Philippines: Rody’s top priorities for China’s $16B aid — Education, agri and health

October 23, 2016
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony in Beijing, China, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. AP/Ng Han Guan, Pool
MANILA, Philippines — The government would prioritize education, agriculture, and health programs in the $16 billion assistance to be provided by China next year, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
Speaking to officials and residents of typhoon-hit Isabela, Duterte said he would make sure that every centavo of the assistance would benefit the Filipinos
“The $16 billion is equivalent to more than half a trillion pesos. I expect that next year. Our lives will not prosper at once but next year, that money will come,” the president said.
“The thrust of my government is first, education, second is agriculture, third is health,” he added.
Duterte came home last Friday from a four-day visit to China which officials said signaled the recovery of the relationship between Manila and Beijing. The two countries’ relationship was strained by the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a resource-rich area where about $5 trillion worth of goods pass through every year.
Duterte said part of the assistance would be used to provide the poor access to medicines. He said he is planning to revive the Botika ng Bayan, state-run drug stores that sell cheap medicines.
During his visit to typhoon victims in Tuguegarao also Sunday, Duterte said agriculture would get a “big slice” of the funds. He said the money would be used to buy seedlings and support farmer cooperatives.
“We will restore the financing for agriculture. We will set-up cooperatives,” the president said.
The president said the government would manage the cooperatives, noting that “there are a few success stories about financing.”
“In the meantime, if I think that you cannot really carry on the burden of operating the (financial mechanism). Don’t be insulted. It’s applicable to the entire Philippines,” he said.
Duterte also bared plans to revive the agriculture programs of former President Ferdinand Marcos, whom he described as “one of the brightest Filipinos.”
He said he would come up with programs patterned after the Masagana 99 and Biyayang Dagat, which provided fishermen and farmers access to funds.
“I’d like to get the idea of Marcos. I will revive that. I will copy that,” the president said.
Duterte said the Defense and Interior departments would not get much from the funds because the security situation has improved. He also reiterated that he would not tolerate any form of corruption under his watch.
“We will make sure that everyone will benefit,” he said.
Last week, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said Duterte’s four-day visit to China has yielded about $24 billion worth of deals.
The figure covers loan facilities and private sector agreements and touches across different industries.
The deals signed include investments in agriculture, energy, tourism, food, manufacturing, telecommunications, and infrastructure.

China’s plan to organize its society relies on ‘big data’ to rate everyone

October 23, 2016

BEHIND THE FIREWALL: How China tamed the Internet

This is part of a series examining the impact of China’s Great Firewall, a mechanism of Internet censorship and surveillance that affects nearly 700 million users.

((Rachel Orr/The Washington Post; iStock))

By Simon Denyer
October 23, 2016
The Washington Post

BEIJING — Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are.

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are — determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant — or even just get a date.

This is not the dystopian superstate of Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” in which all-knowing police stop crime before it happens. But it could be China by 2020.

It is the scenario contained in China’s ambitious plans to develop a far-reaching social credit system, a plan that the Communist Party hopes will build a culture of “sincerity” and a “harmonious socialist society” where “keeping trust is glorious.”

Internet start-up employees work on their computers in Beijing this year. Mobile device usage and e-commerce are in wide use in China, and now the Communist Party wants to compile a “social credit” score based on citizens’ every activity. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

A high-level policy document released in September listed the sanctions that could be imposed on any person or company deemed to have fallen short. The overriding principle: “If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere.”

A whole range of privileges would be denied, while people and companies breaking social trust would also be subject to expanded daily supervision and random inspections.

The ambition is to collect every scrap of information available online about China’s companies and citizens in a single place — and then assign each of them a score based on their political, commercial, social and legal “credit.”

The government hasn’t announced exactly how the plan will work — for example, how scores will be compiled and different qualities weighted against one another. But the idea is that good behavior will be rewarded and bad behavior punished, with the Communist Party acting as the ultimate judge.
This is what China calls “Internet Plus,” but critics call a 21st-century police state.

A version of Big Brother?

Harnessing the power of big data and the ubiquity of smartphones, e-commerce and social media in a society where 700 million people live large parts of their lives online, the plan will also vacuum up court, police, banking, tax and employment records. Doctors, teachers, local governments and businesses could additionally be scored by citizens for their professionalism and probity.

“China is moving towards a totalitarian society, where the government controls and affects individuals’ private lives,” said Beijing-based novelist and social commentator Murong Xuecun. “This is like Big Brother, who has all your information and can harm you in any way he wants.”

At the heart of the social credit system is an attempt to control China’s vast, anarchic and poorly regulated market economy, to punish companies selling poisoned food or phony medicine, to expose doctors taking bribes and uncover con men preying on the vulnerable.

“Fraud has become ever more common in society,” Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s main economic planning agency, said in April. “Swindlers have to pay a price.”

Yet in Communist China, the plans inevitably take on an authoritarian aspect: This is not just about regulating the economy, but also about creating a new socialist utopia under the Communist Party’s benevolent guidance.

“A huge part of Chinese political theater is to claim that there is an idealized future, a utopia to head towards,” said Rogier Creemers, a professor of law and governance at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“Now after half a century of Leninism, and with technological developments that allow for the vast collection and processing of information, there is much less distance between the loftiness of the party’s ambition and its hypothetical capability of actually doing something,” he said.

But the narrowing of that distance raises expectations, says Creemers, who adds that the party could be biting off more than it can chew.
Assigning all of China’s people a social credit rating that weighs up and scores every aspect of their behavior would not only be a gigantic technological challenge but also thoroughly subjective — and could be extremely unpopular.

“From a technological feasibility question to a political feasibility question, to actually get to a score, to roll this out across a population of 1.3 billion, that would be a huge challenge,” Creemers said.

A target for hackers

The Communist Party may be obsessed with control, but it is also sensitive to public opinion, and authorities were forced to backtrack after a pilot project in southern China in 2010 provoked a backlash.

That project, launched in Jiangsu province’s Suining County in 2010, gave citizens points for good behavior, up to a maximum of 1,000. But a minor violation of traffic rules would cost someone 20 points, and running a red light, driving while drunk or paying a bribe would cost 50.

Some of the penalties showed the party’s desire to regulate its citizens’ private lives — participating in anything deemed to be a cult or failing to care for elderly relatives incurred a 50-point penalty. Other penalties reflected the party’s obsession with maintaining public order and crushing any challenge to its authority — causing a “disturbance” that blocks party or government offices meant 50 points off; using the Internet to falsely accuse others resulted in a 100-point deduction. Winning a “national honor” — such as being classified as a model citizen or worker — added 100 points to someone’s score.

On this basis, citizens were classified into four levels: Those given an “A” grade qualified for government support when starting a business and preferential treatment when applying to join the party, government or army; or applying for a promotion.

People with “D” grades were excluded from official support or employment.

The project provoked comparisons with the “good citizen cards” introduced by Japan’s occupying army in China in the 1930s. On social media, residents protested that this was “society turned upside down,” and it was citizens who should be grading government officials “and not the other way around.”
The Suining government later told state media that it had revised the project, still recording social credit scores but abandoning the A-to-D classifications. Officials declined to be interviewed for this article.

Despite the outcry in Suining, the central government seems determined to press ahead with its plans.

Part of the reason is economic. With few people in China owning credit cards or borrowing money from banks, credit information is scarce. There is no national equivalent of the FICO score widely used in the United States to evaluate consumer credit risks.

At the same time, the central government aims to police the sort of corporate malfeasance that saw tens of thousands of babies hospitalized after consuming adulterated milk and infant formula in 2008, and millions of children given compromised vaccines this year.

Yet it is also an attempt to use the data to enforce a moral authority as designed by the Communist Party.

The Cyberspace Administration of China wants anyone demonstrating “dishonest” online behavior blacklisted, while a leading academic has argued that a media blacklist of “irresponsible reporting” would encourage greater self-discipline and morality in journalism.

Lester Ross, partner-in-charge of the Beijing office of law firm WilmerHale, says the rules are designed to stop anyone “stepping out of line” and could intimidate lawyers seeking to put forward an aggressive defense of their clients. He sees echoes of the Cultural Revolution, in which Mao Zedong identified “five black categories” of people considered enemies of the revolution, including landlords, rich farmers and rightists, who were singled out for struggle sessions, persecution and re-education.

Under the social credit plan, the punishments are less severe — prohibitions on riding in “soft sleeper” class on trains or going first class in planes, for example, or on staying at the finer hotels, traveling abroad or sending children to the best schools — but nonetheless far-reaching.

Xuecun’s criticism of the government won him millions of followers on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, until the censors swung into action. He fears the new social credit plan could bring more problems for those who dare to speak out.

“My social-media account has been canceled many times, so the government can say I am a dishonest person,” he said. “Then I can’t go abroad and can’t take the train.”

Under government-approved pilot projects, eight private companies have set up credit databases that compile a wide range of online, financial and legal information.

One of the most popular is Sesame Credit, part of the giant Alibaba e-commerce company that runs the world’s largest online shopping platform.

Tens of millions of users with high scores have been able to rent cars and bicycles without leaving deposits, company officials say, and can avoid long lines at hospitals by paying fees after leaving with a few taps on a smartphone.

The Baihe online dating site encourages users to display their Sesame Credit scores to attract potential partners; 15 percent of its users do so.

One woman, who works in advertising but declined to be named to protect her privacy, said she had used Baihe for more than two years. Looking for people who display good Sesame Credit scores helps her weed out scammers, she said.

“First I will look at his photo, then I will look at his profile,” she said. “He has to use real-name authentication. But I will trust him and talk to him if he has Sesame Credit.”

But it is far from clear that the system will be safe from scams.

William Glass, a threat intelligence analyst at cybersecurity expert FireEye, says a centralized system would be both vulnerable and immensely attractive to hackers.

“There is a big market for this stuff, and as soon as this system sets up, there is great incentive for cybercriminals and even state-backed actors to go in, whether to steal information or even to alter it,” he said. “This system will be the ground truth of who you are. But considering that all this information is stored digitally, it is certainly not immutable, and people can potentially go in and change it.”

Jin Xin contributed to this report.

Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Claims Bomb Blast That Killed 2 Police Officers in the eastern Turkish province of Bingol on Sunday — 19 People Wounded

October 23, 2016


Sun Oct 23, 2016 | 10:04am EDT

Two police officers were killed and 19 people were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a passing police vehicle in the eastern Turkish province of Bingol on Sunday, security sources said.

The bomb, planted by militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), was detonated near the district governor’s office, the security sources said.

Five police officers were among the injured, they said.

Hours before the bombing, PKK militants had attempted an attack overnight on the district governor’s home, using long-range rifles and rocket launchers, Dogan news agency reported.

Two militants made it to the door of the house, but fled when police returned fire, it said.

Security sources also said that Turkish warplanes hit PKK targets in the mountainous region of the southeastern Sirnak province, near the border with Iraq. Fifteen militants were killed in the air strikes, and ammunition and weapon stocks were also hit, the sources said.

Bingol, Turkey

The Turkish military said in a statement that four militants were killed on Saturday in Hakkari province, also in the southeast. A total of 463 militants have been killed in military operations in the province, it said.

Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast has been hit by waves of violence since the collapse of a 2-1/2-year ceasefire between the state and the PKK last year.

The autonomy-seeking PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and Europe. More than 40,000 people, most of them Kurds, have died in violence since the PKK first took up arms against the state three decades ago.

(Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and David Dolan; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Yuri Tavrovsky, Asia expert and professor at the People’s Friendship University of Russia: Russia Could Serve as Powerful ‘Third Force’ Between China, US in Philippines

October 23, 2016

Duterte in China. AP PHOTO – WU HONG, POOL

Late last week, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte made a series of statements about his country’s geopolitical realignment away from the US and toward China and Russia. How realistic are such plans? Sputnik speaks with several Asia experts to find out.

On Thursday, the outspoken leader of the Southeast Asian country announced that he would be “separating” from the US to realign with China and Russia. “Your honors, in this venue, I announce my separation from the United States… both in military, but also economics,” Duterte said, speaking before Chinese officials during his official state visit to Beijing.

“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” the president later added, suggesting that “maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world – China, the Philippines and Russia.”

On Saturday, Duterte walked his words back a bit, insisting that his proposed geopolitical pivot is “not severance of ties” with Washington. “I said separation – what I was really saying was separation of foreign policy,” the president stressed.

President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. Reuters photo

This isn’t the first time Duterte has threatened to end the special relationship between Manila and Washington.

Earlier this month, he warned that he was prepared to ask US forces to withdraw from some of their bases in the Philippines.

“The Americans have been for 50 years. They have a colonial syndrome, thinking that we are still under them,” the president said. Before that, the president suggested that Manila would consider purchasing Russian and Chinese weapons if the US does not provide them.

The Philippines were transfered from Spanish to US colonial rule in 1898 before being granted independence in 1946, following an arduous fight against Japanese occupation in WWII; despite this, the US maintained bases in the country. Since taking office in May, Duterte has repeatedly made front page headlines, mostly for his salty language in describing world leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

But it is the geopolitical implications of Duterte’s remarks that are of greatest significance to Russian policy experts, who are split in their assessment. Yuri Tavrovsky, Asia expert and professor at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, told Sputnik that foul language aside, Duterte could not but evoke sympathy from ordinary people, both in his home country and throughout the developing world.

“Some say that he is a nationalist, others, that he is a patriot. Duterte, relying on the fact that he was elected president of the Filipino people, defends the national interests of the Philippines as he sees fit,” the analyst suggested. Tavrovsky stressed that before observers judge the ‘maverick’ president, they should consider the situation on the ground from his perspective.

“The US has put the Philippines on the brink of war with China. Can you imagine the [disparity in] size? China, with its powerful military potential, and the Philippines, with three rusty destroyers…”


“The decision of the Court of Arbitration over the islands in the South China Sea and other decisions are pushing the Philippines into a confrontation [with Beijing]. The US is telling them to stand up for their interests – and that they will support them. However, whether or not they actually do so remains unclear.  Leading his country into a war with China would be an absolutely senseless and criminal thing to do,” the analyst noted.

As for the public spat between Duterte and Washington over Manila’s tough line on drugs (including the extrajudicial execution of drug dealers, which the US has criticized as ‘a violation of human rights’), Tavrovsky warned that this policy could end up being very costly for the leader, even if it is the right one.

“We know that Washington is lenient toward the drug trade – it’s enough to recall Afghanistan and Colombia. Duterte has decided to defend the interests of his country, but the US is unhappy. And everyone knows what this discontent lead to. Moreover, the Philippines has a huge pro-American base; with the help of the US, these forces can break the independent president – hence his search for strong support” from among the population.

Ultimately, the analyst suggested that Duterte’s Beijing visit, and his statements, can be chalked down to a desire to avoid a military and diplomatic collision with Beijing, but also secure rights for his country’s fishermen, whose access to parts of the South China Sea has been restricted.

“The Chinese, of course, will accommodate him, if Manila does not raise the question of sovereignty over these islands. But the main thing is the political and military ‘roof'” Beijing can provide over Duterte’s head. As for the existing agreements on cooperation with the US, Manila isn’t likely to abrogate them, either, Tavrovsky explained.

US Marine Corps and Philippine Marine Corps personnel link arms during the opening ceremony of annual Philippines-US amphibious landing exercise (PHILBLEX) inside the marines headquarters in Taguig city, metro Manila, Philippines October 4, 2016. © REUTERS/ ROMEO RANOCO

As for the prospects for Russian-Philippines cooperation, Ekaterina Koldunova, senior expert at the ASEAN Center of the Moscow State institute of International Relations (MGIMO), told Sputnik that Russia “should use every opportunity to expand its cooperation with the countries of Southeast Asia.”

“Therefore, it’s necessary to communicate with the president of the Philippines, and to establish greater interaction. If, as he says, he wants to diversify economic ties via closer dialogue with China and Russia, in the areas of telecommunications, logistics, infrastructure, it would be a sin not to use this opportunity,” the analyst noted.  Koldunova stressed that Russian-Philippines ties in the areas of education, cultural exchange, agriculture and energy hold a great deal of potential.

“The Philippines have talked for a long time about the idea of a gas hub, but the proposal has not moved forward from there; the strategic and military alliance with the US slowed these processes, and further discussions on friendly relations did not continue, despite the fact that in the economic sphere, there is nothing preventing us from expanded cooperation.”

What Happens if Moscow Starts Supplying Philippines With Arms For her part, Larisa Efimova, professor of Asian Studies at MGIMO, explained that while Manila may attempt to tilt away from the US, they shouldn’t lean too closely toward Beijing either, since ethnic-Chinese Filipino business elites already control much of the economy.

Speaking to the online newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa, Efimova explained that “if the tilt toward China is too strong, Chinese influence will steamroll the Philippines; and that too would not be good for the country.”

Accordingly, the analyst noted, Manila needs Beijing to serve as a counterbalance to US influence — “so that Washington does not turn up its nose, and agrees to concessions when it comes to financing, investment and diplomatic curtseys toward the Philippines.”

“Filipinos are sick of their status as the ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ of the US…They want the Americans to properly ask them and offer something worthwhile in return” for cooperation. As for cooperation with Russia, including Duterte’s remarks about economic or even military cooperation with Moscow, Efimova emphasized that “from Manila’s point of view, it would be very good to have a third great power in the region. The more great powers there are, the easier it is to maneuver between them. These statements by Duterte were well-thought out…This is a great game which would ultimately benefit the country.”

© REUTERS/ THOMAS PETER Philippines’ Pivots to China, Russia Due to US Growing Increasingly Weak – Trump For now, the analyst suggested that it would be best to remain cautious.

“All kinds of declarations can be made. It’s no wonder that the Philippines’ minister of finance recently said that words alone are not worth paying attention to. Today they are the way they are today, tomorrow they’re something else. We should take note of the fact that Washington, in spite of formal indignation toward Duterte, has not issued any official declarations, or broken any agreements.”

In any case, Efimova suggested Duterte, even if he is genuinely interested in pivoting away from Washington, has every reason to be apprehensive, since the country’s army, and much of the elite, are under US influence, effectively putting the president in a situation where he is attempting to “balance on a knife’s edge.”

“I think that he knows what he’s doing, and will not bring the country to a situation where a coup or impeachment takes place,” the expert concluded.

Read more:


South China Sea Conflict: Chinese Naval Fleet Makes Vietnam Visit

October 23, 2016

BY @VISHAKHANS ON 10/23/16 AT 2:30 AM

China sent its naval fleet to Vietnam to fortify relations between the two countries, amid growing tensions in the South China Sea region, according to reports Saturday. Both the militaries will participate in activities and Chinese officials are reported to meet Hanoi’s provincial leaders.

Vietnam is reportedly planning to step up its fleet of fighter jets, helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft as China works toward claiming most of the disputed South China Sea. In May, China said that Vietnam’s normalized relations with the U.S. should work toward bringing in regional peace.

Every year, about $5 trillion worth of maritime trade sails through the contested region. Apart from China and Vietnam, countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have laid claims over territory in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile on Friday, the U.S. guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur sailed close to the Paracel Islands claimed by Beijing in the South China Sea. The move drew warning from Chinese warships to leave the region.

The Pentagon said the navy destroyer “conducted this transit in a routine, lawful manner without ship escorts and without incident.”

However, Chinese Defense Ministry said the destroyer’s sailing near the islands was “illegal” and “provocative.”


Three Chinese navy ships will be staying four days at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh International Port, from Saturday. File photo: AFP



Three Chinese naval warships arrived in the Vietnamese port of Cam Ranh Bay on Saturday, just weeks after the first visit to the strategic site by U.S. vessels since the former wartime foes normalized relations 21 years ago,

The five-day visit to Cam Ranh — the first by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy — comes amid heightened tensions in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing and Hanoi have rival claims.

The stopover in Vietnam is the last stop on the Chinese flotilla’s way home after completing escort missions in the Gulf of Aden, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Prior to the stop at Cam Ranh Bay, the vessels made port calls in Myanmar, Malaysia and Cambodia, Xinhua quoted senior Col. Wang Hongli as saying.

“This visit will enhance mutual understanding and promote friendship, thus contributing to bilateral relationship at the government and military levels,” Wang said.

In a statement, the Vietnamese Defense Ministry said the port call was part of annual exchanges aimed at bolstering military ties between the two Asian rivals.

The visit comes on the heels of a U.S. Navy “freedom of navigation exercise” near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea.

Hanoi also claims the Paracels, which were seized by Beijing from South Vietnamese forces in a bloody battle in 1974.

On Wednesday, the Defense Ministry in Hanoi said it supports U.S. “intervention” in the Asia-Pacific if it helps maintain peace and stability — a timely endorsement of the U.S. presence in the region as clouds gather over Washington’s faltering “pivot.”

In May, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a landmark decision to end a decades-old ban on the sale of weapons to Vietnam.

Saturday’s port call could be seen as a way for Hanoi to balance its growing ties with Washington.

The visit to Cam Ranh Bay by the Chinese vessels comes after it was opened as an international port in March.

Earlier this month, the submarine tender USS Frank Cable and guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain visited the port as part of annual training exercise between the two navies.

While other U.S. military ships have visited in the past, this was the first time American warships had made port calls at Cam Ranh Bay.

In April, two Maritime Self-Defense Force warships also docked at the key deep-water port. It was the first time Japanese vessels had called there.

Following the Vietnam War, Cam Ranh Bay was home to a major Soviet naval base. It has been controlled by the Vietnamese Navy since the Russians withdrew in 2002, but until recently foreign warships rarely visited.


Top banks preparing to leave UK in 2017 over Brexit, British Bankers’ Association says

October 23, 2016

AFP and Reuters

© AFP Archive photo


Latest update : 2016-10-23

Big international banks are preparing to move some of their operations out of Britain in early 2017 due to the uncertainty over the country’s future relationship with the European Union, a top banking official said.

Writing in the Observer newspaper, Anthony Browne, the chief executive of lobby group the British Bankers’ Association, said the public and political debate was “taking us in the wrong direction” and businesses could not wait until the last minute.

“Most international banks now have project teams working out which operations they need to move to ensure they can continue serving customers, the date by which this must happen, and how best to do it,” said Browne.

“Their hands are quivering over the relocate button. Many smaller banks plan to start relocations before Christmas; bigger banks are expected to start in the first quarter of next year.”

Many of the world’s major banks have their European headquarters in Britain, where the financial sector employs more than two million people and makes up almost 12 percent of the economy.

Banks in London depend on a European “passport” to serve clients across the 28-country European Union from one base and lenders worry that this right will end after Brexit.

>> Watch more on “Pascal Lamy: ‘Europeans won’t give an EU passport to British banks'”

Browne said while finance minister Philip Hammond and Brexit minister David Davis were “making the right noises”, he was concerned that some high-profile Brexit supporters believed banks did not need passporting and could rely on so-called equivalence, under which the EU can allow access to its markets for countries whose regulations are similar to the bloc’s.

“The EU’s equivalence regime is a poor shadow of passporting, it only covers a narrow range of services, can be withdrawn at virtually no notice, and will probably mean the UK will have to accept rules it has no influence over,” he said.

“For most banks, equivalence won’t prevent them from relocating their operations.”

Banks have already said they are making contingency plans to move some of their operations to continental Europe if Britain does not negotiate access to the EU single market after Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will trigger formal talks to leave the EU by the end of March 2017 after Britain voted to leave in a referendum last June.

She has said she will fight to retain access to the single market but several EU leaders have insisted that will depend on Britain accepting free movement of workers from the EU – a condition Britain has vowed to curtail.


Fighting Returns to Aleppo After Cease-Fire Ends

October 23, 2016

Besieged Syrian city sees fresh clashes after three-day ‘humanitarian pause’

Smoke rises from buildings in an eastern government-held neighborhood of Aleppo on October Thursday.
Smoke rises from buildings in an eastern government-held neighborhood of Aleppo on October Thursday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Updated Oct. 23, 2016 10:08 a.m. ET

ANTAKYA, Turkey—Fighting returned to the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo Sunday following the end of a three-day humanitarian cease-fire that expired with no planned aid deliveries or medical evacuations.

Russia implemented the cease-fire—which it called a “humanitarian pause”—along with Syrian armed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad to allow the entry of humanitarian aid into the besieged city.

Moscow billed the cease-fire as an opening for residents and rebels to leave the opposition-controlled neighborhoods. But no aid arrived and rebel factions rejected calls for their followers to leave, vowing to continue fighting.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said humanitarian assistance couldn’t be carried out because of security conditions. Russia’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In photos and videos posted online, residents of the besieged eastern half of Aleppo were seen using the pause from weeks of intense bombardment and airstrikes to take to the streets in protest against the Syrian regime and declaring that they wouldn’t leave their homes.

A small number of civilians who attempted to cross over to the regime-controlled part of the city on Thursday were injured by a government sniper, according to residents and medical officials. The Syrian regime has consistently disputed targeting civilians.

Soon after the cease-fire ended late Saturday night, regime bombardment began alongside an attempt, backed by foreign Shiite militias, to advance along numerous front lines in the city and its countryside. By early Sunday, many of the clashes had subsided after rebels inflicted losses among the regime forces, several rebels said.

Earlier this week, U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that part of the plan for the temporary cease-fire was to allow for the voluntary departure of fighters with the opposition Syrian Conquest Front, formerly the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.

Despite the Front’s recent break of ties with al Qaeda, it is still designated a terrorist group by the U.S., which has proposed working jointly with Russia to target both the former Nusra Front and Islamic State.

U.S.-backed and Islamist rebels have said that the regime and Russia have used the presence of the formerly al Qaeda-linked fighters as a pretext to launch attacks on the mainstream opposition fighters.

A previous U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire collapsed on Sept. 19 and since then the Syrian regime backed by Russian airstrikes has launched an offensive to retake the entire city of Aleppo.

The Assad regime has been dropping fliers and sending text messages to residents in eastern Aleppo urging them to abandon the rebels and return to the fold of the Syrian government.

Meanwhile rebel factions said they were preparing for an offensive to break the siege themselves and allow food and fuel to reach nearly 300,000 people blockaded inside the eastern neighborhoods.

Rebel groups were able to briefly open a road into Aleppo in August but quickly lost ground to regime forces and their allies, who reimposed the blockade. Since then food, fuel and medicine supplies have dwindled and residents are living off meager rations.

Write to Raja Abdulrahim at

Russia and the West have ‘entered a new Cold War’

October 23, 2016


Russia and the West have entered a new Cold War that could lead to growing confrontations across the globe, as Vladimir Putin challenges American international hegemony.

That is the consensus among military and foreign policy experts in Moscow, who have warned that Russia and the West are headed for a standoff as dangerous as the Cuban missile crisis.

“If we talk about the last Cold War, we are currently somewhere between the erection of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile crisis,” said Lt Gen Evgeny Buzhinsky, a former head of the Russian ministry of defence’s international treaties department and now head of the PIR centre, a Moscow think tank.

“In other words, teetering on the brink of war, but without the mechanisms to manage the confrontation.”

The Russian foreign ministry on Saturday accused the Obama administration of attempting the “final destruction of relations with Russia”.

Sergei Ryabkov, a deputy foreign minister, said Moscow would retaliate in kind if the United States goes ahead with new sanctions against Russia in response to the bombing of Aleppo.

If we talk about the last Cold War, we are currently somewhere between the erection of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile crisisLt Gen Evgeny Buzhinsky

The Telegraph understands the Kremlin has already made a decision to cut off diplomacy at least until after the Nov 8 US elections, in the hope of striking up a more “sincere” relationship with Barack Obama’s successor.

The move came after John Kerry, the US secretary of state, cancelled all coordination over Syria, saying Russia had ripped up months of diplomatic work.

Officials in Moscow say the Americans themselves have frequently reneged on agreed commitments.

Mr Putin made the extent of this new confrontation clear last week when he rebuked a Russian reporter who asked him why relations with Washington had collapsed because of Syria.

“It is not because of Syria. This is about one nation’s attempt to enforce its decisions on the whole world,” he said.

The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov passes within a few miles of Dover as a fleet of Russian warships sail through the North Sea on their way to reinforce the attack on the besieged city of Aleppo in Syria
The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov passes within a few miles of Dover as a fleet of Russian warships sail through the North Sea on their way to reinforce the attack on the besieged city of Aleppo in Syria CREDIT: PA

Mr Putin came as near as possible to a formal declaration of “Cold War” on Oct 3, when he cancelled a plutonium reprocessing deal over the United State’s “unfriendly” policies.

“Ripping it up showed how angry we are because it is related to nuclear security, and the conditions attached were a way of saying ‘go to hell’,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, chairman of Russia’s council on foreign and defence policy.

Mr Putin’s meeting with Germany’s Angela Merkel and François Hollande, the French president, in Berlin last week may suggest the Kremlin still wants to keep some diplomatic channels with Western governments open.

Russia’s goal, according to a number of military, diplomatic, and political sources in Moscow, is a grand bargain that would overturn what it sees as an unjust post-Cold War settlement.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to US President Barack Obama (R) during a meeting at the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, 05 September 2016
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to US President Barack Obama (R) during a meeting at the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, September 2016

However, there is little consensus on what such a settlement should look like. Some of Moscow’s publicly stated demands, such as the roll back of Nato, are entirely unacceptable to the West.

Russian experts fear the near-collapse of diplomacy has increased the dangers of a “hot” proxy war or even the nightmare scenario: direct Russian-Western warfare.

Potential flashpoints include the Baltic, where Nato and Russia have accused one another of troop builds, and eastern Ukraine, where Russia continues to supply and direct the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The most dangerous flashpoint is Syria. Bashar al-Assad, the Moscow-allied Syrian president, said last week that the conflict was already turning into a direct US-Russian confrontation.

US ambassador condemns Russia for bombing civilians Play!01:21

Meanwhile, Moscow is moving to extend its influence in the Middle East. Russia has already moved to improve relations with Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government in Egypt, sending 500 troops to the country for joint military exercises this week.

There has also been speculation about reopening military bases in Cuba and Vietnam.

Those with knowledge of Russian foreign policy cautioned that Moscow was wary of getting drawn into the kind of expensive friendships it had in the Soviet era.

“In proxy situations, you invest a lot in your clients. They understand you’ve invested a lot, and they understand your motivations more than you understand theirs,” said one academic with knowledge of Russia’s Middle East policy. “That lets them manipulate you.”

Profile | Vladimir Putin

Photo: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Full name: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

Nickname: VVP

Born: 7 October 1952, Leningrad (Saint Petersburg)

Role: President of Russia

Education: Law degree from Leningrad State University


  • KGB operative 1975 to 1991, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel
  • Adviser to Saint Petersburg administration 1991-96
  • Deputy chief of Presidential Staff to Boris Yeltsin, 1997
  • Russian prime minister, 1999
  • Acting President of Russia on Boris Yeltsin’s resignation, 1999-2000
  • President of Russia, 2000-2008
  • Prime minister of Russia, 2008-2012
  • President of Russia, after constitutional changes allowed him to run again, 2012-present

“At last, Russia has returned to the world arena as a strong state – a country that others heed and that can stand up for itself.”

– Vladimir Putin, 2008


Pentagon chief in Kurdistan to review Mosul offensive

October 23, 2016


Kurdish leader Massud Barzani (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter ahead of a meeting on October 23, 2016 in Arbil

ARBIL (IRAQ) (AFP) – US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter arrived in Iraq’s autonomous region of Kurdistan on Sunday to review the ongoing military offensive to retake the jihadist bastion of Mosul.As the Pentagon chief went into talks with Kurdish leader Massud Barzani, US officials said Kurdish peshmerga forces had almost reached their goals in the week-old offensive.

The battle plan is for the peshmerga forces to stop along a line at an average of 20 kilometres (12 miles) outside of the city of Mosul, the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq.

“They are pretty much there,” a US military official said Saturday when Carter was holding meetings in Baghdad.

Elite federal forces are then expected to take the lead and breach into the city proper, where more than a million civilians are still believed to be living.

That peshmerga line of control, mostly on the northern and eastern fronts, “will be solidified in the next day or two,” the official said.

The United States leads a 60-nation coalition — which also includes Britain and France — that has provided key support in the form of thousands of air strikes, training to Iraqi forces and advisers on the ground.

Kurdish forces are currently engaged in a huge push around the IS-held town of Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul.

They gained significant ground on the eastern front in the first days of the offensive, which was launched on October 17.

In Baghdad, Carter praised the peshmerga and “the way their efforts are completely coordinated with the ISF (Iraqi securitry forces).”

The coordination between Baghdad and Arbil, at odds over Kurdish independence and oil revenue, had been one of the key question marks ahead of the offensive.

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the US-led coalition, noted on Saturday that, while progress in the offensive was satisfactory, jihadist resistance was stiff.

“The resistance is about as broad as expected,” he said in Baghdad.

“It’s pretty significant, we are talking about enemy indirect fire, multiple IEDs (improvised explosive devices), multiple VBIED (vehicle-borne IEDs) each day, even some anti-tank guided missiles, so it’s been very tough fighting, snipers, machineguns,” he said.

US military officials have revised their estimate slightly upward for the number of IS fighters involved int he Mosul theatre.

They believe the IS group is defending its stronghold of Mosul, where the “caliphate” was proclaimed in June 2014, with 3,000 to 5,000 fighters inside the city and 1,000 to 2,000 spread out on the outskirts.

A French government official told AFP the breach into Mosul, which could mark the beginning of a phase of fierce street battles with IS, could still be a month away.

US warns its citizens of possible kidnappings, terror attacks in Turkey

October 23, 2016

US State Department updates travel warning for American citizens in Turkey.

A Turkish special forces police officer guards the entrance of the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, August 5, 2016. (photo credit:REUTERS)


The US State Department warned American citizens early on Sunday of increased terrorist threats in Turkey.

In the updated travel warning, the State Department urged US citizens to avoid travel to Turkey’s volatile southeast region near the Syrian border, while reminding citizens that risks remain for travel throughout the country.

“The Department continues to monitor the effects of the ongoing State of Emergency; recent terrorist incidents in Ankara, Istanbul, Gaziantep, and throughout the Southeast; recurring threats; visible increases in police or military activities; and the potential for restrictions on movement as they relate to the safety and well-being of US citizens in Turkey,” read the advisory that replaced an August 29 warning.
The advisory also warned that foreigners and US tourist have recently been targeted by terrorist groups operating in Turkey.

“Most recently, extremists have threatened to kidnap and assassinate Westerners and US citizens,” read the government notice. “US citizens are reminded to review personal security plans, monitor local news for breaking events, and remain vigilant at all times.”

The State Department announced that the updated travel warning came as it was decided to end an authorization made after the Turkey’s failed coup in July that permitted the voluntary departure of family members of employees at the US Embassy in Ankara and the US Consulate General in Istanbul.

A child suicide bomber in August killed 51 people at a wedding party in the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, in one of the deadliest attack in the country struggling to contain spillover from neighboring Syria’s war.
In June, three suspected Islamic State suicide bombers opened fire and blew themselves up in Istanbul’s main airport, killing 41 people and wounding 239.

Five Saudis and two Iraqis were among the dead, a Turkish official said. Citizens from China, Jordan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Iran and Ukraine were also among the 13 foreigners killed at Europe’s third-busiest airport .

In March, a suicide bomber killed four people and wounded 36 others, including 11 Israelis in a busy shopping district in central Istanbul.

A suicide car bombing in the capital Ankara that month killed 37 people. A similar bombing in Ankara earlier in the year killed 29 people. A Kurdish militant group has claimed responsibility for both of those bombings.

In January, a suicide bomber killed around 10 people, most of them German tourists, in Istanbul’s historic heart, an attack the government blamed on Islamic State.



The US consulate in Istanbul said late Saturday that extremist groups continued their “aggressive efforts” to attack Americans and other foreigners in the city

ANKARA (TURKEY) (AFP) – The United States has warned its citizens of the potential risk of terror attack or attempted kidnapping of foreigners in Istanbul, which has been rocked by several bombings this year.


The consulate in Istanbul said in a message late Saturday that extremist groups continued their “aggressive efforts” to attack Americans and other foreigners in the city.

“These attacks may be pre-planned or could occur with little or no warning, and include, but are not limited to: armed attack, attempted kidnapping, bombing, or other violent acts,” it said in an online notice.

The consulate did not specify which group was believed to be plotting such acts, but in the past year the city has suffered multiple bombings by the Islamic State group (IS) and Kurdish militants.

In June, 47 people were killed in a triple suicide bombing and gun attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, which authorities blamed on IS.

Those visiting Istanbul or living in the city were advised to “review and update their personal security practices” when frequenting areas popular with Westerners or where they may live, the consulate said.

It is the latest warning from the US after the consulate in southern Adana province warned of a potential security threat targeting US-branded hotels in southern Turkey in late September.

In the same month, the US embassy warned of the risk of a terror attack on businesses, including Starbucks, used by Westerners in Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border.

That warning came after a deadly suicide bombing in Gaziantep blamed on jihadists linked to IS in August. The attack on a wedding left 57 dead including 34 children.

In the latest message, the consulate also told its citizens to avoid travelling to southeastern Turkey and to stay away from large crowds — especially in popular tourist destinations — as well as political gatherings and rallies.