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(BBG) China Is Sabotaging Itself in Taiwan

(BBG) The logic of politics in the Xi Jinping era makes a softer line untenable, even if it’s having the opposite of the desired effect.

Waving not drowning.
Waving not drowning. Photographer: Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

China has a lot at stake in getting its favored candidate across the line in Taiwan’s presidential election in January, so it’s strange that Beijing is doing so much to sabotage Han Kuo-yu’s chances. Without a change in its approach, the Communist Party risks making the already difficult task of winning over the self-governing island next to impossible without force.

Over the past year, Beijing has single-handedly revived the electoral prospects of its political adversary, incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party. At the turn of the year, Tsai’s approval rating was a miserable 24%. Now polls show her with more than 53% support versus about 31% for Han, whose Kuomintang is the natural ally of Beijing. That nationalist party retains deep ties to the mainland as the former government of China until it lost a civil war to the communists and fled to Taiwan in 1949.You’re browsing incognito.Subscribe to continue reading in incognito mode.Subscribe

(BBC) Google set to offer banking current accounts


Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Image captionGoogle is expanding its financial offerings

Google has become the latest big tech firm to move into banking by offering current accounts.

The firm said it plans to partner with banks and credit unions in the US to offer the “smart checking” accounts.

It said the service, to be launched via Google Pay, will allow users to add Google’s analytic tools to traditional banking products.

The move follows offerings of credit cards, payment systems and loans by FacebookUberApple and Amazon.

While the products and arrangements differ, the tech giants entering the world of banking share an underlying motive: making themselves indispensable, says Gerard du Toit, a partner at the Bain & Co consulting firm.

“They’re all competing for consumer attention and for their ecosystem and platform to win,” he says.

In this photo illustration, the Facebook Pay application home page is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on November 13, 2019 in Paris, France.
Image captionFacebook has said its payment tool is a natural outgrowth of its broader aim of connecting people

Amazon’s credit card and business loans are aimed at boosting its e-commerce business, while Uber Money is providing credit cards, debit accounts and money tracking tools to serve the company’s taxi operations.

Facebook has said its Facebook Pay service will complement its messaging tools.

And both Google and Apple, which has teamed up with Goldman Sachs’ new consumer arm, Marcus, on a credit card as part of its Apple Pay and Wallet service, want to to make iPhones and Androids essential.

Wading into financial services will also provide Google and Facebook information for their advertising business, helping to track what ads lead to purchases, Mr du Toit said.

The moves into banking are likely to add to the debates over the tech giants, which are already facing probes related to competition, data protection and privacy.

Some officials have also expressed worry about gaps in financial oversight as growing activity occurs outside of traditional banking. And in recent days, New York announced it would investigate Apple, after accusations that its credit card relied on “sexist” algorithms.

Mr du Toit said regulatory concerns represent the “fly in the soup” for tech firms.

“They will have to be very careful,” he said.


In many cases, the tech firms are working with traditional banks – a sign they are aware of the potential issues, he said.

Google said its US partners, which reportedly include Citigroup, would start to offer the accounts by 2020.

“We believe our partners’ regulatory and financial know-how is a great complement to our experience in building helpful tools and technology for our users,” it said in a statement.

Alipay and wechat QR codes for online payment are displayed at a meat stall at a market in Nantong in China's eastern Jiangsu province on September 10, 2018.
Image captionChinese tech giants have had success with financial services

Lagging China

Amazon has offered small business loans since 2011 and launched its credit card with JP Morgan Chase in 2017.

But in some ways, the flurry of announcements by companies this year, is a sign that the US is late to the party.

In China and some other countries, the tech firms moved quickly into banking, motivated by the need to fill the gaps left by traditional finance industry that created hurdles for their businesses, whether they were e-commerce firms or food delivery companies.

In the US, however, the need was less pressing, thanks in part to the ubiquity of credit cards and other “good enough solutions”, Mr du Toit said.

Big tech payment services provided by the likes of Alibaba’s Ant Financial and Tencent’s WeChat account for roughly 16% of China’s GDP, compared to less than 1% in the US, according to the Bank for International Settlements, an organisation backed by 60 of the world’s central banks.

Tech companies “are now increasingly getting into it because they do believe they can offer a materially better solution to customers,” he said.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg

Last month, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg evoked the threat of Chinese competition while defending his firm’s interest in developing a cryptocurrency before Congress last month.

“I view the financial infrastructure in the US as outdated,” he said.

‘Darwinian experiment’

As the tech companies start to make use of their massive reach, close customer relationships and giant data sets, banks “have woken up” to the threat, leading to collaborations and other uneasy “frenemy” arrangements, Mr du Toit said.

With tech firms moving beyond credit cards, regional banks will get left behind, while smaller financial technology firms are forced out or acquired, Mr du Toit said.

“I sometimes describe this as a giant Darwinian experiment of different couplings of the banks and the big techs,” he says. “There will be some mutations that succeed and others that fail.”

While Google’s earlier efforts to build up Google Pay failed to gain much traction in the US, the firm has developed significant payment business in India, where a Bain & Co survey found that more than half of respondents had used the platform in the last 12 months.

“I would not count them out,” Mr du Toit said.

(Express) Boris handed MASSIVE boost as Tories nudge further ahead of Corbyn in latest election poll

(Express) BORIS JOHNSON was handed a huge boost on Monday afternoon after the latest general election poll placed him nudging further ahead of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was handed a boost after the latest poll results saw him push further ahead of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as Brits prepare to vote in the December 12 General Election. The poll results come on the same day Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would stand down MPs challenging seats in which the Tory party won in the 2017 election. In the ICM opinion poll for Reuters, Mr Johnson’s Conservatives rose a point to 39 percent, while the Labour Party held its current support at 31 percent.

The poll also showed the Liberal Democrats, vowing to “stop Brexit” were unchanged on 15 percent, while the Brexit Party dipped with its support, down a point to eight percent.

The survey took place online between November 8 and November 11, and quizzed 2,035 people.

It comes following a turbulent day, after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage announced his party would not stand in the seats the Tories won in the 2017 General Election. Promoted Story

Speaking to supporters in Hartlepool Mr Farage explained he made the decision because he feared that if they had run it would have led to a hung Parliament with critical gains for the Liberal Democrats, who are trying to stop Brexit.

He said: “The Brexit Party will not contest the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election.

“But what we will do is concentrate our total effort into all of the seats that are held by the Labour Party, who have completely broken their manifesto in 2017.”

Mr Farage claimed “our action prevents a second referendum from happening”, before adding: “We will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties.

“We will stand up and we will fight them all.”

Mr Farage also said he wants to see Brexit Party MPs elected to hold Mr Johnson to account if he wins a majority.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to the move by saying: “One week ago Donald Trump told Nigel Farage to make a pact with Boris Johnson.

“Today, Trump got his wish. This Trump alliance is Thatcherism on steroids and could send £500 million a week from our NHS to big drugs companies. It must be stopped.”

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson tweeted: “The Conservative Party are the Brexit Party now.”

While SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote: “Any form of Brexit that is acceptable to Nigel Farage will be deeply damaging for Scotland.

“Makes it all the more important to get rid of Boris Johnson’s Tories, escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.

“The Tory party has now effectively become the Brexit party. The SNP is the main challenger in all of their Scottish seats.

Election news

(EP) Irán intensifica el enriquecimiento de uranio en una nueva violación del acuerdo nuclear

(EP) La medida, la cuarta anunciada este año, busca presionar a Europa ante la falta de avances para compensar la salida de EE UU del pacto

Hasan Rohani, este martes durante el anuncio en Teherán. En vídeo, declaraciones del presidente iraní. FOTO: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY (DPA) | VÍDEO: REUTERS

El presidente de Irán, Hasan Rohani, ha anunciado este martes un nuevo paso, el cuarto, en la reducción de los compromisos nucleares de su país. A partir de mañana, los técnicos empezarán a inyectar gas en las centrifugadoras de Fordow, una planta subterránea de enriquecimiento de uranio. La medida intenta presionar a los países europeos ante la falta de avances en sus esfuerzos para compensar a Teherán por la salida de Estados Unidos del acuerdo nuclear, pero hace más difícil encontrar una solución.

“Nuestro próximo paso va a ser en Fordow, donde tenemos 1.044 centrifugadoras (…) en las que vamos a inyectar gas”, ha dicho Rohani durante un discurso televisado. Se refería al proceso con el que se enriquece el uranio para conseguir el combustible que, en diferente grado, sirve tanto para una planta eléctrica como para una bomba atómica. Limitar esa producción fue el objetivo central del acuerdo nuclear que las grandes potencias firmaron con Irán en 2015 y que Francia, el Reino Unido y Alemania tratan de salvar tras su abandono por EE UU. Los otros dos firmantes, Rusia y China, se mantienen a la expectativa.

El propio Rohani ha admitido que la decisión puede contrariar a los países europeos que en las últimas semanas habían hecho llamamientos a la moderación. “Entiendo su sensibilidad hacia Fordow y sus centrifugadoras. Pero cuando cumplan con sus promesas, dejaremos de inyectar gas de nuevo (…) No podemos aceptar realizar plenamente nuestros compromisos de forma unilateral y que ellos no cumplan los suyos”, ha justificado.

Ese viene siendo el razonamiento iraní desde que el pasado mayo decidió empezar a reducir las obligaciones que adquirió en 2015, ante el daño que le ha supuesto la reimposición de sanciones por parte de EE UU y que ha llevado su maltrecha economía al borde del abismo. En el año y medio transcurrido desde que Washington abandonó el acuerdo, Irán ha visto reducirse más del 80% las exportaciones de crudo, su principal fuente de ingresos.

En realidad, se trata de un callejón sin salida. Teherán exige que el resto de los firmantes compensen ese perjuicio. Pero las sanciones secundarias de EE UU a cualquier entidad financiera que haga transacciones con la República Islámica bloquean incluso la venta de alimentos y medicinas, que no están prohibidas. Los europeos han trabajado en un mecanismo que permita los intercambios comerciales, pero incluso si logran que funcione (algo para lo que también hay problemas del lado iraní), nunca podrá compensar la pérdida de los ingresos del petróleo.

“Necesitamos vender nuestro petróleo y acceder al sistema financiero sin restricciones”, ha reclamado Rohani.

Aunque Irán ha asegurado que no quiere abandonar el acuerdo nuclear, las medidas que anuncia cada dos meses le alejan poco a poco del mismo. Con anterioridad ya aumentó el uranio enriquecido que almacena por encima de los 300 kilos que le permite el pacto y empezó a enriquecer a un 4,5 % de pureza. El lunes también dijo que había puesto en marcha la segunda serie de 30 centrifugadoras avanzadas, con las que se enriquece 10 veces más rápido que las autorizadas en aquel compromiso.

De acuerdo con los analistas, esos pasos no constituyen de momento una diferencia significativa en el tiempo que necesitaría para fabricar una bomba. No obstante, complican la posibilidad de que los europeos puedan salvar el acuerdo. Además, el caso de Fordow resulta especialmente significativo, ya que el régimen iraní mantuvo en secreto su construcción, en las entrañas de una montaña a las afueras de la ciudad santa de Qom, 150 kilómetros al sur de Teherán, poniendo en evidencia su afán de ocultación.

Mientras tanto, Estados Unidos no afloja la presión sobre Irán. El objetivo es forzarle a renegociar el acuerdo nuclear para incluir límites a su programa de misiles y a su influencia regional, tal como desean los aliados árabes de Washington. En la última ronda de sanciones, la Administración estadounidense incluyó el lunes a una decena de personas del círculo íntimo del líder supremo, incluidos su hijo Mojtaba, su jefe de gabinete y varios altos cargos militares. El propio ayatolá Ali Jamenei ya fue sancionado el pasado mayo, un gesto más simbólico que otra cosa.

(Reuters) HKEX CEO says Hong Kong handover model flawed from the start

(Reuters) LONDON (Reuters) – Hong Kong bourse Chief Executive Charles Li said there are fundamental flaws in the “one country, two systems” formula that governs the former British territory as it grapples with its biggest political crisis in decades.

The comments by Li mark a rare public condemnation of the system that governs the Chinese-ruled city from a senior Hong Kong business executive.

Anti-government protesters have taken to the streets for five months, battering retail sales and the services sector, with the government expected to confirm on Thursday the city has entered its first recession in a decade.

“The great concept, the great creation of one country, two systems… has some fundamental flaws at the very beginning of the implementation,” he said.

Hong Kong was handed from British to Chinese rule in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” formula, which guarantees freedoms not granted in mainland China.

Li was speaking at an event in London late on Tuesday. The Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (0388.HK) earlier this month scrapped an unsolicited $39 billion approach for London Stock Exchange Group (LSE.L).

The sometimes violent protests in the Asian financial hub have rattled investors and pose one of the gravest challenges to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in Beijing in 2012.


Protests erupted over a now-scrapped extradition law that would have allowed suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China to be tried in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

The demonstrations have since evolved into calls for greater democracy among other demands, including an independent enquiry into what protesters allege is police brutality.

Li said there should have been a “grand bargain” between the people of Hong Kong and China in 1997.

“That the central government will give universal suffrage to the Hong Kong people and the Hong Kong people will absolutely pledge to never challenge one country.”

The demonstrations that have rocked Hong Kong have depressed investment while the Hang Seng index .HSI of the city’s largest companies has shed 8% since early July, underperforming a 2% loss in MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS.

The city may have lost as much as $4 billion in deposits to rival financial hub Singapore between June and August, Goldman Sachs said.

Protesters are angry at what they see as Beijing’s increasing interference in Hong Kong, but Li said the protesters need to question what their end objectives were.

China denies meddling and has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of stirring up trouble.

“We always have an open society and a free economy. The only thing we didn’t have is political rights,” Li said.

“What do we want it [rights] for, what do we want to do with it? Because if we want to use it to oppose Chinese sovereignty that’s a dead end,” he said.

    “But if you want to use it to resolve your local problems, then the central government shouldn’t have a problem,” Li told the annual dinner of the London Metal Exchange, which the HKEX bought in 2012 for $2.2 billion.FILE PHOTO: Charles Li, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX), speaks at the Sandler O’Neill + Partners Global Exchange and Brokerage Conference in New York, U.S., June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Some demonstrators are increasingly focusing their anger on the more than one million mainland Chinese in Hong Kong, hurling abuse and, in some cases, beating them.

Li said Beijing has always been suspicious that the people of Hong Kong accepted its rule.

“China never really felt confident… that people in Hong Kong were not opposed to one country,” he said.

“So that lack of trust is the key reason why China is reluctant to give Hong Kong people, the local people, the local self determination, the two systems.”

(BBC) Nobel Peace Prize: Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed wins


Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends the High Level Consultation Meetings of Heads of State and Government on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 17 January, 2019.
Image captionAbiy Ahmed became Ethiopia’s prime minister in April 2018

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who made peace last year with bitter foe Eritrea.

He was awarded the prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation”.

Mr Abiy’s peace deal with Eritrea ended a 20-year military stalemate following their 1998-2000 border war.

He was named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he will receive the award in December.

It is worth some nine million Swedish crowns (about £730,000; $900,000).

A total of 301 candidates had been nominated for the prestigious award, including 223 individuals and 78 organisations.

Media captionThe announcement was made by Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen

There had been great speculation over who would win the prize, with climate activist Greta Thunberg widely tipped as the favourite. Under the Nobel Foundation’s rules, nomination shortlists are not allowed to be published for 50 years, and the organisation says any speculation ahead of the announcement is “sheer guesswork”.

What has Abiy Ahmed done?

After becoming prime minister in April 2018, Mr Abiy introduced massive liberalising reforms to Ethiopia, shaking up what was a tightly controlled nation.

He freed thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowed exiled dissidents to return home. Most importantly, he signed the peace deal with Eritrea.

But his reforms also lifted the lid on Ethiopia’s ethnic tensions, and the resulting violence forced some 2.5 million people from their homes.

Why did he win?

Mr Abiy was honoured for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“The prize is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions,” they said.

Media captionHow do you choose a Nobel prize winner?

“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

Mr Abiy’s office said the award was testimony “to the ideals of unity, cooperation and mutual coexistence that the Prime Minister has been consistently championing.”

What is his background?

Mr Abiy was born in southern Ethiopia’s Jima Zone in 1976 to an Oromo Muslim father and an Amhara Christian mother.

He has several degrees, including a doctorate degree in peace and security issues from Addis Ababa University and a master’s degree in transformational leadership from the University of Greenwich, London.

As a teenager, he joined the armed struggle against the former Dergue regime and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, focusing on intelligence and communications services.

In 1995, he served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda.

During the 1998-2000 border dispute with Eritrea, he led a spy team on a reconnaissance mission into areas held by the Eritrean Defence Forces.

He joined politics in 2010, becoming a member of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, before being elected as a member of parliament.

His tenure in parliament coincided with clashes between Muslims and Christians. He devised a lasting solution to the problem by setting up a “Religious Forum for Peace”.

He is currently the youngest head of government in Africa.

Who are previous Nobel Peace Prize winners?

Former US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”.

Other notable Nobel Peace Prize winners include former US President Jimmy Carter (2002), child education activist Malala Yousafzai (shared 2014), the European Union (2012), the United Nations and its then-general-secretary, Kofi Annan, (shared 2001) and Mother Teresa (1979).

What do winners receive?

The recipient of each Nobel prize receives three things:

  • a Nobel diploma, each of which is a unique work of art
  • a Nobel medal, which has differing designs
  • a cash prize of 9m Swedish krona – which is split between winners when there is more than one. They have to deliver a lecture to receive the money

The prizes are presented at ceremonies on 10 December in Stockholm and Oslo.

(NYT) Hong Kong Police Shoot a Protester With a Live Bullet for the First Time


Riot police officers clashing with protesters near Wong Tai Sin in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Riot police officers clashing with protesters near Wong Tai Sin in Hong Kong on Tuesday.CreditCreditLam Yik Fei for The New York Times

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong police on Tuesday shot a demonstrator with a live round for the first time during the city’s monthslong protest movement, three pro-democracy lawmakers said, escalating the territory’s political crisis on the same day that the central government in Beijing staged a huge military parade to celebrate 70 years of Communist control.

The protesters in Hong Kong hoped to upstage Beijing’s celebrations by holding their own unauthorized marches. Violence quickly broke out, as demonstrators in districts across the city engaged in some of the bloodiest and most sustained clashes since protesters began taking to the streets in early June.

The split screen — pageantry in Beijing versus violence, tear gas and street fires in a restive Chinese territory — was hardly the image that China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, had hoped to show the world.

The protester was shot in the Tsuen Wan district of northern Hong Kong, the lawmakers Claudia Mo, James To and Au Nok-hin each said. Tsuen Wan is a working-class area near Hong Kong’s border with the Chinese mainland, miles from the city’s gleaming financial district.

The protester’s condition was not immediately known.

In a video circulating online, an officer is seen firing a handgun at close range at a protester wearing a black T-shirt and a pink gas mask. Another video shows the protester being treated by paramedics. Demonstrations were being held in the area at the time, but it was unclear what had specifically prompted the officer to fire.

Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority later said that 15 people had been sent to the hospital by early Tuesday evening, one of them in critical condition. It did not say whether the person in critical condition was the same protester in the videos of the shooting.

The Hong Kong police have fired hundreds of rounds of tear gas, rubber bullets and beanbag rounds to disperse street demonstrations since the protests began in June. On a few occasions, officers have fired live rounds into the air as warning shots, typically when they were surrounded by violent protesters.

It was almost certain to further inflame protesters who have accused the police of employing overly aggressive tactics in the streets. Calls for an independent inquiry into the police’s behavior are among the key demands that protesters have issued to the Hong Kong government.

(ZH) Brazil Is Selling Its Only Aircraft Carrier For Just $1.2 Million


After just seven years of service in the Brazilian Navy where it was wracked with maintenance and structural problems, given that by the time it was purchased from the French it was already four decades old, Brazil’s only aircraft carrier is now up for sale. 

Officially decommissioned in 2017, the São Paulo never actually saw more than three months of successful continual operation without the need for repairs and maintenance.

According to The Driveit’s now up for auction with bids starting at $1.275 million, or “roughly a tenth of what the country paid to buy the ship from France”The São Paulo Clemenceau-class aircraft carrier, via Ship Spotting.

Though discussions are underway to replace the carrier amid a broader fleet modernization program, this leaves Brazil’s navy with merely one aviation vessel, a helicopter carrier with the name Atlantico.

Robert Beckhusen, an analyst and editor for War is Boring, previously described of the Sao Paulo’s storied career at sea“During her 40 years in service with the French navy, Foch’s air wings dodged Yemeni MiGs, intervened in the Lebanese civil war and bombed Serbia during the Kosovo conflict.” 

But by the time of Brazil’s acquisition it became a floating money-pit, wrote Beckhusen:

France sold Foch to Brazil in 2000, and the renamed Sao Paulo carried out exercises and launched Brazil’s AF-1 Skyhawk attack planes from her flat, catapult-launch deck — similar to U.S. carriers and the Charles de Gaulle, France’s sole remaining fleet carrier. …

Brazil paid France $12 million for the carrier but sank $100 million more keeping her seaworthy Fires broke out aboard the vessel at least twice, once in 2004 — killing several sailors — and again 2012. The accidents forced costly repairs and kept the carrier in port for long periods of time.

By 2016, after many costly repairs, there were fears that it could take another decade to get the ship up to its full operational capacityThe São Paulo carrier, previously France’s ‘Foch’ via Wiki Commons.

“By the time the Brazilian navy finally decided to just retire the ship in 2017, it was the world’s oldest commissioned aircraft carrier,” The Drive noted. “In the better part of two decades that the flattop had flown the Brazilian flag, she had spent just 206 days at sea.”

Of course, it doesn’t appear Latin America’s largest country is really in need of a full blown aircraft carrier, given its greatest defense threat comes by land along the borders it shares with a total of ten countries, and given the relative instability of regional politics. 

Currently, there’s a movement to attempt to turn the Sao Paulo into a museum. A previous and brief unsuccessful attempt to put the carrier up for auction had resulted in a top bid of $8.9 million until the process was halted.

(BBC) Trump impeachment: Pelosi launches inquiry into Ukraine claims


Media caption”He’s violated so many clauses of the constitution” – US citizens react to impeachment inquiry

The US Democratic Party has begun a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump over allegations that he pressured a foreign power to damage a political rival.

Top Democrat Nancy Pelosi said the president “must be held accountable”.

Mr Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the efforts a “witch hunt”.

There is strong support from House Democrats for impeachment, but the proceedings would be unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

The high-stakes move by House Speaker Ms Pelosi, prompted by allegations that Mr Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate his leading political rival Joe Biden, lays the groundwork for a potentially hugely consequential confrontation between Democrats and the president ahead of the 2020 election.

If the inquiry moves forward the House of Representatives will vote on any charges and, with the Democrats in the majority, the vote would likely be carried – making Mr Trump the third president in US history to have been impeached.

But the proceedings would likely then stall in the Senate, where the president’s Republican Party holds enough seats to prevent him from being removed from office by a two-thirds majority.

Ms Pelosi did not provide any timeline for how the process might play out.

How did we get here?

Senior Democrats including Ms Pelosi had previously resisted growing calls from within the party to begin impeachment proceedings. But the party’s leadership united on the issue after an intelligence whistleblower lodged a formal complaint about one or more phone calls between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Trump administration has so far refused to release the whistleblower complaint to Congress but Democrats say Mr Trump threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Mr Zelensky agreed to investigate unsubstantiated corruption allegations against Mr Trump’s leading political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Mr Trump has admitted discussing Joe Biden with Mr Zelensky. He has denied that he exerted pressure on the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump confirmed that military aid from Ukraine had been withheld but said he had done this to try and pressure European nations to increase their contributions to the country.

Two presidents have been impeached in US history – Andrew Johnson in 1868, and Bill Clinton in 1998. But neither were removed from office by a Senate trial.

Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974 before he could be impeached.


The dam has broken

Analysis box by Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter

For months now, Democratic leaders have been playing a semantics game. They wanted those who supported and those who opposed a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump to both think they were getting what they wanted.

This strategy suggested Nancy Pelosi and others feared that heading down the path to impeachment would put moderate Democrats facing tough 2020 re-election fights at risk.

That calculation has changed after the rapid drumbeat of new revelations about Mr Trump’s contacts with the Ukrainian president. Now even middle-of-the road politicians are coming out in favour of impeachment proceedings.

The dam has broken. The genie is out of the bottle. Pick your metaphor. The simple fact is that Ms Pelosi – a keen judge of the political mood within her caucus – has made the decision to shift from resisting impeachment to advocating for it.

The path forward is uncertain. Opinion surveys could show the latest drama is taking a toll on one party or the other, causing political will to crumble. Or, both sides could dig in for a long, gruelling battle that could drag into the darkest days of winter.

More from Anthony on why Ms Pelosi has made her move


What did Nancy Pelosi say?

In a statement on Tuesday she said Mr Trump had betrayed his oath of office and committed “a violation of the law”. She called his actions “a breach of his constitutional responsibilities”.

“This week the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take action that would benefit him politically,” she said, adding: “The president must be held accountable. No-one is above the law.”

Media captionPelosi: “The president must be held accountable; no one is above the law.”

Mr Biden has denied wrongdoing and no evidence has emerged to back up the claims against him. He has also said he supports impeachment proceedings unless the US president complies with investigations.

Impeaching Mr Trump “would be a tragedy”, Mr Biden said. “But a tragedy of his making.” He is the current frontrunner to take on Mr Trump in the 2020 election.

How did Mr Trump and Republicans respond?

In a series of tweets Mr Trump said Democrats “purposely had to ruin and demean” his trip to the UN in New York “with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage”.

“They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!” he added.

Media captionTrump confirms he withheld aid to Ukraine – but insists there was no “quid pro quo”

He promised to release a transcript of his conversation with Ukraine’s president on Wednesday to show it was “totally appropriate”.

Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump: I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine....

In his response to the Democrats’ move, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said: “Speaker Pelosi happens to be the Speaker of this House, but she does not speak for America when it comes to this issue.”

“She cannot unilaterally decide we’re in an impeachment inquiry,” he added.

Meanwhile, the acting director of US national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share the whistleblower report with Congress. He is due to testify before a public House intelligence committee hearing on Thursday.

In a separate development, the unnamed whistleblower is seeking to meet directly with lawmakers. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff suggested in a tweet that this could happen later this week.

What happens next?

Ms Pelosi’s announcement gives an official go-ahead for lawmakers to investigate the US president’s phone call with the Ukrainian leader and determine whether he committed an impeachable offence.

In her announcement Ms Pelosi said the six congressional committees already investigating Mr Trump would continue their work, but now under the umbrella of a formal impeachment inquiry.

If the process moves forward the House of Representatives will vote on one or more articles of impeachment. If any pass, the process would next move to the Senate, where a two-thirds majority is required – and where the Republicans hold sway.

Graphic explaining the impeachment process. Any member of the House can introduce an impeachment resolution, but it has to be passed by a simple majority to make its way to the Senate. A trial is held in the Senate with members of the House forming the prosecution while Senators act as the jury. The president is able to appoint defence lawyers. Senators vote on the outcome, and if at least two thirds find him guilty, he is removed from office.

Ukrainians ponder their president’s role

By Vitaliy Shevchenko, BBC Monitoring

Commentators in Ukraine see President Volodymyr Zelensky’s role in this affair as accidental, but at the same time believe it could lead to history-making consequences.

Den, a daily newspaper, warns President Zelensky against taking sides in the drama unfolding in Washington. “Ukraine is facing an unstoppable tsunami, and our president will just have to do some surfing,” it says.

Some argue that the timing could not be worse for President Zelensky, who is scheduled to meet Donald Trump in New York later on Wednesday. Public TV station Pershy describes the controversy as a “trap” for Ukraine.

“It would be stupid to start playing into the hands of either Democrats or Republicans,” said one of the channel’s commentators.

Others contend that the Ukrainian president has US politicians over the barrel. “Zelensky has two pistols in his hands: one pointing at Trump, and the other at Biden,” reports Pryamy TV.

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


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!

(JN) Papa admite risco de “cisma” na Igreja e reconhece críticas de que é alvo


Papa FranciscoFoto: Remo Casilli/Reuters

Papa admite risco de “cisma” na Igreja e reconhece críticas de que é alvo

O Papa Francisco admitiu o risco de um “cisma” na Igreja Católica, lamentando o comportamento de algumas pessoas que “apunhalam pelas costas”.

Francisco falava na noite de terça-feira durante uma conferência de imprensa a bordo do avião quando regressava de uma viagem de 10 dias a Moçambique, Madagáscar e Ilhas Maurícias.

Segundo o Papa sempre houve cismas na Igreja, tanto depois do Concílio Vaticano I quanto do Concílio Vaticano II, uma vez que “sempre existe a opção cismática na Igreja. É uma escolha que o Senhor deixa para a liberdade humana”.

“Não tenho medo de cismas. Oro para que não ocorram, porque a saúde espiritual de tantas pessoas está em jogo”, defendeu, acrescentando “que o caminho do cisma não é cristão”.

Não gosto quando as críticas são feitas debaixo da mesa, sorriem e depois apunhalam sua adaga por trás

Segundo a agência de notícias Ecclesia, Francisco realçou que as críticas ao seu pontificado não se limitam a setores católicos norte-americanos, mas “existem um pouco por toda a parte, mesmo na Cúria” Romana.

“Fazer uma crítica sem querer ouvir a resposta e sem fazer o diálogo é não amar a Igreja, é seguir atrás de uma ideia fixa, mudar o Papa ou criar um cisma”, advertiu.

Segundo o pontífice, um cisma “é sempre é uma separação elitista provocada por uma ideologia separada da doutrina”.

Francisco tem sido criticado por alguns bispos e parte de um setor conservador da Igreja por algumas ideias expressas nos seus documentos e que até foram rotuladas como heresias. “Pelo menos, aqueles que dizem isso têm a vantagem da honestidade. Não gosto quando as críticas são feitas debaixo da mesa, sorriem e depois apunhalam sua adaga por trás. Isso não é leal, não é verdade”, acrescentou.

O Papa acrescentou que os seus pensamentos sociais são os mesmos de João Paulo II.

Corrupção e ambiente

O Papa Francisco considerou ainda que por detrás da exploração do meio ambiente, do desmatamento e da destruição da biodiversidade está a corrupção.

“A maior exploração que ocorre hoje, não apenas em África, mas em todo o mundo, é no meio ambiente, com o desmatamento e a destruição da biodiversidade, tão necessária para a humanidade”, denunciou.

Perante a pergunta se os governantes estão a fazer o necessário para proteger o meio ambiente de incêndios como os registados na Amazónia, o chefe da Igreja Católica respondeu: ” Alguns, outros menos”.

“Há uma palavra que devo dizer que está na base da exploração ambiental… E a palavra feia é corrupção”, disse referindo que isso acontece na África, na América Latina, na Europa e em qualquer lugar”.

O próximo Sínodo dos Bispos, que decorre no Vaticano de 06 a 27 de outubro, é sobre a Amazónia, e deverá abordar, entre outros temas, os problemas ambientais, nomeadamente as consequências da exploração da floresta e dos recursos hídricos.

(GUA) Thomas Piketty’s new War and Peace-sized book published on Thursday

(GUA) French economist’s Capital and Ideology expands on themes in Capital in the 21st Century, which sold 2m copies

Thomas Piketty
 Thomas Piketty’s new book, which runs to 1,232 pages, is released in France this week but the English translation will not be out until March. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

Six years after being catapulted to fame with a blockbuster about the concentration of wealth, the French economist Thomas Piketty has returned with an epic new book on capitalism.

Abiding by the rule that every bestseller demands a follow-up, Capital and Ideology expands on the themes sketched out in Capital in the 21st Century, which sold 2m copies worldwide after its publication in 2013.

Piketty’s new book – which runs to 1,232 pages and is as long as War and Peace – explores the ideas that have justified inequality down the ages, bemoans the ineffectiveness of the traditional parties of left and right at coming up with solutions for redistributing wealth, and advances his own ideas for making economies fairer. The book is released in France on Thursday but English language readers will have to wait until next March for the translation.

Among the proposals in the book are that employees should have 50% of the seats on company boards; that the voting power of even the largest shareholders should be capped at 10%; much higher taxes on property, rising to 90% for the largest estates; a lump sum capital allocation of €120,000 (just over £107,000) to everyone when they reach 25; and an individualised carbon tax calculated by a personalised card that would track each person’s contribution to global heating.

In an interview with the French weekly news magazine L’Obs, Piketty made no apologies for the impact his ideas would have on the stock market. He said: “[Yes], it will also affect the price of real estate that is crazy in Paris, and it will allow new social groups to become owners and shareholders.”

Capital in the 21st Century, with its references to Jane Austen, proved to be one of the few books on economics to appeal to a mass market. It drew comparisons with John Maynard Keynes’s 1936 book, the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money as its reputation spread during the period of weak growth that followed the financial crisis of a decade ago.

But Piketty’s work has so far proved far more popular with readers than it has with governments. The General Theory was the template for the full-employment policies pursued by most western governments in the decades after the second world war, whereas Piketty’s call for a global wealth tax to counter inequality has not been heeded.


(ZH) These Are The New Strategies That Tanker Tracking Firms Are Using To Monitor Iran’s “Dark Fleet”

(ZH) Despite Washington’s pleas that UK/Gibraltar authorities refrain from releasing the Iranian-flagged Adrian Darya-1 tanker over concerns that it would deliver its 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil to Syria, the ship was released last month. Shortly after, it “went dark” – turning off its transponder earlier this month to mask the fact that it was delivering a load of crude to Syria – or at least that’s what National Security Advisor John Bolton suspects happened.

And not without good reason. The tanker, which was photographed off Syrian port of Tartus, is one more reason for the US and Europe to treat Iran’s written assurances that it wouldn’t engage in such “illegal” deliveries – assurances that the UK used as the basis for its decision to release the vessel from custody – with wariness and suspicion.

But the Adrian Darya-1 is merely one example of how Iran has managed to keep exporting oil, often in violation of US and EU sanctions, in spite of the international crackdown. As Bloomberg reports, Tehran is engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with tanker-tracking firms around the world that have developed new strategies for monitoring Iran’s “Dark Fleet”.

The quest has led to ever more inventive methods of tracking ships, and divergent views on the amounts of crude secretly slipping into world markets. That’s because the vessels have mostly “gone dark” since sanctions were tightened this year, switching off transponders that would reveal their location.

“Iran is a black box, but it’s also not a black box” as there are ways to uncover secretive activity, said Devin Geoghegan, global director of petroleum intelligence at Genscape Inc. in Denver, Colorado. “Iran is simply doing a better job of putting their oil into other people’s hands – or their own storage tin-cans – than anybody has expected.”

The Trump Administration’s goal of driving Iranian oil exports “to zero” hasn’t been very successful, as Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh insists that he is working “day and night” to protect sales, using a number of clandestine options.

The various companies struggling to monitor the flow of oil out of Iran agree that Iranian oil exports are far from zero. But analysts’ estimates on how much vary from a couple hundred thousand barrels a day to more than a million.

One Switzerland-based tracking firm believes Iran is shipping barely one-third of the amount it sold during the last round of heightened sanctions earlier in the decade, when Barack Obama was in office. According to Daniel Gerber, the firm’s CEO, the Trump Administration has been largely successful at curtailing Iran’s exports.

“Iran is as secretive now as any time over the past 40 years,” said Daniel Gerber, chief executive officer of Geneva-based tanker-tracking firm Petro-Logistics SA. “There’s a wide array of diverging estimates of their exports in the industry, with a series of accounting problems causing erroneous higher numbers to come into some of these.”

Iran is now barely shipping a third of the amount it sold during the previous round of sanctions imposed earlier this decade, Gerber said. Some other estimates have been inflated because they include all the oil that’s been loaded onto tankers, or put into domestic storage, rather than just what’s been shipped overseas, he said.

“The Trump administration has been successful at curtailing Iran’s exports on an unprecedented scale,” according to Gerber, who said Petro-Logistics is able to obtain details on the volumes and crude-type of individual cargoes, as well as on the counter-parties buying them.

Paris-based tracking firm Kpler has developed a unique strategy for tracking Iranian crude. It uses commercial satellite images, then cross-references them with data from customs agencies and reports from various ports. Because of this, Kpler believes Iran has maintained “limited” flows of oil into China – Iran’s most important customer – as well as Turkey and Syria.

Kpler analyst Samah Ahmed believes Iran is employing a range of techniques to try to avoid detection, including “several ship-to-ship transfers off-radar” – a technique that is also famously used by North Korea. Like Petro-Logistics, Kpler believes the Trump Administration has been largely successful at choking off Iran’s oil exports. By its account, Kpler believes Iranian oil exports have slumped 90% to just 400,000 barrels a day since the Trump Administration abandoned the Iranian nuclear deal in May 2018.

“The goal of bringing Iran’s exports down to zero was never attained,” said Homayoun Falakshahi, an analyst at the firm. Yet “the Trump administration has been obviously very successful in bringing maximum pressure.”

Yet, the amount of oil that Iran sells for cash is likely even lower, since a large percentage of the oil that it exports is used to pay off its debts to China.

The actual volume that Iran is selling for cash is probably even lower, according to Sara Vakhshouri, head of consultants SVB Energy International in Washington, D.C.

Some cargoes are sold to repay debts to China, and others are moved into so-called bonded storage there without passing customs, meaning they’re still owned by Iran. As a result, total sales in July may have been as little as 100,000 barrels a day, she said.

Finally, Genscape’s Geoghegan believes Iran’s output of crude and condensate has fallen only 15% since the first quarter of 2018. Total production might be as much as 3.9 million barrels per day, with exports as high as 1 million bpd as Iran moves “full speed ahead”, drilling at new fields in the West Karoun region.

Among the various commercial tracking firms, Genscape’s methodology is truly unique. Instead of relying on satellite images of tanker traffic, Genscape uses satellite photos of gas flaring at oil fields to gauge their levels of activity.

But according to Geoghegan, the resilience of Iran’s oil industry might not endure for much longer. As storage fills up, Iran may need to lower its output.

“We have seen every tin-can that they have get filled up, and we’ve seen oil fill up in areas that they haven’t historically used,” Geoghegan said. “They’re going to hit a brick wall at some point, and their production is going to take another leg down.”

Hence why Iran has been seizing ships in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz suspected of smuggling – ships like the “tugboat” suspected of smuggling nearly 284,000 liters of diesel. As Washington’s campaign of “massive pressure” intensifies, Tehran’s is continuing with its campaign of “counter-pressure” to try and protect its oil-dependent economy.

(SCMP) Is China using Hong Kong protests to chip away at city’s economic freedoms?


  • Hong Kong’s future as international financial hub brought into question as Beijing pressures companies to toe Communist Party line on protest crackdown
  • Flagship carrier Cathay Pacific, as well as a host of developers, have already disassociated themselves from the demonstrations
Ongoing anti-government demonstrations, heading into its third month, are showing Hong Kong’s apprehension over the Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence over the city’s economic and political systems. Photo: Reuters

Ongoing anti-government demonstrations, heading into its third month, are showing Hong Kong’s apprehension over the Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence over the city’s economic and political systems. Photo: Reuters

Free enterprises, unfettered access to information and Western-style laws have helped build Hong Kong’s reputation as a major international financial centre, but China may now be willing to undermine those foundations of the city’s success as politics increasingly take precedence over economics, analysts say.

That willingness, they said, reflected the importance to signal a clear political point of view, even at the expense of negative economic consequences that could result from a gradual erosion of the city’s current structure of serving China’s government and Chinese firms as a gateway to international investors and foreign capital.

Hong Kong’s considerable independence in the legal system, regulatory environment and freedom in doing business after the handover to China in 1997 was ensured in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed in 1984 that had been negotiated between China’s late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.But ongoing anti-government demonstrations,heading into its third month, are showing Hong Kong’s apprehension over the Chinese Communist Party’s growing influence over the city’s economic and political systems.

“It would be a mistake to conclude that the authorities in Beijing don’t realise the dangers to Hong Kong of the path they are following,” said Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics. “They do, but they are far more concerned about the challenge to their authority if Hong Kong were allowed to choose its own path.”

Beijing wants to use Hong Kong to showcase the competency of China’s version of the rule of law, in which the legal system serves the economy by enforcing property and contractual rights but is ultimately subservient to the Communist Party, said Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, last month.

“China has come to envision an entirely different purpose for Hong Kong,” Prasad said. “It is to show that its vision of rule by the Communist Party, with some economic freedoms but restrictions on political and social freedom, might be preferable to the chaos of liberal Western democracies.”

China has come to envision an entirely different purpose for Hong KongEswar Prasad

Many analysts previously believed that it would be difficult for Shanghai and Shenzhen to catch up to replace Hong Kong’s key economic functions in the short term, where it has its own freely convertible currency and a de facto central bank to manage it, with the Heritage Foundation ranking Hong Kong as the world’s freest economy for 25 years in a row.

But Hong Kong’s overall status as a major international hub for commerce and finance may be gradually slipping away, with the potential for global investors to feel that the city’s laws and regulations are no longer impartial as commercial decisions and companies are pressured to toe the Communist Party line and crack down on the protests.Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg was one of at least 20 aviation professionals to resign or be sacked to avert the risk of the carrier being barred from flying through mainland Chinese airspace.

At least 41 developers, including Sun Hung Kai Properties, Wharf (Holdings), Henderson Land Development, Hopewell Holdings and Chinese Estates Holdings, signed a joint statement to dissociate themselves from the protesters, or have individually expressed support to the government and the police via full-page newspaper adverts.

From the financial sector, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Bank of China (Hong Kong), and Bank of East Asia, along with the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms of KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and PwC have also taken out similar adverts.

In all likelihood, the protests may eventually dissipate as the Occupy Central movement did five years ago, said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust, which has US$132 billion of assets under management, but the damage to Hong Kong’s attraction as an economic centre could be lasting.

“The uncertainty surrounding the sovereignty and stability of Hong Kong could limit inbound investment and give pause to foreign firms and workers in the principality,” Tannenbaum said. “One of the few remaining links between East and West may be in danger of breaking.”

With Beijing’s economic evaluation of Hong Kong changing, Huang Tianlei, research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, noted that the city’s growth prospects were also likely to be hit hard by mainland China’s slowdown as well as its trade war with the United States.

Hong Kong’s gross domestic product now accounts for 3 per cent of mainland China’s, down from 18 per cent in 1997 when it was returned to Chinese control under the “one country, two systems” constitutional principle.

China’s outlook could just be as grim, with the country as well as Chinese firms facing increasing difficulty to attract foreign capital. Global investors have viewed the Hong Kong stock exchange as an entry point to buy Chinese assets, while Chinese enterprises, including banks and property developers, have also taken advantage of the city’s US dollar market to borrow US dollar-denominated funds.

The uncertainty surrounding the sovereignty and stability of Hong Kong could limit inbound investment and give pause to foreign firms and workers in the principalityCarl Tannenbaum

Foreign investors are also likely suffer losses if the crisis is resolved with military intervention, said Pei Minxin, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, the author of China’s Crony Capitalism.

Beijing has so far decided not to deploy the People’s Liberation Army, or the Communist Party’s armed forces, to deal with the unrest in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor this week left the door open to invoke the Emergency Regulations Ordinance for the first time in 50 years, which may be akin to martial law and aimed at stamping out the uprising.

The political crisis in Hong Kong has attracted global attention, forcing China to show some restraint. Leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US, which have citizens and firms based in Hong Kong, have backed the city’s autonomy in a Group of Seven (G7) joint statement as laid out in the Sino-British agreement.

US lawmakers also reintroduced a Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which could punish Hong Kong officials who harm human rights and freedoms in the city related to the political events and their use of repressive behaviour.

“Either way, the damage is done and it is very difficult to reverse things,” Pei said.

(Parisien) Non, Boris Johnson n’a pas insulté la France en posant le pied sur la table devant Emmanuel Macron

(Parisien) Sur les réseaux sociaux, les internautes s’insurgent du pied du Premier ministre britannique posé sur une table à l’Elysée. Une photo trompeuse.

 Boris Johnson, le pied sur la table à l’Elysée. Cette image figée ne montre pas la réalité du geste du Premier ministre britannique.
Boris Johnson, le pied sur la table à l’Elysée. Cette image figée ne montre pas la réalité du geste du Premier ministre britannique.  Christophe Petit Tesson/REUTERS

Boris Johnson est abonné aux gaffes et aux polémiques. Pour sa première à l’Elysée, il n’a pas dérogé à ses habitudes, déclenchant l’ire de certains internautes en raison d’une attitude jugée irrespectueuse. Mais cette fois, pas sûr que les remontrances soient justifiées. En cause, une photographie du tout nouveau Premier ministre britannique, qui sur ce cliché publié sur les réseaux, pose un pied sur une table basse de l’Elyséelors de sa rencontre avec Emmanuel Macron du jour.

Une image qui dans une forme de raccourci, pourrait représenter la position anglaise à l’égard de l’Europe dans le contexte du Brexit… Sur Twitter des mèmes sont déjà apparus et les commentaires à l’égard de l’ancien maire de Londres sont loin d’être élogieux. La réputation de « BoJo le clown » alimentant le flot de commentaires désobligeants.

Voir l'image sur Twitter

1918:02 – 22 août 2019Informations sur les Publicités Twitter et confidentialité20 personnes parlent à ce sujet

Macroniste clash@MacronisteClash

Trop marrant ce #BorisJohnson.

Voir l'image sur Twitter

1517:45 – 22 août 2019Informations sur les Publicités Twitter et confidentialitéVoir les autres Tweets de Macroniste clash

L’histoire aurait pu être belle pour les amoureux de la « perfide albion bashing » mais la réalité est toute autre.

Le démenti de la vidéo et des coulisses

Tom Rayner, journaliste de Sky News, a diffusé sur Twitter une brève vidéo de l’agence Reuters montrant l’intégralité de la scène qui dément la version des internautes. Le journaliste explique aussi le contexte et ce que les deux hommes politiques se disent. « Voici la vidéo Reuters de Boris Johnson « mettant le pied sur les meubles de l’Elysée ». Il semble que le président Macron faisait la causette en laissant entendre que la table fonctionnerait aussi bien qu’un marchepied si le Premier ministre voulait s’allonger, ce que Johnson fait alors en plaisantant » explique le journaliste qui n’était pourtant pas présent.

Tom Rayner@RaynerSkyNews

WATCH: Here’s the Reuters video of Boris Johnson putting his foot on the Elysee furniture. It seems President Macron was making small talk suggesting the table would work equally well as a footstool should the PM want to recline, which Johnson then jokingly does2 59216:42 – 22 août 2019Informations sur les Publicités Twitter et confidentialité2 032 personnes parlent à ce sujet

Boris Johnson s’en excuse même en faisant un geste du bras en direction des photographes.

« Pas forcement prévu pour être public »

« la scène se déroule en petit comité et nous (le pool photo) arrivons à la seconde même où il (Boris Johnson) entame ce geste et il le stoppe net net en voyant les journalistes arriver. Mais je confirme que cela se passait sur le ton de l’humour mais pas forcement prévu pour être public » a précisé au Parisien Christophe Petit Tesson, auteur de cette photo au succès fou sur les réseaux sociaux.

christophe petit tesson@chptesson


French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (the guy with his shoe on the table ) during their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, 22 August 2019 for @epaphotos

Voir l'image sur Twitter

5417:55 – 22 août 2019Informations sur les Publicités Twitter et confidentialité38 personnes parlent à ce sujet

On est donc loin d’un geste insultant envers Emmanuel Macron et la France. Une histoire de photographie pas sans rappeler la polémique Éric Woerth d’il y a quelques jours. Nul doute toutefois que l’image fera le tour du monde dans les prochaines heures.

(ZH) For The First Time In 25 Years, US Treasury Just Designated China A Currency Manipulator


Following the plunge in the yuan overnight, The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday designated China as currency manipulator, a historic move that no White House had exercised since the Clinton administration.

“Secretary Mnuchin, under the auspices of President Trump, has today determined that China is a Currency Manipulator,” the Treasury Department said in a release.

“As a result of this determination, Secretary Mnuchin will engage with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.” “

“This pattern of actions is also a violation of China’s G20 commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation.”

Washington hasn’t labeled a major trade partner a currency manipulator since 1994.

The Offshore Yuan tumbled to a new record low on the headline…

USDJPY is also diving as are US equity futures (Dow futures are down 350 from their close, down 500 from the cash close)…

And gold is spiking above $1485…

*  *  *

Full Treasury Statement

The Omnibus and Competitiveness Act of 1988 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to analyze the exchange rate policies of other countries. Under Section 3004 of the Act, the Secretary must “consider whether countries manipulate the rate of exchange between their currency and the United States dollar for purposes of preventing effective balance of payments adjustment or gaining unfair competitive advantage in international trade.”

Secretary Mnuchin, under the auspices of President Trump, has today determined that China is a Currency Manipulator.

As a result of this determination, Secretary Mnuchin will engage with the International Monetary Fund to eliminate the unfair competitive advantage created by China’s latest actions.

As noted in the most recent Report to Congress on the Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States (“FX Report”), China has a long history of facilitating an undervalued currency through protracted, large-scale intervention in the foreign exchange market. In recent days, China has taken concrete steps to devalue its currency, while maintaining substantial foreign exchange reserves despite active use of such tools in the past. The context of these actions and the implausibility of China’s market stability rationale confirm that the purpose of China’s currency devaluation is to gain unfair competitive advantage in international trade.

The Chinese authorities have acknowledged that they have ample control over the RMB exchange rate. In a statement today, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) noted that it “has accumulated rich experience and policy tools, and will continue to innovate and enrich the control toolbox, and take necessary and targeted measures against the positive feedback behavior that may occur in the foreign exchange market.” This is an open acknowledgement by the PBOC that it has extensive experience manipulating its currency and remains prepared to do so on an ongoing basis.

This pattern of actions is also a violation of China’s G20 commitments to refrain from competitive devaluation.  As highlighted in the FX Report, Treasury places significant importance on China adhering to its G-20 commitments to refrain from engaging in competitive devaluation and to not target China’s exchange rate for competitive purposes. Treasury continues to urge China to enhance the transparency of China’s exchange rate and reserve management operations and goals.

This is very odd since just a few a weeks ago, The US Treasury Report chose not to label China a currency manipulator as it only triggered one of the criteria.


When China was manipulating its currency stronger for years, not a peep.

One day – just one day – it lets it drop (to a fair value) and all hell breaks loose.62611:13 PM – Aug 5, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy193 people are talking about this

This is what the Treasury said about China’s FX policy then:

Treasury continues to urge China to take the necessary steps to avoid a persistently weak currency. China needs to aggressively address market-distorting forces, including subsidies and state-owned enterprises, enhance social safety nets to support greater household consumption growth, and rebalance the economy away from investment. Improved economic fundamentals and structural policy settings would underpin a stronger RMB over time and help to reduce China’s trade surplus with the United States.

The report also said that “Treasury continues to have significant concerns about China’s currency practices, particularly in light of the misalignment and undervaluation of the RMB relative to the dollar. China should make a concerted effort to enhance transparency of its exchange rate and reserve management.”

Despite not accusing China of manipulting the yuan, the report warned that “notwithstanding that China does not trigger all three criteria under the 2015 legislation, Treasury will continue its enhanced bilateral engagement with China regarding exchange rate issues, given that the RMB has fallen against the dollar by 8 percent over the last year in the context of an extremely large and widening bilateral trade surplusTreasury continues to urge China to take the necessary steps to avoid a persistently weak currency.” 

The punchline – the US was quite clear in its demands to Beijing:

China needs to aggressively address market-distorting forces, including subsidies and state-owned enterprises, enhance social safety nets to support greater household consumption growth, and rebalance the economy away from investment. Improved economic fundamentals and structural policy settings would underpin a stronger RMB over time and help to reduce China’s trade surplus with the United States.

Well that is all over now.

(JN) Marques Mendes: Centeno teve “uma derrota pesada. Vai ter de ficar e contrariado”


As notas da semana de Marques Mendes no seu habitual comentário na SIC. Marques Mendes fala sobre a greve dos motoristas, a gestão da polémica das golas e as suas consequências, a “corrida” de Centeno para o FMI e o seu afastamento, entre outras questões.476Assine 1mês/1€Ler mais tardeImprimir


Amanhã haverá uma reunião decisiva e depois se verá se a greve avança mesmo. Dois cenários são possíveis:

  1. Cenário A: a greve vai por diante. Neste caso, os sindicatos correm o risco de uma derrota pesada. Nada será igual à greve da Páscoa.

Primeiro: na greve da Páscoa tiveram a simpatia da população. Agora não. Ninguém compreende que se faça uma greve em 2019 para exigir aumentos salariais de 2021/2022.

Segundo: na greve da Páscoa houve serviços mínimos, muito mínimos. Agora não. O Governo vai fixar serviços mínimos bem alargados. E, se não forem cumpridos, faz a requisição civil.

Terceiro: na greve da Páscoa o Governo foi apanhado desprevenido. Agora não. O sindicato vai confrontar-se com uma manifestação de força por parte do Governo, através de uma fortíssima mobilização das Forças Armadas e das Forças de Segurança.

O Governo quer mostrar autoridade. Terá uma resposta musculada. Como fez na Crise dos Professores. Mais do que uma questão laboral ou sindical, o Governo quer fazer desta greve uma questão política, para mostrar força e autoridade, a pensar nas eleições.

  1. Cenário B: os sindicatos desconvocam a greve. É o cenário mais inteligente. Não perdem nada, agora. E podem ganhar no futuro. Ou nas negociações ou numa greve mais tarde. Amanhã veremos se ganha a inteligência ou a teimosia. 


O Secretário de Estado da Protecção Civil devia demitir-se. Ou então devia ser demitido.
Primeiro: pelas contradições
 – Perante a polémica das golas, apressou-se a dizer que não era nada com ele, mas sim com a Protecção Civil. Afinal, veio depois a saber-se que já há um ano sabia de tudo!
Segundo: pela responsabilidade política – Um seu adjunto influenciou a escolha das empresas a contratar e demitiu-se. O Secretário de Estado devia ter feito o mesmo. Devia ter assumido a responsabilidade política. Os Adjuntos não agem por conta própria.
Finalmente: devia sair porque perdeu autoridade. A partir de agora não é o mesmo. Está inibido e condicionado. Não tem a mesma autoridade que tinha antes. Veja-se que esta semana, apesar de tantos incêndios, não apareceu em público uma única vez.

Entretanto, constatou-se que vários governantes teriam problemas com a chamada lei das incompatibilidades, o que poderia levar à sua demissão. O PM, discordando desta interpretação, pediu um parecer ao CC da PGR.
O que dizer de tudo isto?

Primeiro: que esta lei, neste particular, é um exagero e até um absurdo
. Mesmo assim, lei é lei e está em vigor há mais de 20 anos.

Segundo: o pedido de parecer do PM é uma habilidade. Um truque. O objectivo do pedido não é esclarecer. É comprar tempo. É adiar o assunto até às eleições para que ninguém se demita nem tenha de ser demitido.

Terceiro: este pedido é arma de dois gumes – se a PGR quiser ser simpática e agradar ao Governo, o parecer pedido só chega lá para o fim de Setembro ou início de Outubro, 
em cima de eleições, para não ter consequências. Mas, se o parecer chegar antes e confirmar a ideia de demissões, então o PM pode ter um problema sério, em Setembro, em plena campanha eleitoral.
A gestão política do Governo neste processo continua a ser desastrosa. Já são duas semanas seguidas a dar tiros nos pés. A sorte de António Costa é mesmo não ter oposição. Mesmo assim, não há erros “grátis”. Estes erros têm consequências sérias:

, geram forte desgaste no Governo;

dão força aos parceiros do PS, em especial ao Bloco de Esquerda (uma sondagem desta semana já lhe dava quase 15%);

Finalmente, afastam o PS da maioria absoluta
. Deste modo, o PS fica mais longe da maioria absoluta.


  1. António Costa ganhou. Nunca quis Centeno no FMI. Apoiava porque tinha de apoiar mas nunca se entusiasmou com a ideia. Precisava dele no Governo e no Eurogrupo. Conseguiu o que queria!!
  1. Mário Centeno perdeu. Nesta última semana deixou demasiado claro que queria muito sair de Portugal e ir para o FMI. É uma derrota pesada. Vai ter de ficar e ficar contrariado.

Centeno, a partir de agora, faz lembrar aqueles jogadores de futebol que querem sair de Portugal para o estrangeiro, não conseguem a transferência e depois ficam a jogar contrariados cá dentro. Ou seja: não está de alma e coração com o Governo.

  1. Este é o primeiro grande erro de Centeno. O segundo grande erro é o ter desistido da ideia de ser Comissário Europeu. Daqui a uns dois anos, Centeno vai perceber que não devia ter perdido a oportunidade de ir para a Comissão Europeia. Agora, saía em grande. Mais tarde não se sabe. É um erro enorme que com o tempo ele compreenderá melhor!


Em termos de balanço final, poderá dizer-se: Rio ganhou no Conselho Nacional; perdeu no país; e deu uma grande ajuda a Luís Montenegro.
Primeiro: ganhou no Conselho Nacional. Era expectável que ganhasse
. Nunca nenhum líder perdeu uma votação no Conselho Nacional. Muito menos quando se trata da “mercearia” política.
Segundo: perdeu no país. O ruído, a divisão e a balbúrdia deste processo só prejudicam Rui Rio. Ninguém gosta de votar num partido dividido e num líder contestadoAgora até contestado pelos seus apoiantes.
Terceiro: o grande beneficiário deste processo é Luís Montenegro, o potencial sucessor de Rio. Sem ter feito nada e sem sequer abrir a boca.

É que todos os descontentes deste processo
 vão engrossar a partir de agora os apoios a Luís Montenegro. É sempre assim.


  1. A resolução do BES foi há 5 anos (feitos ontem). 5 anos depois, em termos criminais, está tudo na mesma. Isto é inacreditável.
  1. Passaram 5 anos. Todos estes anos o NB deu milhões de euros de prejuízos. Este primeiro semestre foram mais 450 milhões. Ao longo destes 5 anos o Estado e o Fundo de Resolução já injectaram no NB cerca de 10 mil milhões de euros. Houve muita gente que perdeu dinheiro com a falência do BES. E, perante isto, pergunta-se: ninguém é acusado, ninguém é condenado, ninguém é responsabilizado? Nem Ricardo Salgado, nem ninguém? Isto é inacreditável. Depois, queixem-se que os cidadãos não acreditam na justiça!
  1. Finalmente, é inacreditável que o Director do DCIAP tenha decidido que a investigação só termina 3 meses depois de chegarem informações pedidas às autoridades suíças.
  • E se os suíços demorarem 10 anos a responder? Vamos estar 10 anos e 3 meses à espera? Um absurdo.
  • E se os suíços não derem resposta nunca? A investigação fica eternamente em aberto? Um absurdo ainda maior.

(Forbes) The Alentejo Is The New Region To Go To In Portugal


Alentejo, Portugal
The vineyards surrounding Herdade do Sobroso in the heart of the AlentejoLAURIE WERNER

There’s a saying in the Alentejo, the south central Portuguese region described as the heartland of the country, that life proceeds at the pace of the wind. But no one minds the leisurely pace; in fact, many, including expats, come here for that very reason, drawn also to the varying, compelling scenery—wheat fields, miles of nearly deserted white beaches on the western coast, walled hilltop towns with castles and Roman ruins, hills dotted with cork trees, olive trees and vineyards.

Alentejo, beaches
A long, beautiful, deserted beach in the AlentejoLAURIE WERNER

An hour and a half south of Lisbon, the area around Comporta is often compared to the social driven beach towns of the Hamptons but even though it’s similarly a celebrity magnet, it’s much lower key. Designers in particular have flocked here, notably Christian Louboutin who is such a regular in the area that he’s in the process of developing two boutique hotels near the village of Melides down the coast due to open next year. In the meantime, the biggest news this spring was the opening of Quinta da Comporta in the village of Carvalhal, the project of architect Miguel Cancio Martins who previously designed villas for Sublime Comportanearby, until now regarded as the most luxurious resort in the area.

Quinta da Comporta, Alentejo, Portugal
The former rice barn now housing rooms at Quinta da ComportaLAURIE WERNER

 Martins designed the property with sustainability foremost in mind, placing the majority of the 73 rooms within a former rice storage barn and using natural materials such as repurposed sun bleached wood, wicker for enormous lamps, woven baskets on the walls.

Quinta da Comporta, Alentejo, Portugal
A suite bedroom at Quinta da Comporta. @ MANOLO YLLERA

The restaurant is located within another old barn from Canada, taken apart and reassembled here with floor to ceiling windows revealing the changing colors of the sky over the adjacent rice fields. It’s a relaxed, tasteful setting for flavorful but not fussy dishes such as squid ink spaghetti with seafood and coriander and regional pork loin from the area’s famous black pigs.

Quinta da Comporta, Alentejo, Portugal
The restaurant overlooking the rice fields.LAURIE WERNER

Since it bills itself as a wellness resort, the Quinta places the Oryza Spacenter stage with various holistic/mind and body journeys. The key ingredient in the treatments, in sync with the surroundings, is rice along with essential oils in bespoke creations. Yoga and pilates classes plus hammocks for lounging over the sandy grounds are part of the general offerings. (The sand which looks a little strange at first is imported to both tie in with local beaches and fill in the new property quickly before the foliage grew in).

Quinta da Comporta, Alentejo, Portugal
One of the simple, delicious dishes in the restaurant: squid ink spaghetti with seafood and coriander.LAURIE WERNER

Overall, it’s quite a restful setting. The only odd note is the entry. In order not to crowd the village’s streets with guest cars, Martins built an underground parking garage with an elevator up to reception. It feels like a parking garage in a Los Angeles mall…but once you exit the reed covered cottage built in the local style housing the reception area and look out over the barns, the sand and the rice paddies, that sense of dislocation ends.

Evora, Roman Ruins, Alentejo, Portugal
The Temple of Diana in Evora.LAURIE WERNER

From the Quinta, it’s just over an hour drive to Evora, the capital of the region and a UNESCO designated medieval town with 14th century walls that is one of the most beautiful in the region. In the center is an unmistakable Roman ruin dating from the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD composed of 14 Corinthian columns of Estremoz marble and known as the Temple of Diana.

Evora, Chapel of Bones, Alentejo, Portugal
Evora’s Chapel of BonesLAURIE WERNER

The other famous sight in town is distinctive if far more unsettling: the 16th century hall known as Capela dos Ossos the Chapel of Bones containing 5,000 skulls and bones, excavated on the orders of three 17thcentury Franciscan monks from nearby overflowing graveyards (and possibly to also cause parishioners to reflect on the transitive nature of life.)

Cadaval Palace, Evora, Alentejo, Portugal
Portugal’s distinctive azulejo tiles lining the walls of the Cadaval Palace church in Evora.LAURIE WERNER

Afterward, Cadaval Palace, the home of the Duchess of Cadaval and her family is worth a visit if only to admire the tiles in the palace’s church. And there’s a nerve calming restaurant nearby for lunch that’s been a classic in town for decades, O Fialho for pata negra, the Portuguese version of Spain’s Iberico ham, baked codfish, leg of lamb and strong local wine.

Estremoz, Alentejo, Portugal
A mille feuille featuring the region’s pata negra ham at Mercearia Gadanha in Estremoz.LAURIE WERNER

Thirty miles northeast, Estremoz is known for its marble which comprises much of the city, its 13th century castle on top of the hill, its narrow lanes lined with orange trees and its food scene—there are a number of good restaurants here (particularly Mercearia Gadanha) as well as a comprehensive food/farmers market in the town square—with a flea market adjoining—on Saturdays.

Casa Azimute, Estremoz, Alentejo, Portugal
The modern structure of Casa Azimute, the two year old hotel overlooking Estremoz.LAURIE WERNER

On a nearby hill overlooking the city is another example of the new energy in the hotel scene: Casa Azimute, the contemporary six room inn operated by Andy Didden and Danny Puype, two Belgians who fell in love with the region while on holiday, left their careers, moved here and opened this hotel two years ago. The farmhouse they restored is for curing hams, the white, modern building they constructed is fresh and striking, a real change from the converted castles and monasteries that have long served as hotels in the region and decorated with a simple elegance. The only problem is that with only six rooms, it’s often totally booked so prospective guests have to plan way ahead.

Monsaraz, Alentejo, Portugal
The whitewashed medieval hilltop town of Monsaraz.LAURIE WERNER

Booking ahead is also necessary for Sao Lourenco do Barrocal, a farming estate near the whitewashed, medieval town of Monsaraz that has been in Jose Antonio Uva’s family for 200 years but has been inhabited since the Bronze and Iron Ages. A member of the family’s eighth generation, he had the idea to restore the farm, the reason you’re greeted by some of their 220 cattle while driving in, and create a farmscape environment with 24 modern rooms for guests on the 1927 acre estate, a project that won the Pritzker Prize for architecture.  

Sao Lourenco do Barrocal, Alentejo, Portugal
The bar of Sao Lourenco do Barrocal located in the former olive mill room. COURTESY OF SAO LOURENCO DO BARROCAL/SMALL LUXURY HOTELS

The rooms and cottages are scattered through meadows, in the winery, in barns and all are decorated with rustic touches and an unfussy style. Worth studying is the wall in the restaurant with shelves crammed with family mementos over generations from recipes to farm implements to shoes.

Herdade do Sobroso, Alentejo, Portugal
The main hoiuse of Herdade do Sobroso.LAURIE WERNER

There’s also a family feeling in Herdade do Sobroso, a country inn in the middle of vineyards an hour south of Monsaraz. Owners Filipe and Sofia Teixeira Pinto from Porto were also drawn to the region, moved here and opened this intimate, rustic inn on 3954 hilly, scenic acres; he takes care of the wine operation, she the hotel. It’s absolutely charming and guests who want to sample their vintages of  Aragonez, Syrah, Cabernet and other varietals , need only walk a few feet to the barn/tasting room. Then perhaps recline by the pool, watching the sun lower over the vines. And give in to the pace that draws so many here.

How to Get There: TAP Air Portugal has been on an expansion kick lately, adding nonstop service in June to Lisbon from San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Chicago to their existing JFK, Newark, Miami, Boston and Toronto services. The new flights are on new Airbus A330 neos with redesigned seats and more personal space in business class. TAP also has a substantial stopover program, allowing passengers to spend three days in Lisbon or Porto on the way to or from another European city.

(DW) House of Hohenzollern struggles to make restitution claims


Since the last German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II, unceremoniously abdicated in 1918, the heirs of the Prussian royals have been trying to regain properties and riches expropriated after both wars. But it’s complicated.

Mondfinsternis 2018 | Deutschland (Getty Images/M. Hangst)

When a court in June dismissed the Prince of Prussia’s claim on the former Hohenzollern family-owned Rheinfels Castle — a vast medieval bulwark on the Rhine river that has belonged to the Rhineland-Palatinate town of St. Goar since World War Two — it was the latest in a series of failed restitution attempts. 

As revealed last week, Rheinfels Castle is only one of numerous objects that the heirs to the House of Hohenzollern headed by Georg Friedrich Ferdinand — the Prince of Prussia and great-great-grandchild of last German monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II — is trying to reclaim. Since 2013, negotiations have been ongoing between the aristocratic dynasty, the federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg concerning the restitution of tens of thousands of art objects, unpaid housing rights in Potsdam’s Cecilienhof Palace, and compensation payments for expropriations following World War Two.

All parties are striving for a legally binding, out-of-court settlement. Whether this will be achieved, however, is unclear. According to the weekly Der Spiegel magazine, the state presented a draft contract months ago, but the Hohenzollern family apparently reacted with a counter-proposal of several hundred pages. The Ministry of Culture, headed by Monika Grütter, said the latter was not “a suitable basis for promising negotiations.”

Read moreColonial art restitution: ‘The desire is not to wipe museums clean’

Treasure trove of claims

The list of claims is long and diverse. Among other things, Georg Friederich demanded a “permanent, unpaid and land register-protected housing right” in Potsdam’s Cecilienhof Palace, owned by the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation in Berlin-Brandenburg. The historically important palace building was recently renovated with taxpayers’ money.

Der Spiegel also reported that the Lindstedt Palace in Potsdam, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, could be an alternative restitution target for the prince, in addition to the Liegnitz Villa on the outskirts of Sanssouci Palace. But the elaborate restoration of the latter property is currently underway with public funding of almost 8 million euros (nearly $9 million).

Then there’s the demand for the return of tens of thousands of paintings, graphic prints, sculptures, porcelain objects, medals, furniture, books and photographs — objects of great value and historical significance. These include the ornate Neuwieder Kabinett by David Roentgen, one of the grandest pieces of furniture ever made in Europe; works by artists such as the painter Friedrich Tischbein and by Lucas Cranach the Elder and the Younger; clothing worn by Emperor Wilhelm I; and the armchair in which Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, died.

Rechtsstreit um Burg Rheinfels (picture-alliance/dpa/R. Hirschberger)

Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, is deep in a restitution struggle

Museums fear closure

Most of the objects are located at the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the German Historical Museum. More than a dozen museums, archives and libraries fear that parts of their collections could be compromised.

Samuel Wittwer, director of the of Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, told Der Spiegel that Berlin’s Grunewald Hunting Lodge and the New Pavilion in Charlottenburg Palace’s gardens would have to close if the Hohenzollern family got everything they are demanding.

DW contacted Hohenzollern lawyer Markus Hennig in regard to Wittwer’s assertion, however he declined to comment  about this and other questions regarding the Prussian Prince’s extensive restitution claims.

On Monday, however, Hennig told the German Press Agency that, contrary to various reports, his client wanted to keep the items that are being claimed in public museums. “From the point of view of the House [Editor’s note: of Hohenzollern], the primary goal is to preserve the collections in the existing museums and continue to make them accessible to the public,” he said.

On Wednesday, he also warned against a “scandalization” of the matter and appealed for respect for his client.

  • PRUSSIA’S GLAMOUR AND GLORY — THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PALACES IN BRANDENBURGSanssouci PalaceSmall but fine: Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam was only Frederick the Great’s summer residence, but today it is the world star among the palaces of the Prussian royal family. Sanssouci Palace — translated “without a care” — enchants hundreds of thousands of tourists every year with its picturesque location and architectural sophistication.


Interpreting history

Henning further added that the Hohenzollerns are interested in the establishment of a “Hohenzollern Museum” in which the works in question could be exhibited. But any such museum could be highly contentious as the Hohenzollern family would have a say in all the museum’s exhibitions, publications and events that present their own history.

This could compromise the independence of state institutions, says historian Stephan Malinowski. He believes the family should leave the interpretation of its history “up to the institutions and places where public funding are concerned and to the democratic rules that govern them.”

“Prudently put, I think the desire to have the historical narrative and the interpretation of the House of Hohenzollern left up to them, but be publicly financed, seems adventurous,” Malinowski told DW.

A century after the abdication of the last German emperor, King Wilhelm II, one would think the question of the ownership of the Hohenzollern legacy would have been clarified long ago. Yet the origin of today’s dispute remains intertwined with the moment the Prussian constitutional monarchy ended and parliamentary democracy began in Germany.

The imperial property of Wilhelm II was confiscated by the young Weimar Republic in 1918. But while the Hohenzollern descendants regained a large number of castles and estates — including Cecilienhof Palace, where the young prince would now like to live — in 1926, they lost them again in 1945 after the end of World War Two.

Since the majority of the Hohenzollern estates were located in the territory of the Soviet occupiers, this time the Hohenzollern family was ousted by the communist state that ruled East Germany until 1989.

Read moreWeimar, 1919: Birth of Germany’s first democracy

Kaiser Wilhelm II with regalier (picture-alliance/dpa)

Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German Emperor who ceded his royal properties when he abdicated and moved to the Netherlands in 1918

Finding a lasting solution

The Unification Treaty of 1990 recognized the expropriation of land and buildings as unlawful, but not the expropriation of inventory. In principle, the Hohenzollern family is entitled to the objects encompassed by the treaty, as well as to compensation for the expropriation.

The one exception: a court decides that the Hohenzollern family “considerably abetted” the National Socialist regime. Germany’s 1994 Indemnification and Compensation Act, which compensates post-1945 land expropriations, excludes compensation in this instance.

But the jury is still out on the level of Hohenzollern collaboration with the Nazis, despite the fact that Prussian Crown Prince supported Hitler in the 1930s.

Some have further rejected the basis for compensation claims due to the Hohenzollern’s complicity in World War One, with Kaiser Wilhelm II signing the order for German mobilization. Writing on the news website of public radio station, RBB24, journalist Tomas Fitzel penned an article titled “Nobility is evil,” and which argued that the royal descendants deserved little after the Kaiser “plunged Europe into the abyss and suffered complete defeat.” 

Such opinion, in addition to legal and historical ambiguity and debate over the implication of the Hohenzollern restitution claims for public museums, seems to indicate that the issue is unlikely to be fully resolved any time soon.

Nonetheless, the parties involved — the House of Hohenzollern, the Ministry of Culture and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg — have emphasized their desire to try to reach an amicable solution. 

The parties are scheduled to begin renegotiations on July 24.