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  • 'Stress test' for Merkel coalition as SPD debates future

    'Stress test' for Merkel coalition as SPD debates futureGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition faces a "stress test" from Friday as the weakened Social Democrats kick off a crunch congress to discuss their next move under a new, more radical leadership. Some 600 delegates from the centre-left SPD will be gathering at a Berlin convention centre until Sunday. The conference also marks the big-stage debut of co-leaders Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken -- the shock winners of a vote last month who are set to be formally confirmed in their new roles on Friday.


  • Johnson and Corbyn Go Head-to-Head With Days Left: U.K. Votes

    Johnson and Corbyn Go Head-to-Head With Days Left: U.K. Votes(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn go head-to-head in the final scheduled leadership debate ahead of the Dec. 12 general election. The Conservatives still enjoy a healthy lead in opinion polls but will be wary of any gaffe or misstep that could undermine Johnson?s bid for a parliamentary majority in the last days of campaigning.Ahead of the debate, the premier accused Corbyn of trying to ?fiddle? the result of the second Brexit referendum he wants by allowing European Union nationals to vote. But Johnson is himself facing a backlash over his decision not to give an interview to the BBC?s Andrew Neil, who delivered a prime-time condemnation of the prime minister, calling it ?a question of trust.?Must Read: Britain?s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy CorbynFor more on the election visit ELEC.Key Developments:Corbyn accuses Johnson?s government of misleading voters on the impact of his Brexit dealJohnson-Corbyn BBC debate in Southampton at 8.30 p.m. Sky News announces result of YouGov?s snap poll on the winner at 9:30 p.m.BBC interviewer Andrew Neil attacked Johnson for refusing to be interviewed by him, accusing him of avoiding scrutinyBetting odds show a 71% chance of a Conservative majority, according to LadbrokesThe Tory lead is now below 10 points, according to the BritainElects poll trackerCorbyn Says Johnson of Hiding Truth on Brexit Deal (10 a.m.)Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn unveiled what he called a confidential government document he said proves that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hiding the truth about the impact of his Brexit deal on the U.K.In a speech in London, Corbyn said the 15-page document ?drives a coach and horses? through Johnson?s claim that there will be no border in the Irish Sea after Brexit and that it was a ?great deal? for Northern Ireland. It shows, he said, that the government has admitted there will be customs declarations and security checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain.?Johnson?s deal will be disastrous for businesses and jobs across the whole U.K.,? Corbyn said. ?And the government?s confidential report confirms this.?Gove Defends Johnson Swerving Neil Interview (9 a.m.)Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove denied that Boris Johnson is avoiding accountability by being the only major party leader not to do a televised interview with BBC journalist Andrew Neil. ?The prime minister has done more than 100 interviews during the campaign so far,? Gove told BBC Radio. ?It?s an unprecedented amount of scrutiny that the PM has allowed to happen.?Neil himself challenged Johnson to agree to an interview at the end of his grilling of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage on Thursday. ?We have an interview prepared -- oven-ready, as Mr. Johnson likes to say,? he said.Click here for Neil?s monologue.?The theme running through our questions is trust, and why at so many times in his career in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy,? Neil said. ?The prime minister of our nation will, at times, have to stand up to President Trump, President Putin, President Xi of China. It was surely not expecting too much that he spend half-an-hour standing up to me.?Labour campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne sent a complaint to the BBC Thursday, accusing the public broadcaster of being ?complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.? He said Labour had arranged party leader Jeremy Corbyn?s interview on the understanding Johnson had agreed the same terms.Johnson has also declined an invitation to be questioned by ITV?s Julie Etchingham as part of her series of leader interviews. ITV said they will run a profile of Johnson featuring archival footage instead.Earlier:Britain?s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy CorbynU.K. Election Primer: Britain?s Economic Future Held in BalanceThe Big Brexit Bet That Hasn?t Paid Off: Therese RaphaelTo contact the reporters on this story: Greg Ritchie in London at gritchie10@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Unions dig in as French retirement strikes enter 2nd day

    Unions dig in as French retirement strikes enter 2nd dayFrustrated travelers are meeting transportation chaos around France for a second day on Friday, as unions dig in for what they hope is a protracted strike against government plans to redesign the national retirement system. Most French trains were at a halt, including Paris subways, and traffic jams multiplied around the country. Emboldened by the biggest outpouring of public anger since President Emmanuel Macron took office, unions are holding meetings Friday to plan their next steps.


  • North Korea to launch medical tourism, targeting visitors from China

    North Korea to launch medical tourism, targeting visitors from ChinaNorth Korea, one of the world's most reclusive states, plans to branch out into medical tourism next year, offering foreign visitors, most likely from China, treatments including cataract surgery, dental implants and therapy for tumours. Private tourism is one of the few remaining areas of business not blocked by sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes. As many as 350,000 Chinese tourists have visited North Korea this year, potentially netting the authorities up to $175 million, according to some analysts.


  • Merkel?s Coalition at Stake as SPD Wrestles With Its Future

    Merkel?s Coalition at Stake as SPD Wrestles With Its Future(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.The survival of Chancellor Angela Merkel?s government hangs in the balance as her disgruntled coalition partner wrestles with its future.A three-day convention for the Social Democrats, which starts Friday in Berlin, marks the party?s latest effort to get itself on track after reluctantly entering a coalition to support Merkel for her fourth term two years ago. The convention is unlikely to spark an immediate withdrawal, but could dial up the already tense relations within the government.The SPD?s newly-elected leaders -- a pair of outspoken coalition critics and Berlin outsiders -- are pushing for concessions from Merkel?s Christian Democrat-led bloc. Many are likely to brush against conservative red lines.SPD Demand ListThe roughly 1,000 delegates are expected to rally behind the demands, which buys time for the duo of Norbert Walter-Borjans and Saskia Esken. The duo won an SPD leadership contest last weekend against a tandem led by coalition loyalist Olaf Scholz, Merkel?s finance minister and vice chancellor.The party?s leaders have softened their campaign pledges, but they will still be under pressure from a restive base and negotiations with Merkel?s bloc won?t be easy.Reopening a climate package that took months to secure will find little support from the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the CSU. Equally, increasing the minimum wage towards the SPD target of 12 euros ($13) an hour could become a major bone of contention.Pushing too hard could be risky as pulling out of the coalition could trigger a snap election. That could be disastrous with support for the SPD on par with the far-right AfD. The CDU, led by the embattled Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, also has little incentive to seek an early, and Merkel is keen to see out her tenure, especially with Germany set to hold the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of next year.The convention is likely to be rauscous, and the dynamics will give an indication of how much time Merkel has left, even if the SPD?s new leadership is stepping back from the brink.?We have always said that quitting the coalition is not an end in itself,? Walter-Borjans told journalists in Berlin on Thursday. ?It?s about content and not about the question of yes or no.?(Adds details on demands in text box)\--With assistance from Iain Rogers.To contact the reporter on this story: Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, ;Chad Thomas at cthomas16@bloomberg.net, Chris ReiterFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Lisbon excursion offers Netanyahu brief escape from troubles

    Lisbon excursion offers Netanyahu brief escape from troublesIn a brief escape from his legal and political struggles in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enjoyed a leisurely excursion in Portugal, keeping a relatively light schedule and finding time to tour the capital and reminisce with reporters about his late father, who was an influential historian. It could turn out to be a last respite as he returns to Israel to fight for his survival after a damning corruption indictment and two inconclusive elections that have left him clinging to power. Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, tried his best to project business as usual, holding a lengthy meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he called ?critical to Israeli security.? He also met with Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa to discuss joint projects and to thank him for taking a tough stance against anti-Semitism.


  • Independence not on ballot, but on voters? minds in Scotland

    Independence not on ballot, but on voters? minds in ScotlandAsk voters in this picturesque university town in eastern Scotland how they're voting in next week's election, and they?re likely to transition seamlessly from talking about which candidate they want to send to Parliament to discussing whether or not they want another bite at voting for Scottish independence, which voters rejected in 2014. The question of Scotland's independence from the rest of the United Kingdom is not on the ballot, but it?s uppermost in the minds of many voters in St. Andrews, and elsewhere in Scotland, as they make their final choices.


  • An election is no solution when Trump, Russia and Republicans are determined to steal it

    An election is no solution when Trump, Russia and Republicans are determined to steal itTrump?s shakedown of Zelensky looks a lot like a payoff to Putin that?s also an invitation for help in 2020. The remedy is impeachment and removal.


  • Greta Thunberg reaches Madrid for climate activists' march

    Greta Thunberg reaches Madrid for climate activists' marchClimate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Madrid Friday to join thousands of other young people in a march to demand world leaders take real action against climate change. The Spanish capital is hosting a two-week, United Nations-sponsored talks aimed at streamlining the rules on global carbon markets and agreeing on how poor countries should be compensated for destruction largely caused by emissions from rich nations. The talks come as scientific evidence mounts about disasters that could ensue from further global warming, including a study commissioned by 14 seafaring nations due to be published Friday that predicts that unchecked climate change could devastate fishery industries and coral reef tourism.


  • Report: Gas pipe explosion kills 11 in western Iran

    Report: Gas pipe explosion kills 11 in western IranAn explosion of a heating gas pipe killed at least 11 people and injured 42 others during a wedding ceremony in western Iran, the country's state TV reported on Friday. The report said five children and five women were among those killed in the explosion, which took place late on Thursday evening in the predominantly Kurdish city of Saqqez, about 450 kilometers (255 miles) west of the capital, Tehran. Iran occasionally sees such incidents, which are mainly blamed on widespread disregard for safety measures, old and outdated equipment and inadequate emergency services.


  • The Big Brexit Bet That Isn?t Paying Off

    The Big Brexit Bet That Isn?t Paying Off(Bloomberg Opinion) -- For many anti-Brexit centrists in the U.K., it makes no sense that Jo Swinson?s Liberal Democrats are doing so poorly in the polls. If you?re unhappy about Britain quitting the European Union under Boris Johnson and you?re unexcited by the Labour Party?s quasi-Marxist economic experiments, then who else do you give your vote to on Dec. 12?The center has been abandoned by Johnson?s Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn?s Labour; unfortunately, the Lib Dems have failed to fill it, not least because of their uncharacteristically radical (and undemocratic) promise to scrap Brexit altogether ? without another referendum.For a time this year, events seemed encouraging for Swinson. The Lib Dems came second to Nigel Farage?s Brexit Party in the European Parliamentary election, winning 20% of the vote. They then nabbed 700 new council seats in local elections and benefited from eight defections of members of Parliament from other parties. Their new leader put out leaflets saying ?Jo Swinson, Britain?s Next Prime Minister.?Indeed, the whole reason the U.K. is having an early election is because Swinson decided, along with the Scottish National Party, to back Johnson?s call for one. Without that decision, he would have remained in charge of a lame duck minority government and his Brexit deal would have come in for some real scrutiny. Her decision was always a gamble, and one that looks like failing.?Why do you risk going down in the history books as the party leader that paved the way for Boris Johnson to win an overall majority, deliver his Brexit and govern for the next five years?? the BBC?s Andrew Neil asked Swinson in October. ?You?ve given a Tory prime minister the Christmas present he craved.? Swinson batted away the suggestion that she had zero chance of becoming prime minister, citing Donald Trump?s victory and the Brexit vote. ?Nothing is certain,? she insisted. But when she met Neil again for an interview this week, the change of tone was clear. Swinson is no longer running for Downing Street.Her party now polls 13% on average. A YouGov survey, using methodology that was accurate in the last election (known as MRP) gives it only one extra seat in Parliament. U.K. Polls are notoriously unreliable, but the party too seems to have scaled back its ambitions. According to Who Targets Me, which tracks campaign ads, the Lib Dems have launched 47 new Facebook ads targeting a very narrow list of seats. In Swinson?s Scottish seat in East Dunbartonshire, her party is running defensive ads, asking voters to ?stop the SNP? rather than make its leader prime minister.In their favor, the Lib Dems have well-established local operations, so their ground game in the constituencies they?re targeting is fairly strong. They come a close second to Labour and well ahead of the Tories in online ad spending. It?s unclear, though, how much help either factor will bring.An analysis by the Telegraph newspaper identifies 13 Lib Dem target seats where a swing in the vote of 7.5% or less would give Swinson?s party a win; nine are in Conservative hands and most backed remain in the referendum. But the 21 seats already held by the Lib Dems aren?t even considered safe. This doesn?t herald the kind of election night Swinson had in mind when she agreed to a vote.Three problems contribute to her troubles; two of her own making. The first was Swinson?s decision taken to adopt a policy of revoking Brexit if she won an election outright. While the plan was backed at the party?s conference, there was no great enthusiasm for it.Revoke was a risky choice for a party meant to occupy the pragmatic center; far from uniting remainers, it struck many voters as undemocratic. How could a party put in power by less than half the popular vote overturn a referendum with a 52% majority? Swinson has struggled to answer that. Second, if the big strategic decision has gone wrong, so have some tactical ones. Swinson has been forced to defend some creative bar charts that showed her party practically drawing even with the Conservatives. It turns out the polling question had asked a small sample of local voters in North East Somerset which party they?d vote for if only the Tories and the Lib Dems were in contention. A similar thing occurred in Hastings and Rye. British actor Hugh Grant had to correct the record when the party celebrated his support for the Lib Dems; he was merely campaigning for tactical voting to keep out Johnson and his Brexit deal.For a party trying to prove it?s more trustworthy than the Tories and more competent than Labour, none of this inspires confidence. It hasn?t helped that the campaign was centered around Swinson herself, a virtual unknown when she became leader. The declining ratings for her and the party will encourage voters who want their ballot to count to return to one of the main parties. I wrote in July that Swinson?s success would depend largely on Johnson faltering, which hasn?t yet happened with less than a week of campaigning to go. That?s because of the third problem the Liberal Democrats face: the U.K. electoral system, which the party has long wanted to change. It?s a winner-takes-all approach, where small parties are elbowed out of the way by the big two. That pattern seems about to be repeated.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • The Big Brexit Bet That Isn?t Paying Off

    The Big Brexit Bet That Isn?t Paying Off(Bloomberg Opinion) -- For many anti-Brexit centrists in the U.K., it makes no sense that Jo Swinson?s Liberal Democrats are doing so poorly in the polls. If you?re unhappy about Britain quitting the European Union under Boris Johnson and you?re unexcited by the Labour Party?s quasi-Marxist economic experiments, then who else do you give your vote to on Dec. 12?The center has been abandoned by Johnson?s Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn?s Labour; unfortunately, the Lib Dems have failed to fill it, not least because of their uncharacteristically radical (and undemocratic) promise to scrap Brexit altogether ? without another referendum.For a time this year, events seemed encouraging for Swinson. The Lib Dems came second to Nigel Farage?s Brexit Party in the European Parliamentary election, winning 20% of the vote. They then nabbed 700 new council seats in local elections and benefited from eight defections of members of Parliament from other parties. Their new leader put out leaflets saying ?Jo Swinson, Britain?s Next Prime Minister.?Indeed, the whole reason the U.K. is having an early election is because Swinson decided, along with the Scottish National Party, to back Johnson?s call for one. Without that decision, he would have remained in charge of a lame duck minority government and his Brexit deal would have come in for some real scrutiny. Her decision was always a gamble, and one that looks like failing.?Why do you risk going down in the history books as the party leader that paved the way for Boris Johnson to win an overall majority, deliver his Brexit and govern for the next five years?? the BBC?s Andrew Neil asked Swinson in October. ?You?ve given a Tory prime minister the Christmas present he craved.? Swinson batted away the suggestion that she had zero chance of becoming prime minister, citing Donald Trump?s victory and the Brexit vote. ?Nothing is certain,? she insisted. But when she met Neil again for an interview this week, the change of tone was clear. Swinson is no longer running for Downing Street.Her party now polls 13% on average. A YouGov survey, using methodology that was accurate in the last election (known as MRP) gives it only one extra seat in Parliament. U.K. Polls are notoriously unreliable, but the party too seems to have scaled back its ambitions. According to Who Targets Me, which tracks campaign ads, the Lib Dems have launched 47 new Facebook ads targeting a very narrow list of seats. In Swinson?s Scottish seat in East Dunbartonshire, her party is running defensive ads, asking voters to ?stop the SNP? rather than make its leader prime minister.In their favor, the Lib Dems have well-established local operations, so their ground game in the constituencies they?re targeting is fairly strong. They come a close second to Labour and well ahead of the Tories in online ad spending. It?s unclear, though, how much help either factor will bring.An analysis by the Telegraph newspaper identifies 13 Lib Dem target seats where a swing in the vote of 7.5% or less would give Swinson?s party a win; nine are in Conservative hands and most backed remain in the referendum. But the 21 seats already held by the Lib Dems aren?t even considered safe. This doesn?t herald the kind of election night Swinson had in mind when she agreed to a vote.Three problems contribute to her troubles; two of her own making. The first was Swinson?s decision taken to adopt a policy of revoking Brexit if she won an election outright. While the plan was backed at the party?s conference, there was no great enthusiasm for it.Revoke was a risky choice for a party meant to occupy the pragmatic center; far from uniting remainers, it struck many voters as undemocratic. How could a party put in power by less than half the popular vote overturn a referendum with a 52% majority? Swinson has struggled to answer that. Second, if the big strategic decision has gone wrong, so have some tactical ones. Swinson has been forced to defend some creative bar charts that showed her party practically drawing even with the Conservatives. It turns out the polling question had asked a small sample of local voters in North East Somerset which party they?d vote for if only the Tories and the Lib Dems were in contention. A similar thing occurred in Hastings and Rye. British actor Hugh Grant had to correct the record when the party celebrated his support for the Lib Dems; he was merely campaigning for tactical voting to keep out Johnson and his Brexit deal.For a party trying to prove it?s more trustworthy than the Tories and more competent than Labour, none of this inspires confidence. It hasn?t helped that the campaign was centered around Swinson herself, a virtual unknown when she became leader. The declining ratings for her and the party will encourage voters who want their ballot to count to return to one of the main parties. I wrote in July that Swinson?s success would depend largely on Johnson faltering, which hasn?t yet happened with less than a week of campaigning to go. That?s because of the third problem the Liberal Democrats face: the U.K. electoral system, which the party has long wanted to change. It?s a winner-takes-all approach, where small parties are elbowed out of the way by the big two. That pattern seems about to be repeated.To contact the author of this story: Therese Raphael at traphael4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Therese Raphael writes editorials on European politics and economics for Bloomberg Opinion. She was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Johnson and Corbyn Set to Go Head-To-Head: U.K. Campaign Trail

    Johnson and Corbyn Set to Go Head-To-Head: U.K. Campaign Trail(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.With six days before U.K. voters go to the polls, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will this evening go head-to-head in one of the most important debates of the election campaign.Johnson wrote to Corbyn ahead of the debate, accusing him of trying to ?fiddle? the result of the second Brexit referendum he wants by allowing EU nationals to vote. With Labour still trailing the Conservatives in the opinion polls, Friday?s debate could be one of the final opportunities to close the gap.Must Read: Britain?s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Jeremy CorbynFor more on the election visit ELEC.Coming Up:9.30 a.m. Corbyn will give a speech in central London.8.30 p.m. BBC prime ministerial debate in Southampton.Polls:Betting odds show a 71% chance of a Conservative majority, according to Ladbrokes.The Tory lead is now below 10 points, according to the BritainElects poll tracker.Here?s a summary of recent polls.Catching Up:BBC interviewer Andrew Neil attacked Johnson for refusing to be interviewed by him, accusing him of avoiding scrutiny.Labour?s Treasury spokesman John McDonnell said his party would try to govern without a formal arrangement with other parties in the event of a hung Parliament.Officials are getting ready for a boom from the extra paperwork needed to keep goods moving across borders after Brexit.Johnson laid out his plan for his first 100 days in office. He refused to accept taxes would rise under the Tories, at odd with his own manifesto costings.The Jewish Labour Movement published its submission to the Equality and Human Rights Commission?s probe into antisemitism in Labour.Four Brexit Party Members of the European Parliament quit the party to campaign for Johnson?s Brexit deal.The Markets:The pound traded at $1.3163 at 6:50 a.m. on Friday.Traders are hedging against a fall in the pound after the election.From Bloomberg Intelligence: U.K. Election Primer: Britain?s Economic Future Held in BalanceTo contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Adam Blenford, Chris KayFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • TB, armed guards, lack of food at UN migrant center in Libya

    TB, armed guards, lack of food at UN migrant center in LibyaThe United Nations center in Libya was opened as an ?alternative to detention,? a last, safe stop for migrants before they were resettled in other countries. The facility is jam-packed with nearly 1,200 migrants ? about twice the number it was built for ? including hundreds who fled from abuse at other detention centers in hopes of sanctuary. Sewage is overflowing, and armed guards from a local militia have effectively turned the center into a prison.


  • Iran nuclear deal parties meet as accord nears collapse

    Iran nuclear deal parties meet as accord nears collapseThe remaining signatories to the faltering 2015 Iran nuclear deal will meet in Vienna on Friday with the survival of the landmark agreement at stake after Tehran vowed to continue to breach the deal's limits on its nuclear programme. Envoys from Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and Iran will take part in the meeting, which is the first time the six parties will have gathered in this format since July. Since May, Iran has taken a series of measures, including stepping up uranium enrichment, in breach of the 2015 deal, with another such move likely in early January.


  • Ivory Coast Opposition Leader Urges Review of Ties With France

    Ivory Coast Opposition Leader Urges Review of Ties With France(Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast, the largest economy in francophone West Africa, is too focused on doing business with France and should open up its market to investors from a wider range of countries, an opposition leader said.?Sixty years after Ivory Coast gained independence from France, French companies still dominate trade,? Mamadou Koulibaly, a 62-year-old former parliament speaker who plans to run for president next year, said in an interview.A former French colony, Ivory Coast has retained close political, economic and cultural ties since gaining independence in 1960. Under President Alassane Ouattara, who assumed office in 2011 after a French and United Nations military intervention, those ties have flourished.As the country recovered from a decade of civil conflict with large infrastructure projects that eased congestion and helped fuel a real-estate boom, French companies have been at the forefront of a building frenzy. Bouygues SA is working on a $1.5-billion commuter train in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and on weekends, shoppers flock to brand new supermarkets operated by France?s Carrefour SA.At the same time, Ouattara has courted investors from across the globe and enabled Chinese newcomers to build roads, set up a nationwide pay-TV network and complete the Soubre hydropower plant. China Road & Bridge Corp. this year won a $134 million contract for a bridge in Abidjan. Nearby, a Moroccan company is transforming the city by building a lagoon promenade near the business district of Plateau.?Whether they?re from Russia, Chicago or Guangzhou, working with other investors to reduce the influence of France is in Ivory Coast?s best interests,? Koulibaly said.Previously a prominent member of the Ivorian Popular Front of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, Koulibaly broke away to set up his own movement, Lider, in 2011. His decision came months after the end of a brief civil war triggered by Gbagbo?s refusal to accept defeat in 2010 presidential elections. Koulibaly was one of few Gbagbo loyalists who didn?t take sides in the conflict, which proved the most violent in the country?s history.Under Gbagbo?s 2000-2010 rule, relations with France became strained when Paris brokered a peace accord between his government and a rebel group that had seized the northern half of the country. Anti-French rhetoric peaked in 2004 as mobs went on a rampage through the main cities, attacking symbols of French influence and intimidating mainly white foreigners. The French army evacuated about 8,000 people before calm was restored.Koulibaly is also a longtime critic of the CFA franc, which was established after World War II to help France import goods from its colonies. The currency, used by eight West African nations, is pegged to the euro and its convertibility is guaranteed by the French Treasury.?The CFA is part of the closed market that I want to get rid of,? he said. ?The argument that the currency is good for business between France and Ivory Coast simply doesn?t hold. By removing the CFA we might upset France, but we?ll open up our market to Nigerians, Russians and the Chinese, who will be very pleased.?For now, Koulibaly is still looking for funding for his political campaign -- and said he won?t turn down help from Russia, which is trying to expand its influence on the continent. His trip in October to the first Russia-Africa summit in Sochi hasn?t yet resulted in a deal, he said.?I?m open to anyone who?s prepared to finance my campaign, whether its businessmen from Russia, China or the U.S.,? Koulibaly said. ?What I offer in return is access to the Ivorian market and the possibility to come and invest here under the same conditions as everyone else.?To contact the reporters on this story: Katarina Hoije in Abidjan at khoije@bloomberg.net;Pauline Bax in Johannesburg at pbax@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • A locker, a chirp: How tiny clues help solve child sex cases

    A locker, a chirp: How tiny clues help solve child sex casesInvestigators spent hours poring over graphic images of little boys changing in and out of their swimsuits at what looked like a YMCA. Eventually, investigators matched the photos to a YMCA in Sandusky, Ohio. ICE?s Homeland Security Investigations section has a little-known Child Exploitation Investigations lab where agents scour disturbing photos and videos of child sexual abuse.


  • TB, armed guards, lack of food at UN migrant center in Libya

    TB, armed guards, lack of food at UN migrant center in LibyaThe United Nations center in Libya was opened as an ?alternative to detention,? a last, safe stop for migrants before they were resettled in other countries. The facility is jam-packed with nearly 1,200 migrants ? about twice the number it was built for ? including hundreds who fled from abuse at other detention centers in hopes of sanctuary. Sewage is overflowing, and armed guards from a local militia have effectively turned the center into a prison.


  • GOP Rep. pitches LGBTQ rights bill with religious exemptions

    GOP Rep. pitches LGBTQ rights bill with religious exemptionsAs Democrats champion anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community and Republicans counter with worries about safeguarding religious freedom, one congressional Republican is offering a proposal on Friday that aims to achieve both goals. The bill that Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart plans to unveil would shield LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and other public services ? while also carving out exemptions for religious organizations to act based on beliefs that may exclude those of different sexual orientations or gender identities. Stewart?s bill counts support from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but it has yet to win a backer among House Democrats who unanimously supported a more expansive LGBTQ rights measure in May.


  • A Year of Protests Sparked Change Around the Globe

    A Year of Protests Sparked Change Around the Globe(Bloomberg Markets) -- Economies on the verge of collapse, a yearning for greater democracy, revulsion against corruption and inequality?the grievances that drove people into the streets in 2019 were consistent across continents. Some marched peacefully, others clashed violently with security forces, and in at least five places the unrest helped topple government leaders.Below is a breakdown of protests around the world, by region, and the main reasons behind them.GlobalA defining movement of 2019 was the worldwide push for more urgent government action against what scientists and activists call a climate emergency. Demonstrations took place around the globe, many inspired by the 2018 school strikes started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.Americas? Puerto RicoAfter a hurricane, bankruptcy, and probes into corruption, Puerto Ricans ousted Governor Ricardo Rosselló in July.? VenezuelaHyperinflation and hunger have driven opposition to the repressive regime of Nicolás Maduro. So far, he?s dug in.? Colombia President Ivan Duque promised to lower taxes for the poorest quintile of the country after unrest led to the deaths of at least four, including a teenager.? EcuadorWhen fuel subsidies ended, chaos ensued. The government rescinded the price hikes days later.? BoliviaPresident Evo Morales presided over economic growth but ignored term limits. He was forced out on Nov. 10.? ChileAnger at increases in public transport costs grew into a broad-based movement protesting inequality. Europe? ScotlandMore than 200,000 marched through Edinburgh in support of independence from the United Kingdom.? U.K.Britain has seen mass demonstrations both for and against Brexit, which is destined to define the country?s future.? France A year into the yellow vest protests, the demonstrations have waned in size, but the grievances remain.? CataloniaThe impasse between Catalonia and Spain?s government in Madrid flared anew, with no resolution in sight.? Czech RepublicPrime Minister Andrej Babis, one of the country?s richest men, was a target of the biggest protests since 1989.? SlovakiaSlovaks took to the streets in October to demand investigations into crimes and the rooting out of government corruption.? RussiaMoscow has been the center of the largest antigovernment rallies in seven years. Africa and the Middle East? AlgeriaAlgeria?s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, sought a fifth term, prompting unrest. He resigned in April.? LebanonA levy on WhatsApp calls sparked pent-up anger, forcing Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign in October.? Iraq Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi quit after hundreds died in protests against government corruption and influence from Iran.? IranFuel-price hikes resulting from U.S. sanctions sparked protests that led to more than 200 deaths, Amnesty International said.? SudanOmar al-Bashir crushed dissent during his 30-year presidency, but discontent over prices led to unrest that forced him out in April.? MalawiAllegations of election rigging prompted tens of thousands to take to the streets of Malawi?s cities in August.? South AfricaPoor government services and a lack of housing were the primary reasons for violent demonstrations that broke out in April. East Asia and Oceania ? South KoreaTens of thousands protested the appointment of Cho Kuk as minister of justice. He left after five weeks on the job.? Hong KongA June rally against a proposed law allowing extradition to China morphed into a broad anti-China movement.? Indonesia October protests raged against the government?s program, including controversial changes to the criminal code.? PapuaIn Indonesia?s easternmost region, clashes between separatists and government forces in August and September resulted in many deaths.  To contact the author of this story: Alan Crawford in Berlin at acrawford6@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Glassman at mglassman7@bloomberg.net, Christine HarperFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Britain?s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Corbyn

    Britain?s Brexit Election Is Now a Referendum on Corbyn(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Jeremy Corbyn?s red bus pulled into the small car park at the community center. It was greeted by cheers from a crowd of about a hundred people who had been unable to get into the building because it was full. They?d waited in the drizzle anyway.As the Labour Party leader walked through them, they chanted his name. He turned and gave a brief speech before continuing inside. Then, jacket removed, sleeves slightly rolled up, he was in his element. ?We are told it?s too expensive, it?s unaffordable, you can?t achieve this, that or the other,? Corbyn said of his plans to nationalize the railways, ramp up welfare spending and even hand out free broadband for every home.The scene on the campaign trail in the former mining region of Nottinghamshire, central England, was far removed from the accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour?s ranks, a terrible performance in a prime-time TV interview and a poll that showed the party will get trounced in next week?s U.K. election. Indeed, the ?Corbynmania? that produced shock gains two years ago looked like it was still going strong.Britain?s election was supposed to be all about Brexit, to break the impasse in the self-inflicted turmoil over leaving the European Union. Instead, it now looks more like a referendum on a 70-year-old socialist whose personality cult has cemented its grip on one of Europe?s largest political parties.For Corbyn, it?s a last stand to try and ensure his project isn?t dead on arrival by the time votes start getting counted next Thursday after 10 p.m. That will depend on whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservatives can breach the ?Red Wall,? the band of districts running across the middle of the U.K. from North Wales to almost the East coast of England.Many of them are historically considered safe for Labour and yet tribal lines are now being blurred by Brexit because just as many voted to leave the EU.With the Conservatives? pro-Brexit stance making life more difficult for them in the south of the country and Scotland, the party aims to find a parliamentary majority for Johnson in these places to fulfill his campaign slogan and ?Get Brexit Done.? If Corbyn?s supporters stay loyal, meanwhile, then Labour might just upset the odds again?and this time take power.Labour expects to lose some seats, though its not clear how many, according to a senior party official. Internal polling and feedback from voters suggests the Conservatives, or Tories, are on course for that majority, the person said.That?s because Corbyn was unpopular on the doorstep, the Labour campaign was incoherent and its policy promises were not credible, the official said. Corbyn and Johnson go head-to-head in a final televised debate this evening. Thirty-five of the 50 Labour seats with the slimmest margin of victory last time are in places that backed Brexit and most of them are in the Midlands or north of England, according to John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University in Glasgow and the U.K.?s most prominent psephologist.If Johnson does win a majority, it will be thanks to places like Ashfield, a Nottinghamshire seat that Labour held in 2017 by fewer than 500 votes. Both the Labour and Tory messages are resonating among locals.Brian Yerbury, a 69-year-old retired architectural technician was having a drink with his wife Lorna in the Lady Chatterley pub in the town of Eastwood, which lies in the constituency. He said he?d always voted Labour in the past. ?I was wobbling a bit,? he said. ?I didn?t like Corbyn. He?s got no charisma and no style. I didn?t trust Corbyn or Boris.?What seemed to be pulling him back to Labour were the party?s promises. ?Corbyn?s come out with a huge amount of good things,? his wife said. She would stand to gain in particular from the promised cash for retired women. ?Corbyn has said us ladies will benefit,? she said. ?Boris, he doesn?t appreciate what working women do.?About 40 miles west, Newcastle-under-Lyme is another district in the ?Red Wall.? It?s been Labour for nearly 100 years, but the party held it last time by just 30 votes. It?s now on the point of voting Conservative, driven by support for Brexit and anger at the political deadlock in London that means that three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, it?s still a member.?It?s Corbyn that gets raised on the doorstep,? said Aaron Bell, the Conservative candidate. ?Both by Conservative voters and by Labour people who are thinking of switching.?Bell spoke as he delivered leaflets in Helmer End, a village in the district. ?People are frustrated, angry, mystified that it hasn?t happened yet,? he said. ?There are an awful lot of people who are either upset about Brexit and their vote not being respected or can?t stand the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, or quite often both.?One of the doors he knocked on was answered by 77-year-old Arthur Jim Nixon, in his slippers. ?I?ve worked in the mines and I?ve worked with laboring men all my life,? he said. ?I like Boris. I don?t like this Labour Party because they criticize Jews. Live and let live.?It feels a long way from two years ago, when Corbyn had the people?s touch compared with his opponent, former Prime Minister Theresa May.The jam-making, railway-loving vegetarian may have spooked businesses and the rich with this socialist message, but he won adoring fans among students and those suffering from years of government spending cuts. His obfuscation on Brexit?he was a long-standing critic of the EU after Britain joined in the 1970s and was reluctant to commit his party to position since the 2016 referendum?didn?t end up counting against him.That gives his supporters hope. During the 2017 election, they point out, Corbyn trailed in the polls, but also held mass rallies and managed to gain seats. Indeed, like now, Labour insiders were among the pessimists. Johnson, though, is a different animal. He?s far happier in the spotlight than May was, and he?s kept his policy platform vague and clear of surprises.So far, it seems to be working. A constituency-by-constituency poll by YouGov predicted Newcastle-under-Lyme would go Conservative, along with dozens of other Labour seats. It found much larger swings to the Conservatives in places that voted for Brexit. Britain?s Election Gamble?What You Need to KnowAs people living in the ?Red Wall? regions struggled with globalization, they felt neglected and their votes taken for granted. Immigration loomed large in the EU referendum as resentment grew over the influx of many east Europeans to the local workforce.Both parties agree on the issues faced by traditional Labour voters, the difference is in their solution. For Corbyn, it?s government spending, on housing, on the National Health Service, on adult education. It sees the government increasing welfare payments, wages for public sector employees, free university tuition and compensating women who say they lost out when the age at which they were entitled to a state pension increased.For Johnson, the approach is cultural. There is an offer of more money, but the main focus of his argument is that politicians, out of touch with ordinary people, have blocked Brexit?and thus the U.K.?s ability to choose who comes into the country.In particular, he argues that Corbyn is unpatriotic. After a terrorist killed two people at London Bridge last week, the Conservatives swiftly moved to accuse the Labour leader of being soft on terror, too.Back in Nottinghamshire, Stacey Cook, a 43-year-old builder, was clear. ?I don?t want Jeremy Corbyn getting in,? he said. ?My parents and my missus and everybody I know who?s in their right mind will vote Conservative. I don?t want a bloke in power that will open the floodgates to the country.?To contact the authors of this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netRobert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Rodney JeffersonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Indian police fatally shoot 4 suspects in gang-rape case

    Indian police fatally shoot 4 suspects in gang-rape casePolice on Friday fatally shot four men suspected of raping and killing a woman in southern India, drawing both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country. The suspects were in police custody and had not been formally charged with any crime. The burned body of the woman ? a 27-year-old veterinarian ? was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India's tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.


  • US considering troop boost to counter Iran

    US considering troop boost to counter IranThe United States said Thursday it was considering deploying fresh forces to counter Iran, with an official saying some 5,000 to 7,000 troops could head to the region. "We're continuing to look at that threat picture and have the ability to dynamically adjust our force posture," Rood told the Senate Armed Services Committee. A US official told AFP on condition of anonymity that Defense Secretary Mark Esper was considering plans to move between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East.


  • U.S. says Iran "could have murdered over 1,000 citizens" during protests

    U.S. says Iran "could have murdered over 1,000 citizens" during protestsThe State Department has received more than 32,000 videos of the unrest after Iran shut down the internet and banned foreign media.


  • Tucker Carlson: ?In My View? We Shouldn?t Be Sending Ukraine Any Aid

    Tucker Carlson: ?In My View? We Shouldn?t Be Sending Ukraine Any AidFox News host Tucker Carlson, who has repeatedly said recently that he?s rooting for American adversary Russia against Ukraine, now says the United States shouldn?t be sending any military aid to Ukraine.In the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announcing that the House will proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Carlson welcomed on former Mitch McConnell Chief of Staff Josh Holmes on Thursday night to discuss the Democrats? ?rush? to impeachment and where this will end up.The ex-McConnell aide questioned the central charge behind the impeachment inquiry?that the president withheld congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to compel the Ukrainian president to publicly announce an investigation into Trump?s domestic political rivals. ?Ultimately, the underlying facts here are they are trying to impeach the President of the United States for holding aid that was ultimately delivered in exchange for a favor for some kind of investigation that was never conducted.??Aid we shouldn?t be sending in the first place, in my view,? Carlson interjected.Holmes quickly charged past the Fox host?s Russia-friendly remarks, claiming Democrats' version of events ?never happened.? In recent days, Carlson has made it a habit to side with Russia in its military aggression campaign against Ukraine. Last week, The Fox star said he was ?serious? when he said: ?Why shouldn?t I root for Russia? Which I am.? He would later walk his comments back by claiming he was ?joking.?Earlier this week, however, he revealed that he was, in fact, not joking. Besides saying America ?should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine,? Carlson also insisted Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn?t hate America as much as MSNBC journalists do.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.


  • New satellite image reportedly shows renewed activity at North Korean test site

    New satellite image reportedly shows renewed activity at North Korean test siteA satellite image captured Thursday shows activity at a rocket launching site that North Korea had previously dismantled, CNN reports.The image of Sohae Satellite Launching Station, obtained by CNN and analyzed by experts, shows a large shipping container at the facility's test stand, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute. This was the first time analysts have seen this container, he added, and it could indicate that North Korea will soon start conducting engine tests at the site again. These engines would be used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, CNN reports.While at the NATO summit in London on Tuesday, Trump mused that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "really likes sending rockets up, doesn't he? That's why I call him Rocket Man." Trump also said he has a "good relationship" with Kim, but his remarks still irked Choe Son Hui, North Korea's first vice-foreign minister. According to North Korean state media, Choe declared that "if any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard."More stories from theweek.com Trump's pathological obsession with being laughed at The most important day of the impeachment inquiry Jerry Falwell Jr.'s false gospel of memes


  • Former envoy: Putin likely ?joyful? about Ukraine theory

    Former envoy: Putin likely ?joyful? about Ukraine theoryPresident Donald Trump?s former ambassador to Russia said Vladimir Putin is likely ?joyful? about the renewed prominence of a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, which experts consider Russian disinformation. ?He?s probably joyful that he has the world talking about something he may have been behind,? Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. Huntsman is running for his old job as Utah governor after leaving the Moscow post, which he said likely had him spending as much time with the Russian president as any other American.


  • Auschwitz survivor fears rise of anti-Semitism

    Auschwitz survivor fears rise of anti-SemitismAs German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Auschwitz for the first time on Friday, 96-year-old survivor Frederick Terna will be at home in New York worrying about a resurgence of anti-Semitism. Terna, in America since 1952, isn't trying to be "the conscience of the world," but said he is concerned by similarities he sees between today's politics and the "narrow nationalism" of the 1930s. Terna was a child in Prague when Nazi Germany annexed parts of Czechoslovakia in late 1938 before overrunning the country the following year as Adolf Hitler began his march through Europe.


  • U.K. Labor Market Freezes Amid Brexit, Election Uncertainty

    U.K. Labor Market Freezes Amid Brexit, Election Uncertainty(Bloomberg) -- Political uncertainty is ?playing havoc? with the U.K. labor market, with demand for workers rising at the slowest pace for a decade and wage pressures easing, according to a report.The survey by KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation published Friday found companies delaying or canceling hiring plans and people hesitating to take on new jobs last month amid the confusion over Brexit and the upcoming general election.?Clearly employers and job-seekers are taking a wait-and-see approach before committing to growth or movement,? said James Stewart, vice chair at KMPG.Prime Minister Boris Johnson is portraying the Dec. 12 vote as a chance to finally deliver Brexit and end the uncertainty that has taken a heavy toll on the economy. The jobs market, which has defied the turmoil since the 2016 vote to leave the EU, has lost significant momentum in recent months.Johnson wants a parliamentary majority for his Conservative Party to get the deal he struck with the European Union through Parliament. His rival, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, has promised to renegotiate the exit agreement and then give the public the final say in a second referendum.Here are the key findings of the KPMG/REC report:November sees the slowest increase in vacancies since October 2009Demand for workers weakest in public sector, retail industryPermanent starting salaries rise at slowest rate since end of 2016Number of permanent placements fall for a ninth consecutive monthCandidate numbers decline at fastest rate for five monthsTo contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Atkinson in London at a.atkinson@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Fergal O'Brien at fobrien@bloomberg.net, Lucy Meakin, David GoodmanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Pearl Harbor vet?s interment to be last on sunken Arizona

    Pearl Harbor vet?s interment to be last on sunken ArizonaOn Dec. 7, 1941, then-21-year-old Lauren Bruner was the second-to-last man to escape the burning wreckage of the USS Arizona after a Japanese plane dropped a bomb that ignited an enormous explosion in the battleship?s ammunition storage compartment. This weekend, divers will place Bruner?s ashes inside the battleship?s wreckage, which sits in Pearl Harbor where it sank during the attack 78 years ago that thrust the United States into World War II. The Southern California man will be the 44th and last crew member to be interred in accordance with this rare Navy ritual. The last three living Arizona survivors plan to be laid to rest with their families.


  • Articles of impeachment: Explaining what's next in the House

    Articles of impeachment: Explaining what's next in the HouseHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats will draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a crucial step toward a vote of the full House. The articles are likely to mostly encompass Democrats' findings on Trump's dealings with Ukraine. Democrats are still writing them, but the articles could charge Trump with abuse of office, bribery and obstruction.


  • Chase with stolen UPS truck ends with shootout, 4 dead

    Chase with stolen UPS truck ends with shootout, 4 deadFour people, including a UPS driver, were killed Thursday after robbers stole the driver?s truck and led police on a chase that ended in gunfire at a busy South Florida intersection during rush hour, the FBI said. Both robbers were shot and killed, and the fourth victim was in a nearby vehicle when shots rang out at a crowded intersection in Miramar, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of where the incident began, FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro said during a news conference Thursday night. Television news helicopters showed first responders tending to at least one person who fell out of the UPS truck, moments after several shots were fired when the chase ended.


  • Pompeo brings Iran pressure campaign to Morocco

    Pompeo brings Iran pressure campaign to MoroccoThe United States and Morocco discussed efforts to isolate Iran, officials said Thursday, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid a visit to the kingdom. Pompeo had been due to have an audience with King Mohammed VI but the meeting was dropped, apparently after the top US diplomat extended a visit to Lisbon to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We have a great relationship between our two countries," Pompeo said.


  • Trump on likely impeachment: 'Do it now, fast'

    Trump on likely impeachment: 'Do it now, fast'After months of fighting the House impeachment inquiry, blocking witnesses and ignoring subpoenas, the White House is now publicly embracing a strategy it has privately signaled for weeks: It will accept the reality that President Donald Trump will likely be impeached by the House and focus instead on a made-for-TV trial on friendlier turf in the Republican-controlled Senate. It was a message that came even before Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood before cameras and announced that House committees would draft articles of impeachment.


  • Europeans, Iran to cross swords at nuclear talks

    Europeans, Iran to cross swords at nuclear talksEuropean powers will demand Iran stop violating their nuclear deal or potentially face renewed U.N. sanctions, but with Tehran locked in conflict over U.S. sanctions, there appears to be little scope for compromise when they meet on Friday. The meeting comes amid heightened friction between Iran and the West. Tehran has rolled back its commitments under the 2015 deal in response to Washington's pullout from it last year and reimposition of sanctions that have crippled its economy.


  • Trump lights National Christmas Tree in holiday tradition

    Trump lights National Christmas Tree in holiday traditionPresident Donald Trump helped light the National Christmas Tree on Thursday, taking part in a nearly century-old holiday tradition in the nation?s capital. The lighthearted honor for presidents, going back to Calvin Coolidge, came on an otherwise difficult day in Trump's presidency. Hours before the ceremony, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Democratic chairmen to bring forward impeachment charges against Trump.


  • US says Iran protest toll may surpass 1,000, mulls troops

    US says Iran protest toll may surpass 1,000, mulls troopsThe United States said Thursday that Iranian authorities may have killed more than 1,000 people in a crackdown on demonstrations, which Washington cast as the clerical regime's worst-ever internal challenge. The damning account came as the US put new pressure in the region on its arch-enemy, with an official saying the Pentagon was considering sending 5,000 to 7,000 more troops. "It appears the regime could have murdered over 1,000 Iranian citizens since the protests began," Brian Hook, the US pointman on Iran, told reporters.


  • The Pentagon is tripping over itself trying to explain its plans for countering Iran, possibly with thousands more troops

    The Pentagon is tripping over itself trying to explain its plans for countering Iran, possibly with thousands more troopsTrying to deny a report that it was sending 14,000 troops to confront Iran, the Pentagon has created a lot of confusion about what it plans to do.


  • The Pentagon is tripping over itself trying to explain its plans for countering Iran, possibly with thousands more troops

    The Pentagon is tripping over itself trying to explain its plans for countering Iran, possibly with thousands more troopsTrying to deny a report that it was sending 14,000 troops to confront Iran, the Pentagon has created a lot of confusion about what it plans to do.


  • Palestinians outraged over ICC report into war crimes

    Palestinians outraged over ICC report into war crimesPalestinian officials expressed ?great concern? Thursday over a report by the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor that includes a warning that Palestinian stipends to attackers and their families could constitute a war crime. The Palestinians have long sought redress with international bodies such as the ICC for what they consider Israeli crimes. President Mahmoud Abbas's government appeared to have been caught off guard by the language of the criticism found in the report.


  • Where's the 'secret' White House Russia room? diplomat jokes

    Where's the 'secret' White House Russia room? diplomat jokesOne of Moscow's top diplomats joked to President Donald Trump on Thursday after touring the White House that he was disappointed not to have seen the "secret" Russia room. "Thank you for the tour of the White House," Vasily Nebenzya, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, told Trump at a lunch for the members of the UN Security Council.


  • Bloomberg gun plan: Permits, assault weapon ban, age limits

    Bloomberg gun plan: Permits, assault weapon ban, age limitsDemocratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg unveiled a gun control policy on Thursday just steps from the site of one of Colorado's worst mass shootings, calling for a ban on all assault weapons, mandatory permits for gun purchasers and a new position in the White House to coordinate gun violence prevention. ?I?ve been all in on the fight against gun violence for 15 years, and I?m just getting started,? Bloomberg declared.


  • Pro-paramilitary demonstrators stream into Iraqi protest camp

    Pro-paramilitary demonstrators stream into Iraqi protest campCrowds backing a paramilitary force close to Iran streamed into the Iraqi capital's main protest camp on Thursday, rattling anti-government demonstrators who have denounced Tehran's role in their country. The flash protest hinted at a new effort to delegitimise or intimidate anti-government protesters, and came after the apparent torture and death of a 19-year-old girl taking part in the rallies. Youth-dominated mass rallies have rocked Iraq's capital and Shiite-majority south since October, slamming the entrenched political class as corrupt, incompetent and under the sway of neighbouring Iran.


  • Zelenskiy's Opponents Fear He Is Ready to Sell Out to Russia

    Zelenskiy's Opponents Fear He Is Ready to Sell Out to RussiaKYIV, Ukraine -- Washington may be obsessed with the impeachment inquiry over President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine, but it was far from the minds of a few thousand protesters who gathered on a recent frosty night in Kyiv to vent their anger at their own country's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, over his peace overtures to Russia.If he struggled to resist demands by Trump for investigations affecting next year's U.S. elections, some protesters said, imagine what will happen when he meets President Vladimir Putin on Monday for talks on ending the war in eastern Ukraine. As speakers derided Zelenskiy as soft on Russia, the crowd answered with cries of "No to capitulation!" and "Treason!"Zelenskiy campaigned for the presidency on a two-plank platform of fighting corruption and ending a grinding war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has killed at least 13,000 people.While the peace effort has received less notice, it is undoubtedly the more politically treacherous of the two undertakings. Everyone is against corruption, in theory at least, but there are sharp divides over how to deal with Russia, which is widely despised by Ukrainians outside the breakaway eastern territories.Domestic political opponents are concerned that Zelenskiy, having no clear U.S. diplomatic backing, may be too willing to make concessions to Moscow in the talks. Any widespread perception that he has done so could weaken him politically, hampering his ability to follow through with his anti-corruption efforts."If the president signs anything granting Russian influence in Ukraine, it would cause riots," said Volodymyr Ariev, a member of parliament in the party of former President Petro Poroshenko, which is in opposition to Zelenskiy.Ariev said that the talks with the Trump administration over opening investigations related to the family of former Vice President Joe Biden "were unprofessional, and that is why we are concerned about what will come" in talks with Russia.Already, critics said, Zelenskiy has made unilateral concessions intended to pave the way for the peace talks. And they are alarmed at comments by Ihor Kolomoisky, a businessman with ties to Zelenskiy, suggesting that Ukraine should swivel toward Russia amid the chaos in Ukraine policy in the United States.In the worst-case scenario, they said, Zelenskiy would give amnesty to rebel leaders and grant sweeping autonomy to the breakaway regions, while allowing Russian forces to linger in or just outside Ukraine even after any political settlement.In the peace talks, scheduled for Monday in Paris, most analysts see Russia seeking at a minimum to trade de facto control over the two separatists zones in eastern Ukraine for influence in domestic Ukrainian politics, including a veto on membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.In its post-independence history, Ukraine has twice tilted from pro-Western to pro-Russian governments, in 1994 and 2010. It's a back-and-forth common to many former Soviet states as they have tried to play the powerful east-west geopolitical forces off against each other for advantage at home. In Ukraine's case, on both occasions the country lurched back into the Western orbit, most recently in the Maidan revolution of 2014.In recent years, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova have all at some point pivoted to closer ties with Russia -- and then back, in some cases. In an interview, Kolomoisky said that Ukraine should do just that if the U.S. tries to pressure Kyiv again.Analysts saw the comments as self-serving, in that Kolomoisky stands to lose billions of dollars under a banking sector overhaul backed by Western governments. Zelenskiy issued a statement distancing himself from the comment.Working as an actor in Moscow in 2014 as Russian troops invaded his country, Zelenskiy joked that Russian soldiers were not moving inside Ukraine but were "just standing on the border, and the Ukrainian border is just slightly pushed forward."But through the summer, Zelenskiy sought a White House visit to urge Trump to press Russia and side with Ukraine in the negotiations. It never materialized.To the contrary, at a news conference in New York in September, Trump backed away from Zelenskiy and his troubles in the war, telling the Ukrainian leader, "I really hope you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem."By distancing himself from Zelenskiy in the negotiations, as stressed by many of the security professionals who testified in the recent impeachment hearings, Trump has raised doubts about how far he will go to support Ukraine and made it harder for the Ukrainian government to defend the concessions it is making to end the war.Some analysts said that despite Zelenskiy's weak hand going into the talks, worries of a pivot to Russia are overblown and mostly whipped up by domestic political opponents."Accommodation with Russia would be a very hard sell inside Ukraine," Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said in a telephone interview.Ivan Yakovina, a foreign policy columnist with Novoye Vremya magazine, concurred, saying that allies of Poroshenko, the former president, were fanning fears of a geopolitical pivot to undermine Zelenskiy."They don't think he is worthy of being president," Yakovina said of Zelenskiy, who before his election as Ukraine's leader played a president in a television series. They see him "as a clown from a television show. They are doing everything so he fails."To pave the way for talks, Zelenskiy rebuilt a bridge across the de facto border with the breakaway republics, pulled troops back from the front line in three locations, negotiated a prisoner exchange and agreed to the outlines of a political formula for an eventual settlement.Zelenskiy has said that each step was worthwhile in its own right. He secured the return of Ukrainian captives, eased hardship for people living in separatist areas and ended some of the senseless skirmishing along the front.In the settlement road map signed in early October, Zelenskiy agreed to a timeline for local elections and to other political steps needed to reintegrate the breakaway regions with Ukraine without any corresponding timeline for Russia to withdraw its troops. Zelenskiy said the Russian troop withdrawal is implied.Three protests ensued on Independence Square -- the largest of which drew about 20,000 people, far fewer than the gigantic crowds that gathered on the square in the 2014 revolution and drove pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych into exile in Moscow."There are clear red lines that Ukrainian society, and especially the active part of Ukrainian society, is not willing to cross and not willing to let anybody cross, including the leaders of the country and the president," said Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, leader of the opposition Holos political party.Vakarchuk pointed to polls showing that a majority of Ukrainians oppose a settlement on terms of the so-called Minsk agreements, the framework deal under which Zelenskiy will negotiate in Paris.Under 20% of Ukrainians support the political framework that Zelenskiy is pursuing, about 25% want to continue fighting to free the separatists territory, and about 35% want to declare the regions as occupied by Russia but not pursue military efforts to recover them for now, according to a poll by Rating Group, which conducts social surveys.Vakarchuk said he is consulting with Zelenskiy's party in parliament and would support any agreement that emerges from the Paris talks if it defends Ukrainian interests.That will be harder to pull off with the U.S. distracted, though."For a long time, the United States was considered the leader of the free world, and I think that was fair enough," Vakarchuk said. "But remember the Bob Dylan song -- 'The Times They Are a-Changin.'"This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


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