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World Monthly Headline News December 2019 Page 1

Polls show that 19 percent of Britons have a positive opinion of Trump, while more than two thirds say they have no confidence he will do the right thing.
By Alexander Smith

LONDON — During previous elections in the United Kingdom, political parties have actively courted the endorsement of the president of the United States. But Donald Trump, in town for a NATO meeting on Tuesday, is so unpopular in the U.K. that his traditional enemies are hoping he will say something — anything — to denigrate them or the causes they support.

The president's visit comes ahead of a pivotal nationwide election on Dec. 12 that could shape the U.K.'s Brexit path for decades to come. "Obviously he is very unpopular with British people, and I don't think he does Boris Johnson any favors," said Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former spokesman for opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is seeking to unseat Johnson as prime minister.

"I don't think Trump is proficient enough not to land Boris Johnson in it by accidentally saying something" damaging about the National Health Service, Zarb-Cousin added, referring to Britain's publicly funded health care system, which has become a central issue in the campaign. Brits have reason to expect fireworks.

During past visits, Trump has made controversial comments about the NHS, repeatedly insulted London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, and given a surprise newspaper interview humiliating his host, then-Prime Minister Theresa May. Meanwhile, just 19 percent of Brits have a positive opinion of Trump, according to the pollster YouGov. More than two thirds say they have no confidence in him to do the right thing, a study by the Pew Research Center found last year.

By Tom O'Connor

Iran's top judiciary has ordered the United States to pay up $130 billion in damages about a year after the United Nation's top court ruled that President Donald Trump's administration should ease sanctions against Tehran to ensure the continued flow of humanitarian goods.

Iranian Judiciary spokesperson Gholam Hossein Esmaeili told a press conference Tuesday that the country's courts responded to up to 360 complaints filed by ordinary Iranian citizens who have allegedly suffered from the tight restrictions imposed on the Islamic Republic since the U.S.' decision last year to exit a 2015 multilateral nuclear deal. He accused Washington of having committed "crimes against the nation," according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.

The spat is only the latest in a decades-long series of legal battles between the U.S. and Iran, foes since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the latter's West-backed monarchy in favor of the clerical leadership in charge today.

Such measures taken at home and abroad have often turned out to be largely symbolic as the two countries refuse to recognize unfavorable rulings, though the U.S. does have a history of paying out—but never apologizing—in response to its wrongdoing.

By Tom O'Connor

The United States' top diplomat has bragged about the government's decision to defy an international court's attempts to investigate potential U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

In a speech delivered Tuesday to veterans at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listed the various ways that President Donald Trump's administration has instilled a sense of "Americanism" in his foreign policy. In addition to taking a hard-line against adversaries abroad, Pompeo said that "Americanism means taking care of our own" overseas.

"We've stopped international courts from prosecuting our service members," Pompeo said. "It was an outrage."

The remark was a likely reference to the Hague's International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda ill-fated attempts "to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity" committed by all sides of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, including by U.S. troops, allied Afghan forces and their mutual foe, the Taliban Islamist militant group.

By Ravi Ubha, CNN

(CNN) Already trying to hold off his political rivals a week before the UK's general election, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced criticism from one of the leading officials in European football for past comments calling women in burqas "letterboxes." Speaking to the Daily Mirror at a time when racist incidents in football matches are seemingly on the rise, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said politicians were partly to blame.

"When you see high politicians, Prime Ministers -- when you see presidents of Republics who are racists, who were sexist, you see that something is wrong," Ceferin told the newspaper. "Because if you see an idiot from the streets shouting you say: 'Okay, put him in prison and that's it.' "But when politicians start speaking they are not punished. And we have that in Europe a lot more and more ... " Johnson -- the Conservative leader who has seen his party's lead in the polls lessen -- wrote in a column for the Daily Telegraph last year that it was "absolutely ridiculous" women went around looking like "letterboxes." The UK's Press Gazette reported that in the immediate aftermath there was an increase in anti-Muslim incidents.

Heard on All Things Considered
By Jane Arraf

Kurds in Syria have been U.S. allies but now they're making a deal with Russia. Russian flags are flying in Kurdish territory, a sign that the Kurds want a hedge in case the U.S. pulls out.


America's allies in the fight against ISIS, the Kurds in Syria, have opened the door to a new friend - Russia. Russian troops and flags moved into Kurdish territory over the weekend. That's a part of Syria where U.S. troops also work with the Kurds. After months of mixed signals from the Trump administration, the Kurds seem to be hedging their bets on continued U.S. support.

NPR's Jane Arraf is in northeastern Syria. She joins me now. Hi, Jane.


KELLY: Hi. I know you've been out and about reporting today. Were you actually able to see these Russian flags flying? What's it look like?

ARRAF: We actually were able to see them on the side of the road just on the outskirts of this town called Amuda, which is a couple of miles from the Turkish border but outside of what's widely considered to be the agreement for Turkish-Russian patrols. So earlier today, the commander of Syrian Kurdish forces, General Mazloum Abdi, announced that he had reached this agreement. And it's with the commander of Russian forces in Syria for the deployment of Russian troops in three new areas, including this one.

And so we're going down the highway. And on one side, there is now a collection of buildings that has a Russian flag flying. And not only the flag, there were soldiers on the roof. And the weird thing about this also is, after driving past that new Russian base, we turned down a highway and there is a U.S. convoy - armored vehicles flying the American flag because, although the numbers of U.S. forces have been reduced here, they're not entirely gone. There's still 400 to 500 of them. So it makes for a very interesting space here.

Kostiantyn Kulyk, one of Giuliani’s earliest contacts in Ukraine, was given a dismissal notice last week
by Igor Derysh

A Ukrainian prosecutor who aided Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s search for damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden was among hundreds of prosecutors fired in a sweeping anti-corruption purge. Kostiantyn Kulyk, one of Giuliani’s earliest contacts in Ukraine, was given a dismissal notice last week after failing to show up for an exam that was part of a review process for prosecutors held over from the previous administration, The Washington Post reported. More than 500 prosecutors have been fired as part of the review.

Kulyk has denied meeting Giuliani, but his former associates say he prepared a seven-page dossier, which was passed along to Giuliani, according to The Post. The former prosecutor later appeared in a report by The Hill’s John Solomon, to whom Giuliani fed dubious claims to fuel the debunked narrative that Biden had a prosecutor terminated while he was investigating a Ukrainian firm that employed his son. Kulyk also helped fuel what former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch described as a Giuliani-led smear campaign to get her fired. The prosecutor told Solomon that Yovanovitch blocked him and other officials from getting a visa to travel to the U.S. to share information about his findings.

Giuliani told The Blaze host Glenn Beck last month that he used Solomon to push the claims in the U.S. Senior State Department official George Kent also testified last month that Solomon’s reporting, “if not entirely made up in full cloth,” was filled with “non-truths and non-sequiturs.” Kulyk was just one Ukrainian prosecutor with whom Giuliani dealt. Former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko, who was fired from his position earlier this year and is now under a criminal investigation for corruption, fed Giuliani and Solomon false information about Biden and Yovanovitch. He has since retracted his claims and acknowledged that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden.

Documents obtained by media outlets last week showed that Giuliani was negotiating a contract with Lutsenko, which would have paid Giuliani upwards of $500,000 to represent him even as he was purportedly representing President Donald Trump in his search for damaging information on his opponents. The draft contracts included proposed payments to Trump-allied attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing. A separate draft agreement called for Toensing to be paid $25,000 a month to represent former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

Shokin is the prosecutor at the heart of Trump’s conspiracy theory about Biden. During the Obama years, Biden pressed for Ukraine to fire Shokin, because multiple western countries complained that he was not pursuing corruption investigations. Trump and his allies have claimed that Biden pushed for Shokin’s firing while the prosecutor was investigating Burisma, a company whose board included his son. But that investigation, which was not connected to Biden, had already been shut down at the time of Shokin’s firing.

By Joseph Zeballos-Roig

President Trump announced on Monday that he's imposing new steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina. It's a stunning move that opens new fronts and widens his global trade war into two of the largest economies in South America.  In a tweet, Trump blamed both nations for devaluing their currencies, and hurting American farmers in the process. Weaker currencies would make Argentine and Brazilian goods cheaper on international markets compared to US farm goods.

Economists, though, reject the idea that Argentina and Brazil have tried artificially weakening their currency. And they weren't highlighted on an annual Treasury Department report released in May which officially designates nations as currency manipulators.  Some have said the President Trump is trying to dig himself out of a hole in the trade war with China instead, seeking to pressure Buenos Aires and Brasilia into limiting their cooperation with Beijing as it buys more of their goods.

But he’s still no champion of the alliance.
By Alex Ward

President Donald Trump fancies himself a marketing genius. On Tuesday morning, he undertook one of his greatest rebranding exercises of all time: making himself into a strong champion of NATO. Last week, ahead of the alliance’s 70th anniversary bash in London, French President Emmanuel Macron gave an interview to the Economist in which he said that Europe could no longer rely on the US to defend it. “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO,” Macron said.

That apparently didn’t sit well with Trump — the man who once called the alliance “obsolete” — and led him to take the unusual position of supporting NATO. “Nobody needs [NATO] more than France, and that’s why I think when France makes a statement like they made about NATO, that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make,” Trump said alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in London. “That is a very, very nasty statement to essentially, including them, 28 countries.”

The alliance “has a great purpose,” the president continued, “especially with the fact that NATO is becoming much more flexible in terms of what it looked at.” Since before Trump was even elected, experts have openly worried that his skepticism of NATO could lead to its dissolution. Russia would take advantage of that weakness, and the security guarantees America has given its European allies for decades would fade away. But Trump in recent days has seemingly become a NATO fan. The day before the NATO birthday celebration in London, the president tweeted that alliance members have upped their defense spending due to his insistence.

Iraq's parliament has approved the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi following weeks of unrest. It is unclear who will take over from Mr Abdul Mahdi. The parliament speaker said President Barham Saleh would be asked to name a new prime minister. Meanwhile the Pope has become the latest figure to condemn security forces' use of lethal force.

Some 400 people have been killed since protests began in Baghdad and other cities at the start of October. Thousands more have been injured. Iraqis are demanding jobs, an end to corruption and better public services. On Sunday clashes continued in cities including Baghdad and Najaf.

By Rachel Frazin

The Taliban has said that it is ready for peace talks with the U.S. but also said that its position is the same as it was when talks were canceled in September, after President Trump said the militant group wants a cease-fire. Before the talks collapsed, the U.S. and Taliban were poised to sign a draft agreement saying that a possible cease-fire would be determined by later negotiations with Afghanistan's government, according to The Washington Post.

The Taliban told the Post in a statement that this has not changed. "We are ready to talk, but we have the same stance to resume the talks from where it was suspended," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. A spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the newspaper that Trump's trip to Afghanistan this week was “important” but that “we will have to see” whether it changed anything.

“It is too early to comment on any changes or any perceived changes,” said spokesman Sediq Seddiqi. A senior administration official told The Post that they are "restarting talks" with the Taliban.  

Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech has been charged with complicity in the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.

He pleaded not guilty to that charge and four others others including membership of a criminal gang. Relatives of the assassinated blogger were present in the court in Valletta. The investigation into Caruana Galizia's death has rocked the island's government. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is under pressure to resign.

His chief aide, Keith Schembri, quit this week amid reports he was being questioned by police, while Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi also resigned and Economy Minister Chris Cardona took the decision to suspend himself. Three people are awaiting trial for Caruana Galizia's murder in a car bombing but the police investigation is now focusing on who ordered the killing and why.

Who is Yorgen Fenech? He has been repeatedly questioned over the killing since trying to leave the island on his yacht on 20 November, and sought a pardon in return for providing information but his request was rejected. Maltese media allege he was familiar with Melvin Theuma, a taxi driver with links to criminal enterprises who has been described in local media as a potential "middleman" in the murder.

Friday afternoon's stabbing attack left two people dead at the hands of a man released from prison last year after a previous terrorism conviction.
By Linda Givetash

LONDON — A deadly terror attack struck at the heart of the British capital just weeks before a crucial national election, refocusing the campaign on security issues as voters were set to head to the polls. That was 2017. But two years later London Bridge was again the scene of tragedy, bravery and the center of national debate in the U.K. this weekend.

Friday afternoon's stabbing attack left two people dead at the hands of a man released from prison last year after a previous terrorism conviction. Political leaders vowed to briefly pause campaigning, but by late Saturday it was clear security would — at least temporarily — become the focus of the election.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to take a tougher stance on crime and security if re-elected. Writing in an op-ed in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Johnson called for the reversal of a law that allows serious offenders to be released from prison early and sought to blame the opposition Labour Party for the policy. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticized the government, which has been in power since 2010.

"There's got to be a very full investigation," he said, though he declined to join Johnson's sweeping call for longer prison terms.

By Stephen Castle

LONDON — It was midafternoon when Mike Finnerty, who sells cheese at his Borough Market shop just south of London Bridge, realized that something was wrong. An unusual flow of people had suddenly gathered in front of his stall, he said, and they seemed “alarmed.”

What he did not know was that a man dressed in black and armed with knives had gone on a murderous rampage in a grand meeting venue called Fishmongers’ Hall on the opposite side of the bridge, just north of the Thames River. But Mr. Finnerty sensed the danger on Friday, he would later tell the BBC and write on Twitter.

So he and another employee rushed some customers — a couple from Vancouver and a young American man — into a cheese refrigerator and locked the door. Then he called the police. The “operator said it was an attack and not to move,” he wrote. He said he could hear shouting outside the door, but he and the group huddled together in “pretty close quarters.”

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