastructure, always an attractive target, has long been a focus of Iran’s hackers, particularly the group known as APT33 or Refined Kitten. Recent news reports have singled out Refined Kitten’s constant “password-spraying,” the relatively low-tech tactic of flooding infrastructure targets with common passwords(1) in the hope that some will work. However, those attacks aren’t a response to the current crisis; they’ve been going on at least since 2018.(2)The dates matter. What’s often called the “shadow war” between the U.S. and Iran has been going on for a long time. Last June, for instance, the U.S. retaliated for Iranian attacks on oil tankers and the downing of a drone by launching cyber assaults against “an Iranian intelligence group” believed to be involved. The U.S. action also followed a spike in efforts by Iranian hackers to breach computer systems at, among others, the Energy Department and U.S. national laboratories.It’s tempting to blame the shadow war on the policies of President Donald Trump, but the battle was joined long before he took up residence in the Oval Office. The Iranian efforts are usually dated to 2009, when the “Iranian Cyber Army” successfully attacked Twitter, proclaiming on the site’s homepage “U.S.A. Think They Controlling And Managing Internet By Their Access, But They Don’t, We Control And Manage Internet By Our Power.”The hacks continued throughout the Obama administration. In 2013, for instance, Iranian hackers “infiltrated the control system of a small dam less than 20 miles from New York City.” The next year, they attacked a Las Vegas casino owned by Sheldon Adelson. In 2016, the U.S. announced indictments against seven hackers said to be working on behalf of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard who were alleged to have “conducted a coordinated cyberattack on dozens of U.S. banks, causing millions of dollars in lost business.”Moreover, Iran never needed any provocation to unleash its hacking squads. In November of 2015, the New York Times reported “a surge in sophisticated computer espionage” by hackers based in the Islamic Republic, including “a series of cyberattacks against State Department officials.” Those attacks came four months after the signing of the Iran nuclear deal.My point isn’t that the accord somehow caused the attacks, perhaps by emboldening Iran. That’s nonsense. My point is that the existence of the accord didn’t prevent the attacks or even reduce their frequency or scope. Nor should anyone have expected such a result. In the Middle East, for better or worse, the U.S. and Iran are rivals, each seeking to exercise influence in the world’s most volatile region. As every disciple of conflict theory knows, rival powers often find it in their interest to cooperate on particular issues. But the fact that rivals sometimes cooperate – as the U.S. and Iran did, for example, in the battle against Islamic State — doesn’t suddenly make them allies. Neither did the nuclear deal.From the point of view of both countries, a battle in cyberspace feels far safer than one fought out with force of arms. One might suppose that because the U.S. is the dominant online player, a fight in the digital realm would be to its liking. But there are reasons to be wary.In an important recent essay in The Atlantic, Stanford’s Amy Zegart points to the paradox of U.S. tech dominance: “The United States is simultaneously the most powerful country in cyberspace and the most vulnerable country in cyberspace,” she writes. The more widespread and complex your systems, she argues, the greater the possibilities for a hacker to find a way in: “In the virtual world, power and vulnerability are inextricably linked.”And exploiting the opponent’s online vulnerabilities is a tricky and dangerous business. Few conflicts stay in the shadows forever. The trouble is, it’s impossible to predict when or how the battle will burst into the open.  Here one is reminded of Nobel Laureate Thomas Schelling’s description of “limited war” as being like fighting while in a canoe. “A blow hard enough to hurt,” he wrote in Arms and Influence, “is in some danger of overturning the canoe.” Once both canoes capsize and everybody’s in the water, there’s no way to tell who’ll drown.So far, the cyber-blows exchanged by Iran and the U.S. haven’t been hard enough to hurt in any deep and profound sense, even during the current atmosphere of crisis. The canoes have stayed afloat. One expert interviewed by the Washington Post suggested that all we’re likely to see is “small-scale interruptions and nuisance activities with limited impact” – in a word, vandalism. That’s what happened earlier this month, when Iranian hackers successfully defaced the website of the Federal Depository Library Program with a tribute to Soleimani. And if by chance you haven’t heard of the Federal Depository Library Program, that’s the point.But the fact that the cyber war between the U.S. and Iran has remained in the shadows so far doesn’t mean it always will. No matter who wins the 2020 presidential election, the battle war won’t go away.Neither will the risk of overturning the canoe.(1) If your password is on this list, then it’s common, and you should change it.(2) Refined Kitten, like other Iranian hacker groups, has also targeted companies involved with national security. One “soft” Refined Kitten technique involves posting fake notices about jobs in the defense industry, evidently in the hope of vacuuming up information from applicants.To contact the author of this story: Stephen L. Carter at scarter01@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Green Carmichael at sgreencarmic@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Stephen L. Carter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is a professor of law at Yale University and was a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His novels include “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” and his latest nonfiction book is “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • No escape: Senators to be quiet, unplugged for Trump trial Sun, 19 Jan 2020 07:59:29 -0500

    No escape: Senators to be quiet, unplugged for Trump trialThe first time the proclamation was used, in the 1868 trial of President Andrew Johnson, lawmakers couldn’t have imagined life in the modern era. The pace of today's politics would have been hard to foresee even in early 1999, at the start of the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, when smartphones didn't exist. The normally chummy senators won't even be allowed to talk at length to people nearby or walk on certain areas of the Senate floor.


  • Four decades of conflict with Iran, explained Sun, 19 Jan 2020 06:50:02 -0500

    Four decades of conflict with Iran, explainedIran and the U.S. have been enemies since 1979. Why? Here's everything you need to know:What is the state of relations? For four decades, the U.S. and Iran have been locked into what is essentially an ongoing, low-grade war. Since its inception in 1979, the Shiite theocracy, now run by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a council of top clerics, has considered the U.S. the "Great Satan" — an intruder in the Middle East and a primary obstacle to the mullahs' goal of sustaining and spreading their Shiite Islamic revolution. Speeches and sermons often end with the chant "Death to America!" Iran sponsors a network of Shiite militias and parties in countries across the Middle East, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Badr Organization in Iraq, and it is sworn to the destruction of key U.S. ally Israel. Over the years, Iranian-backed terrorists have attacked U.S. troops and killed hundreds of Americans. From Iran's point of view, the U.S. has sought to destroy its regime almost from its inception, surrounding it with military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, and the Gulf states and crippling its economy through punishing sanctions.When did problems begin? It all started in 1953, under President Eisenhower, when the CIA and British intelligence led a coup against elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. The shah, modern reformer Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was installed as head of state and restored British and U.S. access to oil. The shah created a secret police force, SAVAK, to keep various leftist and religious opposition groups in check, but its authoritarian abuses further embittered Iranians who considered the shah a puppet of the West. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a fundamentalist cleric who had been banished to France, inspired massive protests that forced the shah to flee, enabling the ayatollah to return and set up a theocratic government. When President Jimmy Carter allowed the ailing shah to come to America for medical treatment, enraged Iranian students broke into the U.S. Embassy, taking 52 American diplomats hostage for a gut-wrenching 444 days.What happened under Reagan? The U.S. and the Iranian theocracy struggled, often violently, for influence in the region. In 1983, a Hezbollah truck bomb killed 241 Americans, mostly Marines, who were on a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to support the Christian-led government. President Reagan then withdrew U.S. soldiers from Lebanon. Iraq's Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, launched a war against Iran that cost 500,000 lives, with the U.S. providing support to Iraq as the lesser of two evils. Amid heightened tensions, the U.S. Navy mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger jet in the Persian Gulf in 1988, killing all 290 people on board. It was during this period that Iran decided to develop nuclear weapons.How did the nuclear program start? Iran began working with Pakistan, China, and Russia to develop nuclear technology, insisting it would be used only for electrical generation. But in 2002, Iranian dissidents revealed that Iran had built a uranium enrichment plant at Natanz that could be used to help build a bomb. Over the ensuing years, Iran repeatedly evaded United Nations inspectors and lied about the extent of its activities. After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, largely to establish a pro-Western democracy in the region, Iran began supporting Iraq's Shiite militias, who killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers with improvised bombs. When President Barack Obama took office, he sought to broker a deal with Iran; in 2015, U.S. negotiators and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — a relative moderate — reached an agreement to curtail Iran's nuclear program.What was in the nuclear deal? Iran agreed to slash the number of its uranium centrifuges — machines that can spin that element into a highly enriched form usable in nuclear bombs — and submit to intrusive inspections, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and the release of some $50 billion in frozen Iranian assets held abroad. The deal — backed by the EU, Russia, and ­China — would have prevented Iran from enriching significant amounts of uranium until at least 2031. For three years, the U.N. and EU said that Iran was complying fully with the treaty. But many Republicans, including presidential candidate Donald Trump, objected that the restrictions on enrichment would expire after 15 years, and complained that it did nothing to restrict Iran's support for terrorism abroad.What did President Trump do? Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact in May 2018 and reimposed devastating sanctions on Iran, including an embargo on Iranian oil. This policy of "maximum pressure," the administration says, is intended to force Iran to negotiate a more comprehensive deal and agree to end all aggressive actions in the region. But with its economy deeply damaged, the Iranian regime became even more aggressive. It sabotaged several Western oil tankers, then shot down a U.S. drone, and in September, through its Houthi proxy in Yemen, Iran bombed two key oil installations in Saudi Arabia. In Iraq, Iranian-backed militias tried to storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Trump responded by authorizing a drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the powerful leader of the Quds Force who oversaw Iran's network of allied militias. The killing of Soleimani, said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran program for the International Crisis Group, is "the death knell of the Iran nuclear deal and any prospect of diplomacy between Iran and the U.S."Iran's thwarted democracy movement Several times over the past two decades, Iran's long-suffering people have risen up against their repressive regime, only to meet with brutality. In 2009, Iranian voters who believed the re-election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president was rigged poured into the streets by the millions, chanting "Where is my vote?" After months of protest, the Iranian Green Movement was squelched by mass arrests, with the regime jailing and torturing the ringleaders. Some made false confessions that they were working for the U.S. Smaller protests followed in 2018, and then, last November, new mass protests broke out over a rise in gas prices, and the regime responded by firing on unarmed protesters, killing hundreds and arresting some 7,000. Once Soleimani was killed, though, pro-regime Iranians poured into the streets to mourn him. They've now been supplanted by democracy protesters enraged by Iran's shooting down of a Ukrainian commercial jet.This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, try the magazine for a month here.More stories from theweek.com Mindhunter just got Netflixed Trump is getting the band back together The Patriots only have one option


  • Bodies of Ukrainian victims of downed plane repatriated from Iran Sun, 19 Jan 2020 06:21:25 -0500

    Bodies of Ukrainian victims of downed plane repatriated from IranThe flag-draped coffins of the 11 Ukrainians who died in a plane mistakenly shot down by Iran during a spike in tensions with Washington arrived in Kiev on Sunday. President Volodymyr Zelensky, Prime Minister Oleksiy Goncharuk and other officials attended the solemn ceremony at Kiev's Boryspil airport to see caskets with the remains of the downed plane's nine Ukrainian flight crew and two passengers being removed from the aircraft. Ukraine International Airlines staff, some in tears, stood on the tarmac clutching flowers, according to live video footage.


  • China moves to phase out single-use plastics Sun, 19 Jan 2020 06:21:24 -0500

    China moves to phase out single-use plasticsChina is stepping up restrictions on the production, sale and use of single-use plastic products, the state planner said on Sunday, as it seeks to tackle one of the country's biggest environmental problems. Vast amounts of untreated plastic waste are buried in landfills or dumped in rivers. The United Nations has identified single-use plastics as one of the world's biggest environmental challenges.


  • Trump to Mingle With Elites in Davos as Impeachment Trial Opens Sun, 19 Jan 2020 06:00:00 -0500

    Trump to Mingle With Elites in Davos as Impeachment Trial Opens(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Donald Trump is heading back to Davos, poised to hail his economic record as vindication of an “America First” agenda to the world’s elite while lawmakers back home weigh his impeachment.Barring a last-minute change of plans, Trump is scheduled to deliver opening remarks at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, his second visit to the annual gathering of business chieftains, central bankers and foreign leaders. The president, who has increasingly embraced the elites he chided in his rise to power as a populist, will celebrate his trade deal with China while warning against socialism -- likely a welcome message at the world’s foremost capitalist confab.But the backdrop of this year’s speech will be the U.S. Senate’s trial on two articles of impeachment, set to open Tuesday as Trump meets with other leaders in Davos. The Republican-led chamber will almost certainly acquit the president, but the trial may produce surprises and will thrust impeachment into Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.Trump has sought to highlight his trade and economic victories in a bid to drown out impeachment, and Davos will give him another stage to do that, if only briefly. The visit is not without risk -- he skipped it in 2017 out of concern that the well-heeled Davos crowd was the wrong fit for a man elected on a nationalist, anti-elites message. Trump has tried to bridge the discord by saying he’s soliciting investment.“We have tremendous world leaders and we also have great business leaders and we want those business leaders all to come to the United States,” he said Thursday at the White House. He said he’d meet with business executives and other government leaders in the Swiss ski resort.“We have tremendous, powerful room for growth,” he said.Trump’s signing of a China trade deal last week presaged his Davos playbook, as he hobnobbed in the East Room of the White House with prominent executives, billionaires and campaign donors. At one point, he asked a JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive to thank him for their robust earnings. Cheering on the success of mega-firms, along with a signature tax-cut law that handed a $32 billion windfall to big banks, hasn’t stopped Trump from casting himself as a champion of the everyman. His political base remains as loyal as ever.The White House has signaled Trump’s Davos speech will echo his emerging re-election narrative -- celebrating recent trade deals, the strength of the stock market and Trump’s push for increased defense spending by NATO allies. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also hinted he’ll draw a contrast with the field of Democrats vying to challenge him this year.“He’s got a lot to talk about it, to really take on the perils of socialism right there in Davos,” Conway said Thursday. “A lot of the world’s economy can exhale now that China and the U.S. have completed phase one of the trade deal.”The U.S. has not said which leaders and executives Trump will meet on the sideline of the forum. Other “world-class speakers” the WEF promoted in advance of the conference included teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, whom Trump has insulted on Twitter. She’ll attend a pair of panels the day the president is set to speak.German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- whom Trump has complained does too little in Ukraine and Iraq is too soft on Iran’s regime -- will be the highest-profile world leader in attendance other than the president. Trump will return to Washington on Wednesday, an official familiar with the plans, leaving the rest of the forum to a U.S. delegation led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who is at the center of the scandal that led to Trump’s impeachment, is scheduled to attend, but may cancel as he continues to grapple with fallout after Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet. It’s unknown if the two will meet.Trump’s first Davos appearance in 2018 oscillated between a vintage, raucous version of Trump in meetings with national leaders and business executives and more subdued remarks in his formal speech. He touted his agenda but added: “America First does not mean America alone.” Trump pulled out of last year’s forum, citing a government shutdown.\--With assistance from Mario Parker.To contact the reporter on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at awayne3@bloomberg.net, Justin BlumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Cut off from family, unable to travel: how US sanctions punish Iranian Americans Sun, 19 Jan 2020 06:00:00 -0500

    Cut off from family, unable to travel: how US sanctions punish Iranian AmericansAs penalties create hardship for Iran’s residents, Iranians in US also suffer consequences: ‘The sanctions are still chasing me’Following the US assassination of a top Iranian general earlier this month and Iranian airstrikes against US military bases in Iraq, Donald Trump once again imposed biting sanctions against the regime in Tehran. To Iranian Americans, many of whom have lived under sanctions in Iran or have family members there suffering through economic hardship, the fresh round of penalties is a painful reminder of the collateral consequences of escalating conflict.Iranian Americans across the United States told the Guardian about their worries for their family members and friends affected by US sanctions. And they spoke of the ways the policies affect their own lives, work and communities in the US. “I was raised under sanctions my entire life,” said Nazanin Asadi, 34, who left Iran for California in 2014 and now works as a law clerk in Orange county. “After moving to the US permanently, I can’t believe the sanctions and these laws are still chasing me … I don’t want my community to suffer.”The threats of a full-blown war following Trump’s 3 January order to kill Gen Qassem Suleimani caused anxiety among some Persian communities in the US, especially for Iranian families who have been torn apart by Trump’s travel ban. Trump backed away from additional strikes, but his administration implemented a fresh wave of sanctions, targeting senior Iranian officials and the country’s textile, construction, manufacturing and other sectors.The US has imposed sanctions for decades, targeting Iran’s energy sector and a range of exports of goods and services. Trump had already expanded sanctions against Iran in 2018 with his withdrawal from the nuclear deal signed under Barack Obama.Under sanctions law, people are forced to apply for specific licenses when they seek to be exempted from prohibited transactions, and even for allowed activities, there are complicated reporting requirements. In practice that means hundreds of thousands of Iranian Americans with family and financial ties to Iran can face a complex set of burdens and hurdles in their lives, jobs and education.“These sanctions are supposed to be targeting the government of Iran and certain individuals, but end up targeting the average person and your own citizens,” said Mehrnoush Yazdanyar, a California attorney who helps Iranian Americans navigate sanctions. “You’re sanctioning your own legal permanent residents, and in doing so, you’re alienating them.” ‘It is a daily stress’Yazdanyar’s law offices in southern California, a region home to the largest Iranian population outside of Iran, have assisted thousands of clients in sanctions-related matters over the years. Families often can’t send money back and forth, creating significant hurdles for Iranian Americans who want to support their parents or families in Iran who want to help their loved ones pursue their education or other dreams in America.While the regulations are supposed to allow some financial transactions through third parties, many attempting to navigate the process can end up in legal trouble or with closed or frozen bank accounts, she said.Asadi, who grew up in Iran, was accepted to the University of Southern California law school and moved here with dreams of becoming a judge. But with the sanctions blocking her parents from offering her financial support, she had to pay her own way through her education, working multiple jobs while studying.“I couldn’t afford my life, I couldn’t pay my expenses,” she said. “It was too much pressure emotionally and financially.”She scraped by and managed to graduate, and she now works with Yazdanyar helping people dealing with sanctions. But when Asadi wants to help her own parents in Iran, who are disabled, she has no way to offer them funds, pay for their medications or even buy them gifts: “We cannot support each other.”That feeling of guilt is even worse when there’s a threat of war, Asadi added: “I’m paying taxes to the government who purchases military equipment to bomb my parents in Iran … If war happens, what should I do?”Pirouz Kavehpour, a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), engineering professor, who is also Iranian American, said he had repeatedly seen his Iranian students lose access to their bank accounts due to sanctions, derailing their research and education.“It’s a daily stress … We’re international. We’re already on thin ice. If you don’t perform well, you will be sent back,” he said. “You’re a kid here and you need to live off fast food … and then you’re told by a random guy in a bank field office: ‘Don’t even think about getting the money.’”With a large wave of Iranian Americans arriving in the US after the 1979 revolution, some are also now inheriting family businesses or properties back in Iran from relatives who have died, but it is often a nightmare process to attempt and recoup the assets, said Erich Ferrari, a Washington DC-based attorney who handles sanctions cases.Even those who try to do everything right, reporting the transactions and getting proper licenses, can end up facing investigations by the US government, he said. Law enforcement monitors money transfers, and in some cases Iranian Americans have found the FBI at their doors asking questions: “There’s always a threat looming.”Ferrari said he had seen family relationships fall apart in the process, adding: “They are trying to do something that is beneficial to the US, and divest themselves from Iran and bring their money here.” Research and charity work thwarted: ‘How does the US benefit?’In addition to the recent wave of Iranian students who have been denied visas at the last minute, under sanctions law, faculty members are also barred from traveling to Iran for research or other work without approval from the US treasury department.“I’ve been invited many times to give a talk in Iran … but we are not allowed,” said Kavehpour, the UCLA professor. He noted that Iran could benefit from working with UCLA experts on autism research, but that it would be impossible to set up any collaboration.Aysan Rangchian, a 28-year-old Iranian PhD student at UCLA, said Iranian students often don’t even apply for conferences anywhere outside of the US for fear of consequences. Iranian students can also struggle to get grants and funding: “This is making the US less appealing for international students.”Last year, Iranian researchers faced criminal prosecution when they attempted to do stem-cell research in the US. As a result of that process, potentially groundbreaking science will not go forward here, said Yazdanyar: “How did the United States benefit from this?”Yazdanyar has also represented a not-for-profit organization that helps orphaned children across the world, including in Iran. Even when the group received a specific license to send aid to Iran, financial institutions in third countries have declined to assist with the transfer due to concerns about sanctions. That means humanitarian aid has been delayed and blocked, she said.During floods in Iran last year, it was painful that the sanctions blocked Iranian Americans from being able to offer basic donations, said Assal Rad, a research fellow with the National Iranian American Council, who lives in Orange county. She said that while the impact of sanctions on Iranian Americans paled in comparison with what Iranian citizens suffer, the rules added to this “constant feeling that your identity is under attack”.“Whether sanctions, the travel ban, or your loyalty being questioned … it’s really isolating,” she said, adding of sanctions: “It’s an ineffective policy that is also harming Americans themselves.”


  • Iraq protests swell with youth angry at slow pace of reform Sun, 19 Jan 2020 05:48:27 -0500

    Iraq protests swell with youth angry at slow pace of reformThe youth-dominated rallies demanding an overhaul of the ruling system have rocked Shiite-majority parts of Iraq since October, but had thinned out in recent weeks amid the geopolitical storm of rising Iran-US tensions. On Sunday the anti-government protest movement was re-ignited with hundreds of angry young people descending on the main protest camp in Baghdad's Tahrir Square as well as the nearby Tayaran Square. Others burned tyres to block highways and bridges, turning back cars and leading to traffic jams across the city.


  • Bodies of 11 Ukrainians killed in Iran plane crash sent home Sun, 19 Jan 2020 05:40:48 -0500

    Bodies of 11 Ukrainians killed in Iran plane crash sent homeThe bodies of the 11 Ukrainians who died when an Iranian missile shot down a passenger plane have arrived in Ukraine on Sunday for a farewell ceremony. Iran acknowledged three days later that the plane was mistakenly hit by an anti-aircraft missile. On Sunday, the bodies were brought to Kyiv's Boryspil Airport aboard a Ukrainian air force plane.


  • House of Lords Could Move to North of England Under Proposal Sun, 19 Jan 2020 05:32:34 -0500

    House of Lords Could Move to North of England Under Proposal(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Moving the House of Lords out of London is one of a number of ideas under consideration to make sure every part of the U.K. “feels properly connected to politics,” Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly said.The Sunday Times reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to locate Parliament’s upper chamber permanently in York in northern England and has ordered work to begin on the practicalities of a move. Birmingham in the Midlands is also in the running, it said.When asked about the report on Sky TV’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” show, Cleverly said: “We might. It’s one of range of things we are looking into. It’s about demonstrating to people we are going to do things differently. The Labour Party lost millions of voters because they failed to listen.”Johnson has spoken repeatedly of “leveling up” across the U.K. after traditional Labour strongholds in the north backed the Conservatives for the first time in the Dec. 12 general election.The Palace of Westminster, home of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, is due to be vacated for several years from the mid-2020s to allow billions of pounds of restoration work to the Victorian-era buildings to take place.Speaking on BBC TV’s Andrew Marr Show, International Development Secretary Alok Sharma backed moving the 795-member Lords, saying the Conservatives should use their strong parliamentary majority to bring the government “closer to the country as a whole.”But Labour lawmaker Nadia Whittome dismissed the idea. “Working-class people don’t care about the unelected House of Lords,” she told Marr. “We want jobs, proper investment and meaningful decentralization of power. This is superficial. It’s tinkering around the edges.”(Adds comment from government minister in sixth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at fobrien@bloomberg.net, Sara Marley, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • ‘OK, Now What?’: Inside Team Trump’s Scramble to Sell the Soleimani Hit to America Sun, 19 Jan 2020 05:04:26 -0500

    ‘OK, Now What?’: Inside Team Trump’s Scramble to Sell the Soleimani Hit to AmericaIn the hours after the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3, U.S. officials in the White House, Pentagon, and State Department worked overtime on assembling a plan to handle the fallout, only to watch senior administration officials and the president himself scuttle their effort in real time on national television. The ensuing days became a mad dash to reconcile the intense intra-administration tensions over what the intelligence actually said about Iranian plots, and how best to sell their case to the American public. At the very top was a president who stewed and complained to staff about how the killing he’d just ordered might negatively affect his re-election prospects and ensnare him in a quagmire in the Middle East of his own creation.The plan to take out Soleimani had been approved months earlier by President Donald Trump after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then-National Security Adviser John Bolton pushed for more to be done to manage Iran’s aggression in the Middle East. But the president for years tried to avoid a direct military confrontation with Tehran, and hitting Soleimani was a move that could edge the two countries closer to war.When an American contractor was killed in Iraq in late December, President Trump’s national security team presented him with a slew of options on how to respond, and killing Soleimani was on the list. National security advisers reminded the president that he had publicly drawn a line in the sand, saying that if the regime killed Americans there would be severe consequences. Still, the strike was a departure from the regular Trump playbook and officials knew it would take a robust effort to explain not only the reasoning behind the attack but also the administration’s goal on Iran.“There was this sudden nature about it all. Yeah, it had been in the works for some time. But it didn’t feel like we were all thinking the same on how to move forward,” said one U.S. official, referring to the strike on Soleimani. “It was like, ‘OK, now what?’” For more than a week, Trump, Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence and officials from the national security community, including at the Pentagon, held twice-daily meetings and conference calls to make sure all government agencies were on the same page regarding messaging, according to two individuals familiar with those conversations.Despite that effort, what resulted appeared to be an uncoordinated effort to justify an action by national security officials who were varied in their answers about the pre-strike intelligence and who struggled to define the administration’s strategy on Iran post strike.That internal confusion on how to re-frame the administration’s approach to dealing with Iran led to weeks of what appeared to be frequent mixed messaging, critiques about the administration's apparent lack of strategy, calls from Congress for more robust intelligence briefings—and allegations that Trump and his lieutenants were actively misleading a nation into a sharp military escalation.This article is based on interviews with 10 U.S. government officials and several former administration officials. The State Department and White House House did not comment on the record for this story.Worry over the “counterpunch”For several days following Soleimani’s assassination, Pentagon officials warned Trump and his national security advisers that Iran had a variety of responses it could carry out to make the Americans pay. Among them, sources said, were Iranian attacks on senior U.S. military officers overseas, or violence targeting American outposts in countries like Iraq. Their bottom line was that Iran would hit back, and hit back hard. The president worried aloud to his team about how the strike could impact the way voters viewed him in the upcoming election. After all, avoiding costly foreign wars in the Middle East had been one of the key promises— and points of contrast—he made as a candidate in 2016. One official told The Daily Beast that in meetings at the White House Trump was “preoccupied” with ensuring that his public statements on Iran—notably that he would not drag the U.S. into a war with the country—would hold following the assassination. Once Soleimani was gone, Trump was adamant that the administration “get things back to normal” with Iran, one official told The Daily Beast. According to another U.S. official, senior administration officials, including President Trump, were framing the strike as a de-escalatory measure even before the attack was ordered. The idea was that if the U.S. didn’t hit Soleimani, more people would die because Iran would continue to carry out attacks in the region.Trump’s insistence on returning to “normal” with Iran directly after he ordered the death of the Islamic republic’s top military leader underscores this president’s wild vacillations between diplomatic overtures and teasing violent retribution, where a call for peace one moment could be followed by a threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites—a tactic that is considered a war crime under international law.The president inquired about this not long before greenlighting, then abruptly calling off, military strikes on Iran that he approved knowing the body count was estimated to be high.And even as he publicly celebrated this massive escalation with Iran and aggressively campaigned on, and fundraised off of, his decision, Trump continued to lament privately to close allies that it would be “crazy” to plunge America into another invasion or full-blown war in the Middle East, according to two people who spoke to Trump in the days following the Soleimani hit.He then pledged he would not “let it happen” on his “watch.” Of course, none of the president’s stated reservations about starting a new war, or his stated desire to bring soldiers home, kept him and his administration from deploying thousands more American troops to the region as the U.S. and Iran walked up to the brink of all-out warfare early this month.The Soleimani strike, though, forced the president to pause, even just briefly, to consider whether what he had ordered would have lasting, irreversible consequences—repercussions he’d never meant to bump up against.“You know, he's sincerely grappling with this, which is good. I mean, war should be hard and we should grapple with it. I just don't want any one person to say, okay, I've grappled with it we should do it,” Sen. Tim Kaine told The Daily Beast in an interview about the escalating tension in Iran. Since the Soleimani strike, the Virginia Democrat has led a bipartisan push in the Senate to rein in Trump’s authority to wage war in Iran without congressional approval. “If I were president I shouldn't have the ability to just on my own say, let’s do this,” Kaine added. “It should be deliberative, because that's what the troops and their families deserve.”President Trump’s concerns were fed, in part, by comments from lawmakers and other analysts that the strike on Soleimani could lead quickly to a major, sustained conflict.“We need to get ready for a major pushback. Our people in Iraq and the Middle East are going to be targeted. We need to be ready to defend our people in the Middle East,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in an interview with The Daily Beast the night of the strike. “I think we need to be ready for a big counterpunch.”“Overselling the intel”In the first week after the Jan. 3 strike, officials appeared on television and radio shows in an attempt to frame the Soleimani strike as an act of de-escalation. Just hours after the strike, Brian Hook, the special representative for Iran, went on BBC World Service radio saying that killing Soleimani was designed to “advance the cause of peace.”Officials at the State Department, in coordination with the White House, drafted talking points advising those who would appear in the media to underscore Soleimani’s “malign activities” and his role in killing American troops over the years, according to two U.S. officials. But the White House wanted to advance a different argument—one that wasn’t about what Iran had already done, but what U.S. officials claimed Iran was about to do. They said the U.S. killed Soleimani because he was planning “imminent” attacks that would harm American interests. That talking point in particular was emailed out to officials across the Pentagon, White House, and State Department, and even to several GOP lawmakers’ offices repeatedly the week of the strike, according to several officials who spoke to The Daily Beast. It became, for a time, the central rationale the administration offered for the assassination. On the night of the hit, the Pentagon said only that Soleimani was “actively developing plans” for an unspecified attack. By Sunday Jan. 5, Pompeo said on several morning talk shows that there were actually “constant threats” from Iran, rather than a specific one the strike preempted. And officials told a varying story about how many Americans could be killed. That next week, in briefings to Congress, the administration struggled to explain what exactly the alleged “imminent” attack was. Senators left a closed-door briefing Wednesday, Jan. 8, unconvinced, angry, and warning that the intelligence put forward did not match how senior officials described it. And when the dissatisfied lawmakers pressed for a clearer picture, Graham ended the briefing even though several members had yet to ask their questions.“It was right when things were really starting to get heated and Graham just said something like, ‘Hey don’t you all have to get back to the White House?’,” the source said.For Kaine, the problem wasn’t the intel, it was some of the messengers. “I think the intel has been strong. But I think some of the political people have been overselling the intel,” said Kaine. “What I heard of the political folks doing seems to me to be significantly beyond what the intel says.”Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), a member of the House intelligence committee who received a separate classified briefing on the Soleimani strike, said he “saw nothing related to imminence.”“To exaggerate your view of what intelligence means is dangerous,” he told The Daily Beast. “This was either a misrepresentation or a degree of incompetence in analyzing the intelligence.”Senators were also displeased with how the administration’s briefers, including Pompeo, answered questions about Iraq and its parliament vote to oust American troops from the country after the Soleimani assassination. According to two people in the room, the briefers dismissed questions about the Baghdad vote, telling lawmakers “don’t worry about it,” according to an individual who was in the room. “One of them said ‘that’s just how the Iraqis talk. We will take care of it.’”“When you take strikes… in Iraq over their objections, there’s going to be consequences to that. And that’s the kind of thing where you got to be thinking down the board. If they object to us using Iraq as a field of battle… but we’re saying yeah, we’re doing it anyway. Well, what do you think is going to happen?” Kaine told The Daily Beast in reference to the briefing. “I certainly didn't get much sense that they had thought through, like, oh, they are probably going to kick us out of the country.”Trump on Jan. 9 told reporters that the intelligence actually showed that Iran was “looking to blow up our embassy.” The next day, he went bigger in a Fox News interview, saying that there “probably would’ve been four embassies.” But two days after that, on Jan. 12, Trump’s claim was put into question by his own defense secretary. In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Mark Esper conceded that he had not in fact seen a piece of intelligence “with regard to four embassies.” But, in an apparent attempt to cover for Trump, Esper said the president “believed that it probably and could have been attacks against additional embassies.”According to two officials who spoke to The Daily Beast, Trump was outwardly frustrated by critiques of his embassy claim, telling his close confidants that he was furious with Esper’s performance on CNN.Lawmakers on Capitol Hill called on the Trump administration to explain the president’s remarks, demanding briefings with Pompeo and other administration officials—which were scheduled this week and then canceled without explanation. According to two senior U.S. officials, Trump and Pompeo spoke about the need to avoid answering more questions about the embassy threats.“This whole episode has been one of mixed messages. Mixed messages is a function of no real strategy,” said Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), a member of the House Intelligence Committee. “When you don’t have a strategy, you get all sorts of confusing events on top of each other.”“Aggressive opinions”Officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said part of that confusion on messaging came as a result of abundant input by GOP lawmakers with “aggressive opinions on how to handle Iran,” as one official put it. In the days after the assassination, Trump spoke with Republican leaders in the Senate and the House, picking their brains on how to redefine the administration’s years-long policy of maximum pressure—a campaign to wage economic warfare on Tehran. Some of those same senators had publicly and behind closed doors denounced the administration’s maximum pressure campaign. They argued that the campaign wasn’t doing enough to change Iran’s behavior. In the days leading up to the strike, Graham spoke with President Trump. “I won’t get into the details,” Graham told The Daily Beast. “But he told me Soleimani was a target and that they had caught him red-handed.” Graham said he had advocated for the president to take a tougher military stance against Iran following the attacks on the Saudi oil refineries in September.“I didn’t have any specific targets in mind,” Graham said. “I just thought we needed to be doing more.”Several national security officials who spoke to The Daily Beast said there was a push by GOP lawmakers, including Graham, in the days after the strike to fundamentally re-vamp the administration’s maximum pressure campaign by adding a military component.“If there are any more threats against Americans or our interests then we should hit refineries and oil infrastructure inside Iran,” Graham said. “The military option should be on the table.” The campaign was not initially designed to include military power as a form of maximum pressure, according to two former Obama administration officials. Instead, its architects envisioned it as a means of economic strangulation, whereby Iran would be put under such crippling sanctions that it would opt to transform its foreign policy and take an unspecified grand bargain that the administration began offering after abandoning the nuclear deal in 2018. Graham told The Daily Beast that he is working on an alternative to the Obama administration's 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. “I'm not surprised the President has close relationships with these folks,” Kaine told The Daily Beast, referring to GOP lawmakers. “But it makes me nervous. Rather than senators pressuring the president, hey, go after Iran, let them make the case on the floor of the Senate.”After two weeks of shifting talking points on Iran, re-defining the administration’s policy, Pompeo seemed to edge the closest to articulating a clear response on the administration’s policy when he appeared for a speech at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University on Jan. 13.“President Trump and those of us on his national security team are re-establishing deterrence… against Iran. The goal is twofold. First we want to deprive the regime of resources. And second we just want Iran to act like a normal nation,” he said, sighing. “Just be like Norway.”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.


  • Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to Ukraine Sun, 19 Jan 2020 04:50:44 -0500

    Iran backtracks on plan to send flight recorders to UkraineThe Iranian official leading the investigation into the Ukrainian jetliner that was accidentally shot down by the Revolutionary Guard appeared to backtrack Sunday on plans to send the flight recorders abroad for analysis, a day after saying they would be sent to Kyiv. Iranian officials previously said the black boxes were damaged but are usable. Iran may be hesitant to turn over the recorders for fear that more details from the crash — including the harrowing 20 seconds between when the first and second surface-to-air missiles hit the plane — will come to light.


  • Iran may review cooperation with IAEA if EU pressure mounts -TV Sun, 19 Jan 2020 04:22:37 -0500

    Iran may review cooperation with IAEA if EU pressure mounts -TVIran will review its cooperation with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog over any "unjust" measures, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani said after EU powers last week triggered a dispute mechanism under Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal. "We state openly that if the European powers, for any reason, adopt an unfair approach in using the dispute mechanism, we will seriously reconsider our cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency," State TV quoted Larijani as saying.


  • Two Officers Injured as Rally Ends in Violence: Hong Kong Update Sun, 19 Jan 2020 04:11:43 -0500

    Two Officers Injured as Rally Ends in Violence: Hong Kong Update(Bloomberg) -- Two Hong Kong police officers were beaten at a rally in the city center that was dispersed as it descended into confusion and violent clashes.The officers, from the Police Community Liaison Office, both suffered head wounds after being attacked with wooden sticks and other weapons near the gathering in Chater Garden in the Central business district. The meeting of thousands of protesters started peacefully with speeches and music but was dispersed when police ordered an end to it, citing violent behavior by protesters.Sunday’s events followed a relative lull in the past weeks, after seven months of sometimes-violent protests that were ignited by a bill to allow extraditions to mainland China. The demonstrators’ demands have broadened to include greater democracy and an independent inquiry into police conduct.Here’s the latest (all times local):Venue cleared (5 p.m.)The Chater Garden venue was virtually cleared of the throngs of demonstrators gathered earlier for a rally scheduled to run until 10 p.m. The meeting was meant to reinvigorate the Hong Kong protest movement, with a list speakers from trade unions, religious groups and student associations.Objects thrown at officers (4:30 p.m.)Police said that they asked the organizers to suspend the rally in response to violence from some people at the scene. Objects were thrown at officers, according to a statement.Police scuffled with demonstrators who spilled into roads and set fire to barricades. Officers handcuffed a number of people. At least one person was bleeding from a head wound.‘Refocus on Hong Kong’ (2:30 p.m.)One of the organizers of Sunday’s rally, Ventus Lau of the Hong Kong Civil Assembly team, said at the event: “Today we believe we need to make the world focus on Hong Kong again. In the past few weeks, maybe they’ve been focusing on Iran or even on the Taiwan election. But now, it is time to look at Hong Kong again.”“It is 2020, the year of the Legislative Council election. If the government refuses to give us universal suffrage, this is a clear sign that they are still suppressing our human rights, our freedom and our democracy,” he said.Air traffic drops (11:30 a.m.)Traffic through Hong Kong International Airport declined across the board last year as months of ongoing unrest, including protest-related closures at the transit hub.The airport handled 71.5 million passengers in 2019, down 4.2% from a year earlier, the Airport Authority Hong Kong said in a press release Sunday. Flight movements fell 1.9% while total cargo throughput declined 6.1% from a year ago to 4.8 million tonnes.Some of the more violent clashes seen in Hong Kong happened at the airport and its rail link last year as protesters organized sit-ins that led to the delays and cancellation of hundreds of flights.Watchdog limitations (Sunday 8 a.m.)Lisa Lau, a former member of the Independent Police Complaints Council, said the body’s lack of investigative powers is an impediment to investigating the protests, and added the group has not yet met with the police commander in charge of the July incident in Yuen Long when subway riders were violently attacked, Ming Pao reported Sunday.Wong calls for support (3 p.m.)Activist Joshua Wong said the number of participants in Sunday’s march is crucial to continue informing the international community of Hong Kong’s ongoing struggle. Speaking to local media, he said the movement needs to maintain a sufficient level of demonstrators at the marches to ensure the world’s attention does not wane.Ventus Lau told Radio Television Hong Kong that protesters must be aware they might be involved in clashes with police.Demonstrators “may be stopped and searched by the police or you may face clashes between the police and the citizens,” given past experiences, he said.Pro-establishment support (Saturday 2 p.m.)More than 100 people gathered in Kowloon Tong Saturday to protest what they see as anti-government bias from local broadcaster RTHK. Elsewhere, about 50 pro-police supporters rallied outside the Mong Kok police station, presenting officers with gifts to show their support.\--With assistance from Kari Lindberg.To contact the reporters on this story: Eric Lam in Hong Kong at elam87@bloomberg.net;Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at amcnicholas2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Stanley JamesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Violence escalates in Beirut as anti-government anger rises Sun, 19 Jan 2020 03:53:03 -0500

    Violence escalates in Beirut as anti-government anger risesLebanese security forces used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in clashes with hundreds of anti-government protesters outside the country's Parliament on Sunday, as violence continued to escalate in a week of rioting in the capital. Security forces responded by firing several rounds of tear gas canisters and water cannons, before turning to rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse the crowds. A few protesters tried to climb over the metal barriers separating them from the riot police.


  • North Korea Picks Army Man Who Led Korean Talks as Top Envoy Sun, 19 Jan 2020 03:49:01 -0500

    North Korea Picks Army Man Who Led Korean Talks as Top Envoy(Bloomberg) -- North Korea named a former army officer who led military and high-level talks between the two Koreas as its top diplomat, Yonhap News reported, in a move that could change the course of stalled nuclear negotiations between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.Foreign envoys in Pyongyang were notified late last week that Ri Son Gwon replaced Ri Yong Ho as foreign minister, Yonhap said, citing various sources it didn’t identify. Ri Yong Ho had served as the top diplomat since 2016.South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a text message that the government is trying to confirm whether the foreign minister was replaced and Ri Son Gwon’s official title has been changed. The move, which is yet to be announced in North Korea’s state media, is likely to be confirmed to resident diplomats at an event scheduled for Jan. 23 in Pyongyang, NK News reported separately.Ri Son Gwon, former chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, became known to South Koreans after he led a delegation to high-level inter-Korean talks in January 2018. He was accused of being rude to a visiting group of South Korean conglomerate chiefs later that year, appearing to rebuke them for not taking enough action to boost business development between the two sides.The apparent replacement comes days after the isolated nation publicly declared that it won’t rely on its leader’s personal relationship with Trump as it doesn’t intend to trade its nuclear weapons for a halt in sanctions.Since the failure of working-level denuclearization talks in October in Stockholm, Pyongyang hasn’t responded to Washington’s continued demands for another talk and instead stepped up tensions verbally and with weapons tests.‘Crucial’ TestMost recently, it said late last year that it successfully conducted a “crucial” test at a long-range projectile launch site and had boosted its nuclear-deterrent capabilities, without elaborating on details.Kim declared in a speech at the start of the year that a lack of U.S. response in nuclear talks meant he was no longer bound by his pledge to halt major missile tests and would soon debut a “new strategic weapon.” Declining to go into detail, Kim also left the outside world guessing what “new path” he will take, and how he will deal with the U.S. in 2020.Ri Son Gwon served as a senior colonel in 2010 and last appeared in the North’s state media when the KCNA reported in April he was elected as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee along with Choe Son Hui, first vice-minister of foreign affairs. He previously also led a working-level military dialogue between the two Koreas in 2011.Ri has no direct experience of dealing with the U.S., nor is an official with the traditional elite-diplomat background, said Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, casting doubts over a possible breakthrough in the U.S.-North Korea talks.“I think the North will take a harder line against the U.S.,” Cheong said. It “will be under greater influence of the military, which has urged to strengthen its position as a nuclear power,” he said.The replacement of foreign minister also coincides with Seoul’s sudden turn to improve inter-Korean ties as the Kim-Trump talks for denuclearization remain in deadlock and rising cracks in South Korea’s relations with the U.S.South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he would help on projects such as individual tourism with North Korea if they require approval from the United Nations to exempt them from sanctions. His Unification Ministry later said the government is considering allowing South Korean individuals to travel to North Korea to expand inter-Korean exchanges in the private sector.U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris said such a push by Seoul should be discussed with the U.S., and his comment was immediately denounced by Moon’s office as “very inappropriate.”(Updates with comments from South Korea’s Unification Ministry and analyst from third paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Kanga Kong in Seoul at kkong50@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at sadam2@bloomberg.net, Virginia Van Natta, Jiyeun LeeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Iran warns of repercussions for IAEA over European moves Sun, 19 Jan 2020 03:47:48 -0500

    Iran warns of repercussions for IAEA over European movesIran's parliamentary speaker on Sunday warned of unspecified repercussions for the UN's nuclear watchdog if European nations that launched a dispute mechanism against the Islamic republic act "unfairly". Britain, France and Germany launched a process last week charging Iran with failing to observe the terms of the 2015 deal curtailing its nuclear programme, while Tehran accuses the bloc of inaction over US sanctions. The EU three insisted they remained committed to the agreement, which has already been severely undermined by the US exit from it in 2018 and its reimposition of unilateral sanctions on key sectors of Iran's economy.


  • Israel building underground defense system on Lebanon border Sun, 19 Jan 2020 03:41:00 -0500

    Israel building underground defense system on Lebanon borderIsrael's military said it began construction of an underground defense system Sunday along its northern frontier with Lebanon to protect against cross-border tunnels. The infrastructure project will identify underground acoustic and seismic activity indicating tunnel digging, accompanied other defensive measures, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman. Israel destroyed a series of what it said were attack tunnels last year, dug under the border by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.


  • Erdogan demands stand against 'blood and chaos' in Libya Sun, 19 Jan 2020 03:28:45 -0500

    Erdogan demands stand against 'blood and chaos' in LibyaTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the international community to stand against “the merchants of blood and chaos” as he headed Sunday to a Berlin summit seeking to resolve the Libya conflict. Erdogan supports the U.N.-backed administration in Tripoli led by Fayez Sarraj and sent troops to Libya earlier this month to help them in their battle with eastern-based forces led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.


  • Iran says it is preparing for satellite launch Sun, 19 Jan 2020 03:23:35 -0500

    Iran says it is preparing  for satellite launchIran said Sunday that two newly constructed satellites have passed pre-launch tests and will be transported to the nation's space center for eventual launch, without elaborating. Iran has not said when it will launch the satellites, but often coordinates its launches with national holidays. Iran's largely state-run media say the 90-kilogram (200-pound) Zafar satellites each have four high-resolution color cameras and will monitor and transmit data on natural resources as well as agricultural and environmental developments.


  • Thousands-strong Hong Kong protest cut short by clashes Sun, 19 Jan 2020 02:35:25 -0500

    Thousands-strong Hong Kong protest cut short by clashesClashes broke out between protesters and police in Hong Kong on Sunday, cutting short a rally after thousands had gathered at a park to call for electoral reforms and a boycott of the Chinese Communist Party. Police fired tear gas near the park, known as Chater Garden, after some protesters attacked men whom they believed to be plainclothes officers, in a return to the violence that has roiled the Chinese territory off and on for months. Sporting their movement's trademark black clothing and face masks, rally participants had earlier packed into Chater Garden, located near the city's Legislative Council building.


  • China and Myanmar’s Latest Sign of Improving Relations Sun, 19 Jan 2020 00:26:28 -0500

    China and Myanmar’s Latest Sign of Improving Relations(Bloomberg) -- China and neighboring Myanmar agreed to expedite several projects designated as part of the pan-Eurasia Belt and Road Initiative in a sign of growing ties between both countries.The two sides inked 33 agreements as Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a visit to the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw on Saturday, where he met his counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi.They agreed to jointly develop the so-called China-Myanmar Economic Corridor between the southern Yunnan province and Mandalay. There was also a concession and shareholders agreement for the development of the multi-billion dollar special economic zone and deep-sea port in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State.The two-day trip, Xi’s first of the year, saw the Chinese leader also meet the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s powerful armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing. As the sole land bridge between two regional giants -- India and China -- Myanmar has the potential to tap into global supply chains at a time when western businesses have been hesitant to bankroll projects due to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.Beijing reiterated its willingness to provide support to Myanmar over the repatriation and resettlement of those displaced from Rakhine State, without mentioning the Rohingya, according to a joint statement released Saturday.That follows the statement earlier this month from Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui, who said China will support talks with Dhaka for the repatriation of some 700,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps across the border in Bangladesh.Since the mass exodus of Myanmar’s ethnic Muslim population began in 2017, the nation has increasingly turned to China to fulfill its economic expansion ambitions. In the first 11 months of 2019, investment from China reached $20.9 billion, accounting for more than a quarter of foreign direct investment, according to government data.(Updates with statement in fifth paragraph)To contact the reporters on this story: Khine Lin Kyaw in Myanmar (Non BLP Loc) at kkyaw1@bloomberg.net;Philip J. Heijmans in Singapore at pheijmans1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Shamim AdamFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Fires set stage for irreversible forest losses in Australia Sat, 18 Jan 2020 22:02:15 -0500

    Fires set stage for irreversible forest losses in AustraliaAustralia’s forests are burning at a rate unmatched in modern times and scientists say the landscape is being permanently altered as a warming climate brings profound changes to the island continent. Heat waves and drought have fueled bigger and more frequent fires in parts of Australia, so far this season torching some 40,000 square miles (104,000 square kilometers), an area about as big as Ohio. Before the recent wildfires, ecologists divided up Australia’s native vegetation into two categories: fire-adapted landscapes that burn periodically, and those that don’t burn.


  • Argentines remember prosecutor killed while probing attack on Jews Sat, 18 Jan 2020 20:44:14 -0500

    Argentines remember prosecutor killed while probing attack on JewsArgentines paid tribute Saturday to a prosecutor on the fifth anniversary of his unsolved death while probing the bombing of a Jewish community center -- an attack in which he alleged a presidential cover-up to shield Iran in exchange for trade. Prosecutor Alberto Nisman led the probe of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association headquarters, which left 85 dead and 300 wounded. In 2015, his body was found in his Buenos Aires apartment with a gunshot wound to the head, delivered at close range from a handgun found at his side.


  • US seeks to deport Honduran mom, sick children to Guatemala Sat, 18 Jan 2020 20:20:21 -0500

    US seeks to deport Honduran mom, sick children to GuatemalaThe U.S. government says it will deport a Honduran mother and her two sick children, both of whom are currently hospitalized, to Guatemala as soon as it can get them medically cleared to travel, according to court documents and the family’s advocates. The family’s advocates accuse the U.S. of disregarding the health of the children, ages 1 and 6, to push forward a plan currently being challenged in court to send planeloads of families to different countries so that they can seek asylum elsewhere. Both children have been hospitalized in recent days in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.


  • ICE ups ante in standoff with NYC: 'This is not a request' Sat, 18 Jan 2020 19:23:51 -0500

    ICE ups ante in standoff with NYC: 'This is not a request'Federal authorities are turning to a new tactic in the escalating conflict over New York City's so-called sanctuary policies, issuing four “immigration subpoenas” to the city for information about inmates wanted for deportation. “This is not a request — it's a demand,” Henry Lucero, a senior U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, told The Associated Press. Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration said Saturday the city would review the subpoenas.


  • Cult 'anointed by God' kills 7 in Panama Jungle Sat, 18 Jan 2020 19:16:15 -0500

    Cult 'anointed by God' kills 7 in Panama JungleEL TERRÓN, Panama (AP) — Bibles rest on a wooden altar next to percussion instruments — a guiro and a drum — in the room where a religious sect allegedly forced a pregnant woman and five of her children to walk through fire in this remote hamlet. The makeshift sanctuary littered with muddy boots and scorched clothing belonged to a cult whose indigenous members professed to be “anointed by God” to sacrifice non-believers, even if the heretics were members of their own families, people in El Terrón say. Seven villagers were slain by the cult last Monday, while 14 more were rescued the next day by police who found them bound and beaten in the temple, authorities have said.


  • Iraq protests swell with youth angry at slow pace of reform Sat, 18 Jan 2020 19:06:47 -0500

    Iraq protests swell with youth angry at slow pace of reformIraqi youth angry at their government's glacial pace of reform ramped up their protests on Sunday, sealing streets with burning tyres and threatening further escalation unless their demands are met. The rallies demanding an overhaul of the ruling system have rocked Shiite-majority parts of Iraq since October, but had thinned out in recent weeks amid rising Iran-US tensions. Protesters had feared Iraq would be caught in the middle of the geopolitical storm and last Monday gave the government one week to make progress on reform pledges.


  • Some Strategists Say Get Ready for ‘Peak Decade’ Sat, 18 Jan 2020 19:01:00 -0500

    Some Strategists Say Get Ready for ‘Peak Decade’(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to receive the Davos Diary, a special daily newsletter that will run from Jan. 20-24.Amid the Alpine peaks of the Swiss resort of Davos in the week ahead, politicians, investors and executives will be busy debating whether we are witnessing peaks in key drivers of the world economy.From oil demand, car production and the proportion of young people as a share of the population, to less-measurable themes like globalization, inequality and central banking power, there’s an argument each will ebb in the 2020’s.Strategists at Bank of America Corp. are already telling clients to brace for a “ground-breaking ‘peak decade’” that will disrupt business and investing. Ian Bremmer, a delegate at the World Economy Forum’s annual meeting and founder of Eurasia Group, describes this year as a “tipping point.”The theme is captured throughout the Davos program, which contains multiple panels on “stakeholder capitalism” and tackling inequality. Participants will also discuss the future of globalization and whether central banks are out of ammunition.Here are the hot talking points:PEAK GLOBALIZATION?The era of people, goods and money flowing increasingly unchecked around the world may have past its high point as governments pursue protectionism and erect more obstacles to migration. Already there are around 77 physical barriers delineating international borders compared with 15 in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall, according to Bank of America. The World Trade Organization calculates the pace of growth in international commerce fell below the rate of economic expansion in 2019 for the fifth time since the financial crisis. Foreign direct investment inflows have been on the decline since 2015, says the United Nations.The U.S.-China trade war is at the center of the shift. But even with the signing of an interim deal, the Peterson Institute for International Economics reckons the average U.S. tariff on imports from China is still 19.3% versus 3.1% at the start of 2018.Away from Beijing, Trump is also seeking to remodel the World Trade Organization and potentially clamp down on European auto exports. The U.K. still needs to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union.Still, the continued development of the digital economy, rising tourism and mounting reliance of companies on revenues generated outside their home market provide room for confidence globalization is evolving rather than ending.PEAK CAPITALISM?JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon and BlackRock Inc. Founder Laurence Fink, both of whom will be in Davos, are among those who have entered the debate over whether companies should better weigh stakeholders such as customers and employees, a departure from the decades-old shareholder-first mindset.Behind the shift: the rise of populism, concern wages aren’t keeping up with assets such as equities and fears over climate change.The maturing millennial generation are a driving force too. When making investment decisions, 87% of those born between 1981 and 1996 believe environmental, social and governance factors are important, according to Bank of America.PEAK INEQUALITY?The pressure to reduce inequality will become more urgent this decade as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals approach their 2030 deadline. 193 governments have signed up to 17 goals, 169 targets and 304 indicators on how to end poverty, clean up the environment and share prosperity for all.There has already been some progress. Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, last year’s winners of the Nobel Prize for economics, estimate the average income of the world’s bottom 50% of earners also almost doubled since 1980.But William Gale of the Brookings Institution notes the 400 richest Americans owned 3.26% of wealth in 2018, up from 0.93% in 1982. The top 1% also paid about a third of their income in tax in both 1979 and 2019, he says. Expect such numbers to be bandied about ahead of the U.S. election in November, with some Democrat candidates promoting higher corporate and wealth taxes.PEAK YOUTH?For the first time, there are now more seniors than children in the world and that trend is set to escalate, according to the UN.The global fertility rate already halved from 5 children per woman in 1955 and the average life expectancy has increased from 31 in 1900 to 72 today and is tipped to reach 83 by the end of this century.While another 1 billion people are expected on the planet by 2030, the demographic mix will be starkly different. For starters, the number of those aged 65 or older will outnumber children under the age of 5.The growth of the working age population is also set to slow, straining pensions and healthcare resources. In a recent paper, Stanford University Professor Charles Jones said there is a “distinct possibility” that global population will decline rather than stabilize in the long run, threatening economic growth.PEAK CLIMATE CHANGE?The world faces a sweeping series of climate-related tipping points -- from melting ice caps to droughts and dying coral reefs. Nature magazine in November collated the risks, which they described as a climate emergency that will compel political and economic actions on emissions. 21 of the hottest years on record came in the last quarter century.“We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk towards zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best,” the article’s authors wrote.The international effort to rein in fossil fuel pollution took a knock in December after marathon UN talks watered down language on issues they had agreed on in previous years.PEAK OIL DEMAND?Hotter temperatures have put new scrutiny on the world’s energy mix.This means renewable energy like solar and wind, plus electric vehicles are going to soar up the policy agenda at the cost of fossil fuel gurgling vehicles. Big Oil executives believe that peak oil demand is increasingly likely in the late 2030s.For example, Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer and the most profitable company in the planet, said on its initial public offering prospectus that oil demand may peak around 2035, with demand “leveling off.”PEAK CARS?The 1.3 billion vehicles on the roads today are probably the most there will ever be. Megacities will house around two thirds of the global population by mid-century, cutting back on the need for expensive cars.Evolving urban architecture will also increasingly constrain car usage. The shift is already underway in mature markets. Only 26% of U.S. 16-year-olds earned a driver’s license in 2017 compared with almost half just 36 years ago, according to Sivak Applied Research. Even if overall car sales remain robust, cheaper technology such as robotaxis and developments such as ride-sharing stand to take the shine off their attractiveness.PEAK CENTRAL BANKS?Central banks may have rescued the world from depression in the wake of the financial crisis, but their ability to turnaround their economies from here is limited after what Bank of America estimates is more than 700 interest rate cuts and around $12 trillion in quantitative easing since 2009.Negative interest rates are already being blamed for hurting banks, while demographic shifts, record debt levels, technological disruption and bank deleveraging all sap the potency of monetary policy. That leaves politicians under pressure to loosen fiscal policy the next time trouble hits the world economy.\--With assistance from Zoe Schneeweiss.To contact the reporter on this story: Enda Curran in Hong Kong at ecurran8@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net, Malcolm ScottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Libya oil exports blocked, raising stakes for Berlin peace summit Sat, 18 Jan 2020 18:55:56 -0500

    Libya oil exports blocked, raising stakes for Berlin peace summitForces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar blocked oil exports from the war-ravaged country's main ports Saturday, raising the stakes on the eve of an international summit aimed at bringing peace to the North African nation. The move to cripple the country's main income source was a protest against Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up Haftar's rival, the head of Tripoli's UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj. It comes ahead of Sunday's conference in Berlin that will see the United Nations try to extract a pledge from world leaders to stop meddling in the Libyan conflict -- be it through supplying troops, weapons or financing.


  • Trump team, House managers trade sharp views on impeachment Sat, 18 Jan 2020 18:54:53 -0500

    Trump team, House managers trade sharp views on impeachmentPresident Donald Trump's legal team issued a fiery response ahead of opening arguments in his impeachment trial Saturday while House Democrats laid out their case in forceful fashion, saying the president had betrayed public trust with behavior that was the “worst nightmare" of the founding fathers. The dueling statements previewed arguments both sides intend to make once Trump's impeachment trial begins in earnest on Tuesday. The House’s 111-page brief pulled together the private and public testimony of a dozen witnesses -- ambassadors and national security officials at high levels of government -- who raised concerns about the president's actions with Ukraine.


  • Boy arrested after shooting that killed 4 in small Utah town Sat, 18 Jan 2020 18:29:27 -0500

    Boy arrested after shooting that killed 4 in small Utah townA boy armed with a gun killed three children and a woman inside a Utah home, then accompanied a fifth victim to a hospital, where he was arrested, police said Saturday. Police were still trying to piece together who's who and what happened leading up to Friday night's shooting in Grantsville. “We're trying to make certain that we verify people's relationships among the deceased and the survivor,” Grantsville Police Cpl.


  • Biden rips Sanders campaign for Social Security attacks Sat, 18 Jan 2020 18:15:23 -0500

    Biden rips Sanders campaign for Social Security attacksJoe Biden has called for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign to “disown” what he calls “doctored video” that some Sanders supporters say shows the former vice president endorsing Republican calls to cut Social Security and Medicare. “There’s a little doctored video going around ... put out by one of Bernie’s people,” Biden told supporters Saturday in Indianola, Iowa, referring to a 2018 speech in which Biden discussed then-House Speaker Paul Ryan saying rising deficit demanded action on the popular entitlement programs.


  • Newly released texts tie Nunes aide closer to Ukraine plot Sat, 18 Jan 2020 17:25:38 -0500

    Newly released texts tie Nunes aide closer to Ukraine plotNew documents released by House Democrats suggest that Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, was more deeply involved than was previously known in efforts by allies of President Donald Trump to dig up dirt in Ukraine on former Vice President Joe Biden. Democrats on the Intelligence Committee released a trove of text messages, photos and other documents Friday night as part of the impeachment inquiry. The materials were provided to the House by Lev Parnas, a Florida businessman who worked with Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to try to persuade the Ukrainian government to launch an investigation into Biden.


  • Discovery of unused disaster supplies angers Puerto Rico Sat, 18 Jan 2020 16:56:18 -0500

    Discovery of unused disaster supplies angers Puerto RicoPeople in a southern Puerto Rico city discovered a warehouse filled with water, cots and other unused emergency supplies, then set off a social media uproar Saturday when they broke in to retrieve goods as the area struggles to recover from a strong earthquake. With anger spreading in the U.S. territory after video of the event in Ponce appeared on Facebook, Gov. Wanda Vázquez quickly fired the director of the island's emergency management agency. The governor said she had ordered an investigation after learning the emergency supplies had been piled in the warehouse since Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico in September 2017.


  • National Archives `wrong' to blur images of anti-Trump signs Sat, 18 Jan 2020 16:12:28 -0500

    National Archives `wrong' to blur images of anti-Trump signsThe National Archives said Saturday it made a mistake when it blurred images of anti-Trump signs used in an exhibit on women's suffrage. The archives said the photo in question is not one of its archival records, but rather was licensed for use as a promotional graphic in the exhibit. The exhibit about the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, blurred some anti-Trump messages on protest signs in a photo of the 2017 Women's March in Washington.


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