All posts by Francisco Marques Pereira

(SkyNews) Jean-Claude Juncker: ‘We can have a deal’ and ‘Brexit will happen’

(SkyNews) The European Commission President said a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” and he was doing “everything to get a deal”.

Jean-Claude Juncker thinks a Brexit deal is possible
‘I don’t have erotic relation to backstop’

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has told Sky News that “we can have a deal” on Brexit.

Mr Juncker said a no-deal Brexit would have “catastrophic consequences” and said he was doing “everything to get a deal”.Sponsored link

And he said he did not have “an erotic relation” to the so-called backstop, which he said he was prepared to remove from a withdrawal agreement, so long as “alternative arrangements [are put in place] allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop. All of them”.

Sophy Ridge and Jean-Claude Juncker
Image:Sky’s Sophy Ridge meeting Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels

Sky News@SkyNews

EC President @JunckerEU said he thinks a #Brexit deal can be reached by 31 October.

Speaking exclusively to @RidgeOnSunday, he also warned that a no-deal #Brexit would be “catastrophic” for Britain and for the EU.

Check out the full interview on #Ridge from 8.30am this Sunday.2116:08 PM – Sep 19, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy363 people are talking about this

In a UK exclusive interview with Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Mr Juncker confirmed that he had been sent documents by Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlining draft ideas for a new Brexit deal.

Mr Juncker, however, said they had arrived late on Wednesday night, and he had yet to read them.

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The 64-year-old, who spent nearly two decades as the prime minister of Luxembourg, became president of the commission five years ago. His term finishes on 31 October, the same day that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union.

Earlier this week, he met the PM in Luxembourg – the first time the two men had met since Mr Johnson took over in Number 10. They spoke for two hours over a working lunch before Mr Johnson went off for his ill-fated meeting with Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

Jean-Claude Juncker tells Sky News a deal can be done on Brexit
Backstop could be scrapped, says EU’s Juncker

“I had a meeting with Boris Johnson that was rather positive,” Mr Juncker said.

“I think we can have a deal. I am doing everything to have a deal because I don’t like the idea of a no-deal because I think this would have catastrophic consequences for at least one year.

“We are prepared for no-deal, and I hope Britain is prepared as well – but I’m not so sure.”

Asked if he had received the proposals from the British government, he said they had arrived “yesterday night” but he’d had no opportunity to read them yet. But he added that he had spoken to Mr Johnson on the phone “without knowing the content of the British proposals”.

But Mr Juncker did confirm to Sky News that he was now prepared to get rid of the controversial backstop plan, designed to prevent the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but only on condition that “alternative arrangements [are put in place] allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop.”

The backstop has been widely criticised as having the potential to tie Britain to European Union rules for an indefinite amount of time.

Jean-Claude Juncker speaks exclusively to Sky News
Jean-Claude Juncker:’Brexit will happen’

Mr Juncker agreed that a deal would revolve around the idea that Northern Ireland would follow EU rules on food and agriculture, with other checks being done away from the border.

“It is the basis of a deal. It is the starting and the arrival point,” he said. “The internal market has to be preserved in its entirety.”

Britain’s new proposals are believed to revolve around a collection of ideas, known as the alternative arrangements, designed to offer a suite of separate guarantees that would satisfy politicians in Brussels and London, while avoiding the need for infrastructure on the border.

Mr Juncker said: “I was asking the prime minister the other day to make concrete proposals as far as so-called alternative arrangements are concerned, allowing us and Britain to achieve the main objectives of the backstop. I don’t have an erotic relation to the backstop. If the results are there, I don’t care about it.”Brexit: Has Britain left the EU yet?Follow the updates including key stories, video and quotes from each day in the countdown to Brexit

Asked if that meant that the backstop could go, he answered: “If the objectives are met – all of them – then we don’t need the backstop. It was a guarantee, not an aim by itself.”

He remains hopeful that a deal can be done before he leaves office.

“Brexit will happen,” said Mr Juncker.

(SCMP) Chinese scientists develop handheld sonic weapon for crowd control

(SCMP)

  • Gas-powered device passed for mass production after two years of research
A Los Angeles police officer stands by a sound cannon at a demonstration in Anaheim – Chinese scientists say they have taken the technology to a new level. Photo: AFP

A Los Angeles police officer stands by a sound cannon at a demonstration in Anaheim – Chinese scientists say they have taken the technology to a new level. Photo: AFPChina has developed the world’s first portable sonic gun for riot control, the Chinese Academy of Sciences said.

The rifle-shaped instrument, which was jointly developed with military and law enforcement, is designed to disperse crowds using focused waves of low frequency sound, the academy’s Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry website said on Wednesday.

The device’s “biological effect” would cause extreme discomfort, with vibrations in the eardrums, eyeballs, stomach, liver, and brain, scientists said.

Studies dating to the 1940s found that low frequency sound energy could, depending upon intensity and exposure, cause dizziness, headaches, vomiting, bowel spasms, involuntary defecation, organ damage and heart attacks.

Professor Xie Xiujuan discusses the portable sonic rifle (circled) with the government science panel sent to evaluate it. Photo: CAS

Professor Xie Xiujuan discusses the portable sonic rifle (circled) with the government science panel sent to evaluate it. Photo: CASShare:

Sonic weapons are typically large and have to be mounted on vehicles. Until the Chinese development, which has no moving parts, they were powered by electricity to drive a magnetic coil to generate energy. This meant they needed a large and stable source of power.

The Chinese government launched the sonic weapon programme in 2017 and its conclusion is unlikely to be related to the months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong.ESTABLISH THE HABIT READING NEWS EVERYDAYStart from signing up for SCMP China Breaking News newsletter hereSIGN UPBy registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy

Professor Xie Xiujuan, lead scientist on the project, said the device was powered by a tube-shape vessel containing an inert gas. When heated, the gas particles vibrate and a deep, monotonous sound is emitted.

The prototype had passed field and third-party tests and the project team has completed its assessment of the device’s effects on the body, the academy said.

First look at Hong Kong police’s anti-riot vehicle with water cannons as shipment from France arrives

On September 4, a panel of scientists and engineers representing the Ministry of Science and Technology met in Beijing and approved a design developed by Xie’s team for mass production.

“The panel suggested that the fruit of the project should be transformed into practical equipment as soon as possible,” the academy said.

In a photograph on the institute’s website, the device could be seen on a meeting room table as the experts deliberated. It looked similar to a rifle, with a stock, trigger and barrel.

A protester looks at an acoustic crowd dispersal device during a demonstration outside Poland’s ministry of economy building in Warsaw. Photo: Alamy

A protester looks at an acoustic crowd dispersal device during a demonstration outside Poland’s ministry of economy building in Warsaw. Photo: AlamyShare:

Xie refused to reveal details of the device’s frequency or its effective range. She also declined to comment on its uses without approval from higher authorities.

So far, there have been no reports of Chinese soldiers or law enforcement officers using such equipment.

(EUobserver) Nobel economist: Ireland ‘not good EU citizen’ on taxes

(EUobserver)

Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz criticised Ireland on Thursday over taxation of multinational companies. “In the area of taxes, Ireland has not behaved well, either globally or for their own citizens, or as an EU citizen,” he said, arguing that Ireland kept revenue that would have gone to other EU countries, and did unfair tax deals for “pittance”. An EU court case is ongoing over Ireland’s tax deal with Apple.

(CNBC) Apple’s iPhone 11 goes on sale with lines outside major stores around the world

(CNBC)

  • Apple’s new lineup of iPhones went on sale in retail stores around the world Friday.
  • Crowds gathered outside of Apple’s stores in Singapore, Sydney, Berlin and London, among other cities
  • Lines also formed outside New York’s new Fifth Avenue Store which reopened on Friday after renovations.  CEO Tim Cook greeted crowds there.
  • Some analysts have pointed to strong demand in pre-orders for the new smartphones, especially the $699 iPhone 11.

WATCH NOWVIDEO01:55Consumers wait in line to buy iPhone 11 in London

Apple will get a taste of whether upgraded features on the new iPhone 11 are enough to lure shoppers to retail stores around the world as the new smartphones officially hit shelves Friday.

At the Apple flagship store on Regent Street, a handful of diehard iPhone fans started waiting in line to purchase the new smartphones Thursday evening. As of 6 a.m. Friday, roughly 40 customers were waiting for the doors to open. The number started rising as Apple opened its doors.

There were also lines outside of Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in New York on Friday morning. The store officially reopens at 8 a.m. ET after two years of renovations. CEO Tim Cook greeted the crowd as he made his way inside.

Ella Bowman@EllaMatildaB

Wahoo! Tim Cook is in da haus! @Apple #AppleEvent @MousCase

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Among the features customers were most excited about: the triple-camera system on the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

“Instead of buying a new camera, I prefer to upgrade my phone,” said Tarif Karanfil, who started waiting in line around 6am Friday morning to upgrade from the iPhone 7 to the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

GP: Apple lines London

Customers are applauded as they arrive to collect their pre-orders for new Apple products at the tech giant’s flagship store in Regent Street, central London.Jonathan Brady/PA Images via Getty Images

Images on Twitter showed crowds outside of Apple’s stores in Singapore, Sydney and Berlin, among other cities.

Ben Rudolph@BenThePCGuy

Always impressive how Apple inspires Fandom. This is the line outside the Sydney Apple Store on #iPhone11 launch day.

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Fernando Montoya@montogeek

Berlin Apple Store line

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Spencer Chong@exynosx

#iPhone11 is only out tomorrow but there is already a line at the Singapore Apple Store and it is only going to be worse as the day passes!

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433:39 AM – Sep 19, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy17 people are talking about this

Apple unveiled the new lineup iPhones earlier this month, touting the upgraded cameras, longer battery life, more durable screens and faster processors. Some analysts have pointed to strong demand in pre-orders for the new smartphones, especially the lowest-price $699 iPhone 11, as a positive sign for Apple heading into the crucial holiday quarter.

J.P. Morgan said Friday that it expected the iPhone 11 to be the largest driver of iPhone shipments over the next year. The investment bank also maintained its iPhone shipment forecast for 184 million units in 2019, with 195 million shipments of the smartphone expected in 2020.

Leading Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said earlier this week the iPhone 11 appears to be attractive to buyers in China, a belief echoed by Chinese e-commerce firm Fenqile in an interview with CNBC. Strong demand for the new iPhones from Chinese consumers would be a positive sign for Apple, which has struggled to boost sales in the market in the past few quarters.

WATCH NOWVIDEO03:23iPhone 11 review: Lots of small improvements that add up to a solid phone

Some analysts expected demand for the iPhone 11 series would be more muted as consumers hold out for a 5G iPhone, which is expected to be released next year.

Global smartphones sales declined 2% in the second quarter, according to research from IDC, as consumers wait longer to buy new devices. Samsung was the biggest smartphone seller in the world as the second quarter, followed by Huawei then Apple.

(NYT) How to Disagree Better

These days, arguments can become a destructive land-grab for social media points, and quickly hit a dead-end. If we want to find solutions, it’s vital that we learn how to disagree thoughtfully and with curiosity. At this very moment, people are ready to pounce on anyone they deem “wrong.” And someone is definitely wrong on the Internet right now. Some of them are wrong in your social media feeds, and there’s a good chance you’re already friends with at least one such person. We get things wrong all the time. So what do we do when we decide someone’s wrong? Engage — or not? Disagree loudly — or roll our eyes silently? Block them, or troll them? A rare option would be to make an impossible conversation possible through the techniques above. Research confirms that central to influencing — or just productively engaging with — other humans is a sense of psychological safety. Letting friends (or strangers on the internet) hold beliefs that you think are wrong, but letting them know you’re still friends (or still just strangers on the internet, not mortal enemies) reinforces that safety.

(Reuters) Exclusive: Deutsche Bank has discussed adding assets to bad bank if sales go well – sources

(Reuters)

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Some senior Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE) officials have discussed the possibility of putting additional problematic assets worth billions of euros into a unit it created earlier this year, if the bank is able to sell assets already held within that “bad bank,” according to three bank sources.FILE PHOTO: A man walks past an office of Deutsche Bank in Hanau, Germany, April 27, 2015. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The discussions in recent weeks, which have not been previously reported, are preliminary, the sources said, adding that there is nothing imminent. A Deutsche Bank spokesman said the bank has no plans to add additional assets into the so-called capital release unit, or bad bank.

Nevertheless, it is one of the options that has come up for discussion at the highest levels at the bank, as executives grapple with the problem of having to turn around the bank on a tight budget, according to the three people familiar with the talks.

Deutsche Bank needs more capital to be able to absorb the losses that will likely come from shedding problematic assets, such as long-dated derivatives, that are still on its books, the people said.

But, after raising 29.3 billion euros ($32.3 billion) in capital over the past nine years, it does not have room to ask investors for more, the sources added.

For investors, still nursing a 75% fall in the bank’s share price over the past four-and-a-half years, it means that the road to recovery for the bank will most likely be long.

Christian Sewing, who took over from John Cryan in April last year, is looking to reshape Deutsche Bank after a multi-year bet on building a global investment banking business unraveled.

In July, he set up the bad bank, called a capital release unit (CRU), to house 74 billion euros of risk-weighted assets the bank had identified for wind-down or sale, part of a broader restructuring that will see 18,000 jobs go as it exits unprofitable businesses. Deutsche Bank set aside a 7.4 billion euro budget to fund the restructuring.

Some analysts have been skeptical whether the plan fully recognizes the extent of the problem assets still sitting on Deutsche Bank’s balance sheet. They remain particularly concerned about its exposure to Level 3 assets, which are the most illiquid and hard-to-value.

“It’s a partial clean-up,” said David Hendler, an independent analyst at New York-based Viola Risk Advisors. Hendler added that Deutsche Bank has 18 billion euros in hard-to-value assets on its balance sheet, which he estimated will take years to offload.

“They’re trying to paint a picture of progress but there’s still a lot of sludge in there,” he said.

Level 3 assets, which can include distressed debt and derivatives, are not necessarily loss making.

Deutsche Bank has said that the CRU’s focus is on releasing capital rather than ring-fencing toxic assets. In a memo to staff on July 8, Sewing described the assets within it as “high quality” and said most were of a short duration.

Only 30% of Deutsche Bank’s 25 billion euros worth of Level 3 assets have so far been placed within the capital release unit, according to a presentation the bank gave alongside its quarterly results in July.

The bank has tried to shed some of those assets, which include longer-dated derivatives, over the past three years. But it had little success because it was not prepared to take the writedowns the sales would have required, the sources said.

A sale of a financial asset can lead to a capital hit if the price is below what the bank values it at on its books, leading to a loss.

Deutsche Bank must stay within the budget it has set for its restructuring to avoid having to raise funds from investors, the sources said.

It set up the capital release unit with a view to shedding assets it could realistically find buyers for or wind-down in the next two to three years, the sources said. That, in turn, would free up capital to fund the sale of longer-term assets that will require bigger writedowns, the sources said.

Of the assets currently in the unit, Deutsche Bank plans to run a formal auction of its equity derivatives book as soon as this month, several sources familiar with the sale process have told Reuters. If those sales are successful, the bank could move more assets into the restructuring unit, the three sources close to the bank said.

(BBG) Europe’s Hottest Property Market Is Getting Too Hot for Some

(BBG)

Portugal is sticking with its golden visa program even though locals are being squeezed.By Henrique Almeida19 de setembro de 2019, 05:01 WEST

Ana Guerreiro points across the street at a handful of housing projects in Lisbon’s up-and-coming riverside neighborhood of Marvila. It’s where she moved in with her mother last year after soaring rents meant she could no longer afford to live alone.

“Prices have gone through the roof here,” said Guerreiro, 33, stepping outside the cafe where she waitresses for a break.

Portugal is western Europe’s most dynamic property market thanks to tax incentives for foreign buyers and a so-called golden visa program, which offers residence permits in return for a minimum 500,000-euro ($550,000) investment. The flip side for people like Guerreiro is that they have become collateral damage with no prospect of prices cooling any time soon.

ON HOLD - GOLDEN VISA STORY
Ana Guerreiro stands in front of a street art mural in Marvila on Sept. 13.Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

Foreign investors have pumped 4.3 billion euros into Portuguese real estate through the residency program since it began in 2012. Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who is widely expected to win a second term in an election next month, has signaled the country needs the incentives to continue to bring in money. Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva even called the programs a “sovereign right.”

Lisbon has become a magnet for tourists in Europe as many investors renovate properties and turn them into short-term rentals through sites like Airbnb. The short-term rentals have been blamed for increasing prices because they target visitors who can afford to pay more than locals.

According to the latest figures, Portuguese property prices increased 9.2% in the first quarter of the year, the biggest gain in the euro region and the steepest rise in the European Union after Hungary and the Czech Republic, according to data compiled by Eurostat.

“They just can’t afford to say no,” said Tiago Caiado Guerreiro, a lawyer in Lisbon who specializes in tax legislation. “These incentives have turned cities like Lisbon into a magnet for foreign investors who helped put the city on the map as a top tourist destination.”

Victims Portugal’s golden visa boom

Indeed, a short distance from where Ana Guerreiro works, a line of new condo developments is emerging behind colorful murals and graffiti-covered walls, luxury homes marketed mainly to a new generation of foreign residents.

Variations on Portugal’s incentives have been adopted across Europe and in countries around the world — from the U.S. and Canada to Spain and Greece. They tend to last until a critical mass of vocal opponents conclude the costs — soaring housing prices, absentee homeowners and allegations of corruption — outweigh the benefits, and politicians drop them.

Portugal’s particular circumstances may forestall that outcome for longer than in other places as there are still plenty of properties in need of renovation, and prices remain relatively reasonable compared with other parts of Europe.

Not long ago, as Europe recovered from the global financial crisis, Portugal lagged behind its neighbors in attracting investment — and it showed. Buildings in historic Lisbon were crumbling, their tile work and masonry faded and cracked.

All that began to change after the government scrapped rent controls in 2012 and introduced the golden visa and tax breaks to attract wealthy foreign residents and property investors. At the time, about 12,000 buildings were in poor condition or in ruins, about 20% of the total, according to city council estimates.

Now, Lisbon’s cobblestone streets and hilltop palaces are being restored, and hundreds of buildings converted into new hotels, short-term rental apartments and luxury retail stores. Investment in real estate and the tourism industry has broken records, boosting the Portuguese economy, which expanded for a fifth consecutive year in 2018.

ON HOLD - GOLDEN VISA STORY
Tourists and visitors gather at the viewpoint of Miradouro da Senhora do Monte in Lisbon on Sept. 13.Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

“Lisbon has never been better in terms of the restoration of its buildings,” said Francisco Bethencourt, a history professor at King’s College in London. “The number of decrepit buildings has been reduced and some of the misery that existed in some neighborhoods is no longer visible. However, this change has had huge social costs as locals with fewer financial resources are being pushed to the periphery.”

Ana Pinto, the president of the Association of Residents of the County of Marvila, can see some benefits of more money coming into her town, which now draws comparisons to hipster havens in New York’s Brooklyn.

But she complains that some of the more than 600 members of her association are moving elsewhere after home prices rose 88% in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to Portugal’s National Statistics Institute in Lisbon.

“Real estate prices have simply become unbearable for us,” said Pinto. “What can we do?”

Canada ended an immigrant investor plan in 2014 after concluding that it provided “limited economic benefit.” Compared with other economic immigrants, investors paid less tax, were less likely to stay in Canada, and often lacked the skills, including proficiency in English or French, to integrate, the government found. The federal program was admitting roughly 2,000 investors a year when it ended.

“What the investor program became was a kind of de facto retirement program,” said Dan Hiebert, an expert on international migration at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “Instead of propelling the investment side of the Canadian economy, it propelled the consumption side of the Canadian economy,” including home purchases, expensive cars and so on, he said.

In Europe, about 20 countries operate investor residence programs, which allow the holder to travel freely within the continent’s Schengen Area during a limited period of time, according to the European Commission. In January, the commission warned that the programs expose the bloc to money laundering and security risks.

It also can change the way people live in cities.

Last month, an online ad promoting the rental of container homes in Marvila made headlines in the local press, which linked the 600-euro-a-month converted shipping containers to the lack of affordable housing in Lisbon. A few days later, the city council ordered the removal of the containers, daily newspaper Publico reported on its website.

ON HOLD - GOLDEN VISA STORY
In the Amadora district of Lisbon, real estate prices have risen significantly.Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

About six miles away, in the town of Amadora, City Council President Carla Tavares said Lisbon’s real estate boom has helped turn a suburb that was once seen as a hot spot for crime into a vibrant hub for foreign residents and companies like Siemens AG. Real estate prices in Amadora increased 23% in the first quarter from the same period a year earlier.

“It’s very positive to see so much rehabilitation in the city,” Tavares said in a phone interview on Aug. 14. “We must let the market function.”

(SluggerO’Toole) Is this really it? ” Northern Ireland would effectively become a special economic zone inside both the UK and the EU”

(SluggerO’Toole)

Too much for the DUP, too little for Dublin and the EU but enough to keep going? The direction of travel has seemed clear for some time. These reports bring it out into the open.

Johnson has been talking up a deal based on an expansion of  the original  agri foods proposal. An actual outline has been show to the EU negotiators, but not to  take  home with them .

(Why did they tamely agree to only a sneak preview?)   The media have all been briefed. The Johnson style seems  to be to test out all the elements of a plan in “concept” discussions  before tabling an actual plan. This avoids a single comprehensive rejection in one go and allows for development on the way. Some people are calling it “slice and dice”. Or is it more like risotto?   This is  Peston’s take.

In place of the dreaded backstop – that insurance policy for keeping open the border on the island of Ireland hated by most Tory Brexiters and Northern Ireland’s DUP – Johnson is suggesting:

  1. A)A unified single market for agriculture between Northern Irelandand the Republic (a single set of what are known are sanitary and phytosanitary rules), so that cross border flows of livestock and food is not hindered;
  2. B)Customs and limited unintrusive goods standards checks on the island but away from the border itself;
  3. C)No customs union with the EU for either the whole UK or NI alone;
  4. D)Where rules for agriculture or even for other limited markets are set for the whole island by Brussels, the principle of a “Stormont lock” – or, in the words of a source, that “the people of Northern Ireland must be able to withdraw consent, with all that entails”.

But the biggest and most important question is whether Brussels and the EU27 will and can ever accept the principle that the citizens of Northern Ireland could unilaterally choose to end the arrangement.

This is an absolute must for Johnson I am told.

Equally, Brussels has always insisted that any arrangement to keep open the border should not be capable of being terminated by one side only.

The Guardian’s version

Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiators have so far only presented the EU with a draft of the withdrawal agreement with the backstop scrubbed out, UK government sources have confirmed.

In a move that has caused tensions with EU leaders, Johnson’s team are refusing to put forward a written proposal to Brussels at this stage for fear it will be rejected out of hand or publicly rubbished.

Instead, they want to wait until almost the last minute before the October summit before presenting a plan to the EU, with just two weeks before the UK is due to leave the bloc.

The UK government source said the two sides had debated alternatives to the backstop in written discussion documents – such as an all-Ireland regulatory zone and customs checks away from the border – but they would not be putting forward a legal text to the EU at this stage.

There have been reports that David Frost, the UK’s lead negotiator, is keeping a plan locked safe in his briefcase but the wording has not been shared with Brussels.

The FT goes further
UK officials are now letting it be known that Britain wants to extend discussions on how to create an “all-island” economic relationship by tackling trickier areas such as customs, value added tax, industrial goods and the remit of the European Court of Justice..
Under the UK plan, Northern Ireland would effectively become a special economic zone inside both the UK and the EU. A border would continue to exist and everything that is not covered by the all-island regime would be subject to checks. However, the UK’s intention is that these checks would be carried out away from the border to avoid reigniting tensions between Northern Ireland and the Republic.. But according to some UK officials the task ahead for both sides in securing an agreement is daunting. “There’s been a lot of activity but the difficulties are greater than people think,” said one official. “Although progress is being made on agriculture, we haven’t yet begun negotiations on what kind of customs border there should be. Is it a customs border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; or Northern Ireland and Great Britain? This is hugely important.

An acknowledgement of more substance under discussion but still a cool reaction from Dublin

Government sources were tight-lipped on the “concepts” Mr Coveney discussed with British ministers, but it is thought in London they involve an all-Ireland zone for food and animal products and efforts to avoid checks with extensive measures such as pre-clearance and trusted trader schemes to avoid checks on goods or confine them at a business level.

A spokesman for Mr Coveney said the negotiations were between the EU and the UK, and that no proposals that could replace the backstop had yet been tabled.

However, it is understood British ministers have not made any suggestions that could come close to replacing the backstop for the Irish Government. “We haven’t seen anything that works,” said one source, while another person briefed on the issue said none of the British suggestions were sufficient.

One weak link is clearly the so-called Stormont lock ” in effect a local veto on any changes. This is unacceptable to the EU and Dublin, despite their support for the  restoration of Stormont and the principle of EU subsidiary, the devolution of power to the lowest practical level. On this issue, the nation state must remain the accountable body. Could the Assembly handle it anyway? A substitute might be  a joint UK/EU monitoring committee with NI input. But that’s  in the backstop.

There’s a lot to cover in four weeks!

(EUobserver) Juncker: No-deal Brexit ‘palpable’

(EUobserver)

  • Brexit MEPs during EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s speech: isolated (Photo: European Parliament)

EU top officials on Wednesday (18 September) warned that the UK is heading for a no-deal break with the EU, unless the London government provides written proposals on the controversial Irish border issue.

“There is very little time left. […] The risk of a no-deal is very real,” EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs in Strasbourg.

(ZH) US Navy Admits Leaked ‘UFO Tapes’ Are Real And Should Never Have Been Released

(ZH)

Three videos appearing to show encounters between US Navy aircraft and what the military terms “UAPs” – so-called ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” – have accidentally been released to the public despite the military insisting that they were never cleared.

According to RT, the clips, which have at this point been widely circulated, depict American aircraft interacting with the unidentified flying objects. Several of these mysterious dark figures demonstrated aerial maneuvers that were far beyond the capabilities of human technology.

The Navy’s Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare Spokesman Joseph Gradisher confirmed that the videos are genuine, but insisted that the government hadn’t finished analyzing their contents, which remained unexplained. He cautioned that the public shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the existence of aliens.

The videos were released to Luis Elizondo, a former military intelligence officer who claims to have been a director of the Pentagon’s UFO research arm, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (or AATIP). He intended to use them in a database about possible aerial threats.

In the first video, titled “FLIR1”, a strange pill-shaped object can be seen sitting on the horizon before darting sideways extremely fast.

In the second video, a US aircraft’s sensor has locked on to an object flying swiftly across the water. The pilot and his teammates can be heard expressing their surprise at the object’s speed.

In the third, an oblong object can be seen moving steadily before stopping and turning around and darting away.

The Pentagon complained about the release of the videos, saying they “should still be withheld” as they were “never officially released to the general public.” But it’s a bit too late to put the UFO back in the back.

These videos have been in circulation for months, ever since the Pentagon released files from AATIP, which had been a secret government initiative that “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena.” The Pentagon has admitted that it shut down the AATIP in 2012, however there have been reports claiming that the department still investigates potential alien aircraft sightings.

Interviews with several pilots who encountered UFOs can be jarring. The pilots describe encountering vessels that accelerate to hypersonic speeds while making stops and turns – maneuvers that no human ship could pull off. Some pilots described the objects as an ongoing phenomenon. At first, one squad thought they were part of some top-secret drone program, but the pilots soon ruled this out.

AATIP’s existence was revealed in 2017, when former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed to have arranged for the program’s $22 million annual funding. It was founded at Reid’s behest back in 2007 after Navy airmen had repeatedly captured footage of UAPs.

(IsaraelHayom) Who will be the winner in the repeat election?

(IsaraelHayom) One thing is for sure: The many problems of democracy are still preferable to the few (if any!) advantages of nondemocratic regimes.

Spoiler alert: The answer to the question in the title of this article is, from our perspective, quite clear – Israel will be the unequivocal winner of the ongoing electoral process. However, dear reader, please do not stop reading. Don’t lose interest. More important than identifying the clear winner is the discussion about what is at stake on this super-decisive Tuesday.

Why is Israel the unequivocal winner?

Because the Israeli people will show once again, to the entire world, that it is the most perfect democracy in the most imperfect, undemocratic and problematic region of the globe. Every democracy on earth has problems, such as the deficient (if not vicious) relationship between voters and their representatives and the lack of political mechanisms to challenge and defy an establishment whose power comes at the expense of the people. The political problems of modern democracies are too numerous to enumerate here in this article – my first contribution to Israel Hayom.

One thing is for sure: The many problems of democracy are still preferable to the few (if any!) advantages of nondemocratic regimes. And by “nondemocratic regime,” I am not referring to the most barbaric political experiences of the past, from the diabolical authoritarian regimes of the first half of the 20th century in the heart of Europe to the murderous communist regimes that savaged so many countries throughout the world.

I am referring instead to those regimes (and consequently, states) that have embraced the politics of complete surrender to the intellectual, political and social dictatorship of far-left political correctness. This kind of inorganic dictatorship usually comes with a nice face, a beautiful package and a colorful ribbon upon it, but it is not less lethal and dangerous than the traditional forms of radicalism and totalitarianism. Many examples of the threats to democratic societies posed by these new groups, radical social movements, and protest professionals (think about Antifa in the US) could be pointed out here. Don’t forget that these groups picked as their role models the states dominated by radical Islamic terrorism, much like the vicious and despicable far-right, nondemocratic, and racist marginal groups in Europe and the US. If this is not enough to dissuade people – especially youth – from joining such groups, then we, as a society and as humans, should be very worried about our immediate future.

Israel – as a country with a strong, resilient and brave people – will be the winner because the electorate will respond positively to the second call to vote in such a short period of time. Unlike many of my Israeli friends and highly respected political analysts, I believe that when the turnout rate is measured, we’ll find that the Israeli people did not stay at home, watching the future of the country being written by others.

It’s true that one can feel palpable electoral fatigue in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and pretty much every corner of this amazing country. However, the fatigue from listening to unstoppable electoral speeches and interviews with politicians (a professional class that is, let’s face it, not so adored by these days) may be a catalyst leading to massive voting today. I hope so. It would bring tremendous honor to Israel’s democracy.

So, dear reader, as much as I love your attention and kindness for reading this article, if you haven’t yet voted, please run now to do so!

And the mobilization of the electorate may very well culminate in polarization between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz: The perception that this is a battle for the premiership will most likely potentiate the concentration of votes in either candidate. You may object that the polls indicate the opposite, but my confidence in polls was shaken dramatically over the last few years (remember President Hillary Clinton?).

Having this said, I will not pass over the $1 million question: Which political reality will emerge from the vote tonight (or tomorrow, or in the coming days…)? I believe that Benjamin Netanyahu will continue to head the Israeli government. This is for a number of reasons, including (1) the relative activism and loyalty of his base compared to that of the other side; (2) Gantz’s gradual loss of momentum; and (3) the fact that the right-wing parties – led by the powerful and brilliant Ayelet Shaked – will not be anxious to hand power over to the Left on a silver platter. I am not ignoring things that have been said during the campaign, but Wednesday is a new day. And Gen. Gantz – who at his core is no leftist – would be an incredible and highly respected defense minister in a Likud-led government.

I conclude as I started. The winner today is Israel.

While in Lebanon, Hezbollah is subjugating its people through fear and terror, brainwashing them against Israel and the West, and feeding international terrorism, the Israeli people are voting in a tolerant, pluralistic, and fair democratic process.

While Iran of the despicable ayatollahs is pretending – laughing in our faces! – that the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s refineries are Yemen’s fault (!) and will continue to export its special kind of international terrorism, Israel is showing, one more time, how a free and democratic society works.

Contrary to what the Left preaches in Europe and now, unfortunately, in the US, there is no moral equivalence between Israel and its neighbors. We will always stand with Israel because we will always stand for liberty and democracy.

Today, a great new chapter for the great State of Israel is starting. As its national anthem says, our hope is not lost!

João Lemos Esteves wrote this article following a visit to Israel under the auspices of B’nai B’rith

(DML) Boris Johnson ‘has Brexit blueprint’… but he can’t reveal it to EU chiefs as he is terrified it will be leaked to public

(DML)

  • Sources say EU negotiators being ‘shown pieces of paper’ outlining PM’s plan
  • The move came as No 10 revealed Brexit talks would step up from next week
  • It has also emerged that the PM will soon discuss his plans with Angela Merkel 

Boris Johnson has started to share details of his Brexit blueprint with the EU as talks on a possible deal intensify, Government sources said last night.

Downing Street yesterday hit back at claims by senior EU figures that the Prime Minister has yet to explain the changes he wants to see.

Government sources said EU negotiators were being ‘shown pieces of paper’ giving the outline of Mr Johnson’s plans, including the removal of the controversial Irish backstop.

The move came as No 10 revealed Brexit talks would step up from being twice a week to daily from next week as the UK searches for a deal. It also emerged that the PM will discuss his plans with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at next week’s UN general assembly in New York.

But sources acknowledged that Mr Johnson’s full blueprint may not be published until next month because of fears EU members would leak it and risk a row at the Conservative Party conference.

Boris Johnson (pictured in Luxembourg yesterday) has started to share details of his Brexit blueprint with the EU as talks on a possible deal intensify, according to Government sources

Boris Johnson (pictured in Luxembourg yesterday) has started to share details of his Brexit blueprint with the EU as talks on a possible deal intensify, according to Government sources

Downing Street sources confirmed that Mr Johnson’s Brexit envoy David Frost has so far only shown his EU counterparts the parts of Theresa May’s deal he wants removed, focusing on the backstop.

‘We showed them the text of the Northern Ireland protocol, without the backstop in it, to show them the precision of the removal that we’re looking for, so they could understand what would still be left,’ a source said.

‘We haven’t shown them a new legal text. Essentially we have shown them what we want removing.’ The source said that UK documents were being removed at the end of meetings with the EU to prevent them being leaked.

‘The minute you share anything, you’re literally firing it to 27 capitals,’ they added. ‘The institutions feel they have this duty to share. Once you share it with 27 countries, you’re not in control of the document. You’ve got to be sensible about it.’

Details of Mr Johnson’s plans will not be released until after the conference finishes on October 2 – just two weeks before a crunch EU summit seen as the last chance to strike a deal.

The blueprint involves creating an ‘all-Ireland’ agricultural zone, which would remove the need for checks on livestock and food at the Irish border. The DUP has indicated it could live with the idea, even though it would almost certainly mean enhanced checks on food products crossing to the mainland UK.

But it would also require Brussels to accept that technological customs checks on manufactured goods are kept to a minimum and carried out away from the border.

Mr Johnson is also pushing for the devolved assembly in Northern Ireland to have a ‘lock’ on the extent to which the province is required to follow EU rules.

The UK¿s failure to produce a ¿legally operative¿ alternative plan has angered EU leaders, with Jean-Claude Juncker warning Mr Johnson this week it was impossible to make progress without one (the pair are pictured together in Luxembourg yesterday)

The UK’s failure to produce a ‘legally operative’ alternative plan has angered EU leaders, with Jean-Claude Juncker warning Mr Johnson this week it was impossible to make progress without one (the pair are pictured together in Luxembourg yesterday)

Ministers argue the measure is essential to ensure the post-Brexit arrangements comply with the Good Friday Agreement.

But the Stormont assembly has not sat for more than two and a half years. And Brussels is loath to accept the idea of devolving power over issues that protect the integrity of the single market.

The UK’s failure to produce a ‘legally operative’ alternative plan has angered EU leaders, with Jean-Claude Juncker warning Mr Johnson this week it was impossible to make progress without one.

Sources said Mr Juncker told the PM that ‘the door (to a deal) is not closed’, but warned him the EU could not countenance dropping the Irish backstop until the UK could show it had an alternative plan for preventing a hard border.

But ministers were encouraged by a backlash against Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel, who tried to embarrass Mr Johnson on Monday by staging a joint press conference in front of a noisy crowd of anti-Brexit protesters.

Mr Johnson pulled out of the event after Mr Bettel refused to move it indoors –leaving the Luxembourger to deliver an angry anti-Brexit rant while gesturing at the British PM’s empty lectern.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland described Mr Bettel’s behaviour as ‘an unfortunate media stunt’.

And it also drew criticism from EU diplomats. The senior German MP Norbert Rottgen, a close ally of Mrs Merkel, said Mr Bettel’s speech ‘did not serve the European cause’.

(GUA) EU given Brexit draft with backstop scrubbed out, UK sources admit

(GUA) PM’s negotiators intent on waiting until last minute before sharing plan with Brussels

The UK’s Brexit adviser David Frost (centre) and the British ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow (left), at EU headquarters  in Brussels
 The UK’s Brexit adviser, David Frost (centre), and the British ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow (left), at EU headquarters in Brussels last week. Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP

Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiators have so far only presented the EU with a draft of the withdrawal agreement with the backstop scrubbed out, UK government sources have confirmed.

In a move that has caused tensions with EU leaders, Johnson’s team are refusing to put forward a written proposal to Brussels at this stage for fear it will be rejected out of hand or publicly rubbished.

Instead, they want to wait until almost the last minute before the October summit before presenting a plan to the EU, with just two weeks before the UK is due to leave the bloc.

The UK government source said the two sides had debated alternatives to the backstop in written discussion documents – such as an all-Ireland regulatory zone and customs checks away from the border – but they would not be putting forward a legal text to the EU at this stage.

There have been reports that David Frost, the UK’s lead negotiator, is keeping a plan locked safe in his briefcase but the wording has not been shared with Brussels.

Frustration with the UK’s approach broke into the open on Monday as Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, gave a press conference next to an empty podium following a meeting with Johnson, who refused to take part because of loud protests nearby. Bettel said the UK government needed to put on paper an alternative to the Irish backstop, and appeared to suggest that party political considerations might be standing in the way.

“I told him: ‘I hear a lot but I don’t read a lot.’ If they want to discuss anything we need to have it written [down] … Don’t put the blame on us because they don’t know how to get out of the situation they put themselves in,” Bettel said.Advertisement

As the chaotic scenes were played out, the European commission issued a statement disclosing that its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, had told the prime minister it was his responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions and that “such proposals have not yet been made”.

Johnson has brushed off the Luxembourg incident with a claim that he is still working towards a deal and believes EU leaders will want to strike an agreement because they have had a “bellyful” of Brexit.

He spoke to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on Tuesday morning, agreeing to have further discussions with her in New York at the UN general assembly next week. There are only three days left until the end of the 30-day deadline Merkel gave Johnson last month to come up with alternative solutions to remove the need for a backstop, which Eurosceptics in parliament refuse to vote for because it could keep the UK indefinitely in a customs union.

Johnson is also likely to meet Donald Tusk, the European council president, at the UN conference and No 10 hopes that some progress towards a deal could be made at that summit.

However, many in Brussels are sceptical there is enough time left to do a deal. It is just one month before the crucial EU summit on 17 October, where Johnson hopes to secure a deal, and six weeks before the UK is due to leave on 31 October unless it requests an extension.

Johnson is mandated by the UK parliament to seek a three-month extension if he does not strike a Brexit deal by then. He has insisted he will not do this but has not set out how he would avoid such an outcome.

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, refused on Tuesday to rule out a second prorogation as part of No 10’s tactics to achieve a no-deal Brexit.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the current suspension of parliament could happen again, Buckland said: “Harold Wilson said a week is a long time in politics. It seems like an hour is a long time in politics at the moment.

“For me to sit here and imagine what might happen at the end of October, I think, is idle. What I do know, if we are able to, we will have a Queen’s speech in mid-October, there will be debate during that time and a vote as well, and perhaps a series of votes.

“Parliament has already shown its power. It had a week in September where it made pretty significant legislation. I think the idea that somehow parliament has been prevented from having its voice doesn’t seem to be borne out by events, frankly.”

(GUA) UN hosts drive to suck back carbon and reverse climate change

(GUA) New York forum aims to ‘restore’ the climate by reducing atmospheric levels of carbon to those of a century ago

Equipment is used to capture carbon dioxide emissions at a coal-fired power plant in Thomspsons, Texas.
 Equipment is used to capture carbon dioxide emissions at a coal-fired power plant in Thomspsons, Texas. Photograph: Ernest Scheyder/Reuters

A new effort to rally governments and corporations behind technologies that suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere to help stave off disastrous global heating will be launched at the United Nations on Tuesday.

The first annual Global Climate Restoration Forum, held in New York, aims to spur international support for emerging and sometimes controversial methods to claw back planet-warming gases after they have been emitted from power plants, cars, trucks and aircraft.

The Foundation for Climate Restoration, the group behind the forum, has released a manifesto for its goal to “restore” the climate by reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to those of a century ago. Atmospheric CO2 is rising sharply, peaking at 415 parts per million this year, far above the level during most of human history, around 300ppm.

The foundation aims to restore this historical norm by 2050, saying success would be on a par with the moon landing or the eradication of smallpox. It warns that the current climate is leading us “down a path toward the probable extinction of our species and thousands of others”.

“Mother Earth will survive without us but we’d like for humans to survive too,” said Rick Parnell, chief executive of the foundation, which was created last year. “This is the beginning of a 10-year strategy to get governments and companies to understand the need to restore our climate now. Humanity got us into this situation, it can get us out of it.”

Global average temperatures have increased by around 1C in the past century due to the buildup of planet-warming gases from human activity. World leaders have agreed to limit this rise to 2C, and ideally 1.5C, although global greenhouse gases are not declining and major emitters such as the US and Brazil have shown signs of going backwards.

Any realistic chance of avoiding highly dangerous levels of global heating will likely involve the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, either through mass reforestation or nascent technology that either eliminates it from industrial processes or sucks it directly from the air.

(ECO) Portugal financia-se em 1.250 milhões a juros negativos históricos

(ECO) Tesouro português foi esta manhã aos mercados para financiar Estado em 1.250 milhões de euros. Obteve o montante mínimo pretendido a taxas ainda mais negativas do que anteriores operações.

Portugal continua a aproveitar as condições favoráveis do mercado para se financiar. Desta vez, num duplo leilão de títulos de dívida de curto prazo, o Tesouro português obteve um financiamento de 1.250 milhões de euros, numa operação em que mais uma vez os investidores não se importaram de “pagar” para emprestar dinheiro ao Estado português. As taxas de juros foram ainda mais negativas do que em anteriores operações em consequência do aumento da procura.S&P abre a porta a nova subida do rating de Portugal Ler Mais

No leilão de títulos a seis meses, Portugal obteve 250 milhões de euros a uma taxa de juro de -0,463%, que compara com a taxa de -0,454% do anterior leilão comparável realizado em julho. A procura foi 4,7 vezes superior à oferta, fator que ajudou a baixar o juro da operação.

Já o financiamento de 1.000 milhões de euros em bilhetes do Tesouro a 12 meses registou uma taxa de juro de -0,44%, um valor ainda mais negativo do que os -0,431% observados no último leilão semelhante. Neste caso, os investidores pretendiam o dobro da dívida que o IGCP efetivamente colocou esta quarta-feira.

Bilhetes do Tesouro com taxas cada vez mais negativas

A República consegue assim um financiamento total 1.250 milhões de euros em dívida de curto prazo, que era o montante mínimo pretendido pelo IGCP liderado por Cristina Casalinho.

Já era expectável que Portugal continuasse a registar taxas negativas neste tipo de operações, tendo em conta a política ultra expansionista do Banco Central Europeu (BCE) — que ainda na semana passada anunciou uma nova ronda de estímulos monetários, incluindo o relançamento de um programa de compra de ativos — e também a melhoria da perceção de risco nos mercados e agências de rating — na sexta-feira passada a Standard & Poor’s melhorou o outlook da dívida portuguesa, justificando a decisão com o crescimento económico e a redução da dívida pública, que contribuem para a sustentabilidade das finanças públicas.Banca, recado à Alemanha e a resposta de Draghi a Trump Ler Mais

De resto, também nos leilões de dívida de longo prazo o país tem observado uma baixa considerável nos seus custos de financiamento. Há uma semana, o IGCP colocou 600 milhões em obrigações do Tesouro com os investidores a exigirem uma taxa de 0,264%, quase metade do que havia pago no anterior leilão comparável (0,51%), realizado em julho.

No caso da dívida de curto prazo, os juros estão em terreno negativo porque os investidores preferem fazer aplicações nestes ativos de elevada segurança ao invés de parquear o dinheiro nos cofres do BCE, onde é cobrada uma taxa de depósito de -0,5%. Teoricamente, os investidores perdem menos dinheiro a “emprestá-lo” a Portugal do que simplesmente deixá-lo parado em Frankfurt.

(CNBC) Facebook working on smart glasses with Ray-Ban, code-named ‘Orion’

(CNBC)

  • Facebook has partnered with Luxottica to develop augmented-reality Ray-Ban glasses, sources familiar with the matter told CNBC. 
  • Facebook is hoping a partnership with Luxottica will result in the glasses reaching consumers by 2023, 2024 or as late as 2025. 
  • The glasses are internally codenamed Orion, and they are designed to replace smartphones, the sources said.
RT: Mark Zuckerberg F8 Developers Conference 190430 1

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes his keynote speech during Facebook Inc’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019.Stephen Lam | Reuters

Facebook has been working to develop augmented reality glasses out of its Facebook Reality Labs in Redmond, Washington, for the past couple of years, but struggles with the development of the project have led the company to seek help. Now, Facebook is hoping a partnership with Ray-Ban parent company Luxottica will get them completed and ready for consumers between 2023 and 2025, according to people familiar.

The glasses are internally codenamed Orion, and they are designed to replace smartphones, the people said. The glasses would allow users to take calls, show information to users in a small display and live-stream their vantage point to their social media friends and followers.

WATCH NOWVIDEO01:17Facebook enlists Ray-Ban maker to help develop ‘Orion’ smart glasses

Facebook is also developing an artificial intelligence voice assistant that would serve as a user input for the glasses, CNBC previously reported. In addition, the company has experimented with a ring device that would allow users to input information via motion sensor. That device is code-named Agios.

The company has hundreds of employees at its Redmond offices working on technology for the AR glasses, but thus far, Facebook has struggled to reduce the size of the device into a form factor that consumers will find appealing, a person who worked on the device told CNBC.

Given the long lead time, there’s no guarantee that the glasses will be completed on time or ever ship. But one person familiar with the project said that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a strong interest in the glasses, and asked hardware chief Andrew Bosworth to prioritize them.

Facebook declined to comment. Luxottica did not immediately return request for comment.

Facebook is not alone in believing that smart glasses that superimpose computer-generated images over the real world will be the next big thing in computing. Already, Microsoft makes the HoloLens 2 headset, Snapchat parent company Snap sells its Spectacles glasses and Florida startup Magic Leap sells its Magic Leap One AR glasses, although none of these devices has become a hit. Apple is also reportedly working on a similar product that could hit the market as early as next year.

Luxottica is the parent company of Ray-Ban, Oakley and other sunglasses brands. The company has previously experimented with this technology, partnering in 2014 with Google to design, develop and distribute the Google Glass device.

(CNN) Trump is trapped between two impulses on Iran

(CNN) President Donald Trump is stuck in a political box — largely of his own making — on Iran, a predicament that becomes more intractable with each alarming cycle of escalation.In the aftermath of a sophisticated attack on a Saudi oilfield, Trump is being torn between two political and character traits that are starting to define his foreign policy.He’s desperate to avoid a new Middle East quagmire, but cannot bear to look weak.”I don’t want war with anybody,” Trump said Monday before returning to bombast. “We have the strongest military in the world … we’re prepared, more than anybody.

“The struggle raging inside the President helps explain the contradictory twists of a session with reporters in the Oval Office on Monday. His remarks left future US strategy opaque. They also underlined how the President’s plight is the predictable result of his own political choices.Trump says it looks like Iran was behind Saudi oil field attackPerched on his yellow armchair, next to the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Trump hardly seemed like a steely commander in chief “locked and loaded” for action — an image he had promoted in a weekend tweet that put the world on edge.”I’m not looking to get into new conflict but sometimes you have to,” he said.

The man who tweeted in 2014 that “Saudi Arabia should fight their own wars” is now being asked as President to protect a kingdom that won his favor with ostentatious flattery on his first official trip abroad.Hinting at this dilemma, Trump made clear that he had not made any promises to the Saudis, but added in a less than ringing assurance to an ally to which he has synced US foreign policy, “we will work something out with them.”Asked whether Iran was behind the attack, Trump said: “It’s looking that way.”Yet moments later, he rebuked a reporter who sought clarification, saying: “I didn’t say that.”After a day of lurching political messaging, the impression Trump sent the world was of a President playing for time, keen to preserve off-ramps for himself, and downplaying a crisis that rocked oil markets, could stunt global growth and traumatize the economy he needs to ride to reelection if it gets any worse.

Trump sends incoherent message

The White House would like you to abandon all common sense on ‘locked and loaded’The same forces that prompted the President to suddenly call off an attack on Iranian targets in June to avenge the downing of a US drone over the Gulf of Oman seem to be in play now.In other circumstances, the President might be praised for taking a prudent course in fully investigating the situation before considering military options.Yet Trump’s aggressive tweets and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s rush to blame Iran forfeited the benefit of the doubt.Pompeo further boxed in his boss over the weekend, tweeting that Tehran had “launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.”Perhaps seeking to create some diplomatic space, Trump sowed confusion on Monday.

“I think I’ll have a stronger message or maybe no message at all when we get the final results of what we’re looking at,” he said. “You know there’s no rush.”The choices before Trump are unattractive — reflecting the complexity of the presidency — a reality he rarely embraces.A US official told CNN that the US has assessed that the attack originated from inside Iran. The official spoke on condition of anonymity given a lack of authorization to talk to the press.The administration has so far offered no public evidence of Iranian culpability in an attack claimed by Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.If Iran is at fault, and Trump does nothing, he will look like a paper tiger who makes toothless military threats. Such an outcome would embolden Iran and suggest that behavior that holds the global economy hostage will be met with impunity.Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said Monday that while the facts of the Saudi attacks are not yet clear, the possibility that the US could respond with force “needs to be on the table.”

“To have a credible deterrent against future bad behavior, they have to believe that’s a possibility,” he said.The President’s discomfort can be explained by the likely disastrous consequences of war with Iran.Hostilities would confound a Trump 2016 campaign trail promise to avoid foreign entanglements. US troops in the region could be sitting ducks. Allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia would be in the firing line.And then there is the economic blowback, which could imperil Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Crisis dashes hopes of US-Iran talks



Trump’s warning to Iran raises fears of war — and confusionDiplomacy is going nowhere, either.The tug of war between Trump’s political and foreign policy ideals is hampering his faltering efforts to open talks with Iran.The initiative already was doomed since the President is seeking to replace a nuclear deal that he walked out on last year — apparently confirming the view of Iranian hardliners that the US can never be trusted.As he seeks reelection, Trump is trawling the globe for big PR wins — and angling for a historic meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly next week.That is probably politically impossible now, for both sides.Unlike North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the Islamic Republic has no interest in photo ops that look good in campaign videos.The Iranians have made clear that their price for talks is lifting the sanctions against their country — a concession that would require Trump to offer the kind of carrot that he never tires of condemning his nemesis former President Barack Obama for offering.Some analysts believe that the Saudi attacks — if plotted by Iran — could be a signal that it has already given up on the notion that diplomacy with the US will ever result in the lifting of the sanctions that have pummeled its economy.

Proof of Iranian military action or attacks by its proxies in the region could also indicate that forces inside Iranian politics that are hostile to any dialogue have the upper hand.The very idea of a Trump-Iran dialogue also seems unlikely.After 40 years of animosity, there’s no chance that the President and the leaders of Iran are going to fall “in love,” as Trump described the blossoming with his relationship with Kim.One frustration for Trump — who believes, so far with little evidence, that his personal magnetism can forge diplomatic deals — is the remoteness of the Iranian leadership.Even talks with Rouhani — which would be the first between US and Iranian leaders since the 1979 Islamic revolution — would not get Trump in front of the man calling the shots in Tehran.Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sees the world through a clerical and revolutionary lens clouded by anti-US dogma. The environment in which he’s making his calculations could hardly be more estranged from Trump’s brash reality-show world.

Slim hopes of European help

Attacks have disrupted 5% of the world’s oil production. Here’s what you need to knowTrump’s unenviable position would test any US president — even one not facing the constraints imposed by the confrontational path Trump has chosen to deal with Iran.One way out could be for the President to use the attack on the Saudi oil facility as a rallying point to rebuild the international front against Iran.While European governments have been battling to save the Iran nuclear deal, clear-cut evidence that Tehran was behind the attacks could drain the political capital sustaining their efforts.Potentially, the President could use the incident to convince European leaders to sign up for the US operation in the Gulf to shield oil tankers from seizure by Iran.

Britain, nurturing its “special relationship” with the US as Brexit looms, has signed up. But France and Germany declined, amid a transatlantic dust-up over Trump’s Iran policy.A US-European rapprochement seems unlikely, however, given Washington’s attempts to undermine the European Union’s efforts to keep the nuclear deal alive.US military action, meanwhile, would likely torpedo an effort by French President Emmanuel Macron to de-escalate the situation and get Washington and Tehran back to the table.