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Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
Law & Politics
After two days lecturing a collection of head-choppers, dictators,
torturers and land thieves, Donald Trump at last met a good guy on
Wednesday. Pope Francis didn’t ask for a $100bn (£77.2bn) arms deal
for the Vatican. He wouldn’t go to war with Iran. He didn’t take the
Sunni Muslim side against the Shia Muslim side in the next Middle East
conflict. He didn’t talk about Palestinian “terror”. And he looked,
most of the time, grim, unsmiling, even suspicious.
So he should have been. Trump’s broad, inane smile on confronting the
Holy Father might have been more appropriate for the first of the
Borgias, Alexander VI, whose 15th century womanising, corruption and
enthusiasm for war would match Trump’s curriculum vitae rather well.
But the poor man’s pope, who last year suggested that Trump wasn’t
much of a Christian because he wanted to build walls, didn’t seem to
be very happy to see the man who called him “disgraceful” for
questioning his faith. “One offers peace through dialogue, the other
security of arms,” one of Francis’ advisers said of the visit. Which
pretty much sums it up.
For more and more, the Good Old Pope is coming to represent what the
Trumps and Mays will not say: that the West has a moral duty to end
its wars in the Middle East, to stop selling weapons to the killers of
the Middle East and to treat the people of the Middle East with
justice and dignity.
No wonder the 29 minutes which the insane president and the sane pope
spent together – Francis himself suggesting that they both keep away
from the microphones – remain secret.
A Danger to the World It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump Der Speigel
Law & Politics
Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does
not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the
significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it.
He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and
intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has
identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they
are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.
He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of
times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these
words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone,
they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue
telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White
House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.
Trump is a miserable politician. He fired the FBI director simply
because he could. James Comey had gotten under his skin with his
investigation into Trump's confidants. Comey had also refused to swear
loyalty and fealty to Trump and to abandon the investigation. He had
Trump is also a miserable boss. His people invent excuses for him and
lie on his behalf because they have to, but then Trump wakes up and
posts tweets that contradict what they have said. He doesn't care that
his spokesman, his secretary of state and his national security
adviser had just denied that the president had handed Russia (of all
countries) sensitive intelligence gleaned from Israel (of all
countries). Trump tweeted: Yes, yes, I did, because I can. I'm
president after all.
Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there
has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each
other - and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all
that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness
to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.
The first is Trump's resignation, which won't happen. The second is
that Republicans in the House and Senate support impeachment, which
would be justified by the president's proven obstruction of justice,
but won't happen because of the Republicans' thirst for power, which
they won't willingly give up. The third possible solution is the
invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cabinet to
declare Trump unfit to discharge the powers of the presidency. That
isn't particularly likely either. Fourth: The Democrats get ready to
fight and win back majorities in the House and Senate in midterm
elections, which are 18 months away, before they then pursue option
two, impeachment. Fifth: the international community wakes up and
finds a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its
dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth
doesn't directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless
necessary - and possible.
The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made
itself dependent on a joke of a man. The country is, as David Brooks
wrote recently in the New York Times, dependent on a child. The Trump
administration has no foreign policy because Trump has consistently
promised American withdrawal while invoking America's strength. He has
promised both no wars and more wars. He makes decisions according to
his mood, with no strategic coherence or tactical logic. Moscow and
Beijing are laughing at America. Elsewhere, people are worried.
In the Pacific, warships - American and Chinese - circle each other in
close proximity. The conflict with North Korea is escalating. Who can
be certain that Donald Trump won't risk nuclear war simply to save his
own skin? Efforts to stop climate change are in trouble and many
expect the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because Trump is
wary of legally binding measures. Crises, including those in Syria and
Libya, are escalating, but no longer being discussed. And who should
they be discussed with? Phone calls and emails to the U.S. State
Department go unanswered. Nothing is regulated, nothing is stable and
the trans-Atlantic relationship hardly exists anymore. German Foreign
Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee Chair
Norbert Röttgen fly back and forth, but Germany and the U.S. no longer
understand each other. Hardly any real communication takes place,
there are no joint foreign policy goals and there is no strategy.
In "Game of Thrones," the Mad King was murdered (and the child that
later took his place was no better). In real life, an immature boy
sits on the throne of the most important country in the world. He
could, at any time, issue a catastrophic order that would immediately
be carried out. That is why the parents cannot afford to take their
eyes off him even for a second. They cannot succumb to exhaustion
because he is so taxing. They ultimately have to send him to his room
- and return power to the grownups.
Trump son-in-law Kushner under FBI scrutiny in Russia probe: media reports
Law & Politics
President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a senior White
House adviser, is under scrutiny by the Federal Bureau of
Investigation in the Russia probe, the Washington Post and NBC News
reported on Thursday.
Kushner is being investigated because of his meetings in December and
other possible interactions with the Russian ambassador and a banker
from Moscow, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the
Meet the Real Jared Kushner Politico Magazine
Law & Politics
He was supposed to be the calm one, cool and unflappable under his
Ray-Bans and beltless blue bespoke suits. If Steve Bannon was the
Rumpelstiltskin of the administration, donning multiple half-tucked
dress shirts at a time and always carrying a clutch of briefing papers
and barreling through the administrative state, Jared Kushner, through
pedigree and temperament, could reach out one of his long, elegant
fingers and tap everyone in the West Wing on the shoulder and urge
them to just cool out a bit.
Except that this isn’t quite how it has gone in the White House over
the last several months. It was Kushner who reportedly pushed for the
firing of FBI Director James Comey over the objections of Bannon. And
it was Kushner who was the lone voice urging for a counterattack after
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of a
special prosecutor, according to the New York Times. And it is now
Kushner whose family’s business activities leave him open to the same
level of charges of conflict of interest that have dogged his wife and
father-in-law, and Kushner who appears to be as closely tied to the
Russian government as anyone serving in the White House: NBC News and
the Washington Post reported Thursday that the FBI is taking a close
look at his contacts with the Russians.
Charles Kushner, was convicted in 2005 and sent to prison for illegal
campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering after he
attempted to blackmail his brother-in-law by hiring a prostitute to
seduce him and then sent the videotaped encounter to his sister.
“I believe that God and my parents in heaven forgive me for what I
did, which was wrong,” Charles Kushner told an interviewer years
later. “I don’t believe God and my parents will ever forgive my
brother and sister for instigating a criminal investigation and being
cheerleaders for the government and putting their brother in jail
because of jealousy, hatred and spite.” By all accounts, Jared was
deeply affected by his father’s prison sentence, and visited him
Donald of Arabia: A Disgusting Spectacle
Law & Politics
Has there been a more disgusting spectacle during the four months of
this presidency than the sight of Donald Trump slobbering all over the
barbarous Saudi monarch and his murderous family of petty princelings?
It’s enough to make any normal American retch, especially when one
remembers what Trump said about them during the election:
It was really the other way around. Trump wasn't the troller; he was the trollee.
Law & Politics
An internet troll lobs bombshells to get a rise out of the other side,
for his own enjoyment, or to get attention, or to make a point.
Limbaugh isn’t wrong to identify Trump with this species of
provocation. In fact, it’s possible to see Trump’s entire campaign in
2016 as one long troll of respectable opinion. He routinely stoked the
outrage and disgust of the media and the establishment in a way that
boosted him in the eyes of his supporters. It’s no accident that among
his most ardent admirers were fellow practitioners, like Ann Coulter
and Milo Yiannopoulos.
Trump was a troll long before anyone had coined the term. He’s a
natural at it — fearless, shameless, and a genius at identifying and
exploiting the psychological and emotional weaknesses of others.
How did the hunter become the hunted in the Russian controversy?
Trump’s critics stumbled on a couple of his greatest weaknesses —
namely, an extreme sensitivity to slights over his status (in this
case, as winner of last year’s election) and to negative media
A 'Very Dangerous Period' For the U.S. and China @HoFrench @AsiaSociety
Law & Politics
Now that China has the world’s second-largest economy and a much
heavier presence on the world stage, the calculus has changed. “Xi
Jinping's task is not to ingratiate himself,” French said. “Xi's task
is to impose himself, to say, ‘We've arrived. Deal with it. This is
who we are and all that stuff that's been in the Patriotic Education
for the last generation has now become manifest.’”
This new balance has perhaps been most clearly illustrated in the
South China Sea, where China — in spite of international rebukes — has
expanded its presence and built installations with military
capabilities on disputed islands.
Kim's rocket men
Law & Politics
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacts during the long-range strategic
ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) test launch with Ri Pyong-chol
(second left), Kim Jong-sik (center) and Jang Chang-ha (second right).
Photo: KCNA via Reuters
U.A.E. May Fly Warplanes From Somalia as Africa Reach Grows
Law & Politics
A proposed United Arab Emirates base in semi-autonomous northern
Somalia may add a naval facility to a military airport, extending the
Arab nation’s reach on the Horn of Africa coastline, a Somali official
The U.A.E. has leased the airport in the Somaliland port town of
Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire said in an interview. Berbera is
located on the Gulf of Aden, about 260 kilometers (162 miles) south of
Yemen, where U.A.E. troops in a Saudi Arabia-led coalition are
battling Houthi rebels, and on the approach to the Bab el-Mandeb, a
choke-point in global shipping that gives tankers access to the Red
Sea and Suez Canal.
“It will be like any other base in the world,” Shire said by phone.
“They’ll use it as a sort of surveillance facility, a training
facility, and sometimes as an operational facility.” An official at
the U.A.E.’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to requests
The proposed Somaliland base could be the U.A.E.’s second in Africa,
after reports of one being established in Eritrea, the secretive state
that sits on the Bab el-Mandeb and which a United Nations monitoring
group says supports the Saudi coalition’s Yemen war. The Berbera
airport was variously used by the Soviet Union and U.S. during the
Cold War, when Somalia’s loyalty shifted between the two world powers.
Can former liberators lead Africa into the future? Daily Maverick
Law & Politics
Of all the ruling parties in Southern Africa, only SWAPO in Namibia
has managed to stay popular, increasing its share of votes at every
election since independence in 1990.
But despite the gains made in Namibia, Pretoria University scholar
Henning Melber points out, development still only benefits a small
ruling elite. Melber, a leading theorist on liberation movements in
Africa, says “despite shifting grounds, the party still mobilises
along the heroic narrative of the liberation struggle, much to the
frustration of a younger generation”.
Qatar State News Retracts 'Hacked' Article That Defended 'Enemies' - but Still Faces Wrath of Allies Telesur [He was correct]
Law & Politics
the state-run Qatar News Agency took down an article that defended all
of Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran, claiming the site was hacked.
US and Saudi Arabia, the Imperial Alliance That Creates Terrorism,
Vows to ‘Fight’ It
"The Qatar News Agency, QNA, website has been hacked by an unknown
entity. A false statement attributed to His Highness has been
published," said a government statement early Wednesday.
The story that ran earlier quoted a speech given by Sheikh Tamim bin
Hamad al-Thani, Qatar's ruler, that criticized U.S. foreign policy,
the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.
“No one has a right to accuse us of terrorism because they designated
the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists or refused the role of the
resistance with Hezbollah and Hamas,” one quote read.
The retracted story also had quotes attributed to Tamim that stated
that Qatar has good relations with Israel and that there is no wisdom
in making an enemy out of Iran, the Middle East Eye reported.
Saudi Arabia's Okaz daily thundered: "Qatar splits the rank, sides
with the enemies of the nation,” while Riyadh's Arab News said the
comments sparked "outrage."
#Egypt got around $11bn of orders for its $3bn #Eurobond yesterday, its finance minister says @Business
Egypt is offering investors $750 million of five-year debt yielding
5.45 percent, compared with a yield of 6.125 percent when the notes
were first sold, according to the guidance. A tranche of $1 billion
ten-year bonds will yield 6.65 percent, compared with 7.5 percent on
the original notes, while $1.25 billion of 30-year debt will yield
7.95 percent versus 8.5 percent back in January. The deal is expected
to price today.
"We like the reform story a lot," said Anthony Simond, who helps
manage $11 billion of emerging market debt at London-based Aberdeen
Asset Management Plc, and is bidding for Egyptian bonds at today’s
sale. "They are implementing an impressive fiscal consolidation,
which, coupled with the huge inflows of foreign capital since the
devaluation, means that their balance of payments position is now much
Old Foes Square Off in Kenyan Election Deja Vu: QuickTake Q&A @Business
Kenya’s Aug 8. presidential elections will be a rematch of the 2013
race, which pitted Uhuru Kenyatta against Raila Odinga. That vote saw
Kenyatta squeak to victory in the first round and the Supreme Court
reject Odinga’s allegations of rigging. This time, five of the main
opposition parties have united to form the National Super Alliance and
thrown their weight behind Odinga. With violence and intimidation
having overshadowed four of the six elections held in Kenya since the
advent of multiparty democracy in 1991, the East African nation’s
ability to stage a peaceful and credible vote will be as keenly
watched as the outcome.
1. How does the vote work?
The president and his deputy are elected on the same ticket for a
five-year term. To avoid a run-off, a candidate must win an absolute
majority of the popular vote and at least a quarter of ballots cast in
more than half of the nation’s 47 counties. Seven parties are fielding
presidential candidates, while 11 independents are also standing. The
presidential contest will run concurrently with the election of 47
governors and senators, and 290 members of the lower house.
2. What are the opinion polls and analysts saying?
The elections are set to be a two-horse race between Kenyatta and
Odinga. Forty-nine percent of 3,430 potential voters canvassed from
May 2 to 14 in a computer-aided phone poll commissioned by Radio
Africa Group said they would vote for Kenyatta, down from 51 percent
in a March survey, while 40 percent said they would back Odinga, up
from 24 percent. In a separate poll conducted from Jan. 9 to 26 by
Nairobi-based Ipsos Kenya, 66 percent of 2,057 adults interviewed
expressed “a lot” or “some” confidence in the incumbent, while 51
percent said the same about Odinga -- whose candidacy had yet to be
declared at the time. Ahmed Salim, Dubai-based vice president at Teneo
Strategy, sees a chance of a run-off because mounting discontent over
a drought-induced spike in living costs may push support for Kenyatta
below the 50 percent mark.
5. What are the key issues?
Respondents in the Ipsos survey said high living costs, corruption, a
lack of jobs and the drought were the country’s most serious concerns.
6. What else could sway voters?
Ethnic loyalties and politicians’ personalities have tended to prove
the decisive factors in Kenya’s previous elections. Kenyatta will be
looking to tap support from his fellow Kikuyu, the largest of more
than 40 ethnic groups, and will be relying on his running mate,
William Ruto, a Kalenjin, to secure backing from the fourth-largest
group. Odinga commands strong support among his fellow Luo, the
country’s third-biggest group, and is banking on the wide ethnic
diversity of the National Super Alliance’s other leaders to widen his
support base. There’s a risk that Odinga’s three previously
unsuccessful bids to secure the presidency may result in apathy among
his potential supporters, according to Jared Jeffery, an analyst at
NKC African Economics in Paarl, South Africa. Less than half the
National Super Alliance’s supporters agree with the choice of Odinga
and running mate Kalonzo Musyoka as its flag-bearers, according to
7. How big is the danger of violence and a disputed result?
About 180,000 personnel from the Independent Electoral & Boundaries
Commission, the police, the National Cohesion & Integration Commission
and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority will be deployed to
avoid a repeat of violence triggered by a dispute over the outcome of
the vote in 2007. The unrest left at least 1,100 people dead and
forced 350,000 more to flee their homes, while causing Kenya’s growth
rate to slump to 1.7 percent in 2008 from 7.1 percent a year earlier.
Since campaigning began last month, there have been at least 23
incidents of violence, two people have died and more than 60 have been
Investors want a decisive First Round result. A Too close to cal
Outcome would be the worst because then neither side will be able to
KQ's Sh10bn loss deepens shareholders capital erosion @BD_Africa
Deep cost-cutting helped Kenya Airways reduce its full-year net loss
by more than half to Sh10.2 billion, showing some green shoots for the
national carrier that is, however, beset by a flagging topline and
wider erosion of shareholders’ capital.
KQ, as the carrier is known by its international code, Thursday
reported a 60.9 per cent drop in its net loss for the 12 months ended
March from last year’s Sh26.2 billion.
The apparent upturn was, however, dampened by a Sh10 billion shrinkage
in its turnover to Sh106 billion, while the airline’s book value sank
Sh9.2 billion more into the negative to Sh44.9 billion, reflecting
erosion by years of losses and negative fluctuations on the carrier’s
mountain of foreign currency-denominated loans.
“Our operating costs reduced significantly due to the turnaround
efforts. We posted an operating profit of nearly Sh900 million
compared to a Sh4.1 billion loss last year,” KQ’s outgoing chief
executive, Mbuvi Ngunze, said when releasing the results.
Operating costs dropped by Sh14.9 billion to Sh105.4 billion, with the
biggest savings coming from lower fleet ownership costs following the
offloading of several aircraft in the year.
KQ subleased three Boeing 777s and two Boeing 787s and sold two Boeing
777s, bringing fleet costs down by Sh14 billion to Sh15.5 billion.
The offloading was part of Operation Pride, the turnaround strategy
for the loss-making airline, which includes interventions like balance
sheet restructuring, disposal of aircraft and land and laying off of
over 100 staff.
The national airline, which is 29.8 per cent owned by the Treasury and
26.7 per cent by Air France-KLM, also booked Sh1.6 billion from the
sale of land and aircraft parts such as spare engines.
The carrier closed the period with lower staff expenses as 288 workers
exited the company — through retrenchment and natural attrition —
leaving the employee count at 3,582.
Operation Pride, which is being implemented with the help of US
consultancy McKinsey, is 72 per cent complete as per the carrier’s
estimates, the major outstanding issue being completion of the balance
Mr Ngunze, however, said that KQ’s investors “need not worry too much”
about the company’s negative equity position, noting that airlines can
find themselves in such a situation but still operate “provided you
KQ’s total liabilities of Sh191 billion outstrip its total assets of
KQ expects the capital restructuring — which could see it take up
about Sh60 billion in a mixture of debt and equity — to be completed
in coming months, improving its book value and liquidity.
“We do not worry so much about the negative equity position but more
about whether the airline is generating cash,” Mr Ngunze, who will
stay on for two months to finalise the capitalisation, added.
Despite a reduction in the airline’s fleet, passenger numbers grew by
5.4 per cent to 4.5 million, with the company expectant that new
routes, additional frequencies, optimal ticket pricing will continue
growing this and grow revenues.
Cash generated from operations remained relatively flat at Sh13.4
billion while the money directed towards financing activities shrunk
by Sh8.3 billion to end the year at Sh2.2 billion.
This saw the company’s cash and cash equivalents grow by Sh4.4 billion
to Sh9.2 billion.
“The results are really positive. We have gone through some really
tough times but we are coming out. The efforts put in by the KQ
management are starting to bear fruit in terms of our operations,”
said Michael Joseph, KQ’s chairman.