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World Monthly Headline News September 2019 Page 4

By Evan Perez and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump pressed Australia's Prime Minister during a recent phone call to help Attorney General William Barr with his review of the origins of the Russia probe, according to an official familiar with the call. The call happened with Barr's knowledge and at his suggestion, says the official. The New York Times first reported this call. The official notes this is seeking assistance with the review, which is being conducted by US Attorney John Durham, and so is seen as appropriate and completely different from the Ukraine matter. Justice Department officials say that it is appropriate for the attorney general and the President to seek help from foreign countries with an investigation of 2016 election interference. Durham is examining what intelligence came from other countries that propelled the investigation that eventually became the Trump-Russia probe. An official briefed on the matter said the attorney general has asked the President to request the help of several countries, including Australia, with the Durham review. Officials believe that requesting foreign help with a retrospective look at 2016 election interference differs vastly from Trump's request made in the Ukraine call transcript released last week. A rough transcript released by the White House shows Trump repeatedly pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump's potential 2020 political rival, and his son Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden. more...

By William James, Kylie MacLellan
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - As Britain’s governing Conservatives hold their annual conference in Manchester there is one riddle which has echoed around the bars and restaurants - how will Prime Minister Boris Johnson fulfill his pledge to deliver Brexit on Oct. 31? Johnson opened the four-day event by repeating a pledge to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal, but there is a catch. A law passed by parliament says that if he fails to strike a deal and get it approved by lawmakers by Oct. 19, he must request a delay. So how he might deliver on his promise in that case is baffling his party, his government and his opponents. Is he bluffing over a no-deal Brexit or does he have a masterstroke to take the United Kingdom out of the EU in just a month’s time? “Get Brexit done” is the slogan of the conference, yet Johnson has refused to shed any light on the question that could define the United Kingdom’s most significant geopolitical move since World War Two. The question - which could send shockwaves through financial markets, undermine global growth and divide the West - has been asked repeatedly of panelists at events on the sidelines of the conference. Few have an answer, even ministers. After assuring the world that a no-deal Brexit was still possible on Oct. 31, finance minister Sajid Javid, when asked directly if he knew the Brexit plan, said: “I think I do.” He didn’t elucidate. The minister responsible for no-deal planning, Michael Gove, said such a scenario was still possible but when asked how that could happen, he referred to an aphorism attributed to Yogi Berra. more...

By ANGELA CHARLTON and DMYTRO VLASOV - Associated Press
Ukraine's president says his country can't be pressured into opening an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son. And both Ukraine and rival Russia are pushing back at the White House for releasing a transcript of a private phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and another world leader. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is trying to contain damage at home and abroad after the world learned last week that Trump pushed him to "look into" Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a troubled Ukrainian gas company. "We cannot be ordered to do anything. We are an independent country," Zelenskiy told reporters Monday during a visit to a Ukrainian military base, when asked about Trump's request. "We are open, we are ready to investigate, but it has nothing to do with me. Our independent law enforcement agencies are ready to investigate any violations of the law," he said. He didn't elaborate on what could trigger an eventual probe. The Ukrainian president reiterated his criticism of the White House decision to release a rough transcript of the July phone call in which Trump discussed the Bidens with Zelenskiy. The call sparked a Congressional impeachment inquiry now dominating the U.S. political landscape. Zelenskiy said Ukraine would probably not release its own transcript of the call, because "there are certain nuances and things that I think would be wrong to publish." The Kremlin — accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election in Trump's favor — appears to agree. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Monday that transcripts of calls between him and Trump can only be published by mutual accord. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "diplomatic practice doesn't envisage such publications." The political furor over the Trump-Zelenskiy call has come as a severe test for Zelenskiy, a comedian who promised to uproot Ukraine's endemic corruption and end fighting with Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east. The transcript portrays Zelenskiy as flattering Trump and trying to stay in his good graces. more...

Germany's first mass lawsuit begins as 450,000 owners of diesel Volkswagen cars take on the company. They argue they are owed compensation for being sold cars based on misleading emissions data. The scandal has already cost VW €30bn (£26.6bn). It has faced class action claims in the US and Australia, but this is the first time Germans could pursue group claims since the law was changed last year. This trial will settle points of law and the claimants will later be able to file follow-up claims for compensation if they are successful. The trial, at Braunschweig Higher Regional Court, about 20 miles from VW's Wolfsburg head office, is likely to last years, however. Part of VW's settlements so far include a deal to buy back 500,000 cars in the US, where it has agreed to pay more than $25bn (£20bn). In Australia the company will pay 127 million Australian dollars (£70m) to compensate owners, paying them A$1,400 apiece. Last week it emerged that three current and former Volkswagen executives were charged with market manipulation in connection with the diesel emissions scandal. Chief executive Herbert Diess, chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch and ex-boss Martin Winterkorn, did not inform investors early enough about the financial fallout, German prosecutors allege. In 2015, the firm admitted using illegal software to cheat on emissions tests. VW said it was confident those allegations would prove groundless. This may be a landmark lawsuit - and in terms of the sheer number of claimants, it's certainly attention grabbing. But it may not be the biggest concern for Volkswagen right now. Unless there is a settlement, the legal process is likely to take take years - VW expects it to take at least four. Even if they win, car owners will have to go back to court to get compensation. more...

Jihadists have attacked a military base where US soldiers train commandos in Somalia, causing casualties, reports say. Local residents reported heavy blasts and gunfire at Baledogle airport in the southern Lower Shabelle region. The al-Shabab militant group said it had carried out the attack, using a car bomb to blast through the gates before sending its fighters inside. Military officials say the jihadists have been pushed back. Al-Shabab said in a statement it had launched the raid and that it was ongoing. "After breaching the perimeters of the heavily fortified base, the mujahideen [holy warriors] stormed the military complex, engaging the crusaders in an intense firefight." more...

Mohammed bin Salman blames Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil fields but says he prefers peaceful solution to crisis.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince warned in an interview aired on Sunday that a military confrontation with Iran would collapse the global economy, adding that he would prefer a political and peaceful solution to a military one. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the US-based CBS programme "60 Minutes" that crude prices could spike to "unimaginably high numbers" in case of an armed conflict. "The region represents about 30 percent of the world's energy supplies, about 20 percent of global trade passages, about four percent of the world GDP," the crown prince, also known as MBS, said. "Imagine all of these three things stop. This means a total collapse of the global economy, and not just Saudi Arabia or the Middle East countries." He urged the world to take "strong and firm action to deter Iran" and prevent the situation from further escalation. MBS also said that he agrees with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's conclusion that the September 14 attacks on the kingdom's oil facilities were an act of war by Iran. The United States, European powers and Saudi Arabia have also blamed the attacks on Iran. Tehran has strongly denied any involvement, demanding proof, while Yemen's armed group, the Houthis, has claimed responsibility. Diplomatic solution. In the same interview, MBS, however, said that he prefers a peaceful resolution because it "is much better than the military one." more...

A Ukrainian ex-prosecutor general has told the BBC there is no reason for his country to investigate President Donald Trump's political rival Joe Biden. Yuriy Lutsenko said any investigation into Mr Biden and his son would have to start in the US. "I don't know any reason to investigate Joe Biden or Hunter Biden according to Ukrainian law," he said. Mr Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate the pair prompted an impeachment inquiry by the Democrats. A transcript of a call Mr Trump made to Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky on 25 July shows he urged him to investigate discredited corruption allegations against Mr Biden and his son. Mr Trump and his allies have been suggesting that Mr Biden, as Barack Obama's vice-president, encouraged the firing of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he had been investigating Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, which employed Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden became a director at Burisma in 2014, while his father held a key role in US policy towards Ukraine. Mr Biden is currently frontrunner to be the Democrat to take on Mr Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. What did Lutsenko say? Speaking to BBC Kiev correspondent Jonah Fisher, Mr Lutsenko - who succeeded Mr Shokin and stood down last month - said there was no plan to open the investigation into Burisma, and that any investigation into Hunter Biden would have to start in the US. "It is the jurisdiction of the US," he said, adding that any "possible embezzlement" at Burisma "happened two or three years before Hunter Biden became a member of the board". more...

(Reuters) - The United States does not currently plan to stop Chinese companies from listing on U.S. exchanges, Bloomberg reported on Saturday, citing a U.S. Treasury official. "The administration is not contemplating blocking Chinese companies from listing shares on U.S. stock exchanges at this time," Bloomberg quoted bloom.bg/2obHkDb Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley as saying. more...

People take to streets of Sydney, Taipei and Tokyo as part of global day of action in support of Hong Kong protesters.
Thousands of people have marched in cities in Australia, Taiwan and Japan to show their support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.  The "anti-totalitarianism" rallies on Sunday were part of a coordinated day of global protests, with solidarity marches to denounce "Chinese tyranny" planned in 60 cities across the world. The global day of action comes as Beijing prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on Tuesday. The demonstrations kicked off in Australia's Sydney, with more than 1,000 black-clad protesters taking to the streets, chanting "fight for freedom" and "stand with Hong Kong". In the cities of Melbourne and Brisbane, protesters sang "Glory to Hong Kong", the anthem of protesters in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory, according to videos posted on social media. Hong Kong's "anti-totalitarianism" march, meanwhile, devolved into violence, with police firing water cannon, rubber bullets and tear gas at petrol-bomb and brick-throwing protesters. The demonstrations were sparked in June by a now-shelved extradition bill, but have since swelled into an anti-China movement. Beijing has denounced the protests, and accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of fanning anti-China sentiment. more...

TEL AVIV (BLOOMBERG) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will "return his mandate" to President Reuven Rivlin after being unable to form a government, according to a tweet by the Jerusalem Post's chief political correspondent. Gil Hoffman said in a post that he will make the move "barring a change of heart" by Benny Gantz's Blue and White party on letting Netanyahu start as prime minister and bring allies with him into the coalition. Netanyahu was tapped last week to form Israel's next government with no clear indication he would be able to pull that off and end weeks of political stalemate. The decision late on Wednesday (Sept 25) by President Reuven Rivlin to hand Netanyahu first crack at building a coalition in parliament granted the Israeli leader a political lifeline a week before he faces a crucial hearing on the corruption allegations that have clouded the last three years of his tenure. Blue and White, which won the most seats in elections earlier this month, rejected demands from Netanyahu to form a unity government under his leadership with his right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies, according to the AP. Gantz has not ruled out an alliance with Likud in but said he would not do so with Netanyahu facing indictment. more...

Prominent figures on Russian TV have been openly putting out the same ideas that we now know the American president was privately pursuing.
By Julia Davis
Elements of the bombshell whistleblower report outlining various aims pursued by the Trump administration with respect to Ukraine keep connecting back to Russia. Several of the reported objectives of President Donald Trump, his administration officials, and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, would benefit the Kremlin and not the United States or its national security. Namely, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was urged to make a deal with Putin, pressured “to play ball” with respect to providing or manufacturing compromising materials about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, and essentially tasked with concocting “the evidence” to disprove the well-established fact that the Democratic National Committee server was hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016. The unconscionable demand for Ukraine to make “a deal” with an invader— which has annexed and occupied its territory and continues to fuel an armed conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives—would mean a surrender of Ukraine’s national interests for the benefit of the Kremlin. It would also lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. Casting doubt on Russia’s involvement in the hack of the DNC server would potentially lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its election-meddling and other malign activities. Attacking the credibility of Biden, frequently described by Kremlin-controlled state television as “Trump’s most dangerous rival,” would also benefit Putin, who openly admitted that he wanted President Trump to be elected in 2016. That preference remains intact, in spite—or perhaps because—of multiple missteps by America’s bumbling commander in chief. Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of Russia’s most popular Sunday news program, Vesti Nedeli, urged Trump to keep digging in Ukraine for “the sweetest” kompromat of all: “Proving that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the U.S. elections.” The pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden has been not only from Trump, but also from the Kremlin. One of the expectations, voiced on Russian state-television channel Rossiya 24 by analyst Alexander Kareevsky, was that taking down Biden would inevitably lead to the “revelation”—in fact, an outrageous fantasy—that the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was ordered by the Obama administration and carried out by Ukraine, not Russia. In another fantasy, pundits on Russian state television continually assert that Trump’s impeachment is all but “impossible.” In the meantime, the impeachment fallout is beneficial for the Kremlin, creating a spectacle of unprecedented political turmoil in the United States while placing Ukraine in the untenable position of alienating both parties, as well as the country’s European allies, and distracting from Russian election interference and the imposition of any additional sanctions. more...

By John Bowden
Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif warned in an interview that the U.S. could not "finish" a war against Iran, while blaming U.S. intelligence agencies for a "cyber war" he said was being waged against Iran. In an interview airing Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," Javad Zarif urged the Trump administration against pursuing a military solution to conflicts with Iranian-backed forces in the Middle East. "There is a cyber war going on. The United States started that cyber war, with attacking our nuclear facilities in a very dangerous, irresponsible way that could've killed millions of people," Zarif said. "There is a cyber war and Iran is engaged in that cyber war," he continued. "Any war that the United States starts it won't be able to finish." Zarif's comments came after weeks of provocative actions in the Middle East that U.S. intelligence agencies have blamed on Iranian-backed Houthi forces, including attacks on Saudi oil facilities earlier this month and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone. Iranian forces also seized a British oil tanker in response to the seizure of an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar, which the U.S. and U.K. argued was bound for sanctioned Syrian forces under the control of Bashar al-Assad. more...

Nine American families told NBC News that they trusted a local banker in San Miguel de Allende only to find millions missing from their accounts.
By Lindsey Bomnin, Didi Martinez and Vicky Nguyen
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO — Not long after Kathy and Jim Machir retired nine years ago, they left San Diego for a new home along the cobblestoned streets of this vibrant mountain town four hours northwest of Mexico City. "We had been on vacation to San Miguel once and loved it," Jim Machir, now 72, said. San Miguel de Allende is famous for its colonial architecture, bustling art scene, mild climate and low cost of living. It has long been a magnet for American retirees, and more than 1,000 U.S. expats now call it home. The Machirs sold their house in the U.S. and used the proceeds to begin building a new house in San Miguel de Allende. But their retirement dream turned into a nightmare in December 2018 when they suddenly found themselves unable to pay their contractors. more...

Josiah Wilmoth
The Dow suddenly plunged during late-morning trading on Friday after Bloomberg published a report exposing that the Trump administration is debating a new policy that would ramp up pressure on the Chinese economy as the two countries prepare to return to the negotiating table. The policy, if enacted, would limit American investors’ access to the Chinese market, threatening the “goodwill” Beijing and Washington had exchanged in recent weeks. Dow Recoils as White House Mulls Trade War Escalations The Dow Jones Industrial Average and its fellow Wall Street stock indices quickly erased their daily gains in response to the report. The Dow, which had plowed toward a triple-digit rally to close the week in positive territory, briefly plunged into decline and now remains little changed for the day. At last check, the DJIA had gained 20.74 points or 0.08% to trade at 26,911.86. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq slid firmly into the red, falling 0.13% to 2,973.63 and 0.34% to 8,003.24. Bloomberg: Trump Admin Weighs Crippling Limits on Chinese Investment. The US stock market had enjoyed a relatively bullish morning session, at least until Bloomberg revealed a Trump administration plan to enhance pressure on a Chinese economy already rattled by sluggish growth and US tariffs. According to the report, White House officials are currently discussing strategies to limit US investment in China, which recently began removing limits on foreign investment to bolster its ailing market. At the federal level, the government could instruct pension funds to limit their exposure to the Chinese market. more...

The request for an investigation cites allegations that Jennifer Arcuri and her business received favorable treatment as a result of her friendship with Johnson.
By Linda Givetash
LONDON — Embattled British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing a potential probe into his alleged ties to a U.S. businesswoman. Authorities in London asked the country's police watchdog Friday to decide whether there are grounds to investigate Johnson for misconduct in public office. The referral was sent to the Independent Office for Police Conduct. It cites allegations that Jennifer Arcuri and her business received favorable treatment, including access to trade missions and sponsorship money, as a result of her friendship with Johnson while he served as mayor of London. "These are the ingredients of the offence of misconduct in a public office," said the Greater London Authority's monitoring office, which oversees the conduct of the city's government officials. "Subject to any explanation provided by you, these matters give rise to a suggestion that there has been a failure to safeguard the public purse and if so that amounts to a significant breach of public trust," the referral said. A spokesperson for Johnson told NBC News Saturday that "The Prime Minister as Mayor of London did a huge amount of work when selling our capital city around the world, beating the drum for London and the UK. Everything was done with propriety and in the normal way." Johnson's supporters denounce the referral as a politically motivated attack launched just before his ruling Conservative Party's annual conference. The city authority that launched the complaint is led by Mayor Sadiq Khan, a Labour Party official. The allegations were first raised by the British newspaper The Sunday Times last week. Arcuri told The Sunday Times: "Any grants received by my companies and any trade mission I joined were purely in respect of my role as a legitimate businesswoman." The newspaper added that she did not comment on the nature of her relationship with Johnson. more...

By Babak Dehghanpisheh
GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States sent a message to European leaders that it was willing to lift all sanctions on Iran, according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said he had rejected talks with Washington while punitive U.S. sanctions remained in place. Rouhani, speaking on his return from the United Nations General Assembly in New York said Germany, Britain and France had insisted on a joint meeting with U.S. officials. “The German chancellor, the prime minister of Britain and the president of France were in New York and all insisted that this meeting take place and America says that it will lift the sanctions,” Rouhani said, according to his official website. “It was up for debate what sanctions will be lifted and they (the United States) had said clearly that we will lift all sanctions,” his website quoted him as saying. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he had rejected Iran’s request to lift sanctions. “Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet. I said, of course, NO!” he wrote. According to Rouhani, France and Britain pressed him to meet Trump, with French President Emmanuel Macron warning him it would be a lost opportunity if he did not. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the Iranian leader should take the plunge. Iran has ruled out bilateral talks with the United States unless it returns to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, abandoned by Trump last year, and eases the crippling economic sanctions that he has since imposed on the Islamic Republic. Iran was ready for negotiations but not in an atmosphere of sanctions and pressure, Rouhani said. Rouhani did not meet Trump in New York and European and Gulf officials expect Washington to keep tightening the vice on Iran’s economy. The United States and Iran are at odds over a host of issues, including the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. accusations - denied by Tehran - that Iran attacked two Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14, and Iran’s detention of U.S. citizens on what the United States regards as spurious grounds. more...

Based on what we know so far, Trump and his top aides could be implicated in four different types of federal crimes.
By Ian Millhiser
The events of the past 48 hours bring up a simple question: Based on what we know about the Ukraine-Trump saga, could any of the key players be charged with a crime? Allegations of wrongdoing are flying around — a record of a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reads more like a mafia shakedown than a conversation between two world leaders. Trump asks Zelensky to do him a “favor,” i.e. dig up dirt on his political rival Joe Biden. Trump then suggested that Zelensky take this offline and talk with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and US Attorney William Barr about it. In the background, Trump had frozen American aid to Ukraine, a strong-arm move that some on the internet pointed out would make Tony Soprano proud. A day later, a whistleblower’s report was declassified and made available to the public. Among other things, the anonymous author said he feared that White House officials tried to conceal Trump’s conversation with Zelensky by placing the transcript of the call on a “separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature.” All of this was just in time for acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to spend much of his day Thursday being grilled by members of the House Intelligence Committee about whether he helped cover up this report. A lot of Americans seem to think this is bad stuff. Already polls show a spike in support for impeaching the president. But is any of it illegal? It’s worth noting that the House, which has the sole power to impeach a president, can do so without a finding of criminal wrongdoing by the president. In other words, a president who hasn’t violated the law can still be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a term that includes many actual federal crimes but that also includes what Alexander Hamilton described as “abuse or violation of some public trust.” That said, it’s nonetheless important to know if the president and his associates broke the law. I spoke with four legal experts about the developments in the whistleblower scandal so far. Based on those conversations and other analysis that’s been published so far, four areas of federal criminal law could be troublesome for Trump, Barr, and Giuliani based on what we know: statutes dealing with campaign finance, bribery, extortion, and obstruction of justice. Did Trump or his associates violate campaign finance law? Federal law makes it illegal to “solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation” from a foreign national. The question of whether or not the president ran afoul of that law certainly seems in play in light of what we saw in the transcript. For purposes of this statute, a “contribution or donation” is defined as “money” or another “thing of value.” So a prosecution of Trump would hinge upon whether the opposition research Trump sought on Biden constitutes such a “thing of value.” Barr and Giuliani, meanwhile, could be considered accomplices in Trump’s effort to obtain opposition research from Ukraine’s president. more...

By Kenneth Leung and Anna Kam and Helen Regan, CNN
Hong Kong (CNN)Hong Kong's embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam took part in a community dialogue session with members of the public on Thursday, the first such meeting since anti-government protests began 16 weeks ago. Lam, who has come in for intense criticism and anger for her handling of the widespread public and political unrest in the city, faced some of that emotion Thursday night as a small sample of citizens asked her questions and voiced their frustrations. "I understand that a lot of people have lost confidence in me," Lam said in her opening remarks. "No matter where you stand politically, I understand people are anxious, worried and maybe even angry." Outside the stadium where the event was being held, a few hundred protesters gathered and shouted slogans, calling on Lam to meet their five demands. Many saw the community dialogue as a government Public Relations stunt -- 20,000 people had applied to attend and only 150 were pre-selected in a lottery. "This is not a political or a PR show but to seek change. We hope this change will shape a better Hong Kong. While this change might be difficult, I believe we should start now," Lam said. "The dialogue is aimed so we can change, the aim to change is so Hong Kong, the city we love can become better." Of the 130 people that showed up, 70 were selected to ask questions -- and many of those vented their anger at Lam, asking her why she hadn't implemented an independent commission into alleged police brutality, calling on her to release the detained protesters and questioned police response into attacks in Yuen Long and other areas. Some called for her to step down, accusing her of being a puppet for the Chinese central government. "Hong Kong is like (it has been) diagnosed with cancer because of the chief executive," said one woman dressed in a black cardigan. "You say you want to listen to people's opinion, but many 1 million people come out to rally, the Lennon walls, strikes, civil disobedience movements. Those are the public opinions." Others spoke about the need for more public housing, as the unrest has expanded to include a range of demands tapping into longstanding frustrations over stalled political reform and economic injustice in Hong Kong. The city is the most expensive in the world and apartments can cost 21 times the average yearly wage. Lam later acknowledged the five protesters demands. "I believe citizens would agree that the public's demands are actually beyond the 'five demands,'" said the chief executive, referencing the five principle demands of the movement, which include an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, the release of all detained protesters, and greater democratic freedoms including universal suffrage. more...

Analysis by Nathan Hodge, CNN
Moscow (CNN) - US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Tuesday has set the stage for an intensely partisan fight in Washington. Regardless of the outcome, one clear winner seems to be emerging from scandal over Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that is engulfing the administration: Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin thus far has refrained from commenting on the Beltway political crisis. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesperson, said Tuesday Moscow was simply "observing another series of internal American political frictions," almost as if he were describing a new season of "House of Cards." But Putin is not a passive observer in the Ukraine drama. At the center of the political storm in Washington is a major allegation: That Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless it opened an investigation into Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and his son. We now know that Trump ordered a hold on nearly $400 million of military and security aid to Ukraine roughly one week before a call with Zelensky. While we can't read Putin's mind, we can safely guess that the news of a possible postponement on military assistance to Ukraine must have been welcome. "They are definitely [thinking] open the champagne, for them it is the best way to drive a wedge in our unique and I really mean unique, bipartisan support for Ukraine," former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told CNN. "The US for all the past five years has been the most important ally, not only in the sense of military aid, not only in the sense of pressure and sanctions but fundamentally leading the international community, so now the Russians should be crazy happy about it." For starters, it's worth remembering that Putin is on the opposite side of a proxy conflict with Zelensky. Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and has backed separatist rebels in the Donbas region of Ukraine's east. The burst of patriotic fervor that accompanied the annexation of Crimea gave Putin a massive popularity boost. And the so-called Crimea "reunification" appeared to be part of a larger project for the Kremlin leader: Counteracting the breakup of the Soviet Union, something Putin has called the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.
On many occasions, Putin has made it clear he does not consider Ukraine to be a legitimate state. more...

By Owen Daugherty
Iran is prepared to accept changes to the 2015 nuclear agreement and not seek nuclear weapons if the United States agrees to the deal and lifts sanctions, a spokesman for Iran said Wednesday. “If the sanctions are ended and there is a return to the [nuclear] accord, there is room for giving reassurances toward breaking the deadlock and the President has even a proposal for small changes in the accord,” Ali Rabiei said on state TV, according to Reuters. The news service added that Iran’s state-run Press TV said on Wednesday that Tehran would be willing to reenter the deal on the conditions of “early approval of an additional protocol by Iran’s parliament, nuclear deal approval by U.S. Congress, lifting of all sanctions by Washington.” The reports come as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly. President Trump withdrew from the Obama-era nuclear deal last year, calling its terms too friendly to Iran, which he accused of violating the accord. His administration has since implemented a series of sanctions against Tehran. Rouhani has declined to engage the U.S. in negotiations until some of the sanctions are lifted. more...

By Parisa Hafezi
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Washington’s policy of applying “maximum pressure” on Iran with wide-ranging sanctions has shredded the country’s oil revenues, sent its economy into recession and devalued its national currency. Yet Iran remains defiant in the face of U.S. efforts to compel it to accept tougher restrictions on its nuclear program and scale back support for proxy wars across the Middle East. Iranian officials, business people and analysts say the country is staying on its feet by stepping up exports of non-oil goods and increasing tax revenues, but most importantly resorting to bartering, smuggling and back-room deals. To circumvent U.S. banking and financial sanctions, Iran’s rulers have built up a network of traders, companies, exchange offices, and money collectors in different countries, they say.  “America cannot isolate Iran,” said one senior Iranian official, who like other officials asked not to be named. “If they succeed in ending our oil sales, which they cannot, we will export textiles, food, petrochemicals, vegetables, you just name it.” Ali Vaez, Iran Project Director at the International Crisis Group, said although the Iranian economy was in dire straits, it was far from being overwhelmed. “Iran is quite experienced in living under economic duress ... In the past few years, its non-oil exports have grown significantly and so has their trade with neighboring countries like Iraq and Afghanistan,” Vaez said. “Iran can also smuggle oil and generate some revenue.” TOUGH SANCTIONS: Western companies raced back to Iran’s market and its oil income surged a year after a 2015 nuclear pact agreed with six major powers ended the sanctions regime imposed in 2012 over its disputed nuclear program. more...

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel’s president tasked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday with assembling a new government after power-sharing talks with his strongest rival, Benny Gantz, failed following an inconclusive election. Netanyahu, head of the right-wing Likud party, and Israel’s longest-serving leader, still has no clear path to a fifth term after emerging from the Sept. 17 ballot, the second this year, short of a parliamentary majority.  “I have decided to give you, sir, the opportunity to assemble a government,” President Reuven Rivlin said to Netanyahu at a nomination ceremony. He will have 28 days to form a coalition and can ask Rivlin for a two-week extension if necessary. Netanyahu’s failure to clinch victory in a ballot in April led to last week’s election and left him politically weakened. more...

By Rebecca Hersher
As the world's climate changes, ocean warming is accelerating and sea levels are rising more quickly, warns a new report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report is a synthesis of the most up-to-date climate science on oceans and ice, and it lays out a stark reality: Ocean surface temperatures have been warming steadily since 1970, and for the past 25 years or so, they've been warming twice as fast. Sea levels are also rising increasingly quickly "due to increasing rates of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets," the report states. "For me, it's the complete picture that's kind of surprising and, frankly, concerning," says Ko Barrett, vice-chair of the U.N. panel and the deputy assistant administrator for research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. "This is, in some ways, a report about water. Water is the lifeblood of the planet." The report also discusses a relatively new phenomenon in the oceans: marine heat waves. "It's sort of remarkable that prior to 2012 [or] 2013, nobody had thought about heat waves in the ocean," says Andrew Pershing, chief scientific officer at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine. "And then, in 2012 we had a huge event here in the Northwest Atlantic, and the Gulf of Maine was right at the center of it. It was a real surprise." The abnormally hot water affected animals that live off the coast of Maine, including lobster and other creatures that are crucial to the local fishing economy. What's more, it quickly became clear that the state wasn't alone. more...

by Amanda Macias
NEW YORK — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the United States the “supporter of terrorism” in the Middle East and downplayed Tehran’s role in the recent Saudi oil facility attacks in a Tuesday interview with Fox News. “Today, unfortunately, America is the supporter of terrorism in our region and wherever America has gone, terrorism has expanded in that wake. Wherever we have gone, on the other side, we have defeated terrorism,” Rouhani said. Rouhani gave a hypothetical response when asked about the Sept. 14 strikes on the world’s largest crude-processing plant and oil field. “Let’s assume if it was from Iran, all of the monies received from the United States from these defensive systems, from these weapon systems, from these radar systems installed in Saudi Arabia and the Arabian peninsula, how come, they were not able to prevent that missile from hitting the target?” he asked, adding that the strikes were embarrassing for U.S.-made missile defense systems. The drone attacks, which forced the kingdom to shut down half of its oil production operations, triggered the largest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed concerns of a budding conflict in the Middle East. While Tehran has been widely blamed for the attacks, it maintains that it was not involved. Rouhani also downplayed meeting with Trump during the U.N. General Assembly in New York to discuss a nuclear weapon deal. “Why would we bump into one another? If we seek to pursue higher goals to benefit both countries, both people, it must be planned,” explained Rouhani. “But prior to that, we must create mutual trust and the trust is something that Mr. Trump took away from this framework. We had an agreement and Mr. Trump exited without a valid justification and illegally from an international agreement,” he said of the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. more...

By Jane Perlez
BEIJING — When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty. But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government. Like Mr. Erdogan, the world has been noticeably quiet about Xinjiang, where China has built a vast network of detention camps and systematic surveillance over the past two years in a state-led operation to convert Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public, unable to garner broad support or unwilling to risk financial ties with China. more...

The climate activist is facing sexist and ableist criticism. She’s not alone.
By Anna North
Activist Greta Thunberg called world leaders to account on Monday with a blistering indictment of their failure to act on climate change. The response of at least one world leader was to make fun of her. President Trump tweeted sarcastically on Monday that Thunberg, who had just charged the audience at the United Nations Climate Summit with stealing “my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” seemed like “a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future.” Others on the right also mocked and dismissed Thunberg, with conservative commentator Michael Knowles calling the 16-year-old activist a “mentally ill Swedish child” on Fox News. Knowles appears to have been insulting Thunberg for having Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. Autism isn’t a mental illness — it’s classified as a developmental disability. But advocates say that attacks like the ones Thunberg has faced are all too familiar for autistic people. “The go-to way to dismiss what an autistic person is saying in our society is to point out that we are autistic,” Julia Bascom, executive director of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, told Vox in an email. Thunberg may be experiencing especially strong stigma from the right because she’s not just autistic, but also female. “Autistic girls tend to face a lot of pressure not just to act like non-autistic people, but also to live up to the same gendered expectations many girls face,” Bascom said — “we always have to be smiling and compliant.” What Thunberg is facing is a reminder of the combined ableism and sexism many autistic girls and women face, Bascom says. But Thunberg, who has said her Asperger’s can be “a superpower,” appears undaunted by her critics. And her leadership on the climate crisis could help fight prejudice against autistic people as well. Thunberg is facing stigma as an autistic girl Thunberg, who is Swedish, went on a one-woman strike against climate change in August 2018, and gained greater worldwide fame earlier this year when she traveled by boat to New York City to attend the climate summit. In her speech before the summit on Monday, which quickly went viral, she delivered a message to the leaders of the world: “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” more...

466 million years ago, there was a very, very large asteroid impact. But, despite what you're thinking, it actually helped life on Earth be fruitful and multiply. And that's because the asteroid impact wasn't on Earth. It was hundred of millions of kilometers away, in the inner asteroid belt. Wait, what? How would that affect us here? A new paper by a team of scientists points the accusatory finger at… dust. A lot of it, blasted outward when two big asteroids collided. This dust made its way to Earth, blocked a significant fraction of warming sunlight, started an ice age, and that put stress on marine environments which caused a burst of evolutionary diversity. OK, hang tight. There are a few things going on here, so we need to take a step back to see how this all ties together. For some time now paleontologists have been aware that about 465 million years ago, during the late part of the Ordovician Period, invertebrate marine life on Earth had a burst of diversification. Relatively suddenly (over some millions of years), the forms of life that had evolved and flourished from the Cambrian Period some tens of millions of years earlier started dying off, and new varieties of animal life emerged. This is called the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (or GOBE). It's also been known for some time that the oxygen level in the oceans increased around that time. It's also been shown that sea levels dropped globally at that time as well. Both of these indicate a big ice age: As water freezes the level of the oceans drops, and colder water is able to keep more dissolved gases in it. This sort of stress on an environment can trigger sudden biodiversification as competition increases. more...

Jeremy Corbyn is leading calls for Boris Johnson to resign after the Supreme Court ruled the PM's decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful. The Labour leader told his party's conference in Brighton the prime minister "has been found to have misled the country" and should step down. The SNP and some Labour MPs said Mr Johnson could be ousted via a no-confidence vote, if he refused to go. MPs will return to work on Wednesday at 11:30 BST after the court's ruling. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said one member of the government had joined calls for Mr Johnson to resign in the wake of the judgement, but, right now, that view was not widespread in the Conservative Party. Mr Johnson suspended - or prorogued - Parliament for five weeks earlier this month, arguing it was necessary in order to hold a Queen's Speech and set out a new legislative programme. But the court ruled it was wrong to stop MPs carrying out their duties in the run-up to Brexit on 31 October. Supreme Court president Lady Hale said "the effect [of prorogation] on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme" and the government had provided no justification for it. The PM has promised the UK will leave on 31 October, with or without a deal with the EU, but before the prorogation, Parliament passed a law intended to force a delay instead of allowing a no-deal exit. It states that Mr Johnson has until 19 October to either pass a deal or get MPs to approve no deal - and if he fails, he must ask for an extension to the UK's departure date. In a statement outside Parliament, Commons Speaker John Bercow said there would be no Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, but there would be scope for urgent questions, ministerial statements and emergency debate applications. Opposition MPs say they plan to use the session to hold Mr Johnson to account for his actions - and potentially begin moves to oust him as prime minister. Parliament twice rejected the prime minister's call for a general election earlier this month - under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Mr Johnson needs the support of two-thirds of MPs to hold a snap poll. While opposition MPs said at the time they did want an election, they insisted they must first be sure that no deal could not happen. Mr Johnson has said he will not ask the EU for an extension under any circumstances. more...

By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz launched negotiations on Monday over a proposed Israeli unity government and a key politician said the focus was on who would lead it first under a rotation deal. After failing to secure a clear victory in the second election in six months, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, seems to reckon he can stay in power only by sharing it. Going solo, neither he nor ex-general Gantz have enough support from respective allies for a majority in the 120-member parliament. Gantz, head of the centrist Blue and White Party, has been publicly resistant to the idea of allying with Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, citing looming corruption charges against the incumbent. President Reuven Rivlin, tasked with picking a candidate best-placed to try to form the next governing coalition, has spoken in favor of unity and, on Monday, summoned Netanyahu and Gantz for closed-door talks. Gantz met earlier with Avigdor Lieberman, a political free agent and likely kingmaker thanks to his eight seats in parliament. “Happily, the two big parties have internalized the pressing necessity of setting up a unity government with a rotating premiership,” Lieberman said on Facebook. Concluding their meeting at Rivlin’s Jerusalem office, Netanyahu and Gantz issued a joint statement saying they had discussed “moving forward with unity”. It did not elaborate. more...

By Teo Armus
In late 2017, the New York Times received an urgent warning from a U.S. official. Egyptian authorities were looking to arrest Declan Walsh, the newspaper’s reporter in Cairo, according to its publisher. It’s not unusual for a large media organization to get tipped off about threats to its journalists overseas, particularly those reporting on authoritarian governments. But what was striking is what the official said next: The Trump administration had tried to keep the warning about Walsh from ever reaching the Times. Officials “intended to sit on the information and let the arrest be carried out,” Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger wrote in an opinion column on Monday. This incident, described publicly by Sulzberger for the first time in a talk at Brown University earlier on Monday, adds a chilling new episode to the administration’s trend of attacking the press and diminishing the rights of journalists as they come under threat around the globe, the publisher wrote. Where the United States was once seen as the top defender of press freedom, Sulzberger suggested Trump has inspired the opposite around the globe, citing recent threats made in an address by the Cambodian prime minister, a social media blackout in Chad, and attempts to arrest foreign journalists in Egypt, whose autocratic president Trump once jokingly called his “favorite dictator.” “These brutal crackdowns are being passively accepted and perhaps even tacitly encouraged by the president of the United States,” Sulzberger said. President Trump has refused to acknowledge that the Saudi government ordered the assassination of The Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as international investigators have found. And the president’s frequent use of the phrase “fake news” has resulted in more than 50 foreign government leaders to adopt similar calls, the publisher charged. more...  

By Paul LeBlanc, Jim Acosta, Jeremy Diamond and Kaitlan Collins, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump asked his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put a hold on millions in military aid to Ukraine roughly one week before a call with the Ukrainian president in which he pressured the country to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, two senior administration officials said on Monday. Trump, who was in the middle of a broad review of foreign aid programs when he singled out Ukraine specifically this summer, was primarily concerned with "corruption" in Ukraine and Europe shouldering more of the financial burden for supporting Ukraine's defense, according to one of the officials. News of Trump's order to withhold aid to the Ukraine ahead of his July 25 call may trigger questions -- and speculation -- about the President's motive in doing so. Trump had ordered a hold on nearly $400 million of military and security aid to Ukraine at least a week before the call in question, US officials familiar with the matter tell CNN. The Washington Post first reported the figure. The administration was looking at harnessing multiple foreign packages, several aides believed, when Trump took a special interest in Ukraine, at times railing about how the country wasted money in his eyes. This surprised several staffers because, as CNN has reported, Trump had not been interested in engaging with Ukraine in the past, believing Ukraine was a corrupt country that wasn't committed to reform. But his attentiveness to the country had ramped up in recent weeks as his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pushed muddled corruption accusations against Biden, who was leading in national polls against Trump, and his son Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden. On Friday, CNN reported Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, according to a person familiar with the situation. On the day of Trump's call with Zelensky, word began to spread that Trump was reviewing a plan to cut foreign assistance to Ukraine. more...

The allegations would be tantamount to bribery if proved, something the Constitution clearly lists as cause for removing a president.
By Leah Litman, assistant professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School
Here we go again. President Donald Trump once again stands accused of using a foreign government to influence American elections. Whereas last time he invited the Russian government, on public television, to try and find Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s “missing” emails, among other things, this time he has reportedly sought to have the Ukrainian government announce a criminal investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, perhaps by using U.S. financial and military support as leverage. But not everyone is singing the same tune this go round. Last time, Republicans largely defended the president even as special counsel Robert Mueller was named to investigate whether Trump or his campaign had colluded with Russia. And after Mueller avoided making an explicit statement of guilt, Democrats were hesitant to launch a full-fledged impeachment inquiry. This time, Trump’s actions on Ukraine have already drawn some criticism from Republicans (like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah), and they have also increased calls for impeachment from Democrats (such as from Rep. Adam Schiff of California, chair of the House intelligence committee). And rightfully so. So what’s changed? There are potentially significant legal differences and practical distinctions between the two situations. And these differences indicate that the allegations regarding Ukraine fit more clearly into the Constitution’s preconditions for impeachment — and that Congress will not only have an easier time making a case against the president, but also a greater legal imperative to do so. Using the office of the president for personal political benefit comports with both the standard understandings of bribery and the broader category of high crimes and misdemeanors. more...

Trump's alleged meddling in the country's notoriously corrupt political system is setting its new president up for failure.
By Leonid Bershidsky
The scandal over Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival might ultimately have no consequences for the U.S. president. It could, however, undermine a historical opportunity for Ukraine’s new leadership to drain its own swamp. Various U.S. news outlets reported this week that Trump ordered his administration in July to withhold about $400 million in military aid to Ukraine. Later that month, he reportedly pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the alleged involvement of Democratic front-runner Joe Biden and his son Hunter in influence-peddling in Ukraine. This is a problem for Trump if someone can demonstrate corrupt intent — that is, that he was using the state’s resources as a lever to achieve his personal campaign goals. Naturally, Trump denies it. And he has valid arguments in his defense. For one, he can say he had legitimate reasons to delay the aid. At that time, for example, Chinese companies were about to buy a majority stake in Motor Sich, the Ukrainian maker of engines for aircraft and missiles — a deal that the U.S. had actively sought to block. That would be a credible motive for withholding aid. Also, Trump released the payment on Sept. 11, with no apparent conditions. So corruption will be hard to prove to any legal standard. That said, corruption often doesn’t operate explicitly. Faced with a U.S. military aid delay on the one hand and Trump’s demand for a Biden investigation on the other, Zelenskiy could have figured out what was required of him. The same goes for the Biden case. A wealthy Ukrainian businessman hired the U.S. vice president’s son to be on the board of his natural gas company. Could Ukraine’s leadership not understand, without being told, that pursuing a money-laundering investigation into that businessman might have repercussions for relations with the U.S. administration? more...

Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful, the Supreme Court has ruled. Mr Johnson suspended - or prorogued - Parliament for five weeks earlier this month, but judges said it was wrong to stop MPs carrying out duties in the run-up to Brexit on 31 October. Supreme Court president Lady Hale said "the effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme." The PM says he "strongly disagrees" with the ruling but will "respect" it. A raft of MPs have now called for the prime minister to resign and some have said they would attempt to force him out if he did not go of his accord. 'Undeterred' Mr Johnson argued he wanted to carry out the prorogation so he could outline his government's new policies in a Queen's Speech. But critics said he was trying to stop MPs from scrutinising his Brexit plans and the suspension was far longer than necessary. At a speech in New York, the PM said he "refused to be deterred" on getting on with "an exciting and dynamic domestic agenda", and to do that he would need a Queen's Speech. more...

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his main opponent, Benny Gantz, have taken "a significant step" towards forming a unity government, Israel's president has said. Reuven Rivlin was speaking after hosting a meeting for the two rivals. No details of the talks have been made public. But a joint statement said chief negotiators for the two main parties would meet on Tuesday. Last week's general election - the second this year - ended in deadlock. In a bid to broker a solution, President Rivlin has recommended the new government includes both Mr Gantz's Blue and White Alliance, which won 33 seats, and Mr Netanyahu's Likud party, which won 31. Mr Rivlin has said he will do everything he can to avoid a third general election this year. Speaking after Monday's two hours of talks at his offices in Jerusalem, he said: "We have taken a significant step forward tonight." Addressing Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gantz he added: "Now it is your turn. The responsibility for establishing a government falls on you, and the people expect you to find a solution and to prevent further elections, even if it comes at a personal and even ideological cost." more...

By Martin Kettle
Boris Johnson’s position must be in question. But this ruling bolsters parliament against many other outside forces. The supreme court has delivered a comprehensive demolition of Boris Johnson’s government and its handling of Brexit. The unanimous judgment of the 11 justices, announced by Lady Hale this morning, amounts to a root and branch rejection of the prime minister’s attempts to rule without parliament, to take Britain out of the European Union by 31 October without a deal, and to contrive a premature general election. The judgment was incisive and without any waffle. It was very consciously written in the best tradition of British constitutional law, of which parliamentary sovereignty is the foundational rock. The immediate effect of the judgment is devastating for Johnson. It is expressed so cogently and unambiguously that it will be difficult for him to wriggle out of it – even though he is certainly foolish enough to try. Parliament will surely be recalled on Tuesday – since, as the judgment said, it has not been prorogued in the first place. Johnson’s efforts, to the extent that they exist at all, to negotiate a new or tweaked deal with the EU will be held up to the light. And, since Johnson spectacularly lacks a majority in the House of Commons, it is likely that the cross-party efforts to shape Brexit will be redoubled. Johnson’s own position as prime minister, along with those of his legal advisers (including the attorney general) and that of his 10 Downing Street advisers (especially his key strategist Dominic Cummings) must also be in question. It is possible that Johnson will throw Cummings to the wolves, to make him the fall guy for the catastrophically inept and illegal strategy that he has been following. Pressure on Johnson to quit will surely be central to the way this all plays out in the coming days. His opponents, therefore, absolutely need to agree on the form, composition and, above all, the leader of any government that could replace him. If the court’s ruling means anything for politicians, it is that trying to govern as if you have a majority when in fact you do not is impossible. The belief of the hard-right Tory Brexiters that a party coup against Theresa May in a hung parliament would enable them to get their way by electing Johnson lies shattered. They need to learn the lesson very fast. Militant remainers will have to face the equivalent lesson, too. One notable consequence of the judgment, not to be overlooked in the other excitements, is for the Union. By not overruling the Scottish court of session decision on Johnson’s actions, the supreme court has upheld Scottish judges against English ones, and has removed a potential source of grievance for the SNP against “London judges” if the ruling had gone the other way. more...

Johnson now looks less effective than May, less statesmanlike than Corbyn – he should resign
By Sean O'Grady
It is beginning to look like it, isn’t it? Lady Hale, wearing a huge brooch that resembled a venomous spider, delivered a near fatal dose of judicial poison in her carefully worded, logical and comprehensive take-down of Johnson’s suspension of parliament. Johnson was the big fat fly caught in a sophisticated legal web, a ready meal for the Supreme Court. Spiderwoman was scathing, and her colleagues backed her solidly. It was unanimous among the judges – 11-nil – an even better score than Manchester City inflicted on poor old Watford at the weekend. It could hardly have been more damning. In declaring the order in Council quashed they have left no room for Johnson to just organise a new prorogation, for that too would be quashed. He has no way out. It is a strategic defeat because it has strengthened the hand of parliament and weakened the government, permanently. So there he is, then, our prime minster. A man who is yet to win a vote in the House of Commons. A man who then tells the Commons to just buzz off and then loses the court case. A man who destroys his own parliamentary majority at a stroke by sacking 21 of his MPs in a fit of pique - and thereby creates a guerrilla army of enemies with nothing to lose. Not so smart. A man who cannot be seen in public without getting heckled and insulted. A man who cannot make a decent speech. A man who cannot command the Commons. A man who has to watch while the Commons outlaws his Brexit strategy. No deal is illegal, and the Commons will be back in business shortly to ensure it stays that way. So if leadership is about judgement, Boris Johnson has been found badly wanting. It is true that, thanks to Labour’s ineffable ability to snatch defeat from any given political situation, he has a decent poll lead. But polling a third of the vote is no mandate for anything, and he knows as well as anyone that the next general election will be extremely unreadable – and could easily see another hung parliament elected. more...  

The U.S. is having trouble defending against low-flying drones and cruise missiles after years of the Pentagon focusing on longer-range threats.
By Sébastien Roblin
The United States is sending American troops to the Middle East to provide better air and missile defenses after an aerial attack on Saudi oil targets last week. The raid began around 4 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 14, with explosions rippling across the Kurais and Abqaiq Aramco oil processing facilities inside Saudi Arabia as the sound of defensive automatic machine-gun fire rang in the air. In theory, the oil facilities both lay under the defensive umbrella of Patriot PAC-2 surface-to-air missile batteries that the U.S. sold to Saudi Arabia to intercept aircraft and missiles up to 100 miles away. However, if Saudi radars detected the 18 triangular drones and seven cruise missiles (judging by recovered debris) that bombarded them last week, they did so too late. Instead, they were forced to fire sporadically with automatic weapons, which didn’t prevent widespread damage that temporarily disrupted shipments of 5.7 million barrels of oil daily — half of Saudi Arabia’s output. Indeed, while the U.S. troops are intended to provide help against this type of threat — believed to have been launched by Iran — air attacks by low-flying drones and cruise missiles are exactly the types of systems the U.S. is having trouble defending against after years of focusing on longer-range threats. Short-range air defense systems — or SHORADS in Army lingo — have existed almost as long as combat aircraft, and are used to protect vital bases and facilities, as well as troops on the front lines. In both the world wars, they consisted of heavy machine guns and rapid-fire cannons designed to rake warplanes as they swooped down to attack. During the Cold War, anti-aircraft artillery increasingly benefited from radar guidance, and were joined by heat-seeking missiles fired by vehicles or bazooka-like shoulder launchers. However, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Army sharply downsized its short-range anti-air capabilities in the belief that they were no longer greatly needed. They trusted that U.S. jet fighters could neutralize most enemy aircraft before they became a problem. Two threats that have grown significantly these days — drones and ground skimming cruise missiles — were minimal at that point: Armed drones were rare and expensive, and the Soviet Union was the only adversary that had many land-attack cruise missiles and it wasn’t expected that other countries, let alone terrorist groups, would develop them. more...  

Iran's president has warned that foreign forces are threatening the security of the Gulf, after the US said it was deploying troops to the region. Hassan Rouhani said foreign forces had always brought "pain and misery" and should not be used in an "arms race". The US is sending more troops to Saudi Arabia after an attack on Saudi oil facilities both nations blame on Iran. Mr Rouhani also said Iran would present a new Gulf peace initiative at the United Nations in the coming days. This year has seen continuing tension between the US and Iran, following President Donald Trump's abandonment of a deal aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear activities in return for the easing of sanctions. The latest flashpoint was caused by drone and missile attacks on the Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais on 14 September. Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they had carried out the attacks, but both the US and its ally Saudi Arabia - Iran's main regional rival - said Iran was behind them, something Tehran has strongly denied. more...   

Situation Room - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemingly celebrates the firing of former Trump national security adviser John Bolton as new research has found hidden tunnels near the country's main nuclear complex. CNN's Brian Todd reports. Source: CNN

By Matthew Chapman
On MSNBC Saturday, former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah laid out all the ways that President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani could be breaking federal law with their apparent scheme to push Ukraine into digging up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. “Extortion, conspiracy to engage in extortion, and violating federal election law,” said host Alex Witt. “Do you agree with all those premises?” “I do, Alex, and I would add one to that, which is federal bribery,” said Rocah. “Here, Trump essentially was trying to get the Ukrainian president to bribe him, give him information about his political opponent in exchange for aid to the country. So, that is soliciting a bribe. And you know, look, we can get into this more. Obviously, this is my area of expertise, whether something violates federal criminal laws, but I do worry that we’re going down a path that we went down with the Mueller investigation, because for the president of the United States, that is not the standard.” “I think Rudy Giuliani should be investigated,” she continued. “I don’t know if this Department of Justice is independent enough to do that. He is a private citizen, though. He can be prosecuted. The president we know cannot be prosecuted, but this is something that Congress must take action on now. And one other point with respect to what you were saying in the prior conversation with the other panelists.” “You know, this isn’t about what Joe Biden’s son did or didn’t do,” added Rocah. “There are avenues to investigate United States citizens through a process known as mutual legal assistance treaties. The Department of Justice does it all the time. If there is reason for a U.S. citizen to be investigated and the aid of another country is needed, there are proper channels to do that through, and they don’t include the president of the United States calling up the leader of another country and demanding it in exchange for foreign aid. I think we’re going down a rabbit hole there.” “What kind of hot water could Rudy Giuliani be in for having gone over, and potentially at the president’s behest, have these conversations with the Ukrainian president and leadership?” Witt pressed her. more...

The president supposedly dangled millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kiev investigating Joe Biden. That looks a lot like old-fashioned corruption.
By Barbara McQuade
If the latest allegations about President Donald Trump’s conversations with the leader of Ukraine are true, his conduct may constitute a garden-variety public corruption crime: extortion and bribery. The Washington Post has reported that the subject of an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint relates to a “promise” made by Trump in a conversation with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Further reporting indicates that the conversation amounted to a threat to withhold $250 million in military aid to Ukraine unless Zelensky investigates the family of Joe Biden, who is of course running to unseat Trump in 2020. more...

By Brett Bruen
We may see more love letters exchanged. There may even be another splashy summit in our future. I'm not ruling out a few clever twists and dramatic turns. But let's be honest: The chance of a nuclear deal with North Korea is pretty much dead. I don't doubt that President Donald Trump will dangle the possibility of peace in an attempt to drum up some positive publicity. He will continue to speak of a cringe-inducing, uncommon bond that has developed with his pal in Pyongyang. But it's time we take a step back. Let's take a hard look at where we are and what's actually happening on the ground. Hold the Champagne — this administration's most prominent play for the Nobel Peace Prize is going to come up way short.  It never had much hope. I say that with great difficulty. It wasn't as though I wished it to fail. To the contrary, there was an early indication that this peace process was going to represent the revival of American diplomacy after its struggle for relevance with the "America First" crowd. Some thought that through these negotiations, Trump would perhaps come to learn the value of our foreign-policy experts. Nope. The president pretty much pushed past the diplomats. Even his favorite Cabinet member, Mike Pompeo, got shoved aside; the secretary of state was mercilessly skewered by the North Koreans and even coldly stood up on a visit to Pyongyang. Trump didn't much mind the slights. The president continued to lavish praise on Kim Jong Un and the process. This only served to further undermine the State Department's efforts to advance diplomatic discussions. The North Koreans knew they could just hold out for the man in the Oval Office. In diplomacy, you normally want to have the deal baked ahead of the summit. Get the oven heated to 425 degrees before you go to the trouble of putting on a big show. more...   

NORTH KOREA could be planning to deploy a new submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles, US defence analysts have warned.
By Simon Osborne
Satellite images of shipyards in the northeastern port city of Sinpo offer evidence of the construction of the new vessel, rsays esearchers from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. The images show the construction of a large structure jutting out into the water from the quay. Satellite photos taken earlier this month were compared with the images taken this week and show the structure has grown to about 100 metres in that time. The researchers said North Korea’s conventional submarines are usually built-in structures much smaller than the one that appeared in satellite images. A senior researcher from the Middlebury Institute said the structure could be used for the construction and maintenance of North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile programme. The claims support reports by North Korea's state media which said leader Kim Jong-Un had inspected a newly-built submarine at an undisclosed location. A Sinpo-class submarine is already thought to be in operation in North Korea, which launched what is believed to be a KN-11 ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan in 2016. The Sinpo-class sub, however, only has one missile launch tube, leading experts to speculate that the country may well be attempting to build a sub with multiple launch tubes to increase devastation. more...

By Simon Tisdall
The president’s misconceived Middle East policy has been laid bare, and few allies will rush to the rescue. They must be laughing their socks off in Tehran. The days following last weekend’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities, blamed by the US on Iran, have seen an almost comical display of indecision, confusion and bluster by the leader of the world’s most powerful country. As a result, Iran looks stronger … and Donald Trump looks like a clown. If Iranian leaders intended to call Trump’s bluff, they have succeeded – for now at least. The president’s immediate reaction to the attacks was to declare the US “locked and loaded” for retaliatory strikes. Then he remembered he’s opposed to fighting wars in the Middle East and hopes to be re-elected next year. Trump switched tack, saying the attacks were no big deal, even as global oil prices rocketed, because the US no longer needed Middle East energy. That’s not strictly true. Official figures show the US imported 48 million barrels of oil and petroleum products a month from the Gulf in 2018. Still dodging and weaving, he said what happened next was up to the Saudis – an extraordinary outsourcing of national security policy. Trump ended the week still trying to have it both ways. He imposed additional sanctions on Iran and ordered a limited number of troops to Saudi Arabia and the UAE for defensive purposes. But he did not rule out talks with Iran’s president at the UN this week – despite the US denial of visas to many of his officials. It had become painfully clear Trump simply had no idea what to do. With his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran backfiring and his bellicose threats ringing hollow, he is the emperor with no clothes, the president who speaks loudly and fears to wield the big stick. Trump, plainly, has no strategy, no back-up plan – and no clue. This White House farce, which included the appointment of uber-hawk Robert O’Brien to replace uber-hawk John Bolton as national security adviser, is of course no laughing matter. Trump could start firing off missiles at any moment. His unpredictability is part of the problem. The Iranians, emboldened, could overplay their hand. Another perceived provocation could jerk the meter back towards war. Yet this latest phase of the Iran crisis does have an upside. By supplying a much-needed reality check, it has driven home to all concerned the disastrous consequences a new, multi-dimensional Gulf war could have for international security and the global economy. And it has exposed Trump’s failure to think through his bid to force Iran to its political and economic knees. more...

By Richard Gonzales
President Trump has authorized the deployment of additional U.S. forces to the Middle East to strengthen air and missile defenses around Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon announced late Friday. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called the move a first step and said that the deployment would be defensive in nature. He said the deployment comes in response to requests for help from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. more...

After being vilified, “Arab voters didn’t like that, and they decided to do something about it,” one expert said.
By Yardena Schwartz
TEL AVIV — If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for re-election will be remembered for one thing, it will likely be the unabashed vilification of Israel’s Arab citizens, who represent a fifth of the country’s population. He accused Arabs of stealing the inconclusive April vote. Five days before last week's election, his official Facebook page said that Arabs "want to annihilate us all — women, children and men,” although the Likud Party later disowned the statement. Yet, these efforts to suppress the Arab vote by a prime minister who is known as a political wizard appear to have backfired. “The incitement against the Arabs was very strong provocation from Netanyahu,” said Thabet Abu Rass, co-director of the Abraham Initiatives, a joint Arab-Jewish organization working toward equality in Israel. “Arab voters didn’t like that, and they decided to do something about it.” According to data from Arik Rudnitzky of the nonpartisan Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), Arab voter turnout jumped to 59 percent in last week's election, up from a record low of 49 percent in April. The Joint List of Arab parties is expected to be the third-largest party in the Knesset, with 13 seats, up from 10. For the first time in Israeli history, an Arab Knesset member could become Israel’s opposition leader, a post that comes with a security detail, briefings from the Mossad, meetings with all visiting international leaders, and rebuttals to the prime minister on the Knesset floor. According to Abu Rass, Arab votes for the centrist Blue and White party gave Netanyahu’s chief rival Benny Gantz an edge of two seats, depriving Netanyahu of the majority he needed to form a right-wing coalition government. “Incitement has a price,”Joint List leader Ayman Odeh tweeted the morning after election day. In an interview Wednesday with Israel’s Channel 12, another Joint List member of the Knesset, Ahmad Tibi, credited Netanyahu’s scare tactics with galvanizing Arab voters. more...

An American woman who says she had sex with Prince Andrew as a 17-year-old has told NBC News that she was "trafficked" to the prince. Virginia Giuffre described him to the US TV network as "an abuser" and "a participant". She has previously said she was abused in the bathroom of a London house, where she was pictured with the prince. The Duke of York has denied having "any form of sexual contact or relationship" with Ms Giuffre. It was part of a statement issued by Buckingham Palace, on behalf of the prince, which added that the claims were "false and without any foundation". In August, the prince said in two statements that he was "appalled" by reports of Epstein's crimes, but never saw any of the behaviour that led to his conviction in the "limited time" they spent together. Now 35, Ms Giuffre is one of six women interviewed by the US TV network's Dateline programme about alleged abuse by Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself in prison awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. more...    

By Haley Ott
Millions of people around the world are walking out of their schools and workplaces Friday to demand urgent action on climate change. The global climate strikes, which are taking place in more than 150 countries, were scheduled ahead of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly and the Climate Action Summit on September 23. The protests have been organized by young people around the world who are part of the "Fridays for Future" campaign, which has seen students walk out of their schools on Fridays to demand their political leaders take urgent action to address climate change. "We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say. more...

Houthi leader says the rebels will stop drone attacks and expect Saudi Arabia to stop targeting Yemeni territory.
An official with the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen has said it will stop aiming missile and drone attacks at Saudi Arabia, warning that a continuation of the war could lead to "dangerous developments". The announcement was made on Friday night by Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthi's supreme political council, which controls the rebel-held areas in Yemen. "We declare ceasing to target the Saudi Arabian territory with military drones, ballistic missiles and all other forms of weapons, and we wait for a reciprocal move from them," al-Mashat said on the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV. "We reserve the right to respond if they fail to reciprocate positively to this initiative," he said, adding that the continuation of the Yemen war "will not benefit any side". The comments by the Houthis came nearly a week after they claimed a major attack on Saudi oil facilities. Despite the Houthis insisting they are responsible for the September 14 assault on Aramco oil facilities that initially halved the kingdom's production, the United States and Saudi Arabia have blamed Iran. Iran denies being involved, warning that any retaliatory strike on it by the US or Saudi Arabia will result in "an all-out war". "I call on all parties from different sides of the war to engage seriously in genuine negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive national reconciliation that does not exclude anyone," said Mashat. more...   

Amnesty urges UN member states to demand release of database listing companies operating in the illegal settlements.
Amnesty International is urging UN member states to use the next Human Rights Council session on Palestine to demand the release of a database of companies operating in the illegal Israeli settlements. In a new report published on Friday, the rights organisation stressed that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has repeatedly delayed publication of the database, despite initial plans to release it in March 2017 itself. "It has become increasingly clear that the delay is in part because certain states are bringing extensive political pressure to bear, not just to put off the database's release, but to stop it being made public at all," said the report. "In other words, some powerful states in the UN are lobbying the High Commissioner to simply ignore the mandate she has been given by the Council, or to interpret the mandate in a way that strains all credibility: either by not mentioning companies' names or not releasing the database at all." In March 2016, the UN Human Rights Council charged the High Commissioner for Human Rights with creating a database to be updated annually of businesses involved in activities that "directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the Israeli settlements" and "raise particular human rights violations concerns". Activities include the supply of construction and surveillance equipment; the supply of surveillance, security, banking and financial services; the exploitation of natural resources, and the supply of services and utilities supporting the maintenance and existence of settlements, the report said. The database is meant to ensure transparency and help businesses and the countries where they are based to ensure they are not committing human rights violations of Palestinians. more...    

A data leak exposes SORM surveillance at Russia's top telco
By Zack Whittaker
In cities across Russia, large boxes in locked rooms are directly connected to the networks of some of the country’s largest phone and internet companies. These boxes, some the size of a washing machine, house equipment that gives the Russian security services access to the calls and messages of millions of citizens. This government surveillance system remains largely shrouded in secrecy, even though phone and web companies operating in Russia are forced by law to install these large devices on their networks. But documents seen by TechCrunch offer new insight into the scope and scale of the Russian surveillance system — known as SORM (Russian: COPM) — and how Russian authorities gain access to the calls, messages and data of customers of the country’s largest phone provider, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) . The documents were found on an unprotected backup drive owned by an employee of Nokia Networks (formerly Nokia Siemens Networks), which through a decade-long relationship maintains and upgrades MTS’s network — and ensures its compliance with SORM. Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at security firm UpGuard, found the exposed files and reported the security lapse to Nokia. In a report out Wednesday, UpGuard said Nokia secured the exposed drive four days later. more...  

By Ben Westcott, CNN
(CNN) - Kiribati has become the second nation in a week to drop Taiwan as a diplomatic ally and move towards Beijing, Taipei's foreign ministry announced Friday. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu announced the change at a press conference, saying that in response Taipei would cut diplomatic ties with Kiribati. It comes just four days after the Solomon Islands' government voted unanimously to recognize mainland China over Taiwan, a move which was condemned in Taipei and welcomed in Beijing. The loss of the Solomon Islands and Kiribati has left Taiwan with just 15 diplomatic allies. Wu told reporters that Taiwan regretted and "strongly condemns" Kiribati's decision, which he added disregarded years of "assistance and friendship" between the two governments. Beijing has yet to comment on the decision but when the Solomon Islands moved to begin diplomatic ties with Beijing earlier in the week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying described it as "an irresistible trend of the times." The number of countries who have diplomatic relations with Taiwan -- officially the Republic of China -- rather than the mainland Chinese government has shrunk rapidly since 2016. Last year alone, El Salvador, Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic all announced they would no longer recognize Taipei. The rapid loss of diplomatic allies comes at a bad time for Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen who is facing an uphill battle for re-election in January 2020. In a statement Monday after the Solomon Islands severed ties, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, the top body in charge of relations with Beijing, accused China of luring away diplomatic allies in a bid to influence the result of the election. "Beijing authorities have been attempting to influence elections in Taiwan. This has gradually undermined peace over the Taiwan Strait through infringing Taiwan's rights and interests," the statement said. more...  

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces prison time if he is unable to remain in power and be granted immunity
By Matthew Rozsa
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suffered a major political setback on Thursday when his chief rival, Benny Gantz, rejected his offer to form a unity coalition together. Netanyahu reached out to Gantz Thursday in a video clip in which he asked the Blue and White party leader to help him "set up a broad unity government," "demonstrate responsibility" and "pursue cooperation." Gantz responded to Netanyahu's request by saying he would only lead a "liberal" coalition, a statement which excluded the ultra-Orthodox political bloc on whom Netanyahu has relied throughout his tenure. Moshe Yaalon, another Blue and White leader, added that the party would not enter into a coalition led by Netanyahu because of the corruption charges against him. Netanyahu replied that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the response from Gantz's team. "Gantz isn’t refusing, actually," Natan Sachs, the director for Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, told Salon by email when asked about Gantz's move. "He’s rebuffing Netanyahu’s rather disingenuous call for national unity after Netanyahu formed a bloc with the whole right-religious camp. Gantz is very open to national unity but on different terms." Sachs added, "For Gantz to be prime minister, he likely needs a national unity government with the Likud, but that need not necessarily be the Likud led by Netanyahu." Netanyahu's political future in Israel is precarious despite his distinction of being the Middle Eastern country's longest-serving prime minister. Earlier this year, Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit indicted the prime minister on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust, allegations which could land Netanyahu in jail should he be convicted. To stave off a prison sentence, Netanyahu has pushed for an immunity bill, which would shield him from prosecution while he serves as prime minister. The law was backed by Netanyahu's ultra-Orthodox supporters, and when Netanyahu 65 seats in the April elections, it seemed his political future was secure. A wrench was thrown into his plans, however, when the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, Avidgor Lieberman, demanded that ultra-Orthodox Jewish men be required to serve in the Israeli military like other Israeli citizens. Because Israeli prime ministers are elected through the creation of majority coalitions in their parliament  — the Knesset — Lieberman's ability to take five votes away from Netanyahu meant the incumbent would only receive 60 of the 61 votes necessary to receive a majority in the 120-member legislative body. As a result, the Knesset was dissolved in May, and snap elections were called with Gantz once again emerging as Netanyahu's chief rival. more...  

By Noga Tarnopolsky
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief rival, Benny Gantz, declared victory after near-final vote tallies on Thursday showed his party slightly widening a narrow first-place finish in this week’s parliamentary elections. Netanyahu did not challenge Gantz’s declaration. But as jockeying for control of the government between Gantz, the former military chief of staff, and Netanyahubegan, neither appeared close to winning the parliamentary majority they would need to form a government and become prime minister, and weeks of arcane negotiations are expected to start next week. Official figures have not yet been released, but Gantz’s Blue and White party held two seats more than Netanyahu’s Likud party in the tight race. The Electoral Commission in Israel only releases voting figures, without declaring a winner. Gantz, 60, will have to find political partners in order to form a government, and he responded coolly to an overture from Netanyahu, who suggested their two parties team up. “The country has chosen unity,” Gantz said Thursday. “The country has chosen Israel first. Blue and White, headed by me, has won the election. Blue and White is the largest party. Netanyahu did not succeed in reaching the political bloc that he aimed for — 61 Knesset members — on the basis of which these elections were held.” Gantz and his opposition party have held a steady lead over Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party as the count has proceeded. On Thursday, Israel spun into political melodrama as Netanyahu attempted to grab the momentum ahead of negotiations to form a government even as Gantz appeared to be cementing his slight lead. more...    

Guardian News - Justin Trudeau has been branded 'hurtful' and 'hypocritical' by leaders of Canada's main opposition parties after images emerged of him in blackface. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the Canadian New Democrats, said they showed a pattern of behaviour that 'makes light of the struggles people face' and raised questions about Trudeau's character. Andrew Scheer, leader of the Canadian Conservatives, said Trudeau had 'lost the moral authority to govern'. Time magazine published an image of Trudeau wearing blackface as part of an Aladdin costume at a 2001 function at a school where he was teaching. Trudeau apologised and also acknowledged another incident where he had worn blackface during high school. Hours later, Global News published a video clip, apparently of another incident in which he had worn dark skin makeup. more...  

By Jessica Murphy
Three instances of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing blackface or brownface - widely accepted as racist caricatures - have landed like a bombshell in the Canadian election campaign. What does this mean for his chances of winning? A contrite Justin Trudeau admitted that he never told anyone about his history of dressing in blackface or brownface - not even the Liberal party members first vetting his candidacy. In his lengthy second mea culpa since the scandal broke, he said he was too embarrassed about the incidents to raise them with anyone. He also conceded that he couldn't rule out more instances coming to light, noting he had no recollection of one of the occasions now in the public domain. Mr Trudeau said at the time, he didn't understand the hurt his actions could cause, because of "the layers of privilege that I have". Shachi Kurl, a pollster with the Angus Reid Institute, called the release of the images and footage a "massive cannonball" that could strike at the core of Mr Trudeau's brand. more...

Rachel Premack
FedEx has been caught in the middle of the US-China trade debacle. Trade tensions are partially to blame for FedEx slashing its 2020 outlook by 18%, and the package giant even sued the Trump administration this summer over trade rules. And now, the impact of Trump's trade war is getting personal. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the Chinese government had a FedEx pilot in custody for a week. A FedEx representative told Business Insider that the pilot was later released. Todd A. Hohn, the FedEx pilot, reportedly was detained while waiting for a commercial flight home from the Guangzhou airport. Hohn's checked bag had "nonmetallic pellets used in low-power replica air guns." Because of that, people close to the situation said the Chinese government is now launching a criminal investigation for Hohn's alleged transportation of ammunition. Hohn is a married father and also served as a US Air Force pilot, The Journal said. Until 2017, he was the commander of the 97th Air Mobility Wing at Oklahoma's Altus Air Force Base, which is about two hours southwest of Oklahoma City. "FedEx confirms that Chinese authorities in Guangzhou detained and later released one of our pilots on bail after an item was found in his luggage prior to a commercial flight," a FedEx representative said in a statement sent to Business Insider. "We are working with the appropriate authorities to gain a better understanding of the facts." more...  

By Ahmad Sultan, Abdul Qadir Sediqi
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A U.S. drone strike intended to hit an Islamic State (IS) hideout in Afghanistan killed at least 30 civilians resting after a day’s labor in the fields, officials said on Thursday. The attack on Wednesday night also injured 40 people after accidentally targeting farmers and laborers who had just finished collecting pine nuts at mountainous Wazir Tangi in eastern Nangarhar province, three Afghan officials told Reuters. “The workers had lit a bonfire and were sitting together when a drone targeted them,” tribal elder Malik Rahat Gul told Reuters by telephone from Wazir Tangi. Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry and a senior U.S official in Kabul confirmed the drone strike, but did not share details of civilian casualties. “U.S. forces conducted a drone strike against Da’esh (IS) terrorists in Nangarhar,” said Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “We are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts.” About 14,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan security forces and conducting counter-insurgency operations against IS and the Taliban movement. Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, said about 150 workers were there for harvesting, with some still missing as well as the confirmed dead and injured. A survivor of the drone strike said about 200 laborers were sleeping in five tents pitched near the farm when the attack happened. “Some of us managed to escape, some were injured but many were killed,” said Juma Gul, a resident of northeastern Kunar province who had traveled along with laborers to harvest and shell pine nuts this week. Angered by the attack, some residents of Nangarhar province demanded an apology and monetary compensation from the U.S. government. more...   

In an interview, Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran 'won't blink' to defend itself but doesn't want war after oil attacks. Any attack by the United States or Saudi Arabia on Iran will result in an "all-out war", Tehran warned on Thursday. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the comments as tensions in the Gulf continue rise after attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure halted the production of about five percent of the world's oil supply. Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for Saturday's strikes on Saudi's oil facilities, but the United States alleged the attack involved cruise missiles from Iran and amounts to "an act of war". The US has said its military is "locked and loaded" to respond against the perpetrators. "We don't want war, we don't want to engage in a military confrontation," said Zarif told CNN on Thursday, noting it would lead to "a lot of casualties". "But we won't blink to defend our territory," he added. Asked about the consequence of "an American or Saudi military strike on Iran", Zarif responded: "An all-out war." Saudi Arabia, which has been bogged down in a bloody five-year conflict in neighbouring Yemen, said on Wednesday that Iran "unquestionably sponsored" the attacks and the weapons used were Iranian-made - but did not directly blame its regional rival. "They're making that up," Zarif responded. "Now they want to pin the blame on Iran, in order to achieve something. And that is why I'm saying this is agitation for war because it's based on lies, it's based on deception." Iran has repeatedly denied US and Saudi accusations of its involvement in Saturday's strikes, saying the Houthis hit the oil facilities in response to the Saudi-Emirati-led military coalition's ongoing attacks in Yemen. The strikes on Saudi energy giant Aramco's Abqaiq processing plant and Khurais oilfield halved the kingdom's oil output. more...    

Blue and White leader rejects offer to serve under Likud after close-run Israeli election
Benjamin Netanyahu is furiously manoeuvring to cling to office after his rival Benny Gantz refused to serve under him in a government of national unity following an inconclusive election. Gantz’s Blue and White alliance is two seats ahead of the Israeli prime minister’s Likud party, according to results published by Israeli media with 97% of the vote counted. Neither bloc has an obvious path to form a majority coalition, and Netanyahu called for them to join together in a unity government, hinting that he might be willing to accept a power-sharing arrangement with Gantz, a precedent found in the rotation of the prime minister’s office between Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres in the mid-1980s. Gantz, a former military chief, said he should lead the next government because his alliance won the most seats. “The country has chosen unity. The country has chosen Israel first,” Gantz said on Thursday. “Blue and White, headed by me, has won the election … I am interested in and intend to form a broad and liberal unity government, under my leadership. A government that will convey the will of the people. A paralysed national government does not benefit the people.” Moshe Ya’alon, a senior Blue and White figure, was blunt, telling reporters: “We will not enter a coalition led by Netanyahu.” Netanyahu said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the rejection. more...  

By Anna Purna Kambhampaty , Madeleine Carlisle and Melissa Chan
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, wore brownface makeup to a party at the private school where he was teaching in the spring of 2001. TIME has obtained a photograph of the incident. The photograph has not been previously reported. The picture was taken at an “Arabian Nights”-themed gala. It shows Trudeau, then the 29-year-old son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing a turban and robes with his face, neck and hands completely darkened. The photograph appears in the 2000-2001 yearbook of West Point Grey Academy, a private day school where Trudeau was a teacher. Earlier this month, TIME obtained a copy of the yearbook, The View, with the photograph of Trudeau in brownface from Vancouver businessman Michael Adamson, who was part of the West Point Grey Academy community. Adamson was not at the party, which was attended by school faculty, administrators and parents of students. He said that he first saw the photograph in July and felt it should be made public. Speaking to reporters Wednesday night, following TIME’s publication of the photo, Trudeau apologized: “I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better and I didn’t. I’m really sorry.” When asked if he thought the photograph was racist, he said, “Yes it was. I didn’t consider it racist at the time, but now we know better.” Trudeau said he wore blackface “makeup” in high school to sing “Day-O,” a Jamaican folk song famously performed by African-American singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. “I deeply regret that I did that,” he said. more...    

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved to reassure allies in the wake of an alleged spying case with possible international implications. A senior intelligence official was charged last week with violating national security laws. Cameron Ortis had access to information coming from Canada's global allies, the RCMP national police force said. Canada is in close contact with its intelligence partners over the case, Mr Trudeau says. "We are in direct communications with our allies on security," the prime minister said while campaigning in Newfoundland on Tuesday. "We are also working with them to reassure them, but we want to ensure that everyone understands that we are taking this situation very seriously." Canada is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance that also includes the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. "We recognise that these allegations, if proven true, are extremely unsettling," said RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki on Tuesday. What are the charges against Mr Ortis? Mr Ortis, who was a civilian director general with the police force's intelligence unit, is accused of breaching the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code. more...   

By John Haltiwanger
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday acknowledged that the current crisis with Iran is a "direct result" of actions taken by President Donald Trump. Since Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, his administration has engaged in a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran in an effort to cripple the Iranian economy with harsh sanctions. The end goal of this is to squeeze Iran into coming back to the negotiation table to agree to a more stringent version of the nuclear deal that prevents Iran from building nuclear weapons. But so far, Trump's hard-line strategy has not been successful and there's little evidence this is changing.  Pompeo defended this approach to reporters traveling with him to Saudi Arabia, stating, "There is this theme that some suggest that the president's strategy that we allowed isn't working. I would argue just the converse of that. I would argue that what you are seeing here is a direct result of us reversing the enormous failure of the JCPOA." He was referring to the formal name of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The secretary of state was addressing the recent attack on two major Saudi oil facilities, and facing questions on how the attack was possible despite Saudi investments in US defense technology as well as how such incidents can be deterred moving forward. Though Pompeo conceded the attack was "of a scale we've just not seen before," he made the case that without the Trump administration's sanctions Iran could have access to even more complex and dangerous weapons systems. In the process, he inadvertently captured why the US and Saudi Arabia are in the situation in the first place — Trump's decision to pull the US from the Iran nuclear deal — as he stated "what you are seeing here is a direct result of us reversing the enormous failure of the JCPOA." 'There is a direct line you can draw from Trump's violation of the Iran deal and the risk of conflict today.' Since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal, relations with Iran have rapidly spiraled downward. The situation has become so contentious in recent months that it's raised fears of a new conflict in the Middle East. As the Trump administration has ramped up the economic pressure on Iran, the Iranians have responded with aggressive behavior in an effort to cause problems for the US and its partners. If Iran is indeed responsible for the Saudi oil field attacks, experts and former US officials say Trump's decision to withdraw from the JCPOA opened the door for the attack as well as the broader tensions surrounding it. more...


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