Showing posts with label The Guardian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Guardian. Show all posts

Jun 20, 2019

News Alert I Iran shoots down US drone

Julian Borger

Iran says US ‘spy’ drone was flying in its airspace amid strained relations over last week’s oil tanker attacks
A US Navy Global Hawk surveillance drone.

A US Navy Global Hawk surveillance drone. Photograph: Erik Hildebrandt/US Navy
Iran has shot down an US drone in the strait of Hormuz, accusing Washington of breaching Iran’s national sovereignty and trying to deepen tensions in the region.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that they had used a surface to air missile to shoot down what they called a US “spy” drone they claimed was flying in the country’s airspace.
US Central Command confirmed that one of its unmanned aircraft had been taken down, but said it was in international airspace. A CentCom spokesman, Capt Bill Urban said it was a US navy Global Hawk surveillance drone, which had been downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz at 11.35pm GMT.
“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace,” Urban said.
The US military accused Iran last week of firing a missile at another drone that responded to the oil tanker attacks near the Gulf of Oman.
Tensions in the Gulf have been heightened since 13 June, when the US accused Iran of attacking two tankers in the the Gulf of Oman with mines. The US military released footage it said showed the Iranian military removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of the tankers. There have also allegedly been Iranian-inspired attacks on US oil and military assets in Iraq, and increasingly sophisticated weaponry being fired into Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels.
The Iranian state news agency said the downed drone was an RQ-4 Global Hawk. “It was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south,” the Revolutionary Guards’ website added.
The secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council, Ali Shamkhani, had said on Wednesday that Tehran would respond to any intrusion into its airspace or waters.
Shamkhani emphasised that Iran robustly protects its aerial and maritime borders, describing its airspace as the country’s “red line”. “No matter whose plane trespasses into it, we have always given and will give a harsh response to intruders.”
He insisted Iran was the guarantor of security in the Gulf and strait of Hormuz.
The chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, urged the Iranian government to file a complaint to the United Nations on the alleged US drone intrusion into its territory. He said: “US drone intrusion to the Iranian airspace is clear violation of the UN charter and national sovereignty of the country.”
Both Washington and Tehran insist they are intent on avoiding a war as tensions build over the consequences of the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, but fears that an accidental chain of events will lead to escalation and finally a military confrontation are growing.
The shooting down of the drone came as the US president, Donald Trump, was briefed on the details of a separate incident: a further missile strike in Saudi Arabia that appeared to come from Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, said on Wednesday in relation to the Saudi missile strike: “We are closely monitoring the situation and continuing to consult with our partners and allies.”
‘Does the president have the power to declare war?’: Democrats grill Trump official on Iran – video
Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, who ousted the internationally recognised Saudi-backed government in late 2014, have stepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi civilian, military and oil installations in the past two weeks. Saudi Arabia claims Iranian experts are advising the Houthis.
The US has deployed an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in recent weeks and added additional troops to the tens of thousands already in the region.
Iran has set a deadline of 27 June by which it will breach limits on uranium stockpiles set out in the nuclear deal, a development likely to lead to renewed US demands that the EU states France, Germany and Britain join the US in pulling out of the deal. Iran says it is gradually suspending its adherence to the deal in response to the economic stranglehold being imposed on the country by US sanctions.

A meeting of the joint commission that oversees the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is due to meet on 28 June in Vienna – bringing together Iran, the three EU states, China, as well as Russia. The EU will urge Iran not to take further steps to pull out of the deal, and may put Iran’s actions into the JCPOA’s lengthy dispute mechanism.

Source: The Guardian

May 20, 2019

News I The Guardian: Google blocks Huawei access to Android updates after blacklisting

Lily Kuo

Google has suspended Huawei’s access to updates of its Android operating system and chipmakers have reportedly cut off supplies to the Chinese telecoms company, complying with orders from the US government as it seeks to blacklist Huawei around the world.
Google said it was complying with Donald Trump’s executive order and was reviewing the “implications”, after Reuters initially reported the story.
It later said Google Play and the security features of Google Play Protect would continue on existing Huawei devices but the next version of its smartphones outside China would lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play store, Maps and the Gmail app.
Chipmakers such as Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx, and Broadcom have told employees they will not supply chips to Huawei until further notice, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Huawei will continue to have access to the version of the Android operating system available through the open source licence that is free to anyone who wishes to use it. But, according to the Reuters source, Google will stop providing technical support and collaboration for Android and Google services.

Huawei promised on Monday to continue providing security updates and after-sale services for its smartphones and tablets.
“Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world,” it said. “As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefited both users and the industry.”
The spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, Lu Kang, said Beijing would “support Chinese enterprises in defending their legitimate rights through legal methods”.
The company previously said it was developing its own backup operating system in case it was blocked from using US software.
In an interview in March with the German publication Die Welt, Richard Yu, the head of the company’s consumer division, said the company had a “plan B”. He said: “We have prepared our own operating system. Should it ever happen that we can no longer use these systems, we would be prepared.”
Huawei, which relies on chips from the US, has reportedly been stockpiling the chips and other components in anticipation of the ban. In an interview on Saturday, the Huawei chief executive, Ren Zhengfei, said the company would be “fine” without US chips.
Google’s move comes after the Trump administration officially added the telecoms manufacturer to a trade blacklist on Thursday, declaring a national economic emergency to ban the technology and services of “foreign adversaries”. The blacklist immediately led to restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the firm to do business with US companies.
In another development in the growing trade war between the two countries, Trump claimed in an interview on Fox on Sunday night that his policy of imposing tariffs on Chinese goods was already bearing fruit by encouraging companies to move manufacturing to other countries.
The latest restrictions are likely to hit Huawei’s European business, its second-biggest market, because it licenses many of its mobile phone services from Google in Europe.
Geoff Blaber, the vice-president of research at the market research firm CCS Insight, told Reuters: “Having those apps is critical for smartphone makers to stay competitive in regions like Europe.”
Google’s suspension follows a report last week calling for Huawei to be prevented from supplying 5G mobile networks in the UK, because its operations are “subject to influence by the Chinese state”.
The research, by a Conservative MP and two academics, said a decision announced by Theresa May last month, after a fraught meeting of the national security council (NSC), to allow the company to supply “non-core” equipment should be overturned because using the company’s technology presents “risks”.
In the report by the Henry Jackson Society thinktank, the authors claimed Huawei “has long been accused of espionage” – a claim repeatedly denied by the firm – and noted that “while there are no definitely proven cases”, a precautionary principle should be adopted.
The British government has been pressured by partner intelligence agencies in the US and Australia to reconsider letting the Shenzhen-based multinational participate in the UK’s 5G network.
In April, May provisionally approved the use of Huawei technology for parts of the networks after a meeting of the NSC. A leaked account of the meeting said five cabinet ministers had raised concerns about the company.
Robert Strayer, a deputy assistant secretary at the US state department, warned last month that the UK’s proposal to adopt Huawei technology risked affecting intelligence cooperation with the US. He claimed the Chinese firm “was not a trusted vendor” and any use of its technology for 5G was a risk.
Australia, which also shares intelligence with the UK, has already moved to ban Huawei as a supplier for its future 5G network.
Huawei has always insisted it is a privately held company, independent of the Chinese state, owned largely by its employees, and has worked supplying phone technology in the UK for 15 years without problems.

Source: The Guardian

Feb 24, 2019

Morning mail: boat scare founders, Brexit delay, Dolly Parton's world

Helen Sullivan

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 25 February.

Top stories

The Morrison government’s border protection offensive has failed to turn around negative voter sentiment, according to the latest Newspoll, with Labor still ahead on the two-party-preferred measure 53% to 47%. The latest survey, published by the Australian on Sunday night, has Labor’s primary vote on 39% and the Coalition’s on 37%. The survey was taken at the tail end of a brutal parliamentary week, where senior government figures were embroiled in controversies, ranging from the finance minister, Mathias Cormann, forgetting to pay for private travel arranged through a Liberal party office holder and donor, and Michaelia Cash facing a fresh barrage of criticism for failing to provide a witness statement to police investigating a leak from her office. Scott Morrison will today deliver a speech in Melbourne announcing that he’s rebadging Tony Abbott’s emissions reduction fund as a “climate solutions fund” – with $2bn to be rolled out over 10 years. The emissions reduction fund is a vestige of Abbott’s heavily criticised Direct Action policy. Morrison’s fund will partner with farmers, local governments and businesses to deliver “practical climate solutions” across the economy that reduce carbon emissions.
Labor will commit to a new fund to support measures including 500 new counsellors to help victims of financial services scandals pursue compensation as part of its response to the Hayne royal commission. The banking “fairness” fund, worth $640m over four years, adds to last week’s announcement of a new compensation scheme allowing some victims of banking scandals to have their cases reopened, with the caps for potential payouts lifted to up to $2m. As well as pressing on with Labor’s banking response, Bill Shorten has told Scott Morrison the opposition intends to begin “exercising its right to seek public service briefings” under guidelines associated with the caretaker conventions.
An inquest into the death of the Iranian refugee Omid Masoumali is expected to examine why it took more than a day to medically evacuate him to Australia. Masmoumali set himself on fire after almost three years in detention on Nauru. The hearing will begin in Brisbane on Monday morning. It comes amid national debate about medical evacuations, and the passage of independent-led legislation to allow for medically necessary transfers from offshore detention. Masoumali died in Brisbane in April 2016. He was initially treated in hospital in Nauru and later was taken to Brisbane for specialist burns treatment.


Brexit could be delayed until 2021 under plans being explored by the EU’s most senior officials, at a time of growing exasperation over Theresa May’s handling of the talks, the Guardian can reveal. A lengthy extension of the negotiating period is said by EU sources to be favoured by Donald Tusk, the European council president, should the Commons continue to reject May’s deal.
Donald Trump and his most senior diplomat moved on Sunday to lower expectations for this week’s summit with North Korea, having previously overstated their progress in blocking its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
The African Union is seeking to kill off the EU’s latest blueprint for stemming migration, claiming that it would breach international law by establishing “de facto detention centres” on African soil, trampling over the rights of those being held.
Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, is set to meet the US vice-president, Mike Pence, on Monday, after asking other countries to consider “all options” to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power. Guaidó’s comments came after a day of violence, as opposition supporters spent hours trying to break a government blockade and carry food and medical supplies into Venezuela.
It’s Oscars time, and what a time it will be. Hopefully. Things certainly haven’t gone well so far. But never fear, the Guardian has Oscars Bingo, a live blog and (ahem) a nomination. Here’s everything you need to know before the awards show.

Opinion and analysis

From stab vests to car crashes, the world is built for men. It’s deadly for women, writes Caroline Criado-Perez:When broadcaster Sandi Toksvig was studying anthropology at university, one of her female professors held up a photograph of an antler bone with 28 markings on it. ‘This,’ said the professor, ‘is alleged to be man’s first attempt at a calendar.’ Toksvig and her fellow students looked at the bone in admiration. ‘Tell me,’ the professor continued, ‘what man needs to know when 28 days have passed? I suspect that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’ ”
For most of his life, Donald Trump has managed to stay a step ahead of the courts, the cops and the accountants. Two years into his presidency, however, he appears to be nearing a crossroads of accountability. Reports flew this week that the special counsel Robert Mueller was preparing to close up shop. The former Trump crony Michael Cohen, meanwhile, is scheduled to give testimony to three congressional committees in the week ahead. Either development could set in motion legal or congressional proceedings that threaten the president in new ways.


If Liverpool wished to signal serious intent of ending their 29-year wait to be champions, they failed. But the draw with Manchester United does leave Liverpool as outright leaders by a point, with 11 matches left of the title race. Meanwhile, Manchester City have beaten Chelsea on penalties to win the Carabao Cup.
Ante Milicic has spoken for the first time since taking over as head coach of the Matildas after naming a 23-player squad for the upcoming Cup of Nations. Our cartoonist David Squires casts his satirical eye (and pencil) over the latest in the turbulent saga.

Thinking time: ‘I’ve probably hit on some people myself!’

When Dolly Parton was 19, instead of the frankly unbelievable 73 she is now, she and a girlfriend travelled from Tennessee to New York City. They ended up in what she describes today as “a bad area”. “I think we were on 52nd Street and, because I looked like a tramp – a country girl, all overdone and tacky – this man thought I was a prostitute,” she recalls today, her signature blond bouffant bouncing with her giggles. But 19-year-old Parton, even when lost in the big city, was unflappable. When the man wouldn’t leave her alone she whipped out a little pistol her father had given her in case of emergencies: “If you touch me one more time, you’ve had it!” she shouted.
The encounter was later immortalised in Parton’s first, and probably most enduring movie, the 1980 feminist classic 9 to 5. It is used in the scene that establishes Parton’s character, when she takes a gun out of her purse, points it at her sexist boss, Mr Hart and tells him if he doesn’t stop harassing her she will turn him “from a rooster to a hen with one shot”. It is also, like all anecdotes Parton tells about herself, calculated to fit her superbly crafted and universally adored image, writes Hadley Freeman. The story makes her sound homespun, but worldly; sexy, but self-mocking; sassy, but safe. Whatever your gender or political persuasion, you are going to enjoy a story about Parton pulling a gun on a catcaller, and Parton knows that – which is why she tells it with such relish.

Media roundup

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Facebook will review a policy allowing advertisers to target Australians who expressed an interest in fascism and other extremist ideologies. The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age also report that Ita Buttrose is poised to become the next chair of the ABC after the departure of Justin Milne nearly six months ago. The West Australian front page features the federal attorney general, Christian Porter, with his campaign bus, which was lent to him by his former state Liberal colleague Joe Francis. Porter later gave Francis a plum six figure-salary job with the administrative appeals tribunal.

Source: The Guardian

Feb 17, 2019

Trump: EU must take back 800 Isis fighters captured in Syria

Patrick Wintour

Donald Trump has told the EU it must take back its 800 Isis fighters captured in Syria by US-backed forces and put them on trial.
The president’s call came as he prepared to claim the end of the caliphate in north-west Syria with the fall of the final Isis-held town.
Some EU countries, notably France, have said they are preparing to take back their former jihadists, but the UK has been more resistant: it says the fighters held by the west’s Syrian Kurd allies can only return if they seek consular help in Turkey.
The UK government says it faces a dilemma, especially concerning the wives or children of British fighters, and a major challenge either to prosecute the fighters or prevent them from undertaking terrorist acts in their homeland.
Trump tweeted: “The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 Isis fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial. The Caliphate is ready to fall. The alternative is not a good one in that we will be forced to release them.
“The US does not want to watch as these Isis fighters permeate Europe, which is where they are expected to go. We do so much, and spend so much - Time for others to step up and do the job that they are so capable of doing. We are pulling back after 100% Caliphate victory!”
Diplomats gathered at this weekend’s Munich security conference, a major meeting of officials and policymakers, have repeatedly warned that the capture of Isis-held territory does not mean an end to the Isis ideological and terrorist threat; they point to the way in which Isis forces are already regathering in Iraq, notably Mosul.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) say they have cornered the remaining Isis militants in a neighbourhood of Baghuz village near the Iraqi border. Foreign fighters and families have featured prominently among those who have fled the village, which had been been a collection point for extremists who had fled other towns and villages across Syria and Iraq. It is thought to be the last redoubt of zealots who had fought in numerous clashes across both countries.
On Thursday Shamima Begum, 19, one of three east London schoolgirls who left the UK in 2015 to join Isis, was discovered in the al-Hawl refugee camp in north-east Syria after fleeing the enclave.
Trump’s remarks mask an intense transatlantic debate under way between politicians and military over how to handle his unilateral decision to withdraw its 2,000 troops in north-west Syria.
The US military, and Arab states, have been pressing the Trump administration to delay the move to give more time for an agreement to be reached on how the mainly Kurd SDF are to be protected from a potential Turkish incursion once US forces leave.
The Turkish defence minister, Hulusi Akar, met his US counterpart, Patrick Shanahan, on the sidelines of the Munich conference to press his plan for Turkey to establish a safe zone, saying the Kurds in the SDF are indistinguishable from the Kurdish PKK fighting a separatist terrorist war inside Turkey. The Kurdish leadership is resisting the move, fearing it will lead to either a massacre or displacement of the Kurds.
Akar said: “PKK terrorists do not represent our Kurdish brothers. There is no difference between the PKK and the YPG,” Akar told senior US officials during his meetings. He said clearing the Turkey-Syria border area from the PKK and its Syrian branch YPG has been a top priority for Ankara, in order to ensure the security of Turkish people.
“A 440-km-long (273-mile) safe zone in east of Euphrates should be cleared of the terrorist YPG group and should be patrolled by the Turkish forces,” he stressed.
But senior Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham have acknowledged that the SDF has borne the brunt of fighting Isis, and there would be long term implications for the US reputation in the Middle East if it was seen to desert its allies at this stage.
He said Trump had been pressing European forces to set up a small international force to protect the Kurds, including some of the foreign fighters currently held by Kurds either in jails or, in the case of their relatives, in refugee camps. France has as many as 400 forces in Syria, but the UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said in an interview published in the Arab press in the weekend that the UK has no plans to send further forces to the region, but will listen to any US request.
Ilham Ahmed, the executive chair of the political wing of the SDF, has been touring Washington, Paris and London to press the case for an international force.
Some Gulf states have said privately they are willing to help provide financial and practical support to such a force, including one effectively led by the Kurds themselves, so long as it is part of a wider UN political process that leads to a long term settlement.
These Gulf states say the Kurds deserve a place in a more federated future Syria, something Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, would resist.
The Gulf States are slowly moving towards recognition of Assad – such as the United Arab Emirates, which has has set up an embassy again in Damascus. The Gulf States believe that, along with the UK, they will have to pick up the eventual cost of Syria’s reconstruction on the basis that Syria, Russia and Iran will be unable to afford such a large bill.

Source: The Guardian

Feb 12, 2019

Border security deal reached to avert another US shutdown

Tom McCarthy

Agreement allocates $1.4bn to border security, far less than $5.7bn demanded by Donald Trump
Democratic and Republican negotiators have agreed to finance construction of new barriers along the US-Mexico border as part of a deal to avoid another government shutdown.
The tentative agreement allocates nearly $1.4bn to border security, far less than the $5.7bn demanded by Donald Trump. It allows for the construction of 55 miles of new fencing, built through existing designs such as metal slats, instead of the 215-mile concrete wall demanded by Trump in December.
The deal still needs to be approved by Congress and signed by the president. At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday night, Trump said he had been informed about the committee’s progress, telling the crowd: “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway.”
Negotiators have been trying to reach a deal to fund nine government departments that partially closed for 35 days in December and January. Trump and congressional Democrats agreed on 25 January to temporarily fund the departments and negotiate a funding solution by 8 February.
Talks most recently broke down on Sunday, reportedly over a disagreement about the maximum number of undocumented immigrants who might be detained at any one time.
While most of the government departments involved in the shutdown are not tied to immigration policy, Trump’s demand for funding for a border wall has put border security at the centre of the negotiations to keep the government open.
The most recent shutdown – the longest in US history – began in mid-December, when Trump rejected a spending package approved by congressional Republicans and demanded $5.7bn to construct a wall on the US-Mexico border.
Democrats have opposed funding for a border wall, saying that pressure from undocumented immigrants is a made-up emergency and that money for border security would be better dedicated to additional technology, personnel and other enforcement measures.
The shutdown cost the economy $11bn and reduced growth forecasts by almost half a percentage point, the congressional budget office estimated.
Since then, Trump has not abandoned his demand for a border wall. At the president’s Texas rally giant banners inside the rally venue, the El Paso County Coliseum, read: “Finish the wall.”
The Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native who is weighing a 2020 presidential run, staged a competing rally. “We are here to follow the lead of this great community and make sure the country sees us at our best,” he told NBC News.
The negotiators at work in Washington on Monday included four Democrats and four Republicans. They are a cut-out of a larger group of 17 members of Congress assigned to seek a deal after the historic shutdown ended on 25 January.
Congressional sources said that one sticking point in negotiations was the Republicans’ refusal to accept a cap on the number of undocumented immigrants who might be held in detention centres run by the Immigration and Naturalization Services.
Democrats say that an absence of such a cap, pegged at 16,500 detainees, could be exploited by the Trump administration to round up an indefinite number of detainees.
  • The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 Source: The Guardian

Feb 6, 2019

State of the Union: Donald Trump attacks Mueller and Democrats in divisive speech

Lauren Gambino

Donald Trump issued sharp warnings to Democrats, including that “ridiculous partisan investigations” would harm economic progress, in comments that clashed with an appeal for unity during his first State of the Union address to a newly divided Congress.
“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” Trump declared. The presence of Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi on the dais behind him was an acute reminder of the political challenges he faces in the next two years.
Trump’s remarks were an apparent reference to the investigation, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, into Russian meddling in the US election, plus Democrats’ promised oversight investigations into the president’s conduct and personal finances.
In wide-ranging remarks to a joint chamber of Congress on Tuesday night that lasted more than 80 minutes, Trump appealed to two areas of his base supporters by reasserting his vow to build a wall on the southern US border with Mexico, and urging lawmakers to ban late-term abortions.
He also announced that he would hold a second summit with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Vietnam on 27 and 28 February. The leaders first met last summer in Singapore.
Trump’s speech came at a critical moment. Halfway into his term, having just suffered serious losses in November’s congressional elections and after prompting the longest government shutdown in US history, Trump had hoped to strike a new tone with his calls on Congress to come together over infrastructure projects and his trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
“Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future,” he said. “The decision is ours to make.”
However, although he avoided any reference to his much-threatened declaration of a national emergency over what he claims to be an immigration crisis on the southern border, Trump again outlined his case for a wall and accused lawmakers of hypocrisy on border security.
During the speech, Trump’s comments careened from dark proclamations about the “lawless state of our southern border” and the “bloodthirsty monsters” who fight for Isis, to sweeter moments, such as praising the optimism of a 10-year-old girl who fought brain cancer, and veterans who helped liberate Europe from Nazism during the second world war.
Trump commanded one of the biggest stages in American politics on Tuesday night but, unlike last year’s address, Capitol Hill was something of a hostile environment.
Pelosi – a formidable adversary who has thwarted his border wall at every turn – sat mostly stone-faced, occasionally scanning the text of his speech. She was joined on the dais by Vice-President Mike Pence, who dutifully applauded the president at each opportunity.
Seated in front of Trump was a record number of female House members, most Democrats and some dressed in white, in homage to the suffragist movement. In the gallery above were two former employees of Trump’s New Jersey golf club, both immigrant women who have gone public about its hiring practices, and the sexual assault survivor who confronted the Republican senator Jeff Flake in an elevator during the fraught confirmation of the conservative supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh.
In a moment of levity, Democratic congresswomen erupted in cheers and applause when Trump said the thriving economy had helped female employment.
Trump surprised by response from women in white during State of the Union address – video
Trump smiled: “Don’t sit yet. You’re going to like this.”
“Exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote,” he said, “we also have more women serving in the Congress than ever before.”
This time the chamber rose to its feet and Democrats and Republicans joined in a bipartisan “U-S-A” chant. Many of the women were elected as part of a backlash to Trump’s presidency.
Members also sang happy birthday to Judah Samet, a Holocaust survivor who also survived an attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead last year and on Tuesday turned 81.
Among the guests seated with the first lady, Melania Trump, were family members of a couple killed in Nevada last month, allegedly by someone who was in the country illegally, and Joshua Trump, a boy who was bullied at school because he shares a last name with the president – though he is no relation.
The public gallery also included, at Democrats’ invitation, undocumented immigrants and temporary residents threatened by the Trump administration’s policies, climate scientists, labor leaders, gun violence victims and federal workers who went without pay for 35 days during the government shutdown and who are worried about a repeat.
During his speech, Trump made the case for his “zero-tolerance” immigration policies, calling it a “moral duty” to address what he has claimed to be a “crisis of illegal immigration” at the US-Mexico border.
“No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration,” he said, in defense of his demand for a wall. “Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
He also touted his stewardship of a strong economy after what he called “decades of calamitous trade policies” and committed to rebuilding America’s “crumbling infrastructure”.
The address was treated as the start of his presidential re-election campaign as several Democrats running to unseat him in 2020 sat in the audience. Among those who have declared were Democratic senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren.
In a strike at Democrats’ liberalizing policy agenda, Trump decried “new calls to adopt socialism in our country”. The reference to socialism elicited a chorus of boos from Republicans.
“America was founded on liberty and independence,” Trump said, “not government coercion, domination, and control.” Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont who is also weighing a presidential bid, appeared bemused by the line.
On foreign policy, an area where Trump faces an increasingly adversarial Republican Senate, the president defended his decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Just hours prior, the Senate approved a resolution opposing the plan.
Stacey Abrams: 'Immigrants, not walls' make the US strong – video
He vowed to work with the nation’s allies to “destroy the remnants of Isis” and said his administration ”accelerated” negotiations to reach a political agreement in Afghanistan.
“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said.
Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the race for governor in Georgia in an election marred by accusations of voter suppression, became the first African American woman to deliver the Democratic rebuttal to the president’s address.
Speaking from Atlanta, Abrams called voting rights the “next battle for our democracy”.
“Let’s be clear: Voter suppression is real,” Abrams said. “From making it harder to register and stay on the rolls to moving and closing polling places to rejecting lawful ballots, we can no longer ignore these threats to democracy.”

David Smith in Washington contributed to this report

Source: The Guardian

Feb 3, 2019

banks' mea culpa, Townsville floods, death of a missionary

Helen Sullivan

Good morning, this is Helen Sullivan bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Monday 4 February.

Top stories

Australia’s big banks have launched a public mea culpa in the lead-up to the release of the findings of the banking royal commission today, acknowledging they have failed their customers, and arguing that the Hayne report is a chance to reset the sector. The chief executive of the Australian Banking Association, Anna Bligh, said banks had “not lived up to the high standards Australians rightly expect of the industry”. With the banks facing their day of reckoning, and the government response in the spotlight, the shadow treasurer, Chris Bowen, will use the Chifley oration to lay down markers in the economic policy debate in the run-up to the federal election.
The South Australian Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick is calling for cotton exports to be banned in an attempt to draw attention to the plight of the Murray-Darling river system and over-extraction by irrigators. The senator is preparing to introduce a bill when parliament resumes in 10 days. It would impose a ban on exporting cotton in three years’ time. “We export 90% of the cotton grown in Australia,” Patrick said. “About 20% of the basin water goes to cotton. It’s like exporting 20% of the Murray-Darling to China and India.”
Residents in the Queensland city of Townsville – where up to 500 homes are under water – were urged to seek higher ground on Sunday as heavy downpours forced the floodgates to the city’s swollen Ross River dam to be completely opened. A deluge pushed dam levels to almost 250% capacity.
Fires continue to blaze in Victoria and Tasmania. About 70 properties in Adams Estate in Victoria’s south Gippsland region were at risk of burning as the Grantville fire, which was headed north, edged closer on Sunday. “Leaving now would be deadly,” authorities warned. Bushfires were also threatening homes south of Gillingill, and warnings were issued for areas including Butchers Ridge, Deddick Valley, Gelantipy, W Tree, Yalmy, Murrindal and Wulgulmerang West. In Tasmania several towns were again under serious threat from raging bushfires whipped up by winds, with authorities warning property loss was “highly likely”. More than 21 fires, some of which started before Christmas, were burning out of control across the state. Some 191,000 hectares have been destroyed.


European leaders are expected to recognise Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela on Monday if the current president, Nicolás Maduro, has not set a date for fresh elections by then.
Donald Trump says he has “set the table beautifully” for the next stage of his confrontation with congressional Democrats, indicating that to secure funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, he will declare a national emergency on 15 February.
Newly unsealed documents about the Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán contain claims by witnesses that he had sex with minors as young as 13.
The billionaire prime minister of the Czech Republic faces an unlikely political threat, after his local council found him guilty of breaching conflict of interest rules by owning major media outlets while holding high office.
Yemen peace talks have been held onboard a UN-chartered boat anchored in the Red Sea in an attempt to find a neutral venue acceptable to both sides.

Opinion and analysis

The judge was clear: Marie Colvin’s death was murder. Colvin, the Sunday Times correspondent killed while reporting from the besieged Syrian enclave of Baba Amr in February 2012, was not the victim of a tragic accident. “She was specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country,” wrote Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US district court in Washington DC. Her verdict should be celebrated by all who care about freedom of speech, writes Lindsey Hilsum.
Last September Sylvia Wilson drove around Australia in an electric car at a cost of just $150.90. While the 70-year-old showed what’s possible with existing infrastructure, industry insiders and engineers have been left wondering why it’s taken so long for Australia to move past the bare minimum needed to support an expanding electric car sector. Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council, says: “Let’s be clear here, these aren’t electric vehicle problems, they’re Australian policy problems. In the absence of that, companies are left wondering, well what the hell do we do?”


Super Bowl LIII has kicked off in Atlanta. For Americans, it’s the biggest sporting event of the year. For much of the rest of the world it’s an excuse to stay up past bedtime with 17 Wikipedia tabs open to pages like “fly route” and “long snapper” trying to make sense of what’s going on. Here’s everything you need to know.
The West Indies captain, Jason Holder, has been suspended from the last Test in St Lucia because of his side’s slow over rate in the Antigua Test, which finished with more than two days to spare. This is a cruel and ridiculous corollary to a famous victory, which provokes a mixture of sympathy and disbelief. It certainly does not detract from Holder’s capacity to lead his national side so impressively.

Thinking time: The life and death of John Allen Chau

One day, as a small child, John Allen Chau was rooting through his father’s study when he found something curious and alluring: an illustrated edition of Robinson Crusoe, the classic story of a sailor shipwrecked on a deserted island. “After struggling my way to read it with early elementary school English,” he later told a website for outdoors enthusiasts, “I started reading easier kid-friendly books,” like The Sign of the Beaver, “which inspired my brother and I to paint our faces with wild blackberry juice and tramp through our backyard with bows and spears we created from sticks.” In November, on an obscure island in the Indian Ocean, Chau – a 26-year-old American adventure blogger, beef-jerky marketer and evangelical missionary – was killed by the isolated tribe he was attempting to convert to Christianity.
Chau’s father believes the American missionary community is culpable in his son’s death. John was an “innocent child”, his father says, who died from an “extreme” vision of Christianity taken to its logical conclusion. “If you have [anything] positive to say about religion,” he said, “I wish not to see or hear.” All Nations, the evangelical organisation that trained Chau, described him as a martyr. The “privilege of sharing the gospel has often involved great cost”, Dr Mary Ho, the organisation’s leader, said in a statement. “We pray that John’s sacrificial efforts will bear eternal fruit in due season.”

Media roundup

The West Australian takes headline of the day with Frankly I don’t give a damn on a story about what the paper calls Bill Shorten’s “Thatcher moment”. Scott Morrison will establish an independent panel of doctors to review asylum-seeker transfer decisions made by the immigration department, bowing to pressure from independent MPs, the Australian reveals. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the levels of hydrogen sulphate detected by Hazmat teams in the toilet cubicle of a cruise boat where a woman’s body was found on Saturday afternoon were the highest possible levels that can be recorded by the machines used.

Coming up

Hakeem al-Araibi will appear before a Thai court to answer whether or not he is willing to be extradited to Bahrain.
The banking royal commission’s final report will be released by the Morrison government after a media lockup in Canberra.

Source: The Guardian

Feb 1, 2019

'Clear risk of recession' for UK manufacturing - business live

Angela Monaghan

Oddbins calls in administrators

Off-licence chain Oddbins has gone into administration
Off-licence chain Oddbins has gone into administration
More sad times for the UK high street as off-licence chain Oddbins is the latest retailer to call in administrators.
Guardian correspondent Jasper Jolly reports:
Oddbins, the chain of more than 100 off-licences, has fallen into administration for the second time in a decade, putting 550 jobs at risk.
Duff & Phelps were appointed as administrators, having previously warned staff that job losses were likely as it explored options for the company following a difficult Christmas.
The stores will continue to operate in the short term while the administrators look for a buyer of the company and its assets. Oddbins, which started in 1963, was bought by European Food Brokers (EFB) - owned by Walsall-based entrepreneur Raj Chatha - in 2011 when it previously fell into administration.
The administration covers Wine Cellar Trading Limited, Whittalls Wines Merchants 1 Limited, Whittalls Wines Merchants 2 Limited and EFB Retail Limited, but EFB continues to trade.
Phil Duffy, one of the joint administrators at Duff & Phelps, said:Retailers are undoubtedly feeling the strain. The continued decline in consumer spending, pointing to a squeeze on household finances, combined with rising living and national wages have put increased pressure on retailers’ bottom lines.

UK manufacturing recession a 'distinct possibility': experts react

Stephen Cooper, Head of Industrial Manufacturing at KPMG:The underlying data does not paint a rosy picture. And when taken with poor results from Europe - the big four countries in negative territory, macroeconomic issues and a downturn in activity in China, these factors suggest that a slip into recession for UK manufacturing is a distinct possibility.
With this and the continuing Brexit saga, we continue to encourage manufacturers to take positive steps to understand their supply chains, mitigate risks and ensure, to the best of their ability, that financing is available in case conditions deteriorate further.
Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club:A weaker January purchasing managers survey points to the manufacturing sector struggling at the start of 2019 amid a lacklustre domestic economy, a less robust global economic environment and heightened Brexit uncertainties. The survey fuels our belief that GDP growth will likely be limited to 0.2-0.3% quarter-on-quarter in the first quarter of 2019.
James Knightley, chief international economist at ING:The trends of UK business hunkering down to protect themselves from disruption is likely to mean that inventory building continues. With auto manufacturers announcing factory closures for April (bringing forward annual retooling) it implies that the manufacturing output numbers will continue to soften over the next few months irrespective of what sort of Brexit agreement is made.

Pound falls after weak manufacturing data

The pound has extended losses after the weak UK manufacturing PMI, which signalled a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the sector.
It is down 0.3% against the dollar at $1.3068, and down 0.5% against the euro at €1.1399.
The pound’s loss is the FTSE’s gain, with the benchmark UK index now back above the 7,000 mark. It is currently outperforming its European peers, up 37 points or 0.5% at 7,007.
A weaker pound is often a positive for the FTSE 100 because so many of the firms featured have major overseas earnings.

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UK manufacturers stockpile at record rate ahead of Brexit

Rob Dawson, director at IHS Markit (which publishes the PMI), says UK manufacturers spent January preparing for Brexit.
Stockpiling hit its highest level since the survey began 27 years ago as firms ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit and potential customs hold-ups at borders.
Dobson says:The start of 2019 saw UK manufacturers continue their preparations for Brexit. Stocks of inputs increased at the sharpest pace in the 27-year history, as buying activity was stepped up to mitigate against potential supply-chain disruptions in coming months.
There were also signs that inventories of finished goods were being bolstered to ensure warehouses are well stocked to meet ongoing contractual obligations.
January also saw manufacturing jobs being cut for only the second time since mid-2016 as confidence about the outlook slipped to a 30-month low, often reflecting ongoing concerns about Brexit and signs of a European economic slowdown.
With neither of these headwinds likely to abate in the near-term, there is a clear risk of manufacturing sliding into recession.

'Clear risk of recession' for UK manufacturing

Breaking: Growth in UK manufacturing slowed significantly in January, putting the sector in “clear risk” of falling into recession.
That’s according to IHS Markit, which has just published the UK manufacturing PMI for January.
The headline index fell to 52.8 from 54.2 in December. It was well below expectations of 53.5.

A country-by-country breakdown of the manufacturing PMI shows the sector shrank in both Germany and Italy in January.
The 50 mark separates expansion from contraction:
  • Netherlands: 55.1
  • Greece: 53.7
  • Austria: 52.7
  • Ireland: 52.6
  • Spain: 52.4
  • France: 51.2
  • Germany: 49.7
  • Italy: 47.8
Coming up next is the equivalent survey for the UK.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at IHS Markit, says the latest eurozone PMI suggests the region’s manufacturing sector is in recession and will act as a drag on the economy in the first quarter.Some temporary factors remain evident, including an auto sector that is struggling to regain momentum after new emissions regulation and some signs of ‘yellow vest’ disturbances dampening demand in France.
However, there appears to be a more deep-rooted malaise setting in, which reflects widespread concerns about the destabilising effect of political uncertainty and the damage to exports from rising trade protectionism.

Eurozone manufacturing growth slows in January

Growth in eurozone factory activity slowed in January according to Markit’s manufacturing PMI survey.
The headline index - which combines output, orders and jobs - was 50.5, down from 51.4 in December and bang in line with expectations. Anything above 50 signals growth.
Output rose, but new work fell at the fastest rate since April 2013 suggesting a knock-on effect to production in the coming weeks.
EZ Jan

Connor Campbell, analyst at spread betting firm Spreadex, gives his take on the mood among investors this morning:Some positive US-China trade talk noise overnight failed to provoke any substantial growth on Friday morning, the signs of progress undermined by data from China that underscored the need for a deal.
Though the details what of happens next are still unclear, with Donald Trump claiming he will meet President Xi Jinping soon and reports of a potential mid-February meeting in Beijing for yet more negotiations, the overall tone from the January-ending trade talks was one of cautious optimism. This includes China agreeing to ‘vigorously expand’ its US imports, alongside further discussions about intellectual property theft and technology transfer.
The lack of concrete deal, however, meant the markets were reticent to celebrate anything just yet. A disappointing Caixin manufacturing PMI from China also contributed to the muted atmosphere after the bell, resulting in the most modest of gains as Friday got underway.

European markets rise in early trading

Major European markets are up this morning, with the exception of the IBEX in Spain.
It’s a fairly subdued start though, as investors weigh the negative China manufacturing data against optimism over US/China trade talks.
  • FTSE 100: +0.4% at 6,999
  • Germany’s DAX: +0.1% at 11,186
  • France’s CAC: +0.2% at 5,004
  • Italy’s FTSE MIB: +0.4% at 19,817
  • Spain’s IBEX: -0.1% at 9,048
  • Europe’s STOXX 600: +0.3% at 360

Cost of TSB's IT meltdown rises to £330m

TSB’s shambolic attempt to transfer customer accounts to a new IT system has proved costly.
The attempt went badly wrong, locking customers out of their accounts, showing incorrect balances, and even allowing some customers to see the accounts of others.
The bank, owned by Spain’s Sabadell, says that the bill for last year’s IT meltdown has reached £330m, pushing the high street challenger bank to a large loss for the year.

One in three UK firms plan for no-deal relocation

One in three UK firms are planning to relocate some of their operations abroad in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to a survey by the Institute of Directors.
The lobby group says 29% of firms in a survey of 1,200 members had either already moved part of their business or were planning to do so in response to threat of a hard Brexit.
Edwin Morgan, the IoD’s interim director general:

Source: The Guardian
We can no more ignore the real consequences of delay and confusion than business leaders can ignore the hard choices that they face in protecting their companies.
Change is a necessary and often positive part of doing business, but the unavoidable disruption and increased trade barriers that no deal would bring are entirely unproductive.
Full story here:

Shilan Shah, senior economist at Capital Economics, says the China Caixin manufacturing PMI paints a much bleaker picture than the official PMI published a day earlier.
With the headwinds from cooling global growth and the lagged impact of slower credit growth set to intensify, China’s economy is likely to weaken further over the coming months.
George Magnus (@georgemagnus1)
Chilly econ winter in China as Jan Caixin PMI contracts again. This is more about private sector than the official PMI yesterday. Most likely means layoffs and early shutdowns for Ch New Year. China factory sector contracts at fastest pace in 3 years
February 1, 2019

The agenda: global manufacturing, US non-farm payrolls

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
The Chinese manufacturing data has come in below expectations this morning, adding to the picture of a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy.
The headline index on the Caixin manufacturing PMI fell to 48.3 in January, from 49.7 in December, where anything below 50 signals contraction. It was the lowest number in three years, and weaker than the 49.5 predicted by economists.
Later today all eyes will turn to the US non-farm payrolls report for January, which could provide clues about the impact of the government shutdown on the jobs market.
The figures are expected to show that America created 175,000 jobs - down from December’s blistering 301,000.
We’ll also get manufacturing PMIs for the UK, the eurozone and the US. Data firm Markit’s monthly survey of purchasing managers is expected to show that eurozone factories only managed modest growth last month - with a PMI of just 50.5 - barely above stagnation.
That would be worrying, a day after Italy fell into recession.
UK factory growth is expected to have slowed (to 53.5 from 54.2), but still faster than the eurozone.

The agenda

  • 9am GMT: Eurozone manufacturing PMI for January
  • 9.30am GMT: UK manufacturing PMI for January
  • 10am GMT: Flash estimate of eurozone inflation in January
  • 1.30pm GMT: US Non-Farm Payroll for January
  • 3pm GMT: US manufacturing PMI for January

Jan 30, 2019

Venezuela: Maduro accuses US of trying to 'get hands on our oil'

Tom Phillips

Embattled president warns Donald Trump he risks turning country into new Vietnam
Nicolás MaduroNicolás Maduro: ‘If the US intends to intervene against us they will get a Vietnam worse than they could have imaged.’ Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, has accused Donald Trump and the “group of extremists around him” of plotting to topple him in order to seize Venezuela’s oil, and warned he risked transforming the South American country into a new Vietnam.
In a four-minute Facebook video – published as Venezuela prepared for a day of fresh pro-opposition protests on Wednesday – Maduro claimed the leaders of the US “empire” were conspiring “to get their hands on our oil – just like they did in Iraq and in Libya”.
Unable to accuse Venezuela’s government of stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, they were instead waging a media campaign of fake news to justify intervening in a country that boasts the world’s biggest crude reserves, Maduro claimed.
“We will not allow a Vietnam in Latin America. If the US intends to intervene against us they will get a Vietnam worse than they could have imaged. We do not allow violence. We are a peaceful people,” Venezuela’s embattled leftist leader added.
“I ask that Venezuela be respected and I ask for the support of the people of the US so there isn’t a new Vietnam, least of all here in our America.”
In the video, Maduro painted himself as US “admirer” who had visited Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and Washington and wanted closer relations with the US. “The United States is so much bigger than Donald Trump, so much bigger,” he said.
But Maduro looks unlikely to repair relations with the Trump White House, which has thrown its full weight behind his rival to the presidency, Juan Guaidó. On Monday, Trump stepped up its battle against Maduro by announcing sweeping sanctions against the country’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
Maduro also said on Wednesday he was willing to negotiate with Guaidó.
“I’m willing to sit down for talks with the opposition so that we could talk for the sake of Venezuela’s peace and its future,” he said.
Maduro said the talks could be held with the mediation of other countries, naming Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, the Vatican and Russia.
Venezuela’s supreme court has imposed a travel ban and financial restrictions on Guaidó, including freezing his bank accounts.
Guaidó, a 35-year-old former student leader and head of Venezuela’s opposition-run national assembly, has been in the forefront of a renewed attempt to force Maduro from power since last week when he declared himself Venezuela’s rightful interim president in a daring challenge to the incumbent.
Guaidó has called a two-hour protest for Wednesday afternoon and a larger mobilisation on Saturday. At noon on Wednesday, opponents of Maduro – who was elected in 2013 and again last May in disputed elections – have been urged to take to the streets holding white pieces of paper on which they should write their reasons for wanting Maduro out.
They are being asked to post photographs of their protests on social media under the hashtag #TodosTenemosRazones (we all have reasons) before singing the national anthem.
The Associated Press contributed to this report

Source: The Guardian

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