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BBC World News
Delhi factory fire: More than 40 dead in India blaze
The blaze, which erupted in the Indian capital's congested old quarter, killed at least 40 people.
Pensacola attack: Gunman 'played mass-shooting videos at dinner'
The Saudi student played footage at a dinner before killing three sailors at the US base, reports say.
Hong Kong march: Thousands join largest pro-democracy rally in months
Tens of thousands rally in the Chinese territory in the seventh month of anti-government protests.
Bob Hawke 'asked daughter to keep rape claim secret'
Rosslyn Dillon says Bob Hawke asked her not to report a rape allegation as it would harm his career.
Artist eats $120,000 banana artwork
Performance artist David Datuna caused a stir at Art Basel in Miami after he ate the banana used in an art work by Maurizio Cattelan.
Mike Horn and Boerge Ousland: North Pole explorers complete epic trek
The Norwegian-South African duo met up with a rescue team as they were dangerously low on food.
Vienna opera house stages first opera by woman
Olga Neuwirth has written a new opera based on Virginia Woolf's novel Orlando.
Russia doping: Athletes wait in fear of fresh world ban
Russia faces another sport ban over a doping scandal, but one man has spoken out to demand change.
North Korea carries out 'very important test'
State media did not give details of the test, which comes amid new tensions with the US.
UK parties make final push as election nears
Leaders make fresh appeals to voters, saying the stakes are higher than in any recent election.
Anthony Joshua beats Andy Ruiz Jr to reclaim heavyweight world titles
Anthony Joshua wins his world heavyweight title rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr by unanimous decision in Saudi Arabia.
China exports fall again as US trade war continues
The latest China trade data points to further signs of strain in the world's second largest economy.
Uganda floods: At least 16 people dead, Red Cross says
The Red Cross reports a rising toll in Uganda's deadly floods, as the region reels from weeks of rain.
World's Big Sleep Out: Thousands support homelessness charities
Events in cities including London, Edinburgh and New York aim to raise £38m to help rough sleepers.
Your pictures on the theme of 'open spaces'
Each week, we publish a gallery of readers' pictures on a set theme. This week it is "open spaces".
Microblading: Therapist tattoos eyebrows for cancer patients
Beautician Laura Woodward is giving women their confidence back through beauty treatments.
'I was kicked out of school for being pregnant'
Debra Emmanuel is one of 23 who have graduated from a new college for teenage mothers in Tanzania.
United Airlines passenger stung by scorpion during flight
The scorpion fell out of the woman's trousers on a flight from San Francisco to Atlanta.
How US law professors teach impeachment
We visit a constitution law class a few miles from where the US president faces an impeachment inquiry.
Albanian earthquake: Ronaldo and Buffon meet young survivors
Albanian boys who jumped to safety and lost family members delight in meeting Juventus stars.
Yahoo World News
Lebanese-born donor of Hitler items welcomed in Israel
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday hosted a Lebanese-born Swiss real estate mogul who purchased Nazi memorabilia at a German auction and is donating the items to Israel. Chatila, a Lebanese Christian who has lived in Switzerland for decades, paid some 600,000 euros ($660,000) for the items at the Munich auction last month, intending to destroy them after reading of Jewish groups’ objections to the sale. Among the items he bought were Adolf Hitler’s top hat, a silver-plated edition of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and a typewriter used by the dictator’s secretary.
Protesters in Belarus against deeper ties with Moscow
Several hundred protesters have braved the repressive climate in Belarus to hold a demonstration against deepening the country's ties with Russia. The Sunday protest by about 500 people in the capital of Minsk was the second consecutive day of protest in a country that usually stifles dissidents. The demonstrations were sparked by a Saturday meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in the Russian resort of Sochi.
Merkel’s Partner Hit by Weak Polls as New Leadership Takes Over
(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s Social Democrats, fresh from electing a leadership critical of Chancellor Angela Merkel, got a first taste of the challenge of returning the party to strength.Support for Merkel’s junior coalition partner fell to 11% in a weekly Forsa poll, matching an all-time low reached in June. Another poll gave the SPD a 1-percentage-point bump.The surveys follow a week dominated by the SPD’s attempt to revive its fortunes. Delegates backed a new tandem of leaders and endorsed policy demands that would ease years of fiscal discipline under Merkel. After initial speculation that the SPD might leave the government and trigger a political crisis, SPD leaders stepped away from the brink at a party convention on Friday.Merkel’s governing Christian Democrat-led bloc rose 1 percentage point to 28% in the Forsa poll, while the opposition Green party was unchanged in second place at 22%. The nationalist Alternative for Germany, which rose 1 point to 14%, polled third.The SPD rose 1 point to 16% and Merkel’s bloc was unchanged at 28% in a Nov. 27-Dec. 4 Emnid poll for Bild am Sonntag newspaper published Sunday.As the Social Democrats weigh their tactics, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union over the weekend drove home its stance that the policy pact underpinning her coalition isn’t up for negotiation.“I strongly advise against renegotiation,” Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner, a deputy national leader of the CDU, told Funke newspaper. “The government cannot and will not follow the SPD’s leftist course.”“I would have appreciated a really clear signal from the SPD convention to continue the grand coalition,” CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told Bild am Sonntag.Merkel’s coalition with the Social Democrats is her third since she took office in 2005, but it’s been the most fraught. The 65-year-old German leader has said she won’t run again after completing her fourth term, which ends in 2021.\--With assistance from Patrick Henry.To contact the reporter on this story: Jan-Patrick Barnert in Frankfurt at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Beth Mellor at firstname.lastname@example.org, Tony Czuczka, Sara MarleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Ukraine crowds protest over Russia summit
Some 5,000 Ukrainians rallied in Kiev on Sunday warning President Volodymyr Zelensky to resist pressure from Russia's Vladimir Putin when the two men meet on Monday for talks on the conflict in Ukraine's east. Protesters held placards with slogans such as "No to capitulation", "Stay away from Moscow" and "Russian gas is a noose around our necks" during the rally, led by Zelensky's political opponents. The two leaders are due to meet for the first time since Zelensky's election in April at the talks in Paris, mediated by French and German leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.
Iran unveils budget of 'resistance' against US sanctions
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani announced Sunday a "budget of resistance" against US sanctions targeting the country's vital oil sector, backed by a $5 billion Russian investment. Rouhani said the aim was to reduce "hardships" in Iran where a shock fuel price hike last month triggered nationwide demonstrations that turned deadly. After unilaterally withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May last year, the US began imposing sanctions on Tehran, including on oil exports, which it aims to squeeze to zero in a campaign of "maximum pressure".
Macron's Moscow strategy faces first test as Ukraine leader meets Putin in Paris
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, faces a formidable test as he tries to negotiate an end to the war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine at a summit with Vladimir Putin in Paris on Monday. Few expect a breakthrough and many Ukrainians fear their comedian-turned-president may give away too much in his first face-to-face talks with the veteran Kremlin leader since he took office in May. The meeting at the Élysée Palace, mediated by Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, aims to revive efforts to resolve the five-year conflict that has killed more than 13,000 people and displaced millions. France and Germany brokered agreements calling for a ceasefire in 2015 but they were never implemented. Talks between Ukraine and Russia stalled under Mr Zelenskiy’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko. Mr Zelenskiy argues that negotiations with Russia are the only way to resolve the conflict, but Ukrainian opposition parties have called for protests over the Paris talks. Meanwhile, the determination of Ukraine’s allies to check Russian aggression now has to compete with Donald Trump’s admiration for Mr Putin and Mr Macron’s drive to reset Europe’s relations with Moscow. Why Emmanuel Macron's attempt to reset relations with Russia will alienate his Nato allies The French president pushed hard for the four way “Normandy format” summit. It is seen as a test of his efforts to bring Moscow back in from the cold after five years of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin Credit: GETTY But Kyiv is wary of Mr Macron’s overtures to Moscow and also fears that the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany will strengthen Russian influence in Europe. The summit comes amid tensions between Germany and Russia over a murder in Berlin. Relations between Paris and Moscow have also been strained by reports that Russian spies used the French Alps as a base to plot killings around Europe, possibly including the poisoning of defector Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last year. Germany expelled two Russian diplomats last week after prosecutors said the killing of a Georgian man on the streets of Berlin in August appeared to have been ordered by the Russian authorities. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Ms Merkel’s defence minister and the leader of her party, told a German Sunday newspaper: “Now the Russian side must finally make its contribution to clearing up this crime. And we will have to discuss and decide on further reactions in the German government.” Ms Merkel will hold bilateral talks with Mr Putin on the sidelines of the summit.
Protesters: Ukraine's leader must defend nation at summit
Several thousand people rallied Sunday in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to demand that the president defend the country's interests in this week's summit with Russia, Germany and France on ending the war in eastern Ukraine. Many Ukrainians are concerned that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice, could be out-maneuvered by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the summit on Monday in Paris. Zelenskiy is eager to make progress on ending the war with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has killed some 14,000 people since 2014.
Biggest Hong Kong Protest in Months Signals More Unrest in 2020
(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong saw its biggest pro-democracy protest in months on Sunday, signaling more unrest to come in 2020 as the movement that began in June to fight China’s increasing grip on the city shows its staying power.Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators flooded the city’s major downtown boulevards, many waving U.S. flags, singing “Glory to Hong Kong” and chanting “Five demands, not one less.” The protests were largely peaceful throughout the afternoon, though at night tensions emerged between riot police and some radical demonstrators. Some protesters also called for disrupting the commute on Monday morning.The rally was the first organized by the Civil Human Rights Front to get police approval since August, prompting many Hong Kongers who normally wouldn’t risk joining an illegal assembly to hit the streets. The show of force follows a landslide victory for pro-democracy forces in local elections last month.“Yet another breathtaking display of Hong Kongers’ political might,” said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker who joined the march on Sunday. “By now it’s obvious the Hong Kong fight will go on, we will soldier on,” she said. “This may last for the generations to come.”Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader backed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has refused to give in to demands including an independent inquiry into police violence and meaningful elections for the city’s top political positions. The demonstrations have maintained popular support even as the economy has slid into a recession.“Should Carrie Lam or the Beijing regime continue to ignore the outcry, Hong Kongers will continue to resist the government by peaceful and not-so-peaceful means,” said Fernando Cheung, another opposition lawmaker.Mass MarchesThe protesters have sought to pressure the government with a combination of peaceful mass marches, like the one on Sunday afternoon; and more violent actions like shutting down transport networks, vandalizing mainland-linked businesses and seizing universities. Police have made more than 6,000 arrests, while coming under fire for abuses in seeking to contain the demonstrations.Earlier on Sunday, police said they arrested 11 people while seizing a semi-automatic pistol, bullet-proof jackets, retractable batons and pepper spray in the raid. They suspected an “extreme” group of people would try to attack police or “create chaos” during the rally.“We’re very nervous,” Li Kwai Wah, senior superintendent at the Organized Crime Triad Bureau, told reporters. “I am urging the protesters today to pay extra attention to their surroundings and leave the scene and report to the police if there are signs of danger.”Lam’s government withdrew a bill allowing extraditions to the mainland that originally sparked the protests, and called for dialogue on the other demands. China has sought to portray the issues as largely economic in nature, while refusing to offer a political solution.The protesters on Sunday vowed to keep on fighting into 2020, when Hong Kong is scheduled to hold elections for the Legislative Council. Kelvin, a 30-year-old salesperson who declined to give his last name, also said the protesters were “building our own economics.”“I know a lot of businesses take sides, so we are going for the side that supports democracy,” he said. “Our government is not responding to any of them so that’s why we are still here.”Under PressureCompanies have got caught in the middle of the protests. Chinese retailers and branches of lenders like Bank of China Ltd. have been ransacked by vandals, while Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and the NBA have come under pressure from Beijing after employees supported the demonstrations.Over the weekend, the heads of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong were denied entry to Macau and sent back, with no explanation given.“We hope that this is just an over reaction to current events and that international business can constructively forge ahead,” the chamber said in a statement.On Saturday, hundreds of pro-government demonstrators gathered in Wan Chai waving China and Hong Kong flags while condemning the violent protests and vandalism of the past months. Organizers told local media Ming Pao that they think the vote for local district councils last month was unfair and called for actions to rebut the protesters’ plans for a general strike on Monday.Sunday’s large turnout showed that the government will be “living in a fantasy” if they believe the protests will die down early next year, particularly with the holidays of Christmas and Chinese New Year coming up, said Alvin Yeung, a lawmaker in the pro-democracy camp.“People are still very eager to fight for what they have been fighting for,” he said. “It’s not the end yet -- it’s far from the end.”To contact the reporters on this story: Cathy Chan in Hong Kong at email@example.com;Iain Marlow in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org;Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Ten Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org, Stanley JamesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Merkel's party blasts SPD before coalition talks
The leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives sharply criticised attempts by the Social Democrats (SPD) to push their ruling coalition to the left, accusing her partners of thinking of themselves more than Germany. The two parties will decide in the next few weeks whether the centrist alliance has a future after the SPD chose a more leftist leadership duo, who have demanded new policies on climate, investment and the minimum wage. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a Merkel protege and head of her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), attacked the SPD for failing to make clear its commitment to the coalition, though she stopped short of ruling out all their demands.
Missile experts suspect North Korea's latest secretive test spells bad news for U.S. negotiations
North Korea is at it again. But this time no one is exactly sure about what they're up to.North Korean state media reported Sunday that Pyongyang conducted a "successful test of a great significance" Saturday at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket testing ground, but did not reveal what was tested. U.S. officials have said North Korea promised to close the testing ground, but it appears that won't be the case any longer as Pyongyang's year-end deadline to reach a denuclearization agreement with Washington nears after talks stalled earlier this year.It likely wasn't a missile launch, since Japan and South Korea can usually detect those. Instead, missile experts said its possible North Korea tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow the country to field intercontinental ballistic missiles that are easier to hide and faster to deploy. "If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn't already" said Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year."North Korea has promised to adopt a "new path" if the U.S. does not offer sanctions relief, which analysts believe could include launching a satellite that would allow Pyongyang to continue testing missiles more covertly. Read more at BBC and Reuters.More stories from theweek.com Trump's pathological obsession with being laughed at The most important day of the impeachment inquiry Jerry Falwell Jr.'s false gospel of memes
Watchdog expected to find Russia probe valid, despite flaws
The Justice Department's internal watchdog will release a highly anticipated report Monday that is expected to reject President Donald Trump’s claims that the Russia investigation was illegitimate and tainted by political bias from FBI leaders. The report, as described by people familiar with its findings, is expected to conclude there was an adequate basis for opening one of the most politically sensitive investigations in FBI history and one that Trump has denounced as a witch hunt. It began in secret during Trump’s 2016 presidential run and was ultimately taken over by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Egyptian officials say policeman, militant killed in Sinai
EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — Egyptian officials say a militant attack has killed a police conscript in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. The officials say that the militants attacked a police checkpoint in the town of Rafah early on Sunday, wounding another two conscripts who were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of an Islamic State group affiliate based in northern Sinai.
Johnson Leads Polls as Election Enters Final Days: U.K. Votes
(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.The U.K. is now in the final days of campaigning ahead of the Dec. 12 general election. Polls in Sunday’s newspapers all give Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a clear lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, though they differ by how much.Campaigners opposing Brexit are now urging voters who agree with them to vote “tactically” against the Tories -- essentially backing the candidate most likely to beat the Conservative in their area. This, along with complacency among his supporters, is now the main threat to Johnson.For more on the election visit ELEC.Key Developments:Johnson has insisted there won’t be any border checks in the Irish SeaThe Conservatives have proposed a three-tier immigration systemBut Labour accused him of lying over how it would workAnti-Brexit campaigners urge tactical votingMcDonnell: I Don’t Want to Overthrow Capitalism (10 a.m.)John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, rejected the idea he was going soft on his socialist principles as he said he doesn’t want to end capitalism. Asked on the BBC whether he intended to overthrow capitalism and create a socialist state if his party were to win the election, McDonnell said he simply wanted to “transform” the British economy.“I want to make sure our economy works for everybody,” he said. “It means transforming capitalism into a new form and I think there’s a real debate now happening -- not just here, across Europe and America itself -- about how our economy is failing the vast majority of our people. I think we can transform it in a way that meets the objective of having a much more equal, just economy, but also a much more successful one.”McDonnell also said it would be “relatively cheap” for his government to borrow money, given low interest rates. This, alongside a “fair” tax system, which includes a rise in corporation tax, would fund Labour’s spending plans.He acknowledged that the emergence of a strain of anti-Semitism in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership was hurting the party in the election. “I worry that this has had its effect,” he said. “We’ve done everything I think that we can possibly do.”Sturgeon: I’ll Never Put Johnson in Office (9:40 a.m.)Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, told the BBC that her Scottish National Party would never vote to put Johnson into office. But she denied that Labour was right to say this means they wouldn’t have to offer her a referendum on Scottish independence to get her support for Corbyn becoming prime minister instead.Lewis: No Threat to Judges From Conservatives (9:30 a.m.)Security Minister Brandon Lewis denied that a line in the Conservative manifesto that promised to change the way courts work was an attack on judges. The independence of the judiciary is “sacrosanct,” Lewis told the BBC.Labour: Johnson Lying Over Immigration (9 a.m.)Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s health spokesman, said his party will give free personal social care to the elderly, no matter how wealthy they are. Labour will commit 10 billion pounds ($13 billion) to ensure “no one will have to pay anything for the care” they receive in their home.Ashworth also said Johnson was lying over his commitment to get immigration down. “When you look at the detail, he’s going to hand over the details of who gets a visa to an independent committee,” he said.“So he’s actually misleading people when he says he’s bringing immigration down. There will be no democratic control, no accountability, over any decision any immigration minister makes. It will be handed over to a statutory independent committee. Again, Boris Johnson is lying to the British people.”Johnson Insists: No Goods Checks in Irish Sea (8:30 a.m.)Johnson has insisted that, despite the statements of his ministers and internal work by officials in his own government, there will be no checks on goods traveling between Britain and Northern Ireland after Brexit.Labour on Friday revealed a leaked Treasury document showing that goods moving across the Irish Sea would be subject to paperwork and checks, something that would increase costs for Northern Irish businesses trading with the rest of the U.K.“That’s wrong because there won’t be checks,” Johnson told Sky News in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “There’s no question of there being checks on goods going NI/GB or GB/NI. If you look at what the deal is, we’re part of the same customs territory and it’s very clear that there should be unfettered access between Northern Ireland and the rest of GB.”The agreement that Johnson reached with the European Union in October outraged his allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. They say it creates a barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. And while Johnson denies that, it’s far from clear that’s he’s right.Tactical Voting Could Swing Election: Poll (Earlier)The Conservatives could be denied a majority in next week’s election as both Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters prepare to vote tactically in their districts, according to a new poll. Without a majority, Johnson will struggle to find the votes to get his Brexit deal through Parliament in time for the Jan. 31 deadline.The poll -- which surveyed 10,000 people and was commissioned by anti-Brexit group Vote for a Final Say -- suggested 44% of Labour supporters who back remaining in the European Union were willing to vote for the Liberal Democrats where they are best-placed to beat the Conservatives. Meanwhile, 39% of Liberal Democrat supporters were prepared to do the same if Labour are best-placed.In an interview with The Observer newspaper, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson appeared to endorse tactical voting because of the way the U.K.’s electoral system works. “I understand tactical voting is part of our system, because it’s a rubbish voting system,” she said. “One way people can use that system to deliver more of what they want is to consider voting tactically.”Johnson Immigration (Earlier)Low-skilled migrants will face new restrictions on moving to the U.K. under a new three-tier immigration system if the Conservatives win Thursday’s election. What the party describes as an “Australian-style points-based system” sounds like it will more closely resemble the U.K.’s existing practice of offering a smooth pathway into the country to the highly skilled and the rich, and a route to citizenship for those who have skills that are needed.Immigration is a key issue among voters and was an important driver of the 2016 Brexit vote. The official Leave campaign led by Boris Johnson pledged to “take back control” of Britain’s borders.The new plan will have three tiers of incoming migrants: those with “exceptional talent,” who will be allowed in regardless of whether they have a job offer; skilled workers, who will require a job offer in addition to a specified number of points; and those in lower skilled sectors such as construction, who will only be allowed entry as a result of labor shortages in that sector.The Conservatives say the new system will be rolled out from Jan. 2021, immediately after the proposed end to the transition period with the EU.Polls Put Tories in the Lead (Earlier)Polls in the Sunday newspapers all put Johnson’s Conservatives in the lead, although one projection suggested a huge Tory landslide is as possible as a hung Parliament.A projection by Datapraxis in the Sunday Times, in which a YouGov poll gave the Tories a 10-point lead, put the cushion at 38 seats. Its previous analysis put the majority at 48, and the organization warned that as many as 90 constituencies are still up for grabs.A Savanta ComRes poll for The Sunday Telegraph, showed that the Tories’ lead fell to 8 percentage points, back to where it was shortly before the starting pistol was officially fired on the campaign. That would be enough for a parliamentary majority of 14, the report said.Earlier:U.K. Conservatives Lead in Polls With Campaign in Final Week (1)Johnson Is Heading for a Majority, Labour and Tory Officials SayTo contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at email@example.com;Greg Ritchie in London at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at email@example.com, James Amott, Sara MarleyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Kim Jong Un’s Ugly Christmas Surprise: A Return to Threats of War
SEOUL—North Korea appears to have tested an engine capable of propelling an intercontinental ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead to a distant target—that is, an American target.The move comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mingles action with a return to insulting rhetoric and a hardened negotiating posture to get the U.S. to agree to his terms by the fast-approaching end of the year. North Korea’s state media said Sunday the test had been “very important” and there is little reason to doubt that as Kim ratchets up the pressure. To Shake Up Trump, Kim Jong Un Gets All Mystical—Then Launches Missiles“If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it hasn’t already,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. “This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.”The North conducted its sixth, most recent, underground test of a nuclear warhead in September 2017, and its last ICBM test in November 2017, which showed it was at least theoretically capable of hitting any city in the United States. There was an explosion of rhetoric on both sides, with U.S. President Donald Trump threatening “fire and fury” against “Rocket Man,” and Kim discovering the word “dotard” to describe Trump as a doddering old man.But since the June 2018 Kim-Trump summit in Singapore, Trump has claimed his diplomatic efforts with Kim were a success—“problem solved”—pointing to the fact ICBM and nuclear tests were put on hold as proof of Kim’s good faith. Kim, for his part, said even before the summit that he had achieved the nuclear deterrence he wanted, and few analysts have believed he would give that up.Now we are back to the days of the dotard, and North Korea rhetoric dramatizes fast-fading hopes for reconciliation despite a series of post-Singapore meetings Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have held with Kim to try to get him to abandon his nuclear program before there could be sanctions relief.Kim wants the relief to come first, or in stages, while holding on to his nukes, and after numerous warnings for the U.S. to knuckle under, the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) claimed the latest test would “have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK”—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name for Kim’s country—“in the near future."While Trump Shrugs, North Korea’s Building Better MissilesThe KCNA statement did not get into details, but the inference was plain: the test at the Sohae satellite launch site on the North’s west coast was intended to show Kim intended to back up words with deeds.“The Kim regime knows that U.S. surveillance flights and satellites are watching,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “With the activity at Sohae, Pyongyang is also trying to raise international concerns that it may intensify provocations and walk away from denuclearization talks next year.”The announcement of the test was clearly a studied affront to Trump, who has frequently talked up the great relationship he formed in three meetings with Kim. Trump eventually said they had such great “chemistry” that they “fell in love.” But even before the engine test, Trump was getting the message the romance was over. Last week, he reverted to the harsh language that he used at the United Nations in September 2017 when he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” while “rocket man” was “on a suicide mission.” At a meeting of NATO leaders in London last week, Trump remarked almost whimsically about Kim, “He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn't he” and “that's why I call him Rocket Man.” The memory of that awful term prompted Choe Son Hui, the North’s vice foreign minister and a key figure in dealings with the U.S., to suggest the American president was suffering once again “the dotage of a dotard.”By the time Trump got back to Washington, the badinage was escalating, raising the specter again of war on the Korean peninsula. Yes, “there is a certain hostility, no question about it,” Trump acknowledged, even though he said he believed he still had “a very good relationship with Kim,” whom he last saw in a dramatic, almost impromptu, unscripted, rendezvous in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas last June.The missile engine test and the escalating rhetoric are not the only factors in the rising tensions. Recently, Kim has showed off his macho instincts as a strong leader, a man of destiny—literally the man on a white horse—on two occasions when he rode on a strapping white stallion on the snow-covered slopes of Mount Paektu, Korea’s tallest mountain, near the border with China.Kim’s appearances on Paektu, the second time with eight or nine senior leaders also on white horses, drew on symbolism designed to appeal to the heart strings of his people, or at least reinforce his regime’s mythology. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, supposedly was born in a cabin on the slopes of Mt. Paektu, the proud heir of the dynasty’s founder, Kim Il Sung. In fact, Kim Jong Il is known to have been born in a village near Khabarovsk in the Russian far east while his father was an officer in the Soviet Red Army, but such details shouldn’t bother a man on a white horse.Now, it seems, Kim Jong Un has no desire to meet Trump again unless he’s got some guarantee the U.S. will back down from its insistence that he give up the North’s nuclear program. The day before the test at Sohae, North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, Kim Song, ruled out another Kim-Trump summit, especially since their second summit in Hanoi at the end of February had ended disastrously when Trump walked out.Kim Song was responding to condemnation of the North’s nuclear program by six NATO allies of the U.S., saying simply, “We do not need to have lengthy talks with the U.S. now.” He added ominously but obviously, “Denuclearization is already gone out of the negotiating table.”Earlier, Ri Thae Song, like Choe a vice foreign minister, called U.S. pleas for dialogue “nothing but a foolish trick” to use “in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.” It was, he said menacingly, “entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get."Trump, in Washington, sought to give the impression that he wouldn’t come to terms just for the sake of the presidential election next year, or indeed the current impeachment hearings, and he thinks Kim understands. “He knows I have an election coming up,” he said at the White House. “I don't think he wants to interfere with that."“There is no good reason to believe that Kim Jong Un ever intended to give up his nuclear weapons program,” said David Straub, former political counsellor at the U.S. embassy in Seoul. There was, he said, “every reason to believe that he sought to make use of Donald Trump's ignorance and incompetence.”Now, said Straub, Kim “is using vague but ominous threats in a further effort to prompt Trump to give him what he really seeks—an end to sanctions against his regime and the withdrawal of the United States from the Korean Peninsula while Kim keeps his nuclear weapons.”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.
Russia, Ukraine to hold 1st major peace summit in years next week
Russia and Ukraine will hold peace talks at a summit in Paris on Monday, the first time in three years there have been high-level talks between the two countries focused on ending the war in eastern Ukraine. The talks are taking place in the so-called "Normandy Format," with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angel Merkel mediating the negotiations. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will meet for the first time at the summit.
Russia not an enemy? Macron's Moscow strategy faces first test
French President Emmanuel Macron this week faces the first major test of his policy of directly engaging with Russia that has disturbed some European allies, as he hosts a summit seeking progress in ending the Ukraine conflict. Joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron will bring together Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky for their first face-to-face meeting at an afternoon summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday. The stakes are high: this will be the first such summit in three years and while diplomats caution against expecting a major breakthrough, a failure to agree concrete confidence-building steps would be seen as a major blow to hopes for peace and also Macron's personal prestige.
Ukraine’s Fate Hangs in the Balance at Paris Peace Talks: What You Have to Know
Amid the tumult surrounding impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald J. Trump, which center on his actions with regard to Ukraine, an unnoticed headline is what’s happening to Ukraine’s own President Volodymyr Zelensky. He’s seen an abrupt 20 percent plunge in his approval rating. But Trump is only one of his problems, and far from the most significant. Resentment is growing among many patriotic and civically minded citizens about what they view as peace on Russian terms after almost six years of war over the Ukraine-Russia border region of Donbas.And in this case, perception really is everything. Even elements of America’s foreign policy establishment are worried: “Western partners might hand control of Ukraine to Putin under the guise of a ‘special status’ for Russian-occupied Donbas,” as Michael Carpenter at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy wrote last week. “Under the pretense of diplomatic progress, such a deal could prove deadly to Ukraine’s sovereign statehood.”Ukrainians Blame Trump for ‘Capitulation’ in the War With RussiaNevertheless, leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany will reconvene on Monday what’s called the Normandy Four heads of state negotiating format to resolve the Donbas conflict. Talks have been stalled since 2016, when Ukraine under previous leadership—and supported by the United States—rejected an element of this peace process known as the Steinmeier formula. Since Zelensky’s April election, Ukraine has met all of Russia’s preconditions for this meeting, but the Russians haven’t reciprocated. Ukrainian soldiers continue to die nearly every day, and Russia retains control over the disputed border. Hence, proud veterans and nationalists equate this entire peace process, known as the Minsk agreements, with surrender. As they have ever since 2014-15, when Russia coerced Ukraine to sign Minsk from a position of strategic weakness, defeat, and vulnerability.Yet over the last few months, more progress has been made toward peace than in almost six years of war. Prisoners have been swapped and ceasefire observers verify initial disengagement of forces in three trial zones.Zelensky was elected in a landslide to end this war–but not on all terms, say nationalist activists who have already twice ousted regimes they accuse of treason and betraying Ukraine to Russia: the 2004-05 Orange Revolution and 2013-14 Euro-Maidan uprising. Today’s new protests are called “No Surrender.” Peace is a good thing, they say, but not if it also means conceding the same pro-Russian separatist demands that started the war in the first place.* * *You Say You Want a Revolution?* * *This No Surrender movement has built on the vestiges of Zelensky predecessor Petro Poroshenko’s bloc, close allies of the West who were wiped out in the 2019 elections by Zelensky’s 73 percent presidential win and near supermajority in Ukraine’s parliament. These sore losers are now back in the streets to denounce Ukraine’s October 1 signing of the Steinmeier formula as the "Putin formula.”This is important because these patriotic forces ruled Ukraine for the last five years and benefited from Western train-and-assist programs. Now in opposition, some threaten Zelensky with what essentially amounts to a right-wing coup. Parties representing activist remnants of Poroshenko’s government have made three core demands ahead of Normandy: no federalization, an unaltered course toward closer ties with NATO and the European Union, and the de-occupation and return of Crimea - the strategic peninsula held by Russia and annexed by Moscow when the conflict began in early 2014.Ukraine’s Anti-Russia Azov Battalion: ‘Minutemen’ or Neo-Nazi Terrorists?Readings of the Minsk agreement vary from workable to catastrophic depending on how the conflict is framed: Russian invasion and assault on Ukrainian sovereignty; or grassroots civil war against the 2014 ouster of democratically elected yet disgraced ex-president Viktor Yanukovych. Protesters in a dozen cities have condemned the Steinmeier formula; eight regional and city councils, too. Resistance to benign interpretations of it could drive the country into a third revolution. And any Western support for that would be swiftly recast as anti-democratic because of Zelensky’s huge voter mandate.Other unrest sharpens the situation: Zelensky is also launching a toxic land reform at IMF behest that will allow sale to foreign investors; Yanukovych cronies are persecuting political enemies; exiles are returning to reclaim the proceeds of corruption lost to rival oligarch/president Poroshenko during his term; and Nord Stream 2 will strip Ukraine of revenue from Russian gas transit. Underground paramilitary nationalists have waited years for such a confluence of misfortunes to exploit.* * *Ukrainians Aren't Beggars* * *In a recent joint interview with Time, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, and Gazeta Wyborcza, Zelensky was asked if Ukraine would ever regain control of its Donbas border with Russia. The new president answered that he disagrees with how Minsk resolved this issue, and Ukrainians generally want restored border control first–and only then, elections: “Unfortunately, we have a contradiction there. ... According to Minsk, elections come first; then control over the border.”Another blurry, unmet Ukrainian precondition for peace is full withdrawal of all illegal gunmen, as Zelensky described Russian-led separatists in the same interview. But he offered a caveat that can also be understood to address Ukrainian militias, some of which have attracted neo-Nazis. Zelensky tacitly called for them to disarm too: “Complete withdrawal of all illegal military units–of any kind, uniform, or weapon.” This is an olive branch both to Russians brainwashed by state media about Ukrainian fascists, and any Ukrainians who have been alienated from their state by unanswered questions about such groups’ role in the last revolution and five years of bad governance that led to Zelensky’s blowout of the ancien régime.In the interview, Zelensky again denied any quid pro quo to release U.S. military aid in exchange for an official public statement that former Vice President Joe Biden engaged in corruption in Ukraine: “I didn’t talk to Trump in this way... I don’t want us to act like beggars. We are at war and our strategic U.S. partner shouldn’t be an obstacle. It’s about fairness; not quid pro quo.”Impeachment also encourages the world to associate Ukraine with corruption, which is neither a fair nor accurate rendering of daily life for most common folks, but is certainly music to Russian ears. In Zelensky’s interview, he said, “Everyone hears that signal: investors, banks, stakeholders, American and European companies that have international capital in Ukraine. It’s a signal to them that says ‘Be careful; don’t invest!’ Or ‘Get out of there.’ It’s not that corruption doesn’t exist; it does–but all branches of government were corrupted over many years and we are working hard to clean it up.”* * *Impeachment and ‘The Steinmeier Formula’* * *German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier was foreign minister in 2016 when he introduced his formula to build confidence and good faith for direct negotiations with separatists. The U.S. and Ukraine rejected it because it sequences local elections and special status before restoration of the border. Zelensky made a dramatic reversal by signing it. Protesters say the special status at its heart is what’s wrong with Minsk. Separatists brag it’s their victory, fostering perceptions of a double standard privileging rebel Donbas over Ukraine’s 24 remaining, loyal regions.The next annual vote on special status is imminent at the end of 2019. Parliament has provisionally approved it every year since the war began, yet it’s always fraught with tension: during a 2015 riot against the second vote, a radical from the far-right Svoboda party’s Sich volunteer battalion killed four members of Ukraine’s National Guard with a grenade. The perpetrator was jailed but became an icon to Ukraine’s new right, who lionize him as a “defender of the constitution.Nationalists think Minsk rewards attempted secession with increased sovereignty–they didn’t fight a war against Russia for all these years just to let Donbas become the next Crimea. Assuming first that safe, free, and fair local elections can even be held under Ukrainian law and then certified by OSCE observers, subsequent special status as written in the Minsk agreements and Steinmeier formula would grant insurgents their original demands: Russian language gains, autonomy such as Crimea had before it was carved off, amnesty, and a local police independent of national law enforcement–perhaps even formed from rebel groups.It is a deal so bad that the U.S. diplomat sent to resolve Ukraine’s crisis, former special representative Kurt Volker, said in 2015 before he took his position that Minsk would lead to the country’s partition. He only changed his tune when implementing that bad peace became his job two years later. On October 1, four days after Volker resigned and 20 days after Trump released military aid, Ukraine signed the Steinmeier formula. Then protests in major cities erupted.* * *Ukrainian Veterans Won't Consent to Russian Terms* * *Hundreds of Ukrainians have told me over the past four years that the country can’t implement Minsk–nationalists won’t accept Ukraine’s political obligations, nor will national revolutionaries tolerate democratic processes that rehabilitate politicians sympathetic to Russia.In 2017, far-right Azov movement leader and then-MP Andriy Biletskiy said “Minsk means Ukraine’s federalization and collapse.” In 2015 on the floor of parliament, he threatened to overthrow the government. His mentor, ex-chairman of parliament and social-nationalist founder Andriy Parubiy, calls Minsk an attempt to dismantle the state. He led both of Ukraine’s prior revolutions.After Ukraine signed Steinmeier, shells kept falling–and when Zelensky met with Azov at one of three frontline disengagement zones to ask them to withdraw, they at first defied him. Ukraine’s general staff subsequently sided with the president. What happens next will have lasting consequences for democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine.To Zelensky’s credit, he seems to have internalized the risk to his rule that patriotic groups pose, already conceding that Ukraine’s new draft law on special status will not include amnesty or take effect before separatists disarm, withdraw, and restore the border to Kyiv. He also told civic, veteran, nationalist, and far-right groups that they will all be consulted on the new law. Zelensky also publicly reassured them that, “Elections will not be held at gunpoint…There will be no capitulation.”Assuming Russia doesn’t really invade, Zelensky’s sober approach seems to be working–so far, the only reaction has been big, angry parades because initial disengagement in the three trial areas has been no big deal: Ukraine withdrew only 42 troops from Petrivske; 50 from Zolote; and 56 from Stanytsya Luhanska. Both sides fell back one kilometer, to create two-kilometer demilitarized zones.* * *Zelensky’s Majority Might Not Mean a Mandate* * *But Ukrainians who led the Maidan Revolution of Dignity and Donbas Anti-Terrorist Operation will not end it by granting the demands of separatists dating back to 2014. Zelensky said so himself: “Poroshenko is against withdrawal and thinks he can spearhead another Maidan.”By signing Steinmeier in its unchanged form just to get the Normandy meeting–without first restoring control of Ukraine’s border, or reaching a full ceasefire and withdrawal–Zelensky is crossing red lines that Western-backed civil society threatens will incite a third Maidan. Zelensky criticized this maximalism in his interview with leading Western outlets:“I know there are a lot of hotheads at rallies saying ‘Let’s go fight and win back Donbas!’ But at what cost? I won’t do it–and if that doesn’t satisfy society, then a new leader will come to satisfy those demands. But not me–I cannot send troops there. How many will die? Hundreds of thousands–and then an all-out war; both in Ukraine as well as across Europe.”Zelensky obliterated his opponents on a peace platform and then consolidated further control with a sweep of parliamentary elections too. After those stunning upsets, the unpopular post-Maidan government’s Western backers were right to abandon it. Any extra-parliamentary or sub-state methods now to reignite protests against Zelensky’s new initiatives would be a departure from democratic norms. Unproven suspicions that he is latently pro-Russian don’t rationalize anything.Street politics fuel Russian propaganda, mischaracterize Ukraine as illiberal or ungovernable, and cast the West as enablers of the far right. What does Russia want in Ukraine? Among other things the chance to say I told you so: chaos and fascists vindicate years of smears against Ukrainian independence.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.
North Korea carries out 'very important' test at once-dismantled launch site
North Korea has carried out a "very important" test at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media KCNA reported on Sunday, a rocket testing ground that US officials once said Pyongyang had promised to close. The reported test comes as a year-end deadline North Korea has imposed nears, warning it could take a "new path" amid stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States. The KCNA report called it a "successful test of great significance" on Saturday but did not specify what was tested. South Korea's defence ministry said South Korea and the United States are cooperating closely in monitoring activities at major North Korean sites including Tongchang-ri, the area where Sohae is located. Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch, which are usually quickly detected by neighbouring South Korea and Japan. "If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already," said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. "This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year." Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang's unilateral denuclearisation and demanded relief from punishing sanctions. On Saturday North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearisation was now off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed. North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Kim Song speaks during a news conference in New York Credit: Brendan McDermid/Reuters "The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future," KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The test is the latest in a string of statements and actions from North Korea designed to underscore the seriousness of its deadline. North Korea has announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and on Wednesday state media showed photos of leader Kim Jong-un taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country's sacred Mt. Paektu. Such meetings and propaganda blitzes often come ahead of major announcements from North Korean authorities. While North Korea has not specified what its "new path" could be, observers have suggested the launch of a space satellite is a possibility, allowing Pyongyang to demonstrate and test its rocket capabilities without resorting to overt military provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch. "Such testing is meant to improve military capabilities and to shore up domestic pride and legitimacy," Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said of Saturday's test. "North Korea is avoiding violations of its long-range missile test moratorium for now, but it is still improving the propulsion and precision of its missiles so that it can claim a credible nuclear deterrent," he said. Kim Jong-un in pictures: Bizarre photoshoots of North Korea's leader Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said North Korea may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow North Korea to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy. "North Korea has already entered the ‘new path’ that they talked about," he said. U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters in June 2018 after his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that North Korea had pledged to dismantle one of its missile installations, which U.S. officials later identified as Sohae. Shortly after that summit, analysts said satellite imagery showed some key facilities at Sohae being dismantled. However, in the wake of the second summit between Mr Trump and Kim earlier this year, which ended with no agreement, new imagery indicated the North Koreans were rebuilding the site. At the time Mr Trump said he would be "be very disappointed" if the reports of rebuilding were true. "Remember this is at the site that was supposedly dismantled as a 'denuclearisation step,'" Mr Narang said. "So this is a first step at 'renuclearising.' Reversible steps are being ... reversed." In recent weeks, media reports indicated a high number of U.S. military surveillance flights over the Korean peninsula, suggesting growing expectation of North Korean tests. Commercial satellite imagery captured on Thursday by Planet Labs showed new activity at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and the presence of a large shipping container, CNN reported, with analysts suggesting it indicated a test was imminent.
UPDATE 1-'Nervous' PM Johnson promises Brexit and less immigration ahead of election
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was nervous about his narrowing lead in opinion polls ahead of Thursday's election but pledged to deliver a "transformative" Brexit on Jan. 31 that would allow lower immigration. The Dec. 12 election will decide the fate of Brexit and the world's fifth largest economy with a stark choice between Johnson's pro-market Conservatives and the socialist-led opposition Labour Party. "Brexit is the most radical and profound change to the management of this country," Johnson told Sky, adding that he would lead the United Kingdom out of the EU on Jan. 31 if he won a majority in the 650-seat parliament.
Will the Chinese Century End Quicker Than It Began?
China’s new paramount leader, Xi Jinping, has completely discarded the low-key diplomacy of his predecessors in favor of an all-out bid for global primacy.
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