Posts Tagged ‘France’

Lindsey Graham says Saudi crown prince must be ‘dealt with’ over Khashoggi murder

January 19, 2019

A key US senator on Saturday said the Saudi crown prince was responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and must be “dealt with”, as he threatened new sanctions.

Republican Lindsey Graham, an influential ally of President Donald Trump, has previously said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the grisly killing of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi in October.

“I have concluded that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States cannot move forward until MBS has been dealt with,” Graham said, using the initials for the crown prince.

Graham said the US will issue a 'definitive' statement that the Saudi crown prince knew about the murder

Lindsey Graham said the US will issue a ‘definitive’ statement that the Saudi crown prince knew about the murder AFP

Graham also threatened new sanctions against those suspected of involvement in the murder during a press conference in Ankara.

Western countries including the US, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals as the case has tarnished Riyadh’s international reputation.

“We will start sanctioning those involved in the killing of Mr Khashoggi. We’ll make a definitive statement that MBS knew about it and is responsible for it and come up with a series of sanctions,” the South Carolina lawmaker said.

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Turkey says Khashoggi was killed by a team of 15 Saudis who strangled him during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork ahead of his upcoming marriage.

The remains of the insider turned critic of the kingdom have yet to be found, three months after this murder.

Riyadh has denied any claims of the crown prince’s involvement but the case has caused strains with Washington.

Earlier this month the trial of 11 accused opened in Saudi Arabia with the attorney general seeking the death penalty for five defendants.

AFP file photo | Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Graham acknowledged that he had been “enthusiastic” in his support of Prince Mohammed but accepted he had been “wrong”.

“What has transpired in the last couple of years is unnerving to say the least,” he said.

Graham said the sanctions were intended to send the message that the murder was “not what you do if you’re an ally of the United States”.



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Saudi Crown Prince and Russia’s Vladimir Putin high-fived like blood brothers at the G20 meetings in Argentina, 30 November 2018


China’s “Disappeared” — Wife of missing ex-Interpol chief claims asylum in France — Husband held in China

January 19, 2019

Grace Meng’s lawyer says she has formally requested refuge from French authorities as she is afraid she may be kidnapped. Her husband, Meng Hongwei, went missing in September after traveling to his native China.

Grace Meng (picture-alliance/dpa/Kyodo)

The wife of the former Interpol chief being held in China on corruption charges has applied for asylum in France, her spokesperson has said.

Grace Meng was put under police protection in the central French city of Lyon soon after her husband Hongwei’s disappearance amid concerns she may be kidnapped, her lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny told the Reuters news agency.

The radio station France Info cited her as saying that strangers have followed her, received suspicious phone calls, and had her car license plates photographed by mysterious people.

Read more: Jailed Chinese activist Huang Qi in ‘immediate’ danger: rights groups

Desperate plea

“I need the French government to protect, to assist and help my children and me,” she told France Info.

“I am afraid I may be kidnapped.”

Meng Hongwei, the first Chinese boss of Lyon-based international law enforcement agency, disappeared in September after traveling back to his native China. France opened an inquiry, and Beijing said he was under investigation for bribery.

He’s not been heard of since a WhatsApp message to his wife on Sept. 25 saying “wait for my call,” and then a knife emoji signifying danger. Interpol said they received a short message from Meng, a former Chinese vice-minister for public security, saying he was resigning.

Meng Hongwei (picture-alliance/dpa/W. Maye-E)Men Hongwei was as elected as Interpol’s chief in November 2016, becoming the first Chinese head of the agency

He was replaced as the head of the organization by South Korea’s Kim Jong-yang.

Read more: Is China threatening Hong Kong’s freedoms?

Suspicious incidents 

French newspaper Liberation cited Grace Meng as saying she had been visited by two Chinese businessmen, one of whom she knew. The pair asked for investment advice from the economist and invited her to travel with them by private jet to the Czech Republic.

In late October, she was asked by the Chinese consulate in Lyon to visit them in person to collect a letter from her husband. She refused, insisting that they pass the letter to French police, or that French police be allowed to go with her to the consulate.

China, meanwhile, says it offered to facilitate a call between Meng and his wife, and that it protects the legitimate rights of all citizens, no matter what situation they find themselves in.

Read more: German student David Missal expelled from China after making human rights film

China’s public security bureau has linked Meng’s detention to a broader initiative to “completely remove the pernicious influence” of Zhou Yongkang, a former security czar was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets.

French authorities declined to comment on the asylum request. It is unclear where Meng is being held.

mm/rc (AFP, Reuters)


Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig (composite image)
Michael Spavor (L) and Michael Kovrig are being accused of harming national security. AFP photos

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China’s most successful film star Fan Bingbing has fallen foul of the authorities.

Global Disorder? — Yellow Vests defy Macron ‘national debate’ bid with 10th Saturday of protests

January 19, 2019

Yellow vest protesters are planning rallies in several French cities despite a national debate launched this week by President Emmanuel Macron aimed at assuaging their anger.

Loic Venance, AFP | A Gilet Jaune protester marches in Nantes on January 12, 2019.

A prominent and provocative protester is promoting a march Saturday starting at the Invalides monument in Paris, home to Napoleon’s tomb, to honor hundreds injured since the movement kicked off Nov. 17. Ten people have been killed in protest-related traffic accidents.

Paris is deploying 5,000 police around the capital, notably around government buildings and the Champs-Elysees, stage of recent violence. Thousands of other police are fanned out nationwide.

Saturday marks the 10th straight weekend of yellow vest protests, and will test whether Macron’s debate is diminishing the movement’s momentum. The protests started over fuel taxes but became a broader revolt against economic problems.


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Image result for yellow vests, photos, aljazeera



Impending age of calamity: The world’s best hopes could rest on China

January 19, 2019

Richard Heydarian writes that China is uniquely positioned to help mitigate climate change and provide humanitarian relief during the coming anarchy

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2019, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2019, 4:33pm

The greatest cost of the ongoing Sino-American cold war – better described as a “frozen conflict” – is a shortsighted distraction from the coming anarchy.

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With the twin meta-challenges of climate change and hyper-disruptive technology lurking on the horizon, China remains immeasurably central to the preservation of global order.

This is especially true in the Indo-Pacific, where much of humanity’s population, economic activity, conflicts and natural disasters are tenuously concentrated.

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Yellow Vest protests in France

The region’s future will be less about struggle for mastery than managing one cataclysmic calamity after the other, as individual states find themselves inundated by myriad evolving disasters

The magnitude of non-traditional security challenges facing humanity far surpasses the management capacity of a single power, whether that is the US or China. Thus, cooperation among great powers will increasingly become the only game in town, the default geopolitical option in decades to come.

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In Roland Emmerich’s epic 2012, the science fiction movie that drove countless people to the edge of apocalyptic despair, China emerges as the unlikely savior. After all, it’s the Asian powerhouse that builds the 21st century Noah’s Ark, carrying in its steely bosom humanity’s best, brightest and billionaires as the world drowns in a biblical storm.

The year 2012 didn’t mark apocalypse, as topnotch physicists reassured us with tenacity, but the movie correctly highlighted the vicissitudes of nature as well as the emerging geopolitics of our times with the arrival of a new agent of history.

Sudanese demonstrators gather as they participate in anti-government protests in Khartoum [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Sudan Riots started as a protest for bread and food …. Sudanese demonstrators gather as they participate in anti-government protests in Khartoum [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

It underscored as much the fragility of human civilisation as the centrality of modern China to humanity’s future. China, along with the West, has become a major source of as well as a possible solution to the rapid emaciation of nature and the intensifying climate change conundrum.

Image result for Photographer: Brent Lewin, pictures, air pollution, thailand

Polluted Air Blankets Bangkok as Government Urges People Indoors – Bloomberg Credit Brent Lewin

According to a major report by the World Wide Fund for Nature drafted by nearly 60 of the world’s leading scientists, the past half-century saw the extinction of 60 per cent of all global fauna and of a dizzying variety of birds, mammals, fishes and reptiles that had been around for millions of years.

We are facing what scientists call the “sixth extinction”, a mass annihilation that would be driven by human activities rather than geological disasters such as those that wiped out the dinosaurs, for instance. Another major study showed that humans, constituting 0.01 per cent of life on earth, have been responsible for the extinction of 83 per cent of all wild mammals and up to half of all plants.

Climate change: How 1.5C could change the world

The rapid, widespread destruction of non-human life on earth was accelerated with the Industrial Revolution in the West, and exacerbated by the rapid industrialisation of the East in recent decades. China’s appetite for exotic animals and its increasingly meaty diet has been a major contributor.

To put things into perspective, the US, China, India, Russia and Japan are the world’s top five sources of greenhouse emissions, the primary precursor of climate change.

China can immensely contribute to the Noah’s Ark of regional cooperation that will increasingly become indispensable to preserving a semblance of order and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific

Rising global temperature and extreme weather conditions brought about by climate change will only exacerbate the ongoing natural cataclysm, placing tens of millions of people at risk.

Of the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change, according to an HSBC study, seven are from the Indo-Pacific region – namely India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Oman and Kenya.

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Global migration is about order, jobs and food.

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Worryingly, most of these countries rate poorly on the Fragile State Index and other measurements of state capacity to mitigate and adapt to disasters, both manmade and natural.

While untrammeled economic expansion is supposed to be the defining story of the Indo-Pacific, the region is also highly susceptible to uneven development with potentially devastating socio-political consequences.

Asia is home to almost a billion workers with “vulnerable” jobs bereft of proper compensation, benefits and security of tenure, according to the International Labour Organisation. The Fourth Industrial Revolution and advancement in Artificial Intelligence directly threaten lower-skilled as well as white-collar jobs in the future.

Chinese-supported coal plant at Kostolac in SerbiaThe plant will not be fitted with carbon capture technology

AI gurus such as Kai Ful Lee expect the impact on jobs to be felt within less than two decades. The labour organisation estimates that in the Southeastern Asian countries of Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, up to 137 million jobs (56 per cent) are at risk of being lost to automation.

While new waves of innovation will likely create new employment opportunities, what is certain is the prospect of employment insecurity, which, in turn, can deepen societal fissures and grievances over rising inequality, fuel radicalisation and extremist ideologies, and push a growing number of people into the underground economy.

Thus, what the Indo-Pacific could face is a dangerous cocktail of profound economic anxieties, extreme weather conditions and the emaciation of natural resources, which will imperil our civilisation like never before.

And this is precisely where Sino-American tensions are a dangerous distraction, since China’s buy-in is crucial. China is not only a source of the problem; it is also a source of solutions.

With its strides in green technology, tightening environmental regulations, large reserve of capital and technology, infrastructure development capacity, and growing naval capability, the Asian powerhouse is uniquely positioned to help mitigate climate change, provide humanitarian and disaster relief operations, and help other countries cope with the coming anarchy.

In short, China can immensely contribute to the Noah’s Ark of regional cooperation that will increasingly become indispensable to preserving a semblance of order and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

Richard Heydarian is a Manila-based academic and author



Theresa May leaves diplomats in ‘disbelief’ after presenting EU leaders with unchanged Brexit demands

January 19, 2019

No New Brexit Demands?

  • Mrs May’s requests continued to focus around three solutions to Irish backstop 
  • Repeated demands to leaders of Germany, France, Netherlands and Ireland
  • Mark Rutte and Angela Merkel have signalled opposition to tweaks to the deal 
The Prime Minister (seen in May 2018) left EU diplomats in a state of 'disbelief' over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said

The Prime Minister (seen in May 2018) left EU diplomats in a state of ‘disbelief’ over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said

Theresa May made no change to her Brexit demands in cross-Channel phone calls with European Union leaders despite her own plan being heavily defeated by MPs earlier this week, it has been reported.

The Prime Minister left EU diplomats in a state of ‘disbelief’ over her failure to shift her stance despite the historic defeat by a margin of 230 votes, a source said.

Mrs May’s requests continued to focus around either a legally binding time-limit for the Irish backstop; a right for Britain to unilaterally withdraw, or a commitment to a trade deal finalisation before 2021 to prevent the backstop from coming into force.

She repeated her demands in talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, reported The Telegraph.

‘It was the same old story – the same set of demands – all unchanged despite the defeat,’ a source with knowledge of the calls said.

The solutions to the border issue were rejected by the EU at the European Council meeting in December after leaders expressed doubts that they would be enough to get the deal over the line in Westminster.

It comes as the Dutch and German governments publicly signalled their opposition to any new concessions for Britain, with Mr Rutte telling Mrs May the deal could not be ‘tweaked’.

‘I said: “I don’t see how the current deal can be tweaked”,’ he told journalists after his phone call. ‘She is really expecting Brexit to go ahead on March 29.’

Angela Merkel (pictured in Berlin on December 30) appears unwilling to allow Britain any new concessions  

Angela Merkel (pictured in Berlin on December 30) appears unwilling to allow Britain any new concessions

Mr Rutte said that any form of Brexit, with or without a deal, will damage the Netherlands, a major British trading partner and one of the world’s top five export countries.

‘It will cause disruptions and we are trying to minimise those,’ he said. ‘We need to look at the facts and prepare for all scenarios. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.’

Among measures taken by the Dutch government is the hiring of roughly 1,000 customs officials to deal with changes in border checks.

‘I appeal to social organisations, companies and institutions, if they have not done so already, to inform themselves about what must be done to be prepared. Time is running out. March 29 is only 10 weeks away.’

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (seen in Dublin on Wednesday) also spoke to Mrs May on the phone 

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (seen in Dublin on Wednesday) also spoke to Mrs May on the phone

The German government appears to be similarly unwilling to shift its stance, with foreign minister Heiko Maas saying Mrs Merkel had made it ‘very clear’ to Mrs May that she would not allow the deal to be changed.

There was little let up on the home front for the Prime Minister, with Tory MP Nick Boles warning that ministers in her Government are prepared to defy her and vote for a backbench plan to give MPs power to block a no-deal Brexit.

Nick Boles told the BBC that some non-Cabinet ministers had told him directly they would quit if whipped against a bill allowing parliamentarians to demand Article 50 be extended for fresh talks with Brussels.

Speaking to the Radio 4 podcast Political Thinking the Grantham and Stamford MP also said members of his local Tory party in Lincolnshire may try to deselect him because of his stance on Brexit and said he continued to receive death threats.

Mr Boles’ dropped a planned bill giving more power to the backbenches on Wednesday but has swung behind the cross-party replacement European UnionWithdrawal (Number 3) Bill, which is due to be tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper on Monday.

He told the programme’s presenter Nick Robinson: ‘We have had indications that many ministers, including Cabinet ministers are very, very keen to see it pass and are telling the Prime Minister that they will not vote against it.

‘There is a bandwagon rolling, it’s got a lot of momentum behind it and I very much hope that any MP who shares my view that a no-deal Brexit would be a disaster, will jump on board.

‘I have been told directly by ministers, not in the Cabinet, that they have said that they would resign if they are whipped to vote against it.’

But Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom hit back, telling the Telegraph that colleagues who want to stop no deal wrongly ‘think they know better’ than voters, but will ‘fail our country’ and weaken the UK’s negotiating hand.

Emmanuel Macron (seen yesterday in Souillac, southern France) has long urged a tough stance against Britain 

Emmanuel Macron (seen yesterday in Souillac, southern France) has long urged a tough stance against Britain

Ms Leadsom said: ‘Parliamentarians are the servants of the people – and the people gave us a very direct answer to a direct question. We must leave the EU.

‘No deal is not the desired outcome, but it would be incompetent for any responsible government to rule it out, and there are very good reasons for that. If we rule out no deal, we can forget about the EU taking us seriously. We weaken our negotiating hand.’

Ms Leadsom said people campaigning to block no deal were ‘conveniently ignoring’ the fact that Parliament had passed legislation which meant the UK will leave the EU on March 29 whether there is a deal or not.

She said: ‘It’s the legal default position between the UK and the EU. If we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail our country.

‘The will of the people is not something that should be redefined by parliamentarians who think they know better, and want to pursue their own agenda.

‘Anyone who wants to cheer the optimistic future we have ahead of us is worthy of our support, not our derision.’

Yellow Vests: Socialist France Struggles To Find Economic Equality Despite Enormous Welfare Pay-Outs and Tax Cuts

January 18, 2019

Without tax and welfare payouts, nearly 42 percent of the population of France would be living in poverty, the highest rate among OECD countries for which recent data is available.

France’s “yellow vest” protests have exposed a deep-rooted belief that society is not working for large swathes of the French population, especially outside major cities.

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Driving the unrest is anger about rising living costs – particularly among low-paid workers – and a perception that President Emmanuel Macron is deaf to their needs as he presses on with reforms seen as favoring the wealthy.

The following graphics look at underlying economic and social indicators in France to try to explain why so many people believe the system is working against them.


Without welfare transfers, poverty and inequality in France would be among the highest in developed countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based group estimates.

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While many protesters rail against what they see as a gulf between them and the upper echelons of French society, OECD data suggests that the wealth divide is not as bad as in many other rich countries.

France’s extensive welfare system keeps the poverty rate at 14.3 percent, below the 18 percent OECD average and on a par with Scandinavian countries known for their egalitarianism.

Without tax and welfare payouts, nearly 42 percent of the population would be living in poverty, the highest rate among OECD countries for which recent data is available.

Likewise, France’s Gini coefficient, a gauge of income inequality, is slightly below the OECD average whereas without welfare transfers it would be among the highest, just behind Italy, Portugal and Greece, according to OECD data.

While a progressive tax system and generous welfare help narrow the wealth gap, it comes at a price as French taxpayers also bear the highest tax burden in the world here

Tax cuts on wealth and financial assets early on in Macron’s five-year term have added to middle-class taxpayers’ frustration and he has been criticized as being a president of the rich.


Unlike Scandinavian countries, France’s poor have little hope of improving their lot in life despite the billions of euros the government spends on them, according to OECD data.

The OECD estimates it would take six generations for a person from a low-income family in France to reach an average income compared with only two generations in Denmark and an OECD average of 4.5.

“There are no rungs anymore on France’s social ladder,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, a conservative, said on Monday.

A demonstrator during a Yellow Vest protest in Paris this month.Credit Abdul Abeissa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While six generations is on a par with its neighbor Germany, the French have a deep attachment to the idea that state institutions, from schools to courts to government, are supposed to offer the same chance of success to all.

But despite income support for those on low incomes, they have little chance of doing better than their parents, according to a study last year by France Strategie think-tank, which is linked to the prime minister’s office.

The study found that a person whose father was a senior white-collar worker was 4.5 times more likely to belong to the wealthiest fifth of the population than someone whose father was a manual worker – largely because social origin correlates closely with one’s level of education.

While France is close to the average in international education comparisons, it has a bigger gulf between the scores of the lowest and highest performing upper school students, the OECD’s director of social affairs Stefano Scarpetta said.


The protests originally erupted in November over higher fuel taxes, that have since been scrapped, and general frustration about the high cost of living, sparking the worst street violence Paris has seen in decades.

With people on low incomes surviving on welfare handouts and the lower middle class squeezed by the tax burden, the French are highly sensitive to pressure on their daily budgets.

That helps explain a national obsession with purchasing power and French politicians are frequently judged on whether people are getting more spare cash.

A protest in Grand Bourgtheroulde before the start of what the government billed as the Great National Debate, which it hopes will calm tensions. Credit Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While protesters largely ignored new tax breaks to boost purchasing power, official data lends credence to their claims that budgets are getting squeezed.

The pressure is increasingly coming from housing costs, which now absorb 23 percent of their budgets compared with 10 percent a generation ago, according to the official French statistics agency INSEE.

Meanwhile, a lack of jobs, deindustrialization and dwindling public services mean that discontent is highest in smaller towns cut off from the economic opportunities of bigger cities.

In towns of 5,000-10,000 people, 21 percent report below average life satisfaction compared to 14 percent in the capital Paris, INSEE said in a study this week.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by David Clarke



Hitachi freezes UK nuclear project

January 17, 2019

Japan’s Hitachi Ltd. decided on Thursday to freeze a 3 trillion yen ($28 billion) nuclear power project in Wales as Britain scrabbles for a way to exit the EU, dealing a blow to UK plans for the replacement of aging plants.

The suspension comes as Hitachi’s Horizon Nuclear Power failed to find private investors for its plans to build a plant in Anglesey, which was expected to provide about 6 percent of Britain’s electricity.

“We’ve made the decision to freeze the project from the economic standpoint as a private company,” Hitachi said in a statement, adding that it had booked a write-down of 300 billion yen.

Wylfa Newydd

Hitachi had called on the British government to boost financial support for the project to appease investor anxiety, but turmoil over the country’s impending EU exit limited the government’s capacity to compile plans, people close to the matter have previously said.

Hitachi’s President Toshiaki Higashihara speaks at a press conference in Tokyo. Work on a major new nuclear power station in Britain was suspended after the contracted developer, Japan’s Hitachi, said that it has been unable to agree on financing with the UK government. (AP Photo)

Hitachi had banked on a group of Japanese investors and the British government each taking a one-third stake in the equity portion of the project, the people said. The project would have been financed one-third by equity and rest by debt.

“It is now clear that further time is needed to develop a financial structure for the Horizon project and the conditions for building and operating the nuclear power stations,” Hitachi said.

With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the UK is now in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project it joined in 1973.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s two-year attempt to forge an amicable divorce was crushed by Parliament this week in the biggest defeat for a British leader in modern history, deepening uncertainty for potential investors.

The withdrawal of the Japanese conglomerate could leave the nuclear newbuild industry open to Russian and Chinese state-owned companies as Western private firms struggle to compete.

China’s General Nuclear Services, an industrial partnership between China General Nuclear Power Corp. (CGN) and French utility EDF, plans to make a number of investments in Britain’s nuclear power sector, most notably the Hinkley Point C project in southwest England.

CGN also intends to deploy the first Chinese-designed reactor for use in Britain at a plant in Bradwell, Essex.

The UK government said that despite negotiations with Hitachi, they failed to reach an agreement. The focus for the government was about driving  down costs and maximizing value for consumers and the taxpayer.

The UK government remains committed to the nuclear sector and is reviewing alternative funding models for future projects and will give an update this summer, it added.

Britain wants new nuclear plants to help replace its aging fleet of nuclear and coal plants coming offline in the 2020s, but high up-front costs have deterred construction.

Another Japanese firm, Toshiba Corp, scrapped its British NuGen project last year after its US reactor unit Westinghouse went bankrupt and it failed to find a buyer.

Hitachi stopped short of scrapping the Anglesey project in northern Wales. The company will continue discussions with the British government on nuclear power, it said.

The nuclear write-down wipes off the Horizon unit’s asset value, which stood at 296 billion yen at the end of September.

Horizon Nuclear Power said it would take steps to reduce its presence but was keeping the option open to resume development in the future.

“Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey remains the best site for nuclear development in the UK and we remain committed to keeping channels of communication open with the government and our other key stakeholders regarding future options at both our sites,” said Duncan Hawthorne, chief executive of Horizon.

However, analysts and investors viewed the suspension as an effective withdrawal and saw the decision as a positive step that has removed uncertainties for the Japanese conglomerate.

Hitachi bought Horizon in 2012 for £696 million ($1.12 billion), from E.ON and RWE as the German utilities decided to sell their joint venture following Germany’s nuclear exit after the Fukushima accident.
Hitachi’s latest decision also further dims Japan’s export prospects.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. has effectively abandoned its Sinop nuclear project in Turkey, a person involved in the project previously told Reuters, as cost estimates had nearly doubled to around 5 trillion yen.


Gridlock Is the New Normal — Brext Has UK Tied Up, U.S. in Govt Shutdown, France Battles Yellow Vests

January 17, 2019

We can now stop anything we don’t want, but can’t enable anything we need.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May (picture-alliance/PA Wire/House of Commons)
The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament  PHOTO: REUTERS

In the United States and the United Kingdom—two of the world’s oldest democracies—national governments are at a standstill. This, for better or worse, could be the future of politics. It will be a system in which things have to get worse before they can get . . . worse. Perpetual political gridlock. It won’t be pretty, and for many it may be painful.

Historic Defeat Sees U.K. Parliament “Take Back Control” of Brexit

Historic Defeat Sees U.K. Parliament “Take Back Control” of Brexit
U.K. lawmakers have rejected the Prime Minister’s terms for leaving the European Union. Options left include leaving the EU without a deal or a second referendum. Image: Parliament TV

Both the U.S. government’s shutdown and the U.K.’s Brexit have become problems with no exit. Every strategy offered fails for lack of legislative support or national leadership. The American and British political classes look intellectually exhausted and clueless about a path forward.

Something more substantial than routine political frustration may be happening here. Public-policy efforts, such as Brexit or revisions to the U.S. immigration and health-care systems, look like they have become too big to accomplish.

Critics of these failures conventionally say they reflect a lack of political will or courage. Still, we are left with the reality of political structures that are dead in the water. If they lack will, it may be because political willfulness has become a stronger force.

Media has proliferated, so that objectors to any policy’s details have multiple platforms they can use to block settlements. We have the political tools to stop anything we don’t want, but we can’t enable anything we need.

Prime Minister Theresa May overwhelmingly lost the vote Tuesday on her Brexit plan to separate the U.K. from the European Union. No space will be wasted here describing the morass of imagined scenarios: no-Brexit, hard Brexit or a Brexit vote redo. Attempts by journalists to compose flowcharts of all the Brexit possibilities and contingencies resemble Rube Goldberg drawings.

The most likely scenario is that the parties will stumble and grope forward, as they did with the Greek debt crisis 10 years ago. The EU is starting to look like Bluebeard’s Castle, a complex edifice of nightmares and delights from which there is no escape after entry.

The U.S. government shutdown is nominally a fight between President Trump and the Democratic Party over building a wall at the border with Mexico. But the wall, whatever its merits, is a proxy for the broader issue of immigration into the U.S.

Immigration has been an unavoidable factor in the life of the U.S. for centuries. But Congress hasn’t passed a big immigration bill in more than 30 years. All subsequent efforts have broken down because some faction has had the ability to block them. Recognizing the impossibility, Congress today has walked away from the subject.

Minimalist answers like the border wall also may represent the future—a conscious act of self-delusion that sates the emotional needs of contemporary politics but lets the realities fester.

Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic governor of Virginia and possible contender for the party’s presidential nomination, recently said, “We all support Medicare for all.” Mission accomplished, notwithstanding that Medicare for all has next to no chance of becoming a daily reality in the U.S.

Congress’s intention to take on infrastructure legislation this year likely will repeat its wheel-spinning experiences with immigration and health care to become the next case study of mega-gridlock.

Any infrastructure effort will have to pass through a tangled thicket of environmental objections, Nimby activists who oppose anything, union work rules, public-versus-private financing schemes, the needs of local political actors, the conflicted interests of cities and rural areas or the nation’s competing regional demands.

In August, the huge Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed, killing 43 people. The slow disintegration of something important, such as a bridge, may be the controlling image for aging political systems that fall down on the job. Their default will be to let responsibilities like Brexit, immigration or Nafta collapse, and then, under duress, rebuild from whatever is left.

Genoa bridge collapse: The mafia's role
The collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

That won’t be pain-free. This is the Trump model on trade: Tear it down, accept the inevitable casualties, and hope for the best with whatever comes next.

It’s fashionable to deride Mr. Trump’s crude, tanklike strategy of grinding across broken glass. Look past the Trump personality, though, and you may soon see more conventional politicians, out of options, resorting to his political model.

One reason this is happening is that politicians and external factions foment dramatic projects like Brexit without possessing any idea how to execute them. They gave British voters a lot of emotion but no game plan. More than two years later, they still don’t have one.

Another reason is the rise in power of the inconsolables. Political factions are eternal. The new element is that their social-media bullhorn makes them seem larger and more intimidating than they are. Twitter really is the mouse that roars. Unable to figure it out, the politicians have turned themselves into twittering mice on the floors of Parliament and Congress. They look trapped. So do we.


Appeared in the January 17, 2019, print edition.

Image result for Macron, great debate, yellow vests, photos


Image result for Macron, great debate, yellow vests, photos


Image result for yellow vest, pictures, france, paris

CEOs Say Recession Is Top Worry for 2019

January 17, 2019

A year ago, recession ranked low on list of executive worries


Image result for container ship at a port in Qingdao, China, photos

Workers moor a container ship at a port in Qingdao, China. China’s trade growth slowed in 2018 as a tariff battle with the U.S. heated up and global consumer demand weakened. Global trade ranked high as a top 2019 concern for chief executives from both the U.S. and China. PHOTO:ASSOCIATED PRESS

The possibility of a global recession ranks as the top concern on the minds of corporate leaders as they head into 2019, according to a new survey of chief executives from the Conference Board, a business research group.

That is a dramatic reversal from a year ago, when executives were sanguine about the risk of recession, ranking it their 19th concern overall out of 28 issues, below issues like outdated infrastructure, workforce diversity and income inequality.

The survey of more than 800 CEOs from around the world was conducted in the fall, before a sharp decline in stock prices amplified worries that economic growth is stalling.

Given that CEOs sensed the possibility of recession before the markets’ recent decline, much of their sentiment stems from other challenges that ranked high on their list of external concerns, said Bart van Ark, the Conference Board’s chief economist. After recession, the top four risks were threats to global trade systems, global political instability, new competitors and declining trust in political and policy institutions.

“There are worries that the policy environment is just not ready to deal with the economic challenges we’re facing,” Mr. van Ark said.

In a separate report on global risks, the World Economic Forum, which produces the annual Davos confab of politicians, business leaders and academics, on Wednesday identified trade wars and rising political tensions as the biggest global threats. Cyberattacks and climate change were also high on that list.

The Conference Board ranked concerns by region. In Japan, China and Latin America, recession was the top external risk. In the U.S., where hackers have breached the computer systems of Facebook Inc., Marriott International Inc. and the country’s electric grid, it was cybersecurity, which Chinese CEOs ranked 10th.

European CEOs named global political instability as their dominant worry.

If the Conference Board had surveyed CEOs in December, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 10% from its October level, recession “would probably have been first in the U.S. and Europe too,” Mr. van Ark said.

Global trade ranked especially high for executives from the two countries at the center of the most contentious trade dispute, the U.S. and China. In China, CEOs ranked it their second-biggest external concern. In the U.S., it was fourth.

Those worries are starting to show up in corporate earnings and statements from chief executives. Earlier this month, Apple Inc. cut its quarterly revenue forecast for the first time in more than 15 years because of slowing sales in China, where growth is under pressure in part because of trade tensions with the U.S.

Internally, executives in every region identified their ability to attract and retain top employees as their primary challenge. Other top concerns are creating new business models to adapt to disruptive technologies, developing the next generation of leaders, aligning compensation and incentives with business performance and reducing costs.


Top executives cited worries about a global recession and the war for talent as their top concerns in 2019.


• 1. Recession risk

• 2. Threats to global trade

• 3. Global political instability

• 4. New competition

• 5. Declining trust in political institutions


• 1. Attracting and retaining top talent

• 2. Creating new business models to adapt to disruptive technologies

• 3. Developing the next generation of leaders

• 4. Better alignment of compensation with business performance

• 5. Reducing baseline costs

Source: The Conference Board

Write to Lauren Weber at

Global economy is headed for recession

January 17, 2019

Global growth is slowing and the world economy is headed for a recession in 2019 unless something happens to give it renewed momentum.

By Jack Kemp

A help wanted sign is posted at a taco stand in Solana Beach, California, U.S., July 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The OECD’s composite leading indicator fell to just 99.3 points in November, its lowest since October 2012, and down from a peak of 100.5 at the end of 2017.

Growth momentum has been easing for some time in Britain, Canada, France and Italy and there were tentative signs of slackening momentum in the United States and Germany in November.

The composite indicator is likely to fall even further when data for December are published next month, given the weakness already revealed in equity markets and business surveys.

The OECD composite leading indicator has been weakening consistently for the last year and now points unambiguously to a contraction ahead (


In the last 50 years, whenever the index has fallen below 99.3, there has almost always been a recession in the United States (1970, 1974, 1980, 1981, 1990, 2001 and 2008).

The one exception was the weakening of the index in 1998, when the United States continued to grow, despite the weakening global economy in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis.

Even in this case, however, the interest-rate setting Federal Open Market Committee noted “the economy has been holding up but is now showing clear signs of deterioration.”

“When we feed this information into our various models, they inevitably, as we might expect, engender a quite considerable softening.”

The observations are contained in the transcript of an unusual, out-of-cycle conference call held by the Federal Open Market Committee in September 1998.

One week later, the Federal Reserve responded to signs of a weakening economy by cutting U.S. interest rates.


Most of the world’s major economies outside the United States showed clear signs of slackening growth in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Even in the United States, the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index for December showed the sharpest deceleration in growth since the recessions of 2008 and 2001.

Global trade volumes showed signs of slowing towards the end of 2018 after strong growth in 2017.

Air freight through Hong Kong International Airport, the world’s busiest air cargo hub and a proxy for global trade, was down 1.6 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter.

Air freight volumes in Hong Kong were down by a massive 5 percent in December compared with the same month a year earlier, according to the Civil Aviation Department.


Most economists now forecast a period of slower growth in 2019 but policymakers have expressed hope for a soft landing rather than an outright recession.

Policymakers almost always aim for a soft landing, in an effort to maintain business and consumer confidence, but there are good reasons to be sceptical about the scenario.

Experience shows the economy is characterised by a significant number of positive feedback mechanisms which amplify booms and slumps.

 JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon doesn't expect the next recession to be as bad as the previous one.


JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon doesn’t expect the next recession to be as bad as the previous one.CREDIT:BLOOMBERG


Expansions tend to accelerate as business investment, employment, incomes, consumer spending and equity prices reinforce each other.

Once the economy starts to lose momentum, however, all these factors tend to interact with each other in the opposite direction to intensify the slowdown.

A soft landing is still possible but a hard landing is more likely unless something happens to kickstart global growth.

If policymakers want to avoid a recession, they have two principal options:

(a) cut U.S. interest rates to ease global financial conditions; or

(b) conclude a trade agreement between China and the United States to ease trade tensions and boost business confidence.

But unless policymakers intervene with one of these alternatives, the global economy’s momentum will continue to slacken and push it towards recession.

Related columns:

– U.S. economy flashes warning signs of impending slowdown (Reuters, Jan. 3)

– Global economy is running out of momentum (Reuters, Oct. 23)

– Global economy falters as politicians take expansion for granted (Reuters, Oct. 11)

– Global economic outlook is darkening (Reuters, Aug. 14) (Editing by Mark Potter)


See also:

‘Won’t be like last time’: JP Morgan chief has some good news about the next recession