Mike Pence accused of humiliating hosts in Ireland: ‘He shat on the carpet’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE UK EXPRESS)

 

Mike Pence accused of humiliating hosts in Ireland: ‘He shat on the carpet’

The vice-president’s comments on Brexit while visiting Ireland and his stay at his boss’s golf course did not go down well

Vice-President Mike Pence arrives in Doonbeg to dine with relatives at a seafood restaurant.
 Vice-President Mike Pence arrives in Doonbeg to dine with relatives at a seafood restaurant. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Missteps during Mike Pence’s visit to Ireland that included controversial praise of the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, have led to accusations of betrayal and “humiliation”.

One Irish Times columnist concluded that the vice-president, a “much-anticipated visitor”, turned out to have “shat on the … carpet”.

Pence’s problems started with his decision to stay for two nights at Donald Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare, more than 140 miles from Dublin, necessitating costly and logistically complex travel. The move quickly drew fire from ethics experts and political rivals.

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, called Trump’s properties a “cesspool of corruption” and accused the president of “prioritizing his profits over the interests of the American people”.

“Pence is just the latest Republican elected official to enable President Trump’s violations of the constitution,” she said.

A spokesman for the vice-president said the decision was partly based on the president’s suggestion Pence stay there, and partly on secret service concerns about costs and logistics. Questioned about the decision on Wednesday, Trump claimed he had “no involvement, other than it’s a great place”.

But that was only the start of the controversy.

The Irish Times columnist Miriam Lord responded to a tense meeting between the vice-president and the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in which Pence urged the republic to protect the “United Kingdom’s sovereignty”. That Varadkar is gay and Pence a past champion of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Indiana also caused widespread comment.

Pence laid on platitudes about being “deeply humbled” and “honored” to be visiting Doonbeg, the home of his mother’s grandmother. But in Dublin he offered his hosts a clear lesson in his administration’s political priorities.

“Let me be clear: the US supports the UK decision to leave the EU in Brexit,” Pence told Varadkar in a prepared statement. “But we also recognise the unique challenges on your northern border. And I can assure you we will continue to encourage the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that any Brexit respects the Good Friday agreement.”

Among media responses, Irish Central asked: “Did VP Pence betray Ireland in his Brexit comments during Irish trip?”

The Irish Examiner accused Pence of trying to “humiliate” the republic.

But Lord struck the most telling blow.

She described the impact of the Pence visit on Ireland as “like pulling out all the stops for a much-anticipated visitor to your home and thinking it has been a great success until somebody discovers he shat on the new carpet in the spare room, the one you bought specially for him”.

“As Pence read from the autocue and Irish eyes definitely stopped smiling,” she added, “it was clear he was channeling His Master’s Voice. Trump is a fan of Brexit and of Boris.”

“Pence,” Lord continued, “is Irish American and wastes no opportunity to go misty-eyed about his love for the ‘Old Country’ as he lards on his Mother Machree schtick on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Lord wasn’t alone in her criticism. The Cork Examiner’s political editor, Daniel McConnell, wrote: “The cheek of him coming here, eating our food, clogging up our roads and then having the nerve to humiliate his hosts.”

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favor to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.

The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.

Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.

We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

China: British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

AFP
British PM in limbo after MPs reject his Brexit plan, elections

AFP

A handout photograph released by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing as he reacts to main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during his first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons in London on September 4, 2019.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was left in limbo on Wednesday after MPs voted to derail his Brexit plan and rejected his call for an early election to break the political deadlock.

Just six weeks after taking office, Johnson lost his majority in the House of Commons as his own MPs joined opposition parties to stop him taking Britain out of the EU next month without a deal.

On Wednesday evening, they approved a bill that could force Johnson to delay Brexit to January or even later if he cannot agree exit terms with Brussels in time.

Johnson says he does not want a “no deal” exit on October 31 but says he must keep that option open in order to get an agreement.

He said the bill, which was being debated in the upper House of Lords into the night, “destroys the ability of government to negotiate” — and said he had no option to call an election to win a new mandate.

“If I’m still prime minister after (the vote on) Tuesday October 15 then we will leave on October 31 with, I hope, a much better deal,” he told MPs.

Labour rejects ‘cynical’ move

But in yet another twist in the tortuous Brexit process, the opposition Labour Party refused to vote for the election, which requires the backing of two-thirds of MPs.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that while he wanted an election, he would not support the prime minister’s “cynical” call until the law blocking “no deal” was implemented.

The default legal position is that Britain will leave the EU on October 31 unless it delays or asks to stay in the bloc.

Corbyn said: “Let this bill pass, then gain royal assent, then we will back an election so we do not crash out with a no-deal exit from the European Union.”

Johnson accused Corbyn of being frightened of losing, but urged the opposition to reconsider over the next few days.

For now, he is unable to pursue his Brexit plan — the central focus of his leadership — or call an election that might change the situation.

Across the Atlantic, US President Donald Trump earlier offered his support, telling reporters: “Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him. He’s going to be OK.”

‘Sham’ negotiations

Johnson took office in July, three years after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU, promising to deliver Brexit whatever happens.

He says he wants to renegotiate the divorce deal his predecessor Theresa May agreed with Brussels, while at the same time stepping up preparations for a disorderly exit.

Johnson insisted his team was making “substantial progress.”

But the bloc has so far refused to reopen the text, and a senior EU source poured cold water on the idea that a deal could be struck at next month’s Brussels summit.

The European Commission says Britain has yet to come up with any alternative for the most controversial element of the current deal, the so-called “backstop” plan for the Irish border.

Corbyn said the negotiations Johnson talked about “are a sham — all he’s doing is running down the clock.”

The European Commission also said the risk of a “no deal” exit has increased, a prospect many fear because of the economic damage risked by severing 46 years of UK-EU ties overnight.

British lawmakers take control: What it means for Boris, Brexit and Britain

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO NEWS)

 

BRITAIN

British lawmakers take control: What it means for Boris, Brexit and Britain

The House of Commons took the unprecedented step of usurping government control of Parliament — a dramatic move that raises more questions than it answers.

Updated 

The United Kingdom’s House of Commons has usurped government control of Parliament.

It’s an unprecedented step — achieved with a dramatic vote Tuesday night — that could have far-reaching ramifications for the country’s future.

The immediate goal is to stop British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from taking the country out of the European Union at the end of October without a formal deal to manage that departure — something he has repeatedly threatened to do. But the effects of the thunderous vote could be heard for years to come.

So where does Tuesday’s vote leave Boris Johnson, Brexit and Britain?

BORIS

The vote means the embattled British prime minister could become the shortest-serving tenant of No. 10 Downing Street since the office was created in 1721. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who famously defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, served 23 days as a caretaker prime minister in 1834.

Traditionally, when a British prime ministers lose their ability to win votes in Parliament, they are ejected via a vote of no confidence — or they call for an early election to decide their fate.

Johnson’s preference is for an election on Oct. 14, hoping that his Conservative Party will gain seats in the House of Commons and give him more backing for his preferred approach to Brexit.

Calling an election would be a big risk, though. It would essentially amount to a second referendum on Brexit in all but name and serve as a first referendum on Johnson. The previous prime minister, Theresa May, called an early election in 2017, only to have it misfire, leaving her with a wafer-thin majority.

While Conservatives top national opinion polls, that support is stuck in the low 30 percent range and they face surging opponents on both their left — Liberal Democrats — and right — Brexit Party — in addition to their traditional rivals, the left-wing Labour Party.

And to even get an election called, Johnson would need support from the opposition Labor Party. Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has flip-flopped on whether he would support such a move. After insisting for months on calling an early general election, he backtracked Tuesday. His new condition: no-deal Brexit must be off the table before he agrees to an election.

Parliament could also attempt to remove Johnson without turning to the voters — via a vote of no confidence. But because Johnson succeeded in getting the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks starting on Sept. 9, there’s likely no time for Johnson’s Parliamentary opponents to pull off that maneuver.

Who could replace Johnson?

If there’s no election, but Johnson goes down via a no-confidence vote or resigns, a front-runner to lead a temporary administration to handle Brexit would be Kenneth Clarke. A former Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, Clarke is a moderate Conservative who supports EU membership but has three times voted for softer forms of Brexit out of respect for the 2016 referendum result.

If the Conservatives lose any election, the most likely new prime minister would be Corbyn. Corbyn would either run a minority government or unite with other pro-EU parties such as, the Liberal Democrats, to lead a coalition government.

BREXIT

Will Brexit be delayed? That depends on whether there’s an election and how far Johnson is willing to push constitutional norms. With no written constitution, Britain is on shaky ground here.

Johnson has said Britain is leaving the EU on Oct. 31, regardless of what Parliament says. If he sticks to that line of defying Parliament and avoids an October election, the Queen is likely the only person who could stop Johnson. While “The Queen versus Boris Johnson” might be a dream story line for scriptwriters at “The Crown,” it’s a far-fetched scenario, given it would represent the most direct political play by a British monarch in nearly 200 years.

In an October election, the three choices for voters would be: back Johnson’s Brexit-by-any-means policy, elect a Labour-led government that would pursue a managed Brexit, and enter the uncharted territory of a minority government led by a pro-EU party such as the third-placed Liberal Democrats.

Can Brexit be stopped? Probably not.

Opinion polls show the country to be as divided as it was in 2016 on Brexit. The opposition leader, Corbyn, has committed to deliver Brexit since the referendum. Meanwhile, the nationalist Brexit Party has at times risen to the top of national polls in recent months. In addition: most leading Conservatives are committed to Brexit, though many want it to be softened and managed in cooperation with the EU.

Does that mean Britain is headed for a managed Brexit? That is a message Parliament has regularly sent to Downing Street and is the preference of EU officials. That’s why May’s government and the EU spent two years working toward the deal agreed in December.

But to get there, the EU may have to smooth the edges of the existing deal — something it has so far refused to do.

What does the EU think?

The EU looks on with sadness and fear in equal measure and will not alter the core elements of the existing deal. The bloc prizes maintaining the integrity of its single-market system over all else and has been keen to make an example out of Britain’s choice to leave — so other EU members aren’t tempted to follow.

Given those fundamentals, the EU has shifted to treating a no-deal Brexit as its default expectation.

Officials in Brussels on Wednesday will propose two budget instruments to support the companies and workers who would be most affected by a no-deal Brexit. The EU’s goal: prevent the U.K. tearing a hole in its single market.

In contrast, Michael Gove, Britain’s minister in charge of preparing for Brexit, refuses to publish his own governments’ planning scenarios — known as Operation Yellowhammer. The presumed reason, based on leaked versions of the plans, is that they paint a devastating picture of the effects of a no-deal Brexit.

BRITAIN

The long-term effects of this week’s debate could be significant. It’s now clear Johnson will be unable to unite his country, even if he can hang on and find a way to deliver Brexit.

Johnson’s government now has a choice between fomenting a constitutional crisis — if the government ignores Parliament — or managing a policy crisis — given Parliament is on track to overturn the government’s key policy in a second critical vote Wednesday.

The political and cultural divisions run deep across Britain.

Moderate Labour MP Liz Kendall tweeted Tuesday that she had “never seen such cold hard anger” among her Parliament colleagues as she did watching Conservative moderates react in fury as hard-line Brexiteer Jacob-Rees Mogg addressed Parliament.

The politically neutral Queen is also getting uncomfortably close to the action: Last week, she was roped into suspending Parliament for five weeks via a secretive constitutional forum known as the Privy Council, convened at her summer castle in Balmoral, Scotland.

While protesters have reached for extreme daily slogans like “Stop the coup,” there are plenty of other sharp realities at hand that require no exaggeration.

The Scottish government, which has similar powers to the state government in the United States, is pushing for a referendum on leaving the U.K. London, a bastion of pro-EU support, is splintering further from the rest of the country. And the inability to avoid recreating a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is threatening to destabilize a peace agreement reached more than 20 years ago.

In other words, the longest-term effect of Brexit could be the breakup of the United Kingdom.

5 Most Romantic Spots in Europe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

5 Most Romantic Spots in Europe

Europe is made up of 50 fascinating countries, each of which has its own individual charm while also sharing similarities with its neighbors. From the heartland of two of the world’s greatest civilizations, to Mediterranean islands and mountainous regions, it is a continent of immense diversity. Its cities are often considered among the most romantic on the planet and visited year-round by couples and honeymooners. Here’s five spots to visit for when you want to add a touch of romance to your travels.

Amsterdam

Credit: Olena Z/Shutterstock

Rent a bike and explore the endless miles of canals that meander around the Dutch capital. Stop at a waterfront bar for lunch and admire a cityscape characterized by medieval merchant houses. At night, antique street lamps illuminate the cobblestone streets to create a fairytale-like setting. If biking sounds too energetic, consider renting a boat, or go one better by staying overnight on a houseboat. In summer, bring a picnic to Vondelpark and be sure to cross to quieter Amsterdam-Noord to hang out in the shadow of a windmill. Of course, there’s the coffee shops and a superb collection of museums to visit, too.

Budapest

Credit: Augustin Lazaroiu/Shutterstock

Budapest straddles the mighty Danube with magnificent works of architecture rising up on both sides of the river. Soak up the sights from one of the benches that line the embankment, traverse the zigzagging alleyways of Castle Hill and find a quiet spot to snuggle in the leafy grounds of the Citadella. After a busy day of sightseeing, you’ll want to indulge in some therapeutic treatments at thermal spas, such as Rudas Baths and Széchenyi Thermal Bath. Finish your evening with a champagne and sunset Danube cruise.

Florence

Credit: ErwanB/Shutterstock

Forget Rome and Venice and opt for this glorious city in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany region. Renaissance art and architecture give Florence an old-world charm like no other, and you can pass the time strolling hand in hand through the narrow lanes of the Centro Storico. Take breaks at pavement cafes and grab a gelato at a traditional ice cream parlor. Sit on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo for exquisite views of the city, and don’t miss the sunsets on the Arno River. If you simply want to relax, head to the beautiful gardens of Giardino Bardini and Giardino di Boboli.

Mykonos

Credit: Oleg Voronishe/Shutterstock

From kicking back on secluded beaches during the daytime, to dinner and drinks at Little Venice, Mykonos is a dream come true for couples. Jump on a quad bike and feel the breeze in your hair as you travel the twisting, hilly roads to stunning beaches. Agios Sostis and Lia Beach are two of many perfect spots for sunbathing and swimming in crystalline waters. Dress up for some excellent photo opportunities in Little Venice, whose quaint whitewashed and blue houses could have been lifted straight from a movie set. Why not take a snorkeling tour and spot exotic fish together?

Vienna

Credit: Schipkova Elena/Shutterstock

Once home to the House of Habsburg, Austria’s imperial capital has enchantment at the turn of every corner. With labyrinthine lanes, arcaded courtyards and grand palaces, the Old City is a wonderful place to amble aimlessly and discover hidden treasures. Ride a horse-drawn carriage between major attractions or see the city from the water on a Danube river cruise. Make sure to spend an evening at either the Burgtheater or Vienna State Opera. Smell the roses in springtime at Volksgarten and follow footpaths through Vienna Woods. December’s Christmas markets add another welcome dose of romance.

Saudis: EU to Observe Elections in Tunisia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

EU to Observe Elections in Tunisia

Sunday, 4 August, 2019 – 11:45
The head of Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections, Nabil Baffoun, attends a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia, March 6, 2019. Reuters file photo
Tunis – Mongi Saidani
The European Union announced sending a 38-member Election Observation Mission (EOM) on August 23 to overlook presidential and parliamentary elections in Tunisia. It said this move comes as a response to a request by the Independent High Authority for Elections.

Ten observers will be deployed in Tunis, with the remainder distributed to several polling stations throughout the country.

According to the EU, the mission will work “independently, impartially and fully in line with international standards,” to monitor elections.

This would give greater credibility to the elections’ results and maintain the level of political support for the emerging Tunisian democracy.

Ten candidates have submitted their papers to run for the early presidential elections, scheduled to be held on September 15.

Five among these 10 represent well-known political parties including Head of the Democratic Patriots’ Unified Party Mongi Rahoui, President of the Democratic Current Mohamed Abbou, Head of the Republican People’s Union (L’Union Populaire Républicaine) Lotfi Mraihi, President of the Free Destourian Party (Free Constitutional Party) Abir Moussi and Head of the Heart of Tunisia Party Nabil Karoui

The other five, however, are independent and don’t represent any political party in the country, and they include Mounir Joumai, Nidal Karim, Hamdi Alia.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Defense Minister Abdul Karim al-Zubaidi and former Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa are also expected to run for the presidential elections.

The number of political and social parties backing Zubaidi has increased on Saturday after leaderships of Ennahda Party and Nidaa Tounes announced they would vote for him.

In this context, Head of Tunisian Independent High Authority for Elections Nabil Baffoun affirmed the proposal to revise chapter 49 of the Tunisian Electoral Code concerning the appeals of the results relating to the presidential elections, or the enactment of a special statute relating to the electoral dates for the premature elections.

In case the deadlines were shortened, coordination with the Administrative Court (a court that hears appeals by the candidates) will take place in a bid to respect the constitutional term for electing new president within a maximum period of 90 days, which ends on October 24.

If the parliament approves the Independent High Authority for Elections’ proposal, the second round of presidential elections will be held before September 29, respecting constitutional deadlines.

Israel: From Europe to the Arctic, temperature records tumble in 2019

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

From Europe to the Arctic, temperature records tumble in 2019

Planet is getting hotter at a rate unparalleled in two millennia, and atmospheric CO2 levels are at their highest in 3 million years

The sun rises near power lines in Frankfurt, Germany as a heat wave scorches Europe, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The sun rises near power lines in Frankfurt, Germany as a heat wave scorches Europe, July 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

AFP — We may only be just over halfway through it, but 2019 has already seen temperature records smashed from Europe to the Arctic circle and could prove to be one of the hottest years ever recorded.

Numerous studies have shown that heatwaves such as the one that baked northern Europe this week are made more likely by climate change, and as man-made greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, 2019 fits a general warming trend.

This June was the hottest on record, beating out June 2016 — so far the hottest year ever.

The record was breached due to an exceptionally strong European heatwave. The continent’s June temperatures were around two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) hotter than average, according to the EU’s Copernicus climate monitor.

People cool down in the fountains of the Trocadero gardens in Paris July 25, 2019, when a new all-time high temperature of 42.6 degrees Celsius (108.7 F) hit the French capital. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

Temperatures were also notably higher than historic averages in South America, the US atmospheric monitor NOAA said.

Europe has endured two exceptionally strong heatwaves in a matter of weeks.

Record highs tumbled across France, with the mercury peaking at 46 C (114.8 F) on June 28 in the southern town of Verargues. The previous record, set back in 2003, was 44.1 C (111.4 F).

The second wave of heat this week saw Paris’s all-time high pulverized: Meteo-France measured 42.6 C (108.7 F)  in the French capital on Thursday — more than 2 C (3.6 F) hotter than the previous high, set more than 70 years ago.

An elderly woman covers her face from the hot sun with a newspaper, in Milan, Italy, Thursday, July 25, 2019. Parts of Europe will likely see record-high temperatures on Thursday as much of the continent is trapped in a heat wave, the second in two months. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands all also registered all-time high temperatures.

The World Weather Attribution service this month said June’s heatwave was made between 5 and 100 times more likely by man-made climate change.

“Since 2015, we’ve seen extreme heatwaves every year in Europe,” said Robert Vautard, a climatologist at France’s Laboratory of Climate and Environment Sciences.

The first half of 2019 also saw intense heatwaves in Australia, India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

In mid-July, for the first time on record, thermometers read 21 C (69.8 F) in Alert, a Canadian outpost that is the most northern settlement on Earth, around 900 kilometers from the North Pole.

That beat the previous record set in 1956, but the number of days where temperatures reach 19-20 C (66.2 – 68 F) have shown a marked increase since 2012.

People enjoy the hot summer weather at the river Isar in Munich, Germany, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The last four years are the hottest on record.

Last year was fourth on the list, with an average surface temperature of 1 C  (1.8 F) above pre-industrial levels.

2016 still holds the crown as the hottest year in human history — a full 1.2 C (2.2 F) above average, aided by a powerful El Nino warming event.

According to the NOAA, the period of January-June 2019 was the second hottest ever measured, hotter even than the same period in 2016.

The WMO estimates 2019 will be among the top five hottest years, and that 2015-2019 will be the hottest five year period ever recorded.

Three papers released this week showed that Earth’s temperature was currently warming at a rate and uniformity unparalleled in the past 2,000 years.

Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently around 415 parts per million — the highest concentration in three million years.

READ MORE:

China: France to implement ‘national decisions’ on digital tax despite Trump’s threat

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

France to implement ‘national decisions’ on digital tax despite Trump’s threat

Xinhua

French Minister of the Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, said on Friday that the digital tax on internet giants was “a national decision” that the government would put on the ground, defying US threat of “a substantial reciprocal action.”

“France will implement its national decisions,” French newspaper Le Figaro quoted Le Maire as saying, in response to US President Donald Trump’s warning.

“The taxation of digital activities is a challenge that concerns all of us. We want to reach an agreement on this issue in the framework of the G7 and the OECD,” Le Maire said.

The French Parliament passed a new law to tax digital giants on July 11, making France one of the first countries to tax “GAFA” companies, namely Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.

“If anybody taxes them, it should be their home Country, the USA. We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron’s foolishness shortly. I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine,” Trump wrote in his tweet.

The French Digital Services Tax imposes a 3-percent tax on total annual revenues generated by some companies from providing certain digital services to, or aimed at, French users.

The tax applies only to companies with total annual revenues from the covered services of at least 750 million euros (US$834 million) globally and 25 million euros in France.

The tax was initially adopted by France’s National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, on July 4. It is expected to collect 400 million euros this year and 650 million euros by 2022.

Despite a setback in Brussels to reach a European Union-wide taxation, the French government decided to impose the tax at the national level.

In response, the United States Trade Representative announced that it has initiated an investigation against the French law and its impact on US businesses.

The USTR launched the investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, accusing the French government of “unfairly targeting the tax at certain US-based technology companies”. It has been quoting Section 301 in investigating and interfering with foreign countries’ policies.

Section 301 is part of an outdated US trade law adopted in 1974 that allows the US president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions on foreign countries.

Saudi’s: Denmark Backs European-led Naval Mission to Hormuz Strait

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Denmark Backs European-led Naval Mission to Hormuz Strait

Friday, 26 July, 2019 – 11:15
British frigate HMS Montrose. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Denmark welcomed on Friday a British government proposal for a European-led naval mission to the Strait of Hormuz aimed at ensuring the safety of shipping in the strategic waterway.

“The Danish government looks positively toward a possible contribution to such initiative,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a statement. “The initiative will have a strong European footprint”.

Britain has sought to assemble the mission in Hormuz, used by tankers carrying about a fifth of the world’s oil, following Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged ship in what London said was an act of “state piracy”.

The initiative won initial support from Denmark, France and Italy, three senior diplomats said on Tuesday.

EU-member Denmark is among the world’s biggest seafaring nations and home to the world’s biggest container shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk, which sails in the high-tension area.

“The Royal Danish Navy is strong and capable and would be able to contribute actively and effectively to this type of engagement,” said Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen.

A final decision would still need to be discussed in parliament.

On Thursday, the UK government said it was offering British-flagged ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz a Royal Navy escort.

The Department for Transport said that if ships give advance notice of their plans they will be escorted by frigate HMS Montrose, either individually or in groups.

The escort is not compulsory, and Britain has limited naval resources in the region.

On Friday the Montrose arrived too late to prevent the tanker Stena Impero from being seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested Wednesday that Stena Impero could be released if the UK takes similar steps to hand back an Iranian oil tanker seized by the Royal Navy off Gibraltar earlier this month.

Japan: Beijing drafting urgent plan to end Hong Kong’s political chaos

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE JAPAN TIMES)

 

Officials in Beijing drafting urgent plan to end Hong Kong’s political chaos

BLOOMBERG, AP

Chinese officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs are working on an urgent strategy to solve the city’s political chaos and have ruled out the use of military force, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the discussions.

They will soon present top leaders in Beijing with both an immediate plan to handle the mass protests and a longer-term strategy that could result in China overhauling its management of the former British colony, the newspaper said, without elaborating on a date.

Beijing maintains that the crisis is best left for Hong Kong authorities to resolve and does not want to get directly involved, according to the report. Beijing has expressed public support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam throughout weeks of unrest and political gridlock, saying this week that it “firmly supports” her leadership.

On Thursday, China condemned a joint motion for a resolution in the European Parliament that called on EU member states and other nations to investigate export controls “to deny China, and in particular Hong Kong, access to technologies” that could be used to violate human rights.

“China strongly opposes this,” spokesman Lu Kang said. “China does value its relations with Europe, but maintaining a healthy relationship requires joint efforts.”

Lam on Monday vowed she will remain in office, after a Financial Times report said that she had offered to resign but that Beijing had insisted she stay and clean up “the mess she created.”

The Chinese officials also see Hong Kong’s police force as key to maintaining stability, the newspaper said. Officers’ tactics have come under fire after they used rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and pepper spray to disperse the protests. Demonstrators have demanded an independent investigation into what they deem a use of excessive force, and opposition lawmakers have called for the resignation of security chief John Lee.

Mainland officials want to avoid bloodshed and ensure the financial hub remains largely stable, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the situation. China’s approach will be to “lure the snake from its hole,” according to one adviser cited by the SCMP, taking a defensive position until the opposition reveals its strategy.

They are also considering whether the current environment makes it too risky for President Xi Jinping to visit another former European colony, Macau, later this year for celebrations of the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, the paper reported.

Crowds of Hong Kong protesters have turned out in unprecedented numbers every week since mid-June.

In recent gatherings, their anger has focused on China. More protests are being planned in neighborhoods across the city by demonstrators vowing to spread the word until Lam responds to their demands, including the official withdrawal of legislation that would allow extraditions to the mainland and first sparked the rallies.

On Wednesday, thousands of Hong Kong senior citizens, including a popular actress, marched in a show of support for youths at the forefront of the monthlong protests. The seniors also slammed the police for their handling of a protest Sunday in Hong Kong’s Sha Tin district. That protest was mostly peaceful but ended with violent scuffles in a shopping mall that left dozens injured, including a policeman who had a finger bitten off, and over 40 people detained.

There are indications that Xi and his top officials are preparing for their annual summer conclave in the seaside city of Beidaihe, which this year will bear even closer watching than usual as China faces growing risks at home and abroad, including Hong Kong’s unrest and an ongoing trade war with the United States.

Saudi Arabia Issues Euro-denominated Bonds for 1st Time

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Saudi Arabia Issues Euro-denominated Bonds for 1st Time

Tuesday, 2 July, 2019 – 11:30
Saudi Market Tadawul. AFP file photo
Riyadh – Asharq Al-Awsat
Saudi Arabia has issued Euro-denominated bonds, its first in that currency, after the Kingdom hired Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale as global coordinators and bookrunners for the potential new deal, while BNP Paribas, Morgan Stanley and Samba Capital were mandated as lead managers and passive bookrunners.

The Saudi issuance of Euro-denominated bonds in tranches of eight and 20 years, depending on market conditions, comes at a time when the country was rated A1 by Moody’s and A + by Fitch Ratings.

Saudi Arabia has begun its approach to global markets by issuing bonds and sukuk in the dollar, and through the Euro-bonds, the country seeks to diversify its investor base, reduce costs and open up new markets, according to experts.

Financial expert Mohammed al-Omran explained that Saudi Arabia announced that it will target international markets and foreign currencies. He added that the euro-bonds will be relatively distant from the dollar-bonds, stressing that the goal is to diversify the currency, reduce cost and establish relations with new markets.

Omran indicated that euro’s current comparative advantage is the lower interest rates, less than 1 percent, while interest on the dollar is about 2 percent, noting that savings will be 1.25 percent per year in euros compared to the dollar.

For his part, economic expert Mohammed Al Abbas indicated that major institutions and banks are racing to enter the Saudi market which is trying to attract international investments and foreign funds, as investors seek confidence in the economy.

He stated that the rush on the Saudi market is an indication on high confidence that large companies and investors have in the Kingdom

He stressed that Saudi Arabia is interested in encouraging foreign investments and entering the European markets through Euro-bonds.

Bonds are low-risk financial instruments and can be disposed at any time, in addition that countries that issue the bonds are obliged to pay them according to the issuance date, according to economic expert Khalaf al-Shammari.

The euro market is characterized by a variety of investors from new institutions and portfolios, which analysts believe Saudi Arabia can take advantage of.