Daily Archives: 14/03/2019

US Senate Rebukes Trump Over Border Wall But He Vows Veto

The U.S. Senate passed a proposal on Thursday to terminate President Donald Trump’s declaration of an emergency at the southern border, with 12 Republicans defying the president, and Trump vowing a veto.

The 59-41 vote marks the second Senate rebuke of Trump in two days. Senators on Wednesday approved a resolution seeking to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the war in Yemen, rejecting Trump’s policy toward the kingdom.

During the first two years of his term, the Republican-led Congress mostly accommodated Trump, who has not yet used his veto pen.

With the emergency declaration, Trump was seeking an alternative way to get billions of dollars for the wall after Congress declined to give him funding.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had urged his fellow Republicans to defeat the measure, which was passed in February by Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

Trump had tweeted on Thursday that a vote for the resolution by Republican senators would be vote for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as “Crime and the Open Border Democrats!” Republicans who defected by supporting the measure to end the emergency declaration are worried that presidents – including future Democratic ones – could usurp the power of Congress to fund the government and use the tactic to pass their own pet programs.

 

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Скандал щодо «Укроборонпрому» спрацює на руку Росії – міністр Степан Полторак

Скандал щодо державного підприємства «Укроборонпром» вплине на Збройні сили України тим, що Росія використає всі можливості, щоб припинити всі канали постачання запчастин для тієї техніки, яка ще є на озброєнні української армії. Про це заявив міністр оборони Степан Полторак у Львівській області під час візиту у Бродівський гарнізон, повідомляє кореспондент Радіо Свобода.

За словами міністра, Росія може не тільки перекрити контрабанду деталей, що вже зробила, але й інші шляхи, щоб перешкодити Україні купувати техніку.

«У більшості випадків запчастини і техніку купували не у Росії, а у наших партнерів з країн, які мали на озброєнні таку техніку. Щодо запчастин, про які йдеться у журналістському розслідуванні, проаналізувавши, на сьогодні не знайшли фактів, щоб вони потрапили в армію. В основному ті запчастини йшли на іноземні контракти, зокрема на авіаційну техніку, броньовану, але за комерційною ціною і за кордон», – зазначив міністр.

Він наголосив, що українська армія купує в «Укроборонпрому» лише 40% техніки і запчастин, а решту – у приватних підприємств.

«На мою думку, скандал точно спрацює на руку Росії і треба якомога швидше завершити розслідування, щоб дати відповідь суспільству на запитання, яке є. Винні мають бути в тюрмі, але їхня вина має бути доведена. Армія виконувала і буде виконувати завдання, попри скандали, бо у нас є запас техніки і багато підприємств, які своєчасно виконують завдання державного оборонного замовлення. Ми не передбачаєм загроз щодо зривів контрактів, які надходять в армію», – заявив Полторак.

4 березня журналісти «Бігус.інфо» оприлюднили інформацію про розкрадання в оборонній сфері. За їхніми даними, у 2016-2017 роках «Укроборонпром» контрабандою отримав російські деталі для ремонту казахських літаків «Ан-26», заплативши у сім разів більше від реальної ціни.

В «Укроборонпромі» оприлюднену інформацію називають некоректною.

26 лютого Спеціалізована антикорупційна прокуратура відкрила кримінальне провадження за фактом імовірного розкрадання майна посадовими особами державного концерну «Укроборонпром». Цю справу розслідує також і Національне антикорупційне бюро.

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Україна засуджує поїздку французьких політиків до окупованого Криму – МЗС

Міністерство закордонних справ засуджує поїздку групи французьких політиків до анексованого Росією Криму і вимагає дотримуватися порядку в’їзду на окуповану територію України. Про це йдеться в коментарі, опублікованому 14 березня на сайті МЗС.

У повідомленні наголошується, що французькі громадяни виявили неповагу до суверенітету і територіальної цілісності України, проігнорувавши фундаментальні принципи міжнародного права, українське законодавство і офіційну позицію Франції, що засудила дії Росії.

Група французьких політиків на чолі з колишнім депутатом парламенту Франції Тьєррі Маріані прибула на окупований півострів 13 березня і планує там залишатися до 16 березня.

Після анексії Криму Росією українська влада встановила особливий порядок відвідання цієї території. Він передбачає перетин пунктів пропуску на адміністративній межі півострова з материковою Україною.

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Brexit: What Now?

Veteran Conservative lawmaker Nigel Evans has been in Britain’s House of Commons for more than a quarter-of-a-century and, like most of his parliamentary colleagues, is stunned at the turn of Brexit events.

“I got elected in 1992 and I don’t know if I have known any time more uncertain than now,” he told VOA.

He’s flummoxed at what the next move should be for a Conservative government that has lost control of the Brexit process.

As a committed Brexiter, he fears Britain will end up staying in the European Union because of an impasse in the Commons that has seen the ruling Conservative government repeatedly rebuffed by lawmakers, including by a third of its own MPs, in a series of historic votes without precedent for the storied House of Commons.

Parliament is not alone in being hopelessly divided: Theresa May’s Cabinet is, too, with the British prime minister lurching between pro-EU rebel ministers and their pro-Brexit counterparts, trying to resuscitate a government that appears to be in terminal decline.

Divorce delayed

More than 20 ministers have resigned in the past two years — and at least another half-dozen are on the cusp of quitting. Midweek another minister resigned and four declined to vote with their own government — an unprecedented defiance left unpunished.

Britain’s newspaper headline writers are running out of superlatives and metaphors to describe the political havoc. “We’re becoming the laughing stock of the World,” fumes Andrew Pierce, the Daily Mail’s associate editor, in College Green, the patch of grass outside parliament which has become a media encampment of tents, wires and cameras besieged by chanting, dueling placard-waving protesters.

Britain was due to exit the EU in 16 days’ time, on March 29.

On Wednesday, the House of Commons voted against Britain exiting the EU without a deal — in effect delaying Brexit until further notice. That followed Tuesday’s crushing parliamentary defeat of Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal agreement — the second time pro-EU and hardline pro-Brexit lawmakers have combined to reject it. Lawmakers Thursday are expected to pass a measure seeking formally to delay Brexit, at least to June 30. EU leaders are divided about accepting a request for delay.

Donald Tusk, the president of the EU Council, tweeted Thursday: “I will appeal to the EU27 to be open to a long extension if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its #Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”

The Remainers hope to either block Brexit altogether or at least steer it in a gentler direction with Britain still closely aligned although not a member of its political institutions. Hardline Brexiters want a no-nonsense sharp break with the EU, ready to accept the economic damage to Britain that will wreak, at least in the medium term.

That Evans feels unable to predict what happens next is instructive. He is no junior lawmaker, but a so-called “Tory grandee”, and he helps to direct the 1922 Committee, of which all backbench Conservative lawmakers are members.

When the bosses of the 1922 Committee tell a Conservative leader to quit, their word has the force of the Lord High Executioner. The last time the 22, as its nicknamed, deposed a party leader was in 2003, ousting one of Theresa May’s predecessors for losing a general election.

Are they close to giving May the push now? Evans is guarded but makes little secret he thinks the time is close at hand. “Her authority is greatly weakened,” he says grimly.

Replacing May

Pro-Brexit Conservative bloggers and columnists are in vituperative mood, blaming May for mishandling the negotiations with the EU and, from their viewpoint, giving too much ground to Brussels. Gridlock has been the result, they say.

“I can see no scenario where she is the answer for taking the country forward. She should by rights go now. At some point in the next two or three weeks it will even dawn on Mrs. May that it is time to go,” Conservative blogger Iain Dale tells VOA.

WATCH:  British Leadership Change Possible in Wake of Brexit Chaos

Then what?

The vultures are circling. Half-a-dozen would-be replacements from inside May’s Cabinet have in effect been auditioning already for the job, delivering speeches carving out their vision for the country. Some contenders have advanced plans, including printing up campaign material for what they expect is an inevitable leadership election.

A Conservative grassroots favorite, Boris Johnson, the former foreign minister, has had a modern makeover and dispensed with his trademark tousle-haired slapdash look and is now sporting a stylish boyband haircut.

But it is not clear that replacing Theresa May will solve anything or break the political impasse, which is why the 1922 Committee has stayed its hand.

There is no obvious unity candidate to succeed her. A new leader will face the same splits inside the Conservative party between Remainers, Brexiters and the those who favor a so-called soft Brexit modeled on Norway’s relationship with the EU, which would see Britain remain in the bloc’s single market and customs union as well as accept freedom of movement.

And the deadlocked parliamentary arithmetic will remain the same.

Another try

In a final throw of the dice, May is planning to bring her contentious deal back to the Commons for a third time, hoping that she will prevail by sheer persistence. It is the continuation of her strategy of brinkmanship — to run the clock down and force Conservative Brexiters and a handful of allied Northern Irish lawmakers to give in, prompted to do so by the fear that otherwise Britain might never leave the EU in any form.

It is not clear that the pro-EU Speaker of the House, John Bercow, will allow her to do so — under parliamentary rules a government is not meant to keep asking the House to vote repeatedly on the same measure. “If she can pull it off, it will be the political equivalent of Lazarus rising from the dead,” admits a Downing Street official.

Some believe she has a chance of succeeding in this high-stakes game of chicken. Evans does not think so. “For some of the rebels it would be better to stay in the EU than accept this deal, which would have us at the beck and call of Brussels without any power,” he says. Another key Brexiter, Steve Barclay, says he and many of his colleagues will keep voting the deal down “whatever the pressure we’re put under.”

Keeping calm and carrying on?

Beyond Westminster, there is fear, exasperation and anger. And clear Brexit fatigue. BBC Radio Five Live has seen the volume of Brexit-related call-ins tail off recently. There are signs, according to some opinion polls, that the mood of the country may have shifted slightly in favor of remaining in the EU, suggesting that a second referendum would deliver a narrow win for Remain.

As yet there is no majority in the House of Commons for holding a re-run referendum. Nor are lawmakers keen on holding a snap general election, for fear that might result in an equally deadlocked parliament afterwards.

Business leaders were already fuming at all the Brexit uncertainty before this week’s upheaval. “Enough is enough. A new approach is needed by all parties. Jobs and livelihoods depend on it,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, a major business association.

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In 420-0 Vote, US House Bill Calls for Mueller Report to Be Made Public

The House voted unanimously Thursday for a resolution calling for any final report in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to be made public, a symbolic action designed to pressure Attorney General William Barr into releasing as much information as possible when the probe is concluded.

The Democratic-backed resolution, which passed 420-0, comes as Mueller is nearing an end to his investigation. Lawmakers in both parties have maintained there will have to be some sort of public resolution when the report is done — and privately hope that a report shows conclusions that are favorable to their own side.

Four Republicans voted present: Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie.

The nonbinding resolution calls for the public release of any report Mueller provides to Barr, with an exception for classified material. The resolution also calls for the full report to be released to Congress.

“This resolution is critical because of the many questions and criticisms of the investigation raised by the president and his administration,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “It is important that Congress stand up for the principle of full transparency.”

It’s unclear exactly what documentation will be produced at the end of the probe into possible coordination between Trump associates and Russia, and how much of that the Justice Department will allow people to see. Mueller is required to submit a report to Barr, and then Barr can decide how much of that is released publicly.

Barr said at his confirmation hearing in January that he takes seriously the department regulations that say Mueller’s report should be confidential. Those regulations require only that the report explain the decisions to pursue or to decline prosecutions, which could be as simple as a bullet point list or as fulsome as a report running hundreds of pages.

“I don’t know what, at the end of the day, what will be releasable. I don’t know what Bob Mueller is writing,” Barr said at the hearing.

The top Republican on the Judiciary panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said the vote on the resolution was unnecessary but that he would support it anyway. He said he has no reason to believe Barr won’t follow the regulations.

But Democrats have said they are unsatisfied with Barr’s answers and want a stronger commitment to releasing the full report, along with interview transcripts and other underlying evidence.

In introducing the resolution, Nadler and five other Democratic committee chairs said “the public is clearly served by transparency with respect to any investigation that could implicate or exonerate the president and his campaign.”

Texas Rep. Will Hurd, a GOP member of the House intelligence committee, said before the vote that he believes the resolution should have been even broader to include the release of underlying evidence.

“I want the American people to know as much as they can and see as much as they can,” said Hurd, a former CIA officer. He added that “full transparency is the only way to prevent future innuendo.”

If a full report isn’t released, House Democrats have made it clear they will do whatever they can to get hold of it. Nadler has said he would subpoena the final report and invite — or even subpoena — Mueller to talk about it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been less eager to push Barr on the release of the report, despite some in his caucus who have said they want to ensure transparency.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa introduced legislation with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut that would require Mueller to submit a detailed report to lawmakers and the public at the end of the investigation. But both McConnell and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, have declined to say whether they would support the legislation.

Graham said he agrees “with the concept of transparency,” but stopped short of supporting Grassley’s bill, saying he disagrees with taking discretion away from the attorney general.

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China Investment Laws Fail to Deliver, Raise New Concerns

China’s top legislature is expected to pass the country’s first Foreign Investment Law this week at a time when negotiators from Beijing and Washington work to hammer out a trade deal.

Analysts and business groups say the legislation is a step in the right direction, but still falls short. In some ways, they add, it even raises new concerns that negotiators need to address before the two sides reach a deal.

For decades, China has been grappling with the question of just how far and how fast it should open up its state directed economy, and steps — while always welcome — have long lagged behind expectations. The Foreign Investment Law is not different.

In a statement, the American Chamber of Commerce in China (AmCham China) said it welcomes the law and appreciates the effort to improve the investment environment.

“We are concerned, however, that such an important and potentially far-reaching piece of legislation will be enacted without extensive consultation and input from industry stakeholders, including Foreign Invested Enterprises,” the statement said.

An earlier version of the law was put together in 2015, but later stalled during the review process, only to resurface more recently. When it did, the wording was more general and more vague, analysts note. By contrast, the first version had 171 articles, the new one has 41.

This some argue, helped pave the way for the bills speedy passage. NPC Observer, a website that closely follows China’s legislature or National People’s Congress, notes that by keeping the legislation vague, the government will have more room and time to craft implementing regulations after the law is enacted.

“The law is phrased and drafted with very general provisions. There are a number of things that are not covered in there, such as what percentage of foreign investment qualifies as foreign invested,” said Lester Ross, who heads AmCham China’s policy committee. “Another major concern is the requirement for security assessments even for non-mergers and acquisitions, even for greenfield investments, which seems unnecessary.”

Subsidies still an issue

The newer version of the law was fast-tracked as Washington and Beijing work to hammer out a trade deal. While the provisions in the legislation address some persistent concerns, such as forced technology transfers, equal access to government procurement and national treatment, it does not address other issues, such as subsidies for state owned enterprises.

Clearly though, the legislation was pushed through the system in part to address what is being discussed at the negotiation table, said Mats Harborn, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China.

“It is more than a law, it is a document that states principles and it is a document that states principles that we [foreign investors] would like to hear. And it also states the principles that U.S. negotiators want to have on paper from China,” Harborn said. “But the proof in the pudding will be the implementation.”

National security concerns

And while the law echoes concerns that are part of what trade negotiators are discussing, issues such as the broad application of national security reviews and the mention of national security in the law are cause for concern, argues Austin Lowe, a Washington D.C.-based consultant and analyst.

In a recent article on the legal and national security website Lawfare, Lowe highlighted provisions in the legislation that foreign companies should not “harm national security or the public interest” and that businesses that affect national security should be subject to a review.

“Together, these provisions essentially give the state — and, in turn, the Chinese Communist Party — free rein to intervene in a wide range of investment activity, signaling to foreign investors that they are better off avoiding any investment in an area that may be construed as politically sensitive or threatening,” he wrote.

Ross notes that while security reviews have been in place since 2011, they have, so far, been used very selectively and largely for mergers and acquisitions.

“Now it looks like this is an additional hurdle that will apply across the board,” he said.

While it doesn’t mean that every investment could face such scrutiny, there are no bounds to how it can be applied, and in some cases that would require revealing a company’s intellectual property, Ross added.

“When you put national security into any document it creates a great deal of arbitrary judgement on what is national security and what is not,” notes the EU Chamber of Commerce’s Mats Harborn. “It is a very wide definition that creates uncertainty.”

Not only does it create uncertainty, but the questions the new law raises will add to the issues negotiators will need to resolve going forward, Ross said.

“While on the one hand it is a good thing that they are showing some significant degree of intention to reduce barriers to foreign investment and actually making some substantive changes, once the law is in place it may actually be more difficult to make departures from that in the course of the negotiations,” he said.

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Росія закрила свій повітряний простір для літаків Boeing 737 Max

Росавіація заборонила польоти в повітряному просторі Росії літаків Boeing 737 Max, йдеться в повідомленні на сайті Агенства повітряного транспорту Росії.

«Введена тимчасова заборона NOTAM на польоти в російському повітряному просторі літаків Boeing 737-800 MAX і Boeing 737-900 MAX всіх авіакомпаній», – йдеться в повідомленні.

За даними Росавіації, у Росії є 2 повітряних судна типу Boeing-737 MAX, експлуатацію яких призупинила авіакомпанія-власник.

Авіакомпанії по всьому світу тимчасово відмовляються від експлуатації Boeing-737. Крім того, низка країн закрили свій повітряний простір для літаків цього типу.

У четвер авіакомпанія Ethiopian Airlines повідомила, що бортові самописці з літака, що зазнав аварії в Ефіопії, відправлені для розшифровки до Парижа.

11 березня компанія Boeing, найбільший у світі виробник літаків, заявила, що «повністю впевнена у безпеці» літака, і пообіцяла в найближчі тижні застосувати нове програмне забезпечення для управління польотом для літаків 737 MAX.

Пасажирський літак авіакомпанії Ethiopian Airlines 10 березня зазнав аварії під час рейсу з Аддіс-Абеби до Найробі. На борту літака Boeing 737 Max 8 перебували 149 пасажирів і 8 членів екіпажу, не вижив ніхто.

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У Саудівській Аравії після майже року за ґратами перед судом постали жінки-правозахисниці

У Саудівській Аравії десять жінок-правозахисниць постали перед судом після майже року утримання за ґратами без висунення звинувачень і, як повідомлялося, з підозрою на застосування до них тортур.

На засіданні 13 березня їм зачитали обвинувачення, які офіційно не розголошуються.

За даними правозахисників, дехто із затриманих жінок зазнавав тортур і сексуальних домагань під час допитів. У правозахисних організаціях Human Rights Watch та Amnesty International засудили масштабні репресії проти активістів.

Представник Amnesty International у справах Близького Сходу Самах Хадід висловив занепокоєння тим, що звинувачення затриманим швидше за все стосуються їхнього захисту прав жінок.

Масштабні репресії проти активістів у Саудівській Аравії почалися у травні минулого року. Більш ніж десяток активістів були заарештовані всього лише за місяць до історичного зняття багаторічної заборони на кермування автомобілем для жінок у Саудівській Аравії. Більшість із них були звинувачені в підриві безпеки і «підозрілих контактах з іноземними сторонами». Частину пізніше звільнили.

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France, Kenya Seal Business Deals Worth Billions

French firms signed contracts in Kenya worth about 2 billion euros ($2.26 billion) during a visit Thursday by President Emmanuel Macron, who wants to deepen France’s economic ties with Anglophobe East Africa.

Macron’s visit to Nairobi is the first by a French president since Kenya won independence from Britain in 1963 and follows stopovers in Ethiopia and Djibouti, all countries where China has moved in aggressively and presents stiff competition.

At a ceremony with Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta, a consortium led by Vinci secured a 30-year concession worth 1.6 billion euros to operate a highway linking the Kenyan capital and Mau Summit in western Kenya.

Renewables firm Voltalia sealed a 70 million euro contract for a solar power plant while an Airbus-led consortium won a 200 million euro deal for coastal and maritime surveillance. Total is finalizing terms on a second solar plant.

“In Kenya there is an economic opportunity and it’s within the president’s strategy in France to look at not just Francophone Africa, but Anglophone Africa too,” said a French presidential source.

During a four-day trip to East Africa, Macron has vaunted France’s soft power in culture and education and its military know-how to woo deeper partnerships.

Kenya is east Africa’s most advanced economy with a liberal business environment and entrepreneurial culture. French businesses however account for just a 1.4 percent market share.

French exports to Kenya in 2017 amounted to between $170 million and $225.80 million, while China, Kenya’s No. 1 trading partner, exported goods worth $3.8 billion.

“France has supported Kenya for several years in development projects … but we are not sufficiently economically and industrially,” Macron said Wednesday night in a news conference with Kenyatta.

France also faces competition from other European allies, including Britain, which is seeking to revive its trade relationship with its former colony as it prepares to leave the European Union.

Kenyatta, who took Macron for a drive around the grounds of State House in a Kenyan-assembled Peugeot car, said he hoped France would become a more important trading partner.

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British Lawmakers to Vote on Brexit Extension

Three days of voting in Britain’s parliament culminates Thursday with lawmakers deciding whether to ask the European Union for a delay in Britain’s exit from the bloc.

The House of Commons overwhelmingly voted against Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated terms for Brexit on Tuesday, and it followed that with another vote Wednesday rejecting the possibility of leaving the EU on March 29 with no deal in place.

If Thursday’s extension measure passes, it would need further approval from the other EU members in order to go forward.

EU officials have repeatedly said they would need proper justification to agree to pushing back the deadline. And after Wednesday’s vote they said that while it is one thing for the British government to reject a so-called no-deal exit, at some point they would have to figure out the alternative, a deal they could actually pass.

The EU also prefers any extension be limited, finishing before its own elections in late May.

European Council President Donald Tusk left open the possibility of a longer delay, saying Thursday that ahead of a meeting of EU leaders next week he would be appealing to member states to consider that option if Britain “finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy.”

May brought what she said was an improved deal to parliament for Tuesday’s vote, one that sought to remove concerns about the border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. Opponents want to make sure Britain is not locked into a long-term customs agreement that subjects the country to EU trade rules.

May hinted Wednesday that she could try for a third time to get lawmakers to approve the deal that negotiators from Britain and the EU worked on for two years.

The Wednesday vote rejecting a no-deal exit does not carry legal weight, only political force, meaning it is still possible that without an extension and without an agreement during the next two weeks, Brexit could proceed with no divorce terms in place.

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