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  • Brexit Decision Day Arrives as U.K. Parliament Votes on Deal

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    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson will put his Brexit deal to Parliament to accept or reject Saturday, knowing that his political future and that of the country he leads are on the line in the knife-edge vote.The U.K.’s 650 members of Parliament will convene in Westminster for only the fourth Saturday sitting since World War II to decide whether to endorse the Brexit agreement Johnson struck Thursday with the European Union.Will Johnson Win? We’re Counting the VotesIf the British prime minister wins the critical vote, the country will be on course to leave the EU at the end of the month in an orderly break-up. A status-quo transition period lasting until the end of 2020 will give businesses and citizens time to plan for life outside the EU.But if Johnson loses, the U.K. will be hurled into an unprecedented political and constitutional crisis, with a potentially severe impact on trade, hitting supplies of food and fuel, and sparking civil disorder.Johnson has vowed he will seek to force the U.K. out of the EU on Oct. 31 even if MPs reject his divorce accord Saturday -- without an agreement to soften the impact on the economy and society.Parliament Votes on Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal: Your GuideHis opponents in Parliament are aiming to stop him by using a new law under which he is required to write to the EU by the end of the day Saturday seeking to secure an extension to the Brexit deadline, if he hasn’t won MPs’ backing for his deal, or for a no-deal split.Johnson says he will keep fighting to exit the EU on time, whatever the cost. The clash could end up with legal challenges against the government within days, potentially concluding in the U.K. Supreme Court.An emergency 11th hour summit in Brussels, a general election, another attempt to pass a vote in Parliament, and even another referendum could all follow.Without a majority in the Commons, and having alienated his Northern Irish allies, who prop up his government, Johnson faces a struggle to secure the votes he needs to prevail.‘Long, Exhausting’He spent Friday trying to woo skeptical MPs in his own party as well as opposition Labour politicians who represent pro-Brexit districts. The result looks set to be too close to call, and Johnson’s team believe they’re making progress, according to an official who asked not to be named.“Imagine what it could be like tomorrow evening, if we have settled this, and we have respected the will of the people, because we will then have a chance to move on,” Johnson said in an interview with BBC TV on Friday. “This has been a long, exhausting and quite divisive business.”Johnson received a boost from the EU when French President Emmanuel Macron said even if Parliament rejected the deal, there would be no further delay to Brexit day beyond the current deadline of Oct. 31.That added to the pressure on MPs who would prefer another extension to the deadline to leaving the EU without a deal.Order! Order! A Minute-by-Minute Guide to U.K. Parliament VotesIn other developments:Opponents of Johnson’s threat to pursue a no-deal Brexit moved to reinforce their options.Former Tory cabinet minister Oliver Letwin is proposing an amendment to the motion to approve Johnson’s exit accord that he says will act as an insurance policy to make sure the U.K. can’t an accidentally fall out of the EU with no-deal on Oct. 31.Letwin’s amendment, which may be voted on before Johnson’s deal gets a chance to be put to MPs for approval, would withhold Parliament’s endorsement for the exit agreement until a new law is in place implementing Brexit.A group of Labour MPs have put forward an amendment to Johnson’s motion that would give Parliament’s backing to a referendum on any deal agreed with the EU.Johnson sought to woo Labour MPs with a promise to make commitments that ensure increased protection of workers’ rights and environmental standards in domestic law as the U.K. leaves the EU.A separate new pledge from Downing Street would increase parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations on the future partnership trade deal between the U.K. and the EU.\--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman and Thomas Penny.To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in Brussels at tross54@bloomberg.net;Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Sat, 19 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0400
  • Parliament Votes on Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal: Your Guide

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    (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s Parliament meets Saturday to pass judgment on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. How will the day play out?0830 European Research Group of pro-Brexit Conservatives meets, to try to agree a position. The premier needs almost all of them to support him if his deal is to pass.0930 Parliament opens. Johnson will set out his deal in a statement, taking questions from Members of Parliament.1100 (roughly) When Johnson’s statement is finished, they move to debating the deal. Speaker of the Commons John Bercow announces which amendments will be voted on. The one to watch has been proposed by Oliver Letwin.1430 (roughly) It’s likely an MP will propose moving to a vote around this point.How does voting work? For a detailed look at the procedure, see: Order! Order! How the U.K. Parliament Will Vote on BrexitHow are the votes stacking up? See our tally: Can Johnson Pull Off the Impossible? We’re Counting the VotesThey will vote on the amendments first. The government wants its motion not to be amended, so a “No” vote is a win for Johnson, and a “Yes” vote is a defeat. Each vote takes around 15 minutes.If Letwin’s motion passes:Johnson is required by law to seek a delay to Brexit.They will then vote on the motion as amended.The government can’t withdraw its motion at this point.Letwin argues that if his amendment has passed, the vote can still indicate how much support there is for Johnson’s deal. But it would have no legal effect.If Letwin’s amendment is defeated, or isn’t selected for a vote:They will vote on the unamended motionA “Yes” vote is a win for Johnson. He will not be required to seek a delay to Brexit.A “No” vote means Johnson is required to ask the European Union for more time.If the deal is rejected, Johnson could choose to ask for a vote on whether the U.K. should leave the EU without a deal. In practice, this is unlikely, because it would reveal how little support that idea has in Parliament. If Johnson does push the question, an amendment has been proposed that would call instead for a second referendum.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Sat, 19 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0400
  • Young climate activists in Africa struggle to be heard

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    As Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion inspire climate protesters across the globe, young African activists say they still struggle to make themselves heard. "No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa," the United Nations Environment Programme said as it warned of increased flooding, widespread food insecurity and major economic losses. At the Climate Chance conference in Ghana's capital Accra this week hundreds of campaigners, local government officials and business people from across the continent sought a way forward.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 22:47:56 -0400
  • Brexit in the balance as British MPs hold historic vote

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    British MPs gather Saturday for a historic vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal -- a decision that could see the UK leave the EU this month or plunge the country into fresh uncertainty. The House of Commons is holding its first Saturday sitting since the 1982 Falklands War to debate the terms of a divorce agreement Johnson struck with European Union leaders Thursday. Opposition parties and Johnson's own Northern Irish allies have rejected the text but the prime minister and his team have spent the past 48 hours frantically trying to win MPs' support.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 22:21:43 -0400
  • Trump touts Turkey cease-fire, even as it appears shaky

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    President Donald Trump punched back Friday at criticism that his Syria withdrawal is damaging U.S. credibility, betraying Kurdish allies and opening the door for a possible resurgence of the Islamic State. "We've had tremendous success I think over the last couple of days," Trump declared. Calling his Syria approach "a little bit unconventional," the president contended that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as the Syrian Kurdish fighters the Turks are battling agree that the U.S.-brokered cease-fire was the right step and were complying with it.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 21:05:05 -0400
  • Angry over Brexit, thousands to gather in London demanding new referendum

    The battle over Brexit spills onto the streets of London on Saturday when many thousands of people are expected to march through London to demand a new referendum just as parliament decides the fate of Britain's departure from the European Union. After more than three years of tortuous debate, it is still uncertain how, when or even if Brexit will happen as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to pass his new Brexit deal and plots a way out of the deepest political crisis in a generation. James McGrory, director of the People’s Vote campaign, which organised the march, said the government should heed the anger of pro-Europeans and hold another referendum on Brexit.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 19:01:00 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Brexit day of reckoning: parliament to vote on Johnson's deal

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson puts his last-minute Brexit deal to a vote in an extraordinary sitting of the British parliament on Saturday, a day of reckoning that could decide the course of the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. More than three years since the United Kingdom voted 52-48 to be the first sovereign country to leave the European project, Johnson will try to win parliament's approval for the divorce treaty he struck in Brussels on Thursday. In a day of Brexit high drama, lawmakers convene for the first Saturday sitting since the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falklands, while hundreds of thousands of people march to parliament demanding another referendum.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 19:00:01 -0400
  • US says it recently paid cash-strapped UN $180 million

    The United States said Friday it has paid the United Nations $180 million toward its annual dues and expects to make another payment of $96 million within the next few weeks, which should help ease the U.N.'s worst cash crisis in nearly a decade. U.S. deputy ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet, who is in charge of management and reform issues, made the announcement Friday to the General Assembly's budget and finance committee. Last week, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the U.N. was facing a major cash crisis because 64 of its 193 member nations hadn't paid their annual dues — Including the United States, its largest contributor.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 18:03:43 -0400
  • UK's Johnson promises parliament role in post-Brexit talks with EU

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government tried to win over lawmakers ahead of a crucial Brexit vote on Saturday, promising once the withdrawal deal was agreed, parliament would have a say on talks with the EU on trade and workers rights. On Friday, Johnson's Downing Street office said there would be a parliamentary vote on a ministerial statement regarding the objectives of the future negotiations with the European Union as well as once those talks have concluded.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 17:30:00 -0400
  • Brexit day of reckoning: parliament to vote on Johnson's deal

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson puts his last-minute Brexit deal to a vote in an extraordinary sitting of the British parliament on Saturday, a day of reckoning that could decide the course of the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. More than three years since the United Kingdom voted 52-48 to be the first sovereign country to leave the European project, Johnson will try to win parliament's approval for the divorce treaty he struck in Brussels on Thursday. In a day of Brexit high drama, lawmakers convene for the first Saturday sitting since the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falklands, while hundreds of thousands of people march to parliament demanding another referendum.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 17:30:00 -0400
  • US-Turkey frictions raise doubts about nukes at Turk base

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    Frayed U.S. relations with Turkey over its incursion in Syria raise a sensitive question rarely discussed in public: Should the United States remove the nuclear bombs it has long stored at a Turkish air base? It's a tricky matter for several reasons, including the fact that by longstanding policy, the U.S. government does not publicly acknowledge locations of nuclear weapons overseas. President Donald Trump implicitly acknowledged the stockpile this week when asked by a reporter how confident he was of the bombs' security.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 17:21:56 -0400
  • Trump to Nominate Deputy Energy Secretary to Replace Rick Perry

    (Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said he will nominate Dan Brouillette to be his next energy secretary when Rick Perry leaves the job later this year.“Dan’s experience in the sector is unparalleled. A total professional, I have no doubt that Dan will do a great job!” Trump tweeted Friday.Brouillette has been serving as No. 2 to Perry, who led the Energy Department with its $36 billion budget and control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal and emergency crude oil stockpile. The White House arranged for Brouillette to meet with Trump on Friday after Perry gave the president a resignation letter. The deputy has been taking on increasingly high-profile roles for Perry, including sitting in for him at cabinet meetings. The White House session was described by people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because it was private.Perry, 69, has been grooming Brouillette, 57, to succeed him for months while planning his own departure. In recent months, Brouillette has more frequently served as the public face of the Energy Department both on missions abroad and at U.S. events.Trump has elevated deputies at other agencies after the leaders departed. He made David Bernhardt acting secretary of the Interior after Ryan Zinke left the administration, then nominated him for the post. Trump used a similar approach with current Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who served as the second-ranking official under former chief Scott Pruitt.A Louisiana native, Brouillette worked at the Energy Department under former President George W. Bush as an assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental affairs.His vision for the Energy Department isn’t expected to veer from the one held by Perry, a vocal advocate of the nation’s oil and gas industry, who attempted -- so far unsuccessfully -- to subsidize unprofitable coal and nuclear plants in the name of national security and electric grid reliability.Brouillette has backed those efforts and said during a speech earlier this year that “fuel-secure units are retiring at an alarming rate,” a phenomenon that would “threaten our ability to recover from attacks and natural disasters,” if left unchecked.The nominee emerged as a key figure during internal administration debates last fall over whether to grant waivers for some countries from sanctions on Iran’s oil. Brouillette argued against the waivers, saying the administration should take a tougher stance against Iran, in a memo to the State Department.In addition to his past stint at the Energy Department under Bush, Brouillette has worked as staff director for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he played a role crafting major energy legislation. He also was a senior executive in the policy office of Ford Motor Co. and financial services provider United Services Automobile Association.To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer Jacobs in Washington at jjacobs68@bloomberg.net;Ari Natter in Washington at anatter5@bloomberg.net;Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at jdlouhy1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, Steve GeimannFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 16:44:31 -0400
  • Syria cease-fire off to rocky start amid reports of fighting

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    The cease-fire in northern Syria got off to a rocky start Friday, as Kurdish leaders accused Turkey of violating the accord with continued fighting at a key border town while casting doubt on provisions in the U.S.-brokered deal with Ankara. Turkey's president warned that Turkish forces would go back on the attack in four days unless Kurdish-led fighters withdraw "without exception" from a zone 20 miles (30 kilometers) deep in Syria running the entire 260-mile (440-kilometer) length of the border. "Without exception, if the promise is not fulfilled, Operation Peace Spring will resume the minute the 120 hours end with even more determination," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists in Istanbul.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 16:43:25 -0400
  • Kurdish General Said to Reject Turkish Occupation: Syria Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outlined his understanding of the Turkish-patrolled “safe zone” in northern Syria, saying the U.S. and Russia should also play a role in maintaining a corridor that he wants to stretch along a vast section of Turkey’s border.A deal reached with a top U.S. delegation on Thursday -- which secured a 120-hour cease-fire -- required Kurdish fighters to withdraw from an area 444 km long and 32 km deep, the president told foreign reporters in Istanbul on Friday. “This is what we call the safe zone. The safe zone is not just the area between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad which is yet to be cleared.”But Erdogan’s view clashes with that of the Kurdish YPG, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State. It’s unclear how American officials interpret Thursday’s pact when it comes to defining the area from which the militia must withdraw.Erdogan denied that fighting took place between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces on Friday. However, Syrian state-run Sana news agency said five people were killed in a Turkish airstrike in the Ras Al-Ayn area.Here is a rundown of major events in Turkish local time:Key DevelopmentsTurkish markets rally a day after the U.S.-Turkey deal. Borsa Istanbul-100 index is up 3.7%, most since June 7, as of 5:31 p.m. Two-year government bond yields fell 137 basis points, most since August 2018, to 14.29%. The lira appreciated 1.6% against the dollar in the past two daysU.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Erdogan announced cease-fire deal in Ankara after marathon talks on ThursdayTrump faces Congressional rebuke for Syria pulloutKurdish General Said to Reject Turkish Occupation (11:27 p.m.)In a phone call with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Syrian Democratic Forces commander General Mazloum Abdi said Kurdish fighters are concerned about the cease-fire holding and will not stand by if “hundreds of thousands” of Kurds are pushed out of the so-called safe zone in northern Syria, according to a statement by Graham after the call. “I hope we can find a win-win situation, but I share General Mazloum’s concerns,” Graham, a key Republican foreign policy hawk who strongly criticized Trump’s decision to begin withdrawing troops, said. “I also told him that Congress will stay very involved and is extremely sympathetic to the plight of the Kurds.”Earlier, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo secured the blessing of NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg for the cease-fire deal, amid criticism by France about the U.S. decision to withdraw forces from the region.“I welcome that two NATO allies, the United States and Turkey, have agreed on a way forward,” Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said at a briefing with Pompeo as the top U.S. diplomat made a brief stop in Brussels. “We all know and understand that the situation in northeast Syria is fragile, difficult, but I believe this statement can help to deescalate the situation.”Trump Says Cease-Fire is ‘Working Out’ So Far (9:22 p.m.)President Donald Trump defended the agreement reached with Turkey for a 120-hour pause in hostilities in northern Syria, saying the “Kurds are very happy about it” then adding, cryptically, “we’ve taken control of the oil that everybody was worried about.” It wasn’t clear what the president meant with that statement.Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a statement emphasizing that no U.S. ground troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria. Esper added that he’ll be traveling to the Middle East on Saturday to visit troops and international partners before heading to a NATO meeting in Brussels.U.S. Official Says Most Fighting Has Stopped (6:35 p.m.)Most of the fighting in northeast Syria has stopped, a U.S. official said, asking not to be identified. It will take time for things to completely quiet down, which is usually the case in situations like this, the official said.Death Toll in Syria Rises, SOHR Says (6:16 p.m.)The number of people killed in northeast Syria in a day of sporadic clashes, strikes by airplanes and Turkish shelling increased to 14, according to SOHR, a monitoring groupErdogan Speaks on Trump, Graham and Syria (5:26 p.m. Friday)Erdogan said he understands Donald Trump is “under pressure,” but added that he won’t forget the Oct. 9 letter in which the U.S. president warned him not to be a “fool.” Erdogan also accused Senator Lindsey Graham of flip-flopping on whether the Kurdish militants are “terrorists.”The president said the YPG had freed 750 Islamic State detainees, including 150 Turks, during the Turkish offensive. A total of 195 militants have been recaptured, and they should be tried in their respective countries, he said.EU Leaders Stop Short of Punishing Turkey (5:10 p.m.)Erdogan’s actions were discussed at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels. The EU has called for Turkey to show restraint against the Kurds, but stopped short of threatening major punitive action against a NATO ally.German Chancellor Angela Merkel downplayed any link between Erdogan’s Syria operation and the threat of fresh migrants coming to Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron said he saw recent events as “a heavy mistake” by the West and NATO. “I found out via a tweet that the U.S. decided to withdraw their troops and free the zone,” he said.Turkey Halts Offensive But Skirmishes Underway (9:30 a.m. Friday)Turkey has halted its offensive but occasional skirmishes took place overnight, prompting Turkish artillery units to open fire on targets in the west of the town of Ras al-Ayn, Turkey’s IHA news agency reported Friday. The Rojava Information Center, which is aligned with the Kurdish-led forces, said fighting was continuing in the area and there was no sign yet of Kurdish fighters withdrawing.Safe Zone Definition Contradicts Turkey Aspiration (11:59 p.m. Thursday)Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for the Syria conflict who was with Pence in Ankara, said: “We talk about the safe zone here, and the Turks talk about an aspirational safe zone based upon what we had done with them back in August, where the safe zone was from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border and we had various levels of Turkish observation or movement or whatever down to 30 kilometers, with the withdrawal of the YPG from some of them.”“What we have now is a different situation where the Turks have pushed down to that 30-kilometer level in a central part of the northeast and they’re still fighting in there, and that’s the focus of our attention now because that’s the area that we define as the Turkish-controlled safe zone.”Turkey Says ‘It’s a Temporary Pause’ Not Cease-Fire (9:02 p.m.)Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the one-page accord wasn’t a cease-fire, but a pause, and boasted that Turkey had gotten what it wanted from the U.S. Top of their demands was that Turkish armed forces will be oversee a 20-mile “safe zone” inside Syria. Cavusoglu said Turkey was aiming to create a safe zone that would stretch for 444 kilometers along the frontier and 30 kilometers deep in Syria.Turkey Agrees to Cease-Fire in Syria, Pence Says (8:40 p.m.)Pence said the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to end hostilities in Syria. Turkey would cease operations permanently once the Kurdish forces withdraw and work on detention centers in the affected areas would be coordinated with Turkey, Pence said. Once a permanent cessation of hostilities is in place, the U.S. will lift all sanctions slapped on Turkey earlier, he said.\--With assistance from Nick Wadhams, Saleha Mohsin, Rosalind Mathieson, Selcan Hacaoglu, David Wainer, Taylan Bilgic, Justin Sink, Tony Capaccio and Steven T. Dennis.To contact the reporter on this story: Onur Ant in Istanbul at oant@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Bill Faries, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 16:28:30 -0400
  • The Latest: UN chief strongly condemns mosque attack

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    U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is strongly condemning the attack inside a mosque during Friday prayers in eastern Afghanistan which killed scores of civilians and injured dozens more. An Afghan official said at least 62 people were killed in the mosque explosion in eastern Nangarhar province that caused the roof to collapse.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 16:20:46 -0400
  • Lebanon Leader Threatens to Abandon Ship During Largest Protests in Years

    (Bloomberg) -- Tens of thousands of protesters set fires and cut off roads across Lebanon Friday, demanding the removal of a political class whose mismanagement and corruption they say has brought the economy to the brink of bankruptcy.In a televised speech, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri gave his feuding coalition government a 72-hour deadline to get behind his plan for an economic overhaul or he would step aside and let them deal with a deepening crisis that has engulfed Lebanon in the biggest and most violent demonstrations in years.Hariri accused his rivals inside the government of blocking measures that could unlock some $11 billion in international aid pledges and help restore investor confidence.“If anyone thinks they have another solution” they are welcome to take power and try to implement it, Hariri said.The ultimatum did little to ease anger on the streets, where protests were into their second night. Amid chants of “revolution” and “the people want the fall of the regime,” demonstrators burned tires, blocked roads and converged on the government headquarters in the upscale business district of Beirut.As night fell, relatively peaceful protests in downtown Beirut descended into all out riots, with small groups of masked youths setting fires, smashing windows, overturning skips and throwing rocks at police who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. With the violence worsening, large numbers of riot police and soldiers chased rioters down streets littered with debris and piles of broken glass. Army units deployed around Beirut to secure the streets. The economic stakes are high for Lebanon, a tiny country that straddles the geopolitical fault-lines of the Middle East and has struggled to emerge from the shadow of a 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. One of the most indebted countries in the world, it needs to find fresh sources of funding as the foreign inflows on which it has traditionally relied have dried up. With the economy slowing and living standards falling, anger has grown at politicians who protesters say have lined their pockets at the public’s expense. Fractious GovernmentThe protests have increased pressure on Hariri, who heads a fractious coalition government that has struggled to overcome sectarian and political differences.A Sunni Muslim, Hariri has been traditionally backed by Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom has withheld support in recent years as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia’s political influence in the government has grown. Saudi Arabia urged its citizens not to travel to Lebanon amid the violence, the official Saudi Press Agency said. At the same time, Hezbollah-allied ministers and lawmakers have steadfastly opposed higher taxes and other difficult measures to spare their supporters further economic pain amid tightening U.S. sanctions on the group’s members and on its patron, Iran.The crisis has catapulted Lebanon into a new and unpredictable phase. If Hariri and his allies resign, Lebanon could end up with a government dominated by Hezbollah, making it even harder to attract investment from Gulf Arab countries or the West.If it survives, few observers see how the government can overcome divisions that have already brought the economy to the precipice. Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, a son-in-law of the president and opponent of Hariri, warned that the resignation of the government would lead to chaos and a collapse in Lebanon’s currency. The International Monetary Fund projects Lebanon’s current-account deficit will reach almost 30% of gross domestic product by the end of this year. Amid the violence on Thursday, it issued a new report predicting that economic growth, stagnant at 0.3% in 2018, would continue to be weak amid political and economic uncertainty and a severe contraction in the real estate sector. Public debt is projected to increase to 155% of gross domestic product by the end of 2019, it said.Persistent instability in Lebanon has shaken investor confidence and made it harder to revive an economy already struggling to absorb more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the war next door.The yield on Lebanon’s dollar bonds due in 2021 jumped more than two percentage points to 20.38% as of 10:44 a.m. in London, snapping six days of declines. The cost of insuring Lebanese debt against default climbed, with the nation’s five-year credit-default swaps rising 87 basis points to 1,262 -- the highest level on a closing basis since the start of the month.WhatsApp CallsSporadic demonstrations have erupted for months in Lebanon as the economic crisis has led to shortages of dollars and threatened the pensions of retired soldiers, but the latest unrest is more widespread and violent.Walls of burning tires and debris effectively severed the main thoroughfares at the northern and southern entrances of Beirut, and crowds also headed toward the presidential palace in Baabda, footage aired on Lebanese television stations showed.The latest unrest was sparked by plans to impose a fee of 20 U.S. cents on the first WhatsApp call that users make every day. The government also discussed on Thursday a proposal for a gradual increase to value-added tax, currently at 11%, and levies on gasoline. “The most problematic aspect of the crisis is that only large-scale fiscal reforms would help avoid financial collapse, yet these unpopular measures are incredibly difficult to approve and implement given the current unrest and potential for further backlash,” Ayham Kamel, Middle East Practice Head at Eurasia Group, said in a note.(Recasts with protests, adds Saudi travel warning, analyst in final paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Lin Noueihed in Beirut at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net;Dana Khraiche in Beirut at dkhraiche@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 16:06:45 -0400
  • The Latest: Pompeo optimistic cease-fire in Syria will hold

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    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he's optimistic that the cease-fire between the Turkish army and Kurdish forces in northern Syria will hold in coming days, despite some breaches. After briefing NATO envoys in Brussels, Pompeo said Friday "we're now some 24 hours into this.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 15:56:47 -0400
  • Faced with protests, Lebanon PM blames own gov't for crisis

    Golocal247.com news

    Lebanon's prime minister gave his partners in government a 72-hour ultimatum to come up with "convincing" solutions for a rapidly worsening economic crisis, as nationwide protests against the country's entire ruling political class escalated. The blaze of protests was unleashed a day earlier when the government announced a slate of new proposed taxes, including a $6 monthly fee for using Whatsapp voice calls. The measures set a spark to long smoldering anger against top leaders from the president and prime minister to the numerous factional figures many blame for decades of corruption and mismanagement.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 15:52:22 -0400
  • The Latest: Protesters meet with Lebanese president Aoun

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    Aoun's office posted a photo of the meeting that consisted eight persons sitting with Aoun at the presidential palace in Beirut's southeastern suburb of Baabda. A member of the delegation told reporters later Friday the delegation told Aoun the government must resign and be replaced by an emergency Cabinet that calls for early parliamentary elections. Small numbers of protesters are attacking public and private property in the Lebanese capital of Beirut after security forces fired tear gas on demonstrators demanding the resignation of the government.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 15:18:09 -0400
  • Fighting continues along Turkish-Syrian border despite US-brokered pause in hostilities

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    A British volunteer with Syria’s Kurds has described the "horrifying experience" of pulling the victims of Turkish air strikes out of the rubble, as fighting continued along the Turkish-Syrian border despite a declared ceasefire. Danielle Ellis, a 29-year-old Oxford University graduate from London, had been part of a civilian convoy attempting to deliver aid to residents of a village in the border town of Ras al-Ayn when they came across corpses buried in the ruins. The group stopped before reaching the town after they were warned they were in firing range of gunmen from the Syrian National Army (SNA), which is fighting in northern Syria alongside Turkish forces. “We passed a pile of rubble in the last village before Seri Kaniyê (the Kurdish name for Ras al-Ayn), part of it was still smouldering,” the former engineering student told the Telegraph by phone. "A few people decided to have a look.  “There were a lot of bodies. I counted 10, but there were other sites being worked on so there may have been more,” she said. Danielle Ellis spoke of the horror of pulling corpses from rubble “It had been completely destroyed by airstrikes. They were all adults, I’m pretty sure men but it was impossible to say for sure because they were in a pretty bad way.” She said she also could not be sure whether they had been fighters with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) or civilians. “One of the bodies I pulled out had a gun embedded in it - it could have been military but also many picked up arms to fight Turkey,” said Miss Ellis, who has been a civil defence volunteer with the Kurds for almost a year. “There were children’s things about, a family had been living in the house at some point. “We got most of the bodies out but some of them we had to leave as they were under reinforced concrete,” she said, guessing from the smell that they had been there for several days. “All my clothes smell of death. It’s under my fingernails,” she said. "It was horrifying." Both sides accused the other of violating the five-day ceasefire, negotiated by Turkey and the US. Ras al-Ayn seemed the immediate test of the truce. Turkey and Syria border Before the deal's announcement, Turkish-backed forces had encircled the town and were battling fierce resistance from Kurdish fighters inside. After a brief lull, artillery fire and ground clashes were reported mid-morning. By the evening more than 14 Syrian civilians were reported to have been killed, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Syrian Kurds raised further uncertainty over a ceasefire deal, which was announced after Mike Pence, the US Vice President, held meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, that already was vague on key points and left significant questions unanswered.  The Kurdish administration said some provisions of the deal, which was favourable to Turkey, "need further discussion with the United States." Under the terms of the agreement, there will be a five-day pause in fighting while Kurdish forces withdraw from the border, an arrangement that hands Turkey most of what it was looking to achieve with its military offensive.  However, the two sides appeared to have different interpretations of which areas Kurdish forces would withdraw from. Turkey said the Kurds must withdraw from all parts of the Turkish border, while the Kurds said the deal applied to only a 100-mile strip between Ras al-Aiy and Tal Abyad.  Donald Trump likened Syria and the Kurds to "kids"  Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images Meanwhile, President Donald Trump drew criticism for his crowing performance at a political rally in Texas, where he compared the Turks and Kurds to children fighting in a park and said “a little tough love” was needed to broker a deal.  "Sometimes you have to let them fight, like two kids in a lot. You have to let them fight, and then you pull them apart,” he said, calling the deal “an amazing outcome”.  Mr Trump referred to Mr Erdoğan as “a gentleman” and said the Turkish president’s visit to Washington next month would go ahead despite the bloodshed in northeast Syria.  Brett McGurk, who served under Mr Trump as coordinator of the coalition against the Islamic State (Isil), called the president's comments “obscene and ignorant”.  Donald Tusk, EU Council President, said it was "not a ceasefire, it is a demand for the capitulation of the Kurds", while French President Emmanuel Macron called the Turkish operation "madness." Thousands of people have been displaced by the violence Credit: HO/AFP via Getty Images Mr Macron added that he expects to meet Mr Erdoğan alongside Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London in the coming weeks. More than a hundred civilians have been killed on both sides of the border since the fighting began and around 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes.  Amnesty International said Friday that Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies had “displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life” and committed “serious violations and war crimes” during the course of the offensive.  Ilnur Cevik, a Turkish presidential adviser, rejected the criticism as “black propaganda” and said Turkish forces had deliberately advanced slowly in urban areas to minimise civilian casualties.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 15:08:17 -0400
  • How Iran Plans to Out Smart Trump: Enter the 'Grey Zone'

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    Tensions with Iran remain high.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 15:00:00 -0400
  • Holding Off Stimulus in Germany Isn’t Just Political Mantra

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    (Bloomberg) -- When German officials get nagged about delivering major fiscal stimulus, they have plenty of answers ready for why now isn’t the moment.“I think we did a lot,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington on Friday. “The more important question is what will happen to the global economy.”Germany’s arguments don’t just rely on the national fixation with budget prudence and the avoidance of debt though. Officials also cite their assessment of the current situation in Europe’s biggest economy, as well as tactical considerations on how a stimulus package would be effective.Such reasoning might be used often this week in Washington as Scholz and colleagues attend meetings of the International Monetary Fund, which on Tuesday called for Germany to invest more and reduce taxes to aid its faltering economy. Two days later, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government cut its growth forecast for 2020 to just 1%, after earlier predicting 1.5%. Data due next month may even show the economy has just slipped into recession.The IMF is far from alone. Outgoing European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said last month that it is time for “fiscal policy to take charge” in the region, and is likely to repeat that refrain at his final meeting next week. Germany, with ample fiscal space built on repeated budget surpluses, is a prime candidate.Angel Gurria, chief of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, made a similar call on Thursday in Washington.“Even the central banks run out of ammunition -- right now, we have to complement their easing,” he told Bloomberg Television. “Countries that have room, that do not have a very big debt-to-GDP ratio, they should spend more.”Scholz said recent measures in Germany, such as higher public investment and tax cuts for individuals, will boost growth. “And this is in a situation when the economy is still stable” and employment is high, he said. While the opposition by some German lawmakers to a fiscal boost is starting to thaw, the government is holding firm for now. Here’s a look at some of the arguments they’re deploying to keep calls for stimulus at bay, based on public statements, private briefings, and confidential conversations with officials.Studying the CycleOne argument is that Germany’s slowdown doesn’t fundamentally stem from domestic weakness and the economic cycle. It’s a result of external and political factors, including global trade tensions and Brexit-related disruption. Such a situation isn’t best served by a classic stimulus response and doesn’t need measures that would normally counter the ebbing of the cycle.It’s Not AppropriateA continuation of that point is that the economy is actually close to its speed limit, with areas such as construction, where a lack of workers is causing bottlenecks, threatening to constrain expansion. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann argued that on Wednesday, saying calls for German fiscal stimulus are “completely disconnected” from reality.“The economy is working with an almost-closed output gap,” he said in response to questions at an event in New York. “Why would you spend money when you are operating at full capacity?”Two-Speed EconomyGerman weakness has generally been limited to manufacturing and isn’t widespread, runs another argument. The auto industry has suffered from trade tensions and a slow response to the global shift toward electric vehicles. But the domestic economy remains healthy, thanks to unemployment near a record low and the benefits of extreme monetary easing.The line of reasoning holds that past spillovers from the industrial sector to the consumer aren’t happening this time, because the link between the two is weaker than it was.“It’s a two-speed Germany,” Trevor Greetham, head of multi-asset management at Royal London Asset Management, told Bloomberg Television. “The consumer is okay, and the housing market is actually rising quite strongly.”The Time Isn’t RightAnother view holds that a major budget stimulus should only be unveiled when it’s widely perceived to be needed. A fiscal boost may be more potent if announced at a time when things are really seen to be deteriorating. That was the experience in 2009 during the global financial crisis. But if ordinary people aren’t much feeling the effects of economic weakness, stimulus now could be less efficient than it otherwise would be.It Needs ThoughtA further point Weidmann made this week is that stimulus should be well aimed and not just delivered for the sake of it, suggesting the need for caution. He recommended targeted spending on infrastructure, research and education, and incentivizing work and investment through tax cuts.“It would be important to use the leeway wisely in order to promote sustainable growth in the long run and not just cause a flash in the pan,” he said.Merkel argued last month that simply spending cash isn’t what’s needed, saying “it’s currently not a lack of money” that’s the problem, and there are sufficient investment projects in the pipeline. They just need to be fast-tracked.(Updates with finance minister’s interview in second and eighth paragraphs)\--With assistance from Francine Lacqua and Lucy Meakin.To contact the reporters on this story: Craig Stirling in Frankfurt at cstirling1@bloomberg.net;Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net, Paul Gordon, Jana RandowFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:41:07 -0400
  • Order! Order! A Minute-by-Minute Guide to U.K. Parliament Votes

    (Bloomberg) -- “The ayes to the right...” That’s how Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow will begin announcing the result of the votes that could determine Britain’s future.But amid the flummery of the British Parliament, where members cannot address each other by name, and the security is provided by men in tights, how can you tell who’s actually won and lost? Even veterans of the system can be caught out by procedure. Here’s our guide to Saturday’s votes.The MotionPrime Minister Boris Johnson is asking Parliament to support his Brexit deal. If he doesn’t get that approval, he’s required by law to seek a delay to Britain’s departure from the European Union.Kick-off: 2.30 p.m. in LondonThere’s no formal finish time, but it’s likely someone will propose they move to voting at around 2.30 p.m.It is up to Bercow to decide which amendments are put to a vote. He might not select any, or he might only select one or two.‘The Question Is...’Bercow will announce what they’re voting on. Amendments for this vote are being identified by letter.A - Oliver Letwin’s proposal to withhold approval of the deal until it has been passed into lawB - a call for Brexit to be canceledC - a call for Brexit to be delayed until Jan. 31 to allow an election to be held‘As Many As Are Of That Opinion...’Bercow will then invite supporters of the amendment to shout “Aye!” and opponents to shout “No!” If either side doesn’t shout, the other side wins by default.‘...Say Aye!’Which side wants what? The government wants the amendments to fail, so its supporters will be voting “No.” When it comes to the motion on the deal, the government wants it to pass, so its supporters will be voting “Aye.”‘Division! Clear the Lobby!’Assuming there’s a shout of “No,” Bercow announces a vote. In the House of Commons, members vote by walking through one of the two lobbies on either side of the chamber. The entrances are at opposite ends. On television, voting is always shown as a wide shot of the whole chamber, looking toward the Speaker’s chair. The “Ayes” will walk away from the camera, out of the door behind the chair. The “Noes” will walk toward the camera.Members of Parliament have eight minutes from the moment that the Speaker announces the vote to get into the right lobby. A bell sounds across the Parliamentary estate, and elevators are reserved for members during votes. Party whips stand at the entrance to each lobby, attempting to direct their flock through the correct door and intercept and dissuade members going the wrong way.Meanwhile at the exit to each voting lobby, tall wooden desks are slid into place at which clerks sit, ticking off the names of members as they file past. This is now done on iPads, but that data isn’t used to tally the results of the vote. That job is done by the tellers. Remember them, they’re important.‘Tellers for The Ayes?’A minute or so after Bercow has announced the vote, he’ll stand up and announce it again. This time, he’ll also announce two lawmakers from each side of the vote to act as tellers. One from each side now heads to the exit of each lobby. Their job is to count members leaving. They do this out loud, without the aid of technology. Sometimes it goes wrong. One Labour member once voted three times without being spotted. Occasionally members walking past the tellers will amuse themselves by shouting out other numbers, in an effort to confuse them.‘Lock the Doors!’While some whips are manning the lobbies, others are conducting a sweep of Parliament’s bars and toilets, looking for stragglers. This isn’t a job without risk. In one recent vote, the Conservative whip charged with minding the party’s heavier drinkers in the bar misjudged his own capacity for alcohol, and ended up being carried through the voting lobby by the man he was supposed to be minding.When eight minutes have passed, Bercow shouts “Lock the doors.” The whips duck into the lobbies and officials lock the doors behind them. If a member isn’t in the lobby now, it’s too late for them to vote. And if they’re in the wrong lobby, having nipped in to use the toilet, for instance, they’re stuck.At the far end of the voting lobby, members split into queues, depending on the first letter of their name. Because people higher up the alphabet are more likely to be elected -- they appear higher on British ballot papers -- the queue for “N to Z” is generally shorter.Having been checked off, members file past the tellers -- the government whip will be on the right, counting, while the opposition whip on the left is there to confirm -- and then back into the chamber.It generally takes about seven more minutes to get a result. The last person through the lobby is the whip who was standing on the door. They check the toilets in the lobby and make sure that everyone has voted, and then vote themselves. “All out,” they tell the tellers as they walk past.‘Order’The tellers now meet in the middle of the chamber, compare their tallies, and prepare to announce the result. They’ll stand four across. If you’ve remembered who the tellers for the ayes and noes are, then you can tell the result at this point -- the winning side stand on the Speaker’s left. The camera will cut to show them face on. Members in the chamber -- who know whose tellers are whose -- may well cheer at this point. But beware: Government tellers are used to standing on the winning side, and sometimes forget. So tellers have occasionally swapped sides at the last minute.‘The Ayes to the Right’The tellers now take a step forward, and a teller for the winning side will read out the result. They always read the “Ayes” number first. If this number is more than 318, the Ayes have almost certainly won -- but not definitely, because some lawmakers mark their abstention in a vote by voting in both lobbies. You can only be sure when the “Noes” number has been read out.‘The Noes Have It!’The teller hands the result to a clerk, who hands it to Bercow, who reads it out again, and then adds which side -- the Ayes or the Noes -- “have it”.‘Unlock!’Bercow orders the voting lobbies to be unlocked. The vote is over.So... Who won?If the Letwin amendment passes, Johnson has suffered a major defeat. He would be obliged by law to request an extension to Brexit negotiations from the EU. But the vote that follows could still tell us how much support he has for his deal. If that number is above 318, he has a shot at getting his deal through Parliament, maybe even before his Oct. 31 deadline.(An earlier version of this story corrected day of voting.)\--With assistance from Alex Morales.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Emma Ross-ThomasFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:34:47 -0400
  • General discontent: how the president's military men turned on Trump

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    Trump once based his cabinet around retired generals but his Syria policy lurch has brought unprecedented military scorn on his headJames Mattis, centre, listens to Donald Trump in 2018 before his resignation as defence secretary. His mocking comments at a recent dinner made clear that he had heard enough. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPAFour-star US generals and admirals are a taciturn bunch: they measure their words, qualify their statements and guard their silence out of loyalty to the armed forces and to their country.Not this week.A torrent of raw military condemnation has been unleashed on Donald Trump, with some of the most respected figures among retired military leaders lining up to express their profound disapproval of their commander-in-chief.The outpouring was exceptional, both for the sheer number who unloaded on the president and for the unrestrained language in which they put it. The most breathtaking words came from William McRaven, a former commander of US special operations command who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.In an opinion article in the New York Times, McRaven accused Trump of spreading “frustration, humiliation, anger and fear” through the armed forces and of championing “despots and strongmen” while abandoning US allies. The four-star admiral called for Trump to either shape up or ship out of the White House.“If this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office – Republican, Democrat or independent – the sooner, the better. The fate of our Republic depends upon it.”That Trump should be coming under such sharp criticism from figures as revered as McRaven is all the more extraordinary given that Trump put those he called “my generals” at the center of his cabinet when he took office almost three years ago. He appointed Jim Mattis as defense secretary, Michael Flynn and HR McMaster as successive national security advisers, and John Kelly as homeland security secretary and then White House chief of staff.Now all those generals are gone, and some are speaking out.Mattis, who has largely kept his silence since resigning last December, made clear his disdain for the president in the form of a stream of jokes at a black-tie roasting on Thursday night. In his first public comments about his former boss, Mattis mocked the amount of time Trump spends on his golf courses and poked fun at how he had avoided military service in Vietnam by claiming bone spurs in his feet.“I earned my spurs on the battlefield; Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor,” Mattis said.The new sense of license to criticize Trump among military leaders originated with the president’s highly contentious decision last week to pull US troops from northern Syria. The sudden move has paved the way for a Turkish invasion that has put a prominent US ally in the fight against Isis, the Syrian Kurds, in mortal danger.Several US generals and admirals expressed their disgust and bewilderment at Trump’s decision. Adm James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of Nato, told MSNBC that it was a “geopolitical mistake of near epic proportion”. He said its long-term impact would be to cast doubt on the reliability of the US as an ally.“It’s hard to imagine how one could, in a single stroke, re-enable Isis, elevate Iran, allow Vladimir Putin the puppet master to continue his upward trajectory and simultaneously put war criminal chemical-weapon user Bashar al-Assad in the driving seat in Syria.”On the same channel, the former four-star general and battlefield commander in the Gulf, Barry McCaffrey, said the Syrian withdrawal was “inexplicable”.“Mr Trump seems to have single-handedly and unilaterally precipitated a national security crisis in the Middle East,” he said, adding that the president had put the armed forces in a “very tricky situation”.Trump’s former national security adviser, HR McMaster, agreed that the decision would destabilize the region and intensify the Syrian civil war.Gen Mark Milley grimaces as Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi confront each other at the White House. Photograph: White House/ReutersBut the key question is what the highest echelons of the serving military think about Trump’s increasingly erratic leadership. A clue can be found in the viral photograph of the confrontation between Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, and Trump in the White House on Wednesday.Pelosi is seen jabbing her finger at Trump who appears to be yelling across the table from her. Soon after the photo was taken Pelosi walked out of the meeting after Trump called her a “third-grade politician”.Sitting next to Trump is Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff – the highest-ranking officer in the US military. What he was thinking in the moment is not known, but he is looking down at his hands and his face is clenched.Milley may not have the luxury to emote enjoyed by his retired four-star equivalents. But his expression spoke volumes.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:18:53 -0400
  • 'Only God is with us': A Syrian family feels betrayed by US

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    For months, every time Turkey threatened to invade northern Syria, Salwa Hanna told her husband they should take their children and flee from the border town of Kobani. Now the Christian family is among an estimated 160,000 Syrians who have fled Turkey's offensive, which began last week after President Donald Trump announced he would move U.S. forces out of the way, abandoning their Kurdish allies. The invasion transformed one of the safest parts of Syria into a war zone, leaving displaced residents with a deep sense of betrayal.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 14:04:07 -0400
  • UN says Ebola in Congo still qualifies as global emergency

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    The World Health Organization says the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo still warrants being classified as a global emergency, even though the number of confirmed cases has slowed in recent weeks. The U.N. health agency first declared the epidemic, the second-deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, to be an international emergency in July. WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the situation remains "complex and dangerous" and that officials must continue to treat every case like it's the first.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:45:50 -0400
  • Ukrainians Blame Trump for ‘Capitulation’ in the War With Russia

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    Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast/GettyKHARKIV, Ukraine—Night had fallen in this city less than 20 miles from the Russian border, and a crowd gathered around the offices of the State Security Service. From out of the dark, a tall, muscled-up, militant young man stepped forward to speak. “We have stopped Russian forces advancing on our land, we’ll stop the treason: no to capitulation in this war,” 22-year-old Georgy Tarasenko proclaimed that night of October 2 in a message and a motto that has resonated throughout the country. Recent days have seen thousands of people in the streets of the capital, Kyiv. “No capitulation!” they shout.The sentiment is genuine and deep, but so is the desire for peace in a country that has fought for more than five years against a Russian-backed separatist movement at a cost of more than 13,000 lives.President Volodymyr Zelensky won his office earlier this year promising to end the war at almost any cost. But the price has gone up as his position has weakened, and he appears ready to sign a peace agreement very much on Russian terms. That is due in no small measure to the unreliability of Ukraine’s most important supporter, the United States. Trump and Giuliani Connections to Ukraine Corruption Go Back YearsUntil last month, President Donald Trump held up vital military aid while his personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, twisted arms in Ukraine while looking for dirt on Democratic presidential front runner Joe Biden and grasping for information that somehow Ukraine, not Russia, set out to deform American democracy. A phone call between Trump and Zelensky in July that touched on these issues is now at the center of impeachment proceedings against Trump in Washington.Importantly, people believe the games that Trump and Giuliani have been playing with Ukraine have led to a sellout of Russian-annexed Crimea and the embattled Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine. For critics here, the most damning evidence came when Trump met Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month. “During the meeting in New York, Trump told our President Zelensky to ‘get together and solve your problem’ with Putin, so now we see how Zelensky is pushing to fulfill that request, “ Galina Odnorogo, one of the protesters on the Maidan, Kyiv’s Independence Square, told The Daily Beast. Odnorogo traveled from the war-troubled Donbas region to join the rallies. “We are blaming Trump for putting pressure on our president in these peace negotiations.” But there’s a problem with a movement where characters like the buff Mr. Tarasenko have pushed themselves into the foreground. Tarasenko, for instance, is a leader of Freikorps in Kharkiv, a group best known for gay-bashing and fights with police during a pride march. “All our members are of Ukrainian nationality, other nationalities do not want to join us because of our views; there is nobody more far-right than us in Kharkiv,” he told The Daily Beast.Such people play directly into the hands of Russian propagandists who denounce “a neo-Nazi effort to stoke chaos.”Protests by war veterans, nationalists, and pro-European integration groups began just hours after a representative of Ukraine, former President Leonid Kuchma, signed a letter in Minsk, Belarus on October 1 addressed to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirming the so-called Steinmeier Formula, named for a former German president. This opens the way for snap elections in the self-proclaimed Russian-backed separatist republics of Luhansk and Donetsk but makes no mention of withdrawal by pro-Russian military forces. It doesn’t talk about Ukraine regaining control of the nearly 400 kilometer (250 mile) border with Russia. Discussion of Crimea is left for some later date. In 2014, Russia used unidentified troops (“little green men”) to take over the strategic peninsula, rigged up a referendum, and summarily annexed Crimea in a matter of weeks, precipitating international sanctions on Russia that have lasted to this day.Natalia Isupova, a Kyiv school teacher, is one of the moderate voices joining the “No Capitulation” protests. “I don’t think it would be possible to hold elections in the occupied east [the Donbas region]. This is a scenario of the Crimea referendum,” Isupova said.Isupova also questions an earlier document signed by Russia and Ukraine after negotiations during the most violent months of 2014 and 2015,  the so-called Minsk agreements detailing the conditions for ceasefire.“Four years ago we signed a bad document to stop the killing of people,” said Isupova. But the killing has gone on, albeit at a lower level. “All this time Ukraine has been prioritizing security issues over the political questions. And now vice versa, our leadership first wants to run elections and then solve the security issues, then take control over the border.” Many in Ukraine think hopes for such future developments are illusory, given Russian President Vladimir Putin’s growing confidence in the face of America’s evident vacillation and weakness. If the elections in eastern Ukraine do not lead to outright annexation, as happened in Crimea, they could open the door to the kind of quasi-independent Russian satellites Moscow has established in formerly sovereign territories of Moldova (Transnistria) and the Republic of Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). The creation of quasi-states carved out of territory belonging to other nations is a favorite strategy for Moscow. Indeed, Russia and Turkey—and the Trump administration—appear to be collaborating right now to establish a similarly problematic territory in northern Syria. But the creation of these territories whose sovereignty is left in limbo doesn’t lead to lasting resolutions of conflict. Instead, they create a false peace that thwarts the chances for a real peace.The document signed by Kuchma was written as a formal response to a letter from Ambassador Martin Sajdik, special representative of the OSCE, sent out on September 11. Coincidentally, perhaps, this was precisely the same moment that the Trump administration agreed to release $250 million in aid to Ukraine it had held up in hopes Zelensky would provide support for its conspiracy theories about the Democratic Party.In the event, the suspension of U.S. aid, then its release, may have encouraged Zelensky to agree to the terms of the letter endorsing the so-called Steinmeier Formula, which is named after the current president of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who helped negotiate it when he was foreign minister. Russia and Ukraine have been discussing those terms for years, but until now Kyiv had, indeed, seen them as a form of surrender.Russian state media headlined “Ukraine has compromised,” which to this country’s war veterans, and others, sounded like betrayal.Many liberal activists, corruption fighters, and journalists are just as worried as far-right protesters about the future status of the separatist regions, but they are also concerned about the growing crowds of angry veterans on the streets. “There is a huge risk of armed protests growing violent,” anti-corruption activist Daria Kaleniuk told The Daily Beast. She said she was concerned as well that in eastern Ukraine “security cannot be guaranteed in the occupied territories, where population has been living with Russian propaganda for years.” President Zelensky’s popularity rating dropped from 77 percent in September to 66 percent, and the protest movement appears to have made the difference not only in the polls but on the ground. Zelensky’s office decided to postpone the disengagement of forces near the town of Zolote, where according to Ukrainian news reports pro-Russian forces continued to shell in violation of earlier agreements. Zelensky, a former television comedian with no prior political experience, says peace talks have nuances and the local elections in separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk “will be held in accordance with the Ukrainian constitution and legislation.” He also said that Kyiv would allow elections in separatist regions only if monitors from the OSCE determined they are fair. The Ukrainian president told his people the letter Kuchma signed was not the final word, that it was up to the Ukrainian parliament to decide the final version: “That is why there will never be any capitulation.”At an unusual 14-hour “press marathon” in a trendy Kyiv food market last week, Zelensky repeatedly tried to calm concerns about the path he’s chosen, but he left little doubt about the weakness of his government’s position.When journalists asked Zelensky to admit that Ukraine for the last five years has been at war not just with separatists but with the Russian Federation, he said, “Then we’d have to start the war in Crimea,” since Moscow now claims the peninsula as part of its sovereign territory. “Our army is not ready and I am not, as the President, ready to lose our people.”He reminded reporters, “I was coming [to politics] as the president of peace.”Every day, Ukrainians are reminded of the violence in Donbas. “Almost every week more people die and we update our data in the aftermath,” Gennady Sherbak, the founder of Peaceful Bank (Mirny Bereg), told The Daily Beast. At the time of our conversation last week, his website included the names of 4,543 dead Ukrainian soldiers, 2,892 dead civilians and 4,643 dead separatist militias. “We also have lists of more than 1,300 disappeared people,” he said. Ukrainian MP Valentyn Nalyvaichenko says that the parliament has a clear position: “We first need to see the deoccupation process that would require all aggressor’s forces and special services leave the territory; and only after the territory is free could we have snap elections,” Nalyvaichenko said.So far, Russia has not agreed to that condition.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:20:00 -0400
  • Johnson tells MPs 'no better outcome' than his Brexit deal

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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Friday there was "no better outcome" to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambled to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of a knife-edge vote in parliament. The day before the House of Commons meets to consider the agreement, Johnson urged lawmakers to back the "fantastic" terms he struck with European Union leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31. Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:17:41 -0400
  • Can Boris Johnson Pull Off the Impossible? We’re Counting the Votes

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson has managed to strike a new Brexit deal with the European Union. But does he have the numbers to get it past Parliament?Well short of a majority, he needs to persuade 61 Members of Parliament to back his deal. He looks more than half-way there, based on public comments made by lawmakers in recent days. Here’s our tally of how many have declared for him so far.Now for the health warning. This analysis is necessarily imprecise: MPs can change their minds. It’s also incomplete: There are some we would expect to back the deal but simply haven’t said so publicly yet.For Johnson, it looks tight -- but not impossible. Here’s how the numbers break down.Johnson’s Target: 320Once non-voting MPs are accounted for, Johnson needs 320 MPs on his side to win any vote in the House of Commons.May’s Baseline: 259The last time Theresa May tried to get her deal through, in March, she had the support of 279 Conservatives. They are mostly likely to back a Johnson deal too, but there are some problems.Johnson expelled a group of MPs from the party in September after they backed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. They were joined by Amber Rudd, who resigned in sympathy. Also out of the party is Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives earlier this year in frustration at the Brexit deadlock.As a result there are question marks against 19 former Tories who previously backed May’s deal. On top of that number, one deal-backing Conservative, Chris Davies, lost his seat to a Liberal Democrat in a recall election.That leaves Johnson 61 votes short. Where can he go?‘Gaukeward Squad’: 19The expelled Tories, who take their name from former Justice Secretary David Gauke, are temperamentally loyalists -- some had never voted against their party before September. Many of them are looking for a way back in -- including Gauke, who says he will vote for the deal on Saturday. Given that their objection to Johnson’s strategy was the fear he was pursuing a no-deal divorce, they may be happy to get back into line if he reaches an agreement.But it’s not certain. Gauke has questioned whether Johnson’s promises can be trusted, while former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has warned of the economic dangers of not having a close relationship with the EU. Several of them, including Antoinette Sandbach, have suggested the U.K. needs to hold another referendum.Johnson would be doing very well if he got all of them on side.Democratic Unionist Party: 10Johnson worked hard to try to keep Northern Ireland’s DUP engaged, but they have come out firmly against the new deal. They have deep reservations about anything that creates any kind of border between Britain and Northern Ireland, such as customs checks in the Irish Sea, and want a stronger consent mechanism that hands a greater say to the regional assembly. They are now trying to persuade Tories to vote against the deal.The Spartans: 28The self-titled “Spartans” are Conservative MPs who refused to vote for May’s deal. They chose their name to recall the fearsome Ancient Greek warriors who held off a numerically superior Persian force at the Battle of Thermopylae.When Johnson became prime minister, the Spartans were adamant they opposed anything but the most minimal Brexit agreement. But in recent weeks they have begun to see the virtues of compromise. This is the result of the Benn Act, legislation that aims to prevent the U.K. leaving on Oct. 31 unless Johnson has reached a deal. It’s made the Spartans fear losing Brexit altogether.The leader of the Spartans, Steve Baker, twice described the emerging deal as “tolerable” before it was unveiled. Another, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, was more critical. But many are desperate to get Brexit over the line -- for fear this may be their last opportunity.Two Spartans, at least, are fairly sure to back a deal: Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers are both in Johnson’s Cabinet.Labour: 31May pinned her hopes on winning the support of a significant minority of MPs from the opposition Labour Party who believe the 2016 referendum result must be honored. She struggled to get more than five to vote with her, but 15 who didn’t back her last time joined some who did in signing a letter this month urging the EU to do a deal. That might imply a commitment to actually vote for such an agreement.Against that is the fear of retribution from their party if they do so. Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team sense that defeating Johnson’s deal is a key step on their route to beating him at an election. Others in the party see defeating a deal as essential to securing another referendum.A law unto herself is Kate Hoey, a fierce supporter of Brexit, who’s likely to vote the same way as the Spartans.Since Johnson announced his deal, some Labour MPs who previously made pro-Brexit noises have started to come out of the woodwork, so we’ve increased the number of potential Labour votes by 10.Independents: 5Four independent MPs backed May’s deal in March. A fifth, John Woodcock, might also be tempted.Other MPs: 2Two possible supporters defy categorization. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who is stepping down at the next election, represents a seat that voted to leave the EU and has been critical of his party’s anti-Brexit stance. And Jo Johnson, brother of the prime minister, voted against the deal in March, agreed to join his brother’s Cabinet, then resigned. Both could potentially back a deal to settle the issue.So, Johnson Needs 61 of 85 Available VotesIt’s tight, but feasible. In charge of wooing MPs is Johnson’s political secretary, Danny Kruger, who has been speaking not just to Conservatives but to opposition lawmakers who might be tempted to support a deal. The opposite of his more famous and abrasive colleague Dominic Cummings, Kruger is a gentle and thoughtful former political speech-writer who has set up two charities to help people on the margins of society.The RisksThere is a question, however, of whether the prime minister might lose some support, for example among those Tories who voted for a deal in March and regretted doing so afterward.There’s also another intriguing possibility. When May was prime minister, she said a Brexit deal that split Northern Ireland from Great Britain was one that no prime minister could accept. Now she’s a former prime minister and if that’s the path Johnson takes, could she live with it?She’ll almost certainly stay loyal, but then Johnson did make her life very difficult, so it’s hard to be sure.The JokerIf it comes to a tie, Speaker John Bercow has a casting vote. It’s not clear how he would exercise it.(Updates count in second paragraph, table.)\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Jessica Shankleman and Greg Ritchie.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:16:36 -0400
  • After deadly shooting, Pittsburgh synagogue plans reopening

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    Leaders of the Pittsburgh synagogue where worshippers were fatally shot last year want to rebuild and renovate the building, turning it into what they hope will be a "center for Jewish life in the United States" and a symbol against hatred. On Friday, they outlined their vision for the Tree of Life building, where three congregations — Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light — had gathered on Oct. 27, 2018. The building in the city's Squirrel Hill neighborhood has not reopened since the shooting, considered the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:16:27 -0400
  • Johnson May Not Get His Decisive Vote on Saturday: Brexit Update

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson is talking to MPs as he tries to build a majority in Parliament for the Brexit agreement he reached with the European Union on Thursday. But rebels expelled from his own Conservative Party are moving to postpone the decisive vote -- forcing the prime minister to seek a further extension from the bloc.French President Emmanuel Macron added to the pressure on MPs weighing how to vote when he told reporters in Brussels that a further extension shouldn’t be granted if Parliament rejects the deal.Must read: Two Crisis Phone Calls Unlocked the ‘Impossible’ Brexit DealKey DevelopmentsJohnson meeting with cabinet in LondonJohnson Sells Brexit Deal to Parliament Before Knife-Edge VoteDUP reaffirms its 10 MPs will vote against Johnson’s dealJudge Rejects Bid to Block Saturday’s Debate (5:35 p.m.)A Scottish judge rejected an attempt by legal activist Jolyon Maugham to block Saturday’s vote. The lawyer, who successfully got the courts to quash the prime minister’s prorogation of Parliament, had sought to argue that Johnson’s plans violated an existing law that prevents Northern Ireland being put in a separate customs union to the U.K.Hammond Seeks Assurances (5:25 p.m.)Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond warned he can’t back Johnson’s deal in its current form because it could be used to trigger a no-deal Brexit in 2020.Writing in The Times of London, Hammond says he wants assurances from the prime minister that the government won’t crash the U.K. out of the EU without a deal at the end of the transition period.“I haven’t come this far seeking to avoid no deal in 2019 to be duped into voting for a heavily camouflaged no-deal at the end of 2020,” he wrote. “But I am not a lost cause!”Labour MPs Propose Referendum Amendment (4:40 p.m.)Labour MP Peter Kyle has proposed an amendment that would give Parliament’s backing to a referendum on any deal agreed with the EU.The proposed change is to a motion requesting Parliament’s permission to leave without a deal which might be proposed by the government on Saturday if it fails to win backing for Boris Johnson’s agreement.“Tomorrow government will ask us to vote on two motions. First, on the new deal. Second, if that fails, for permission to leave with no deal,” Kyle said. “Should the deal fail to get a majority, MPs will move forward and be given the chance to vote” for the amendment, he said. However, ministers could opt not to move the no-deal motion.The proposed change would add to the motion that Parliament “rejects leaving the European Union without a deal and believes that any final decision on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU should be subject to a confirmatory referendum before exit day,” Kyle said in a posting on Twitter.Letwin Says Amendment is ‘Insurance’ (4:15 p.m.)Former Tory minister Oliver Letwin said he will back Johnson’s deal and his amendment (see 3:15 p.m.) is simply an insurance policy to stop the U.K. accidentally crashing out without a deal if the necessary legislation isn’t completed in time.“My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the U.K. from crashing out on Oct. 31 by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation,” Letwin said in an email. “Nothing in my amendment or in the Benn Act itself in any way delays the actual departure of the U.K. from the EU immediately following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.”SNP Indicates Support for Vote Delay (3.30 p.m.)Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, suggested her party would vote for a proposal to delay the vote on Johnson’s deal until after Saturday. The amendment, drawn up by former Tory Oliver Letwin and Labour’s Hilary Benn, would withhold approval for the Brexit deal until the bill which implements it is law (see 3:15 p.m.).“We will ultimately vote against this deal but we would be sympathetic to something that would make sure it doesn’t get through tomorrow,” Sturgeon told reporters in London. She said an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline followed by a general election or a referendum would be her preferred outcome.Saturday May Not Seal the Deal (3:15 p.m.)Boris Johnson may not even get the chance to put his Brexit deal to the vote on Saturday, with support growing for a move by an alliance of former Conservatives and opposition Members of Parliament to delay the decision by a week or more.Former Tory minister Oliver Letwin and Labour MP Hilary Benn have put down an amendment to Johnson’s motion which would withhold approval for the Brexit deal until the bill that implements it is law.If it is passed, Johnson would be unable to put his deal to the vote, leaving him in a situation where he’s obliged by law to seek a delay to Brexit.Don’t Assume EU Extension, Varadkar Says (2:30 p.m.)U.K. lawmakers should not assume the EU would grant another Brexit extension if it’s requested, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned, noting such a move would need unanimous consent from EU members. The current proposal is the final offer, he added.Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Varadkar said he “cannot see the European Union coming back for another set of negotiations” if the British Parliament rejects this plan. Asked what the alternative is if this deal is shot down in Westminster, he responded that “plan B is no deal.”Macron Says U.K. Mustn’t Get Delay If Vote Fails (2 p.m.)French President Emmanuel Macron said the U.K. should not get another extension to the Brexit process if Boris Johnson loses the vote on his Brexit deal in Parliament on Saturday.“I don’t think a new extension should be granted,” Macron said at a press conference after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels. “The Oct. 31 deadline must be met.”BNP: U.K. Stocks Could Drop 10% If Vote Lost (12:20 p.m.)Stocks with heavy exposure to the U.K. economy could wipe out the rally seen over the past week if MPs reject Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Saturday, according to BNP Paribas.The bank forecasts downside of as much as 10% for the FTSE 250 index in such a scenario, with the exporter-heavy FTSE 100 gaining amid weaker sterling, strategists including Edmund Shing wrote in a note to clients.Johnson Goes on Charm Offensive (12 p.m.)With Saturday’s vote looking incredibly tight, Boris Johnson and his team are spending the day trying to persuade MPs from all parties to back his Brexit deal.Labour MPs are being offered more assurances on workers’ rights in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which would be brought to Parliament next week if Johnson wins on Saturday, according to a person familiar with the discussions.The Prime Minister’s personal focus is on winning around hard line Brexiteers in the European Research Group, and that operation is starting in earnest today, the person said.The government currently thinks about 17 or 18 of the 21 rebels who were expelled from the Tory party last month will back the deal, the person said. Many of them are seeking a way back into the party and want assurances any MP who votes against the government this time around will also be expelled.DUP Affirms Opposition to Deal (10:30 a.m.)Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, extinguished any hopes his party will pivot toward supporting Johnson’s deal. “We will definitely be voting against it,” he told Sky News.Wilson said he’s disappointed Johnson “folded to the unreasonable demands of the EU,” especially since the DUP had given him a “fair degree of latitude” on temporary Northern Irish regulatory alignment with Europe.While acknowledging tariffs on goods coming into Northern Ireland from the U.K. would be refunded if they are proven not to have entered the Republic of Ireland, Wilson said the cash-flow problems this would create for local businesses would be damaging.At Least 10 Labour MPs Back Deal, Mann Says (Earlier)As speculation mounts over the way votes will fall on Saturday, Labour’s John Mann said at least 10 Labour MPs are likely to vote for Johnson’s deal. Asked on Ireland’s RTE radio how many of his party would back Johnson’s Brexit proposal, Mann responded that he expected the total to be in the “double digits.”Mann, who will vote for the plan, supported former prime minister Theresa May’s deal and is a vocal critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for Labour MPs to reject the deal.Earlier:Johnson Sells Brexit Deal to Parliament Before Knife-Edge VoteLondon Bankers Ready for Wave of Debt Deals If Johnson Wins Vote\--With assistance from Peter Flanagan, Joe Easton and Helene Fouquet.To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net;Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:47:17 -0400
  • Scottish Judge Rejects Bid to Suspend Brexit Vote on Saturday

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    (Bloomberg) -- A Scottish judge rejected an attempt by attorney Jolyon Maugham to secure more time for Parliament to scrutinize the Brexit agreement.Judge Paul Cullen refused Maugham’s filing Friday afternoon.The decision comes as a civil-rights group, Liberty, lost its own attempt in a London court to win a declaration blocking Prime Minister Boris Johnson from flouting the Benn Act. That law requires the prime minister to extend the Brexit deadline if he doesn’t get his deal through Parliament Saturday.To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Elser in London at celser@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net, Eddie SpenceFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:32:36 -0400
  • Boris Johnson's Do-or-Die Gamble On Brexit

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    If the Brexit deal fails, then Prime Minister Johnson will be compelled by law to ask the EU for an extension.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:31:00 -0400
  • At least 62 people killed in Afghanistan mosque explosion

    At least 62 people have died and more than 100 others were injured in explosions at a mosque in eastern Afghanistan.Multiple bombings caused the roof of a mosque in the Nangarhar province to collapse during Friday prayers, Reuters reports. Rescuers are still excavating the site and pulling survivors and bodies out of the destroyed mosque, a member of Nangarhar's provincial council said.Explosives were put "under a podium in the main atrium of the mosque where people were praying before they exploded," a spokesperson for Nangarhar's governor tells The New York Times. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though the Deh Bala district does border rural ISIS-held areas. Afghanistan's government has so far blamed the Taliban for the attack, but the Taliban has denied involvement, per Reuters.The attack comes as the United Nations declares violence against civilians has reached "extreme levels" in Afghanistan, CNN notes. At least 1,174 civilians died in the months of July-September, the largest quarterly total in a decade. The rising conflict largely stems from fighting between rival political groups.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:28:26 -0400
  • Can Johnson Pull Off the Impossible? We’re Counting the Votes

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson has managed to strike a new Brexit deal with the European Union. But does he have the numbers to get it past Parliament?Well short of a majority, he needs to persuade 61 Members of Parliament to back his deal. He looks more than half-way there, based on public comments made by lawmakers in recent days. Here’s our tally of how many have declared for him so far.Now for the health warning. This analysis is necessarily imprecise: MPs can change their minds. It’s also incomplete: There are some we would expect to back the deal but simply haven’t said so publicly yet.For Johnson, it looks tight -- but not impossible. Here’s how the numbers break down.Johnson’s Target: 320Once non-voting MPs are accounted for, Johnson needs 320 MPs on his side to win any vote in the House of Commons.May’s Baseline: 259The last time Theresa May tried to get her deal through, in March, she had the support of 279 Conservatives. They are mostly likely to back a Johnson deal too, but there are some problems.Johnson expelled a group of MPs from the party in September after they backed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. They were joined by Amber Rudd, who resigned in sympathy. Also out of the party is Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives earlier this year in frustration at the Brexit deadlock.As a result there are question marks against 19 former Tories who previously backed May’s deal. On top of that number, one deal-backing Conservative, Chris Davies, lost his seat to a Liberal Democrat in a recall election.That leaves Johnson 61 votes short. Where can he go?‘Gaukeward Squad’: 19The expelled Tories, who take their name from former Justice Secretary David Gauke, are temperamentally loyalists -- some had never voted against their party before September. Many of them are looking for a way back in -- including Gauke, who says he will vote for the deal on Saturday. Given that their objection to Johnson’s strategy was the fear he was pursuing a no-deal divorce, they may be happy to get back into line if he reaches an agreement.But it’s not certain. Gauke has questioned whether Johnson’s promises can be trusted, while former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has warned of the economic dangers of not having a close relationship with the EU. Several of them, including Antoinette Sandbach, have suggested the U.K. needs to hold another referendum.Johnson would be doing very well if he got all of them on side.Democratic Unionist Party: 10Johnson worked hard to try to keep Northern Ireland’s DUP engaged, but they have come out firmly against the new deal. They have deep reservations about anything that creates any kind of border between Britain and Northern Ireland, such as customs checks in the Irish Sea, and want a stronger consent mechanism that hands a greater say to the regional assembly. They are now trying to persuade Tories to vote against the deal.The Spartans: 28The self-titled “Spartans” are Conservative MPs who refused to vote for May’s deal. They chose their name to recall the fearsome Ancient Greek warriors who held off a numerically superior Persian force at the Battle of Thermopylae.When Johnson became prime minister, the Spartans were adamant they opposed any but the most minimal Brexit agreement. But in recent weeks they have begun to see the virtues of compromise. This is the result of the Benn Act, legislation that aims to prevent the U.K. leaving on Oct. 31 unless Johnson has reached a deal. It’s made the Spartans fear losing Brexit altogether.The leader of the Spartans, Steve Baker, twice described the emerging deal as “tolerable” before it was unveiled. Another, former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, was more critical. But many are desperate to get Brexit over the line -- for fear this may be their last opportunity.Two Spartans, at least, are fairly sure to back a deal: Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers are both in Johnson’s Cabinet.Labour: 31May pinned her hopes on winning the support of a significant minority of MPs from the opposition Labour Party who believe the 2016 referendum result must be honored. She struggled to get more than five to vote with her, but 15 who didn’t back her last time joined some who did in signing a letter this month urging the EU to do a deal. That might imply a commitment to actually vote for such an agreement.Against that is the fear of retribution from their party if they do so. Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his team sense that defeating Johnson’s deal is a key step on their route to beating him at an election. Others in the party see defeating a deal as essential to securing another referendum.A law unto herself is Kate Hoey, a fierce supporter of Brexit, who’s likely to vote the same way as the Spartans.Since Johnson announced his deal, some Labour MPs who previously made pro-Brexit noises have started to come out of the woodwork, so we’ve increased the number of potential Labour votes by 10.Independents: 5Four independent MPs backed May’s deal in March. A fifth, John Woodcock, might also be tempted.Other MPs: 2Two possible supporters defy categorization. Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, who is stepping down at the next election, represents a seat that voted to leave the EU and has been critical of his party’s anti-Brexit stance. And Jo Johnson, brother of the prime minister, voted against the deal in March, agreed to join his brother’s Cabinet, then resigned. Both could potentially back a deal to settle the issue.So, Johnson Needs 61 of 85 Available VotesIt’s tight, but feasible. In charge of wooing MPs is Johnson’s political secretary, Danny Kruger, who has been speaking not just to Conservatives but to opposition lawmakers who might be tempted to support a deal. The opposite of his more famous and abrasive colleague Dominic Cummings, Kruger is a gentle and thoughtful former political speech-writer who has set up two charities to help people on the margins of society.The RisksThere is a question, however, of whether the prime minister might lose some support, for example among those Tories who voted for a deal in March and regretted doing so afterward.There’s also another intriguing possibility. When Theresa May was prime minister, she said a Brexit deal that split Northern Ireland from Great Britain was one that no prime minister could accept. Now she’s a former prime minister and if that’s the path Johnson takes, could she live with it?She’ll almost certainly stay loyal, but then Johnson did make her life very difficult, so it’s hard to be sure.The JokerIf it comes to a tie, Speaker John Bercow has a casting vote. It’s not clear how he would exercise it.(Updates count in second paragraph, table.)\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Jessica Shankleman and Greg Ritchie.To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans, Flavia Krause-JacksonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 12:05:10 -0400
  • Boris Johnson to Lose Brexit Vote by Four, Spread Betting Firm Says

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    (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to lose the vote on his Brexit deal by four votes, according to Sporting Index, a spread betting firm that has correctly called earlier ballots.If the vote goes ahead on Saturday, Johnson will win the backing of 316 lawmakers, compared with the 320 he needs, the spread betting firm said in an email. On Thursday, the firm predicted he’d win 313.In April, on the final vote on U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the spread betting firm forecast she’d lose by 60 votes. She was defeated by 58. Earlier in March, when May lost by 149 votes, Sporting Index predicted a 148 loss. In January, when she was beaten by 230, it forecast 218.Separately, 67% of all bets placed with Ladbrokes on the vote have favored the deal being rejected, the betting firm said. Still, it’s not clear if the vote will go ahead as planned on Saturday. Rebels expelled from his own Conservative Party are moving to postpone the decisive vote -- forcing the prime minister to seek a further extension from the bloc.To contact the reporter on this story: Dara Doyle in Dublin at ddoyle1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:58:41 -0400
  • GOP Rep. Rooney Won’t Rule Out Impeachment: It’s ‘Certainly Clear’ There Was Quid Pro Quo

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    A day after “acting “ White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney remarkably admitted military aid to Ukraine was contingent on their investigation into an insane conspiracy theory involving the 2016 election, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) said that he could not rule out impeachment while saying Mulvaney laid out a “clear” quid pro quo.“Whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear right now,” Rooney told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Friday morning. “That the actions were related to getting someone in the Ukraine to do these things. As you put on there, Senator Murkowski said it perfectly: We’re not to use political power and prestige for political gain.”Harlow, meanwhile, wanted to know if Rooney felt this rose to the level of an impeachable offense.“That’s something I can’t answer,” the Florida lawmaker replied. “I’ve been reading about this impeachment business. I’m not really—I went to law school but didn’t practice law. I did read something today. That impeachment is whatever the House members and majority say it is. I guess anything is.”This prompted the CNN anchor to press Rooney on the issue of impeachment, noting that he had said it was “very clear” there was a quid pro quo as it relates to Ukraine.“I don’t know. I want to study it more,” he responded. “I want to hear the next set of testimony next week from a couple more ambassadors. But it’s certainly very, very serious and troubling.”Harlow continued to grill Rooney on why he was still unsure on the matter, causing the Republican congressman to say he still wants to see if this is “grave and serious” enough to impeach the president.“I don’t think this is as much as Richard Nixon did,” Rooney continued. “But I’m very mindful of the fact that back during Watergate everybody said it’s a witch hunt to get Nixon. Turns out it wasn’t a witch hunt but it was absolutely correct.”Moments later, during a discussion on the situation in Syria and the bipartisan backlash the president has faced for abandoning America’s Kurdish allies following Turkey’s invasion, Rooney said he was worried about America’s safety as Trump was ceding the Middle East to Russia.“Do you agree at all with the assessment then from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the private meeting with the president earlier this week where she reportedly said to him, ‘Sir, all roads lead to Putin, lead to Russia.’ Do you share that concern?” Harlow wondered.“Well, I’ve read some of that,” the GOP lawmaker answered. “I was skeptical of it, like most Republicans. But I have to say this business about the Ukraine server, which no one heard about until it was mentioned recently, tells me what—are we trying to exculpate Russia, who all our trained intelligence officials have consistently corroborated that Russia was behind the election meddling, not the Ukraine.”Asked whether he agreed with Pelosi, the Republican eventually stated that “she has a point.”Rooney isn’t the only potential crack in the Republican dam when it comes to impeachment. Following Mulvaney’s disastrous comments, which he’s since tried to walk back, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) said: “You don’t hold up foreign aid that we had previously appropriated for a political initiative.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:53:59 -0400
  • Irish PM's party primed for snap election if Brexit sealed - party sources

    Supporters of Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will urge him to call a snap election if Britain can seal its departure from the European Union, four members of his Fine Gael party told Reuters. Varadkar's minority government, run via a cooperation deal with the main opposition Fianna Fail party, was supposed to last only until the end of 2018 but its lifespan was extended as Dublin took on a pivotal role in Brexit talks. Varadkar could try to capitalise on what is likely to be hailed in Ireland as a diplomatic success if on Saturday British lawmakers ratify the Brexit deal reached with the EU and leave by the end of October, the four members said.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:48:32 -0400
  • GBP/USD: Hinging On Boris' Selling Skills

    GBP/USD has been trading at a high range ahead of parliament's vote on the Brexit deal. "White smoke in Berlaymont" was one of the tweets announcing a Brexit deal – sending sterling surging – until "black smoke" came out of Belfast. Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed off on a deal with his European counterparts without receiving the blessing of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:33:33 -0400
  • European Union warned of 'historic mistake' as Emmanuel Macron blocks Balkan enlargement talks

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    The EU has made a "historic mistake" that risks destabilising the Balkans, senior officials warned Friday, after a handful of countries led by French President Emmanuel Macron again blocked membership talks for North Macedonia and Albania. There was widespread frustration and disappointment, particularly among eastern European countries keen to broaden the EU club, at the failure of the 28 leaders to agree to start formal accession negotiations with Skopje and Tirana. Leaders were deadlocked after some seven hours of heated backroom wrangling at a Brussels summit, with France alone in rejecting North Macedonia but joined by Denmark and the Netherlands in refusing Albania. "It's a major historic mistake and I hope it will only be temporary and won't become engraved in the collective memory as a historic mistake," European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said. Zoran Zaev, the prime minister of North Macedonia.  Johannes Hahn, the European commissioner who has led efforts to push the two countries to reform to fit EU norms, said it had left the bloc's credibility damaged "not only in the Western Balkans but beyond". "This is a matter of extreme disappointment," he tweeted. "To refuse acknowledgement of proven progress will have negative consequences, including the risk of destabilisation of the Western Balkans, with full impact on the EU." North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski urged his people to push on with reform despite the disappointment, while his Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov urged the EU to come clean about its true intentions. "If there is no more consensus on the European future of the Western Balkans... the citizens deserve to know," he tweeted. French president Emmanuel Macron has been blamed for the delay Credit: Simon Dawson/ Bloomberg German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders would look again at the matter before a summit with Western Balkans leaders in Zagreb early next year. The summit deadlock came days after EU ministers hit a similar impasse at talks in Luxembourg - following two earlier delays by EU countries on making a decision. Apart from France, all the other EU states accept that North Macedonia has made enough progress on reforms - including changing its name from Macedonia to appease Greece - to start talks. But Albania has less support, with the Netherlands and Denmark joining France in voicing serious reservations about its efforts against corruption and organised crime. Austrian Chancellor Brigitte Bierlein said the summit failure was "extremely regrettable". "I have spoken to the two prime ministers to express my great disappointment, and they are also extremely disappointed," she told reporters in Brussels. "This is not a good sign for the solidarity of the EU or the stability of the region." EU president Donald Tusk said he was embarrassed by the decision Credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters he felt "really embarrassed" but urged the two countries not to lose heart, saying he had "absolutely no doubt" they would one day join the bloc. "Both countries, they passed their exams, I can't say this about our member states," Tusk said. The European Commission has said both countries have done enough to at least begin talks, but Macron now says this should not happen until the whole accession process has been reformed, arguing that it does not work properly. But diplomats suspect the French are playing tough for domestic political reasons linked to immigration, and there is frustration that Macron appears to be trying to move the goalposts. "These countries deserve it, they fulfil the criteria, the momentum is right," said one diplomatic source. "It's not fair to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game." Another said "there's no logic to it. It's incoherent - an excuse." After the earlier failure in Luxembourg another diplomat accused France of "repeating the same stupid arguments again and again", warning Paris would bear "responsibility for the consequences of this". Politicians in North Macedonia and Albania have warned that their people's patience with the EU is not unlimited and repeated rejections risk emboldening nationalist and pro-Russian forces.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:32:10 -0400
  • UK PM's "deal or no deal" Saturday showdown faces wrecking attempt

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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to fend off an attempt to wreck his "deal or no-deal" Brexit vote on Saturday, as a group of lawmakers propose to delay giving parliament's backing for his new exit agreement.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:30:33 -0400
  • Boris Johnson Might Not Even Get His Brexit Vote on Saturday

    (Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson may not even get the chance to put his Brexit deal to the vote on Saturday, with support growing for a move by an alliance of former Conservatives and opposition Members of Parliament to delay the decision by a week or more.Former Tory minister Oliver Letwin and Labour MP Hilary Benn have put down an amendment to Johnson’s motion which would withhold approval for the Brexit deal until the bill that implements it is law.If it is passed, Johnson would be unable to put his deal to the vote, leaving him in a situation where he’s obliged by law to seek a delay to Brexit.The main opposition Labour Party is likely to order its MPs to support the amendment, according to two people familiar with the party’s plans. Other opposition parties are also on board. Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the 35-seat Scottish National Party, said she’s “sympathetic” to the plan and would back anything that makes sure the deal doesn’t go through on Saturday.Johnson doesn’t have a majority, so a united opposition and the support of former Tories, such as Philip Hammond and David Gauke, gives the move a good chance of passing.The amendment says Parliament should withhold approval of the deal “unless and until implementing legislation is passed.” That would automatically trigger the Benn Act, which says the prime minister must ask the EU for an extension if he hasn’t finalized a deal with both the EU and U.K. Parliament by Oct. 19.“My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the U.K. from crashing out on Oct. 31 by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation,” Letwin said in an email. “Nothing in my amendment or in the Benn Act itself in any way delays the actual departure of the U.K. from the EU immediately following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.”Letwin won’t know until Saturday morning if his amendment has been selected for debate by Speaker John Bercow.(Updates with Letwin in seventh paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:16:56 -0400
  • UK lawmaker Letwin says his amendment designed to block accidental no-deal

    British Lawmaker Oliver Letwin said on Friday he wanted to make sure Britain did not leave the European Union without a Brexit deal by mistake, explaining a proposal that could prevent a vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal on Saturday. Letwin has proposed that the approval of the deal is deferred until separate legislation to implement the terms of the deal has passed through parliament. "My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the UK from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation," Letwin said in an explanatory note sent to reporters.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 11:06:54 -0400
  • Macron Says U.K. Shouldn’t Get New Delay If Johnson Loses Vote

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    (Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron heaped pressure on the British Parliament to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, saying the U.K.’s departure from the European Union shouldn’t be delayed a moment longer.With Parliament due to vote on the revised agreement on Saturday, Macron’s remarks echoed the message Johnson himself has been sending to reticent MPs: it’s now or never. "I don’t think a new extension should be granted," Macron told reporters after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, where the deal had been rubber stamped. "The Oct. 31 deadline must be met."Macron’s stance increases the risk that the U.K. will crash out of the EU without a deal on Oct. 31. But the reality is more nuanced, according to EU diplomats who doubt the bloc will ever throw the U.K. off a cliff without a safety net. The pound dipped on the comments, and then recovered.Selling the DealAfter sealing a revised deal with the EU on Thursday, Johnson is spending Friday frantically talking to politicians from his own and other parties as he tries to rustle up a majority. The prime minister needs to add 61 votes to the tally his predecessor Theresa May managed when her version of the Brexit deal was defeated for a third and final time in March.The new agreement differs from May’s agreement because only Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K. will continue to apply the EU’s customs rules. That’s upset the province’s Democratic Unionist Party whose MPs say they won’t back Johnson’s deal on Saturday.If Johnson loses the vote, he’s obliged by law to request from the EU another extension by the end of the day. But any postponement must be approved unanimously by the EU’s 27 leaders so Macron would have a veto.EU officials were expecting such an intervention by Macron, who made similar noises before approving a Brexit delay in April, but they said that it’s very unlikely that he or any other leader would prevent another one, particularly if the U.K. was headed for a general election. While the bloc is just as keen to get Britain’s departure over the line as Johnson, it considers a no-deal exit in two weeks a far worse prospect than another postponement.Envoys from the 27 remaining countries and the European Commission are due to meet on Sunday to discuss next steps should Johnson’s deal fall.The French have consistently taken a hard line in Brexit negotiations and Macron argues that the tight deadline he insisted on the last time the process was extended helped force Johnson into concessions. Several EU governments privately now regret delaying Brexit from April until October, acknowledging that it took the pressure of the U.K. to pass a deal."I was alone and I don’t think I was wrong," Macron said, referring to the decision six months ago.Other leaders were more circumspect on the issue, with Leo Varadkar, the prime minister of Ireland, which stands to be affected most by a no-deal Brexit, saying a delay isn’t guaranteed and Luxembourg premier Xavier Bettel insisting the ball was now in the U.K. Parliament’s court.“We have done our job,” he said. “There’s a plan A, but there’s no plan B."(Updates with context throughout.)\--With assistance from Stephanie Bodoni.To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:59:33 -0400
  • Nationwide Protests Erupt in Lebanon as Economic Crisis Deepens

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    (Bloomberg) -- Thousands of protesters cut off roads and started fires around Lebanon as anger over plans to impose a levy on WhatsApp calls escalated into demands for the government to resign.Demonstrators carrying Lebanese flags thronged outside government headquarters in downtown Beirut on Friday, as some of the largest protests in years entered a second day.Chants of “the people want the fall of the regime” and “revolution” rang out and scuffles erupted with riot police as the crowds demanded the politicians currently debating a proposed austerity budget step down and hold early elections.The economic stakes have rarely been higher for Lebanon, a tiny country that straddles the geopolitical fault-lines of the Middle East, since the end of the 15-year civil war in 1990. One of the most indebted countries in the world, it is struggling to find fresh sources of funding as the foreign inflows on which it has traditionally relied have dried up.The protests have increased pressure on Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who heads a fractious coalition government that has struggled to overcome sectarian and political differences to push through much-needed reforms.Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, has been traditionally backed by Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom has withheld support in recent years as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia’s political influence over the government has grown.The crisis has catapulted Lebanon into a new and unpredictable phase. If Hariri and his allies resign, Lebanon could end up with a government dominated by Hezbollah, making it even harder to attract investment. Hezbollah’s ministers and parliamentarians have oppose higher taxes to spare their supporters further financial pressure as the U.S. seeks to choke off its funding through sanctions on its members and its patron, Iran.If the government survives, few observers expect it to overcome the divisions that have frustrated public demands for change.Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of the president and an opponent of Hariri, called for urgent measures to fight corruption and warned in a televised address that the collapse of the government would result in “chaos” and undermine the currency peg.Hariri, who canceled a cabinet session planned for Friday, is expected to deliver an address to the nation at 6 p.m. local time.Persistent instability in Lebanon has shaken investor confidence and made it harder to revive an economy already struggling to absorb more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled the crisis in neighboring Syria.The yield on Lebanon’s dollar bonds due in 2021 jumped more than two percentage points to 20.38% as of 10:44 a.m. in London, snapping six days of declines. The cost of insuring Lebanese debt against default climbed, with the nation’s five-year credit-default swaps rising 87 basis points to 1,262 -- the highest level on a closing basis since the start of the month.‘Revolution’Sporadic demonstrations have erupted for months in Lebanon as the economic crisis has led to shortages of dollars and threatened the pensions of retired soldiers.The government is under pressure to cut spending, raise taxes and fight corruption -- conditions required by international donors to unlock some $11 billion in pledges made at a Paris conference in early 2018. But the measures are proving deeply unpopular with the public, which widely blames institutional corruption, nepotism and profiteering by politicians for bankrupting the government.The latest unrest was sparked by plans to impose a fee of 20 U.S. cents on the first WhatsApp call that users make every day, causing outrage in a country where communications costs are among the least competitive in the region and people widely use internet voice applications to save money. WhatsApp, a free messaging and voice platform owned by Facebook Inc., has some 1.5 billion users worldwide.On Thursday, the government also discussed a proposal for a gradual increase to the value-added tax, currently at 11%, and new levies on gasoline. But Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil insisted there were no additional taxes planned for next year’s budget.As protests spread to the suburbs and provinces, Telecom Minister Mohamed Choucair called LBCI television on Thursday to say Hariri had ordered him to cancel the levy on Internet calls. But the reversal came too late to appease public opinion.Walls of burning tires and debris effectively severed the main thoroughfares at the northern and southern entrances of Beirut and crowds also headed toward the presidential palace in Baabda, footage aired on Lebanese television stations showed. In downtown Beirut, protesters threw bottles, petrol bombs, metal barriers and other projectiles at riot police and occasional scuffles broke out as they tried to break through the security cordon around the government headquarters.The International Monetary Fund projects Lebanon’s current-account deficit will reach almost 30% of gross domestic product by the end of this year. Amid the violence on Thursday, it issued a new report predicting that economic growth, stagnant at 0.3% in 2018, would continue to be weak amid political and economic uncertainty and a severe contraction in the real estate sector. Public debt is projected to increase to 155% of Gross Domestic Product by the end of 2019, it said.(Updates throughout, adds quotes from Basil.)\--With assistance from Alex Nicholson.To contact the reporters on this story: Lin Noueihed in Beirut at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net;Dana Khraiche in Beirut at dkhraiche@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Mark WilliamsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:41:38 -0400
  • Chinese Nuclear Stockpile Clouds Prospects for U.S.-Russia Deal

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    (Bloomberg) -- A key hurdle to extending a landmark nuclear treaty between the U.S. and Russia isn’t Donald Trump or Vladimir Putin. It’s China.The New START treaty, the last major arms control accord between the world’s two nuclear superpowers, is set to expire in early 2021. Like another key treaty covering intermediate-range nuclear missiles, which collapsed this year after the U.S. quit that accord, Trump administration officials say the agreement may not be worth extending if China isn’t brought into the fold.A failure to renew or extend the accord would mark the effective end of decades of agreements aimed at limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Experts say it would also send a worrisome signal to other nations -- from Saudi Arabia to North Korea -- already pursuing or seeking to pursue nuclear programs.U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in August that the U.S. should consider “multi-lateralizing” the agreement. “If we really want to go after avoiding an arms race, and capture these systems, we should multi-lateralize it.”Yet while the U.S. believes China will double its nuclear stockpile over the next decade, most arms control experts say it would be better for Washington and Moscow to settle on an extension of New START and worry about Beijing later.“China doesn’t have anything like the number of warheads the U.S. and Russia possess,” Sam Nunn, a former Democratic senator from Georgia who co-chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative, said in an interview. “We will at some point have to have China in the equation but that won’t happen now. Common sense would be to at least extend a treaty that already exists and work from there.”Russian officials say they want the current agreement extended for the allowed five years beyond its 2021 expiration. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters last month that that the U.S. continues to insist China be brought into negotiations, a message he said Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivered to him at the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings.But Moscow says time is running out. Negotiations for a new deal would typically take as long as a year. Even settling on an extension would be lengthy.“We urge our American colleagues not to lose time anymore,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with Russia’s International Affairs journal. “There’s almost none left. Simply letting this treaty die would be unforgivable. This will be perceived by the international community as neglecting one of the key pillars of international security.”Despite American efforts, Beijing has so far balked at trilateral talks, arguing it is far behind Moscow and Washington, which together hold more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.“China has no interest in participating in a nuclear-arms-reduction negotiation with the U.S. or Russia, given the huge gap between China’s nuclear arsenal and those of the U.S. and Russia,” said Fu Cong, director general of the foreign ministry’s Arms Control Department. “The U.S. and Russia, as the countries possessing the largest and most advanced nuclear arsenals, bear special and primary responsibilities on nuclear disarmament.”Nine countries possess nuclear weapons, with the global nuclear warhead count at 13,865 in 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Russia and the U.S. each have more than 6,000 warheads, followed by France at 300, China at 290, the U.K. at 200, India and Pakistan each with over 100, Israel at about 80 and North Korea estimated at 20-30.China’s stockpiles are expected to grow rapidly. The country “has developed a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, a new multi-warhead version of its silo-based ICBM, and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile,” Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in May. “With its announcement of a new nuclear-capable strategic bomber, China will soon field their own nuclear triad, demonstrating China’s commitment to expanding the role and centrality of nuclear forces in Beijing’s military aspirations.”Getting China to participate in any talks is complicated by Beijing’s own calculus, which involves deterring India and expanding its weapons program, said Gary Samore, a former U.S. senior director for nonproliferation and export controls during the Clinton administration.“A trilateral approach is not practical at the moment because the Chinese will not agree to institutionalize their very small numbers compared to the U.S. and Russia,” added Samore, who now directs the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University.The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF -- the Cold War-era agreement that expired this year -- is already raising tensions with Beijing. Esper recently indicated that the U.S. was looking at deploying previously-banned intermediate range missiles in Asia, angering Chinese officials. Potential bases for the missiles could be in Taiwan and Japan, Samore said.Beyond China, U.S. talks with Russia are complicated by increasing mistrust on both sides. As a UN disarmament committee sought to begin its scheduled meetings earlier this month, Russian officials wouldn’t agree to adopt the schedule in protest of a U.S. refusal to issue visas to members of its delegation, a diplomat said.The potential of an escalating arms race comes after a prolonged period of relative progress in curbing nuclear weapons.The U.S. and Russia destroyed thousands of ground-launched missiles thanks to the INF treaty. New START, reached between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, capped the total number of U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Crucially, after reaching that accord, the U.S. and Russia adopted a united stance against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, forcing Tehran to sign a 2015 nuclear accord that the U.S. withdrew from last year.Unlike the situation during the Cold War, the advent of new cyber, artificial intelligence, and space technologies has moved much of the nuclear arms competition in recent years away from quantity to quality, Nunn and Ernest Moniz, the former U.S. Energy secretary and the co-chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, recently warned in a report. That may bolster the U.S. case for China to be included in a future deal.China’s rising military and technological prowess in the decades since the first nuclear deals were ratified means the Trump administration is right in calling China to be included in new strategic talks, even if it remains in the U.S. interest to extend New START, said Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.“The U.S. has historically dominated many emerging technologies such as space, but now the Chinese are growing in these areas,” Manning said. “We need strategic dialogue to tackle these new areas. Do we want autonomous weapons or not? Do we want to ban hyper-sonics or not? That’s where the next wave is, not in whether nuclear weapons should be reduced or not.”But losing New START would send a signal to the world that the two biggest nuclear powers don’t care about arms control, Nunn said. Lori Esposito Murray, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, agrees.“You don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,” Murray said. “You keep the constraints you have that have produced an 80% reduction of nuclear stockpiles and then you look at a process that looks at China and advanced technologies.”(Updates to add estimated global arsenal in 12th paragraph. An earlier version of this story was corrected to say Nunn is from Georgia, not North Carolina)\--With assistance from Henry Meyer and Brendan Scott.To contact the reporter on this story: David Wainer in New York at dwainer3@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Faries at wfaries@bloomberg.net, John HarneyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:36:01 -0400
  • Pound Levels to Watch After U.K. Lawmakers Vote on Brexit Deal

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    (Bloomberg) -- Currency markets are likely to react sharply to the vote in Britain’s Parliament on Saturday on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.With the pound being the main barometer to the ups and downs of the Brexit saga, here is a guide to the levels to watch when markets reopen at the end of the weekend.Bullish OutcomeThe first key pound technical resistance comes around $1.3150 and may be where a knee-jerk rally will stall; the 200-weekly moving average stands at $1.3159, while the midpoint of sterling’s losses since April 2018 comes at $1.3168 and its May 6 high is at $1.3185The next big stop doesn’t come until closer to $1.3400; the mid-March high at $1.3381 stands out, while the pivotal 61.8% Fibonacci retracement of the 2018-2019 downtrend comes at $1.3453 and a four-year trendline resistance currently stands above $1.3500Bearish OutcomeInvestors short the pound may be looking to trim their exposure around the $1.2600 area; the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement of the recent rally comes at $1.2596, with October’s breakout point seen at $1.2582, the high on Sept. 20; a key DeMark trendline comes at $1.2522 The next potential barrier comes below $1.2400; the July 17 low at 1.2382 is in close proximity to $1.2353, the 61.8% Fibonacci level of the latest rally A triple-bottom in October around $1.2200 also stands out, while at the far end lies a 31-year low at $1.1841, the 2016 troughRangebound OutcomeIn case the pound fails to sustain a big move in either direction, short-term levels to watch for include pivot resistance at $1.3004; $1.2990, the high on Oct. 17; $1.2765, pivot support; and $1.2712, the 233-daily moving averageNOTE: Vassilis Karamanis is an FX and rates strategist who writes for Bloomberg. The observations he makes are his own and are not intended as investment adviceTo contact the reporter on this story: Vassilis Karamanis in Athens at vkaramanis1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Dobson at pdobson2@bloomberg.net, Neil Chatterjee, Michael HunterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:29:48 -0400
  • Brexit Defeat Would ‘Suck The Wind’ Out of Sterling’s 5% Rally

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    (Bloomberg) -- Currency strategists are ruling nothing out for Saturday’s crucial parliamentary vote on Britain’s deal to exit the European Union -- and that makes forecasting where sterling will trade something of a crapshoot.The pound could surge to $1.35 or slip to around $1.22, strategists and fund managers say as they assess the range of possible outcomes from Brexit’s climactic moment.Sterling already jumped 5% this month to around $1.29 and now it’s pinned to that marker as traders wait to see if Prime Minister Boris Johnson can convince skeptics in the House of Commons to approve the divorce deal he sealed this week. It’s fine margins, and if he can’t, that opens the door to other scenarios including an election, a second referendum, or even a move to leave the EU with no agreement in place.While Johnson’s accord has lowered the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, the risks “are not mathematically zero,” say strategists at Toronto-Dominion Bank, including Ned Rumpeltin.“Any positions predicated on an imminent no-deal crash-out look difficult to countenance at this stage,” said Rumpeltin, the European head of currency strategy at TD. “Looking forward however, we think it is still a little too early to sound an unqualified all-clear.”If Parliament does manage to pass the deal this week, the pound could test May’s peak of around $1.3185, the TD strategists forecast, though they see it struggling to move higher in the absence of fresh catalysts.UBS Global Wealth Management is more bullish. It’s retaining an overweight position in sterling against the dollar, said Chief Investment Officer Mark Haefele. A “convincing deal” could drive the pound to $1.35, he predicted.Johnson needs 61 of 85 possible votes from potential swing lawmakers, a tight but feasible number. One blow is that Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, with 10 potential supporters, came out firmly against the deal.If lawmakers were to reject it and that led to an extension beyond the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, the risk of a general election would “suck the wind” out of sterling’s rally and see it test $1.2640-60, the TD strategists predict. And that level could come under significant pressure if Parliament’s blocking of the deal were followed by the EU rejecting a request for an extension to the Brexit deadline.Jane Foley, the head of currency strategy at Rabobank, sees even greater risks if the deal fails to pass through Parliament. Sterling could dip to around to October’s low of $1.22 before finding “solid support” -- as long as the government doesn’t ramp up its no-deal rhetoric, she said.Other scenarios -- including a potential second referendum that could cancel Brexit altogether, or a delay in the timing of the vote -- cannot be ruled out either.No wonder implied volatility on sterling is so high and risk gauges are swinging back and forth. And adding to the drama, the currency market won’t get its first chance to react to the twists and turns of the weekend until trading resumes at 7 p.m. local time (or 7 a.m. in Auckland), when liquidity can be limited and exacerbate price swings.“No deal remains a threat until either a deal or no Brexit is completed,” Rumpeltin said. “An unexpected jump to an alternative scenario would quickly return both rates and FX to the state of confusion and -- often -- contradiction that has defined much of the Brexit process so far.”(Adds Rabobank view in 10th paragraph, updates chart)To contact the reporter on this story: Anooja Debnath in London at adebnath@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Paul Dobson at pdobson2@bloomberg.net, Neil ChatterjeeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 10:24:18 -0400
  • EU Leaders Fail to Make Headway on Their Trillion-Euro Budget

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    (Bloomberg) -- After managing a united front over Brexit, divisions between European Union leaders were laid bare Friday when they discussed how to plug the budget shortfall left by the U.K.’s intended departure.The trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) seven-year budget is a cornerstone of EU policy that lets farmers compete against imports from the developing world, helps poorer states catch up with the rich ones and underpins projects that bind the union together. But agreeing on the amount of cash and how to spend it is a regular source of tension between the net contributors and those who get more than they put in.Britain, of course, was a net contributor. Now richer members are calling for the hole it will leave to be covered by cuts in the budget for the 2021-2027 period. Poorer ones want everyone else to cough up more.During their meeting on Friday leaders didn’t make any headway in agreeing on a ceiling for the budget, putting at risk a self-imposed deadline to reach a final deal in December. Agreement on the volume of the funds is needed before decisions can be taken on what they should be spend it on, and the conditions attached to the disbursements.But so far, diverging positions between different countries have remained entrenched."Positions on the budget were significantly apart," said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda "Divergence of opinion was too big to find a compromise today."European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the discussion didn’t offer any guidance as leaders just repeated known positions and predicted there would be no breakthrough in December either."We’re under time pressure," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. "We have to quickly reach an agreement under the Croat presidency if possible, otherwise we won’t be able to finalize the programs by the time the new financial framework takes effect -- which wouldn’t be good."No One Is HappyThe spat is expected to keep leaders at loggerheads for months, but at its heart it’s about a tiny amount of money when spread over the EU’s 450 million people: 0.1% of GDP. The bloc’s executive arm has proposed that member states commit around 1.1% to the joint budget, while net contributors want to cap that at 1%. Either way it’s not much more than they have put in previously.Finland, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has proposed 1.03% to 1.08%, according to an internal memo. The difference between those figures amounts to about 50 billion euros over seven years. Yet almost no one is happy, according to several diplomats following the issue.The EU is no stranger to fighting over small change.The 19 finance ministers representing the euro-area’s $19 trillion economy just completed a two-year negotiation over a separate budget worth less than 20 billion euros.(Updates with Nauseda and Juncker comments in six, seventh paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Milda Seputyte, Jan Bratanic, Aaron Eglitis, Lyubov Pronina, Stephanie Bodoni, Morten Buttler, Jonathan Stearns, Helene Fouquet, Ewa Krukowska, Alexander Weber, John Follain, Richard Bravo and John Ainger.To contact the reporters on this story: Nikos Chrysoloras in Brussels at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.net;Viktoria Dendrinou in Brussels at vdendrinou@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Ben Sills, Rosalind MathiesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:55:51 -0400
  • EU finance sector prepared for hard Brexit, if deal fails- Scholz

    German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Friday said he hoped the British parliament approved an agreement for Britain's departure from the European Union, but said the EU was prepared to weather a no-deal Brexit if necessary. Scholz said there would be no significant impact on the financial sector, but sorting out complex supply chain issues could be more difficult if Britain crashed out of the bloc without a deal. "We are prepared for that," Scholz told an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

    Fri, 18 Oct 2019 09:35:49 -0400
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