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Darja
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« Reply #3195 on: Oct 16, 2018, 04:51 AM »


Dazed and confused: Canada cannabis legalization brings complex new laws

Recreational marijuana will be legal throughout the country, but rules will vary from province to province

Leyland Cecco
Guardian
Tue 16 Oct 2018 09.30 BST

Canada will this week become the second country in the world to legalise recreational marijuana, but as they negotiate a patchwork of new legislation and inconsistent enforcement, smokers may soon find that their enjoyment of weed is still blunted.

New rules governing cannabis use are different in each of the country’s ten provinces and three territories, and campaigners warn that experimentation could still result in hefty fines – or even arrest.

“There will be more laws around the cannabis plant after legalization than there were before,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a professor at the University of Toronto. “I don’t think the average Canadian is aware of that.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected on a manifesto promise to follow the example of Uruguay and legalize cannabis, arguing that the move would cut the estimated C$6bn ($4.5bn) in profits pouring into the black market.

As of Wednesday, Canadians aged 18 and over will be able to legally purchase the drug for recreational use. (Medical marijuana has been legal since 2001.)

Exactly how they will be able to buy it will vary from province to province: Nova Scotia, (population 940,000) will have 12 stores, run in conjunction with the province’s liquor board; British Columbia (population 4.6 million) will have just one. In Ontario – Canada’s most populous province – it will initially only be available online.

“It’s amazing that Canada has taken this position, setting the stage for the world to watch as we show how cannabis legalization is a good thing,” said Robin Ellins, the owner of a cannabis accessory shop in Toronto. “We’ve spent a quarter of a century advocating for legalization. And now, it’s here.”

But regulations rushed into place to govern the legal market could have jarring and unintended consequences, said Abby Deshman of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“We’re legalizing the industry, but criminalizing a lot of the aspects around the use of cannabis,” she said.

Only purchases from officially recognized stores will be legal: someone selling a few ounces to a friend could still face fines or even jail time.

Giving marijuana to a minor remains illegal, so an 18-year-old sharing marijuana with a 17-year-old could in theory face a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.

“The danger in this is that people are going to go out and think that they’re using a legal substance and will use it in a variety of ways that may seem innocuous, but could result in criminal charges,” said Deshman.

Meanwhile, the government has shrugged off calls for an amnesty for those prosecuted under the previous legal framework: more than 15,000 have been charged over marijuana-related offences since Trudeau was elected in 2015.

“I want to see social justice happen to those who were criminalized for possession of the plant,” said Ellins. “I want to see them go back and expunge that.”

Studies have found that black and indigenous residents have faced disproportionate charges and sentencing in Canada’s criminal justice system, and legal experts warn that racial disparities will persist after legalisation.

“Because our policing practices are racialized anyway, there’s no reason to think that’s going to change after legalization,” said Owusu-Bempah.

“We’ve got evidence from a number of American states that the racial disparity in arrests for things that remain illegal actually grow after legalization or decriminalization.”

Even with more minor aspects of the law, the rules vary dramatically across the country: in Ontario, people will be free to smoke or vape marijuana anywhere they can legally consume tobacco, but in Saskatchewan, public consumption of cannabis will incur a $200 fine; in Manitoba the penalty will be $672.

Travelling with marijuana will not be straightforward: in Manitoba, it must be kept in the car’s trunk. In Prince Edward Island, it can be kept in open packaging, but out of the reach of the driver or passengers. But in Canada’s north, residents of Nunavut will be barred from carrying it any vehicles.

Stiff penalties will be imposed for anyone caught with more than five nanograms of THC – the psychoactive component of marijuana – in their blood. But critics argue the limit is arbitrary and not backed up by science and warn that medical marjiuana users, who develop higher natural THC levels in their blood, could end up facing severe punishment.

The stakes are potentially much higher at the border with the US, where marijuana possession and trafficking remains a federal crime. The US border agency was recently forced to clarify that Canadians who work in the burgeoning legal marijuana sector will be allowed to travel to the US, after several were reportedly turned back at the frontier.

Meanwhile, some police officers are still wondering if they themselves will be able to use marijuana while off-duty: in Vancouver, officers have been told to treat it like alcohol, as long as they show up for the job sober. But members of the Toronto police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police must wait 28 days after consuming the drug before they are considered fit for duty.

Many of the laws reflect a cautious approach by both the federal and provincial governments – and a recognition that the rollout and enforcement will be a learning process for every group involved, said Deshman.

One thing is certain, she added: “There will be legal challenges.”


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« Reply #3196 on: Oct 16, 2018, 04:54 AM »


Theresa May faces frantic 48 hours to save Brexit plan as talks stall

PM to seek cabinet support before calling on EU leaders to drop backstop proposal

Dan Sabbagh, Pippa Crerar and Daniel Boffey
Guarrdian
16 Oct 2018 23.50 BST

Theresa May faces a frantic 48 hours to try to save her Brexit negotiating strategy after she admitted talks had ground to a halt because of the EU’s insistence upon a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

The prime minister is expected to plead with EU leaders to drop their Irish backstop proposal at a make-or-break summit dinner on Wednesday night after seeking the support of members of her cabinet on Tuesday morning.

With time running out before Wednesday’s meeting, May used an emergency Commons statement to say the EU’s plan “threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom” because it could lead to the creation of a customs border in the Irish Sea.

She told an audience of largely sceptical MPs that the EU had stuck to its backstop proposal because Michel Barnier’s negotiating team had told her there was not time to evaluate a British UK-wide counter-proposal “in the next few weeks”.

The prime minister was due to speak to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Monday night as she tries to lobby EU leaders to change their minds. May has already also spoken to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, in recent days, according to No 10.

A group of eight Brexiter ministers met on Monday night at a meeting dubbed the “pizza summit”, organised by Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the house, to discuss May’s strategy before Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, amid separate concerns from the Tory right that May’s all-UK backstop plan needed to be clearly time limited.

The strength of the turnout – including the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove – is likely to concern Downing Street. They are understood to have aired concerns about May’s negotiating strategy, although one of those present said no strategy for the cabinet meeting was agreed.

Friends of another one of those attending, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said she was remaining loyal to the prime minister for now. Others present included the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, and the chief secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss.

EU leaders acknowledged that the Brexit talks had hit a roadblock, although some insisted the problems could still be overcome. Donald Tusk, the EU council president, said a no-deal scenario was “more likely than ever before”.

Merkel said: “We were actually pretty hopeful that we would manage to seal an exit agreement … at the moment, it looks a bit more difficult again”. Speaking to the German Foreign Trade Federation, she said a breakthrough was still possible but would need “quite a bit of finesse and if we aren’t successful this week, we’ll just have to keep negotiating”.

The cautiously optimistic tone was further echoed by Macron, who had demanded “maximum progress” by the time of this week’s leaders’ summit to allow an extraordinary Brexit summit to be called in mid-November. “I believe in our collective intelligence, so I think we can make progress,” he said.

A backstop is required to ensure that there is no hard border in Ireland if a comprehensive free trade deal cannot be signed before the end of 2020. The EU plan would mean that Northern Ireland would remain in the single market and the customs union, prompting fierce objections from Tory hard Brexiters and the Democratic Unionist party, which props up her government.

That prompted May to propose a country-wide alternative in which the whole UK would remain in the parts of the customs union after Brexit, but she admitted in the Commons that, despite months of talks, her counter-proposal had not been accepted.

“The EU still requires a ‘backstop to the backstop’ – effectively an insurance policy for the insurance policy. And they want this to be the Northern Ireland-only solution that they had previously proposed,” May told MPs on Monday.

Raising the stakes, the prime minister insisted that the EU’s insistence amounted to a threat to the constitution of the UK: “We have been clear that we cannot agree to anything that threatens the integrity of our United Kingdom,” she added.

The prime minister insisted that she was demanding of the EU that the UK backstop was time limited: “I need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say this backstop is a temporary solution.”

May had gone to the Commons to clarify the status of the Brexit negotiations a day after a deal had been thought to be close. The Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, was dispatched to Brussels on Sunday afternoon, only to return empty-handed with No 10 warning that the talks had reached an impasse.

Few MPs in the Commons spoke in support of May. Tory Brexiters, led by former cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith, repeatedly pressed her to confirm there would be a specific end date for the temporary backstop plans.

The prime minister avoided answering the question, telling MPs: “I continue to believe that we should be working to ensure that the backstop never does come into place.”

Simon Clarke, the Conservative Brexiter MP for Middlesbrough South, told her she had “failed to reassure the house”.

The prime minister also came under pressure from the remain wing of her party. The former home secretary Amber Rudd urged her to deliver a Brexit that also worked for the 48% who voted to remain and the former education secretary Nicky Morgan warned may there was no majority for no deal in the Commons and that MPs would have to “step in” if she failed to get one.

May highlighted a concession she had already made on the EU withdrawal bill, telling MPs: “If it were the case that at the end of the negotiation process actually it as a no deal … then that would come back to this house and then we would see what position this house would take in the circumstances”.

About 15 MPs, including four Conservatives, used the debate to urge May to reconsider holding a second referendum. Former cabinet minister Dominic Grieve, who has led previous rebellions against the prime minister’s plans, said he would not back the transition period, which he described as a “condition of vassalage”, unless there was another vote.

Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader, pressed May to reiterate the UK would leave the EU “together with no part hived off either in the single market or customs union differences”.

Dodds was visibly unhappy with May’s answer, shaking his head when she replied in general terms: “We will be leaving the European Union together.”

Jeremy Corbyn urged May to “put the country before her party” and stand up to the “reckless voices” on the Tory benches. “It is clear that the prime minister’s failure to stand up to the warring factions of her own side have led to this impasse.”


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« Reply #3197 on: Oct 16, 2018, 04:56 AM »

Saudi’s impatient, workaholic prince with a very thin skin

Mohammed bin Salman cultivated an image as a reformer. But he struggles to accept any criticism

Emma Graham-Harrison
Guardian
16 Oct 2018 19.19 BST

Looming over the disappearance and presumed murder of a dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a 33-year-old prince, whose ruthless pursuit of power could have been lifted almost directly from the pages of a Shakespeare play to the headlines of today.

Mohammed bin Salman is nominal heir and de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s few remaining absolute monarchies. These are countries – all are currently run by men – where the king is head of state and government, controlling all levers of power. He lives surrounded by the trappings of luxurious modernity, from yachts to art masterpieces, but wields power in a system that would have been familiar to a medieval ruler.

This pre-modern political world, where one man has total authority over all others, is the only one Bin Salman has ever lived in and known intimately. “The crown prince cannot relate to the world outside Saudi. He was raised in a palace, being told you can do everything you want,” said one Saudi, who asked not to be named. “His biggest issue is that he never accepts mistakes.”

Many of the Saudi elite – princes and the upper echelons of society – spend at least a few years abroad, picking up degrees at prestigious western universities. While there, they are swaddled by wealth but still exposed to an entirely different political and social system.

Bin Salman chose instead to stay in Saudi Arabia, close to his father who is now King Salman, studying law at King Saud University, then taking a string of jobs at his father’s side. This allowed him to cement their ties and become the power behind the throne. King Salman is well into his 80s and thought to be in the early stages of dementia, according to Bruce Riedel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The exact details are not clear, with the state of his health “a closely guarded secret”, but Bin Salman has reportedly acted as gatekeeper to his father. He even kept his parents apart for several years as he engineered his ascent from the ranks of thousands of virtually anonymous royal princes, NBC reported.

Academically successful, impatient, and a workaholic known to spend 18 hours a day in his office, he has a strong belief in his intellect and the judgment that carried him to power.

But critics say he also struggles to recognise errors, or accept even mild criticism. “People who tried to say no even gently and diplomatically faced consequences,” said one source from Saudi Arabia, who asked not to be named. This thin skin was put on international display when a single tweet from Canada, calling on the kingdom to release jailed activists, prompted the kingdom to sever diplomatic and trade ties. It was particularly surprising given the effort Bin Salman had poured into presenting himself as the young face of change, at home and abroad. Nearly two-thirds of Saudis are under 30, and he claimed to be their champion.

“Especially when he was unofficially campaigning to be the next king, the message he wanted to get across was ‘I represent the younger generation’,” said one consultant who worked on Saudi issues and asked not to be named.

Bin Salman allowed women to drive, reopened cinemas after decades, and curbed the powers of the much-feared morality police. He also vowed to return the country to “moderate Islam”, restraining the reach of hardline clerics who promote extremism, and to rejuvenate its economy.

It all provided plenty of material for upbeat media coverage of a “reformer prince” on brief official trips to the US and other western countries. A cascade of Saudi wealth, channelled through PR firms and lobbyists, helped unfurl the red carpet. Earlier this year he made a triumphant two-week progress around the United States, where he was feted by everyone from film stars, including Morgan Freeman, to Silicon Valley tech billionaires, to Donald Trump at the White House. Previous trips have included personal tours of the Facebook headquarters with Mark Zuckerberg.

Yet under Bin Salman’s rule, Saudi Arabia has launched a bloody war in Yemen, presided over the kidnapping of the prime minister of Lebanon and forced him to resign, and imprisoned dozens of his own elite in a luxury hotel as part of a touted crackdown on corruption.

Bin Salman signalled clearly that his push for change did not extend to politics, rounding up dozens of intellectuals in sweeping crackdowns at home, and lifting opponents from the streets of other countries to bring them back to Saudi jails.

Khashoggi, who used his position to highlight these contradictions, was among those Bin Salman wanted to target, hoping to lure him home then detain him, according to US intelligence intercepts reported by his employer the Washington Post.

It is not clear if the crown prince considered Khashoggi a genuine threat, because of his prominent international platform and extraordinary network of journalist and power-broker friends around the world, or just bridled at his criticism.

But it is clear that the crown prince wanted his voice silenced. The question the world is now asking is, what price might he have paid for that?


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« Reply #3198 on: Oct 16, 2018, 04:59 AM »


Jamal Khashoggi: US secretary of state meets Saudi king for crisis talks

Mike Pompeo meets King Salman amid reports Riyadh may admit journalist was killed in Istanbul consulate

Bethan McKernan in Istanbul
Guardian
Tue 16 Oct 2018 11.10 BST

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has arrived in Saudi Arabia for crisis talks with King Salman, as reports emerged that the kingdom was poised to acknowledge that the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi died inside a diplomatic building in Istanbul.

Pompeo landed in Riyadh on Tuesday morning and met the king immediately to discuss the crisis surrounding Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Speaking at the royal palace, where Salman greeted him, the US’s top diplomat thanked the king “for accepting my visit on behalf of President Trump” before going into a closed-door meeting.

Pompeo will have dinner with the county’s powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday, according to reporters travelling with him. He is then due to visit Istanbul, where a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation is under way.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Tuesday said police who entered the consulate for the first time on Monday had found some surfaces had been painted over. “My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over,” he told reporters.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the crown prince, relocated from Saudi Arabia to the US last year, where he wrote for the Washington Post. He visited the Saudi consulate building in Istanbul on 2 October for an appointment to pick up documents for his forthcoming marriage and has not been seen since.

Turkish officials allege they have video and audio evidence that proves Khashoggi was interrogated and murdered by a 15-man hit squad sent from Riyadh – claims Saudi Arabia continues to deny, although it has offered no alternate version of events.

US media outlets reported late on Monday that Saudi Arabia was considering making a statement admitting that Khashoggi died inside the consulate building as the result of a botched rendition.

Any such admission would be issued only after a deal was reached with Turkey on how the criminal investigation should proceed, the Washington Post reported, citing two US diplomatic sources.

Last week, the US president threatened “severe punishment” if it emerged that Khashoggi had been murdered. However, on Monday he said, without offering evidence, that Khashoggi could have been murdered by “rogue killers”, prompting speculation that the White House may be willing to protect the House of Saud, a key political and trade ally, from blame for the diplomatic crisis.

Turkish investigators were allowed access to the diplomatic building for the first time on Monday afternoon. Technicians in overalls, gloves and covered shoes emerged nine hours later.

Ankara has wanted to search the consulate for days, but under the Vienna convention, diplomatic posts are technically foreign soil that must be protected and respected by host countries.

Before the Turkish team arrived, cleaners with disinfectant, mops and buckets were seen entering the building’s main door.

Although it was not immediately clear what evidence could be extracted two weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance, al-Jazeera reported that a source in the Turkish attorney general’s office said the search team found sufficient evidence to “support the belief” the missing writer was killed.

Police plan to conduct a second search, of the Saudi consul’s home in Istanbul, on Tuesday.

Khashoggi wrote extensively for the Washington Post about Saudi Arabia, criticising its war in Yemen, the recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a driving ban for women. Those policies are all seen as initiatives of Bin Salman, who is next in line to the throne.

Khashoggi’s family, who said they have been left to “sadly and anxiously follow the conflicting news”, on Monday called for an independent investigation into his disappearance.

“The strong moral and legal responsibility which our father instilled in us obliges us to call for the establishment of an independent and impartial international commission to inquire into the circumstances of his death,” the statement read.

The call was echoed on Tuesday by the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, who urged Ankara and Riyadh to waive diplomatic immunity in the case and “reveal everything they know about the disappearance and possible extrajudicial killing” of Khashoggi.


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« Reply #3199 on: Oct 16, 2018, 05:09 AM »

‘Unbelievable’: Trump family expert reveals the president’s callous and cruel treatment of one of his sons

Matthew Chapman, Alternet
16 Oct 2018 at 00:01 ET                   

Appearing on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” Monday night, reporter Emily Jane Fox argued that there’s something truly “unbelievable” about the way recent reports reveal President Donald Trump has treated his son Eric.

She was discussing the way the president reportedly directed Eric Trump to handle the legal response to the claims and lawsuit brought by Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Donald Trump. Daniels sued to break a hush money contract she had signed, which has since become the center of campaign finance violations that the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to in court. Cohen said he was directed to carry out the crime by the president himself during the 2016 campaign.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Eric Trump’s role in legal response to Daniels’ claims, which Fox has since confirmed. Eric Trump is currently heading up the Trump Organization along with his brother Donald Trump Jr., supposedly in their father’s absence from the business. However, there appears to be much less separation between the business and the White House than had been promised.

Fox, who has written a book on the Trump family, pointed out that the president’s involvement of Eric in the Daniels affair was a stunning move — one that shows a callousness and a disregard for his son’s wellbeing.

She explained: “If you’re the president, and you’re a parent, you’re going to stick your child in the middle of cleaning up something for the president of the United States that has to do with an affair your father had — allegedly — with a porn star four months after your half-brother was born. So not only are you potentially putting your son in whatever legal implications could come out of this—”

“The payments to Stormy Daniels are now associated with felony counts for which there have now been guilty pleas, and there will be a prison sentence—” Maddow interjected.

“That Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to,” Fox said, agreeing. “To put your child in that position is — as someone who spent a lot of time dealing with the Trump family — not terribly surprising for these people, but just an unbelievable fact to get your mind around.”

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MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika spit venom at ‘bumbling idiot’ Trump for excusing Saudi murder of journalist

Travis Gettys
Raw Story
16 Oct 2018 at 06:52 ET                   

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski blasted President Donald Trump for inspiring violence against journalists with his rhetoric — and helping autocrats cover up those attacks on the free press.

Trump offered an excuse for Saudi Arabia’s apparent abduction, murder and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — and the “Morning Joe” hosts said that was the latest episode in a disturbing pattern.

“It is getting more dangerous by the day for journalists across the world, and now apparently even journalists who work for the Washington Post now have to worry about governments like and cutting them up with bone saws,” Scarborough said.

Brzezinski said the president always sided with dictators, even when they murdered their critics.

“Look, this is vintage Trump, sowing doubt, propping up dictators and people who are clearly on the side of wrong,” she said. “Look at him in the face of this, accusations that every day point more to what happened, and he’s so in doubt and protecting them and saying maybe it could have been this or maybe it could have been that. He is showing extreme naïvité on the world stage and it makes him look like a weak leader.”

Scarborough spat contempt toward the president, and compared his latest surrender to an autocrat to his performance alongside Russian president Vladimir Putin in Finland.

“He does look so weak and so pathetic, just like he did in Helsinki,” Scarborough said. “You have a guy who is scared of KGB agents, not man enough to stand up to former KGB agents and not man enough to stand up to Saudi sheikhs. That’s what we have in a president?”

Brzezinski wondered whether the president was being blackmailed.

“Whatever they have on him better be worth it because he looks like a bumbling idiot,” she said.

Scarborough said Trump’s loyalty had been bought by the Saudis who booked his hotel rooms and bought his condos.

“It’s just money, I guess,” he said. “Is this what Donald Trump promised people? I thought he was going to be a strong leader. Instead, he’s kowtowing and letting these autocrats, letting these tyrants kill journalists in the light of day.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJzyQFvJDJs

************

Here are three signs of looming disaster for the Trump economy: Matt Taibbi

Brad Reed
Raw Story
16 Oct 2018 at 13:30 ET                   

President Donald Trump regularly boasts about the strength of the American economy — but Rolling Stone columnist Matt Taibbi thinks that cracks are starting to form that will soon plunge the United States back into a recession.

In his latest column, Taibbi says that three factors — rising interest rates, the GOP’s massive tax cut and Trump’s own love of tariffs — are likely to send the U.S. economy heading downward in the near future.

When it comes to interest rates, Taibbi notes that the Federal Reserve has been signaling that it will finally be running a tighter monetary policy after it spent most of the past decade pushing interest rates down to effectively nothing.

“The Fed is taking about $50 billion out of the economy every month, and now raising rates not just above zero, but close to (and perhaps even beyond!) neutral,” he writes. “The free money era is over… Trump must be cursing his bad luck.”

The GOP’s tax cuts, meanwhile, have massively slashed the amount of revenue coming into the federal government, as the deficit of $488 billion in the first quarter of 2018 broke the nominal quarterly deficit record — which was originally set back in 2010, when the United States was in the middle of the worst recession in decades.

Combined with the Federal Reserve’s actions, Taibbi speculates that Trump will be forced to “pay interest on the giant sums he will inevitably have to borrow to pay for his idiotic tax cuts.”

And finally, Taibbi notes that the president’s trade war with China could be particularly disastrous given that China holds so much of America’s debt.

“But what if Trump’s big populist gambit announced in September — slapping 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese products — hurts the Chinese economy to the point where they can’t afford to keep subsidizing our exploding debt?” he asks. “Even smart people are fully capable of driving the American economy off a cliff. What happens when the dumbest administration in history gets a turn at the wheel? Maybe last week wasn’t the time to start panicking. But that moment can’t be far.”

****************

Here are 5 ways a House victory for Democrats will impede Trump’s agenda — even if GOP keeps the Senate

Alex Henderson, AlterNet - COMMENTARY
16 Oct 2018 at 16:18 ET                   

With the 2018 midterms only three weeks away, Democrats are hoping to recapture both houses of Congress—although polls are looking much better for them in the House of Representatives than in the Senate. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Sunday, October 14 showed an 11% advantage over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot. But while Democrats, according to pollster Nate Silver, have a four in five chance (roughly 81.3%) of retaking the House on November 6, their chances of retaking the Senate are only one in five (18.7%). Democrats have many different paths to victory in the House, whereas in the Senate, they are facing a steep uphill climb.

But even in the absence of a Democratic Senate, a Democrat-controlled House could be a major thorn in Trump’s side and result in the type of gridlock that President Barack Obama faced from January 2011 on. Obama suffered a major setback when Republicans regained the House in the 2010 midterms, and gridlock would be returning to Washington, DC with enough Democratic wins in the House next month.

Here are five ways in which a Democratic House majority—even with Republicans keeping control of the Senate—could do a lot to impede Trump’s far-right agenda in 2019.

1. A Democratic House Majority Would Never Vote to Overturn Obamacare

Republicans haven’t given up the idea of overturning the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare. In 2017, the House voted to overturn the ACA, which just barely survived in the Senate—and if Republicans maintain their House and Senate majorities in the 2018 midterms, there is a strong possibility that they will take another crack at overturning the ACA next year. But with a Democratic House majority/Senate GOP majority scenario in 2019, an ACA-killing bill would never make it to President Trump’s desk to sign.

2. A Democratic House Would Not Privatize Medicare or Social Security

Republicans don’t give up on terrible ideas when they run into a brick wall; they double down on them. President George W. Bush received a great deal of criticism when he called for the privatization of Social Security, but all that criticism hasn’t prevented House Speaker Paul Ryan from fantasizing about privatizing an equally popular government program: Medicare. Ryan (who isn’t seeking reelection in 2018) would love to see traditional Medicare replaced with the privatized voucher program he fantasizes about in his Ayn Randian world, and he would love to privatize Social Security as well. But no GOP-sponsored bills calling for the privatization of Medicare or Social Security would be passed in a Democrat-controlled House in 2019.

3. A Democrat-Controlled House Would Not Vote to Outlaw Abortion Nationwide

With Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh having been confirmed to the U.S. Senate, there is a very strong possibility that Roe v. Wade will be overturned—which would not be a nationwide ban on abortion, but would allow abortion’s legality or illegality to be determined on a state-by-state basis. Post-Roe, one might see a scenario in which, for example, abortion would be illegal in Texas but legal across the state line in New Mexico—or illegal in Idaho but legal to the west in Washington State. However, the end of Roe would allow Republicans to outlaw abortion nationwide via Congress, and Trump would jump at the chance to make the Christian Right happy by signing a nationwide abortion ban into law. Such a ban, however, would not come about if Democrats regained the House on November 6. Roe v. Wade’s days are probably numbered, but at least half the U.S. would maintain safe and legal abortion with a Democratic House majority.

4. A Democratic House Could Investigate Trump-Related Scandals

If Republicans lose the House but keep the Senate, the chances of President Trump being removed from office via the impeachment process are slim and none. Even if a Democratic House voted to impeach Trump, the president would most likely be acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial under Sen. Mitch McConnell’s leadership. And a Democratic House majority might be fearful of overplaying its hand. But that doesn’t mean that Democrats wouldn’t be launching some very aggressive Trump-related investigations via the House if they had a majority, especially with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-related probe continuing to move along at a rapid pace. Trump has turned out to be, hands down, the U.S.’ most scandal-plagued president since Richard “Watergate” Nixon, and with the power of committees, a Democrat-controlled House could do a lot of investigating.

5. A Democrat-Dominated House Could Torpedo Additional GOP Tax Cuts for the 1%

The GOP-sponsored Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017—which gave massive tax breaks to giant corporations while offering precious little tax relief to the U.S.’ embattled poor and middle class—isn’t going to be overturned anytime soon. But if Democrats regain the House on November 6, that would prevent Republicans from expanding it and giving even more tax breaks to the 1%.


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« Reply #3200 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:26 AM »


Study says over half of US citizens can be hunted down with a drop of their DNA

Mike Wehner
BGR
10/17/2018

If you’ve ever succumbed to the temptation to have your DNA sequenced by a genealogy company you probably learned some pretty interesting things about your heritage. You might have discovered that parts of you come from places you never expected, or that your recent ancestors are something of an offshoot on your larger family tree.

Whatever the reasons for your decision, you handed over your DNA to a company, and if you chose to make that genetic information public in a searchable database you’re contributing to a DNA privacy crisis that is just beginning to take shape.

In a new study published in Science, researchers led by Yaniv Erlich of Columbia University took on the seemingly incredible task of attempting to identify an individual based just on their DNA and a few seemingly mundane details about their life.

“Using genomic data of 1.28 million individuals tested with consumer genomics, we investigated the power of this technique,” the researchers write. “We project that about 60% of the searches for individuals of European-descent will result in a third cousin or closer match, which can allow their identification using demographic identifiers.”

The meteoric rise of DNA testing for entertainment purposes and family history searches has resulted in over a million genetic sequences being available via public searches. Companies like GEDmatch let you compare your genome with countless others in search of relatives, and with a little guesswork it’s fairly easy to triangulate the position of an individual on a family tree.

To prove this point, the researchers started with DNA information and a couple of basic details about an individual and, after finding a couple of their relatives via genetic archiving services they were able to determine who the person was without so much as a phone call.

A similar cross-referencing technique was recently used to break the long-cold case of the Golden State Killer after a relative’s DNA popped up on a genetic testing site. That was obviously a positive outcome in the search for the culprit, but the fact that a person can be identified by their DNA even if they themselves have never made it available to a genetic testing company is somewhat spooky.

Ultimately, the researchers found that over half of U.S. citizens have at least a third cousin match in DNA databases, and roughly 15 percent have even closer relatives to link to. Those numbers are growing every day, and it might not be long before just about anyone can be identified thanks to their relatives’ genetic markers.


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« Reply #3201 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:29 AM »


'We've Made History': Ireland Joins France, Germany and Bulgaria in Banning Fracking​

Ecowatch
10/17/2018

Ireland is set to ban onshore fracking after its Senate passed legislation on Wednesday that outlawed the controversial drilling technique.

The Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016 now awaits Irish President Michael D. Higgins' signature. The president is expected to sign it into law "in the coming days."

The Emerald Isle will join three other European Union member states, France, Germany and Bulgaria that have banned the practice on land.

Fine Gael TD Tony McLoughlin introduced the private member's bill—meaning it was not introduced by the government—last year. The bill passed Ireland's Parliament in May.

'We've made history," McLoughlin tweeted after the vote and called it one of the "proudest moments in my political career."

McLoughlin also issued a statement that mentioned the impact of fracking in the U.S.:

This law will mean communities in the West and North West of Ireland will be safeguarded from the negative effects of hydraulic fracking. Counties such as Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan and Clare will no longer face negative effects like those seen in cities and towns in the United States, where many areas have now decided to implement similar bans to the one before us.

If fracking was allowed to take place in Ireland and Northern Ireland it would pose significant threats to the air, water and the health and safety of individuals and communities here.

Fracking must be seen as a serious public health and environmental concern for Ireland.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth Ireland celebrated the bill's passage.

"A day to celebrate. A day for #ClimatePride. The Irish parliament has passed a law to #BanFracking. Here's to a #FossilFree future," the group tweeted:


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« Reply #3202 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:30 AM »


Humanity Chopping Down Tree of Life, New Research Warns

By Jessica Corbett
Ecowatch
10/17/2018

Underscoring the urgent need for increased and intensely focused conservation efforts, new research shows that human activity worldwide is wiping out plant and animal life—including our own—so rapidly that evolution can't keep up.

Paleontologist and lead researcher Matt Davis of Denmark's Aarhus University warned, "We are starting to cut down the whole tree [of life], including the branch we are sitting on right now."

"We are doing something that will last millions of years beyond us," Davis told the Guardian. "It shows the severity of what we are in right now. We're entering what could be an extinction on the scale of what killed the dinosaurs."

The analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, specifically focused on mammals that currently exist as well as those which went extinct as humans spread across the globe, but it provides insight on the broader biodiversity crisis. It adds to a growing body of recent research that has warned of imminent mass extinction driven by unsustainable human activity, the climate crisis, and inadequate conservation efforts.

Even under the best circumstances, with dramatic improvements to current conservation work, the new analysis posited it will take 3-5 million years "just to diversify enough to regenerate the branches of the evolutionary tree that they are expected to lose over the next 50 years. In addition, the study found it could take 5-7 million years "to restore biodiversity to its level before modern humans evolved," according to a statement outlining the findings.

The degree of biodiversity loss over the next five decades will be significantly influenced by the changes to current human behaviors, or lack thereof—but the impact of losing species can vary greatly.

"Large mammals, or megafauna, such as giant sloths and saber-toothed tigers, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago, were highly evolutionarily distinct. Since they had few close relatives, their extinctions meant that entire branches of Earth's evolutionary tree were chopped off," Davis explained. Today, meanwhile, "there are hundreds of species of shrew, so they can weather a few extinctions."

While Davis said that "we have no reason to assume we will ever be able to bring extinction rates back down to normal background levels," he pointed out that the new research "highlights species we should try to save and could help us prioritize conservation."

"We once lived in a world of giants: giant beavers, giant armadillos, giant deer, etc., we now live in a world that is becoming increasingly impoverished of large wild mammalian species. The few remaining giants, such as rhinos and elephants, are in danger of being wiped out very rapidly," noted Jens-Christian Svenning from Aarhus University.

The team determined that species which could benefit from extra conservation efforts now—before it's too late to save them—include the black rhino, the red panda, and the indri. As Davis concluded, "It is much easier to save biodiversity now than to re-evolve it later."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.


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« Reply #3203 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:32 AM »


As Scientists Sound Climate Change Alarm, States Lead on Solutions

By Abigail Dillen
Ecowatch
10/17/2018


The world's leading panel of climate experts sounded the alarm this week that we are running out of time to get rising temperatures under control. Its latest report calls for "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented" steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, from worsening wildfires and extreme drought to rising sea levels and more powerful storms. It also reminds us what is at stake if we fail to act: our health, our food and water security, our environment and our economy.

These risks are no longer hypothetical. Across the country, we are already seeing the devastating impacts of extreme weather fueled by climate change. As the Carolinas deal with the aftermath of catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Florence and Florida deals with Hurricane Michael, wildfires across the West have burned an area larger than the state of Maryland.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is ignoring the threat of climate change and continuing its assault on critical protections of our air, water, land and wildlife. With a president determined to prop up the fossil fuel industry at the expense of public health and the environment, it is easy to feel discouraged.

But there is reason for hope.

States Are Picking Up the Federal Government's Slack

In the absence of leadership in Washington, DC, states are stepping up to the plate. They are building powerful and diverse coalitions that center the voices of those most directly impacted by pollution. They are standing by our international climate commitments, despite President Trump's pledge to withdraw from the Paris agreement. And they are enacting smart policies that move us towards a clean energy future, even as the Trump administration tries to turn back the clock.

California recently passed SB 100, committing the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

This is no small feat for the fifth largest economy in the world, and one of the nation's largest oil producing states. California is already home to half a million clean energy jobs, and this move accelerates the state's momentum towards a carbon-free grid. With SB 100, California is proving that a healthy environment and a thriving economy can—and must—go hand-in-hand.

California follows Hawaii, which passed a similar measure in 2015 to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. And in Massachusetts, the state Senate recently passed a bill to power the state with 100 percent renewable energy by 2047. As clean energy becomes increasingly affordable, these targets are within our reach.

Inclusivity Is the Key to Smart Climate Policy

This November, voters in Washington state will consider a ballot initiative that would cement the state's leadership on climate change. Initiative 1631 would impose a modest fee on the state's largest climate polluters, generating billions in revenue for clean energy infrastructure, clean transportation options, job training and the local communities most impacted by pollution. The initiative would become the first-of-its-kind to be enacted directly by voters.

Initiative 1631 was crafted through an inclusive process that brought stakeholders together from more than 250 organizations. It is backed by tribal nations, groups representing communities of color, health professionals, businesses, scientists, faith groups and clean energy advocates. The result is a thoughtful approach that will ensure a smooth—and just—transition to clean energy.

Both SB 100 and Initiative 1631 demonstrate how inclusivity and collaboration lead to smart climate policy that benefits all of us. They also underscore the critical role of states in solving our climate crisis, especially at a time when politicians in DC are letting us down.

At Earthjustice, we're fighting the Trump administration's attempts to gut environmental protections with more than 100 lawsuits filed in federal court—many of which attempt to protect communities and the planet from pollution caused by fossil fuels. We're working to ensure that our transition to clean energy advances equity and justice for those communities impacted most by climate change. And we're partnering with states on the frontlines of our climate fight that are setting an example for the country and the world.

Even in the Trump era, progress is possible on climate change—and states must continue to lead the way.


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« Reply #3204 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:43 AM »


In Ethiopian leader’s new cabinet, half the ministers are women

Ethiopia's newly appointed ministers take their oath of office on Tuesday at the parliament in the capital

By Paul Schemm
October 17 2018
WA Post

ADDIS ABABA, Ethi­o­pia — Ethiopia’s reformist prime minister announced Tuesday a new cabinet that is half female, in an unprecedented push for gender parity in Africa’s second-most-populous nation.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has marked his nearly seven months in office with staggering reforms for this once authoritarian country, notably releasing thousands of political prisoners, making peace with Ethiopia’s main enemy, Eritrea, and promising to open up the economy.

The new cabinet, which reduces ministerial positions from 28 to 20, has women in the top security posts for the first time in Ethiopia’s history. Aisha Mohammed will be in charge of defense, and Muferiat Kamil, a former parliamentary speaker, will head the newly formed Ministry of Peace.

In some ways, this could be one of the most important ministries in the government, though its name has garnered a degree of criticism on social media for its Orwellian sound. It oversees the federal police, the intelligence services and the information security agency, and it will take the lead in tackling much of the ethnic unrest that has swept the countryside since Abiy’s reforms.

“Our women ministers will disprove the adage that women can’t lead,” Abiy said in Parliament.

Although women have been in the cabinet before, they often held minor positions. In the new cabinet, in addition to defense and security, women will head the ministries of trade, transport and labor, as well as culture, science and revenue.

Ethiopia’s newly appointed Minister of National Defence, Aisha Mohammed, arrives to take her oath of office on Tuesday at the parliament in Addis Ababa. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Awol Allo, an expert on Ethi­o­pia at Britain’s Keele University, said this was especially important because the lack of gender equality is a persistent problem in the country, which has strong patriarchal traditions.

“It is a very important and progressive move on the part of the prime minister and very consistent with the transformative agendas he’s been pursuing,” Allo said. “I also think it sends a strong message to young Ethio­pian women that one day they can take up positions in the government.”

Also represented in the new cabinet are often marginalized ethnic groups. A diverse nation of about 80 ethnicities, Ethi­o­pia has long been dominated by just a few groups.

Aisha, the new defense minister, comes from the arid and predominantly Muslim Afar region, while Finance Minister Ahmed Shide is from the Somali region.

Hallelujah Lulie, an analyst based in Addis Ababa, pointed out the presence in the cabinet of two Muslim women who wear headscarves, an important inclusion in a country that is one-third Muslim.

“Muslims were historically underrepresented,” he said. “It is a good move. It projects a good image. It’s inspiring in many ways.”

While much depends on how the new cabinet will tackle the country’s many challenges, including job creation for an overwhelmingly young population and a difficult transition away from an authoritarian system, Hallelujah predicted that the new cabinet would calm tensions and set an important precedent.

Abiy was elected by the ruling party after years of anti-government protests shook the country. He immediately embarked on reforms and has promised free and competitive elections in 2020. The ruling party currently holds all the seats in Parliament.

The transition has not been easy. In the past year alone, ethnic strife has displaced 1.4 million people as old scores were being settled amid a security vacuum.

In many parts of the country, the struggle against the previous regime left government structures weak or nonexistent, making it difficult to enforce the rule of law.

The once repressive police and army, which had operated with impunity, also have been struggling to determine their roles in the new environment.

“The state is still functioning in the hangover of an authoritarian regime,” Hallelujah said. “The army and the federal police are still having a hard time finding that balance and equilibrium between enforcing the law and respecting human rights.”

The country got a scare on Oct. 10 when 240 armed soldiers marched up to the prime minister’s residence demanding pay raises and provoking fears of a coup.

In the end, they were invited inside — without their weapons — and were met by top officials, including Abiy, a former military man, who then did push-ups with the soldiers.

“Democracy is an existential issue for Ethi­o­pia. There is no option but multi-partyism,” Abiy said in an interview published Tuesday.

“Inclusiveness and coexistence is critical in Ethiopia because of differences in terms of tribalism, and religion and the virtually feudal system of land ownership which prevailed in the past,” he said.


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« Reply #3205 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:47 AM »

Sexism, racism drive more black women to run for office in both Brazil and US

The Conversation
17 Oct 2018 at 06:47 ET                   

Motivated in part by President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about women and the numerous claims that he committed sexual assault, American women are running for state and national office in historic numbers. At least 255 women are on the ballot as major party congressional candidates in the November general election.

The surge includes a record number of women of color, many of whom say their candidacies reflect a personal concern about America’s increasingly hostile, even violent, racial dynamics. In addition to the 59 black female congressional candidates, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams hopes to become her state’s first black governor.

The U.S. is not the only place where the advance of racism and misogyny in politics has has spurred black women to run for office at unprecedented levels.

In Brazil, a record 1,237 black women will be on the ballot this Sunday in the country’s Oct. 7 general election.

Brazilian women rise up

I’m a scholar of black feminism in the Americas, so I have been closely watching Brazil’s 2018 campaign season – which has been marked by controversy around race and gender – for parallels with the United States.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of Brazilian women marched nationwide against the far-right presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro, under the banner of #EleNao – #NotHim.

Bolsonaro, a pro-gun, anti-abortion congressman with strong evangelical backing, once told a fellow congressional representative that she “didn’t deserve to be raped” because she was “terrible and ugly.”

Bolsonaro has seen a boost in the polls since he was stabbed at a campaign rally on Sept. 8 in a politically motivated attack.

Brazil has shifted rightward since 2016, when the left-leaning female president Dilma Rousseff was ousted in a partisan impeachment process that many progressives regard as a political coup.

Her successor, then-Vice President Michel Temer, quickly passed an austerity budget that reversed many progressive policies enacted under Rousseff and her predecessor, Workers Party founder Luís Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

The move decimated funding for agencies and laws that protect women, people of color and the very poor.
Racism in Brazil

In Brazil, these three categories – women, people of color and the very poor – tend to overlap.

Brazil, which has more people of African descent than most African nations, was the largest slaveholding society in the Americas. Over 4 million enslaved Africans were forcibly taken to the country between 1530 and 1888.

Brazil’s political, social and economic dynamics still reflect this history.

Though Brazil has long considered itself colorblind, black and indigenous Brazilians are poorer than their white compatriots. Black women also experience sexual violence at much higher rates than white women – a centuries-old abuse of power that dates back to slavery.

Afro-Brazilians – who make up just over half of Brazil’s 200 million people, according to the 2010 census – are also underrepresented in Brazilian politics, though sources disagree on exactly how few black Brazilians hold public office.

Three Afro-Brazilians serve in the Senate, including one woman. In the 513-member lower Chamber of Deputies, about 20 percent identify as black or brown. Women of color hold around 1 percent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Black women step into the fray

That could change on Sunday.

This year, 9,204 of the 27,208 people running for office across Brazil are women, which reflects a law requiring political parties to nominate at least 30 percent women. About 13 percent of female candidates in 2018 are Afro-Brazilian.

In most Brazilian states, that’s a marked increase over Brazil’s last general election, in 2014, according to the online publication Congresso em Foco.

In São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous state, 105 black women ran for office in 2014. This year, 166 are. In Bahia state, there are 106 black female candidates for political office, versus 59 in 2014. The number has likewise doubled in Minas Gerais, from 51 in 2014 to 105 this year.

As in the United States, Brazil’s black wave may be a direct response to alarming social trends, including sharp rises in gang violence and police brutality, both of which disproportionately affect black communities.

But many female candidates in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s second largest city, say one specific event inspired them to run.

In March, Marielle Franco, an Afro-Brazilian human rights activist and Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, was assassinated – the 11th Brazilian activist to be murdered since November 2017.

Franco’s murder remains unsolved, but she was an outspoken critic of the military occupation of Rio’s poor, mostly black favela neighborhoods. The ongoing police investigation has implicated government agents in the shooting, which also killed her driver.

Her death unleashed an avalanche of activism among black women in Rio de Janeiro, with new groups offering fundraising and political training for female candidates of color.

On Sunday, 231 black women from Rio de Janeiro state will stand for election in local, state and federal races – more than any other state in Brazil and more than double the number who ran in 2014.
Black representation from Rio to Atlanta

Black women may have been historically excluded from Brazil’s formal political arena, but they have been a driving force for social and political change since the country’s transition from dictatorship to democracy in 1985.

Decades before #MeToo, Brazilian women of color were on the front lines of activism around issues like gender-based violence, sexual harassment and abortion.

Brazil has hundreds of black women’s groups. Some, including Geledes, a center for public policy, are mainstays of the Brazilian human rights movement. The founder of the Rio de Janeiro anti-racism group Criola, Jurema Werneck, is now the director of Amnesty International in Brazil.

The fact that thousands of black women, both veteran activists and political newcomers, will appear on the ballot on Sunday is testament to their efforts.

As in the United States, black Brazilian women’s demand for political representation is deeply personal. They have watched as their mostly male and conservative-dominated congresses chipped away at hard-won protections for women and people of color in recent years, exposing the fragility of previous decades’ progress on race and gender.

Black women in Brazil and the U.S. know that full democracy hinges on full participation. By entering into politics, they hope to foster more inclusive and equitable societies for all.The Conversation

Kia Lilly Caldwell, Professor, African, African American, and Diaspora Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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« Reply #3206 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:50 AM »

Jamal Khashoggi: gory reports of killing emerge as Pompeo meets Erdoğan

Press reports leaked audio suggesting journalist was drugged, killed and dismembered

Bethan McKernan in Istanbul
Guardian
Wed 17 Oct 2018 10.30 BST

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has landed in Ankara for crisis talks with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over the journalist Jamal Khashoggi as officials leaked gory details of what they claim was his murder in the Saudi consulate.

The dissident journalist was killed minutes after he arrived at the building to pick up marriage paperwork on 2 October, according to US and Turkish press reports of what the officials say are audio recordings that prove he was beaten and drugged, then brutally killed and dismembered.

The US president, Donald Trump, on Tuesday defended Saudi Arabia in the face of mounting allegations that Riyadh was involved in the Saudi journalist’s alleged killing.

The Wall Street Journal, citing Turkish official who had heard the recording, said Khashoggi was allegedly killed and dismembered in the office of the Saudi consul general, Mohammad al-Otaibi, who was in the room at the time. A voice on the recording can be heard inviting him to leave, the report said.

Forensics expert Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy is reportedly heard putting on headphones to listen to music as he begins to dismember the body, and encouraging other people in the room to do the same.

According to Middle East Eye, Khashoggi was dragged from the office to Otaibi’s study next door, where Tubaigy began cutting up his body on a table while he was still alive.

Pompeo met Erdoğan and the foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, within the confines of Ankara’s Esenboga airport on Wednesday morning, a day after the Turkish president had said police had found freshly painted walls and “toxic” substances during a search of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where Khashoggi was last seen alive two weeks ago.

Turkish media on Wednesday expected Pompeo to bring answers with him from Riyadh, his previous stop, where he met with King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir. The secretary of state described the visit as “highly successful” and said the Saudis had promised to carry out a “thorough, complete and transparent investigation”.

Pompeo’s faith in the Saudi authorities to cooperate with the investigation into Khashoggi’s fate was echoed by Trump, who said in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday night that Riyadh had again denied it had anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance and remained “innocent until proven guilty”.

The US’s defence of its most important Arab ally may become harder to maintain as further damning details into Khashoggi’s alleged murder emerge and its links to the powerful crown prince.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that four of the men identified by Turkish media as part of a 15-man hit squad sent from Riyadh to silence Khashoggi were members of Bin Salman’s personal security detail. Another, the forensics doctor al-Tubaigy, holds a senior position in the Saudi interior ministry.

The suspects’ direct links to the Saudi establishment weakens the suggestion made by Trump that the hit could have been carried out by “rogue killers” in an unauthorised operation.

Investigators believe Khashoggi’s body was then taken to the consul general’s house nearby, where it was disposed of.

Police set up barricades outside the consul general’s residence on Tuesday evening in order to carry out a planned search of the premises, but Turkey is waiting for a joint agreement with the Saudis to search the residence. Under the Vienna convention, diplomatic missions are considered foreign soil.

The consul general himself, who has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted, left Turkey on a commercial flight to Riyadh hours before his house became part of the criminal investigation.

A search of the house and some diplomatic vehicles was planned for Wednesday evening, as well as a second sweep of the consulate premises.

The G7 foreign ministers said in a statement on Wednesday that they remained “very troubled” by Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“We, the G7 foreign ministers, of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the high representative of the European Union, affirm our commitment to defending freedom of expression and protection of a free press.

“Those bearing responsibility for his disappearance must be held to account. We encourage Turkish-Saudi collaboration and look forward to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducting a thorough, credible, transparent, and prompt investigation, as announced.”

*************

The Jamal Khashoggi Case: Suspects Had Ties to Saudi Crown Prince

By David D. Kirkpatrick, Malachy Browne, Ben Hubbard and David Botti
NY Times
Oct. 17, 2018

ISTANBUL — One of the suspects identified by Turkey in the disappearance of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was a frequent companion of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — seen disembarking from airplanes with him in Paris and Madrid and photographed standing guard during his visits this year to Houston, Boston and the United Nations.

Three others are linked by witnesses and other records to the Saudi crown prince’s security detail.

A fifth is a forensic doctor who holds senior positions in the Saudi Interior Ministry and medical establishment, a figure of such stature that he could be directed only by a high-ranking Saudi authority.

If, as the Turkish authorities say, these men were present at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Mr. Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2, they might provide a direct link between what happened and Prince Mohammed. That would undercut any suggestion that Mr. Khashoggi died in a rogue operation unsanctioned by the crown prince. Their connection to him could also make it more difficult for the White House and Congress to accept such an explanation.

The New York Times has confirmed independently that at least nine of 15 suspects identified by Turkish authorities worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries. One of them, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was a diplomat assigned to the Saudi Embassy in London in 2007, according to a British diplomatic roster. He traveled extensively with the crown prince, perhaps as a bodyguard.

How much blame for Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance or death settles on the 33-year-old crown prince has become a decisive factor in his standing in the eyes of the West and within the royal family.

The prince has presented himself as a reformer intent on opening up the kingdom’s economy and culture, and has used that image to try to influence White House policy in the region and to woo Western investors to help diversify the Saudi economy.

But the international revulsion at the reported assassination and mutilation of a single newspaper columnist — Mr. Khashoggi, who wrote for The Washington Post — has already sullied that image far more than previous missteps by the crown prince, from miring his country in a catastrophic war in Yemen to kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon.

The crown prince and his father, King Salman, have denied any knowledge of Mr. Khashoggi’s whereabouts, repeatedly asserting that he left the consulate freely. Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

But in the last few days, as major American businesses have withdrawn from a marquee investment conference in Riyadh and members of Congress have stepped up called for sanctions, the United States, Turkey and Saudi Arabia appear to have been searching for a face-saving way out.

The royal court was expected to acknowledge that Mr. Khashoggi was killed in the consulate, and to blame an intelligence agent for botching an operation to interrogate Mr. Khashoggi that ended up killing him.

President Trump floated the possibility on Monday that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of “rogue killers.”

But such explanations would run up against a host of hard-to-explain obstacles.

The suspects’ positions in the Saudi government and their links to the crown prince could make it more difficult to absolve him of responsibility.

The presence of a forensic doctor who specializes in autopsies suggests the operation may have had a lethal intent from the start.

Turkish officials have said they possess evidence that the 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on Oct. 2, assassinated Mr. Khashoggi, dismembered his body with a bone saw they had brought for the purpose, and flew out the same day. Records show that two private jets chartered by a Saudi company with close ties to the Saudi crown prince and Interior Ministry arrived and left Istanbul on the day of Mr. Khashoggi’s disappearance.

The Price They Pay

Turkish officials said Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulate. That timeline would not have allowed much time for an interrogation to go awry.

The Times gathered more information about the suspects using facial recognition, publicly available records, social media profiles, a database of Saudi cellphone numbers, Saudi news reports, leaked Saudi government documents and in some cases the accounts of witnesses in Saudi Arabia and countries the crown prince has visited.

Mr. Mutreb, the former diplomat in London, was photographed emerging from airplanes with Prince Mohammed on recent trips to Madrid and Paris. He was also photographed in Houston, Boston and the United Nations during the crown prince’s visits there, often glowering as he surveyed a crowd.

A French professional who has worked with the Saudi royal family identified a second suspect, Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi, as a member of the security team that travels with the crown prince.

A Saudi news outlet reported that someone with the same name as a third suspect, Thaar Ghaleb al-Harbi, was promoted last year to the rank of lieutenant in the Saudi royal guard for bravery in the defense of Prince Mohammed’s palace in Jeddah.

A fourth suspect traveled with a passport bearing the name of another member of the royal guard, Muhammed Saad Alzahrani. A search of the name in Menom3ay, an app popular in Saudi Arabia that allows users to see the names other users have associated with certain phone numbers, identified him as a member of the royal guard. A guard wearing a name tag with that name appears in a video from 2017 standing next to Prince Mohammed.

Members of the royal guard or aides who traveled with the crown prince may not report directly to him and may sometimes take on other duties. It is possible that some could have been recruited for an expedition to capture or interrogate Mr. Khashoggi, perhaps led by a senior intelligence official. But the presence among the suspects of an autopsy expert, Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, suggests that killing might have been part of the original plan.

Dr. Tubaigy, who maintained a presence on several social media platforms, identified himself on his Twitter account as the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics and held lofty positions in the kingdom’s premier medical school as well as in its Interior Ministry. He studied at the University of Glasgow and in 2015 he spent three months in Australia as a visiting forensic pathologist at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine. His published writings include works on dissection and mobile autopsies.

Although there is no public record of a relationship between him and the royal court, such a senior figure in the Saudi medical establishment was unlikely to join a rogue expedition organized by an underling.

Dr. Tubaigy, whose name first appeared among reports of the suspects several days ago, has not publicly addressed the allegations. None of the suspects could be reached for comment.

David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Istanbul, Malachy Browne from New York, Ben Hubbard from Beirut, and David Botti in New York. Reporting was contributed by Alissa J. Rubin in Paris; Carlotta Gall in Istanbul; Adam Goldman and Christiaan Triebert in Washington; Karam Shoumali in Berlin; and Bian Elkhatib, Christoph Koettl and Barbara Marcolini in New York.


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« Reply #3207 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:52 AM »

Palestinians accuse Australian PM of jeopardising Middle East peace

Scott Morrison’s remarks about Jerusalem and embassy part of attempt to ‘win byelection’

Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem
Guardian
7 Oct 2018 15.02 BST

A senior adviser to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has accused Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, of destroying the chances of Middle East peace in order to win a byelection, after Morrison said he may recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Nabil Shaath said on Tuesday that Palestinian officials were now lobbying Arab countries to reassess their trade and political ties with Canberra, hours after diplomats from 13 Middle Eastern and north African embassies in Australia held an emergency meeting on the issue.

After Donald Trump’s move, Morrison announced on Tuesday that he was considering relocating the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognising the latter city as the Israeli capital.

Within hours, the speech had also drawn ire from two of Australia’s key regional neighbours – Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim-majority countries. Jakarta expressed “strong concern”, while Malaysia’s “prime minister-in-waiting” Anwar Ibrahim said Australia could jeopardise its relations with Asian countries.

Morrison’s Liberal party faces a potential byelection upset in what was previously considered a safe seat in the key Sydney electorate of Wentworth. If his party does not win, the coalition government will lose its one-seat majority in parliament.

The Liberal candidate for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, denied that the Morrison’s announcement, which signals the reversal of a 70-year foreign policy stance by Australia, was connected to the byelection.

However, the constituency is home to a sizeable Jewish population and Morrison credited Sharma – also a former ambassador to Israel – for convincing him that the embassy move was a “sensible suggestion”.

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Shaath, a former foreign minister, said Morrison’s announcement was a hostile action that destroyed the chances of peace.

“This doesn’t really help. It might increase the chances of the government winning Wentworth in Australia,” he said. “But if this is the way you do politics in the Middle East in order to win a byelection in Australia, then please allow me to be very negative towards the policy of that Australian government.

“We’ll do our best that it will cause damage to Australia’s relations with the Arab world … This is a policy that brings nothing but ruin.”

The status of Jerusalem has been one of the most sensitive issues in past Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. As well as the West Bank and Gaza, Israel captured the eastern side of the city in 1967 from Jordanian forces. It later annexed those neighbourhoods where thousands of Palestinians live, to global condemnation.

International consensus has been that Jerusalem’s status should be settled in a peace deal and recognising it as a capital for either side would prejudice one party over the other. If Australia went ahead with the move, it would join just the US and Guatemala, which also relocated their embassy this year.

A Christian evangelical, Morrison came to power in August on the back of a revolt by conservatives in his party. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has looked to evangelicals for support, many of whom see the Jerusalem being Israel’s capital as consistent with biblical prophecy of the second coming of Jesus and the rapture. However, Morrison denies his religion was a factor in his announcement.

He and his foreign minister released a joint statement amid the diplomatic fallout, saying that any decision on Jerusalem would be “subject to a rigorous assessment”. They added that Australia was committed to a two-state solutionand an embassy move would not block Palestinian claims over the eastern part of the city.

Sharma, they said, had suggested recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “without prejudice to its final boundaries, while acknowledging East Jerusalem as the expected capital of a future Palestinian state. Specifically, the government will examine the merits of moving Australia’s embassy to west Jerusalem.”

But Shaath disputed the rational, saying: “Claiming that considering Jerusalem the capital of the state of Israel and moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem will contribute towards a regional peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians? What logic is this?”

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, also said the proposal would not help Middle East peace. “We support a two-state solution and our view has been that any shift in representation, in the way we saw with the United States, does not move us closer to that peaceful resolution,” she said.

Morrison said the government would review the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama-era pact that Trump has withdrawn the US from and Netanyahu has been pressing other countries to ditch. The move would put Australia at odds with European signatories who still back an agreement that aims to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.


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« Reply #3208 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:56 AM »


Canada legalizes marijuana: here's everything you need to know

Where can you buy it? Can you grow your own? Can you smoke and drive? And will Canada legalize other drugs now, too?

Drew Brown
Guardian
10/17/2018

When can I buy marijuana?

The government had intended for recreational marijuana use to be legalized by 1 July 2018. Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, passed its third reading in the House of Commons last fall, and Trudeau has emphasised that it will be implemented without delay.

But the bill is still under scrutiny in the Senate, which has repeatedly threatened to send it back to the House for amendment. Some indigenous leaders have also expressed concern that the act does not allow them to regulate or ban the sale of pot on their land as they can with alcohol, and that – in violation of section 35 of the constitution – they were never consulted about these legislative changes. Both challenges could delay legalization until parliament’s fall sitting.

But whenever legalization does occur, don’t expect to rush out and buy anything that day. The government anticipates a two- or three-month transition period before cannabis may be legally bought or sold.

Where can I buy it?

Because the details of legalization have fallen to the provinces, that depends on where you are in Canada. In Alberta, recreational cannabis will be widely available at 17 private retailers across the province, while in Ontario sales will be exclusively online until later in the year. Most of the other provinces are a blend of these two approaches; in Newfoundland and Labrador, you will be able to buy weed at stores run by the province’s liquor board. Few of the country’s suddenly ubiquitous (and illegal) marijuana dispensaries are likely to survive the transition to licensed retailing.

How will I know what I’m buying?

Health Canada guidelines stipulate that packaging has to list all the information a consumer needs to make an informed decision, including the name of the producer, the name of the marijuana strain, and its THC/CBD content. This includes a large disclaimer about the health risks associated with pot. For maximum safety, product packaging is designed to be so terrifyingly bland that no one would ever accidentally mistake its contents for something fun.

How much weed can I have?

Adults are allowed to carry up to 30g of dried cannabis (or its equivalent) in a “public space”, which means that’s all you can buy at any one time. Note that “public space” includes your personal vehicle. If you’re caught out in public with more than 30g, you can face up to five years in prison.
Can I bake it into brownies?

You are free to consume your marijuana recreationally in any manner you see fit, so long as you keep it away from children. (New Brunswick will also require you to store your weed in a locked room or container, not unlike a firearm.)

But you won’t be able to buy pre-made edibles or other marijuana extracts until exactly one year after the Cannabis Act comes into effect, sometime in 2019.

Can I drive high?

No! This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, foremost being that it is both dangerous and illegal. Under the Liberals’ proposed inclusion of stoned driving under the criminal code, bill C-46, THC levels of five nanograms per millilitre of blood are penalized in three tiers: a minimum fine of $1,000 for the first offence; minimum 30 days’ imprisonment for a second offence; and a minimum of 120 days in jail for the third and any subsequent offences. These penalties get significantly steeper if you maim or kill anybody, from two years to life behind bars. Less than 5ng but more than 2.5ng could mean a fine of up to $1,000.
Should I grow my own weed at home? Here's what you need to know
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Proving marijuana impairment is more difficult. Unlike booze, there is no breathalyzer for pot, nor is there a clear consensus about how high is too high to drive. Alcohol is metabolized at a standard rate, but THC affects users differently depending on their age, genetic background, size, history of use and method of ingestion, and it remains detectable in urine for days, weeks or months after.

Currently, police officers can only order a standardized field sobriety test to drivers they suspect may be intoxicated. If the driver fails, they can demand a further 12-step drug recognition expert evaluation; the expert gauges impairment and orders further blood or saliva tests. C-46 would grant officers the power to do mandatory breathalyzer testing on any lawfully stopped car, and they can demand roadside testing of oral fluid if they suspect a driver is high. They can also pre-emptively demand blood samples if they order a DRE evaluation. (It is worth mentioning that a CBC investigation found DRE testing was unscientific, roughly as accurate as a coin flip and prone to false arrests.)

C-46 would also increase maximum sentencing for impaired driving offences, from a minimum of 14 years to life in prison in cases causing bodily harm or death. These heightened penalties mean impaired driving offences now fall under the category of “serious criminality” in Canadian law. This means foreign nationals with a previous conviction can be barred from entering the country, and permanent residents in Canada charged with a single impaired driving offence could potentially face deportation.

Driving high is not the worth the risk.

I live in a rural area and my neighbour wants to buy a couple of grams from me to save a trip to town. Is that OK?

Absolutely not. Unless you are a licensed retailer, it is illegal for one adult to sell cannabis to another. Anyone found selling marijuana without a license will face fines up to $5,000 or up to 14 years in prison. You are, however, allowed to freely share your drugs with your friends.

Can I give some to the bright and earnest 16-year-old next door in desperate need of escape from their broken home and/or crushing suburban ennui?

Providing a minor with even so much as the shake from the bottom of your bag risks you a $5,000 fine, or up to 14 years in jail.

Can I grow my own?

Federal guidelines allow recreational users to grow up to four plants per household, up to a metre tall. Most provinces have acceded to this suggestion, with some (like British Columbia) stipulating that the plants must be grown in a secure location out of public view.

In Manitoba and Quebec, however, home growing is illegal. Landlords in some provinces are also pushing for the right to ban tenants from growing cannabis in their rental properties.

Also: do not move your plants while they’re budding or flowering! Appearing in a public space with a blooming cannabis plant nets you a fine up to $5,000, or five years behind bars.

Can I smoke weed at work?

Your employer has final authority on drug policy in the workplace. Legalization isn’t anarchy. If you can’t stagger into work after a liquid lunch at the pub, don’t expect to spark a spliff on your smoke break. Given the difficulties involved with conclusively testing for marijuana impairment, however, enforcing workplace cannabis policies could prove contentious.

(The rules are different if you use medicinal cannabis. Employers are required by law to accommodate medicinal users the same as they would anyone else with a disability or medical condition requiring prescription drugs. This rarely implies carte blanche to smoke on the job, however. Consult your employer for details.)

Can I smoke in my house?

Marijuana faces most of the same restrictions as public smoking, with additional proscriptions against public intoxication. In many parts of Canada, your home may be the only place you can legally smoke pot in peace.

Unless you’re renting. Many provinces (including Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario) are moving to grant landlords the power to ban smoking weed in their residences as part of the lease, in the same way that they can ban tobacco.

Does legalization mean amnesty for those who have previous convictions for marijuana-related crimes?

Justin Trudeau has admitted to smoking pot as a sitting MP, and said last year that his father’s connections had allowed his brother Michel to escape marijuana charges. Because the prime minister acutely recognizes the systemic injustice of pot incarceration in Canada – black and indigenous peoples are disproportionately imprisoned for minor drug offences – there is tremendous pressure on Trudeau to grant amnesty to those convicted of pot-related offences once the drug is legalized.

But while the government is considering amnesty for simple possession charges, it has expressed little interest in pardoning anyone convicted of trafficking. Given that marijuana arrests have continued during the process of legalization, there does not appear to be much appetite for amnesty at this time.
Will I be able to travel to the US if I smoke legal pot in Canada?

This can get dicey. Although a number of US states have legalized recreational marijuana, it remains illegal at the federal level. This means border agents can deny passage to anyone they suspect of participating in the use, production or distribution of marijuana anywhere in the US, including states where it is legal.

Once pot is legal in Canada, recreational marijuana consumption will no longer be grounds for US border agents to refuse admission. But they can revoke entry to anyone who admits to (or is found) having used or possessed pot before the end of prohibition. And given that the drug remains illegal under US federal law, they can permanently bar Canadians from the country as drug traffickers if they suspect a professional connection to the legitimized marijuana industry.
Will Canada be liberalizing any other drug laws?

No. Although the Young Liberals may have passed a resolution calling for decriminalizing drug use at the Liberals’ 2018 policy convention, Justin Trudeau is adamant that his government is done with rescheduling controlled substances. Not even a visit from the Portuguese prime minister to extol the virtues of decriminalization could change his mind.


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« Reply #3209 on: Oct 17, 2018, 04:58 AM »

US-China tensions soar as 'new cold war' heats up

Rivalry escalates amid concerns over trade, as warships nearly collide and an FBI trap angers Beijing

by Julian Borger in Washington Lily Kuo in Beijing
Guardian
17 Oct 2018 23.03 BST

The US and China have shrugged off rules and constraints that have kept their 21st-century global rivalry in check, opening the way for an escalating conflict on many fronts that neither side appears willing or able to stop.

Chinese officials have accused Washington of starting a new cold war, but the jostling between the two powers has already shown its potential to turn hot through accident or miscalculation, if action is not taken to defuse tensions.

Within the past few weeks, as a trade war loomed between the two countries, US and Chinese warships came within yards of colliding in the South China Sea. And the FBI set a trap in Belgium for a senior Chinese intelligence official and had him extradited to the US, provoking fury in Beijing.

Washington has meanwhile significantly ramped up its bellicose rhetoric portraying China as a dangerous adversary. In a UN security council meeting last month Donald Trump accused Beijing – without citing evidence – of seeking to oust him through interference in US elections.

A few days later, his vice-president, Mike Pence, expanded on the accusation, saying China was pursuing a “whole-of-government approach” including “coercive” methods to interfere in US domestic politics to bring to power “a different US president”. Pence, like the president, did not supply evidence for the claim.

Most experts said that China – though a leader in economic espionage that has sought to lobby against Trump’s tariff policies – was not trying to hack the US elections in the way Russia had meddled in the 2016 vote that brought Trump to Oval Office.

But the Chinese government has ended a cyber ceasefire agreed between the president, Xi Jinping, and Barack Obama in 2015, unleashing armies of hackers once more in pursuit of the trade secrets of US firms.

And Beijing has ordered its navy to use more far aggressive tactics to stop US and allied ships sailing near islands and reefs in the South China Sea it has claimed and turned into military outposts in order to assert control of strategic sea lanes.

The 2015 Xi-Obama cyber ceasefire did not halt cyber espionage by any means, but it did lead to a drastic reduction in the wholesale theft of intellectual property by the Chinese state for the competitive benefit of Chinese industry. That truce is now well and truly over, according to Dmitri Alperovitch, the co-founder of the CrowdStrike cybersecurity firm.

“CrowdStrike can now confirm that China is back (after a big drop-off in activity in 2016) to being the predominant nation-state intrusion threat in terms of volume of activity against Western industry,” Alperovitch said on Twitter.

“A few months after the September 2015 Obama-Xi agreement, we witnessed about 90% drop in Chinese nation-state sponsored intrusions against Western commercial sector. They started to pick it back up in 2017 and the trend has only accelerated since then.”

Christopher Painter, who was the top US cyber diplomat under the Obama administration, said that Beijing agreed to the 2015 cyber deal because they did not want the threat of sanctions to overshadow a state visit by Xi.

“It was not seen just as a cyber issue but an economic and national security issue that affected the overall relationship,” Painter, now a commissioner at the Global Commission for the Stability of Cyberspace, said. “Certainly there was still hacking going on but it did have a substantial decrease.”

“If the reported increase is true, I would ascribe in part to this deterioration of the overall relationship, because that’s what brought them to the table in the first place.”

The US meanwhile has stepped up its counter-measures, moving from playing defence – patching vulnerabilities and identifying Chinese cyber assailants – to going on the offence.

Last week, the US justice department for the first time managed to extradite a senior Chinese intelligence officer, Yanjun Xu, who been lured to Belgium on 1 April, thinking he was going to be handed trade secrets from US aviation companies on a thumb drive from a source he had recruited. The Belgian authorities, working with their American counterparts, were waiting for him.

Chinese officials have described the allegations about Xu as fabricated “out of thin air”. In response to questions about allegations of Chinese spying, Lu Kang, a spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, said: “The accusations are unfounded. We urge the US to stop using so-called ‘cyber-theft’ to discredit China … and harm Sino-US relations.”

Lu said he hoped the US and its allies would “abandon ... a cold war mentality and this “zero-sum” game” and treat China’s development with “openness, inclusivity and cooperation”.

China is no longer just challenging the US at trade negotiating tables and in the shadows of cyber espionage. Its armed forces are pushing its zone of influence out into the Pacific, seizing control of disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea, building military outposts on them and claiming the waters around them.

The US and its allies have sought to defy those claims and keep international sea lanes open by sending their navies on “freedom-of-navigation” patrols. In the past, the Chinese navy has observed these patrols and warned the ships to stay away from the newly colonised islands.

On 30 November, however, Beijing tried something different and a lot more risky. As the destroyer USS Decatur was sailing through the Spratly Island chain, a Chinese warship overtook it and abruptly cut in front of it, coming within 45 yards, and forcing the Decatur to make an emergency turn to avoid collision.

“It’s a big jump in China’s reaction to freedom of navigation operations,” said retired Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, who commanded a US aircraft carrier battle group in the Pacific. “What this suggests to me is that Beijing is fed up with freedom of navigation operations and elected to violate the memorandum of understanding that the US and China agreed to three years ago about how they behave when warships are around each other.”

McDevitt, now a senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses, said the Chinese stunt also violated agreements on exchanging signals on the high seas and an international protocol on seamanship. It was a signal that China is no longer interested in abiding by the existing rules.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, made it clear last week that the US would not back down.

“The commanders have the authority we need. We will not tolerate threats to American service members. We’re determined to keep international sea lanes open. This is something the Chinese need to understand,” Bolton said in a radio interview on Thursday.

His message was that the Trump administration was going to take a tougher line than its predecessor when it came to stopping Chinese moves to rewrite the international order to suit Beijing’s interests.

“They’ve never seen an American president this tough before. I think their behavior needs to be adjusted in the trade area, in the international, military and political areas, in a whole range of areas,” Bolton said. “And if they’re put back in the proper place they would be if they weren’t allowed to steal our technology, their military capabilities would be substantially reduced. And a lot of the tensions we see caused by China would be reduced.”

China, which holds more than $1tn in US debt, is equally determined not to be “put back in place”.

Some analysts say that the recent episodes, while dramatic, have not undone the last 15 years of dramatic improvement from previous diplomatic impasses, like the US bombing of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, or US sanctions on China after protests in Tiananmen in 1989 were violently put down by the Chinese military.

Trump and Xi may meet at the G20 meeting in Argentina at the end of November, and both have a strong incentive to try to reset relations.

“It’s part of the bargaining process, taking very tough stances. You try to really cause pain for the other side,” said Dali Yang, a professor focusing on China’s political economy at the University of Chicago.

“The Chinese leadership has taken on a much more cautious stance, not encouraging the entire country to rally against the US. They have been careful in modulating the temper of the Chinese press. The two sides are dancing very delicately even amid the tough rhetoric.”


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