Theresa May: General election before Brexit ‘not in national interest’

teserra

Theresa May has ruled out the idea of a general election before Brexit day, saying it would “not be in the national interest”.

Upon arrival in New York for the UN summit, the prime minister dismissed suggestions of an autumn vote despite reports Downing Street was “war-gaming” a snap election.

Another election is not due until 2022 but Labour has been pushing for a vote if MPs reject any deal between the UK and the EU.

Speaking to reporters before a meeting of the UN General Assembly, Mrs May said: “What I’m doing is working to deliver a good deal with Europe in the national interest.

“It would not be in the national interest to have an election.”

Mrs May also declared on Tuesday that a Canada-style Brexit trade deal that broke up the UK would be worse than no deal.

Brussels has shown a desire for an agreement, she insisted but said any move that would put a border in the Irish Sea would be a “bad” outcome.

It comes after senior Tory Leavers including David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg backed proposals calling on the Government to seek a “basic” free trade agreement for goods of the kind struck between the EU and Canada.

They pointed out such a move had already been offered by Brussels.

Flags of UK and EU on a Creacked Concrete Background © Getty Flags of UK and EU on a Cracked Concrete Background Downing Street later said the proposals would mean “Northern Ireland effectively remaining in parts of the single market and customs union”.

“I think a bad deal would be, for example, a deal that broke up the United Kingdom. We want to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom.

European Union and UK flags in front of Big Ben, Brexit EU © Getty European Union and UK flags in front of Big Ben, Brexit EU “What we have put on the table is a good deal, it’s a deal which retains the union of the United Kingdom, our constitutional integrity, it’s a deal that provides for no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, protects jobs and enables us to have a good trading relationship with Europe and also the rest of the world.

“When we get to the point of a deal – and as Prime Minister, I do believe we can get to a good deal – we will take that deal back to Parliament and at that point, MPs will have a clear choice.”

Advertisements

Fear of migrants in rural France recedes, but doubts remain

france

When the quiet French town of Forges-les-Bains was chosen to host a centre for young male asylum seekers in 2016, there was uproar.

The disused hospital earmarked for the project was firebombed, some 250 residents staged a protest and NGO workers assisting the group of Afghans had their car tyres slashed.

“At first people said we were terrorists… and that we were going to give hash to the children (in the school next door),” said Asif Qaderi, 23, who was part of the first group bussed to the leafy town 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Paris.

But the fears expressed in the town of 4,000 — of home break-ins and girls at the school next to the centre being harassed — came to nought.

The 91 men, who had been sleeping on the streets of Paris, instead devoted their energy to restoring the neglected building, pursuing their asylum claims and learning French, guided by the Emmaus Solidarite housing charity.

Afghan migrant Janzeb Khan at the Forges-les Bain centre which is now closing © Provided by AFP Afghan migrant Janzeb Khan at the Forges-Les Bain centre which is now closing They also raised chickens and sheep, dug a vegetable garden, built a football field and held barbecues that helped break the ice with the community.

‘Caught in the middle’ 

But the centre is now being closed — a symbol of opposition in many parts of France, where 60 per cent of people interviewed in a June poll said the country had “too many” migrants.

Local mayor Marie Lespert-Chabrier, who made the state promise to move the Afghans on after two years, is still smarting at being forced to take the foreigners in, leaving her “caught in the middle” between youths fleeing war and misery and a hostile population.

While admitting that the fears of the refuseniks proved unfounded, she is adamant that her town has done its bit for the migrants who have poured into Europe in the past three years.

France, which registered a record 100,000 asylum-seekers last year, received far fewer migrants than the likes of Germany or Sweden, with police regularly turning people back to their EU port of arrival — usually Italy.

Once in France, most head for the streets of Paris or Calais in the north, a jumping-off point for Britain.

Forges-Les-Bains was one of the dozens of towns selected to host migrants as part of a major relocation programme in 2016.

To Ahmadzi Gul, 19, it felt like a second home.

“Forge is a bit like a village in Afghanistan. It’s quiet and the people are nice,” Gul, who was scarred by police violence on the migrant route in Bulgaria, said as he hoisted his belongings onto a truck bound for a shelter 30 kilometres away.

“We regret having to leave,” said Emmaus Solidarity’s head Bruno Morel, for whom the centre demonstrated “that you can welcome migrants in a dignified manner, without causing any problems”.

No ‘misty-eyed idealists’ 

A migrant cleans the lunch room at the new centre in a former monastery in Bonnelles. © Provided by AFP A migrant cleans the lunch room at the new centre in a former monastery in Bonnelles. A five-minute drive from Forges-les-Bains lies a town about half its size that has been hailed as a model of tolerance.

Bonnelles led the way in 2015 when it agreed to give 78 Syrian and Iraqi men shelter in a monastery.

With TV images at the time showing clashes between migrants and police at the Hungarian border, “there was a lot of concern” among residents, recalled the town’s mayor of the last 23 years, Guy Poupart.

While calling on residents to show solidarity, he took care to neither demonize nor deify the newcomers.

“These are humans, some of whom fled for their lives or lost loved ones. But we did not take sides nor become misty-eyed idealists,” he said.

That approach paid off, with the monastery going on to host some 550 asylum-seekers for short periods — on average 90 young men of 14 different nationalities at any one time — nearly all of whom praised by residents as engaging and polite.

“Nothing has changed, we don’t see the refugees much,” said Sophie Derouin, co-owner of a hair salon, who had to brush up her school English to tend to new Afghan clients.

The new migrant centre in Bonnelles © Provided by AFP The new migrant centre in Bonnelles But even in Bonnelles, where migrants and local youths have struck up friendships around football and at least one asylum-seeker found work with a local company, some residents still oppose the foreigners’ presence.

“That’s enough. We have enough problems with our own homeless,” Derouin’s business partner Isabelle Bobinet said, a sentiment echoed by Patrick Cassert, owner of a cafe on the main street.

Caring for asylum-seekers “is costing France too much money,” he said.

Meet the Billionaire Dreamer Taking Musk’s Rocket to the Moon

rocket

(Bloomberg) — In a country known for conformity, Yusaku Maezawa has always sought to stand out.

He skipped college, moved to California to play in a rock band and started his own e-commerce company. After making it big, the 42-year-old started dropping hundreds of millions of dollars on artwork. Now the billionaire founder of Start Today Co. is set to become the first paying passenger to the moon on a SpaceX rocket scheduled to blast off in 2023. It’s the latest headline-grabbing project by Maezawa, whose Twitter handle is @yousuck2020.

While Maezawa is relatively unknown outside of the archipelago and the art world, he’s guaranteed to become more famous with his plan to fly to Earth’s biggest satellite with a cabal of artists. A self-professed art lover, the Japanese entrepreneur intends to take a combination of painters, musicians, dancers, photographers, film directors, fashion designers and architects on a week-long lunar loop, where he’ll get to watch as they get inspired and create art along the way.

“I thought long and hard about how valuable it would be to be the first passenger to the moon,” Maezawa said at an announcement at Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, sitting next to the rocket company’s CEO, Elon Musk. “I choose to go to the moon with artists.”

The flight around the moon is a marriage of Maezawa’s diverse interests: to be a visionary, to support art and to promote his company. Taking the enormous personal risk of orbiting the moon as the first private citizen would cement him in history books. Maezawa said he hopes the art created during the trip will inspire more interest and support for artists. Maezawa and Musk declined to say how much the lunar trip would cost.

“This is not us choosing him,” Musk said. “He chose us. He is a very brave person to do this.”

Maezawa made a name and fortune for himself by defying the norms of Japanese society. A former drummer in a rock band, he built shopping website Zozotown, a popular destination for younger consumers, from a mail-order music album business.

HAWTHORNE, CA - SEPTEMBER 17:  SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (L) shakes hands with Yusaka Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire chosen by the company to fly around the moon, on September 17, 2018 in Hawthorne, California. If the project is successful, Maezawa would become the first private citizen to fly around the moon. © Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images HAWTHORNE, CA – SEPTEMBER 17: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (L) shakes hands with Yusaka Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire chosen by the company to fly around the moon, on September 17, 2018, in Hawthorne, California. If the project is successful, Maezawa would become the first private citizen to fly around the moon. With a net worth of $2.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Maezawa made a splash in the art world in 2017 when he spent $110.5 million on a single Jean-Michel Basquiat painting at a Sotheby’s auction, setting a record for an American artist’s work at the time. By then, Maezawa had already bought several Basquiat pieces.

Maezawa has funded his art binge by selling shares in the company he founded. He sold about $250 million worth of stock in 2016 and used most of it to add to his art collection over the following two years. In May, Start Today said he had sold about 23 billion yen ($205 million) worth of the company’s shares. He has not announced major art purchases so far this year, suggesting at least some of the funds may have been used to participate in Musk’s mission.

“I love art, so I want to see what artists will collaborate on together and see it directly with my eyes,” Maezawa said.

Maezawa has long stood out in the Japanese corporate world. In a place where company executives maintain low-key lifestyles and keep out of the spotlight, the billionaire is active on social media, sharing snippets from lavish meals or vacations, and regularly makes headlines in the Japanese entertainment world for dating young, popular actresses.

The first would-be civilian passenger to the moon was already signaling his interest in outer space before the announcement. Maezawa first mentioned in a Twitter post in 2015 that his “eyes were opened,” after touring NASA and talking to astronauts. A year later, he told Japan’s News picks online magazine he wanted to try his hand in space. In April, he tweeted that space is one of his main “hobbies,” along with art and wine.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the moon,” Maezawa said. “Just staring at the moon filled my imagination. It’s always there and has continued to inspire humanity. That’s why I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to see the moon up close.”

Asked about his health and fitness for the trip, Maezawa said he hasn’t yet begun preparing or even deciding what kind of training is necessary. He’ll be in his late 40s if the mission goes ahead on schedule. Musk praised Maezawa’s bravery for seeking to be the first passenger on the trip. “This is dangerous, to be clear,” Musk said.

Maezawa regularly injects his visions for humanity into interviews and speeches: world peace, universal income and letting every person reach his or her full potential. In an essay last month, he said gross domestic product was an inadequate way to measure progress. Instead, he called for the economic indicator to be replaced with one built around feelings of gratitude.

Building on the success of Start Today’s Zozo brand, Maezawa intends to turn his company into a global retailer, with the goal of being one of the world’s top 10 clothiers within a decade. His first step toward that has been a body-measuring, skintight suit called the Zozosuit, which is used to sell a line of made-to-fit private label basic wear and business suits. The company will be renamed Zozo Inc. from October.

In an interview with Bloomberg News in July, Maezawa talked about his love for making things. Maezawa didn’t attend college, instead moving to California to play in a band after high school. The experience inspired the beginnings of the business of Start Today — named after an album by the punk band Gorilla Biscuits — as he began to sell music CDs in Japan.

“No matter what, I wanted to do different things compared to other people,” Maezawa said. “I was like that as a child and now as well. And the desire to do something different is connected to wanting to do it before anyone else.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Du in Tokyo at ldu31@bloomberg.net;Yuji Nakamura in Tokyo at ynakamura56@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robert Fenner at rfenner@bloomberg.net, ;K. Oanh Ha at oha3@bloomberg.net, Reed Stevenson, Jeff Sutherland

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

North and South Korean leaders embrace as they meet for summit

koreans

The North and South Korean leaders have embraced one another as they arrived in Pyongyang for their third summit together.

A smiling Kim Jong Un embraced South Korean president Moon Jae upon his arrival.

His Pyongyang trip makes him the third South Korean leader to visit North Korea’s capital for an inter-Korean summit.

Mr Moon is to meet Mr. Kim at least twice – later on, Tuesday and then again on Wednesday before returning home on Thursday.

a group of people posing for the camera: northkoreasouthkoreasummit.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited northkoreasouthkoreasummit.jpg

President Moon Jae-in is welcomed by Kim Jong Un (AP)

The two have met to discuss further talks on denuclearisation and the prospect of officially ending the Korean War.

Hundreds of North Koreans wearing suits and traditional dresses also greeted Moon, carrying flowers and waving Korean peninsula and North Korean flags. A sign behind them reads: “We ardently welcome President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Pyongyang!”

Mr Moon said: “This summit would be very meaningful if it yielded a resumption of North Korea-US talks,”

“It’s very important for South and North Korea to meet frequently, and we are turning to a phase where we can meet anytime we want.”

© Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

Fernando Haddad aims to be Brazil’s new Lula – but does anyone know who he is?

brasil

Wearing a red sweatshirt emblazoned with the image of a Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Fernando Haddad and his entourage piled out of a minibus and marched up the main street of the Rocinha favela, as a band in orange overalls beat out samba rhythms.

Haddad, an earnest intellectual, expert in Marxist theory and former mayor of São Paulo, has until 7 October to convince 147 million Brazilian voters he should be their next president – even though one recent poll showed that more than a third of them have no idea who he is.

Haddad’s leftwing Workers’ Party (PT) is hoping that Lula – who last week dropped his prison-cell bid for re-election – can transfer enough votes to his protege to get him through to a runoff vote on 28 October.

Haddad has centered his campaign on a promise to reverse swingeing austerity measures and boost spending to drag the country out of its worst ever recession.

“We combine fiscal responsibility with social responsibility,” Haddad, 55, told the Guardian. “We are not going to sacrifice the people anymore. Without public investment, without families spending, without cheap credit, the economy won’t recover.”

But swapping a formidably popular former president for a candidate who many still do not know is not going to be easy.

The PT appeared to recognize the scale of the challenge in a recent campaign video, which shows Brazilians struggling to say the candidate’s name before learning to repeat: “Haddad is Lula, Lula is Haddad.”

Until this month, when Brazil’s top electoral court barred him from running, Lula was campaigning from behind bars after he was given a 12-year sentence for corruption and money laundering.

Haddad was only confirmed as the PT candidate on 11 September – less than a month before the election; he has a lot of ground to cover, and not much time.

The latest polls suggest that he is about 10 percentage points behind the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who is still in hospital after he was stabbed during a campaign event.

In Rocinha, some voters had already decided for Haddad. “Of course I will vote for him, my whole family will,” said Regina Carvalho, 55, minding a street stall.

“Lula was awesome,” said Antonio Casanova, 37, a motorbike taxi driver. “Many people will vote for whoever he says.”

But even in Lula’s home state of Pernambuco, many residents shook their heads when asked to identify his replacement. In Brasíia Teimosa, a heavily pro-PT favela in the city of Recife, Maria do Carmo da Silva, 63 apologized as she struggled to name the party’s candidate – even though a large propaganda sticker of Lula and Haddad adorned her seafront home.

Despite knowing nothing of Haddad’s background, Da Silva said she would back him “because he’s from Lula’s party. I’ve seen him on the television promising that he will do what Lula did. I trust him.”

Her neighbor, 70-year-old Maria José dos Santos, was also unable to name Lula’s stand-in but agreed. “I can swallow him,” the retired maid said. “But I’d prefer Lula.”

Others were less certain. Social worker Luiz Ferreira said he admired Lula for helping the poor even though he believed he was guilty of corruption. “But I’m not voting for Haddad. For starters, I don’t know who he is,” he said.

The son of a Lebanese shopkeeper father and teacher mother of Lebanese descent, Haddad and his dentist and academic wife Ana Estela have two children. He graduated in law, before taking a master’s in economics and a doctorate in philosophy at the University of São Paulo.

In Recife, Maria does Carmo da Silva said she would back Haddad, ‘because he’s from Lula’s party’ – despite knowing nothing of Haddad’s background. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

In Recife, Maria do Carmo da Silva said she would back Haddad, ‘because he’s from Lula’s party’ – despite knowing nothing of Haddad’s background. © The Guardian In Recife, Maria do Carmo da Silva said she would back Haddad, ‘because he’s from Lula’s party’ – despite knowing nothing of Haddad’s background.

Haddad’s biggest advantage is that his political patron is the most successful politician in the country’s recent history. But it’s also his biggest problem: many Brazilians still love Lula for helping bring 36 million people out of poverty during the country’s boom years – but others despise him for the rampant political corruption and the economic bust that followed.

A third of electors say they would vote for whoever Lula recommends. Another third would not vote for Lula under any circumstances.

Top PT figures have said Lula would choose all the ministers in a Haddad government – and receive a presidential pardon. Haddad, who is registered as Lula’s lawyer, regularly visits the former president in prison and said he doesn’t want a pardon.

“He wants his innocence declared because he did not commit a crime,” Haddad told the Guardian. But he said nothing to clear doubts over Lula’s possible role in a future government. “Why would I stop talking to someone I have known for 20 years, and who I judge to be innocent?” he said.

Both men oversaw their party’s manifesto, which promises to overturn austerity measures and privatizations introduced by Michel Timer’s conservative government, and pledges to kickstart a moribund economy with infrastructure works financed by $40bn of Brazil’s international reserves.

It also calls for tax cuts for the poor, higher taxes for the rich, increased protections for LGBT people and demarcation of indigenous lands.

Haddad said he has been quietly meeting investors spooked by fears that a PT government won’t address Brazil’s huge deficit. “The debt can increase a little in two years then go back to declining,” he said. “Serious people really trust our governments because we already ran the country for 12 years.”

Under Lula, the economy surged thanks to a commodity boom which also enabled massive poverty-relief programmes. But under his successor Dilma Rousseff, commodity prices fell and Brazil tumbled into a crippling recession, exacerbated by the impacts of a sprawling corruption scandal, which ensnared top PT figures and their political allies.

Fury over corruption propelled Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016 for breaking budget rules. Leftists maintain this was a judicial coup.

Plenty of Brazilians feel the case against Lula – a separate scandal involving a seaside apartment allegedly given to him by a construction company – was either concocted to remove him from the race or was simply unfair, given the vast amounts pocketed by other politicians.

Yet only the most loyal partisans believe PT protestations that only isolated party figures were involved in what prosecutors described as an institutionalized, multi-party, multibillion-dollar corruption network.

On the evening of his Rocinha visit, Haddad faced aggressive questioning on TV Globo’s flagship news programme over PT corruption in general and charges he faces over allegations of illegal donations in his 2012 mayoral campaign.

Visibly sweating, Haddad struggled to answer, before racing to a rally in central Rio where speakers angrily accused the TV network of being part of the same right-wing conspiracy that toppled Rousseff.

Standing in the crowd, street vendor Wendell de Oliveira, 23, admitted that he was unsure about Haddad, who lacks Lula’s earthy charisma but delivered a powerful, impassioned speech.

As the crowd cleared after the rally, a couple danced to Haddad’s folksy campaign song in the light rain, De Oliveira changed his mind. “I would vote for him,” he said.

Additional reporting by Tom Phillips in Recife.

Russian military spy plane ‘accidentally shot down by Syrian defenses’ with 14 people on board

plane

A Russian military jet is believed to have been inadvertently shot down in Syria.

The Russian Defence Ministry says it lost contact with an IL-20 turboprop plane, which had 14 people on board, near Khmeimim Airbase in Syria.

The jet disappeared off radar around the same time that Israeli and French forces were mounting aerial attacks on targets in Syria.

The aircraft is believed to have been accidentally shot down by Syrian defences while firing at incoming Israeli missiles.

A US government official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said it believed the plane, used for electronic reconnaissance, was downed by anti-aircraft artillery.

Around the time the plane disappeared, the Syrian coastal city of Latakia – near a Russian airbase to which the IL-20 was returning – came under attack from “enemy missiles”, and missile defence batteries responded.

The defence ministry in Moscow said the aircraft was returning to the Russian-run Khmeymim airbase in Latakia province when, at about 11.00pm Moscow time (8pm GMT) on Monday, it disappeared from radar screens.

The plane was over the Mediterranean Sea about 35 km (20 miles) from the Syrian coastline, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.

“The trace of the Il-20 on flight control radars disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province,” the statement was quoted as saying.

a group of people riding on the back of a truck © Credits: Mil.ru “At the same time Russian air control radar systems detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne which was located in that region.”

The fate of the 14 people on board the missing plane is unknown, and a rescue operation has been organised out of the Hmeymim base, the ministry said.

Russia’s military operation in Syria, which began in late 2015, has turned the tide of the conflict in favour of Moscow’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in his fight against rebels.

But it has come at a cost to Russia.

In December 2016, a Russian plane carrying dozens of Red Army choir singers, dancers and musicians crashed into the Black Sea on the way to Syria, killing all 92 people on board.

In March this year, a Russian military transport plane crashed when coming in to land at the Hmeymim base, killing all 39 people on board.

Multiple countries have military operations underway around Syria, with forces on the ground or launching strikes from the air or from ships in the Mediterranean.

In some cases, those countries are backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.

Hotlines are in place for those countries to share operational information on their deployments, but diplomats and military planners say there is still a high risk of one state inadvertently striking another country’s forces.

Facebook has problems fact-checking words, but now it wants to check photos and videos

facebook

To say that Facebook’s fact-checking efforts are going well would not pass the muster of any good fact-checker. Its external partners have said the system is inefficient. Some of them are getting brutally attacked online. Partisan bickering has also been an issue. And most importantly, sketchy news sources and fake stories continue to thrive on the platform.

Facebook’s executives, on the other hand, keep praising the program. And on Thursday (Sept. 13), the company announced that it would be expanding its fact-checking work to photographs and videos. In a post, Antonia Woodford, a product manager at Facebook, says it built a machine-learning model to identify potentially false images or clips. These get sent to one of Facebook’s 27 fact-checking partners who are based in 17 countries. These fact-checkers are expected to use techniques “such as reverse image searching and analyzing image metadata” to determine whether the content has been falsified.

“As we get more ratings from fact-checkers on photos and videos, we will be able to improve the accuracy of our machine learning model,” Woodford writes. The company is also working on technological solutions to determine whether visual content had been manipulated (as is the case with “deepfake” videos like this, for example).

Manipulated images are a common way to the spread of misinformation, and hoaxers are getting more and more sophisticated with their methods, but text-based articles are hard enough to check. The current system is far from perfect, and now Facebook is piling on yet another, difficult ask.