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Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:45:24 -0500
Pentagon: 50 troops suffered brain injuries in Iran strike

Pentagon: 50 troops suffered brain injuries in Iran strikeThe Pentagon on Tuesday raised to 50 the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran's missile strike earlier this month on an Iraqi air base, the third time the number of injuries has been increased. The new casualty total belies President Donald Trump's initial claim that no Americans were harmed. Last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members were hurt.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:35:34 -0500
Pentagon now says 50 service members suffered brain injuries from Iran attack

Pentagon now says 50 service members suffered brain injuries from Iran attackThe Pentagon now says 50 American military service members suffered traumatic brain injuries following Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attack on a base in western Iraq that was housing the U.S. military personnel. Initially the Pentagon said there were no injuries in the missile attack, but as more symptoms were diagnosed, the number was updated to 11, then 34 and now 50.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:34:14 -0500
Deaths rise to 132 in China outbreak as foreigners leave

Deaths rise to 132 in China outbreak as foreigners leaveChina's latest figures cover the previous 24 hours and add 26 to the number of deaths, 25 of which were in the Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan. Dozens of infections of the new type of coronavirus have been confirmed outside mainland China as well. Earlier in the morning, a plane carrying Americans who had been in Wuhan left for Anchorage, Alaska, where they will be rescreened for the virus.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:28:24 -0500
Trial highlights: Trump defense urges end to impeachment

Trial highlights: Trump defense urges end to impeachmentPresident Donald Trump’s legal team on Tuesday concluded its three-day presentation as they started it — arguing that the Democrats’ case amounted to partisan politics that would undo the results of the 2016 presidential election and drive Trump from office. Trump's lawyers argued forcefully against calling former national security adviser John Bolton as a witness, saying his yet-to-be-published manuscript contains unproven allegations that would be “inadmissible” during a typical trial. Meanwhile, Democrats and some moderate Republicans pressed to call Bolton and other witnesses as the case headed to the phase of questions and answers.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 19:01:00 -0500
Boris Johnson Plans Law for Control of U.K. Fisheries After Brexit

Boris Johnson Plans Law for Control of U.K. Fisheries After Brexit(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s government plans to reclaim control over British fisheries with a law allowing the U.K. to decide who can fish in its waters and on what terms.The legislation to be published Wednesday will end current automatic rights for European Union vessels to fish in British waters, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in an emailed statement. Under the proposal, the U.K. will leave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at the end of December -- after an 11-month post-Brexit implementation period has ended.“This new Fisheries Bill takes back control of our waters, enabling the U.K. to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long term health of British fisheries,” Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said. “Leaving the EU’s failed Common Fisheries Policy is one of the most important benefits of Brexit. It means we can create a fairer system which will allow marine habitats to thrive, with new powers to support our fishing sector.”Fisheries are shaping up to be one of the flash points of the U.K.’s forthcoming talks to shape its future relationship with the European Union: currently EU vessels catch more fish in British waters than British vessels do, and the EU has said any trade deal it strikes with the U.K. must be underpinned by a fisheries agreement. Irish Prime Minster Leo Varadkar on Monday suggested that if the U.K. wants access to EU markets for its financial services, it might have to allow EU fishermen to trawl British waters.Read more - What Brexit Will and Won’t Change on Jan. 31: QuickTake“What happens in these things is trade-offs, you know, for example, the United Kingdom has a very strong position on fisheries,” he told the BBC. “You may have to make concessions in areas like fishing in order for us, in order to get concessions from us in areas like financial services.”The U.K.’s fishing industry has been in decline for decades and is relatively small -- with a catch valued at just under 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) a year. At the same time, it was championed by Brexiteers during the 2016 referendum on EU membership, and some of the areas that voted most strongly to leave the EU were coastal towns once known for their fishing fleets. One of the most bizarre moments of the referendum campaign saw U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage and rock star Bob Geldof trade insults from rival flotillas along London’s River Thames.The legislation to be published Wednesday will include the following provisions:EU vessels’ automatic right to fish in U.K. waters will end.Foreign boats will need U.K. licenses and will have to follow British rules.Plans will be made for every fish stock to ensure sustainable fishing.The U.K. will take into account climate change impacts on its fisheries.Fisheries plans will recognize that many fish stocks are “shared stocks” requiring negotiation with other coastal states to ensure sustainable catches.To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Robert JamesonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 18:34:53 -0500
Key points in Trump's Mideast peace plan

Key points in Trump's Mideast peace planThe Mideast peace plan announced by President Donald Trump on Tuesday supports the Israeli position on nearly all of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict. Where previous presidents tried to cajole Israel and the Palestinians into compromising on thorny issues like the borders of a future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of refugees, Trump's Mideast team largely adopted the Israeli position.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 18:15:13 -0500
AP source: McConnell says he can't yet block new witnesses

AP source: McConnell says he can't yet block new witnessesSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators privately Tuesday he does not yet have the votes to block new witnesses in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. McConnell convened a closed-door meeting of GOP senators shortly after Trump's legal team made its closing arguments in the trial, the third and final day of defense proceedings punctuated by revelations from John Bolton, the former national security adviser. The GOP leader faced a handful of potential defections, but several days remained before any potential witness vote would be taken.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 18:04:07 -0500
'Danger! Danger! Danger!' Is Trump team's alarm for their own case?

'Danger! Danger! Danger!' Is Trump team's alarm for their own case?The president’s lawyer Jay Sekulow warned senators that the republic was in peril but testimony from John Bolton could devastate his defence“Danger. Danger! DANGER!” Jay Sekulow, a lawyer defending Donald Trump at his impeachment trial in the US Senate, turned himself into a human klaxon on Tuesday, repeating the word “danger” 15 times.By his lights, Sekulow was warning Democrats of the danger of a partisan, politically motivated impeachment that would lower the bar for imposing the ultimate sanction – the political equivalent of the death penalty – on future presidents.But another interpretation would be that the combative attorney and talkshow host was warning Republicans of the danger allowing of John Bolton, the former national security adviser, to testify at the trial, potentially causing the president’s entire defence to unravel.Sekulow’s argument went something like this. Look, what Bolton says isn’t true. But even if it was true, it’s still not impeachable. Not that it is true, you understand. It really isn’t. But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, it was true. You still can’t impeach for that. Got it? Am I clear?The trial had been going so well for the White House until the New York Times’ weekend revelation that Bolton, in an upcoming book, writes that Trump did indeed make military aid to Ukraine conditional on the Ukrainian government announcing an investigation into his potential election rival, Joe Biden.Now there is a Capitol Hill clamour for Bolton to testify. The defence spent most of Monday avoiding the mustachioed elephant in the room until Alan Dershowitz – whose past clients include OJ Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein, Roman Polanski, Mike Tyson and Harvey Weinstein – finally uttered his name.Sekulow took up the cause on day seven of the trial. Standing at the lectern, with blue tie and blue pocket handkerchief, he began: “What we are involved in here, as we conclude, is perhaps the most solemn of duties under our constitutional framework: the trial of the leader of the free world and the duly elected president of the United States.“It is not a game of leaks and unsourced manuscripts. That’s politics, unfortunately, and [Alexander] Hamilton,” – yes, him again – “put impeachment in the hands of this body, the Senate, precisely and specifically to be above that fray. This is the greatest deliberative body on Earth.”He added: “In our presentation so far, you’ve now heard from legal scholars from a variety of schools of thought, from a variety of political backgrounds. But they do have a common theme with a dire warning: danger, danger, danger!“To lower the bar of impeachment based on these articles of impeachment would impact the functioning of our constitutional republic and the framework of that constitution for generations.”It was a point he made over and over again. This attempt to take the moral high ground was pretty rich coming from a team that has pushed bogus conspiracy theories about Biden.Sekulow also repeatedly entreated senators to put themselves in Trump’s shoes. Brimming with indignation, he ran through a parade of Fox News villains: the Steele dossier, FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, Fisa warrants, former FBI director James Comey and special counsel Robert Mueller. The unspoken message was that Trump is the victim of deep state conspiracy.What, you may ask, did all this have to do with coercing Ukraine? Sekulow insisted: “You can’t view this case in a vacuum. You are being asked to remove a duly elected president of the United States and you’re being asked to do it in an election year.”Indeed, Democrats would agree this is not occurring in a vacuum. During their presentation, House managers carefully explained how Trump’s bullying of Ukraine, which is in constant peril from Russia, goes hand in hand with his peculiar affection for Vladimir Putin. Trump’s phone call to Ukraine’s president came a day after Mueller’s congressional testimony.Inevitably, Sekulow griped about the backlash against his team’s criticism of Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. “Do we have, like, a Biden-free zone?” he demanded. “You can impeach a president for asking a question?”Then he returned to the Bolton imbroglio. Sekulow dismissed “an unpublished manuscript that maybe some reporters have an idea of maybe what it says ... I don’t know what you’d call that. I’d call it inadmissible, but that’s what it is … You cannot impeach a president on an unsourced allegation.”Sekulow quoted Trump and Mike Pence’s office denying Bolton’s allegation. He warned against an impeachment based on policy differences. Democrats looked underwhelmed. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota whispered behind her hand to Chris Coons of Delaware, who smiled.Again that cry of “Danger, danger, danger!”Klobuchar sighed.Meanwhile, Senator Mitt Romney, among those who may well vote to call Bolton and other witnesses, was reportedly told off for breaking Senate rules by bringing in a bottle of chocolate milk. He later came back with it in a glass instead.In what may come to look like wild overconfidence, the defence rested its case after using less than half its allotted 24 hours. Clips of Democrats warning against the Bill Clinton impeachment two decades ago were played, culminating with Chuck Schumer, now Senate minority leader, saying: “My fear is that when a Republican wins the White House, Democrats will demand payback.”The White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, looked at Schumer and said: “You were right.” The senator’s face remained a mask frozen with a bemused smile.But this could not be described as a barnstorming finish. Cipollone claimed they had made a “compelling case” and pleaded for senators to “respect and defend the sacred right of every American to vote and to choose their president” a few months from now.There was an outbreak of muttering among Democrats. It was as if, collectively, they were saying: is that all you got?


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:37:26 -0500
UN discussing resolution to endorse plan for peace in Libya

UN discussing resolution to endorse plan for peace in LibyaThe U.N. Security Council is discussing a resolution that would endorse a plan for restoring peace in Libya and urge progress toward a cease-fire, amid new clashes between the country’s two rival governments. The initial British-drafted resolution welcomes the peace plan adopted Jan. 19 at a conference in Berlin attended by leaders of 12 countries, including the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:26:50 -0500
AP source: Jet evacuates Americans from China outbreak zone

AP source: Jet evacuates Americans from China outbreak zoneThe U.S. government chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other U.S. citizens. The plane will make a refueling stop in Alaska before flying on to Ontario, California, the U.S. Embassy in China has said. Wuhan is the epicenter of a new virus that has sickened thousands and killed more than 100 and the official said Tuesday that the plane left the city before dawn Wednesday, China time.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:00:36 -0500
China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus

China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus(Bloomberg Opinion) -- China has a bigger and more sophisticated toolbox to combat any economic slowdown from the coronavirus than in 2003, when it battled the SARS pandemic. The challenge now is a worsening backdrop both domestically and abroad, and how both hamper the effectiveness of Beijing's response.It's hard to be precise about the damage given the situation is still unfolding. Bloomberg Economics is likely to downgrade its projection for China’s first-quarter growth from its current forecast of 5.9%. When Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome raged in the second quarter of 2003, China's expansion cooled to 9.1% from 11.1% in the prior three months.Trouble is brewing beyond China's shores, too. With trade wars, heightened tension between Iran and the West and declining demographics, there were plenty of challenges before this outbreak. The International Monetary Fund is penciling in growth of 3.3% this year, after crawling along at 2.9% in 2019. Yet that pace has stalled from the 3.4% estimate just a few months ago. In 2003, the world economy expanded more than 4% and approached 6% in 2007.China has changed dramatically in the past 17 years. For starters, its economy is roughly eight times the size. But on a more granular level, key elements of monetary- and currency-policy frameworks have evolved. Most notably, the country has a more flexible exchange rate, to put it mildly. While the central bank still manages the contours of the yuan's moves, the currency was pegged at 8.3 to the dollar for a decade until July 2005. Moreover, the People’s Bank of China now uses an array of rates to manage borrowing costs. In 2004, it was considered almost revolutionary when China raised interest rates, a measure that hadn’t been deployed as a tool of economic management in nine years.These changes allow policy shifts to come more frequently. Faced with the trade war and a cooling domestic economy, the PBOC began 2020 with a statement of intent: The central bank cut the required reserve ratio for lenders by half a percentage point, the latest in a series of reductions. This signals that officials were aiming to shore up liquidity in the private sector well before the Wuhan outbreak. Damage from the coronavirus might conceivably tip the central bank's hand.Yet China’s perilous corporate-debt burden could remain a constraint. Over the course of last year, worries that a benchmark interest-rate cut wouldn't reach the private sector kept the PBOC from acting, despite expectations it would do so. Whether easier monetary policy in China would trickle through the rest of the global economy remains an open question. Many multinational firms have already started to relocate their supply chains as a result of the trade war.When SARS broke out, China was still basking in the glow of its entry to the World Trade Organization in late 2001. Six years later, growth reached a peak of 15%. Executives and officials the world over marveled at the mainland economy and Beijing’s decision-making prowess. Globalization was still very much in vogue and China became shorthand for a flattening world. Few dared offending Beijing, let alone consider imposing tariffs. (The idea of a trade war horrified President George W. Bush’s administration.) American economic diplomacy amounted to the Treasury Department’s gentle prodding that maybe China could, pretty please, end the yuan's hard peg to the greenback.Many of the people who went out of their way to praise China also urged it to rebalance its economy, to focus less on exports and investment and more on consumption. That shift has largely happened. But now China is more susceptible to changes in household sentiment — precisely the slice of the economy that a fresh outbreak will hit hardest. Since late last week, travel has been curtailed and Lunar New Year holiday activities were curbed in many parts of China.The good news is that Beijing can deploy more weapons to address this slowdown than in 2003. But given the scale of the changes since then, that may not matter much. Nor will this arsenal be particularly effective if the global economy, which China feeds and relies upon, remains a shadow of its former self.To contact the author of this story: Daniel Moss at dmoss@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously he was executive editor of Bloomberg News for global economics, and has led teams in Asia, Europe and North America.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 17:00:36 -0500
China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus

China Is Perfectly Prepared to Fight the Last Virus(Bloomberg Opinion) -- China has a bigger and more sophisticated toolbox to combat any economic slowdown from the coronavirus than in 2003, when it battled the SARS pandemic. The challenge now is a worsening backdrop both domestically and abroad, and how both hamper the effectiveness of Beijing's response.It's hard to be precise about the damage given the situation is still unfolding. Bloomberg Economics is likely to downgrade its projection for China’s first-quarter growth from its current forecast of 5.9%. When Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome raged in the second quarter of 2003, China's expansion cooled to 9.1% from 11.1% in the prior three months.Trouble is brewing beyond China's shores, too. With trade wars, heightened tension between Iran and the West and declining demographics, there were plenty of challenges before this outbreak. The International Monetary Fund is penciling in growth of 3.3% this year, after crawling along at 2.9% in 2019. Yet that pace has stalled from the 3.4% estimate just a few months ago. In 2003, the world economy expanded more than 4% and approached 6% in 2007.China has changed dramatically in the past 17 years. For starters, its economy is roughly eight times the size. But on a more granular level, key elements of monetary- and currency-policy frameworks have evolved. Most notably, the country has a more flexible exchange rate, to put it mildly. While the central bank still manages the contours of the yuan's moves, the currency was pegged at 8.3 to the dollar for a decade until July 2005. Moreover, the People’s Bank of China now uses an array of rates to manage borrowing costs. In 2004, it was considered almost revolutionary when China raised interest rates, a measure that hadn’t been deployed as a tool of economic management in nine years.These changes allow policy shifts to come more frequently. Faced with the trade war and a cooling domestic economy, the PBOC began 2020 with a statement of intent: The central bank cut the required reserve ratio for lenders by half a percentage point, the latest in a series of reductions. This signals that officials were aiming to shore up liquidity in the private sector well before the Wuhan outbreak. Damage from the coronavirus might conceivably tip the central bank's hand.Yet China’s perilous corporate-debt burden could remain a constraint. Over the course of last year, worries that a benchmark interest-rate cut wouldn't reach the private sector kept the PBOC from acting, despite expectations it would do so. Whether easier monetary policy in China would trickle through the rest of the global economy remains an open question. Many multinational firms have already started to relocate their supply chains as a result of the trade war.When SARS broke out, China was still basking in the glow of its entry to the World Trade Organization in late 2001. Six years later, growth reached a peak of 15%. Executives and officials the world over marveled at the mainland economy and Beijing’s decision-making prowess. Globalization was still very much in vogue and China became shorthand for a flattening world. Few dared offending Beijing, let alone consider imposing tariffs. (The idea of a trade war horrified President George W. Bush’s administration.) American economic diplomacy amounted to the Treasury Department’s gentle prodding that maybe China could, pretty please, end the yuan's hard peg to the greenback.Many of the people who went out of their way to praise China also urged it to rebalance its economy, to focus less on exports and investment and more on consumption. That shift has largely happened. But now China is more susceptible to changes in household sentiment — precisely the slice of the economy that a fresh outbreak will hit hardest. Since late last week, travel has been curtailed and Lunar New Year holiday activities were curbed in many parts of China.The good news is that Beijing can deploy more weapons to address this slowdown than in 2003. But given the scale of the changes since then, that may not matter much. Nor will this arsenal be particularly effective if the global economy, which China feeds and relies upon, remains a shadow of its former self.To contact the author of this story: Daniel Moss at dmoss@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachel Rosenthal at rrosenthal21@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Daniel Moss is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Asian economies. Previously he was executive editor of Bloomberg News for global economics, and has led teams in Asia, Europe and North America.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:30:28 -0500
Trump looks to boost 2020 bid with peace plan, Jersey rally

Trump looks to boost 2020 bid with peace plan, Jersey rallyA fiery, made-for-TV defense against impeachment on the floor of the Senate. A rally in deep blue New Jersey to fire up supporters and back a newly minted Republican ally. President Donald Trump was spending a particularly busy Tuesday moving on several fronts toward a common goal: shoring up support for his reelection bid.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:24:46 -0500
UN envoy: Stop `alarming' military escalation in Yemen

UN envoy: Stop `alarming' military escalation in YemenThe U.N. special envoy for Yemen is urging a halt to the “alarming military escalation” in fighting between the Saudi-led military coalition and Houthi Shiite rebels, the U.N. spokesman said Tuesday. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said envoy Martin Griffiths warned the Security Council at a closed meeting that the recent drastic escalation jeopardizes progress made by the warring parties in de-escalating the conflict and on confidence building. In the video briefing, Griffiths “reiterated the importance of stopping the ongoing military escalation before it is too late,” Dujarric said.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:05:47 -0500
Impeachment Season Is Going Strong — But, Where Is Melania Trump?

Impeachment Season Is Going Strong — But, Where Is Melania Trump?As President Donald Trump is only the third president in history to be impeached, there isn’t a well-worn map for how to navigate the trial and everything that comes with it. Trump is, of course, coping with the news of his impeachment really well: he’s curated a Twitter feed closely resembling an unfiltered stream of consciousness, attacking people online, and calling out Democrats for the “witch hunt” to which they are unfairly subjecting him. The Trump family is, for obvious reasons, on more of a high alert than ever before. But within all the discourse of Trump’s Senate trial (and even Ivanka’s recent reporter quarrel), we have just one question to ask: where is Melania Trump?Not a day goes by without at least a little news about Donald Trump, be it impeachment-related, his nerve wracking interactions with Iran, or his recent appearance at the World Economic Forum. Meanwhile, recent news of Melania Trump is scarce: it barely includes walking onto the field with her husband at the College Football Playoff National Championship in New Orleans, LA to stand for the national anthem earlier this month. Beyond that, it seems that Melania Trump is hibernating this winter much like the rest of us.According to Melania’s Twitter, she appears to be spending most of her time in Washington D.C. renovating the East Room of the White House. In her Twitter post, she says the renovations are in hopes that the room will be a “source of pride for its citizens.” On top of this laborious task, Melania is focusing most on her Be Best initiative which strives to combat cyberbullying and opioid abuse in children and teens.But Melania’s own support of the anti-bullying initiative seems a bit conditional in practice. Most recently, her husband openly attacked 17-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg after she was recognized as TIME’s Person of the Year. Trump went after Thunberg twice — once after her front-page honor, and again at the World Economic Forum last week. Melania was silent throughout the attacks, and despite a ton of criticism. But, she did not apply the same practice of silence when her 13-year-old son, Barron, was referenced by Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan during the impeachment proceedings. Karlan mentioned Barron’s name when asked to compare the modern presidency to the tyranny of kings the constitution was created to guard against. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” Karlan now-famously said. Melania responded by releasing a statement saying, “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”Prior to defending her son’s honor, Melania Trump made no public comments about the impeachment — and it doesn’t look like she will anytime soon. It’s possible that Melania Trump has no incentive to make a public appearance or statement right now (just a slight possibility). But not necessarily for obvious reasons — Trump hasn’t exactly helped or promoted her work either. According to Politico, presidents historically make sure to mention the work of the First Lady in their annual remarks to lawmakers. For the last three years, Melania’s big Be Best initiative has been left out, particularly in Trump’s senate speeches. Given Trump’s penchant for online rants and targeting people online, dedicating part of a speech to praise the work of an anti-cyberbullying initiative seems hypocritical at best. Amid the constant influx of Trump news, Melania’s absence proves somewhat concerning. But, her trademark stoicism isn’t exactly new to anyone. Over the course of Trump’s White House tenure, the First Lady has largely stayed on message and out of the public eye as much as possible, but we wonder at what point would she break character and speak publicly about the impeachment? As the annual State of the Union address approaches on February 4, Melania will likely be in the spotlight again — for better or worse — as her husband addresses the nation mid-impeachment. So we can all just stay tuned until then, I guess.Related Content:Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Melania Trump Booed By Teens In BaltimoreAnna Wintour Snubs Melania Trump In New InterviewMelania Bringing Bullied Student To SOTU


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:00:00 -0500
The Crypto Mogul Who’s Got the Ear of China’s Central Bank

The Crypto Mogul Who’s Got the Ear of China’s Central Bank(Bloomberg) -- Leon Li is the rarest of Chinese crypto magnates -- one who’s won Beijing’s backing. The founder of Huobi Group is now set to play a pivotal role in China’s effort to build a homegrown crypto-industry.The former Oracle Corp. coder, who started one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges six years ago, enjoys unusual access to China’s central bank and government officials thanks to methodical engagement and measured expansion. While rivals Binance and OKEx irked regulators by stoking Bitcoin mania, Li curried favor by discouraging speculation, co-founding the country’s first state-backed blockchain platform along the way. Huobi even set up a Communist Party committee in-house -- a first for any crypto firm.That’s why, keen to explore homegrown alternatives to Facebook Inc.’s Libra and a Western-led blockchain, Chinese central bank and government officials are turning to Li -- among others -- to help develop a local blueprint for crypto supremacy. The still-nascent blockchain arena offers the world’s second-largest economy a rare chance to become an early influencer. Washington’s concerted campaign to contain China has only strengthened Beijing’s resolve to wean itself off American technology.“Once in a lifetime,” said Li, a bookish-looking 36-year-old with thick black glasses. “It’s my hope that we’ll not just be a participant but a driver, even the leader of blockchain history.”Read more: Why China’s Rushing to Mint Its Own Digital Currency: QuickTakeLi co-founded Huobi in the fall of 2013 and later received backing from well-connected ZhenFund and Sequoia China. But the tale of how he and Huobi came to occupy its privileged position really begins in 2017, at the height of Beijing’s paranoia about the potential for unchecked Bitcoin speculation to foment social upheaval.Word trickled down to Li in the summer of that year that officials were preparing a major crackdown on the industry. His instinct was to rush back from medical leave and instruct his team to get Huobi’s almost 2 million registered users to withdraw their funds. But he also began delivering daily progress reports to local regulators and briefed officials whenever requested.Watching his counterparts collapse like dominoes, he realized that regulators meant life-or-death in his world. Li’s since made it his mission to get on Beijing’s good side, from hosting seminars and classes for officials to organizing conferences under the auspices of local government.In addition to consulting for the People’s Bank of China on Libra, Huobi more recently threw itself behind research into blockchain applications that serve the real economy -- a passion project of President Xi Jinping. It’s one of 14 founding members of China’s first state-backed blockchain platform -- an effort led by the country’s top economic planner that will power everything from storing digital contracts to tracing food and drug deliveries. Other members include state enterprises like China Telecom Corp. and China UnionPay Co.“Huobi could play an important role in the local crypto industry, because authorities would probably prefer to see trade go through an entity that they trust, rather than being pushed underground,” said Emily Parker, co-founder of Asia-focused blockchain data site and incubator LongHash. Good relations with Beijing “could be viewed as a sign of stability, as well as a local advantage over a company like Binance, which does not appear to enjoy the same level of trust.”Those years of cultivation paid off during a late-2019 clampdown. While Binance and its co-founder got tossed off Chinese microblogging site Weibo and other outfits got shut down, Huobi emerged unscathed. As the crackdown wound down in December, Li hosted a days-long conference on the fast-liberalizing southern island of Hainan that serves as his second base after Beijing, in a show of support for local government efforts to become a global hub for blockchain technology.At the event, Li pledged to lend his company’s cloud and blockchain expertise to nations participating in Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, and called on his country to counter Libra. “From the perspective of safeguarding national financial sovereignty, autonomy and control are really important issues,” he told delegates. “Can we rely on ourselves to build something as good as Libra?”A spokeswoman for Binance said its larger user base is among its key advantages over Huobi. OKEx representatives declined to comment for this story.Read more: From Pigs to Party Fealty, China Harnesses Blockchain PowerIn the years since Binance and other competitors fled China, Huobi was one of the few major crypto businesses that stayed put and thrived. True, he moved Huobi’s main exchange business to Singapore. But the company’s blockchain consultancy and training arm, Huobi China, remains in-country and around 100 staffers work out of sleek offices built on reclaimed wasteland on Hainan.That unit -- which the company says is profitable -- has instructed more than 1,000 students from Party cadres to executives at state-owned and private companies. Huobi’s own senior executives, Li included, are based in Beijing, as are key teams from coding to business development. His exchange is estimated to have raked in roughly $680 million in revenue for 2019, according to Bloomberg calculations of data by Huobi on token buybacks.Success has come at a cost of personal freedom for Li, who was born into a working-class family in central China and graduated from Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University -- Xi’s alma mater. After China shut down exchange trading, the heads of Chinese crypto platforms were reported to have been banned from departing the country. Li said he’s never received any official notice prohibiting him from leaving China but he’s chosen not to, unsure of the risks that would entail.In the longer term, his company’s closeness with Beijing could also be a liability.“Huobi may be aiming for a global leadership role in the industry by molding to regulatory requirements,” said Matthew Graham, chief executive officer of Sino Global Capital, a Beijing-based blockchain consultancy. “Certainly one risk is that this could lead to a loss of trust with overseas customers.”To contact the reporters on this story: Zheping Huang in Hong Kong at zhuang245@bloomberg.net;Colum Murphy in Beijing at cmurphy270@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net, Edwin ChanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:39:26 -0500
Sanders' Social Security 'adjustments' undercut Biden attack

Sanders' Social Security 'adjustments' undercut Biden attackAs a congressman in the 1990s, Bernie Sanders expressed an openness to making “adjustments" to the tax and benefit structure of Social Security. Sanders' presidential campaign and allies have highlighted similar remarks by Joe Biden to attack the former vice president and make the explosive charge that Biden was an outspoken proponent of slashing the program. With Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses less than a week away, Sanders' remarks from decades ago are surfacing as a counterpunch to the criticism of Biden, as the two top candidates in the Democratic race escalate a feud over the nation's most popular entitlement, an issue that has particular reach among older voters.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:22:36 -0500
The Daily Caller Sued Over ‘Relentless,’ ‘Xenophobic’ House IT ‘Conspiracy Theories’

The Daily Caller Sued Over ‘Relentless,’ ‘Xenophobic’ House IT ‘Conspiracy Theories’A former House information-technology staffer who became the center of fevered right-wing conspiracy theories about espionage and extortion filed a lawsuit Tuesday against The Daily Caller, alleging the conservative website defamed him and his relatives.The 23-page complaint from former Democratic IT staffer Imran Awan was filed Tuesday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court. Awan and the other plaintiffs—his wife, two of his brothers, and a friend, all of whom worked with Awan in Democratic House IT services—named as defendants The Daily Caller, the nonprofit Daily Caller News Foundation, DCNF reporter Luke Rosiak, and conservative publisher Regnery, which published a 2019 book Rosiak wrote about Awan. The Daily Caller was founded in 2010 by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.The Awans’ lawsuit accused the defendants of both defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, subjecting them to “a relentless, xenophobic campaign of defamatory attacks.” The Awans’ lawyer, Deepak Gupta, told The Daily Beast that the heart of the complaint lies in the notion that “the victims of fake news and right wing conspiracies are not just our politics and our discourse—it’s also real people, whose lives can be ruined.”“The state of our politics is so polarized and so combative that people can forget that there are real people who might find themselves in the crosshairs,” Gupta said. “That’s what happened here.”The Awans claimed that they received death threats, were forced to move, and their children were forced to change schools as a result of The Daily Caller stories. One of the plaintiffs attempted suicide, according to the complaint.“It’s hard to overstate the degree to which this has ruined their lives,” Gupta said. “They lost their jobs. Their children were targeted.”“This all put a strain on Imran and Hina’s marriage,” he added.Awan immigrated to the United States from Pakistan as a teenager, and his relatives were thrust into pro-Trump conspiracy theories after the House Inspector General investigated their use of House servers and adherence to technology procurement rules. That investigation prompted conservative media outlets like The Daily Caller to portray the Awans as somehow subversive elements within the House, with one story written by Rosiak in 2017 declaring that representatives had been “compromised by rogue IT staff.”“Other outlets piled on, no doubt aware that a ‘national security scandal’ involving Pakistani-born Muslims would find a predisposed audience,” the lawsuit alleged. Reporting from The Daily Caller and other conservative outlets fueled speculation on the right-wing internet about the Awans, including claims that they worked for the Pakistani intelligence service or the Muslim Brotherhood. Other outlets seized on the baseless claimed that the Awans, not Russian hackers, were behind the 2016 Democratic National Committee email hacks. The Daily Caller’s reporting was also picked up by President Donald Trump, who called Awan a “Pakistani fraudster” and a “Pakistani mystery man” in tweets. The president even discussed Awan during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2018. “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC?” Trump said. The Awans eventually lost their jobs amid the heightened scrutiny. The House Inspector General report found only that they had shared login credentials, inappropriately used government servers for personal use, and structured some technology purchases to avoid inventory reporting rules. (The Awans’ lawsuit alleged the purchases were made with approval from the Democratic representatives who employed them.)Imran Awan eventually pleaded guilty to making a false statement on a home loan, which was sparked by a Department of Justice bank fraud investigation his lawyers claim was the result of “political pressure from the highest levels of the Trump Administration.” Awan was charged after falsely claiming a property as his primary residence in an attempt to secure what his lawyers describe as money for his ailing father.He was sentenced to time served in the case after prosecutors sought no jail time in the case and federal Judge Tanya Chutkan blasted “scurrilous media attention” leveled against him and his family. The stories about Awan and his associates prompted an unusual statement from the Department of Justice in Awan’s plea deal, which disproved speculation about him.“The Government has uncovered no evidence that your client violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems,” read the plea agreement. “Particularly, the Government has found no evidence that your client illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members’ offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information, including classified or sensitive information.”Despite that, Rosiak kept up his criticisms of the Awan family after the Justice Department statement, according to the complaint, claiming the Awans were involved in blackmail and receiving money from Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah. Rosiak and Regnery published a book in early 2019 about Awan, Obstruction of Justice: How the Deep State Risked National Security to Protect the Democrats, that quickly rose up the Amazon book sales ranks and earned blurbs from Carlson and fellow Fox News host Sean Hannity.  “People who were not public figures—who were just doing their jobs and living quiet lives—were targeted because of their race and their religion and thrust into the spotlight with a series of conspiracy theories and attacks,” Gupta told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Those claims were amplified on every possible mass communications platform.”Feds Debunk Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory ‘Pakistani Mystery Man’ Leaked DNC EmailsThe Awans’ lawsuit alleges that Rosiak’s book is “riddled with outrageous, false, and defamatory attacks against the Awans,” including claims that he “hacked the House,” solicited a cash bribe, and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in government equipment. Awans’ attorneys say Rosiak even claimed that Awan boasted about having his enemies tortured in Pakistan.“Imran Awan is basically an attempted murderer, an extortionist, a blackmail artist, a con man,” Rosiak said in a July 2019 interview with right-wing newspaper The Epoch Times. In an appearance on Lou Dobbs’s Fox Business show, Rosiak allegedly implied that the Awans had stolen “millions” from the U.S. government.“These guys are out free, probably running around in Pakistan with the millions of dollars that they funneled from Congress over to Pakistan,” Rosiak said, according to the lawsuit. Gupta said the Awans now just want to “clear their names” and “move on.” “They’re looking for an end to this campaign of lies against them,” he said. “It’s very important that nothing like this be allowed to happen to other people like them.”The Awans’ lawsuit marks the latest complaint filed by the targets of right-wing conspiracy theories. Their legal team includes two Texas lawyers who have sued conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his InfoWars website on behalf of families whose children were killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting.Rosiak, The Daily Caller, and Regnery did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast on Tuesday.Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Hina and Imran’s marriage was not “ended” by the conflict described in the lawsuit, as Gupta first stated erroneously. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:44:44 -0500
Reporter who wrote book on Saudi crown prince was allegedly targeted by hackers

Reporter who wrote book on Saudi crown prince was allegedly targeted by hackersState department investigates after New York Times journalist Ben Hubbard says his phone was targeted in 2018A New York Times reporter was allegedly targeted with spyware linked to Saudi Arabia in 2018, at a time when the kingdom was targeting several Saudi dissidents around the world.A new report by Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School found that Ben Hubbard, who has written a book about Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, was targeted by spyware known as “Pegasus”, which is made by Israel’s NSO Group.The State Department said on Tuesday that they were aware the report and were “looking into it”. The news, which was also reported by Hubbard in the New York Times, represents the latest revelation about how Saudi Arabia has allegedly used spyware owned by NSO Group, among other technologies, to target dissidents and journalists.The attempted hack – in late June 2018 – occurred about six weeks after a phone belonging to Jeff Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, is alleged to have been targeted by Saudi Arabia after receiving a WhatsApp message from the account of Mohammed bin Salman. An unrelated private investigation has found that the hack probably resulted in the exfiltration of large amounts of data from Bezos’s phone.Two independent United Nations investigators are investigating the matter and have expressed confidence in the conclusions of the investigation that was commissioned by Bezos and conducted by FTI Consulting. Saudi Arabia has called the allegation “absurd”.“This is yet another example of a journalist being targeted for doing their job. Efforts to intimidate journalists and potential sources should be of concern to everyone. We will stay focused on our mission to seek the truth and help people understand the world,” said a spokesperson for the New York Times.According to Hubbard’s own account, the reporter received an Arabic text message on his mobile phone on 21 June 2018 that read “Ben Hubbard and the story of the Saudi royal family” and a link to a website, arabnews365.com. Hubbard said the link struck him as “fishy”, so he declined to click on it.“The attempt on my phone, a month after the reported hack of Mr Bezos, was less dramatic but no less scary in its implications,” Hubbard wrote. “An examination of my phone turned up no indications that it has been compromised, but technology researchers who inspected the message I received concluded that I was targeted with powerful software sold by NSO Group, an Israeli company, and deployed by hackers working for Saudi Arabia.”Hubbard, who is an American, said he was the fifth person that had been identified by name by researchers at Citizen Lab as having been “hacked by operators that appeared to be working for Saudi Arabia”. The four others are: Omar Abdulaziz, a dissident based in Canada who was close to Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi journalist, Ghanem al-Masarir, the London-based satirist, dissident Yahya Assiri, and a staff member of Amnesty International. All five were allegedly targeted between May and June in 2018.Citizen Lab was not involved in any of the analysis into the alleged hack of Bezos. But the alleged hack of the Amazon chief executive occurred on 1 May 2018, in line with the other alleged attempts to hack the three dissidents, the Amnesty activist, and Hubbard. The investigation into the alleged Bezos hack did not conclude the kind of malware that was allegedly used to target him.An NSO spokesman reportedly told Hubbard that it was “entirely deceptive” to suggest that its technology was responsible for all such phone hacking attempts, because other companies offered similar tools.NSO has said that its technology is only designed to be used by clients to fight terrorism and other crimes. It has said it investigates allegations that its technology is abused.Hubbard said that the alleged attempt on his phone came after he covered Saudi Arabia for five years, and a more recent focus on Prince Mohammed.NSO on Tuesday said it was wrong to assume that “every missed call, SMS, or video call is Pegasus”.NSO also criticised Citizen Lab, which has been at the forefront of seeking to expose allegations of abuse by cyberwarfare companies.“Regardless of CitizenLab’s enduring efforts to accuse NSO Group as being responsible for every alleged cyber intelligence misuse, NSO Group is proud of its work in assisting law enforcement agencies around the globe who are on the frontlines fighting serious organised crime and terrorism,and saving lives,” NSO said.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:44:02 -0500
WHO weighs science and politics in global virus emergency decision

WHO weighs science and politics in global virus emergency decisionGENEVA/LONDON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Most of the World Health Organization's (WHO) criteria for declaring a global emergency have been met, but it is awaiting clear evidence of a sustained spread of the new coronavirus outside China before doing so, some experts and diplomats said. The U.N. agency is seeking to balance the need to ensure China continues to share information about the virus while also giving sound scientific advice to the international community on the risks, according to several public health experts and a Western diplomat who tracks the WHO's work. Doing so can hurt host countries because it may lead to flight cancellations and travel or trade restrictions, dragging on the economy.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:32:14 -0500
Mag 7.7 quake hits between Cuba and Jamaica, but no injuries

Mag 7.7 quake hits between Cuba and Jamaica, but no injuriesA powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and eastern Cuba on Tuesday, shaking a vast area from Mexico to Florida and beyond, but there were no reports of casualties or heavy damage. The quake was centered 139 kilometers (86 miles) northwest of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 140 kilometers (87 miles) west-southwest of Niquero, Cuba, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Dr. Enrique Arango Arias, head of Cuba's National Seismological Service, told state media that there had been no serious damage or injuries reported.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:15:17 -0500
Trump's 'deal of shame' dangerous for Middle East, says Lebanon's Hezbollah

Trump's 'deal of shame' dangerous for Middle East, says Lebanon's HezbollahLebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah group on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan as a means to destroy Palestinians' rights, and accused Arab states of being complicit in a "deal of shame" that bodes ill for the region. "The settlement project under this deal is one of the biggest dangers and aims to do away with the right of return and to rob the Palestinian people of the right to their land ... and to create social and demographic tension and sedition that only serve the enemy's interests and expansionist goals," the movement said in a statement.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:06:12 -0500
Man accused of killing missing wife is in critical condition

Man accused of killing missing wife is in critical conditionA Connecticut man charged with murdering his estranged wife was hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday after being found unresponsive in a vehicle inside his garage, authorities said. Fotis Dulos was found when officers went to his house in Farmington because he was late for a bond hearing in the murder case. Dulos and his wife, Jennifer Dulos, were going through bitter divorce and child custody proceedings when she vanished months ago.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 13:30:51 -0500
Iowans adjust to 'weird' final days of caucus campaign

Iowans adjust to 'weird' final days of caucus campaignIn normal years, Iowa is the center of the political universe during the final stretch before its famed caucuses. The frenetic battle to win the Iowa caucuses has morphed into a steady — some might even say boring — affair. Many of the leading candidates are stuck in Washington sitting through President Donald Trump's impeachment trial.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 13:25:24 -0500
Iran TV uses ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ screenshot to claim CIA boss was killed in Afghanistan plane crash

Iran TV uses ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ screenshot to claim CIA boss was killed in Afghanistan plane crashIranian TV used ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ screenshot to claim CIA boss was killed in Afghanistan plane crashState TV in Iran has broadcast a screenshot from the movie Zero Dark Thirty to illustrate a report that a senior CIA officer had been killed in a plane crash.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 13:23:32 -0500
With joy and sadness, UK lawmakers pack up in Brussels

With joy and sadness, UK lawmakers pack up in BrusselsThe United Kingdom is leaving the European Union — cardboard boxes and Union Jack socks and all. With the Brexit moment set for Friday at midnight Brussels time ( 11 p.m. U.K. time) some U.K. legislators at the European Parliament in Brussels who have been fervent Brexit pushers were wasting no time getting ready to get out the door. Lawmaker Nigel Farage’s office on Tuesday was a jumble of boxes and mementos ready to be packed and shipped.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 13:17:55 -0500
Palestinians angrily reject Trump Mideast peace plan

Palestinians angrily reject Trump Mideast peace planPalestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said “a thousand no's” to the Mideast peace plan announced Tuesday by President Donald Trump, which strongly favors Israel. The Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem, Abbas said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Western-backed Palestinian Authority is headquartered.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 13:13:59 -0500
Late week storm to batter the Middle East with rain, snow

Late week storm to batter the Middle East with rain, snowAreas from Turkey to Israel and Iraq will endure another winter storm later this week.The storm will sweep across Turkey from Wednesday night into Thursday.Rain is expected in Istanbul; however, colder air across central and eastern parts of the country will increase the chances for snowfall.Rain late Wednesday night into Thursday will mix with and change to snow by the afternoon or evening hours. Additional snowfall is expected Thursday night with a coating to 8 cm (3 inches) for the Ankara area. Higher amounts will fall in the higher terrain around the city.Farther east and longer duration snowfall will bring accumulations of 8-15 cm (3-6 inches) from Keyseri to Erzurum. More than 30 cm of snow is expected in the higher terrain of eastern Turkey by the end of the day on Friday.Snow will also extend across far northern Iraq, northwest Iran and the mountains of Armenia and Georgia.On the southern side of this storm, rain will fall from the lower elevations of southern Turkey into Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan from late Thursday into Friday. A bit of rain will also dampen northern Iraq on Friday.The heaviest rainfall is expected from southern Turkey into northwest Syria, Lebanon and far northern Israel.These locations will be at risk for localized flooding and travel disruptions with rainfall amounts of 25-50 mm (1-2 inches) possible.Tel Aviv will avoid the heaviest rainfall with less than 12 mm (0.50 of an inch) expected to fall Thursday night into Friday morning.The higher elevations of Lebanon, northern Israel and southwest Syria may see accumulating snowfall from Thursday night into Friday resulting in some travel disruptions.This storm will track across northern Iran and Afghanistan this weekend bringing the risk for rain and high-elevation snowfall.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 12:53:23 -0500
Iranian official dismisses Trump peace plan as one-sided "imposition"

Iranian official dismisses Trump peace plan as one-sided "imposition"President Donald Trump's Middle East peace plan is solely a deal between the United States and Israel, an adviser to Iran's president said on Tuesday, dismissing the proposal as one of "imposition and sanctions".


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 12:35:00 -0500
US beefs up screening of travelers for new virus from China

US beefs up screening of travelers for new virus from ChinaU.S. health officials offered a reality check Tuesday about the scary new virus from China: They're expanding screenings of international travelers and taking other precautions but for now, they insist the risk to Americans is very low. “At this point Americans should not worry for their own safety,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Tuesday. China has confirmed more than 4,500 people with the respiratory illness, which in severe cases can cause pneumonia, with dozens more counted in other countries.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 11:47:50 -0500
China agrees to WHO sending international experts to study virus - statement

China agrees to WHO sending international experts to study virus - statementChina has agreed that the World Health Organization (WHO) can send international experts there "as soon as possible" to increase understanding of a new coronavirus and guide the global response to the outbreak, the U.N. agency said on Tuesday. In a statement issued after a two-day visit by WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping as well as the health and foreign ministers, it said that a better understanding of the virus' ability to spread from person-to-person was urgently needed to advise other countries.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 11:45:10 -0500
Sandy Hook denier charged with having victim's dad's ID info

Sandy Hook denier charged with having victim's dad's ID infoA Florida man who repeatedly harassed parents of shooting victims at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been arrested for possessing the identification of one of the parents, authorities said. Wolfgang Halbig, 73, was arrested Monday on a charge that he was in unlawful possession of another person’s identification, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office. Halbig was a guest on the radio show of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 11:24:51 -0500
Dems’ Impeachment Guru Flirted With #Resistance Conspiracies — and Went to War With Alan Dershowitz

Dems’ Impeachment Guru Flirted With #Resistance Conspiracies — and Went to War With Alan DershowitzHe’s the Harvard law professor advising Democrats on their impeachment playbook. There’s just one problem: His adventures in the extremely online world of the anti-Trump “Resistance” took him a little off the deep end for a while. Laurence Tribe has spent decades as a respected constitutional law scholar, but the Trump era saw him buddy up for a bit with the fringiest of fringey Resistance conspiracists online in amplifying far-fetched theories about how President Donald Trump and his crew might finally meet justice, some of which Tribe now regrets partaking in. And in another sign of the divisiveness of the Trump era, Tribe and his more MAGA-friendly Harvard Law colleague Alan Dershowitz—who is defending the president in his impeachment trial—have descended into a bitter feud, with Dershowitz accusing Tribe of harboring a “vendetta” against him for supporting Trump throughout his various legal woes. Tribe has been pushing for Trump’s impeachment and removal from office from the day former FBI Director James Comey was sacked. Since then, he’s urged House Democrats to take the impeachment plunge and, when they finally got there, counseled top lawmakers on how to handle it, even huddling with them personally ahead of key hearings.In a very Washington coincidence, Tribe counts both Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)—the lead prosecutor of Democrats’ case against Trump—and Chief Justice John Roberts, the referee in Trump’s trial—as former law school pupils. Tribe did not make himself available for an interview but answered emailed questions from The Daily Beast. He declined to go into details about the advice he is giving to Democrats as they lay out to the Senate and the public their case to impeach Trump—but he noted it was “accurate” that his ideas on impeachment have proven influential within the Democratic caucus. Dershowitz Can’t Give a Straight Answer on Impeachment RoleIndeed, it was Tribe who first described the plan that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) turned to in hopes of getting an upper hand over Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). In a Washington Post op-ed published two days before the House passed articles of impeachment, Tribe argued that Pelosi had no obligation to immediately send the articles to the Senate so it could begin the trial, because McConnell’s closeness with Trump ensured it would be unfair. “Under the current circumstances,” Tribe wrote, “such a proceeding would fail to render a meaningful verdict of acquittal.” Pelosi ultimately heeded his advice and held the articles of impeachment for 28 days, a move that altered the course of the impeachment process. Hill Democrats say Tribe has been an engaged, if sober, presence in the impeachment process. When he met with House Judiciary Committee Democrats to help prepare them for their impeachment hearings in December, his presentation was “very dry,” according to a Democratic source. Online, however, Tribe has been much more colorful. His takes, backed by the weight of his half-century of legal scholarship, sometimes meaningfully push the envelope, as Pelosi’s hold-the-articles gambit showed. Other times, they have strayed a bit too far into the fever swamps. MAN OF STEELEIn December 2017, Tribe approvingly shared a prediction from another Resistance Twitter star, Brian Krassenstein, who tweeted that he had “no doubt in my mind that before all is said and done Devin Nunes will be headed to prison.”“I’m willing to bet @krassenstein is right,” tweeted Tribe. “Nunes is headed to federal prison.” Since then, Nunes has not come close to federal prison. Krassenstein, however, has been banned from Twitter and had his Florida home raided by the FBI. Nor is Krassenstein the only Resistance figure Tribe’s aligned with. In the past, Tribe has approvingly shared the views of Louise Mensch, the British pundit whose fantastical commentary on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation made her an online favorite.Mensch is notorious for, among other things, declaring that her “sources say the death penalty, for espionage, being considered for @StevenKBannon.” In March 2017, Tribe tweeted a link to an interview Mensch did with the BBC in which, among other things, she reiterated her belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the murder of Andrew Breitbart, the founder of Breitbart. (He did not.)Tribe told The Daily Beast that his views of Mensch have since changed. Asked if he regretted amplifying her views, he said, “Of course I do.”   The professor has also revisited another favorite topic: the Steele dossier. In late 2017, Tribe tweeted a challenge: Had anything in the 35-page memo compiled by a British spy during the 2016 campaign—which made explosive claims about Russian collusion with Trump—been off-base?Since then, some of the dossier’s key claims—including a colorful anecdote involving Trump, prostitutes, and bodily fluids in a Moscow hotel room—remain unsubstantiated. Others, like the claim that Trump fixer Michael Cohen met with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, have been proven false. In January 2019, before Mueller dealt the final death blow to the Prague theory, Tribe was still referencing it on Twitter. He told The Daily Beast on Monday that he doubts the meeting occurred. “I may well have missed,” said Tribe, “some aspects of what the Steele dossier contained.” But Tribe has stuck to his guns on the question of Nunes. When the former GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee was under scrutiny at the time for possible coordination with the White House on the panel’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, Tribe didn’t just think Nunes was wrong but possibly breaking the law. Tribe told The Daily Beast last week that he continues to believe Nunes, who has since come under scrutiny for his contacts with figures involved in the Ukraine probe, “has significant criminal exposure and that a principled Justice Department would prosecute him.” In a statement to The Daily Beast, a spokesperson for Nunes did not comment on Tribe’s claims but said “it’d be hard to find anybody who would take Laurence Tribe or The Daily Beast seriously.” ENTER THE DERSHAnother wrinkle to Tribe’s impeachment role is his escalating feud with Dershowitz. The two celebrity legal experts, once friendly colleagues at Harvard Law, find themselves on opposite sides of the Trump impeachment and drifting further apart by the day.  On Monday, when Dershowitz testified in defense of Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, he name-checked Tribe two times as an example of someone who was inconsistent on legal questions of impeachment. Tribe, meanwhile, live-tweeted takedowns of Dershowitz’s arguments. In an interview with The Daily Beast last week, Dershowitz—who has occasionally responded to Tribe, but with far less frequency—said he doesn’t pay much attention to Twitter but claimed that his former colleague has a “personal vendetta” against him. “He’s a partisan,” said Dershowitz. “I think he was assigned a job by the anti-Trump people to try to destroy me and he’s accepted that assignment, which I think is pretty immoral.” He also claimed that Tribe would be silent if Hillary Clinton faced similar charges had she become president. Tribe told The Daily Beast the notions that his partisan feelings inform his legal judgment—or that he has it out for Dershowitz—were ridiculous.“Why would I have a ‘vendetta’ against Alan?” Tribe asked in an email. “We were colleagues and friends for years, and although we’ve disagreed at times I used to come to his defense with some frequency. I’ve become a vocal critic of Alan’s increasingly unhinged arguments in defense of President Trump’s conduct only because those arguments have seemed to me increasingly bizarre and increasingly dangerous.”Team Trump Settles on Its Impeachment Defense: A Healthy Dose of Lib Triggering“The one and only compass Alan Dershowitz follows these days,” leveled Tribe, “is the one that will bring him maximum media attention.”Tribe has also kept a close eye on two of the trial’s most central players, Schiff and Roberts.The California congressman, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1985 and was a research assistant for Tribe while there, is among the many students—including Barack Obama—whom Tribe has mentored. Schiff, said Tribe, “remains among the brightest and most promising students I have taught in a half-century career at Harvard Law School… His handling of the Intelligence Committee’s work, and his performance as a House Impeachment manager, have been breathtakingly effective.”Schiff, for his part, had nothing but good things to say about Tribe in a statement provided to The Daily Beast. “Larry is a dear friend, former professor, and trusted mentor,” said Schiff. “He’s been a great source of knowledge on the law and Constitution for all of us throughout this process, and we’re lucky to have the best constitutional law scholar in the nation advising us.” HE’S GOT THE POWERWhile Tribe’s praise for Schiff has been effusive and encouraging, his praise of Roberts, whom he has called “fair-minded and brilliant,” has sounded a more aspirational note. According to the Constitution, the chief justice presides over a Senate trial, but tradition has dictated that the role is more ceremonial and procedural than substantial.Among some observers, however, there is hope that Roberts could play a significant role in resolving key questions about the trial. In the event of a tied vote, Roberts could cast a decisive role for or against new evidence. He could also quickly resolve any legal challenge from the White House regarding the legality of a subpoena for officials like John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney.Tribe predicted to MSNBC’s Laurence O’Donnell that Roberts could rule in favor of new witnesses and documents if the situation arises. “If he is asked to issue a subpoena, I think he will use his power to do it,” Tribe said.It’s one of many predictions Tribe has made over the course of nearly three years of excited Trump-era tweeting and opining. Notably, he has yet to predict Trump’s conviction or acquittal—but has suggested there will be chaos no matter what.“Even if an unremoved Trump is defeated this Nov 4 so overwhelmingly that he doesn’t even try to hang onto power beyond next January 20,” tweeted Tribe, “imagine the havoc this vengeful man could wreak in the intervening 77 days, pardoning his loyal henchmen and attacking political adversaries.”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.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 11:10:42 -0500
New MSU student from Iran sent home after landing at airport

New MSU student from Iran sent home after landing at airportU.S. authorities declined to admit an Iranian graduate student after he landed at an airport to start classes at Michigan State University, an attorney said. Alireza Esfidajani, 27, was stopped Sunday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport and interviewed by agents. “They deemed him being inadmissible but they never said under what grounds," attorney Ghazal Nicole Mehrani told The Detroit News.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 11:01:40 -0500
Coroner: 4 of 8 boat dock fire victims were children

Coroner: 4 of 8 boat dock fire victims were childrenRoughly two dozen people lived on Dock B at Jackson County Park Marina, and none was rich or famous. Tommy Jones, who lived on a 35-foot (11-meter) boat on the dock, helped others flee and swam to safety but lost his brother, who drowned trying to escape. An Alabama coroner said Tuesday that four of the eight victims were children.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 10:35:18 -0500
Historians: Sobibor death camp photos may feature Demjanjuk

Historians: Sobibor death camp photos may feature DemjanjukHistorians have presented a collection of photos kept by the deputy commander of the Nazis' Sobibor death camp that they say appears to include images of John Demjanjuk, the retired Ohio auto worker who was tried in Germany for his alleged time as a Sobibor guard. The collection unveiled Tuesday at Berlin's Topography of Terror museum comprises 361 photos as well as written documents illustrating Johann Niemann's career. Niemann was the deputy commander of Sobibor from September 1942 until he was killed on Oct. 14, 1943, in an uprising by Jewish inmates.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 10:00:36 -0500
The World’s Hypocrisy About Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank

The World’s Hypocrisy About Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank(Bloomberg Opinion) -- At a time when it enjoys the most robust economy in its history and a thawing of relations with its Arab neighbors, Israel is increasingly treated as a pariah.Israel’s allies revoke the charity status of organizations that raise money for Jewish settlements. UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council focus on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, while some human-rights organizations pressure Airbnb Inc. to exclude listings from the West Bank. Goods sold abroad that originate there are labeled as such.Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967, when it won the territory from Jordan in the Six Day War. According to the United Nations, states that seize territory by force are not allowed to populate that territory with their own citizens. Israel has expanded Jewish settlements since 1967, on land that according to the 1993 Oslo Accords would make up most of a future Palestinian state. By most interpretations, those settlements are illegal.So are many other such occupations around the world, notes a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Yet when was the last time you heard about a campaign to boycott, divest or sanction Armenia for its occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan?The report examines how international law is deployed in eight “frozen conflicts” where one state is occupying territory belonging to another — and finds a double standard when it comes to Israel. “The problem is not simply that the United Nations, United States, European Union, private corporations, and NGOs act in a highly inconsistent manner,” it says. “It is that their policies are selective and often reveal biases that underscore deeper problems in the international system.”The example of Russia is instructive. In 2020, Russia occupies Ukrainian territory in Crimea and Donbass. It occupies the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It occupies the Moldovan territory of Transnistria.But Russia is really only paying a price for its occupation and annexation of Crimea, which has caused the U.S. and its European allies to sanction sectors of the Russian economy. Russia was initially sanctioned for its occupation of Georgian territory, but those sanctions were lifted in 2009 following a flimsy cease-fire agreement that Russian-backed separatists have since violated. The EU treats Transnistrian goods as if they were Moldovan. There are no restrictions on trade from the Georgian territory that Russia occupies.The EU, the report notes, has an “exceptionally incoherent approach to protracted conflicts and trade.” For example, it requires all goods exported from Israeli settlements to be labeled as coming from occupied territory. But it includes the Western Sahara region, which is occupied by Morocco, as part of Morocco’s free trade agreement with the EU. Europe bans all trade with Crimea, but does not regulate trade with Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Transnistria.Part of the problem, according to the report, is that states which choose to occupy territory through proxy forces, such as the Turkish regime in charge of northern Cyprus or the Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass, are rarely treated the same as states that occupy territory with their own armed forces. Another problem is that some UN institutions are composed of states that have a political interest in demonizing Israel.That said, Israel is a unique case. It won the West Bank from a UN-recognized state in a war. But no one today argues that Israel should return that land to Jordan. Rather, Israel is expected to turn over the land it won to create a new state. That is the most important way that Israel’s occupation is different than the other frozen conflicts that receive such scant attention.It’s important to note, though, that Israel’s occupation is not the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Palestinian leaders have rejected past offers for statehood, and still insist that any two state-solution allow for the descendants of refugees created in the 1948 war to return to their homes. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Palestinian leaders refused to meet with Israel’s prime minister, even after a partial settlement freeze.In this sense, the double standard about Israel’s occupation isn’t just unfair, it’s counterproductive. The sooner the international community lets go of the illusion that it can force the Jewish state to create a Palestinian one, the sooner the hard work of compromise and negotiation can begin.To contact the author of this story: Eli Lake at elake1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Newman at mnewman43@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Eli Lake is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering national security and foreign policy. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 09:39:48 -0500
Rescue mission aids starving lions in neglected Sudan zoo

Rescue mission aids starving lions in neglected Sudan zooFour lions in a rundown zoo in the capital of Sudan, wasting away from hunger, are undergoing lifesaving medical treatment from an international animal rescue organization. At least five lions, both male and female, once inhabited the zoo. On Tuesday, veterinarians and wildlife experts from Vienna-based animal welfare group Four Paws International conducted medical checks at the park, which has fallen on hard times for lack of money and attention.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 09:31:04 -0500
Astronaut craves salsa and surf after record 11 months aloft

Astronaut craves salsa and surf after record 11 months aloftAfter nearly 11 months in orbit, the astronaut holding the record for the longest spaceflight by a woman can't wait to dig into some salsa and chips, and swim and surf in the Gulf of Mexico. NASA astronaut Christina Koch told The Associated Press on Tuesday — her 319th consecutive day in space — that taking part in the first all-female spacewalk was the highlight of her mission. “We both drew a lot of inspiration from seeing people that were reflections of ourselves as we were growing up and developing our dreams to become astronauts,” Koch said from the space station.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 09:26:02 -0500
Meet The First-Ever Women Impeachment Managers

Meet The First-Ever Women Impeachment ManagersThe impeachment of President Trump has been anything but conventional. Although he’s one of only three U.S. presidents to ever actually be impeached in the House of Representatives, he’s not exactly taking the process seriously. To date, Trump has called his impeachment a “witch hunt,” a hoax, and a joke, and has complained about his lawyers being relegated to deliver his defense on a Saturday — the “Death Valley in TV” as he called it. So far, Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate has lived up to the bizarreness of his presidency. There’s been milk drinking in the chamber, arguments have gone late into the night (cc: Midnight Mitch McConnell), and Republican moderators refuse to vote for amendments that would introduce witnesses and evidentiary documents into the trial. For many people, the entire impeachment process has been a lesson in how an impeachment process even works.For instance, just because Trump has been impeached in the House, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be removed from office (which is what the Senate decides). And specific people are in charge of making the case for removal on behalf of the American public. As the Senate debates Trump’s fate on criminal charges, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi selected a group of impeachment managers from the House to oversee the Senate’s process. This isn’t specific to Trump’s impeachment — every impeachment will have house managers. In the Senate process, these managers will make a case for Donald Trump’s conviction, arguing against the president’s lawyers for the Senate’s final vote. But this particular group of seven is historic: for the first time ever, three of the managers are women: Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Val Demings of Florida. In an interview with NBC News, the women talked about their roles and the overall significance of the trial. “It seems to me, if there’s not a full, fair trial with witnesses, [Donald Trump] may get an acquittal, but he’s not going to get an exoneration,” Lofgren said. “It’s going to be seen for what it is, just a rubber stamp to get him off the hook.” In case you are wondering who these three powerhouse women are and what they will each bring to the Senate’s impeachment proceedings, we’re here to tell you. Zoe LofgrenLofgren is especially familiar with how impeachments go down. She’s had roles in two previous impeachment inquiries. In 1998, she was on the House Judiciary Committee when it approved articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. She was also involved with drafting the Watergate charges against President Richard Nixon when she was a young law student in 1974, making her a prime candidate to act as one of the impeachment managers for Trump.  “Impeachment is a grave & solemn matter. It is a stress test for our democracy,” Lofgren wrote on Twitter. “I hope every Senator is prepared to seriously consider & vote honestly with an open mind for the future of our democracy.” Sylvia GarciaElected in 2018, Garcia is one of the first two Latina congresswomen from the state of Texas. She is a former lawyer, judge, and member of the Texas senate. For two terms, she was Houston city controller, the second highest elected office in Houston’s city government and its chief financial officer. Garcia now serves on the House Judiciary Committee, and tweeted that she was “honored” to serve as one of the impeachment managers this year. “For me, this is about upholding my oath to office,” Garcia wrote. “I take my responsibility seriously because we’re working to defend our Constitution at a pivotal moment in our democracy.” Val DemingsBefore coming to Congress, Demings spent 27 years working in the Orlando Police Department, where she rose through the ranks to become the department’s first woman police chief. She is currently serving her second term in Congress, representing Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Last July, Demings first came to national attention for expertly questioning former special counsel Robert Mueller when he testified before Congress. She has served on both the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. Demings is proving to be a vocal force in the impeachment process, with powerful perspectives on enforcing the law throughout. “I am a descendant of slaves, who knew that they would not make it, but dreamed and prayed that one day I would make it,” Demings said on Twitter. “My faith is in the Constitution. I’ve enforced the laws, and now I write the laws. Nobody is above the law.” Who are the other impeachment managers?Democratic Reps. Jason Crow of Colorado, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Jerry Nadler of New York, and Adam Schiff of California round out the crew of impeachment managers. Schiff, who is also the House Intelligence Committee Chairman, has been extremely vocal throughout the House and Senate processes. Schiff presented bold opening arguments last week and is attributed as the Democrats unofficial spokesperson through this process.Undoubtedly, this group brings the necessary experience to take on one of the toughest jobs out there: trying to get Midnight Mitch to agree to a fair trial — complete with actual evidence and witnesses. It’s a daunting task, but someone’s gotta do it.  Related Content:Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Why Senators Drink Milk During Impeachment TrialsWhat's Next In Trump's Impeachment Senate TrialWill The Iran Attack Affect Trump's Impeachment?


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:50:27 -0500
West Bank settlements report rapid growth in 2019

West Bank settlements report rapid growth in 2019The population of Jewish settlements in the West Bank surged by more than 3% in 2019, well above the growth rate of Israel’s overall population, a settler group said Tuesday. It predicted even higher growth this year thanks to a nascent building boom made possible by friendly policies of the Trump administration. The data, released ahead of President Donald Trump’s long-awaited peace plan, indicate that evacuating settlements is no longer a viable option for international peacemakers, said Baruch Gordon, director of West Bank Jewish Population Stats.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:35:48 -0500
Iranian state TV used a photo of an actor from 'Zero Dark Thirty' to spread a wild theory that a senior CIA official was killed in a plane crash in Afghanistan

Iranian state TV used a photo of an actor from 'Zero Dark Thirty' to spread a wild theory that a senior CIA official was killed in a plane crash in AfghanistanIran broadcast an image of Fredric Lehne, a US actor who played a character inspired by CIA agent Michael D'Andrea in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty."


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:19:24 -0500
Back to the future: Crisis-era Irish party edges towards power

Back to the future: Crisis-era Irish party edges towards powerFianna Fail's near century-long dominance of Irish politics came to a halt in 2011 after it suffered an unprecedented electoral collapse. Four successive polls have put Prime Minister Leo Varadkar's bitter rivals in the lead since he called a Feb. 8 election, as voters grow disillusioned with his Fine Gael party's management of a rapid recovery from the economic ruins of a decade ago. Whoever wins will lead Ireland into the next phase of Brexit talks, where any obstacles to future trade could hurt its large exporting sector.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:16:18 -0500
Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says

Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book SaysWASHINGTON -- John Bolton, the former national security adviser, privately told Attorney General William Barr last year that he had concerns that President Donald Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocratic leaders of Turkey and China, according to an unpublished manuscript by Bolton.Barr responded by pointing to a pair of Justice Department investigations of companies in those countries and said he was worried that Trump had created the appearance that he had undue influence over what would typically be independent inquiries, according to the manuscript. Backing up his point, Barr mentioned conversations Trump had with the leaders, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Xi Jinping of China.Bolton's account underscores the fact that the unease about Trump's seeming embrace of authoritarian leaders, long expressed by experts and his opponents, also existed among some of the senior Cabinet officers entrusted by the president to carry out his foreign policy and national security agendas.Bolton recounted his discussion with Barr in a draft of an unpublished book manuscript that he submitted nearly a month ago to the White House for review. People familiar with the manuscript described its contents on the condition of anonymity.The book also contains an account of Trump telling Bolton in August that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations of political rivals, The New York Times reported Sunday. The matter is at the heart of the articles of impeachment against the president.Early Tuesday, the Justice Department's spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, posted a statement on Twitter disputing aspects of Bolton's account."There was no discussion of 'personal favors' or 'undue influence' on investigations, nor did Attorney General Barr state that the President's conversations with foreign leaders was improper," the statement said. "If this is truly what Mr. Bolton has written, then it seems he is attributing to Attorney General Barr his own current views -- views with which Attorney General Barr does not agree."A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment on Barr's conversations with Bolton. In a statement on Monday, Bolton, his publisher and his literary agency said they had not shared the manuscript with The Times."There was absolutely no coordination with The New York Times or anyone else regarding the appearance of information about his book, 'The Room Where It Happened,' at online booksellers," Bolton, Simon & Schuster and Javelin said in a joint statement. "Any assertion to the contrary is unfounded speculation."Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, responded that "The Times does not discuss its sources, but I should point out that no one has questioned the accuracy of our report."Bolton wrote in the manuscript that Barr singled out Trump's conversations with Xi about the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE, which agreed in 2017 to plead guilty and pay heavy fines for violating U.S. sanctions on doing business with North Korea, Iran and other countries. A year later, Trump lifted the sanctions over objections from his own advisers and Republican lawmakers.Barr also cited remarks Trump made to Erdogan in 2018 about the investigation of Halkbank, Turkey's second-largest state-owned bank. The Justice Department was scrutinizing Halkbank on fraud and money-laundering charges for helping Iran evade sanctions imposed by the Treasury Department.Erdogan had been making personal appeals to Trump to use his authority to halt any additional enforcement against the bank. In 2018, Erdogan told reporters in Turkey that Trump had promised to instruct Cabinet members to follow through on the matter. The bank had hired a top Republican fundraiser to lobby the administration on the issue.For months, it looked as if the unusual lobbying effort might succeed; but in October, the Justice Department indicted the bank for aiding Iran. The charges were seen in part as an attempt by the administration to show that it was taking a tough line on Turkey amid an outcry over Trump's endorsement of its incursions in Syria.Bolton's statements in the book align with other comments he has made since leaving the White House in September. In November, he said in a private speech that none of Trump's advisers shared the president's views on Turkey and that he believed Trump adopted a more permissive approach to the country because of his financial ties there, NBC News reported. Trump's company has a property in Turkey.Trump has repeatedly praised dictators throughout his presidency. Last year, he said, "Where's my favorite dictator?" as he waited to meet with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt, The Wall Street Journal reported.Trump's soft spot for authoritarians dates at least to his presidential campaign, when he praised Saddam Hussein for being "good" at killing terrorists and suggested that the world would be better off were Col. Moammar Gadhafi, the deposed Libyan dictator who was killed in a violent uprising in 2011, "in charge right now." Trump then suggested the ouster of both men was ultimately worse for the Middle East because the Islamic State had filled the void.Trump declared himself "a big fan" of Erdogan as they sat side by side in the Oval Office last fall after Trump cleared the way for Turkish forces to invade Syria, though he warned Erdogan behind the scenes against the offensive.Of Xi, Trump has been similarly effusive. When the Chinese Communist Party eliminated term limits, allowing Xi to keep his tenure open-ended, Trump extolled the outcome.Xi had personally asked Trump to intervene to save ZTE, which was on the brink of collapse because of tough U.S. penalties for sanctions violations.Lifting the sanctions on ZTE, a Chinese telecommunications giant that also serves as a geopolitical pawn for its government, most likely helped Trump negotiate with Xi in the trade war between the two countries. But Republican lawmakers and others objected to helping a Chinese company that broke the law and has been accused of posing a national security threat.Bolton's reputation for muscular foreign policy was always an odd fit with Trump, who often threatens excessive force but rarely reacts with it. Bolton was pleased when Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, that the Obama administration had entered into. Other Trump advisers had urged him against it.But Trump's lack of action after Iranian aggression against the United States rankled Bolton.Bolton's book has already netted significant sales. Shortly after the disclosure of its contents Sunday night, Amazon listed the book for purchase. By Monday evening, it was No. 17 on Amazon's bestseller list.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:15:23 -0500
Iraq’s Shiite Elite Close Ranks Against Protests

Iraq’s Shiite Elite Close Ranks Against Protests(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Over the past weekend, the anti-government protests in Iraq reached a critical juncture, with the Shiite political elite uniting to put down this rebellion. The leaderless protest movement, its ranks made up mainly of Shiite youths, now finds itself confronting a solid block of organized political opposition.The turning point came when the volatile Shiite cleric-politician Moqtada al-Sadr withdrew his support for the protesters, paving the way for a bloody crackdown by security forces.Since they began in early October, Sadr had been trying to co-opt the protests by feigning solidarity with their anti-corruption message: his supporters joined the demonstrations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and other Iraqi cities. This served his interests in the internecine competition within the Shiite political elite, where his main rival is the Iran-backed Hadi al-Amiri. Sadr and Amiri have been locked in a contest to name Iraq’s next prime minister since the resignation of Adel Abdul Mahdi.The pro-Iranian faction, targeted for special derision by the protesters, had hoped that the killing of Qassem Suleimani and other key figures in a U.S. drone strike would turn national attention away from Tahrir Square. But the protests continued, demonstrating that Iraqi youth were not about to forget their grievances against their government in favor of a campaign focused on driving U.S. forces out of the country.Sadr, perhaps alarmed that his rivals were stealing his anti-American thunder, called on his followers to come out last Friday in their “millions” against the U.S. military presence. This was also calculated to show up the Tahrir Square protesters, who had planned their own demonstration that day.The crowds that came out for Sadr were impressive, and they were enthusiastic in chanting anti-American slogans and hanging effigies of President Donald Trump. But on Saturday, the squares were again filled by protesters calling for the ouster of the entire political elite. Sadr was alarmed to discover that he was not exempted from the list of leading “tails,” the protesters’ epithet for all corrupt politicians.Sadr then made common cause with Amiri and ordered his followers to leave Tahrir Square and other protest venues. Some reports suggest that, in return, the pro-Iranian faction will let him pick the next prime minister. Whatever Sadr’s motives, his withdrawal was a signal for the government to unleash hell.This is not the first time the protesters have endured such attacks. Security forces and militias have been responsible for the deaths of at least 500 demonstrators in recent months. The killings were often targeted and tactical, with snipers picking off protest leaders while others tried to violently disrupt their logistical support network for food, water and other supplies.But the crackdown on Saturday turned up the dial several notches, attacking protesters and destroying their tents. In the southern city of Nasiriyah, several protesters were killed.If the Shiite elite now remain united and break the back of the protests, they can preserve the self-serving status quo in which they carve up government ministries amongst themselves, to plunder as they please. But if the protests persevere despite the crackdown, the political parties may eventually be compelled to make some of the demanded changes.A key role will likely be played by Iraqi President Barham Salih. The Kurdish leader is respected by all political factions; among the protesters, he may be the least-loathed of the major national figures. He also has strong ties to Washington, and a good working relationship with Tehran. The Kurds retain the swing vote in parliament, which will be crucial for the prospects of government reform. If a broader deal needs to be struck between the politicians and the protesters, Salih is one of the few who could broker one.Meanwhile, the febrile political climate poses risks for the U.S. Pro-Iranian groups, with open support from Hezbollah in Lebanon, have outlined a three-pronged approach to driving out the American military presence: political efforts in parliament, popular protests in the street and violent attacks. The rockets that struck the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Sunday will not be the last. In the absence of a new deal with the Iraqi government over the American troops, the Trump administration could return to the brinksmanship with Iran that led to the Soleimani killing.Sadr’s volte face on the protests may have united the Shiite political class, but it may prove to have set Iraq on a more dangerous course.To contact the author of this story: Hussein Ibish at hussein.ibish@gmail.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Bobby Ghosh at aghosh73@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Hussein Ibish is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:11:39 -0500
Americans on the right and left change their minds after hearing where Trump stands

Americans on the right and left change their minds after hearing where Trump standsDuring America’s health care debate in 2013, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel got some laughs when he asked people whether they supported Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act. Both names refer to the exact same legislation. Now, a new poll demonstrates that voters are more than willing to change their previously stated positions after learning where President Donald Trump stands on the issue.After a U.S. drone strike killed Qasem Solemani and Iran retaliated against a U.S. base in Iraq, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll surveyed 1,500 people about their views on U.S. policy toward Iran.Participants were asked whether they supported the current policy, which was that the U.S. would take no additional military action against Iran, according to Yahoo News’ Andrew Romano. While 70% of Democrats agreed, only 37% of Republicans concurred. Those surveyed were then told that the policy of refraining from additional military action was Donald Trump’s decision. Support for the policy of restraint fell among Democrats to 58%, but jumped to 81% among Republicans once they learned it was what Trump wanted. Attitudes toward TrumpResearch shows that voters adopt positions and perceptions based in part upon the politicians they support.For example, in one experiment, researchers presented people with statements like “The U.S. debt is $18 trillion” or “Vaccines cause autism,” sometimes giving the statement no attribution and sometimes attributing it to Trump. Republicans and Democrats did not differ so much on statements without attribution as they did when the statement is attributed to Trump. Republican supporters were far more willing than Democrats to believe statements attributed to Trump.But this Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows something even more unusual. Respondents changed positions that were once consistent with their party or ideology according to Trump’s preferences – even when doing so contradicted their usual views.At first, it appeared that most Republicans originally wanted a military response, but Republican respondents were more likely to go with a less aggressive response when it was framed as Trump’s position. Candidates, not policiesIn recent years, voters have shifted their views on issues based upon the positions of other presidents. A Gallup study on George W. Bush’s Social Security privatization proposals found evidence that “suggests that public opinion on Social Security could devolve into nothing more than a referendum on the president,” rather than support for one’s policy preferences.Like Kimmel, CNBC asked a group of 812 voters how they felt about Obamacare, as well as the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, in 2013. Thirty-five percent of voters rated Obamacare strongly negative, compared to 24% who said the same about the ACA.“People liked the Affordable Care Act and a lot of what was in it. They just didn’t like the Obama part of ObamaCare, the fact that he was branded with it,” said Dan Cox, former research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, in an interview with The Hill. But as Obama improved in popularity, so too did Obamacare, as the two became intertwined.In a 2018 study, political scientists Andrew Gooch and Gregory A. Huber discovered that even with today’s hyperpartisanship, voters still prefer particular candidates’ positions, even if those contradict the traditional party line.Despite claiming loyalty to party labels, voters sometimes go for what candidates say, and not for predictable ideologies or party platforms. That gives a lot of power to particular politicians over party members and ideological supporters.[ You’re too busy to read everything. We get it. That’s why we’ve got a weekly newsletter. Sign up for good Sunday reading. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * The secret origins of presidential polling * Want to know what will happen in 2020? Look to state polls for the answerJohn A. Tures does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:11:27 -0500
Despite defeats, the Islamic State remains unbroken and defiant around the world

Despite defeats, the Islamic State remains unbroken and defiant around the worldIn a series of bloody campaigns from 2014 to 2019, a multinational military coalition drove the Islamic State group, often known as ISIS, out of much of the Iraqi and Syrian territory that the strict militant theocracy had brutally governed. But the Pentagon and the United Nations both estimate that the group still has as many as 30,000 active insurgents in the region. Thousands more IS-aligned fighters are spread across Africa and Asia, from the scrublands of Mali and Niger to the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan, to the island jungles of the Philippines. I keep track of the loose alliance of various global affiliates and insurgent groups collectively known as the Islamic State. It’s part of my research chronicling America’s wars in remote lands where I have worked for the CIA and the U.S. Army. I also monitor Islamic State activities around the world for a University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth project I lead called MappingISIS.comIn recent months, the Islamic State group has reconstituted itself in the Syria-Iraq region and continues to inspire mayhem across the globe. Iraq, the homeland of jihadocracyThe “Dawla Islamia,” or Islamic State, began as a Sunni Muslim insurgent group in Iraq amid the maelstrom of sectarian violence that followed the U.S.-led 2003 invasion. Up until then, Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baathist party had suppressed Islamist jihadi groups of all stripes, limiting influence in Iraq from Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni-fundamentalist Saudi Arabia.In 2014 IS blitzed across the region and took over a wide swath of Iraq and Syria, where it functioned as a de facto government. It also maintained a ferocious fighting force, always seeking to expand the reach of its so-called “caliphate” fundamentalist Islamic regime.Since major defeats in 2017, the Islamic State group has retreated to a largely inaccessible sanctuary in the remote Qara Chok, Hamrin and Makhmoul mountains of northeastern Iraq. From there, they regularly attack U.S. and Iraqi troops, Kurdish forces and local Shiite militias. They also attract new Sunni recruits, resentful of discrimination and repression from the currently Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.The group’s terror campaigns include dressing up as government troops at fake checkpoints and executing “traitors,” killing pro-government tribal and village elders and executing government employees in night raids on their homes. In the summer of 2019, IS fighters in northern Iraq also burned hundreds of acres of crops belonging to suspected pro-government villagers whom they labeled “infidels.”Most recently, IS fighters have been heartened by the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who had led Iraqi Shiite militias against them. Soleimani’s death, which Islamic State leaders hailed as “divine intervention,” led to a halt in joint U.S.-Iraqi operations against the Islamic State. Iraq’s parliament and prime minister have called for all U.S. troops to leave Iraq, which would provide opportunity for IS forces to expand their operations. Syria, the former terror capitalFrom 2015 to 2019, the Islamic State ran a government in the Syrian territory it occupied, based in the Raqqa province of northeastern Syria. That organization slowly collapsed under assaults by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces and the Syrian Arab Army, backed by Russia and Iran. As they retreated, IS leaders hid weapons caches and millions of dollars in the vast Syrian desert, and reconstituted their movement as a guerrilla fighting force.Since the defeat of their physical state, resilient IS insurgents in Syria have killed pro-government Russian soldiers, massacred pro-government Druze tribesmen, and attacked anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters and intelligence officers with car bombs and roadside bombs.Since President Donald Trump’s October 2019 announcement that U.S. troops would retreat from their bases in northern Syria, many Islamic State fighters taken prisoner by the Kurds have also broken out of their prisons.Nevertheless, roughly 70,000 Islamic State members and supporters – men, women and children – still remain in their Kurdish-guarded internment camps, which have, however, become training centers for a new generation of jihadist “Cubs of the Calihphate.”A November 2019 U.S. Delta Force operation led to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s messianic leader – but the group has already chosen a successor and has vowed to avenge al-Baghdadi’s death. Nigeria, the jungle bastionIn 2015, the members of the Boko Haram Islamist terrorist group, notorious for kidnapping local schoolgirls, swore allegiance to the Islamic State.As many as 4,000 of its fighters operate in the northeastern jungles of Nigeria, attacking army outposts, remote villages and even towns. They kidnap civilians and kill soldiers not just in Nigeria, but in the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso, defying multi-national military efforts to suppress their activity. Afghanistan, the fortress in the mountainsIn 2015, disgruntled, hardcore ex-Taliban from Pakistan and Afghanistan’s dominant tribe, the Aryan Pashtuns, formed an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State in the remote, forested mountains of the country’s eastern Nangarhar Province. From this rugged base, they carried out a deadly wave of massive suicide bombings in Kabul and elsewhere. They also publicly executed tribesmen and even Taliban whom they accused of having insufficiently extreme Islamist beliefs.At its peak, this group had about 3,000 fighters, but U.S. and Afghan National Army attacks, including one that used the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb, have whittled their numbers down to about 300. A top Afghan leader, Abdullah Abdullah, described them to me as “fanatics who are beyond the pale and are incapable of being negotiated with.” Egypt, the Bedouin desert strongholdSince 2014, a group of Bedouin in the northern Sinai Peninsula, angry with the secular policies of the Egyptian government and perceived economic discrimination, have conducted several attacks in the name of the Islamic State. The group blew up a Russian airliner carrying more than 200 people, massacred dozens of Coptic Christians in their churches, and slaughtered more than 200 worshipers at a Sufi Muslim mosque in the Sinai.The group remains active despite counter-terrorism operations by the Egyptian military, sometimes with assistance from the Israeli Air Force. The Philippines, the Pacific outpostIn 2016, several groups of local jihadist terrorists and kidnappers in the lawless jungles of the predominantly Muslim islands of Basilan and Mindanao swore an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State. These groups’ most notable attack was their bloody conquest of the town of Marawi in 2017. They burned Catholic churches and took over 1,700 people hostage before being driven back by a U.S.-backed army of 10,000 Filipino troops. The battle saw the most intense fighting in the nation since World War II and led to the deaths of over 900 insurgents. The Philippine IS franchise nonetheless remains active and most recently blew up a Catholic church](https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/28/world/asia/isis-philippines-church-bombing.html) in January 2019. Libya, the fallback capitalNorth Libyan jihadists swore allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015 and received assistance, training and financial support from IS commanders dispatched from Syria. The terrorists captured the north Libyan coastal town of Sirte, which they nicknamed “Raqqa by the Sea,” as a fallback capital should IS lose its core lands in Syria and Iraq. In early 2015 Libyan IS militants beheaded dozens of captured Coptic Christians and Ethiopian Christians. After months of intense urban combat, U.S.-backed militias from the nearby town of Misurata retook Sirte and surrounding regions in late 2016. Islamic State fighters retreated into the remote southern desert, now their base for bold insurgent attacks, such as the April 2019 seizure of a town and public beheading of a local leader. The Pentagon continues to conduct airstrikes on the group’s bases.There are other Islamic State affiliates in lands as far afield as Niger, Mali, Yemen and Somalia. Terror cells claiming affiliation with IS have carried out attacks in the name of the Islamic State in places like Turkey, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Dagestan and Kashmir. Among IS’s resilient supporters are diehards who see military setbacks not as permanent defeats, but as tests of their faith in a trans-generational forever war designed to bring about the apocalypse.[ Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter. ]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.Read more: * What is a caliph? The Islamic State tries to boost its legitimacy by hijacking a historic institution * Kurds targeted in Turkish attack include thousands of female fighters who battled Islamic StateBrian Glyn Williams does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 08:02:00 -0500
Commemorative Brexit coin sparks Oxford comma debate

Commemorative Brexit coin sparks Oxford comma debateEver a divisive topic among grammar enthusiasts, the Oxford comma has been at the center of an enduring argument over punctuation. “The ‘Brexit’ 50p coin is missing an Oxford comma, and should be boycotted by all literate people,” he tweeted.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 07:38:54 -0500
UN: Clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur force 11,000 into Chad

UN: Clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur force 11,000 into ChadTribal clashes in Sudan’s West Darfur province forced more than 11,000 people to flee into neighboring Chad over the past month, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday. Clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs erupted late in December in the West Darfur town of Genena, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border with Chad. Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, said 4,000 of the 11,000 have fled during the last week alone.


Tue, 28 Jan 2020 07:21:13 -0500
Iranian military drone crash lands in southwestern province

Iranian military drone crash lands in southwestern provinceAn Iranian military drone crash landed in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, the country's semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Tuesday. A video Tasnim posted on Twitter showed the Iranian-made Shahed-129 drone had come to rest just before a steep drop-off, its nose hanging perilously over the edge. The drone seemed intact, however, and Tasnim did not say what brought it down.


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