Donald Trump justifies leaving Kurds in Turkey's path

‘We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives!’ Donald Trump justifies leaving U.S. allies in Turkey’s path – then boasts of ISIS: ‘I’m the one who did the capturing’

  • Donald Trump defended his removal of American troops from Syria 
  • ‘We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,’ he said
  • Lawmakers from both sides have criticized Trump’s decision
  • And others have expressed concern ISIS will resurge in the region
  • But Trump said he’s captured ISIS 
  • ‘I’m the one who did the capturing,’ he said 

Donald Trump defended his removal of American troops from Syria, arguing he was keeping a campaign promise and that the United States ‘never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.’

‘We never agreed to protect the Kurds. We supported them for three-and-a-half, four years. We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives,’ the president said Monday during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

Trump also bragged the Kurds were good fighters because of U.S. money and military equipment.

Donald Trump defended his removal of American troops from Syria

Lawmakers from both parties have criticized Trump’s decision complaining he was abandoning the Kurds, a longtime U.S. ally – above U.S. trucks arrive in Iraq after withdrawing from Syria

‘They didn’t fight because they didn’t have us to fight with them. A lot of people are good when they fight with us, you know, when you have $10 billion worth of airplanes shooting 10 miles in front of your line, it’s much easier to fight,’ he said.

But, he added: ‘Where’s the agreement that said we have to say in the Middle East for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization to protect the Kurds. We never said that.’ 

The president has been fighting criticism from lawmakers in both parties of his decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria. Republicans and Democrats alike have complained Trump abandoned a longtime U.S. ally. 

‘We helped the Kurds. And we never gave the Kurds a commitment that we’d stay for the next 400 years and protect them,’ the president said. 

‘So why should we put our soldiers in the midst of two large groups, hundreds of thousands, potentially, of people, and they’re fighting? I don’t think so,’ Trump said. 

Additionally, Turkey made a military move across the border shortly after the president’s decision. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Ankara last week to negotiate a cease fire. 

Trump said that agreement is ‘holding.’ 

The Kurds, a Muslim tribe in the Middle East, had been a strong U.S. ally in the war on terror, fighting ISIS.

The president acknowledged their contribution. 

‘They were a good help, but we were a great help to them, too. They were fighting ISIS. You know, they hated ISIS. So they were fighting ISIS,’ he said.  

But he then said he was the one that defeated ISIS. 

‘ISIS was all over the place … It was me…who captured them,’ he said.  

‘I’m the one who did the capturing. I’m the one who knows more about it than you people or the fake pundits,’ he told reporters at the White House.

His comments come amid reports of concern about experts that ISIS will benefit from the president’s decision and regroup in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal. 

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis claimed ISIS would surge in the region because of Trump’s move.

‘In this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on then ISIS will resurge. It’s, it’s absolutely a given that they will come back,’ he said last Sunday on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’

The president also said he campaigned on bringing American troops home and wanted to keep that promise.  

‘I want to bring our soldiers back home,’ he said. ‘I have to do what I got elected on, and I have to do what I think is right.’   

 But the troops from Syria are being redeployed to Iraq and not returning to the United States. 

Source: Read Full Article

US mulls leaving some troops in northeast Syria to guard oil

Pentagon chief says US could retain military presence in northeastern Syria amid heightened fears of ISIL revival.

    The United States is weighing whether to retain a military presence near oilfields in northeastern Syria in order to prevent the sites falling under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) armed group, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said.

    Esper’s comments on Monday came as US troops crossed into Iraq as part of a withdrawal from northeastern Syria ordered by President Donald Trump, a decision that cleared the way for Turkey to launch a cross-border offensive on October 9 against Kurdish fighters in the region.

    More:

    • SDF fighters evacuate from besieged Syrian town

    • US ground troops will not enforce Syria ‘safe zone’: Esper

    • Turkish FM: Operation to resume if Kurdish forces do not withdraw

    The Reuters News Agency reported that more than 100 vehicles had crossed the border into Iraq early on Monday from the northeast tip of Syria, where Turkey agreed to pause its offensive for five days under a ceasefire deal with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) brokered by Washington.

    Speaking to reporters during a trip to Afghanistan, Esper said that, while the US withdrawal was under way, some troops were still with partner SDF fighters – Washington’s main ground allies in the fight against ISIL- near oilfields and there had been discussions about keeping some of them there.

    Esper said that was just one option and no decision had been made “with regard to numbers or anything like that”. The Pentagon’s job was to look at different options, he added.

    “We presently have troops in a couple of cities that [are] located right near that area,” Esper said. “The purpose is to deny access, specifically revenue to ISIS and any other groups that may want to seek that revenue to enable their own malign activities.”

    Trump later told a cabinet meeting in Washington, DC, that a “small number” of troops which remained were located in the southeast of the country, while a separate group staying behind had “secured the oil”.

    Lucrative oilfields

    Trump’s shift has opened a new chapter in Syria’s more than eight-year war, raising fears of an ISIL revival and prompting a rush by Turkey as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and its ally Russia to fill the vacuum left by the US.

    Syrian and Russian forces, invited by Kurdish authorities, last week entered the two border cities of Manbij and Kobani vacated by US troops.

    Erdogan has backed rebels fighting to remove Assad, but has said Turkey had no problem with Syrian government forces deploying near the border if the YPG militia were removed.

    Ankara considers the YPG a “terrorist” group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), based in Turkey.

    Marwan Kabalan, director of policy analysis at Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, said it was expected that Washington’s withdrawal would lead to “parties competing for the northeast” of Syria also “fighting for control” of the region’s oil and gas fields.

    The oilfields are not currently operational but they can be restored easily … and whoever controls the oil and gas fields will be generating a lot of money,” Kabalan told Al Jazeera.

    The Syrian regime will need that in order to finance the reconstruction of the country, or part of that at least, whereas the Kurds will want to keep control of the oil and gas fields because its really important for them if they want to establish any form of autonomous rule in the northeast of Syria,” he added.

    “Of course, Turkey would not allow that and would also get into this fray and try also to control the oil and gasfields.”

    ‘Safe zone’ controversy

    Under the ceasefire deal, Ankara agreed to give the Kurdish forces 120 hours to withdraw from a so-called “safe zone” that Erdogan wants to establish along Syria’s border with Turkey. The agreement did not specify the area of the pullback.

    Erdogan on Sunday said he expected the US to keep its promises and not use stalling tactics over the agreement brokered between the NATO allies, warning Turkey would resume its military operation if the deal faltered.

    He had previously said the offensive will resume if the withdrawal is not completed within the five-day time window set out by the truce agreement.

    On Sunday, the SDF said they had withdrawn from the border town of Ras al-Ain under the ceasefire deal, but a spokesman for Turkish-backed Syrian rebels said the withdrawal was not yet complete.

    Erdogan has also said Turkey will set up a dozen observation posts in the “safe zone”, prompting criticism from Iran.

    “We are against Ankara’s establishing of military posts in Syria,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told a weekly news conference on Monday broadcast live on state television.

    “The issues should be resolved by diplomatic means … Syria’s integrity should be respected,” said Mousavi, whose country is a staunch ally of al-Assad.

    Echoing such concerns, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said Russia believed long-term regional security could only be achieved by restoring Syrian unity and also by taking into account the interests of all the country’s ethnic and religious groups, Reuters reported.

    He reiterated that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan would discuss Turkey’s military offensive during scheduled talks on Tuesday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

    Turkey’s operation has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, with the fighting also sparking fears that the SDF, holding large swaths of northern Syria previously controlled by ISIL, would be unable to keep thousands of suspected members of the armed group in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.


    The Listening Post

    Turkey, Syria and the war that just gets tougher to report

    Source: Read Full Article

    Explosion rocks Chicago airport – bomb squad on scene

    An explosion has rocked an airport in Chicago as a bomb squad are dispatched to the scene.

    A bag exploded while being loaded onto a flight at Midway International around midday local time, police confirmed.

    The unit's bomb squad was called to the scene around 12.20pm.

    The explosion may have been triggered by a phone battery or charger, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

    He said: “(The) incident was cleared by the bomb squad and no one was injured.

    “Thanks to everyone for being vigilant and to the firefighters, officers and technicians who assisted.”

    The bag was being loaded into Volaris Flight Y4943.

    Dramatic footage shows emergency services converging on the runway as they respond to the incident.

    Airport operations have since resumed as normal.


    Source: Read Full Article

    Rich Chinese with $4 trillion in assets outnumber wealthy Americans

    China’s super rich have almost $4 TRILLION in assets and outnumber wealthy Americans for the first time, as the country’s president cracks down on ostentatious Instagram posts

    • China had a total number of 100 million wealthy people, representing about $3.8 trillion in assets, outnumbering the United States for the first time
    • The US had 99 million wealthy people, with  $1.9 trillion in wealth creation, according to an annual wealth survey released by Credit Suisse
    • Despite trade tensions, the rich in both countries have continued to prosper
    • The ranks of the world’s millionaires also rose by 1.1 million, to an estimated total of 46.8 million. The US added more than half that number with 675,000
    • Australia, on the other hand, experienced a decline in average wealth to 124,000 fewer millionaires, attributed to exchange rates
    • Britain also saw a decline with 27,000 fewer millionaires, the Swiss multinational investment bank reports

    The number of rich Chinese people has surpassed the total of wealthy Americans for the first time as both countries keep churning out millionaires, a study by Credit Suisse showed. 

    The Swiss bank’s annual wealth survey released on Monday found 100 million Chinese ranked in the global top 10 percent as of the middle of this year, compared to 99 million in the United States.

    ‘Despite the trade tension between the United States and China over the past 12 months, both countries have fared strongly in wealth creation, contributing $3.8 trillion and $1.9 trillion respectively,’ said Nannette Hechler-Fayd’herbe, global head of economics and research at Credit Suisse. 

    The number of rich Chinese people has surpassed the total of wealthy Americans for the first time as both countries keep churning out millionaires, a study by Credit Suisse showed.  Pictured above is a Hermes store in Beijing

    Jack Ma, founder of online retailer Alibaba Group, is the wealthiest person in China, with a net worth of about $34.6 billion

    While Jack Ma, founder of online retailer Alibaba Group, may be the wealthiest man in China, his net worth doesn’t even come close to his counterpart in the US. America’s richest peson, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (pictured), has an estimated net worth of $114 billion

    The top five wealthiest people in the US and in China 

    The Americans: 

    1. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, $114 billion (online retail)

    2. Bill Gates, principal founder of Microsoft,  $106 billion (tech)

    3. Warren Buffet,  CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, $80.8 billion (investor)

    4.  Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, $69.6 billion (social media)

    5. Larry Page, $55.5 billion, co-founder of Google (internet search)

     The Chinese:

    1. Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, $34.6 billion (online retail)

    2. Ma Huateng, founder of Tencent, $32.8 billion (internet services)

    3. Hui Ka Yan, chairman of Evergrande Group, $30.8 billion (real estate)

    4. Wang Jianlin, founder of Dalian Wanda Group, $22.7 billion (real estate)

    15. He Xiangjian, co-founder of Midea, $19.5 billion (appliance maker)

     SOURCE: Forbes

    Jack Ma, co-founder of China’s online retailer Alibaba, comes in as the wealthiest person in the communist nation. However, his net worth of $34.6 billion, according to Forbes, doesn’t even come close to his US counterpart, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos has a net worth of $114 billion, reports Forbes.

    In fact, the next four billionaires after Bezos – Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Berkshier Hathaway CEO and investor Warren Buffet, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page of Google, all make more than the second wealthiest person in China, Ma Huateng, founder of internet company Tencent, who’s worth $32.8 billion.   

    China’s good fortunes have been especially enjoyed by young ‘fuerdai’, which translates as ‘rich second generation’, who drive super cars, think nothing of spending hundreds of thousands in a single night and whose displays of wealth are so outrageous that China’s president even took steps to rein them in.

    Despite a crackdown on ostentatious bragging by President Xi Jinping, the fuerdai have still taken to social media to post pictures of their excess.

    Moneyed young women are still showing off their fast cars, designer clothes and trips on private jets on Instagram.

    Sian_vivi_x, who is in her 20s, is just one youngster who continues to document her enviable lifestyle, and the response has been impressive. She saw her Instagram followers jump from 70,500 in the summer of 2018 to its current level of about 95,000.  

    Microsoft’s principal co-founder Bill Gates (pictured above) is the second wealthiest American, with a net worth of about $106 billion

    The second wealthiest person in China is Ma Huateng (pictured above), founder of internet services provider Tencent. He has a net worth of about  $32.8 billion

    After a massive public backlash against the fuerdai, President Xi demanded that they be taught the value of money – so 70 of the billionaires’ children were sent to a ‘social responsibility’ retreat where the fine for turning up late was £103.

    Additionally, he told the United Front Work Department, which is in charge of managing the relations of China’s non-political elite, to ‘guide private-sector businessmen, especially the younger generation, to help them think about the source of their wealth and how to behave after becoming affluent.’

    Sian_vivi_x, who is in her 20s, is one of the ‘fuerdai’, who continues to document her enviable lifestyle, and the response has been impressive. She saw her Instagram followers jump from 70,500 in the summer of 2018 to its current level of about 95,000

    Some of the luxuries Sian_vivi_x likes to show off on her Instagram page include a Richard Mille watch, pictured above

    The department said: ‘Some rich young people know only that they are rich, but have no idea where the money comes from. They know only how to show off their wealth, but don’t know how to create wealth’.

    As for the ranks of the world’s millionaires, the total has risen by 1.1 million to an estimated 46.8 million, collectively owning $158.3 trillion in net assets, 44 per cent of the global total, the study found.  

    The United States added more than half of this number – 675,000 new millionaires – to its sizeable stock.

    A decline in average wealth in Australia — largely due to exchange rates — resulted in 124,000 fewer millionaires there, while Britain lost 27,000 and Turkey 24,000.

    The report estimates that 55,920 adults are worth at least $100 million and 4,830 have net assets above $500 million.

    It forecast global wealth — which increased 2.6 per cent over the past year — would rise by 27 percent over the next five years to $459 trillion by 2024. The number of millionaires would also grow over this period to almost 63 million.

    The share of the world’s bottom 90 per cent accounts for 18 per cent of global wealth, compared to 11 per cent in the 2000.

    ‘While it is too early to say wealth inequality is now in a downward phase, the prevailing evidence suggests that 2016 may have been the peak for the near future,’ it said.  

    BACKLASH AGAINST THE FEURADI 

     In April 2013 a series of scandals shone a light on the generation’s shocking and excessive behaviour.

    Shanghai Daily reported on rumours of a fuerdai sex and drug party in Sanya, Hainan province.

    Officials investigated a yacht show bash there after hearing reports of a model selling sex at the party for 600,000 Yuan (£62,000).

    A woman named Guo Meimei, who is now 23 and was considered to be the queen of the fuerdais, was accused by a male rival, Chen Junyu, of selling sex in Sanya.

    She responded by posting a picture of 5 million Yuan’s-worth (£516,000) of casino chips online along with the caption: ‘Too rich to need to sell sex.’

    Chen replied by posting a screenshot of a bank account showing a balance of 3.7billion Yuan (£382million). The duo’s exchange prompted outrage from Chinese netizens.

    Miss Guo fell from grace when, after being arrested for gambling crimes, she admitted she had accepted money for sex in the past.

    Source: Read Full Article

    Serial burglar to pay Lord Sugar £170,000 after raids on Essex home

    Serial burglar dubbed the Essex Spiderman who raided Lord Sugar’s home amid £1.2m crime spree targeting county’s 200 richest must pay Apprentice star more than £170,000 compensation

    • David Buisson, 50, made a list of wealthiest people in Essex he could target 
    • He was last year jailed for eight years for 11 burglaries and two attempted ones
    • Today a proceeds of crime hearing saw him made to pay Lord Sugar, 72, £170k 

    A serial burglar known as the ‘Essex Spiderman’ who raided Lord Sugar’s home in a £1.2million crime spree has been told to pay him £170,000 in compensation.    

    David Buisson, 50, stole cash and jewellery during a six-month ‘orgy’ of burglaries in 2017 after he made a list of the 192 wealthiest people in Essex. 

    He broke into homes and businesses across Epping Forest and Canvey Island, which included two raids on Lord Alan Sugar’s Chigwell mansion. 

    Buisson, a former helicopter pilot, admitted 11 burglaries and two attempted ones and was sentenced to eight years behind bars at Basildon Crown Court last year. 

    He was today brought back before a judge for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act and was ordered to pay compensation to eight of his victims, including Lord Sugar, 72.   


    David Buisson (police mugshot left), 50, stole cash and jewellery during a six-month ‘orgy’ of burglaries after he made a list of the 192 wealthiest people in Essex, which included Lord Alan Sugar (right) 

    Callum Munday, prosecuting, said that Buisson had benefited from the burglaries to the tune of £1,270,379.50. He said that £294,973 of assets could be realised.

    Judge Ian Graham ordered the confiscation of these assets, and that compensation be paid to eight victims, including £173,977.77 to Lord Sugar.

    He gave Buisson three months to comply with the court order, with four years in prison should he fail to do so.

    Bussion was said to have used Facebook to make a list of the wealthiest people in Essex, with seven of the people on the searches later being burgled by him.

    A raid was also carried out on the home of joint chairman of West Ham United David Sullivan, although Buisson was never charged in relation to that crime.

    He used a ladder to get inside Sir Sugar’s home on June 5 last year and took watches and jewellery worth £184,000. He then returned the following night to try and open a safe with a drill. 

    Among his other crimes, Buisson admitted a 2015 burglary at Smith’s Brasserie in Ongar, a place popular with the stars of The Only Way Is Essex.

    The court previously heard how he disabled the alarm and spent 40 minutes opening a safe using specialist equipment.

    After police searched his home and found signal-jamming equipment, Buisson went on the run.

    Essex Police said officers investigating Buisson had found tools and items used for drilling and lock picking at addresses linked to him in Ongar and Woodford. They also found a stolen drone and jewellery.

    A seized computer showed internet searches had been made for some of the addresses that were later burgled. 

    He fled to Spain and was caught by the National Crime Agency in Fuengirola, on the Costa del Sol. He returned to the UK in May.

    Pictured: Lord Alan Sugar’s Chigwell mansion in Essex 

    As well as his jail term, Buisson was also placed under a serious crime prevention order.

    This will restrict access to equipment that he could use to commit again for five years following release.

    His trial heard that Buisson was sometimes helped by his nephew Benjamin Buisson, 29, who would wait in a getaway car.

    Benjamin Buisson, also from Ongar, was jailed for two years after admitting eight counts of burglary, four committed with his uncle, at an earlier hearing.

    Detective Inspector Rob Staples said after Buisson was jailed: ‘The detectives involved in this complex investigation left no stone unturned to identify and locate David Buisson to hold him to account for his part in these offences.’

    Source: Read Full Article

    Zara shopper jailed for taking tags from new clothes she’d bought and putting them on old ones before demanding refunds – The Sun

    A ZARA shopper has been jailed for buying clothes, putting the new tags on old items and demanding full refunds.

    The woman, known only as Tania M.A, from Zaragoza, Spain, worked "meticulously" on the tags to restock her wardrobe for free.

    The 32-year-old has been sentenced to six months behind bars for with continual fraud.

    She has also been banned for life from Zara shops in the Aragon region.

    A court heard she would go to different shops in the city, buying a range of swish new garb.

    She would then take the tags from the new clothes and put them on old items she had at home.

    The woman would then return to the store, asking for a full refund, and using excuses like claiming the item didn't fit.

    The judge sentencing told the court the woman worked so hard she even knew which bar codes corresponded with which colour of clothing.

    WHAT IS RETURN FRAUD

    Return fraud takes place when someone abuses the return policy in order to gain money or merhcndise.

    There are many ways this crim ecan be comitted including:

    • Renting – buying goods for a short period of time, with the intent of retuning the item.
    • Reciept fraud – using reused or stolen reciepts to return items for profit
    • Retuning stolen merchandise – shoplifting with the objective to return the items for full price
    • Employee fraud – getting help from an epmpoloyee to return stolen goods for full retail price

    And she would never ask for refunds in cash, as it would require a manager to authorise and they would have a "greater knowledge of the stock, [so they could] detect the returned item didn't correspond to the tags".

    Local news reports have claimed she ran the scam so many times over 15 months, staff became suspicious and reported her for fraud.

    The judge said: "The fact that both the interior and exterior tags matched and were precisely placed on clothing of similar colour shows the fraudulent mechanism and desire to benefit, so in that way, she renewed her wardrobe at no cost."

    Source: Read Full Article

    Mayan breakthrough: How ‘longest underwater cave system in world’ was discovered in Mexico

    The Mayans were a civilisation known for their architecture, mathematics and astronomical beliefs, who date back to as far as 2000BC, with many of their impressive constructions still standing in the jungles of southeast Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and western parts of Honduras. Last year, the Gran Acuifero Maya (GAM) project made a breakthrough after months of exploring a maze of underwater channels in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Near the beach resort of Tulum, the group found that the cave system known as Sac Actun, once measured at 163 miles, and connected with the 52 miles long Dos Ojos system.

    Guillermo de Anda, the director of GAM and an underwater archaeologist, said the “amazing” find would help to understand the development of the rich culture of the region, which was dominated by the Mayan civilisation before the Spanish conquest.

    Historian Matthew Sibson explained the fascinating discovery on his YouTube channel, stating in 2018: “Remains of what has been dubbed the Mayan underworld have been discovered in the world’s longest submerged cave.

    “In the world of underwater cave exploration, sometimes the biggest discoveries come in the very smallest spaces.

    “In January, a diver who was investigating the flooded caverns in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in the beach resort of Tulum swam through a passageway barely big enough for a person, just a foot-and-a-half high and three feet wide.

    He found a connection point between two ancient cave systems

    Matthew Sibson

    “In doing do, he found a connection point between two ancient cave systems confirming that once the two were actually one.

    “Together they formed the longest underwater cave system in the world, at 216 miles.”

    Mr Sibson went on to explain what the team found along the way.

    He added: “The archaeologist Guillermo de Anda thinks the discovery of the narrow passageway is just the start of stunning findings inside the system now collectively known as Sac Actun.

    “The long expansive cavern is not only a natural wonder but also a time capsule that stretches back to the last Ice Age.

    “While exploring the caves, de Anda’s team counted nearly 200 spots of archaeological remains, including Maya altars, ancient human bones and the fossils of extinct animals.

    “This is probably the most important submerged site in the world, specifically because of the amount of archaeological material, the state of preservation,  and the big chronology it involves – more than 15,000 years of history.”

    Mr Sibson revealed how the project built on months of hard work.

    DONT MISS
    End of the world: How archaeologist discovered ‘real Maayan doomsday’ [VIDEO]
    Mayan DISCOVERY: How find in ancient city ‘reveals creation story’ [CLAIM]
    Egypt: How ‘greatest archaeological find of all time’ stunned expert [REVEALED]

    He continued: “De Anda is a researcher at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History and the director of the Great Maya Aquifer Project.

    “The project’s lead diver Robert Schmidtner had been exploring the system for years, beginning in March 2017.

    “The team made a concerted effort to find the connection between the two ancient cave systems.”

    Source: Read Full Article

    Facing protests, Lebanon approves emergency economic reforms

    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon approved an emergency package of economic reforms on Monday, in response to a wave of anti-government protests that Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri praised for breaking down sectarian barriers and restoring a sense of national unity.

    Across the country, people blocked roads for a fifth day. Schools, banks and businesses closed. Hundreds of thousands of people have flooded the streets, furious at a political class they accuse of pushing the economy to the point of collapse.

    The protests have been extraordinary because of their size and geographic reach in a country where political movements are normally divided on sectarian lines and struggle to draw nationwide appeal.

    Lebanon has one of the world’s highest levels of government debt as a share of economic output. The government includes most major parties under a power-sharing system that many Lebanese say has entrenched corruption and made it impossible to halt waste.

    Protests continued after the measures unveiled by Hariri in a televised speech from the presidential palace.

    The reforms included the symbolic step of halving the salaries of government ministers and lawmakers, as well as moves toward implementing long-delayed changes seen as vital to putting Lebanon’s public finances on a sustainable path.

    Related Coverage

    • Lebanon government agrees reforms, debating last point related to power sector: presidency
    • Lebanon approves 2020 budget with 0.6% deficit: Hariri

    Hariri said the government would approve within three weeks the first phase of a capital investment program that donors have pledged to finance with $11 billion conditional on Lebanon implementing reforms.

    “We have today taken steps to fight corruption, fight waste, we have made big projects,” Hariri said, adding that the moves were not designed to get people out of the street and the government must work to win back the confidence of the people.

    Maya Mhana, a teacher listening to the speech in central Beirut with other protesters, was not convinced. “We are remaining in the streets, we don’t believe a single word he said,” she said.

    “Lies, lies, lies,” said another protester who declined to give his name. “They have been governing for a long time. If they had wanted, they could have done anything.”

    The government approved a 2020 budget with no new taxes and a deficit of around 0.6% compared to the targeted level of around 7% for 2019, Hariri said.

    Cost-cutting steps included abolishing the ministry of information and other public institutions immediately and merging other unnecessary ones to save money.

    The government also approved the establishment before the end of the year of a committee to fight corruption.

    Lebanon’s large banking sector would contribute 5.1 trillion Lebanese pounds ($3.4 billion) to deficit reduction, including through an increase in the tax on bank profits, Hariri said.

    The government would also accelerate the long-delayed reform of the state-run power sector, which drains $2 billion from the treasury every year while failing to deliver enough power for Lebanese who depend on private generators to fill the gap.

    Source: Read Full Article

    Agreeing Brexit deal 'self-evidently' in UK's economic interest: finance minister

    LONDON (Reuters) – Agreeing the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “self-evidently” in the interest of Britain’s economy, finance minister Sajid Javid said in a letter published on Monday.

    Johnson agreed a deal in talks with EU officials last week, but with just 10 days left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the bloc, the divorce is again in disarray as Britain’s politicians argue over whether to leave with a deal, exit without a deal or hold another referendum.

    “My starting point is that agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement is self-evidently in our economic interest,” Javid said in the letter responding to a parliamentary committee’s request for an economic analysis of Johnson’s deal.

    “It would bring an end to the damaging uncertainty and delay of the past years, and allow businesses to get on with taking decisions, including around recruitment and investment.”

    Javid said the Brexit department would publish more information on the deal in coming days to inform discussion in parliament, but did not commit to publishing an economic impact assessment because many of the long-term details were not known.

    He said the overall impact was hard to measure.

    “My last point is to say that trust in democracy and bringing an end to the division that has characterized this debate over the past three years, is something that cannot be measured solely through spreadsheets or impact assessments, important though they are,” Javid said.

    “Respecting the referendum and closing this chapter so we can focus on delivering growth and the public services people deserve, is the right thing to do for our country.”

    Source: Read Full Article

    WikiLeaks founder Assange appears confused at extradition hearing

    LONDON (Reuters) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared confused at a London court hearing on Monday, struggling to recall his name and age in his first public appearance in months as he sought to fight his extradition to the United States.

    Assange, 48, who spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy before he was dragged out in April, faces 18 counts in the United States including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades in prison if convicted.

    On Monday he appeared clean-shaven, without the long beard he had worn at his last public appearance in May, when he was sentenced to 50 weeks jail for skipping bail. He appeared in good health, with his white hair combed back and wearing a navy suit over a light blue sweater and white shirt.

    But he mumbled and stuttered for several seconds as he gave his name and date of birth at the start of a preliminary hearing in the case.

    When the judge asked him at the end of the hearing if he knew what was happening, he replied “not exactly”, complained about the conditions in jail, and said he was unable to “think properly”.

    “I don’t understand how this is equitable,” he said. “I can’t research anything, I can’t access any of my writing. It’s very difficult where I am.”

    Related Coverage

    • WikiLeaks founder Assange denied delay to extradition hearing by London judge

    Assange is being held in British jail pending the U.S. extradition, having served his sentence for skipping bail.

    He fled to the embassy in 2012 to avoid being sent to Sweden to face sex crimes accusations. He says the U.S. charges against him are a political attempt to silence journalists and publishers, and the Swedish allegations were part of a plot to catch him. Sweden is reviewing the sex crimes cases.

    The former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone was among Assange’s supporters in the public gallery, while protesters gathered outside court.

    Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers argued that Assange’s extradition hearing, scheduled for February 2020, should be delayed by three months due to the complexity of the case.

    “The evidence in this case would test the limits of most lawyers,” Summers told the court. He cited the difficulty of communicating with Assange who he said doesn’t have a computer in prison. The judge denied the request to delay the hearing.

    Australian-born Assange made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.

    WikiLeaks later angered the United States by publishing caches of leaked military documents and diplomatic cables.

    Admirers have hailed Assange as a hero for exposing what they describe as abuse of power by modern states and for championing free speech. As he entered the dock, people in the public gallery raised their fists in solidarity with him.

    His detractors have painted him as a dangerous figure complicit in Russian efforts to undermine the West.

    Source: Read Full Article