Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

UK Calls off Trade Talks with EU

It’s hard to tell if this is a negotiating ploy or more substantive.

“There is only any point in Michel Barnier coming to London next week if he’s prepared to address all the issues on the basis of a legal text in an accelerated way, without the UK required to make all the moves or to discuss the practicalities of travel and haulage,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

“If not there is no point in coming.”

He added: “Trade talks are over. The EU have effectively ended them by saying they do not want to change their negotiating position.”

Speaking in Downing Street earlier, Mr Johnson suggested the EU was unwilling to seriously consider the UK’s preferred option of a comprehensive free trade agreement based on the bloc’s existing arrangement with Canada.

The UK, he added, must look at the “alternative” – which he suggested was Australia’s much-more limited set of agreements with the EU.

[…]

Boris Johnson’s public declaration that the UK should prepare for No Deal did not cause great concern within EU circles.

The immediate response came in a tweet from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who said it was full steam ahead for trade talks next week and that EU negotiators would be getting on their Eurostar to London as planned.

But the subsequent statement from the prime minister’s official spokesman – off-camera, but on-the-record – that the “trade talks are over” has left senior diplomats “deeply unimpressed”, as one put it to me.

Although “we’re getting used to being part of Johnson’s pantomime”, they added.

Some EU figures fear Boris Johnson still doesn’t know if he actually wants a deal and is trying to buy time while be grapples with the Covid crisis.

Following the hardening the British position by Number 10, France’s President Macron called on the prime minister to make up his mind, while there was still time.

Many in Brussels remain “cautiously optimistic” some sort of deal can be agreed but any route there is now even harder to see.

American Prestige Hurt by Trump Illness?

Really?

President Trump’s positive test for COVID-19 may not spark any sudden moves by foreign adversaries, but the news will be another blow to U.S. prestige on the global stage, according to national security experts.

“It’s certainly embarrassing when the president has scoffed about taking precautions and then comes down with the disease,” said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That’s idiotic. Several world leaders have already had Covid and I’m sure others will too. The only people who would look at America as lesser because Trump got Coronavirus are those who already hate Trump… or America.

Court Rules that Subway’s Bread Isn’t Actually Bread

Never get between a government and their tax.

The rolls used in Subway’s hot sandwiches contain too much sugar to be considered bread, according to Ireland’s Supreme Court.

Ireland’s highest court made the ruling in a case about how the bread is taxed.

An Irish franchisee of the US company had claimed it should not pay VAT on the rolls it uses in heated sandwiches.

But the court ruled that because of the level of sugar in the rolls they cannot be taxed as bread, which is classed as a “staple product” with zero VAT.

Under Ireland’s VAT Act of 1972, ingredients in bread such as sugar and fat should not exceed 2% of the weight of flour in the dough.

China Increasingly Oppressive and Genocidal

Horrific.

Over the past four years, the Chinese government has detained more than 1 million Uighurs in reeducation camps designed to strip them of their culture, language and religion. They’ve had to shave their beards and uncover their hair. They’ve been made to pledge allegiance to the Chinese Communist Party. Children have been taken from their parents and put into orphanages.

Returning to Kashgar, I was struck by how, at first glance, it seemed relatively normal. In the Old City, families were out at the night market, eating piles of meat and bread. Kids could be heard laughing through open upstairs windows. There were even young men — prime targets for the detention campaign, which was ostensibly about deradicalization — on the streets again.

Walking around, I was overcome by the same sense of sadness mixed with rage that I felt when reporting in Pyongyang. I knew it was a kind of “Truman Show,” but I couldn’t see the edges of the set. I could see a blankness in people’s eyes and feel a palpable heaviness in the air.

[…]

The Kims of North Korea may have learned from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Communist China founder Mao Zedong when they built their own personality cult, but Xi has stoked a level of personal adoration unseen in China for decades.

[…]

Not just in Xinjiang but across China, it has become extremely difficult to have conversations with ordinary folk. People are afraid to speak at all, critically or otherwise. Students and professors, supermarket workers and taxi drivers, parents and motorists have all waved me away this year.

Foreign Interference in Election

It’s been a long time since we took governance advice from the British royal family. I’m not about to start now.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle faced a backlash today for speaking out about the upcoming U.S. election and ‘effectively telling Americans to vote against Trump’ despite the British royal family’s strict political neutrality.

The Duke of Sussex told voters to ‘reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity’ while the Duchess called the presidential race the ‘most important election of our lifetime’ as the couple urged Americans to use their right to vote.

Speaking in a Time 100 video message, apparently filmed from the couple’s California home, Harry admitted he was not eligible to vote in the November 3 election – adding that he had never voted in the UK either where convention dictates that royals should keep well clear of politics.

UAE and Bahrain Normalize Relations With Israel

This is kind of a big deal.

US President Donald Trump has hailed the “dawn of a new Middle East”, amid landmark deals between Israel and Gulf states Bahrain and the UAE.

Mr Trump spoke as the UAE and Bahrain signed agreements fully normalising their relations with Israel.

The three countries hailed the deals as historic, as did Mr Trump, whose administration helped broker them.

The Gulf states are just the third and fourth Arab countries to recognise Israel since its founding in 1948.

The agreements are also likely to usher in new security ties in a region where many of the Gulf Arab states share with the Israelis a common adversary in Iran.

This is a big deal for a couple of reasons.

First, the two big powers in the Middle East are Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both are horrible totalitarian regimes, but of the two, Iran is more of a threat to the U.S. than Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally. Both the UAE and Bahrain are aligned with Saudi Arabia and they would not have normalized relations with Israel, another U.S. ally, without a nod from the Kingdom. This is a significant move in the formation of a regional coalition to balance Iran.

Second, although there are not military alliances between the Arab nations and Israel, the establishment of cultural and commercial relationships help to cement a motive for peace. The threat of an Arab attack on Israel as a catalyst for U.S. involvement has been reduced.

Treaties in the Middle East are traditionally unstable. We have gone through these cycles of hope and disappointment for my entire life. Perhaps this is another short-lived success. Perhaps it is a permanent shift in a positive direction. Time will tell.

Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

As much as the Nobel committee has beclowned itself over the last several years, I doubt there is any way that he will win in. Given the multiple, historic peace agreements brokered by the Trump Administration, he certainly deserves it.

President Donald Trump has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, just weeks after helping to broker peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

He was nominated by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, who praised Trump for his efforts towards resolving conflicts worldwide.

‘For his merit, I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees,’ Tybring-Gjedde said to Fox News.

Tybring-Gjedde, who is a four-term member of Parliament who also serves as chairman of the Norwegian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, said the Trump administration played a key role in the establishment of relations between The UAE and Israel.

The deal was first announced by the President on August 13, with Trump saying that the United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to establish full diplomatic ties as part of a deal to halt the Israeli annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

China Using Covid As Cover for Genocide

Horrific.

Even as Wuhan and the rest of China has mostly returned to ordinary life, Xinjiang’s lockdown is backed by a vast surveillance apparatus that has turned the region into a digital police state. Over the past three years, Xinjiang authorities have swept a million or more Uighurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities into various forms of detention, including extrajudicial internment camps, under a widespread security crackdown.

After being detained for over a month, the Uighur woman was released and locked into her home. Conditions are now better, she told the AP, but she is still under lockdown, despite regular tests showing she is free of the virus.

Once a day, she says, community workers force traditional medicine in white unmarked bottles on her, saying she’ll be detained if she doesn’t drink them. The AP saw photos of the bottles, which match those in images from another Xinjiang resident and others circulating on Chinese social media.

Authorities say the measures taken are for the well-being of all residents, though they haven’t commented on why they are harsher than those taken elsewhere. The Chinese government has struggled for decades to control Xinjiang, at times clashing violently with many of the region’s native Uighurs, who resent Beijing’s heavy-handed rule.

Kosovo to Recognize Israel

In normal times, this would be considered pretty big news.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Serbia says it will move Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, Kosovo to recognize Israel as part of US-brokered talks

Calling for Peace

Awesome.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Telephone calls began ringing Sunday between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, marking the first concrete step of a U.S.-brokered diplomatic deal between the nations that required Israel to halt plans to annex land sought by the Palestinians.

Anger over the deal however continued as well, with protesters in Pakistan criticizing the UAE and Iran making new threats about the accord, which will see the Emirates become only the third Arab nation to currently recognize Israel. The UAE responded by summoning Iran’s chargé d’affairs to criticize earlier comments by Iran’s president it described as threatening.

But for Dubai’s small expatriate Jewish community, which has worshipped for years at an unmarked villa in this city-state, the calls represented so much more than just the convenience of being able to directly dial loved ones in Israel.

“There’s a sense of a miracle upon a miracle upon a miracle, as all of these hurdles fall away and people at last can come together and start talking,” Ross Kriel, the president of the Jewish Council of the Emirates, told The Associated Press.

Direct telephone calls have been blocked in the Emirates, a U.S.-allied federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, since its founding in 1971. That backed the standing position of Arab nations at the time, that Israel must first grant concessions to the Palestinians before being recognized — one of their few points of leverage.

New Zealand Locks Down and Delays Election

Ominous. This is how a lot of people in America would like us to respond… lock everything up when there are even a handful of cases. There’s no end to it if that’s the standard.

Auckland (CNN)New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is delaying the country’s parliamentary election by four weeks to October 17 after the reemergence of Covid-19 in the country last week.

The announcement on Tuesday that locally acquired cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, prompted the government to introduce strict level three lockdown measures on August 12. This comes after around 100 days without community spread.
The rest of the country was put into level two lockdown, with both lockdown periods extended until at least August 26 as further cases of coronavirus were confirmed.

Israel and UAE Normalize Relations

Wow. Great news! Hopefully we are on a path to stabilizing the region.

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to normalise relations, US President Donald Trump has announced.

A joint statement by Mr Trump, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Al Nahyan said they hoped the “historic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East”.

As a result, they added, Israel would suspend its plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.

Until now Israel has had no diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab countries

COVID Economy Causing Famine

When some of us talk about balancing the risks of Coronavirus with the negative implications of shutting down our economy, these are the kinds of things we are trying to prevent. Far more people are going to die from the economic shutdowns than will ever die from COVID-19. But please, tell me how you care about the kids.

All around the world, the coronavirus and its restrictions are pushing already hungry communities over the edge, cutting off meager farms from markets and isolating villages from food and medical aid. Virus-linked hunger is leading to the deaths of 10,000 more children a month over the first year of the pandemic, according to an urgent call to action from the United Nations shared with The Associated Press ahead of its publication in the Lancet medical journal.

Further, more than 550,000 additional children each month are being struck by what is called wasting, according to the U.N. — malnutrition that manifests in spindly limbs and distended bellies. Over a year, that’s up 6.7 million from last year’s total of 47 million. Wasting and stunting can permanently damage children physically and mentally, transforming individual tragedies into a generational catastrophe.

[…]

The rise in child deaths worldwide would reverse global progress for the first time in decades. Deaths of children younger than 5 had declined steadily since 1980, to 5.3 million around the world in 2018, according to a UNICEF report. About 45 percent of the deaths were due to undernutrition.

[…]

“By having schools closed, by having primary health care services disrupted, by having nutritional programs dysfunctional, we are also creating harm,” Aguayo said. He cited as an example the near-global suspension of Vitamin A supplements, which are a crucial way to bolster developing immune systems.

[…]

Some of the worst hunger still occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. In Sudan, 9.6 million people are living from one meal to the next in acute food insecurity — a 65% increase from the same time last year.

Lockdowns across Sudanese provinces, as around the world, have dried up work and incomes for millions. The global economic downturn has brought supply chains to a standstill, and restrictions on public transport have disrupted agricultural production. With inflation hitting 136%, prices for basic goods have more than tripled.

“It has never been easy but now we are starving, eating grass, weeds, just plants from the earth,” said Ibrahim Youssef, director of the Kalma camp for internally displaced people in war-ravaged south Darfur.

Wealthy EU Countries Resist Bailout Package

Nothing makes big spenders more angry than when people resist the shake down.

The pandemic has sent the EU into a tailspin, killing around 135,000 of its citizens and sending its economy into an estimated contraction of 8.3% this year.

The bloc’s executive has proposed a 750 billion-euro coronavirus fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be sent as loans and grants to the countries hit hardest by the pandemic. That comes on top of the seven-year 1 trillion-euro EU budget that leaders have been haggling over for months even before the pandemic hit.

All nations agree they need to band together but five richer countries in the north, led by the Netherlands, want strict controls on spending, while struggling southern nations like Spain and Italy say those conditions should be kept to a minimum.

At their dinner table Sunday night, the leaders could mull a proposal from the five wealthy northern nations that suggested a coronavirus recovery fund with 350 million euros of grants and the same amount again in loans. The five EU nations nicknamed “the frugals” — the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Denmark — had long opposed any grants at all.

Merkel and Macron walked out of heated talks before dawn Sunday with the frugals, bemoaning their lack of commitment to a common cause. “They ran off in a bad mood,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

Demographic Genocide in China

Meanwhile, in communist China.

The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, even as it encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.

While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of “demographic genocide.”

The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.

The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, the AP found, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines. Police raid homes, terrifying parents as they search for hidden children.

Remember when you see the Soviet and communist symbols in these protests, this is where that ideology leads.

Belgians Get Fat

I expect that the results would be similar in the U.S.

A major study by the public science institute Sciensano involving over 40,000 participants said that during the lockdown, twice as many adults had succumbed to a sedentary lifestyle as two years ago. A total of 56.1 percent said they were sitting or at rest for more than 8 of their waking hours. On average, adults are now sitting or resting 8.6 hours during their waking day compared with 5.8 hours two years ago.

A quarter of respondents said they had gained weight while locked inside, with the oven churning out homemade pastries breads and other recipes from long-forgotten cookbooks.

Rwandan Genocide Fugitive Captured

Wow. It’s good to see some justice.

PARIS, May 17 (Reuters) – Rwandan genocide fugitive Felicien Kabuga, whose arrest on Saturday ended 26 years on the run, was a frail, elderly man who said little to neighbours and who would take a stroll most days outside of his apartment in a well-off suburb of Paris.

Kabuga, 84, Rwanda’s most wanted man with a $5 million bounty on his head, had been living under a false name in a five-storey apartment block in Asnieres-sur-Seine with the help of his children, according to France’s justice ministry.

Police detained him early on Saturday.

“I would see this man going out, maybe once a day, alone or with someone,” said Jean-Yves Breneol, 72, a resident in the same block where Kabuga lived. “He wouldn’t say a word, nothing.”

Breneol said he thought Kabuga might have lived in the building for four or five years.

[…]

A Hutu businessman, he is accused of creating and making contributions to a fund that raised finances to pay the youth militias that would slaughter some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, as well as importing huge numbers of machetes, according to the UN tribunal’s indictment.

Denmark and the Czech Republic Do Not See Surge of Deaths After Partially Reopening

Good news. Just like the election in Wisconsin, we are over two weeks away from these reopenings and there hasn’t been a surge. We can reopen responsibly.

There was, though, encouraging news from the Czech Republic and Denmark, where phased exits from strict lockdowns implemented early in the pandemic are under way. In Denmark, daycare facilities and schools began reopening two weeks ago, followed by hairdressers and other small businesses on 20 April.

“There are no signs at all that the partial reopening has caused a bigger spread of infection,” said Christian Wejse, a scientist at the department of infectious diseases at Aarhus University. “At least there is no indication that we are heading into another wave. That has been the concern, but I can’t see that at all.”

The Czech health minister, Adam Vojtěch, said the country’s number of new cases had been below 100 for the past eight consecutive days and also reported that a staggered reopening of shops and services had not so far led to a surge in infections.

“So far we do not see a negative trend resulting from previous relaxations,” Vojtěch said. “We will proceed with caution, gradually in the upcoming waves, and I believe we are on a good path.”

Government Coronapanic Causing Cancer Deaths

This is happening in the U.S. too. And it’s harming and killing more than cancer sufferers.

Almost 18,000 more people with cancer in England could die after the coronavirus pandemic led hospitals to suspend treatment and deterred patients from seeking NHS care, research has found.

Cancer experts claim that an extra 6,270 people in England who have been newly diagnosed with the disease could die from it over the next 12 months as a direct result of the disruption caused by coronavirus, and the additional toll taking into account all those living with cancer could be 17,915.

That is an increase of 20% on the 89,576 deaths among cancer patients recorded annually in England, according to the latest available statistics.

Global Economic Downturn

Ouch

“Just three months ago, we expected positive per capita income growth in over 160 of our member countries in 2020,” she said.

“Today, that number has been turned on its head: we now project that over 170 countries will experience negative per capita income growth this year.”

She added: “In fact, we anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression.”