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Netanyahu Lost. His Enemies Won. But Who Can Govern Israel?

Jack Guez/AFP/GettyThe strangest episode of Israel’s raucous election—the second in six months—flickered by almost unnoticed, one clip among the 30 videos Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted to his YouTube channel in the final two days before Tuesday’s vote.Lush with images of sleek Israelis surfing off Tel Aviv beaches and sipping coffee and cocktails in a succession of inviting bars and cafés, it almost looked like a product of the tourism ministry— until the part where you see a woman’s toes peek beyond a blanket, reaching out to tease the toes of the man sharing the bed with her, and those manly toes turning away.“Right-wing voters have to wake up!” the caption blared. “On Tuesday, you have to go out to vote Likud, and bring family and friends!”The Likud is Netanyahu’s party, and the ad was meant as a counter-incentive. Netanyahu’s pitch can be summed up thus: Don’t sleep with your hot girlfriend. Don’t go to the beach. Don’t enjoy Tel Aviv’s great cafés. Go out and vote for me!If Netanyahu was concerned about voter fatigue, he needn’t have worried.Turnout was a few points higher than it was in the April 9 vote, despite fresh memories of the night six weeks later in which Netanyahu acknowledged he’d failed to form a coalition government and—instead of returning the mandate to Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin—dissolved the parliament and sent Israel into second elections.On first glance it looks like Israelis returned a second inconclusive verdict, this time with gusto.The apparent draw between Netanyahu’s Likud and the main opposition party, Blue and White, led by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, with each claiming about 33 seats out of the parliament’s 120, seems to indicate that Israelis have no idea what they want.On second glance, it is clear that Netanyahu, who has dominated Israeli politics for decades and has served as prime minister for the last ten years, lost—if only because all of his perceived enemies won.Netanyahu ran his campaign as if he was besieged in a bunker, regularly taking aim at sham nemeses.He deemed Avigdor Lieberman, a hardline secular nationalist best known for advocating the death penalty for terrorists, “a leftist.”Lieberman, Netanyahu’s former defense minister, triggered both the elections of 2019, first by resigning in December 2018, and then by refusing in May to join a coalition beholden to the demands of ultra-orthodox Jewish parties.  Lieberman’s wager paid off, and he has come close to doubling the number of seats his party holds in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to a projected eight or nine.Yohanan Plesner, the president of the Israel Democracy Institute, in Jerusalem, said “Lieberman is the ultimate kingmaker. Netanyahu does not have a government without Lieberman. Lieberman can really dictate the makeup, to a certain extent, of the next government.”Official elections results are expected on Sept. 25, after the certification of the ballot counts, which is conducted by hand.Netanyahu attacked the media from the start to the end of his campaign, complaining, in his 3 a.m. Wednesday not-concession speech delivered before a largely empty hall, that the press had forced him to contend with "the most difficult, the most biased campaign ever."But the press got it right this time, forecasting that he would be left without room to maneuver ahead of the Oct. 2 hearing at which his attorney general, who announced his intention to indict Netanyahu on a raft of corruption charges last February, will lay out the evidence against him. Netanyahu, Facing Indictments, Rains Scorn on His Political EnemiesSuch is Netanyahu’s predicament that on Wednesday, he canceled his participation in next week’s United Nations General Assembly, one of his favorite events of the year.Gantz vows to pursue peace with the Palestinians, to institute term limits, and, has unrelentingly promised his supporters that he will never join a government including Netanyahu while he remains a criminal suspect.This stance seems to rule out a possible government of national unity, in which Blue and White would sit together with the Likud.This electoral dead end is leading observers to envisage what was once unthinkable: a unity government in which Likud would be led by someone else.In the event the party, hungry to hold on to power, ousts Netanyahu as its leader, “a new chairman of the Likud might be able to form a government with Blue and White, and then we will probably witness an outcome of a rotation of the position of the Prime Minister between Mr. Gantz and whoever the Likud will elect,” Plesner says, predicting that Israel is “about to enter a period of political uncertainty.”Throughout his campaign, Netanyahu reserved his most vicious, most uncompromising, and finally most unhinged attacks for Israel’s Arab minority, 20 percent of the population and about 16 percent of the voting public, whose participation in the last vote sunk to an historic low. He accused Arab politicians of supporting terrorism. He accused his opponent, Gantz, a decorated general, of conspiring with Arab leaders to name them ministers.Netanyahu also accused Gantz of concealing the fact that Iran had hacked his phone, obtaining sleazy photographs proving sexual misbehavior—an accusation that appears to have been invented out of whole cloth.In the campaign’s frenzied final week, Netanyahu tried to rush through the Knesset a law allowing his party to hide cameras in Arab polling places—as it did, illegally, in April, causing an uproar. The bill failed. And he became the first head of government to be sanctioned by Facebook for hate speech, when his page sent out messages warning that “Arabs want to annihilate us all – women, children and men.”The Joint List, a majority-Arab party, that ran as several disparate factions in April, mobilized a major get-out-the-vote operation, apparently surging to 13 seats and becoming Israel’s third largest party, after the Likud and Blue and White.With an Arab, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, who exulted late Tuesday that “incitement didn’t work!” and a "leftist," Avigdor Lieberman, poised to play kingmakers, the election results constitute a Netanyahu nightmare.  “Netanyahu was defeated,” Ehud Olmert, a former prime minister and Likud elder, told The Daily Beast in an interview, “he lost, and as far as we can see, there is no feasible way he could form a new coalition.”But since it looks “doubtful that any possible coalition would achieve the support of 61 Knesset members,” Olmert said, “it is likely there will be another round of elections in early 2020.”For Israel to once again have a stable government, the only solution Olmert sees is another round of elections “very soon.”  But unlike Netanyahu’s opponents, who have spent the past year admonishing the public about the danger the prime minister poses to Israeli democracy, Olmert is sanguine.“The country’s democratic foundations are very stable,” he said, “and there is no real fear they are being undermined.” Not only that, he said, mentioning the United Kingdom, “the difficulty of ruling a state is not just an Israeli phenomenon… These are relatively common phenomena and Israel is no exception.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. 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UN says deal reached on committee for new Syria constitution

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Wednesday that a long-sought agreement has been reached on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria, an important step toward hopefully ending the more than eight-year conflict. At a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution.

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The latest Iran-Saudi flare-up exposes Trump's bankrupt Middle East policy

End support for the war in Yemen, change the relationship with Saudi Arabia, and talk to Iran – the answers for the US are clear ‘While there is growing support to completely change America’s Middle East policy US policy remains stuck in a rut.’ Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/ReutersThe fact that the United States is up in arms over an attack with no reported casualties on an oil refinery in Saudi Arabia – while at the same time supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands – tells us everything we need to know about how messed up US priorities in the Middle East are.If anything, the latest round of tensions between the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia – and the debate over whether or not to retaliate militarily against Iran – illustrates the many ways US policy in the region is bankrupt, and how Trump crafts US policy based on the interests of other countries, not America.The years-long struggle for regional influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia and their partners plays out in proxy wars that rip the region apart, such as the current humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. The US has taken Saudi Arabia’s side in this regional conflict, in which there is no “good side”, and in the process only exacerbated the tensions and violence.Iran is a bad actor, and the United States already takes serious steps to curb its support for terrorism, and to defend Israel. But Trump is making the threat worse by ending the Iran nuclear deal and provoking Iran. We now find ourselves in yet another edition of Trump’s deadly reality show: will he or won’t he strike?! Will he or won’t he risk the lives of American soldiers in an unnecessary war?! Or will he try to manufacture another photo-op summit that does nothing but mask the real problems?! Tune into Twitter to find out! Like everything he touches, Trump has turned America’s Iran policy into a farce, while increasing the likelihood of tragedy.Saudi Arabia, America’s longtime supposed partner, is also a bad actor. For too long America has stomached Saudi Arabia’s support for extremist ideologies, destabilizing policies, and repression at home. But Trump takes it to an extreme by seemingly outsourcing US policy to Riyadh. After the recent attacks, Trump literally said: “We are waiting to hear from the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed.”Jared Kushner must have done a facepalm – it’s supposed to be secret when Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, sends his orders over WhatsApp! Trump summed up why he always sides with Riyadh, even after the Saudi leader ordered the murder of US journalist Jamal Khashoggi: “Saudi Arabia pays cash.”One of the most devastating results of US policy has been the humanitarian disaster in Yemen. Because Saudi Arabia entered the war on one side, while Iran supports the other, the United States has blindly followed Saudi Arabia in fueling this conflict that is starving children and killing innocent civilians. The conflict has taken the lives of at least tens of thousands of people, and a United Nations panel recently said that all sides might be committing war crimes.Israel – and Trump’s relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu – are at the center of this as well. Israel is a close and important ally, but Trump and Netanyahu have personalized, politicized and radicalized the US-Israeli relationship. While Trump attempts to use the relationship as a political wedge by falsely painting his opponents as enemies of Israel, Netanyahu pushes for conflict with Iran and takes steps that make peace with Palestinians all but impossible – steps that Trump openly supports. The two feed off each other and support one another’s agendas, which are bad for the relationship and bad for the region.Since the end of the cold war, US policy in the region has been driven by numerous considerations: countering Iran, fighting terrorism, supporting stability, protecting oil markets, and defending Israel. While aspects of these policies were faulty long before this administration, today things are very different. Fossil fuels are destroying life in earth. Actions taken in the name of countering Iran often feed instability. Trump has warped our partnership with Israel into blind support for a self-destructive Israeli government.In partnering with autocrats to fight terrorism the United States has sacrificed other priorities. The Arab spring, the war in Syria, and myriad other calamities have illustrated how tyranny in the region is fueling – not supporting – stability. And now, ties between Saudi officials and businesses and the Trump family raise serious questions about whether Trump’s Middle East policies are being driven in part by efforts to line his own pockets.Whatever happens in response to this latest flare-up, the answers for the United States are clear: end support for the war in Yemen. Fundamentally change the relationship with Saudi Arabia. Talk to Iran about the entire range of concerns. Bring the sparring sides together to reduce regional tensions. Stop giving Netanyahu a blank check and return support for Israel to the principles of supporting democracy and a two-state solution. And stop supporting autocrats and start supporting the people.While there is growing support to completely change America’s Middle East policy – evidenced by the bills ending US support for the Yemen war that passed Congress – US policy remains stuck in a rut: Trump vetoed these congressional attempts to end support for the Yemen war and every time tensions spike, too many voices on both sides of the aisle respond with the knee-jerk reaction of considering military action against Iran.If America is going to make big changes to shore up the capacity of US leadership to tackle the biggest challenges it faces, one of the first orders of business will be to fix America’s bankrupt Middle East policy. Now would be a good time to start. * Michael H Fuchs is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for east Asian and Pacific affairs

Trump announces 'substantial increase' in Iran sanctions

Donald Trump has announced by tweet that he is increasing sanctions on Iran, following the weekend attacks on Saudi oil installations.The president tweeted: "I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!"


Trump instructs Treasury to 'substantially increase' Iran sanctions

President Trump said he instructed the Treasury Department to increase sanctions on Iran.


EU Says No-Deal Risk ‘Palpable’ as Court Resumes: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s lawyer promised the Supreme Court the government will file a statement overnight on what it will do if it loses the landmark case over its suspension of Parliament. A ruling against the government has the potential to derail Johnson’s Brexit strategy and even curtail his premiership.Key Developments:Day 2 of court hearings has begun; Click here for live streamGovernment lawyer James Eadie promises written statement on Johnson’s plans if he loses, after the court warned it would be “entirely inconvenient” if it wasn’t provided before the hearings endThe third and final day of hearings is Thursday, but the Supreme Court hasn’t given a date for a rulingPound drops as much as 0.5% after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the risk of a no-deal Brexit is “palpable”Court Demands Johnson’s Plan If Defeated (1:30 p.m.)Just before finishing, Eadie turned to the question of what the court could order and how the government might respond if the ruling goes against it. It was an issue that concerned the judges on the first day of the hearing, with one asking if Boris Johnson might prorogue Parliament for a second time.The government must provide the court with its plan in the event of defeat and "it will be entirely inappropriate if you don’t do it by the end of tomorrow," Judge Brenda Hale, the president of the court, said.Eadie responded that the government will work on its reply overnight as Judge Robert Reed spoke up to note that the issue could be a "very difficult question" for the judges.Judge Questions Lack of Government Witness (1:20 p.m.)Judge Nicholas Wilson asked James Eadie why no senior government official had come forward with a witness statement to back up the cabinet minutes outlining the reasons for the suspension of Parliament. Had that been done, the government’s evidence would have more weight in the court’s eyes.“No one has come forward from your side to say that this is true,” Wilson said. “Isn’t it odd that nobody has signed a witness statement saying this is true?”Eadie countered: “My Lords, you have the witness statement you have,” referring to the document from a government lawyer. It would be unusual for a senior official to be called to give evidence in a case like this, Eadie said, and any application for that to happen would “be resisted like fury.”Denmark Ramps-Up No-Deal Preparations (12:35 p.m.)Denmark is ramping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit amid concerns at Boris Johnson’s strategy and estimates that divorce without an agreement could cost the Nordic nation as much as 1.3% in lost growth over the next 5-10 years.“The new British government’s approach is worrying,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told reporters in Copenhagen as he announced the creation of an emergency task force of officials from eight ministries.The Foreign Ministry estimates that around 60,000 Danish jobs, or 2% of the labor force, relies on exports to the U.K.. Tax authorities have hired 50 new staff and the government will spend 10 million kroner ($1.5 million) on a new public awareness campaign.Judges Question ‘Post Hoc’ System of Control (12:20 p.m.)Two judges challenged government lawyer James Eadie’s suggestion that Parliament could address any harm stemming from its suspension after it is recalled. Justice Brian Kerr called it a “post-hoc system of control,” and Justice Jill Black also questioned the idea.But Eadie said that Parliament “can resume all the functions of control it had beforehand.” Eadie effectively argued that the 17 days between Parliament is due to be recalled for a Queen’s speech and the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline would be enough to address any issues.“There is time, and it’s up to Parliament and the government to legislate what they consider necessary,” he said.Barnier: U.K. Must Provide ‘Robust’ Solutions (11:40 a.m.)Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the U.K. government must accept the need for “legally robust solutions” in any withdrawal accord, and said the two sides shouldn’t be wasting time “pretending to negotiate.”“We are building a treaty, we’re not making a speech” Barnier told the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. “It’s finding solutions that work, and that’s something that we’ve communicated to Boris Johnson and his team.”Barnier’s comments echo those of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (see 8:40 a.m.), who demanded the U.K. provide its proposals for an alternative solution to the contentious backstop -- the fallback measure designed to keep the Irish border free of checks after Brexit -- as soon as possible. A British official said Tuesday the government is still sounding out the bloc on its ideas for the border before submitting written proposals.Tytti Tuppurainen, European affairs minister of Finland -- which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency -- said in the same debate that achieving the U.K.’s orderly withdrawal must remain the bloc’s priority “until the very last moment, given the negative consequences of a hard Brexit.”German Businesses Toughen No-Deal Tone (11:30 a.m.)The influential German BDI industry lobby group said it would rather have a hard Brexit on Oct. 31 than accept another delay that leads nowhere, even if -- as the group expects -- it trims economic growth by 0.5 percentage points and leads to the loss of nearly 100,000 jobs.“With every delay, the cost of preparations increase,” Director General Joachim Lang said Wednesday at a press briefing in Berlin. He accused Boris Johnson’s government of “playing with fire,” and said it shouldn’t be given an extension without a plan in place to avoid a no-deal split with the EU.Despite the tougher tone, the BDI, which estimates German companies have spent billions of euros on preparations, said it still sees a no-deal Brexit as the “worst of all possible outcomes.”Who Better Than Court to Protect Parliament? (11:15 a.m.)Justice Nicholas Wilson asked government lawyer James Eadie who was “better placed to protect the principle of parliamentary sovereignty” than the Supreme Court.Eadie replied: “It’s no good simply turning up and shouting about parliamentary sovereignty, because parliamentary sovereignty can mean a number of things.”The exchange goes to the heart of the case, which is trying to determine whether the government’s five-week suspension of Parliament was unlawful.‘Treasury Devil’ to Open Day 2 for Government (10:15 a.m.)James Eadie, the government’s go-to lawyer in major pieces of litigation -- a role known as the “Treasury Devil” -- is due to kick off the second day of hearings at the Supreme Court. Aidan O’Neill then presents on behalf of 80 Scottish lawmakers, who secured the ruling in Edinburgh that the government’s suspension of Parliament was unlawful.The government’s main contention is the issue has no place being decided by judges, and that Johnson has acted within his powers. The decision to prorogue Parliament was one of “high policy and politics, and not law,” they argue.“The appeals would also involve the courts identifying and enforcing a new constitutional convention as to the length of prorogation, which the courts have no jurisdiction to do,” lawyers led by Eadie said in their written arguments.Both the Scottish and English challengers -- who lost their separate case in the High Court in London -- argue the issue falls squarely in the jurisdiction of the court to deal with and that Johnson abused his executive powers.“It is not, and cannot be, right that the executive can exercise its powers so as to remove itself from accountability to Parliament in relation to decisions of high constitutional -- and potentially irreversible legal, economic and social -- impact,” lawyers for Joanna Cherry in the Scottish case said.Sturgeon Doubts Johnson’s Brexit Ideas (9:30 a.m.)Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cast doubt on Boris Johnson’s proposal to replace the so-called Irish backstop, and said the prospects of a Brexit deal “have to be slim.”“We will have to see what unfolds over the next few weeks, but it’s a very limited form of Northern Ireland-only backstop he appears to be talking about,” Sturgeon told reporters in Berlin, where she is due to meet German officials. “It’s very difficult to see how Boris Johnson can secure a deal that satisfies the European Union and commands a majority” in Parliament.On the Supreme Court hearings in London, Sturgeon said that a ruling for the government would effectively mean a “government can suspend Parliament at any time it wants.” Conversely, a loss for Johnson would mean he “will have been found to have acted unlawfully” and would have to consider his position.Speaking at the German Council on Foreign Relations on the fifth anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, Sturgeon predicted that “over the next few years,” Scotland will become an independent member of the EU. “We are living in extraordinary and unprecedented times in the U.K,” she said.Juncker: Sticking Point Is Still the Backstop (8:40 a.m.)In his briefing to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Monday’s talks with Boris Johnson, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the main sticking point remains -- as it has for months -- the so-called backstop provision for the Irish border. He demanded the U.K. provide its proposals for an alternative solution in written form as soon as possible.Juncker said that while the discussions with Johnson in Luxembourg were “friendly, constructive and, in part, positive,” the risk of the U.K. leaving the bloc without an agreement at the end of October is “palpable.” The pound fell 0.3% after Juncker’s comments.A British official said on Tuesday the government is sounding out the bloc on its ideas for the Irish border before submitting its plans in written form.Carney Could Be Asked to Extend Term on Brexit: FT (Earlier)Bank of England Governor Mark Carney could be asked to extend his term past Jan. 31 if Brexit is delayed again, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter it didn’t identify.The newspaper cited a government official as saying the process of choosing Carney’s successor is going “very slowly,” while an expected election in the fall makes it likely that a decision would not be made until a new government was in place.Responding to the report, the Treasury said “the process is on track and we will make an appointment in due course.”Earlier:Johnson Struggles in Supreme Court on Day One of Suspension CaseRecord Numbers Seek Debt Help With U.K. on Brink of BrexitEurope Hunts For Boris Johnson’s Plan: Brexit Bulletin--With assistance from Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny, Alan Crawford, Ian Wishart, Chris Reiter, Jonathan Stearns and Morten Buttler.To contact the reporters on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at [email protected];Jonathan Browning in London at [email protected];Franz Wild in London at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at [email protected], Stuart Biggs, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Germany extends anti-Islamic State mission in Iraq by 1 year

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet has approved extending Germany's military participation in an international coalition against the Islamic State group. Merkel spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said Wednesday the Cabinet extended the Bundeswehr's training of local Iraqi forces until Oct. 31, 2020. A shorter extension that expires on March 31 was applied to the use of Germany's Jordan-based Tornado reconnaissance aircraft and also the use of German refueling aircraft for anti-Islamic State missions.


Almost Everywhere, Fewer Children Are Dying

Two decades ago, nearly 10 million children did not live to see a fifth birthday.By 2017, that number -- about 1 in every 16 children -- was nearly cut in half, even as the world's population increased by more than 1 billion people.The sharp decline in childhood mortality reflects work by governments and international aid groups to fight child poverty and the diseases that are most lethal to poor children: neonatal disorders, pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. But a research report shows the results are also highly unbalanced. In some places, children's health has improved drastically. In others, many still die very early.From 2000 to 2017, all but one of the 97 low-to-middle-income countries that account for the vast majority of deaths of young children lowered their child mortality rates. (The exception was Syria, which has endured a devastating civil war.)The report was released Tuesday by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with a research team at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, led by Stephen Lim, the institute's senior director of science and engineering.The data reveal a wide disparity of outcomes in early child mortality both across countries and within them. The researchers project that if current rates of progress continue, nearly two-thirds of children in the poorest countries will still live in districts that won't meet United Nations development goals by 2030."The inequality in that progress is still quite stunning," Bill Gates said in a call with reporters.By combining detailed survey data with statistical models, the researchers were able to map child mortality in much greater geographic detail than previous estimates.Experts say reduced childhood mortality is also a marker of healthier, more stable conditions for adults. Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown and director of the World Health Organization's center on global health law, described it as a health version of "the canary in the coal mine."Mothers who lose fewer young children tend to have fewer children, reducing their own risk of death in childbirth and increasing their ability to improve the economic prospects of their households, said Ashish Jha, a physician with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. "It has huge implications for the family," he said.The overwhelming majority of child deaths are preventable. Adequate nutrition, water, sanitation, vaccines and antibiotics can save many lives. And it's not always a matter of money; often there are cultural or political roadblocks. Malnutrition was a contributing factor in nearly half of these deaths.Dean Jamison, a professor emeritus of global health at the University of California, San Francisco, cautioned against assigning too much precision to the estimates or using them to measure the success of specific health policies.But for a big-picture sense of how things have changed over time and place, estimates like these are "probably the best you can do," he said.Here's a look at what's behind changes in five parts of the world.IndiaMore than a quarter of the global drop in child mortality reflects progress in India, the world's second-most populous country. There, 1.2 million fewer children died in 2017 than in 2000.But the gains are not distributed evenly. Southern India has experienced tremendous improvements. Thanks to a combination of economic growth and state policy, as few as 1 in 50 children under age 5 die. States in northern India have comparatively high rates of child death, closer to 1 in 10."If you look at the health statistics of India, I can point to places that look like Eastern Europe, and I can point to places that look like sub-Saharan Africa," Jha said. "It's not that southern India is so wealthy. They've made massive investments in women and girls' education."NigeriaRegional inequality is especially pronounced in Nigeria. A child born in districts around Lagos, the country's largest city, has about a 1 in 16 chance of dying before age 5. But things are very different for children in the country's far north, along the border with Niger, who experience death rates higher than nearly anywhere else in the world. There, 1 in 5 children die before age 5.The divergent experiences of Nigeria reflect trends that experts say permeate the map of child mortality. Northern Nigeria has endured prolonged violence and political instability, displacing many residents. "If they're being forced from their homes and communities because of violence, it's more difficult for them to access essential services they need like health care if they get sick," said Christopher Tidey, a spokesman at UNICEF. "If they are on the move, that has implications for food security."Northern Nigeria, part of the Sahel Belt, has also suffered from drought and food shortages, in part due to climate change.ThailandThailand, by contrast, is a leader in national equality among the countries surveyed. Each of its districts meets the development goal of no more than 1 in 40 children dying before age 5. Thailand's economy is stronger than those of its neighbors. But it also owes some of its success to its investments in health care and its focus on primary care for its citizens.Thailand's regional neighbors have also made significant improvements. Vietnam, in particular, has relatively similar child mortality rates in most parts of the country.Southern AfricaIn many southern African countries, reductions in HIV deaths have made a difference. South Africa and Botswana saw some of the largest reductions. In 2017, an estimated 77,000 children died from HIV worldwide, compared with about 246,000 in 2000.HaitiThe earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010 was a big setback for the country's childhood mortality rate. It worsened many of the factors that can lead to child deaths: fectious disease risk; less food and safe housing; greater difficulties getting medical care.Li Liu, a population health researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said the country's experience was an opportunity for scholars to understand how natural disasters can influence public health. "Global health has limited experience in understanding child mortality in that setting," she said.Challenges AheadContinued progress in early childhood mortality may depend not just on health systems but also on the politics and environmental stability of countries that are still struggling.Jha said he worried that the experience in northern Nigeria might be a cautionary tale. Climate change may make access to good nutrition harder in some parts of the world and could prompt violence. He said he was concerned that progress was "going to slow or even reverse if climate change goes unabated."Still, the overall trend is a positive one. And the new, granular data could help governments and development groups better focus their resources to address the inequality within countries."It's not a very long list of things that kill kids in large numbers," Jamison said. "Most of the items on that list can be addressed inexpensively."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

Trump's Challenge: Can His Word on Iran Be Trusted?

For a president with a loose relationship with the facts and poisonous relationships with allies, the attack on the Saudi oil fields poses a challenge: how to prove the administration's case that Iran was behind the strike and rally the world to respond.President Donald Trump must now confront that problem as he struggles with one of the most critical national security decisions of his presidency. Over the next few days or weeks, he will almost certainly face the reality that much of the world -- angry at his tweets, tirades, untruths and accusations -- could be disinclined to believe the arguments advanced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others that Iran bears responsibility for the attack.If Trump tries to gather a coalition to impose diplomatic penalties, tighten sanctions to further choke off Iranian oil exports or retaliate with a military or cyberstrike, he may discover that, like President George W. Bush heading into Iraq 16 years ago, he is largely alone.Already, intelligence officials are hinting, in background conversations, that the evidence implicating Iran is just too delicate to make public. One theory gaining support among American officials is that the cruise missile and drone attack was launched from southwest Iran or in the waters nearby.But the evidence gathered so far, one official said, "isn't a slam-dunk," deliberately using the phrase that George J. Tenet, the CIA director in 2003, came to regret when he employed it to argue, incorrectly it turned out, that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction.After the bitter Iraq experience, it would be hard for any American president to persuade the country and its allies to take his word that it is time to risk another war in the Middle East, barring incontrovertible evidence that could be made public. For Trump, it could be an especially tough sell."Painfully, the word of the president will be suspect," Wendy R. Sherman, who negotiated the details of the Iran deal for the Obama administration, said Tuesday.Trump's "hyperbole and outright fabrications through a daily tweet diet," she said, has left him with "little credibility with Congress, allies and partners, let alone the American people.""All will be challenged to accept a Trump assessment of what occurred in the attack on Saudi oil facilities," she added.Rex Tillerson, Trump's first secretary of state, warned Tuesday that his former boss, who fired him 18 months ago, will have to tread carefully."Setting aside the question of U.S. credibility, that challenge would be there," said Tillerson, who as a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil spent much of his life operating in the Middle East.Speaking to Harvard's American Secretaries of State Project, where he was explaining his tumultuous 14 months in the Trump administration, Tillerson said that building a concrete case against Iran would be difficult."I have no doubt that we will find Iran's fingerprints on this," he said, "but we may not find their hands on it."Even if American and other experts who are now in Saudi Arabia to conduct a forensic study conclude that Iran built the drones or cruise missiles, they may have a hard time establishing -- especially for the public -- where the weapons were launched from or who shot them toward the Saudi oil fields."A military response on the sovereign territory of Iran is a very serious matter," Tillerson cautioned. "And not one that anyone should take with less than fully conclusive information."Pentagon officials appear to agree. That is why the options now being discussed include alternatives like retaliating against Iranian facilities outside of Iranian territory and conducting cyberstrikes. If the latter option were chosen, it would be akin to the cyberoperations that blew up Iran's nuclear centrifuges a decade ago and the move to wipe out military databases several months ago, after a U.S. drone was shot down by Iran.The Saudis seem to sense the credibility problem.Even they have not yet publicly followed Pompeo in accusing Iran of responsibility. In a statement Monday, the Saudi government urged an international investigation, led by the United Nations, to determine responsibility.That move, unusual for a country that disdains the United Nations almost as much as the Trump administration does, seemed an acknowledgment that the world would not take Trump's word nor that of the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.Over the past year, the crown prince has encountered credibility problems of his own. He has repeatedly denied that he sent or had knowledge of the Saudi team that killed Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. The evidence suggests otherwise.For Trump, the suspicions about any U.S. assessment of responsibility will be colored by another problem: European officials blame him, as much as the Iranians, for creating the circumstances that led to the attack.In their telling, it was Trump's decision, soon after he fired Tillerson, to abandon the 2015 nuclear deal that set in motion the events that culminated in the crippling of the two Saudi oil fields.For the past 18 months, Trump has been steadily reimposing sanctions on Iran. At first, the Iranians largely ignored those steps and remained part of the 4-year-old agreement that limited Iran's nuclear ability in return for lifting most sanctions on the country.But as the administration's "maximum pressure" campaign took its toll, Iranian officials began breaking out of the accord's limits -- arguing they would not be bound by an agreement Trump had abandoned -- and seizing oil tankers.The European argument is that Trump has unnecessarily provoked the Iranians. That is why France's president, Emmanuel Macron, is leading an effort to undermine the U.S. sanctions by issuing a $15 billion line of credit to Iran, in hopes of getting them back in compliance with the deal to which France was a partner.Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, said Tuesday that the best strategy for defusing tensions with Iran was for Trump to back down."The deal to stop Iran from acquiring military nuclear capabilities is a building block we need to get back to," she said.Trump's envoy for Iranian issues, Brian H. Hook, has argued that the Europeans fundamentally misunderstand Iran's strategy. Even after Tehran signed the 2015 agreement, Hook has said, they were arming terrorist groups, supporting President Bashar Assad of Syria, building more powerful missiles and conducting cyberoperations against the United States.That argument will not be easily resolved. European leaders will most likely be cautious about siding with Trump and the Saudis if they propose steps that could escalate into a broader conflict.Americans may wonder, too, whether it is worth it, noted Meghan L. O'Sullivan, Bush's Iraq coordinator and author of "Windfall: How the New Energy Abundance Upends Global Politics and Strengthens America's Power.""Many Americans think U.S. interests in protecting Middle Eastern oil supplies have dramatically declined," she said Tuesday."They are largely wrong about this," she said, "but certainly, most Americans think the days of going to war over oil are in the past."The next few days will be critical. Michael J. Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA, who briefed Bush on Sept. 11, 2001, said Trump will face a difficult trade-off.After he gets the intelligence agency's "best assessment on who was behind the attack," Morell said, Trump "must then balance the need to protect sources and methods with the need to inform Congress and the American people about why he takes or doesn't take any action.""The credibility of the United States matters every single day," he added. "And when it is eroded in the eyes of our allies over time, it then ultimately makes moments like this even more difficult."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

Pakistan's leader to urge Trump to resume talks with Taliban

Pakistan's prime minister says he will urge U.S. President Donald Trump to resume peace talks with the Taliban when he meets with him next week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. Imran Khan said Wednesday he will meet with Trump next week in New York.


Egypt says police kill 9 suspected militants in Cairo

Egypt's Interior Ministry says police have killed nine suspected members of a militant group with links to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in two separate Cairo shootouts. Wednesday's statement says the militants were members of the Revolution Brigade, a breakaway faction of the Muslim Brotherhood group that has targeted security forces in militant attacks. It says the gunfire exchange took place at their hideouts in the northeastern district of Obour, and the southern May 15th City, as police were trying to arrest them.

Tags: Fire, Egypt, Police

Netanyahu faces uphill battle after repeat election

Israel's two main political parties were deadlocked Wednesday after an unprecedented repeat election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uphill battle to hold on to his job. The election's seeming political kingmaker, Avigdor Lieberman, said he'll insist upon a secular unity government between Netanyahu's Likud and Benny Gantz's Blue and White parties, who are running neck-and-neck to become the country's largest party. Without Lieberman's endorsement, though, neither party appears able to secure a parliamentary majority with their prospective ideological allies.


Israeli police: Knife-wielding Palestinian woman shot dead

Israeli police say private security guards at a checkpoint near Jerusalem shot and killed a Palestinian woman after she pulled out a knife at the crossing. The Palestinian Health Ministry says video shows three Israeli security forces approaching the woman and one of them shooting her. Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing attacks in recent years, mainly in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.


Spooked by Johnson, Denmark Ramps Up No-Deal Brexit Preparations

(Bloomberg) -- Denmark is growing increasingly concerned about U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approach to the Brexit negotiations and is ramping up preparations for a no-deal that could cost the Nordic nation as much as 1.3% in lost growth.“The new British government’s approach is worrying,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told reporters in Copenhagen as he announced the creation of an emergency task force comprising officials from eight ministries.“We haven’t yet seen proposals from the U.K. government,” he said.Britain is one of Denmark’s biggest trading partners. The Foreign Ministry estimates that around 60,000 Danish jobs, or 2% of the labor force, relies on exports to the U.K. Studies by the OECD and the International Monetary Fund suggest Britain leaving the European Union without a deal could reduce Danish gross domestic product growth by between 1% and 1.3% over the next 5 to 10 years. Fishing rights is another potentially contentious issue.The government urged businesses to do their due diligence and said the government would spend 10 million kroner ($1.5 million) on a new public awareness campaign. A no-deal would result in a 15% increase in goods handled by Danish custom officials, while 50 new hires have been made by tax authorities.Asked by reporters, Kofod said it was difficult to provide an assessment on the total costs incurred by Denmark’s no-deal preparations.The Danish central bank earlier cited a so-called “hard Brexit” among the downside risks to economic growth.To contact the reporter on this story: Morten Buttler in Copenhagen at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman at [email protected], Nick RigilloFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

UK's Corbyn promises EU referendum; does not say how he will campaign

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn promised on Wednesday that if he won power he would hold an in-out referendum on Brexit but repeatedly declined to say which way he would campaign. "We are the only party that is offering the people a choice," Corbyn told reporters, adding that there would be a credible choice between leaving on the terms of a Brexit deal he would have negotiated or whether to remain. "I'm offering the people a choice," Corbyn said when asked which way he would campaign.


Donald Trump Sets Twitter Ablaze With ‘No Lindsey’ Dig

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham incurred Trump's wrath after a tweet about "weakness" over Iran.


Standardized Labels Could Drastically Reduce Food Waste

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Many efforts to minimize climate change are far removed from people’s everyday lives. It’s the responsibility of unseen others to reduce power-plant emissions or regrow carbon-absorbing forests. But there is one significant way almost everyone can help, and that is by wasting less food. Americans in particular consume only about half as much of what’s in their refrigerators as they plan to, a new study has found.One big reason for this flagrant waste is confusion about how long food keeps — confusion fostered by the great variety of date labels found on packaged foods. More than 80 percent of Americans throw out food when it’s close to or past its stamped date, previous surveys have found, often because they read the labels wrong. And that’s understandable, because the dates listed are often preceded by vague phrases such as “best by” or “sell by,” which seem to refer to safety rather than quality.Some members of Congress are trying again to solve this problem by requiring food packagers to adopt standard phrases that distinguish quality from safety. In the system proposed by recently introduced legislation, the conditional “best if used by” would mean the food may not be as appealing or tasty if eaten after the date, while the more commanding “use by” would mean the food should be discarded after the date to avoid illness. By helping Americans minimize food waste, uniform labels could help lower U.S. carbon emissions.It’s a small step that could make a big difference. Consider that every year, the average American throws out some 400 pounds of food. Much of that ends up in landfills, where it decays, emitting methane and carbon dioxide. Add in the emissions created in the harvest, transport and selling of all this uneaten food, and it accounts for 2.6 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. It’s no wonder the United Nations’ climate science panel has identified eliminating food waste as a critical emissions-reduction strategy.The U.S. government appears to agree, having set itself the goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. Since households account for the biggest chunk of wasted food in the U.S. — about 40 percent — streamlined date labels would be a great place to start. But at the moment, no federal regulations require or regulate date labels for foods (with the exception of those on infant formula). In the absence of any rules, food companies voluntarily label their packages in dozens of different ways.In 2017, responding to pressure from environmental groups to create clear and uniform labels, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute — two of the most influential industry groups — released voluntary guidelines that urged use of the phrase “best if used by” to communicate that the date is a measure of quality. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates meat, poultry, eggs and other perishable products, had backed the same language. And the Food and Drug Administration has since sent a letter to food companies endorsing the same phrasing for packaged products. But voluntary measures aren’t enough, because not every company voluntarily complies.If labeling were mandatory, on the other hand, and if the federal government were also to provide better consumer education on food labels, nearly 400,000 tons of food waste could be prevented each year, according to ReFED, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing food waste. That would eliminate almost 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions — as much as is emitted by nearly 340,000 cars over the course of a year.Since 2016, a string of natural disasters, including droughts, wildfires and hurricanes made more destructive by global warming, has left Americans more worried than ever about climate change, and surveys show that most Americans agree the government should be doing more to tackle the climate crisis. In the three years since Congress last tried, and failed, to pass uniform food labeling requirements, the urgency has increased.Streamlining food labels to reduce waste is truly the low-hanging fruit of climate action. Congress should pass the legislation without delay.To contact the author of this story: Kate Wheeling at [email protected] contact the editor responsible for this story: Mary Duenwald at [email protected] column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Kate Wheeling is an environmental journalist based in California. For more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Hurricane Humberto tracker map: Latest GFS and Europe charts, spaghetti models

HURRICANE HUMBERTO is expected to bombard Bermuda with terrifying and potentially dangerous breaking waves and swells. But what do the latest maps predict for the future of the life-endangering storm?

Tags: EU, SPA

Aramco Attacks Had ‘Zero’ Impact on Saudi Revenue, Minister Says

(Bloomberg) -- Attacks that slashed half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output had “zero” impact on the kingdom’s revenue and won’t affect economic growth, Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said.The disruption to the kingdom’s all-important oil sector was temporary and spending will continue as planned, Al-Jadaan told Bloomberg TV in an interview Wednesday in Riyadh.“We are back online, so the interruption in terms of the economy, in terms of revenue, is zero,” he said. The kingdom has used oil reserves to fill the gap during the past few days, he added.Saudi Aramco said late Tuesday that it had revived about 40% of capacity at a key crude-processing complex in Abqaiq days after devastating aerial attacks wrecked vital equipment and rocked global energy markets.Saudi authorities are preparing to release what they say is evidence of Iranian involvement in the attacks, with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expected in the kingdom for talks.Any military response carries the risk of spreading conflict between the two Middle East powers. Iran has denied responsibility, saying the strikes were delivered by Houthi rebels in Yemen who have been fighting a Saudi-led coalition for four years.Despite renewed efforts to diversify away from oil under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, state revenue and economic growth still depend heavily on crude exports, so the attacks had the potential to hobble the government’s fiscal plans.However Al-Jadaan said the incident proved that state oil company Saudi Aramco was able to “get back on track” and recover quickly. He reiterated the kingdom’s commitment to sell a stake in Aramco in the next 12 months. The primary bourse will be the local Tadawul, and the kingdom is still considering its options for a secondary market abroad, he said.The kingdom has struggled to stimulate growth since a contraction in 2017. Al-Jadaan said that after a boost to state spending, the government is “seeing momentum” in the non-oil economy and he expects the sector to hit the 2.9% expansion forecast by the International Monetary Fund.Officials will continue to balance fiscal health with “making sure that we continue to support growth,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has weathered significantly worse situations than what we are seeing now, and there are actually very strong opportunities that are taking place in the economy.”In another interview with Saudi television channel Al-Arabiya, Al-Jadaan said he sees a potential bond issuance before the end of the year and expects the kingdom’s 2019 budget deficit to be “close to forecasts.”Asked about any increase in military outlays following the attacks, Al-Jadaan said the kingdom would “continue spending as we need on our defense and our protection.”(Updates with comment on defense spending.)--With assistance from Desley Humphrey.To contact the reporters on this story: Yousef Gamal El-Din in Dubai at [email protected];Vivian Nereim in Riyadh at [email protected] contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at [email protected], Mark Williams, Paul AbelskyFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Russia's Putin, Saudi crown prince discuss attacks - Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed weekend attacks on Saudi Aramco's oil infrastructure by phone with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday, the Kremlin said. Putin and the crown prince expressed their commitment to bilateral cooperation on stabilising global oil prices and the Russian leader called for a thorough and impartial investigation into the attacks in Saudi Arabia, the Kremlin said. Putin is expected later this year to travel to Saudi Arabia, a traditional U.S. ally in the Middle East.

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