Showing posts with label world news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label world news. Show all posts

Monday, October 14, 2019

Here's What You Need To Know About The Former Trump Russia Adviser Testifying Today

Here's What You Need To Know About The Former Trump Russia Adviser Testifying Today

Here's What You Need To Know About The Former Trump Russia Adviser Testifying Today

Trump's former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill is testifying behind closed doors in the impeachment inquiry today.

Hill is the first of several witnesses scheduled to testify this week in the inquiry.

Here's what you need to know about her:

  • Hill is the former top official on Russian affairs at the National Security Council (NSC). She is a skeptic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • She departed the NSC about one week before the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine's president.
  • Hill will explain to Congress when she testifies next week that she was unaware of some aspects of the escalating Ukraine scandal, according to a source close with Hill who spoke to her Thursday.
  • She has been subpoenaed and is working with her lawyer on logistics. 
  • She has kept a low profile in recent weeks in England with her mother.
First Human To Walk In Space, Alexei Leonov Dies In Moscow

First Human To Walk In Space, Alexei Leonov Dies In Moscow

Alexei Leonov, the legendary Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to walk in space 54 years ago - and who nearly didn't make it back into his space capsule - has died in Moscow at 85.

First Human To Walk In Space, Alexei Leonov Dies In Moscow
Leonov was an icon both in his country as well as in the US | Photo: AP

The Russian space agency Roscosmos made the announcement on its website Friday but gave no cause for his death. Leonov had health issues for several years, according to Russia media.

Showing just how much of a space pioneer Leonov was, Nasa broke into its live televised coverage of a spacewalk by two Americans outside the International Space Station to report Leonov's death.

"A tribute to Leonov as today is a spacewalk," Mission Control in Houston said.

Leonov - described by the Russian Space Agency as Cosmonaut No 11 - was an icon both in his country as well as in the US. He was such a legend that the late science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke named a Soviet spaceship after him in his "2010" sequel to "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday sent his condolences to Leonov's family, calling him a "true pioneer, a strong and heroic person".

"Infinitely committed to his vocation, he left a truly legendary mark in the history of space exploration and in the history of our country," Putin said on the Kremlin's website.

Leonov was born in 1934 into a large peasant family in western Siberia. Like countless Soviet peasants, his father was arrested and shipped off to Gulag prison camps under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, but he managed to survive and reunite with his family.

The future cosmonaut had a strong artistic bent and even thought about going to art school before he enrolled in a pilot training course and, later, an aviation college. Leonov did not give up sketching even when he flew into space, and took colored pencils with him on the Apollo-Soyuz flight in 1975 to draw.

That mission was the first one between the Soviet Union and the United States and was carried out at the height of the Cold War. Apollo-Soyuz 19 was a prelude to the international cooperation seen aboard the current International Space Station (ISS).

But Leonov staked his place in space history ten years earlier, on March 18, 1965, when he exited his Voskhod 2 space capsule secured by a tether.

"I stepped into that void and I didn't fall in," the cosmonaut recalled years later. "I was mesmerised by the stars. They were everywhere - up above, down below, to the left, to the right. I can still hear my breath and my heartbeat in that silence."

Spacewalking always carries a high risk but Leonov's pioneering venture was particularly nerve-wracking, according to details of the exploit that only became public decades later.

His spacesuit had inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he could not get back into the spacecraft. He had to open a valve to vent oxygen from his suit to be able to fit through the hatch.

Leonov's 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first US spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months.

Leonov might have become the Soviet Union's first moonwalker, in fact, had his country's lunar-landing effort not been canceled in the wake of Apollo 11's triumphant moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969.

On his second trip into space ten years later, Leonov commanded the Soviet half of Apollo-Soyuz 19.

The cosmonaut was well known for his humor. Once the US Apollo and Soviet Soyuz capsules docked in orbit around Earth on July, 17, 1975, Leonov and his Russian crewmate, Valeri Kubasov, welcomed the three US astronauts - their Cold War rivals - with canned borscht disguised as Stolichnaya vodka and suggested a toast.

"When we sat at the table, they said: 'Why, that's not possible,'" Leonov recalled in 2005. "We insisted, saying that according to our tradition, we must drink before work. That worked, they opened it and drank [the borscht] and were caught by surprise."

The cosmonaut turned 85 in May. Several days before that, two Russian crewmembers on the International Space Station ventured into open space on a planned spacewalk, carrying Leonov's picture with them to pay tribute to the space legend. They said "Happy Birthday!" to Leonov before opening the hatch and venturing out.

Leonov's modern-day successor, Oleg Kononenko, who was one of the two Russians on that spacewalk, told Rossiya-24 television on Friday that Leonov had tuned in to hear their congratulations from space.

"We were going to stop by Alexei Arkhipovich [Leonov] after our return and give him our space souvenirs, but you see it wasn't meant to be," Kononenko said.

When his crew returned to earth at the end of June, Leonov was already unwell.

Kononenko spoke fondly of the Soviet space pioneer, saying he was a frequent guest at send-off ceremonies for space crews in Star City and at the cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

"We had this tradition that he would give cosmonauts pep talks before they board the spacecraft," Kononenko said. "We all looked forward to that, always thought about it and always wanted Leonov to be the one to send us off into space."

Messages of condolences poured from around the globe.

Nasa on Friday offered its sympathies to Leonov's family, saying it was saddened by his death.

"His venture into the vacuum of space began the history of extra-vehicular activity that makes today's Space Station maintenance possible," Nasa said on Twitter.

NASA (@NASA) October 11, 2019
"One of the finest people I have ever known," former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted on Friday. "Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, artist, leader, spacewalker and friend, I salute you."

One of the finest people I have ever known. Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, artist, leader, spacewalker and friend, I salute you.

Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) October 11, 2019
Russian space fans were bringing flowers to his monument Friday on the memorial alley in honor of Russia's cosmonauts in Moscow.

Leonov, who will be buried on Tuesday at a military memorial cemetery outside Moscow, is survived by his wife, a daughter and two grandchild.
Indian-Origin Economist Abhijit Banerjee Has Won The 2019 Nobel Prize For Economic Sciences.

Indian-Origin Economist Abhijit Banerjee Has Won The 2019 Nobel Prize For Economic Sciences.

Indian-Origin Economist Abhijit Banerjee Has Won The 2019 Nobel Prize For Economic Sciences.
Abhijit Banerjee has won the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences. (Image: The Nobel Prize) 

Indian-American Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer jointly won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty."

"The research conducted by this year's Laureates has considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty. In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research," said the Nobel committee in a statement.

Banerjee, 58, was educated at the University of Calcutta, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D in 1988.

The 2019 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has been awarded to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”#NobelPrize
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 14, 2019

He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to his profile on the MIT website.

In 2003, Banerjee founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), along with Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan, and he remains one of the lab’s directors.

He also served on the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Not fewer than 18 Injured As Shells Hit Turkish Border Town

Not fewer than 18 Injured As Shells Hit Turkish Border Town

Not less than eighteen (18) people have been confirmed injured in shelling on a Turkish border town Thursday, local media said, a day after Turkey launched an operation against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

18 Injured As Shells Hit Turkish Border Town
Not less than 18 Injured As Shells Hit Turkish Border Town

According to an AFP journalist on the scene: "Three people were injured, one seriously, when shells hit a government building in Akcakale"

Smoke was seen rising from several places around the town, and shelling was ongoing, AFP reporters said.

Families were evacuating and streets emptying, as local authorities called on people to take shelter.

One man was seen telling his family: “Run, come quickly.”

Turkey launched a broad offensive in Syria on Wednesday, aimed at pushing back Syrian Kurdish forces considered “terrorists” by Ankara and establishing a “safe zone” with which to repatriate Syrian refugees.

Trump Warns GOP Senate Leader Mitch Mcconnell About Disloyal Republicans

Trump Warns GOP Senate Leader Mitch Mcconnell About Disloyal Republicans

Trump Warns GOP Senate Leader Mitch Mcconnell About Disloyal Republicans
Trump Warns GOP Senate Leader Mitch Mcconnell About Disloyal Republicans.

Even as the White House appears to settle on the legal tactics to stave off Democrats' impeachment demands, uncertainty and unease over Trump's messaging approach remains high among his Republican allies, who see the ever-growing inquiry consuming the White House.

Trump has offered scant indication he is turning his focus to governing, despite his lawyers writing in a letter to Democrats that "he remains focused on fulfilling his promises to the American people."

Instead, the President has spent hours tweeting about the impeachment and lighting up the phone lines of his allies on Capitol Hill -- including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to whom he's stressed the importance of Republican unity.

In private, Trump is increasingly leaning on the Republican leader in the Senate. In a return to the President's panicked behavior during the height of the Mueller investigation, Trump is calling McConnell as often as three times a day, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

McConnell has told a small number of Republicans about the President's calls.
"This story, based on a single anonymous source, is categorically false. Leader McConnell never said anything like this," Doug Andres, a McConnell spokesman, said.

Trump has been lashing out at GOP senators he sees as disloyal, according to the person familiar with the conversations, telling McConnell he will amplify attacks on those Republicans who criticize him.

McConnell faces his own dilemma of having to preserve the Republican majority in the Senate, while also placating an erratic President who demands nothing short of total loyalty. That will become harder as more details about Trump's dealings with Ukraine trickle out.

Trump has already demonstrated his willingness to go after Republican defectors.

After Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said it was "wrong and appalling" for Trump to suggest Ukraine and China investigate Joe Biden, Trump unloaded, calling Romney a "pompous ass" and suggesting Romney himself be impeached.

Trump has also been mistrustful of Republicans who are reticent to defend him publicly, often lamenting that Democrats are much better at staying in line with their party heads than his own.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

INDIA: Govt To Release 3 Kashmiri Politicians From Detention Today

INDIA: Govt To Release 3 Kashmiri Politicians From Detention Today

The Jammu and Kashmir administration will release three politicians detained since August 5 after the Centre abrogated special status granted to the state under Article 370 of the Constitution, officials said on Wednesday night.

Yawar Mir, Noor

Govt To Release 3 Kashmiri Politicians From Detention Today

Mohammed and Shoiab Lone will be released on various grounds which includes signing of a bond, they said, explaining the reasons for ending of their detention.

While Mir is a former MLA of the PDP from Rafiabad assembly seat, Lone contested unsuccessfully on a Congress ticket from North Kashmir and later resigned from the party. He was considered close to People's Conference chief Sajjad Lone.

Noor Mohammed is a National Conference worker who has been managing the party's show in the militancy-infested Batmaloo area of the Srinagar city.

Before his release, he will be signing a bond to maintain peace and good behaviour, the officials said.

The governor administration had earlier released Imran Ansari of the People's Conference and Syed Akhoon on health grounds on September 21.

More than a thousand people, including politicians, separatists, activists and lawyers, were detained after the August 5 decision of the Central government to abrogate the special status.

The detainees include three former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

Over 250 were sent to the jails outside Jammu and Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah was subsequently detained under the stringent Public Safety Act, while other politicians were mostly detained under different sections of the criminal procedure code.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

U.S. Signs Trade Deal With Japan

U.S. Signs Trade Deal With Japan

U.S. Signs Trade Deal With Japan
U.S. Signs Trade Deal With Japan. Image:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday signed a new trade deal with Japan, the White House said.

The countries had announced an initial deal in September, including increased access to Japanese markets for U.S. agricultural producers.

The deal comes as Trump struggled to finalise more complete trade deals with a number of key commercial partners, including Europe, China, Mexico and Canada.

Meanwhile, U.S. threat remained of imposing car tariffs on Japan, in spite the deal.

Trump had so far paid two visits to Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe working to build a relationship with the U.S. president.

Brexit LIVE: Boris Johnson Talks With EU 'Are Dead' After Explosive Merkel Phone Call

Brexit LIVE: Boris Johnson Talks With EU 'Are Dead' After Explosive Merkel Phone Call

Brexit LIVE: Boris Johnson Talks With EU 'Are Dead' After Explosive Merkel Phone Call

A BREXIT deal between the UK and European Union is “essentially impossible, not just now but for ever” following an explosive phone call between Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel this morning.

The Prime Minister and German Chancellor spoke on the telephone earlier this morning, with Ms Merkel saying there could only be a deal if Northern Ireland stays in the customs union but if not, then a deal is “overwhelmingly unlikely”.

A Downing Street source said: 

The call with Merkel showed the EU has adopted a new position. She made clear a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely and she thinks the EU has a veto on us leaving the customs union.

“Merkel said that if Germany wanted to leave the EU they could do it no problem but the UK cannot leave without leaving Northern Ireland behind in the customs union and in full alignment forever.

“She said that Ireland is the government’s special problem and Ireland must at least have a veto on Northern Ireland leaving.

“Merkel said that the Prime Minister should tell northern Ireland that it must stay in full alignment forever, but that even this would not eliminate customs issues.

“It was a very useful clarifying moment in al sorts of ways. If this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible, not just now but for ever.

“It also made clear that they are willing to torpedo the good Friday Agreement.”

BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg tweeted the Number 10 source said Mr Johnson stressed to Ms Merkel the UK had put forward a reasonable new deal, but there had been no desire from the EU to engage.

She added the source said “talks in Brussels are close to breaking down, despite the fact the UK has moved a long way”.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Trump Impeachment Saga: New Twists Put Republicans On Spot

Trump Impeachment Saga: New Twists Put Republicans On Spot

Trump Impeachment Saga: New Twists Put Republicans On Spot
Trump Impeachment Saga: New Twists Put Republicans On Spot
Washington's impeachment battle over President Donald Trump's conduct with Ukraine is intensifying with news of a second whistleblower while new testimony this week brings the prospect of more stunning revelations to deepen the crisis.

Yet nearly all Republicans, taking advantage of a congressional recess, are staying silent despite more and more evidence that the President used his power to pressure a foreign nation for personal political gain.

Most of the few Republicans who have broken cover are struggling to come up with a logical defense of the President's actions — but his grip on the GOP is evident in the unwillingness of most to criticize him. And the President's assault on former GOP nominee and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney -- who he branded as a "pompous 'ass'" is underscoring the price Republicans will pay for rebuking the commander in chief.

Trump is meanwhile hyping rallies this week in Minnesota and Louisiana that are likely to stress his powerful support among his base and will hike new pressure on any wavering Republicans before most of them return to Washington next week.

The weekend's political exchanges suggested that despite a week of barely believable drama, Trump's feverish efforts are having some success in stopping any serious slippage in support among Republican lawmakers, especially ahead of any eventual Senate impeachment trial.

But recent developments also sharpen the core questions at stake in the impeachment saga that are critical to the office of the presidency going forward and US democracy itself.

Given the evidence that is already public, the question is becoming — is it permissible for a President to use his power, sometimes even in public — to pressure foreign governments to investigate political opponents before an election?
There is a sense that the history with which future generations will judge today's leaders is being written every day.


 Turkey To Send Troops Into Northern Syria As US Pulls Out Of Area - White House

Turkey To Send Troops Into Northern Syria As US Pulls Out Of Area - White House

 Turkey To Send Troops Into Northern Syria As US Pulls Out Of Area - White House
 Turkey To Send Troops Into Northern Syria As US Pulls Out Of Area - White House 

In a remarkable announcement late Sunday night, the White House said that United States forces in northern Syria would move aside in advance of a planned Turkish military offensive.

The move marks a major shift in US foreign policy and effectively gives Turkey the green light to attack US-backed Kurdish forces.

The group, long considered as among Washington's most reliable partners in Syria, has played a key strategic role in the campaign against ISIS in the region.
Following a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said that Turkey would soon begin a military offensive and US forces would not be involved in the operation.

Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria," a statement said. "The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area.
The White House added Turkey would now be responsible for all captured ISIS fighters who are currently being held by US-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
As of last month, the US said about 1,000 US troops were operating in northeastern Syria. Sunday's statement did not specify if this constituted a full withdrawal of personnel from the country.
Trump and Erdogan had a phone call on Sunday where they discussed Turkey's military operation into northern Syria.

Trump and Erdogan had a phone call on Sunday where they discussed Turkey's military operation into northern Syria.

Peace Efforts
Erdogan confirmed Monday that US troops had begun withdrawing from northeast Syria. He announced Saturday that Turkey had "completed our preparations and action plan" and was ready to launch a "ground and air operation" east of the Euphrates river, with the goal of establishing "peace" by clearing the region of "terrorists."

Turkey's operation is aimed at clearing the US-backed Kurdish militia -- the People's Protection Units (YPG) -- away from Turkey's border.

Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought the Turkish state for more than three decades. But the US backs the YPG and credits the Kurds for helping defeat ISIS in Syria.

Turkey has been working with the US to establish "safe zones" that run along the Turkey-Syria border, but Anadolu reports that while Turkey welcomes the joint patrols, it has also said the US is not doing enough to set up the safe zone properly.

In a phone call with Trump, Erdogan expressed frustration over the US military's failure to implement the agreement between the two nations, according to a readout of the call released by the Turkish Presidency. The two leaders agreed to meet in Washington next month on Trump's invitation.

The US and Turkey have been working to establish the buffer zone, which the US calls a "security mechanism," in northeast Syria as part of a bid to prevent a military incursion into the area that would target Syrian Kurdish groups, a potential operation that the US fears could undermine the fight against ISIS.

The US military's involvement along the Syria-Turkish border includes manning observation posts as well as patrolling with Turkish troops in the area.

US Changes Tone
Trump's decision to allow Erdogan to move forward with the operation and to move US forces out of the area goes against efforts by US officials to dissuade Turkey from carrying out a military intervention.
HSBC To Cut Up To 10,000 High-Paid Jobs In Drive To Slash Costs: Report

HSBC To Cut Up To 10,000 High-Paid Jobs In Drive To Slash Costs: Report

HSBC To Cut Up To 10,000 High-Paid Jobs In Drive To Slash Costs: Report

HSBC could announce the beginning of the latest cost-cutting drive and job cuts when it reports third-quarter results later this month.

BC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) is planning to cut up to 10,000 jobs as interim Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn seeks to reduce costs across the banking group, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

The plan represents the lender's most ambitious attempt in years to cut costs, the newspaper said, citing two people briefed on the matter. It said the cuts will focus mainly on high-paid roles.

HSBC could announce the beginning of the latest cost-cutting drive and job cuts when it reports third-quarter results later this month, the FT said, citing one person briefed on the matter.

Quinn became interim CEO in August after the bank announced the surprise departure of John Flint, saying it needed a change at the top to address "a challenging global environment."

Flint's exit was a result of differences of opinion with chairman Mark Tucker over topics including approaches to cutting expenses, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters in August.

The reported job cuts come after the lender said it would be laying off about 4,000 people this year, and issued a gloomier business outlook with an escalation of a trade war between China and the United States, an easing monetary policy cycle, unrest in its key Hong Kong market and Brexit.

HSBC declined to comment.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Trump's Private Fury Over Impeachment Spills Into The Public

Trump's Private Fury Over Impeachment Spills Into The Public

Trump's Private Fury Over Impeachment Spills Into The Public
Trump's Private Fury Over Impeachment Spills Into The Public

When President Donald Trump erupted in rage during two appearances Wednesday, it foreshadowed a dark and unsettled impeachment season ahead.

There was little strategy evident as Trump railed against Democrats and the media during public events with Finland's president. And there were few new answers that might help alleviate the situation he finds himself in after asking a foreign counterpart to investigate a political rival.
"This is the greatest hoax. This is just a continuation of what's been playing out since my election," Trump said during an East Room press conference that became progressively more heated as Trump faced questions about his predicament. "This is a fraudulent crime on the American people."

As one reporter, Jeff Mason of Reuters, repeatedly pressed Trump on what he wanted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do with regard to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, the President grew irate -- without answering the query.
Mason spoke later Wednesday on "Erin Burnett OutFront" that "it's a legitimate question," saying that Trump's frustration didn't appear to be a strategy but rather a sign of irritation.

Trump is "just upset and frustrated by how the impeachment inquiry is now going," Mason said. "He lashes out at journalists, he lashes out at the media in particular, when he feels under pressure, when he feels frustrated -- I think that's what he did today."
"If he wants to say that he was not looking for the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, despite what it says in that transcript, then he needs to say that or he needs to explain it, and he hasn't done that," Mason added.

Trump made no effort to veil his unbridled disgust at the crisis engulfing his presidency during two appearances at the White House on Wednesday. And he confirmed the fears of many of his allies: that the upcoming fight will consume him as he battles to clear his name.

Trump lashes out at Democrats leading impeachment inquiry
As Democrats sped up their impeachment inquiry over the past week, Trump remained mostly quiet, at least in public. On Wednesday, he broke his silence furiously.
Trump administration aides have been worried for days that the President hasn't grasped the enormity of what he is facing him in the impeachment inquiry. But he has begun lashing out privately, saying Democrats are focused on "bullshit" -- a complaint he took public in all-caps on his Twitter feed Wednesday.

In recent days, Trump has taken on a more combative stance, people familiar with his mood say. His appearances on Wednesday stood in sharp contrast to his last extended comments on the matter, which came during an uncharacteristically low-key news conference in New York last week.
Trump's fury came as Democrats on Capitol Hill ramped up their efforts, warning the White House to expect a subpoena demanding documents related to Trump's handling of Ukraine.
The House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who has become the subject of Trump's ire, warned against potential witness intimidation or "incitement to violence." He said obstruction of justice could be added to any articles of impeachment.

"We're not fooling around here," Schiff told reporters.
Trump responded in the Oval Office, declaring Schiff should be looked at for "treason" for dramatizing a version of the Ukraine call last week.
"It should be criminal. It should be treasonous. He made it up; every word of it, made up," Trump said seated next to the visiting Finnish leader, who sat mostly expressionless.
Tapper: Trump refused to answer this question

Whether the President's new public demeanor means he will now take aides up on their offers to form an impeachment response team or hire new lawyers remains to be seen. Trump has grown upset at reports he's looking to stand up an impeachment "war room," believing they make him look weak.Instead, Trump has adopted the same approach he took toward the Russia investigation: seek to discredit the investigators while painting himself a victim of a bureaucracy gone rogue.
Trump's allies have expressed concern at that approach.

For starters, Trump has already released enough damaging information -- in the form of his Ukraine call transcript and the whistleblower complaint -- for the American public to form their own opinions of the situation.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Boris Johnson Issues Ultimatum As EU Balks At His Brexit Plan

Boris Johnson Issues Ultimatum As EU Balks At His Brexit Plan

Boris Johnson Issues Ultimatum As EU Balks At His Brexit Plan
Boris Johnson Issues Ultimatum As EU Balks At His Brexit Plan. Image: Bloomberg

Boris Johnson is poised to issue an ultimatum to the European Union on Wednesday: negotiate Brexit on his terms within the next nine days, or face a no-deal divorce. A key EU player has already rejected the prime minister’s plan.

On Wednesday, Johnson will address his Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester, England, and his office said he would present a “fair and reasonable compromise” offer to the EU. He will say it is now vital to deliver on the decision of the British people to leave the EU in a referendum in 2016.

“After three and a half years people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools,” Johnson will say. “They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all.”

As details of Johnson’s proposals emerged, Ireland quickly shot them down. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said it didn’t look like the basis for a deal, and described a report of the plan in the Telegraph newspaper as “concerning.”

If Brexit talks collapse, the UK will be on course to leave the bloc without a deal. Johnson is vowing to defy efforts by the British Parliament to prevent a no-deal exit. His office said on Tuesday that he would never negotiate the extension to EU membership that new legislation demands if he can’t secure an agreement.

If he can’t get a deal and he doesn’t seek a delay, he will probably find himself fighting members of parliament in court – and could even be ousted.

“The prime minister will in no circumstances negotiate a delay,” his office said.

New offer

Johnson will propose scrapping the so-called Irish border backstop – the most contentious part of the deal that his predecessor Theresa May signed – and instead placing Northern Ireland in a temporary regime with a time limit. Customs checks would be required between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – something Ireland and the EU oppose.

According to people familiar with the matter, Johnson’s plan contains three key elements:

  1. The whole UK including Northern Ireland will be in a separate British customs regime and not in the EU’s customs union.
  2. Special temporary arrangements for customs and regulatory enforcement on goods crossing the Northern Irish border. This system would apply for about four years.
  3. The policy will be subject to the “consent” of the communities in the region – through the restoration of the power-sharing assembly in Northern Ireland and other institutions, which are currently suspended.
The prime minister’s office said his plan will be his “final” proposal and – if rejected – the UK would walk away and begin preparations for a no-deal Brexit. In an interview with The Sun newspaper on Tuesday, the premier set a new deadline for reaching a deal by 11 October.

This week had seen some hints that there might be a way to get a deal. Tory MPs who refused to vote for the agreement that May negotiated suggested they could be persuaded to back a deal to avoid losing Brexit altogether.

The Democratic Unionist Party – a key ally from Northern Ireland – has been publicly supportive of Johnson and his negotiating efforts. Johnson said at an event in Manchester alongside DUP figures late Tuesday that he hoped to clinch a deal in the next few days.

Meanwhile it emerged that European governments have privately discussed allowing a time limit on the so-called Irish backstop – the most controversial part of the deal, according to two people familiar with the situation.

But the time limit would only be on offer if Johnson puts forward a workable proposal, officials said. Johnson isn’t ruling out a time limit on the backstop.

With less than a month to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, everything still hangs on the question of the Irish border. Once the UK has left the EU’s customs union, there will need to be border controls, but both sides say they’re opposed to physical infrastructure such as checkpoints on the frontier.

Johnson has said he wants to abolish the backstop – designed as an insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland – because it risks trapping the UK in EU rules indefinitely.

In interviews this week he said customs checks of some kind would be needed on the island of Ireland as a consequence of the EU’s demands to protect its single market. The tone of his comments alarmed some in Brussels.

“There will have to be a system, for customs checks away from the border,” the prime minister said in an interview with the BBC. “That is where the argument is going to be. And that’s where the negotiation will be tough.”

World Bank Appoints New Country Director For Nigeria

World Bank Appoints New Country Director For Nigeria

World Bank Appoints New Country Director For Nigeria

On the completion of the normal term in office by Mr Rachid Benmessaoud, Mr. Shubham Chaudhuri has been appointed by the World Bank as the new Country Director for Nigeria.

FreshReporters news gathered in the statement released by the World Bank’s Senior Communications Officer, Nigeria, on Wednesday in Abuja, said Chaudhuri assumed office on Tuesday.

It said that Chaudhuri, a U.S. national who grew up in India, joined the World Bank in 2004 and has held several leadership positions at the Bank, with his most recent position being Country Director for Afghanistan.

Chaudhuri said it was an honour to be in Nigeria and have the opportunity to help government partners, at the Federal and state levels, realise Nigeria’s full and considerable potential.

This, he said, the bank was doing by transforming the economy, catalysing private investment and job creation, investing in Nigeria’s children and creating opportunities for Nigeria’s youth and women.
Also Read:Nigeria Makes World Bank’s List For Top-20 “Improvers In Doing Business”
“The World Bank Group has a long-standing partnership with Nigeria and I look forward to deepening our engagement with government partners, with Nigeria’s very vibrant civil society and private sector and with international development partners to help lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.”

In his new position, Chaudhuri’s top priorities would be to lead the strategic dialogue with government, development partners and other key stakeholders.

He would also help to develop and implement the new Country Partnership Framework and provide customised solutions and policy advice to Nigeria.

According to the statement, in the past, Chaudhuri had been Practice Manager in the Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management Global Practice for the South Asia Region.

He also held the position of Manager of the World Bank’s Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Department for East Asia and the Pacific and Lead Economist for Indonesia.

As lead economist for Indonesia, Chaudhuri was responsible for leading the overall economic policy dialogue, advisory and development policy lending work in Indonesia.

He managed the Jakarta-based economic team, which works closely with partners in government and in the development community to further Indonesia’s development agenda.

Prior to relocating to Jakarta in early 2008, he worked primarily on China and on East Asia regional policy issues.

Before joining the Bank, Chaudhuri spent a decade as an Economics professor and Director of the Programme in Economic and Political Development at Columbia University in New York.

Chaudhuri obtained his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and his Ph.D. from Princeton University, both in economics, the statement added.
Statistics: Myanmar Had 191 Human Trafficking Cases In 9 Months

Statistics: Myanmar Had 191 Human Trafficking Cases In 9 Months

Statistics: Myanmar Had 191 Human Trafficking Cases In 9 Months

Myanmar Anti-Trafficking Police Force says it has exposed a total of 191 human trafficking cases across the country in the first nine months of 2019 as reported by PmNewsNigeria.

It said that from January to September 2019, 556 traffickers were charged in connection with the cases and 279 people were victimised.

It added that altogether 25 people including seven children were victimised, while 54 traffickers were charged in connection with 15 human trafficking cases in September alone.

Under Myanmar’s 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, people who smuggle women and children were sentenced to at least 10 years or up to lifetime sentence or fine.

Also, money or property received through trafficking will be confiscated by the government.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

China Celebrates 70 Years, Flexes Military Muscle

China Celebrates 70 Years, Flexes Military Muscle

China Celebrates 70 Years, Flexes Military Muscle

The People’s Republic of China on Tuesday celebrated its rising economy, power and world confidence in grand style with an elegant display of its military hardware and highly numbered troops.

The programme overseen by the Chinese president, Xi Jinping marks the 70th birthday of China’s development. Xi pledges continuous peaceful development in the country. Such reassurance is needed for the country facing mounting challenges especially in Hong Kong where anti-government protests has extended for about four months now.

Without forgetting its trade war with United States which has resulted in an increase of tariffs from both sides. According to a Reuters report, Xi, dressed in a slate gray “Mao” suit and accompanied by his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, said China would pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up.

The military should resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty, security, and development interests, and firmly uphold world peace, Xi told a handpicked crowd at Tiananmen Square, in comments carried live on state television.
China Celebrates 70 Years, Flexes Military Muscle

“No force can ever shake the status of China, or stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward,” Xi said from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, where Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China on this day in 1949.

China must maintain lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao, promote the peaceful development of relations with self-ruled Taiwan and “continue to strive for the motherland’s complete reunification,” he added.

Xi, whose military modernisation program has rattled nerves around the region, then inspected row upon row of military hardware and immaculately presented troops.

At one stage, Xi, riding past troops in a black, open-roofed limousine, shouted: “Hello comrades, hard-working comrades!” The massed ranks bellowed back: “Follow the Party! Fight to win! Forge exemplary conduct!” Returning to the stage, Xi watched as lines of tanks, drones and missiles filed past, as reported by Reuters.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Nigeria Makes World Bank’s List For Top-20 “Improvers In Doing Business”

Nigeria Makes World Bank’s List For Top-20 “Improvers In Doing Business”

Nigeria makes World Bank’s list for top-20 “improvers in doing business”

The World Bank Doing Business (DB) team has announced Nigeria as one of the top-20 improvers in doing business out of 190 countries, NAN reports

Dr Jumoke Oduwole, Special Adviser to the President, Ease of Doing Business, disclosed this a statement  in Abuja.

She said that the announcement came ahead of the Oct. 24 release of the 2020 World Bank Doing Business rankings.

Oduwole said that the World Bank Doing Business Report was an objective assessment of prevailing business environments based on a number of ease of doing business indicators.

According to her, in Nigeria, the report assesses doing business conditions in the two largest commercial cities of Lagos and Kano.

“The World Bank’s announcement acknowledges reforms spearheaded by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council(PEBEC) in the areas of operationalising a new electronic platform that integrates the tax authority and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

“It also acknowledges reforms carried out in some of the World Bank Doing Business indicator areas such as starting a business, registering property, getting construction permits, getting electricity, enforcing contracts, and trading across borders.

“The CAC also upgraded its name reservation platform and, in Kano, there is now an electronic platform for registering business premises online, eliminating the need to appear in person.

“In Lagos, land administration was made more transparent following the digitisation of cadastral plans in a geographic information system; digital copies of cadastral plans are now easily obtainable.

” Nigeria also made getting electricity easier by allowing certified engineers to conduct inspections for new connections. Initiatives also made commercial litigation of smaller cases more efficient.

“The Chief Judges in Lagos and Kano issued practice directions for small claims courts introducing pre-trial conferences and limit adjournments.

“ Finally, customs integrated more agencies into its electronic data interchange system, and port authorities launched an e-payment system, speeding up both exports and imports.”

She said that over the past three years, Nigeria’s score had steadily improved in the World Bank Doing Business Report, after years of decline in both score and ranking in the years preceding 2016.

Oduwole, who is also PEBEC Secretary, said that in 2017, Nigeria moved up by an unprecedented 24 places on the Doing Business rankings.

The presidential aide said that for the first ever, Nigeria was also recognised as one of the top 10 reformers in the area of doing business that year.

Oduwole, said that the recognition being given to Nigeria was one of the top 20 most improved countries, who had implemented the most reforms in 2019 was significant.

According to her, the validation confirms that PEBEC’s strategy is working and it will continue to push even harder.

“These improvements in the standing of Nigeria trail the reform agenda being implemented at national and sub-national levels across the country since the establishment of PEBEC by President Muhammadu Buhari in July, 2016.

“The PEBEC works towards the fulfilment of the projections of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020), which is striving to deliver sustainable economic growth in Nigeria by restoring growth, investing in our people, and building a competitive economy.

“PEBEC, through the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat, has carried out over 140 reforms so far in a bid to remove bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business.

“With the impending ratification of the Companies and Allied Matters Bill and the introduction of the Business Facilitation (Omnibus) Bill, 2019 in view, along with other pending regulatory, judicial and sub-national reforms, Nigeria is poised to meet its goal of being a top 100 ranked economy by 2020.

“The announcement indicates that our goal of moving into the top 70 doing business destinations by 2023 remains achievable,” she said.

Boris Johnson Battles Sex Allegations As Brexit Opponents Plot

Boris Johnson Battles Sex Allegations As Brexit Opponents Plot

Boris Johnson Battles Sex Allegations As Brexit Opponents Plot
Boris Johnson Battles Sex Allegations As Brexit Opponents Plot. Img: Bloomberg

Boris Johnson Faces Sexual Assault Allegation Amidst Brexit Deadline Crises

Boris Johnson hoped to use his Conservative Party’s annual convention to launch his campaign to win the next British general election. Instead, he is fighting for his credibility as prime minister as he faces allegations of sexual impropriety and plots to oust him.

After two months in charge of the U.K. government, Johnson was forced to deny he groped a journalist at a lunch around 20 years ago, and batted away allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a businesswoman and authorized taxpayer-funded sponsorship for her company during his time as London Mayor.

However, some of Johnson’s senior ministers were less clear in their backing for their leader.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he knows and “entirely trusts” Charlotte Edwardes, the journalist who made the allegation that the premier put his hand on her thigh. In a round of broadcast interviews on Monday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid refused to defend Johnson directly, saying he would not be drawn into direct questions about the claims.

On another allegation about his private life, the prime minister was more circumspect in his own denial.

The Sunday Times reported last week that when he was London Mayor, Johnson had overruled officials to get tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri onto trade missions, and that her company had received government sponsorship grants.
The paper this week reported that Arcuri had told four friends that she’d had a sexual relationship with Johnson.

Sunday Times columnist Charlotte Edwardes says the incident took place when she worked at conservative news magazine The Spectator while Johnson was its editor.

The allegations overshadowed the Conservative Party’s four-day annual conference in Manchester, where Johnson is trying to rally the party under the slogan “Get Brexit Done.”


Friday, September 27, 2019

 Singapore: How Technology Is Used To Solve Water Shortage Problem

Singapore: How Technology Is Used To Solve Water Shortage Problem

 Singapore: How Technology Is Used To Solve Water Shortage Problem

Singapore uses about 430 million gallons of water every day — a number it expects could double in the next four decades.

That kind of consumption is piling pressure on the Asian city state to address growing concerns about global water scarcity. So it's building new technology to prepare itself for a future where obtaining clean water will be even more difficult.

"Singapore truly has become a global water hub," said Shane Snyder, executive director of the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University. "But as it stands, it imports approximately 40% of its water today. And with climate change, that water has become far less dependable."

Rapid urbanization and rising global temperatures are making access to natural water sources increasingly hard to come by. Today, a quarter of the world lives in areas of high water stress. Experts say we're consuming natural resources faster than the earth can replenish them.

Singapore, meanwhile, is home to more than five million people and is covered in fountains, reservoirs and other water features — including the world's tallest indoor waterfall, a 130-foot Rain Vortex that pumps 10,000 gallons of water per minute. But it has no natural water sources of its own, instead relying heavily on recycled water and imports from its neighbors.
Singapore is home to the world's tallest indoor waterfall, which pumps 10,000 gallons of water per minute.
Singapore is home to the world's tallest indoor waterfall, which pumps 10,000 gallons of water per minute
Singapore is home to the world's tallest indoor waterfall, which pumps 10,000 gallons of water per minute

Snyder's research facility is one of several places developing solutions for Singapore's water dependency. The hope is to create projects that could be used across the city.
"What we have become used to as reliable water, may quickly change — so we have to be prepared, we have to be thinking about the infrastructure in advance," Snyder said. "There's a big drive to become water independent — to control our own future — and that is largely dependent on the technologies we're developing."

One development: 
A small, black sponge called carbon fiber aerogel that the university says can clean waste water on a mass scale. The sponge absorbs 190 times its weight in waste, contaminants and microplastics.

The material is being further developed for commercial use by Singapore-based startup EcoWorth Technology. CEO Andre Stoltz said the company will first enter Singapore's waste water market before eventually developing this material for use on a global scale.

"We believe it's potential impact is very big," Stoltz said, adding that the product allows the company "to convert waste products to something of worth."

 Singapore: How Technology Is Used To Solve Water Shortage Problem
EcoWorth Tech says carbon-fiber aerogel can remove 190 times its weight in waste, contaminants and microplastics.

Another company, WateRoam, is already taking innovation from Singapore to the rest of the region. Founded in 2014, WateRoam says it has developed a lightweight, portable filtration device that they say has already provided clean drinking water to more than 75,000 people across Southeast Asia.
WateRoam CEO David Pong said one of the most innovative aspects of the product is its simplicity.

"We're going with a no-frills approach because we're looking at water as a basic problem and a basic commodity ... and as a result, we needs basic technology to solve this problem," Pong said. "We want people who are laymen — not specialists or engineers — to be able to pick up this product and intuitively know how to use it."

The water filtration device is no bigger than a bicycle pump, yet it can provide clean water to villages of 100 people for up to two years, according to the company.
WateRoam's filtration device is designed to be as simple as possible.
WateRoam's filtration device is designed to be as simple as possible.
WateRoam's filtration device is designed to be as simple as possible.
"We've been very blessed to have access to clean drinking water," Pong said. "It's a privilege that we should be able to bring forth to the rest of the region, and advocate that clean water is an essential aspect for life on earth."
China Pledges Strengthened Support To Nigeria’s Development Pursuit

China Pledges Strengthened Support To Nigeria’s Development Pursuit

China Pledges Strengthened Support To Nigeria’s Development Pursuit

Ambassador of China to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian,  has said that the Chinese government would strengthen its support and collaboration to Nigeria, to achieve its development and economic growth.

Zhou made this known on Thursday in Abuja during the commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.

According to Zhou, China and Africa has always been a community with a shared future,  which is why China will work unremittingly to strengthen solidarity and cooperation with African countries, NAN reports

He said that China would continue to pursue a mutually beneficial strategy of opening up, advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, so as to share development opportunities with other countries.

He added that China would stay as determined as ever to build world peace, contribute to global prosperity and uphold the international order.

“Both China and Nigeria are major developing countries of great influence in the world.

“Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1971 and strategic partnership in 2005 in particular, the all-round, wide-ranging and high-quality bilateral cooperation between China and Nigeria has been a pace-setter for China-Africa cooperation.

“In recent years, thanks to the strategic guidance and personal commitment of President Xi and President Buhari, China and Nigeria have significantly enhanced political trust and secured fruitful outcomes in practical cooperation.

“China-Nigeria relations are at their best time in history and face new opportunities of growth.

“The brotherly South-South cooperation between China and Nigeria is equal-footed and mutually beneficial.

“We firmly support Nigeria in pursuing a development path that suits Nigeria’s national conditions and have confidence that under the able leadership of President Buhari, Nigeria will achieve even greater success in its national development.

“We stand ready to work with Nigeria to enhance mutual trust, jointly pursue Belt and Road cooperation in greater synergy with Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

“Effectively implement the outcomes of FOCAC Beijing Summit, and elevate the strategic partnership between China and Nigeria to a new level,” Zhou said.

He said that presently, the world was undergoing profound changes unseen in a century with various global challenges on the rise, under which circumstances no country can stay immune on its own.

He said that all countries need more than ever before to strengthen communication and coordination, respect each other’s development path, multilateralism, among others and China stands ready to make positive contributions to this end.

Also speaking, Amb. Zubairu Dada, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said that Nigeria and China enjoy strategic partnership in all facets of our bilateral relationship.

Dada said that the Economic Relations  between Nigeria and China are largely characterised by trade and have grown tremendously over the years.

“As Nigeria joined the Belt_and Road Initiative by signing the MoU on the one Belt and one Road framework, it is hoped that bilateral trade cooperation between China and Nigeria will reach greater heights.

“Nigeria deeply appreciates the growing level of cooperation and technical assistance provided by China in several sectors of the economy both at bilateral level and through the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

“Nigeria also commends the People’s Republic of China for its participation in the Federal government’s economic recovery and growth plan (ERGP) through its infrastructure projects in the country.

“Nigeria appreciates China’s humanitarian and military assistance in the fight against security challenges facing the country”, Dada said.

Dada explained that from the point of view of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy, Nigeria’s strategy was to promote partnerships with friendly countries through the attraction of Foreign Direct Investments, skills and technology for wealth and job creation.

He said that as the Nigerian government continued to provide an enabling environment for foreign direct investments in Nigeria, it was the expectation that China would  continue to provide the necessary support.