World News
12/07/2019 Oman's sultan, 79, travels to Belgium for medical checks

Oman's sultan, 79, travels to Belgium for medical checksOman's 79-year-old ruler will travel to Belgium for a medical checkup, the sultanate's state-run news agency reported Saturday. Sultan Qaboos bin Said left “for some medical checks that will take a limited period, God willing,” the Oman News Agency reported, citing a royal court statement. The sultan has ruled Oman since overthrowing his father in a bloodless 1970 coup.


12/07/2019 Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassment

Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassmentScores of women marched through the streets of Beirut on Saturday to protest sexual harassment and bullying and demanding rights including the passing of citizenship to children of Lebanese women married to foreigners. The march started outside the American University of Beirut, west of the capital, and ended in a downtown square that has been witnessing daily protests for more than seven weeks. Nationwide demonstrations in Lebanon broke out Oct. 17 against proposed taxes on WhatsApp calls turned into a condemnation of the country's political elite, who have run the country since the 1975-90 civil war.


12/07/2019 Russia Linked to Leaked Document Behind Corbyn’s NHS Risk Claim

Russia Linked to Leaked Document Behind Corbyn’s NHS Risk Claim(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Russia has been linked to the leak of U.K. government documents behind Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s election-campaign claim that the Conservative Party would put the National Health Service on the table in trade talks with the U.S.Social news and aggregation firm Reddit Inc. on Friday banned 61 accounts under its policies against “vote manipulation” ahead of Britain’s general election on Dec. 12. The accounts, which were used to draw attention to the trade documents, were “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia,” according to Reddit.The documents have become a staple of Labour’s election campaign. Corbyn has repeatedly waved them at campaign events to publicly accuse Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives of putting the NHS at risk in talks on a future free-trade deal with the U.S. Johnson has consistently denied he would open the healthcare system to U.S. interests, calling the charge “pure Bermuda-triangle stuff” during the most recent debate.Public InterestWhen asked about the Russia link on Saturday, Corbyn dismissed it as “nonsense,” and pointed out that Johnson has never denied the documents’ authenticity.“The issues are that those documents show exactly what the British government was doing in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration in the U.S., and also why the prime minister has refused to release the report on Russian interference in British politics, which he’s been sitting on for a very long time,” Corbyn said on Sky News.Corbyn was referring to Johnson’s refusal to release a report by a U.K. intelligence watchdog that raises concern about Russian interference in the campaign. The Labour Party released the trade documents because they are “clearly in the public interest,” a spokesman said on Saturday. Corbyn has refused to identify the source of the leak.Johnson has managed to brush back Corbyn’s attacks over the NHS and kept the Conservative campaign focused on his pledge to complete the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, a strategy that appears to be working. With less than a week to the vote, the last five major polls gave the Conservatives an average lead of around 10 percentage points. Johnson is heading for a clear victory, senior officials in both main parties told Bloomberg.‘Secondary Infektion’Reddit said its investigation occurred after Facebook Inc. discovered a Russian campaign on its network earlier this year dubbed “Secondary Infektion.” More recent accounts on Reddit bear similarities to that campaign, “causing us to believe that this was indeed tied to the original group,” the firm said.“Suspect accounts on Reddit were recently reported to us, along with indicators from law enforcement, and we were able to confirm that they did indeed show a pattern of coordination,” Reddit said. The banned accounts will be preserved for a time so that they can be scrutinized by researchers and the public.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said there are no grounds for the accusations against Russia.The Reddit accounts were removed after social media research firm Graphika Inc. published a blog on Dec. 2 saying that hundred of pages of leaked documents on trade between the U.S. and U.K. were amplified online in a manner “closely” resembling tactics used in the Secondary Infektion campaign.The U.K. operation appeared to start in October when “a German-language persona” that called itself Max Ostermann posted information about the leaked trade documents to three websites including German subreddit r/de, as well as an Austrian local-news blog and a Berlin-based platform, according to Graphika.The documents were then amplified using tactics previously seen in Secondary Infektion. These tactics included the use of “burner accounts” -- which post once before apparently being abandoned -- as well use of a “conspiracy site” called beforeitsnews.com, the Graphika report said.“Even before the Reddit post, the big question was how the unredacted U.K. documents ended up online,” said Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika. “That question just got bigger.”\--With assistance from Tim Ross.To contact the reporters on this story: Nathan Crooks in Miami at ncrooks@bloomberg.net;Alyza Sebenius in Washington at asebenius@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at abdavis@bloomberg.net, Patrick HenryFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


12/07/2019 Minnesota National Guard identifies 3 killed in copter crash

Minnesota National Guard identifies 3 killed in copter crashThe Minnesota National Guard says the three soldiers who were killed when their helicopter crashed near St. Cloud this week were part of a unit that returned last May from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East. The Guard identified the men who were killed in Thursday's crash as Chief Warrant Officers 2nd Class James A. Rogers Jr., 28, and Charles P. Nord, 30, and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, 28. The Guard tweeted that during their unit's recent Middle East deployment, it conducted medical evacuations in support of operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve.


12/07/2019 Voters Like Trump's Trade Goals, Not His Tone

Voters Like Trump's Trade Goals, Not His ToneA big part of Donald Trump's political identity has centered on his promises to shake up the United States' role in the world and reject the free-trade agreements that he has called "a disaster" for American workers.Trump made those ideals a major part of his presidential campaign in 2016, and he has remained committed to them since -- as the events of the past week have shown. He publicly clashed with European leaders during a visit to London, going so far as to threaten a 100% tariff on some imports from France. He continues to push Congress to approve a deal that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.And on Tuesday he announced that he may wait until after the 2020 election to negotiate a grand deal with China, signaling that debates over trade could loom over the presidential race.Trade is not a primary concern for most American voters: Of the seven topics CNN asked about in a recent poll, voters were least likely to cite trade as important for their decision in 2020.But Trump's heterodox approach to diplomacy has become a constant source of headlines, and Americans' views of his trade policy have become entwined with their anxiety about how he conducts himself abroad.Nearly three years into the president's first term, the country now disapproves of his handling of both trade and foreign affairs by a sizable margin: On each topic, Americans are more likely to disapprove of his politics than to approve by a gap of 10 to 20 points, depending on which recent poll you're reading.When Trump took office, polls showed that Americans were broadly sympathetic to his calls for a rethinking of trade policy. In January 2017, a Gallup poll found that 71% of respondents nationwide said that "promoting favorable trade policies for the U.S. in foreign markets" should be a very important policy goal for the new administration. (Fewer put a high priority on working to defend U.S. allies or linking arms with the United Nations.)Still, at the same time, Americans have become much more likely to see trade as a good thing since Trump took office. A Gallup poll earlier this year found that by a huge margin (74% to 21%), Americans now tend to see trade as an "opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports" rather than a "threat to the economy from foreign imports."Americans' views on this ideological question often follow economic trends, with respondents more likely to say trade is good whenever unemployment is low, as it is today. But in over 25 years of polling data from Gallup, Americans have never been as pro-trade as they became after Trump entered the White House.For the first time, in a remarkable show of bipartisan consensus, 7 in 10 respondents in each party this year said trade was more of an opportunity for the United States than a threat. But Lydia Saad, a senior editor at Gallup, resisted equating support for trade with opposition to Trump's positions."Republicans and Democrats are expressing more positivity about trade, but for different reasons," Saad said. "Democrats, I think, hear what Trump says and interpret that as anti-trade, and so reflexively are saying: 'No, trade is great.' Republicans hear what Trump says, and they say, 'Trump says he's going to be a better advocate for trade deals and make trade better, so trade is great.'"Indeed, white Americans without a college degree -- who tend to be among Trump's most solid supporters -- flipped from generally opposing trade to generally supporting it as soon as Trump was elected. In 2016, just 46% of those Americans told Gallup they saw trade as an opportunity for growth; in 2017, that number leapt to 66%.Democrats have become far more likely than Republicans to see NAFTA positively. In 2017, Gallup found that 67% of Democrats viewed the agreement favorably, versus just 22% of Republicans. In the 1990s and early 2000s, immediately after the agreement was passed, there was no notable partisan difference on this question.Trump is trying to replace NAFTA with a deal of his own, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, that includes many provisions that Democrats have long pushed for, including a demand that Mexico raise its minimum wage and a stipulation that cars include a higher percentage of parts made in North America. Trump's hard-knuckle approach to negotiations with China has also been premised on the argument that U.S. workers and businesses deserve greater protections from foreign competition.As a result, the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 may have a hard time opposing Trump on policy grounds. But the fact that most Americans remain dissatisfied with Trump's conduct abroad still leaves room for an opponent to confront him on trade, experts say.Indeed, a majority of Americans (52%) said in a Quinnipiac poll in October that Trump had weakened the United States' standing as the so-called "leader of the free world," while just 33% said he had strengthened it."Trump took most of their talking points," Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, said in an interview, referring to the president's protectionist policies. "So what you're hearing is the Democrats trying to find some way to take back that trade-skeptic position."He added: "If you listen to the Democrats, they're basically saying, 'We agree it was time to get tough on China, but the tariffs are the wrong tactic, and we shouldn't be alienating our allies.' So it's much more of a tactical debate than a substantive debate."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


12/07/2019 The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment Inquiry

The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment InquiryNo matter the job title, the gig of most every aide to a member of Congress is essentially the same: to help make it appear that the elected representative -- "the name on the door," as some aides put it -- is shouldering the work alone.This is especially true, and especially tricky, amid the scrutinized pageantry of news conferences and high-stakes public hearings like those convened last month by the House Intelligence Committee and this week by the House Judiciary Committee as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry.In hearings, congressional aides often sit behind their bosses, close enough to discreetly provide on-the-spot guidance and information. But, for some, the tougher gig might be operating in front of a scrum of cameras while trying to remain invisible to the public."There is whirlwind of activity behind the scenes and it is your job to keep that off-camera and to fade into the wallpaper," said Jeremy Bash, who attended or staffed about 100 hearings while serving in various roles, including chief of staff to the former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.This is the balance aimed for by Russell Dye, an aide to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has taken a visible and audible role as a staunch defender of President Donald Trump in the recent impeachment inquiry hearings.Dye says he wants to avoid the camera's glare when possible, to be invisible in plain sight when necessary and to keep the public's focus on the work of his boss."I tend to like to stay in the background," said Dye, 27. "I hate it when I become the center of attention."But someone needs to tell that to Dye's bright mint-green blazer. Paired with a green bow tie, the jacket has twice attracted national media coverage: first in 2014, when he and his jacket sat in the front row of an IRS hearing and were featured on Twitter, "Morning Joe" and in a political cartoon.Last month, just before a day of impeachment inquiry testimony would begin, Dye was setting up posters on easels with messages like, "0 days since Adam Schiff followed House rules."As he did so, Andrew Harnik, a staff photographer for The Associated Press, snapped Dye in his spearmint-gum-colored jacket."Hearings and hearing rooms can be on the more staid side so we're always looking for images that are striking and unexpected," said Harnik, 38. "I didn't have an idea of what the hearings were going to look like, but I wasn't expecting the posters." As for Dye's outfit, it was (green) icing on the cake.The photograph was published in The Washington Post, atop an opinion piece called, "A definitive guide to 64 Republican impeachment excuses." The picture and story were then plucked and billboarded by Apple News."That's not a good article for us, and I disagree with the author's assertion," Dye said, "but it still goes to everyone thanks to your mom and Facebook."He even got recognized in the aisles of his hometown Walmart in Forsyth, Georgia, when he was there for Thanksgiving. "We're just trying to do the best we can for the members we work for, but then you end up on Twitter," he said. "This is the age we live in."The more your boss is in the spotlight, the harder it can be to stay out of it. Charli Huddleston also works for Jordan, as press secretary for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. She too found herself inadvertently upstaging him, and a gaggle of congressmen, when she was photographed in late October standing on a staircase above them as they staged a protest against the process of the impeachment proceedings. In the photo, a light shines upon Huddleston, 25, as if from an alien spaceship that is going to beam her up. Once posted to Twitter, the photo went viral."It was like, 'Oh my God, I'm a meme,'" Huddleston said in an interview.At first, the moment felt like a fun diversion from a tense time. After BuzzFeed published an article about how the photograph of a Republican congressman's aide had been adopted as favorite among anti-Trump tweeters, the attention rattled her."It's not supposed to be about me, it's about the name on the door," Huddleston said, recalling her worry about how her boss would react. "I hope he's going to be OK with it."In fact, Jordan called her to make sure she wasn't feeling trolled by nasty comments. "He was concerned," she said.More than simply fade into the background at that same protest, it was the job of Janae Frazier, the press secretary to Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., to gather video footage and photographs of her boss and his colleagues that could be used on social media to promote their impeachment resistance.That's not how it turned out.As the protest dragged on, pizza was ordered for the members of Congress, their aides and reporters in attendance.Frazier approached the cart of stacked boxes and was about to take a slice when she noticed her picture was being snapped. She made a face (Frazier describes it as "goofy") and backed away from the pizza."I don't want my picture taken while I'm eating," said Frazier, 28. "I can go in on pizza."At a media event that offered all the visual excitement possible of a bunch of middle-aged men in suits standing outside a conference room, the image of a woman contemplating pizza tickled Twitter."Y'all I have become a meme. I'm DEAD," Frazier tweeted.Then she went on with her life. But not everyone was ready to. Her picture was featured on CNN. And then it was included in a Weekend Update segment on "Saturday Night Live."She heard from long-lost friends and distant relatives who congratulated her on her career achievements. "I was like, 'WHAT? All this for being hungry?'" Frazier said.Among staffers and committee aides who have been sitting behind their congressional bosses in the current impeachment hearings, cameras have not seized on many goofy faces (nor did committee staffers seize the opportunity to comment for this article)."The staffer has to be a sphinx," said Bash, the former defense department and congressional aide who is now a national security consultant and news commentator."There is no formal training for this role," he continued. "You have to have been raised on the Iran-Contra hearings, the Clarence Thomas hearings, you have to be the kind of person who enjoys flipping to C-SPAN 3 during hours you're supposed to be sleeping."Even before the age of Twitter and iPhones, the inscrutability of congressional aides was the Washington way. Christopher Putala, 58, worked in the 1990s for then-Sen. Joe Biden and staffed dozens of hearings that Biden took part in as a member of the Judiciary Committee. At Putala's first one -- "not a controversial hearing," is all he remembers of it -- there was a moment of levity among the senators and the hearing witnesses. Putala chuckled too."There I was, yukking it up, and Evelyn Lieberman, a communications staffer, came up and whispered in my ear. She lit into me and said in no uncertain terms, 'You are to have no expression. You are to fade into the background.'"Lesson learned. Sort of. Recently Putala came across a Now This video that featured a 1993 assault weapons ban hearing which Biden presided over. Putala spied himself in the background."What am I doing but chewing gum, chomping away," he said.The valor of discretion can be lost on today's youth. When Jessica Sanderson, a lawyer for Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, was preparing to head to Washington to sit behind her client during his impeachment inquiry hearing testimony last month, Sanderson's daughter had one request."She said, 'Mom, you need to do something to become a meme,'" said Sanderson, 51.After Sanderson asked her daughter, a high school senior who was on her school's constitutional law team last year, to explain what exactly that means, she demonstrated a few silly faces that she thought her mother could make during the testimony.Sanderson rejected the suggestions.Still, after Vindman's testimony concluded, Sanderson's phone started to blow up. A photograph of a reporter guzzling coffee during the proceedings was going viral, and guess who was also visible in what became one of the most recognizable photos of the day? Yup."It was the best of possible worlds," Sanderson said. "I was in a meme and I had a straight face."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


12/07/2019 Naval base shooter investigated for possible terrorism links

Naval base shooter investigated for possible terrorism linksU.S. officials investigating the deadly attack by a Saudi aviation student at a naval air station in Florida were working Saturday to determine whether it was motivated by terrorism. An aviation student from Saudi Arabia opened fire in a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, killing three people. Eight people were hurt in the attack, including the two deputies, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said.


12/07/2019 Iran releases US hostage held for three years as suspected spy in prisoner swap

Iran releases US hostage held for three years as suspected spy in prisoner swapIran has released an American student who has spent the past three years in jail on spying charges in a prisoner swap.Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted on charges of "spying under the cover of research".


12/07/2019 US citizen Xiyue Wang released from Iranian jail in prisoner swap

US citizen Xiyue Wang released from Iranian jail in prisoner swapChinese-born Princeton student, sentenced to 10 years in prison, exchanged for Iranian scientist Masoud SoleimaniA Chinese-born US citizen sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran on spying charges has been released as part of a prisoner swap.Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, imprisoned since 2016, was exchanged for Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist arrested at Chicago airport last year and convicted on charges of violating US trade sanctions.Wang was due to fly to the US via Oman and a US military base in Frankfurt, Germany. There had been no prior indication he was due to be released, and he was apparently shocked when he was told the news. He initially travelled to Iran to study Farsi and Iranian history.In a statement, Donald Trump said: “Mr Wang had been held under the pretence of espionage since August 2016. We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr Wang’s release with Iran.”The Swiss embassy in Tehran looks out for America’s interests in the country as the US embassy there has been closed since the 1979 student takeover and 444-day hostage crisis.Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, accompanied Soleimani to Switzerland to make the exchange and will return with Wang, according to a US official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.The swap took place in Zurich and Hook and Wang were en route to Landstuhl in Germany where Wang was to be examined by doctors, the official said. Hook was expected to return to the US from Germany alone, as Wang was expected to be evaluated for several days.> Senior Administration official says Xiyue Wang is “doing really well” in Germany after State Iran envoy Brian Hook swapped for him in Zurich. Hook and Wang pictured. pic.twitter.com/qS1oz7sE3n> > — Rich Edson (@RichEdsonDC) December 7, 2019Although Hook was present for the swap, the US official said the national security adviser Robert O’Brien played the lead role in negotiations dating from his time as special representative for hostage affairs at the state department.Soleimani – who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine – was arrested by US authorities on charges he violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran. He and his lawyers maintain his innocence, saying he seized on a former student’s plans to travel from the US to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he would pay at home.On Saturday Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that Soleimani was with Iranian officials in Switzerland. Soleimani was expected to return to Iran in the coming hours. Zarif later posted pictures of himself on Twitter with Soleimani in front of an Iranian government jet and later with the two talking on board.The US regards the swap as a low price for the release of Wang, who has always insisted he is innocent and whose family has described the charges as absurd. He was researching the Qajar dynasty at the time of his arrest in August 2016. Hua Qu, his wife, released a statement saying “our family is complete once again”.“Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” she said. “We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”The Princeton spokesman Ben Chang said the school was aware of Wang’s release.Relations between the US and Iran reached a new low this week with further sanctions slapped on Tehran. A meeting with the remaining signatories of the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) on Friday in Vienna ended with Europeans warning that further breaches of the nuclear deal by Iran would endanger their support.Ironically Britain, with better relations with Iran at least over the JCPOA, is making no progress, at least on the surface, in securing the release of its dual nationals held in Evin prison including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and a retired businessman, Anousheh Ashoori.Both consider themselves hostages captured in a bid to force diplomatic or economic concessions.Other Americans held in Iran include an 81-year-old businessman, Baquer Namazi, who has been held for more than two years and diagnosed with epilepsy.Namazi and his son Siamak Namazi, also a dual national who has been held for more than three years, are serving 10-year sentences after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power.An Iranian-American art dealer, Karan Vafadari, and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Also held is US navy veteran Michael White.The former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing. Iran says Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Wang would soon be able to go home to his family but acknowledged other Americans remain held by Iran.“The United States will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones,” Pompeo said in a statement.


12/07/2019 Belarus crowds rally against closer Russia ties

Belarus crowds rally against closer Russia tiesRoughly 1,000 Belarusians joined an unauthorised demonstration on Saturday against the prospect of a closer union with Russia. Long-time ruler Alexander Lukashenko was meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia on Saturday to discuss "key issues in our bilateral relations, including the prospects for deepening integration", according to the Kremlin. Police quickly intervened to oversee the demonstration but made no arrests.


World News
12/07/2019 Oman's sultan, 79, travels to Belgium for medical checks

Oman's sultan, 79, travels to Belgium for medical checksOman's 79-year-old ruler will travel to Belgium for a medical checkup, the sultanate's state-run news agency reported Saturday. Sultan Qaboos bin Said left “for some medical checks that will take a limited period, God willing,” the Oman News Agency reported, citing a royal court statement. The sultan has ruled Oman since overthrowing his father in a bloodless 1970 coup.


12/07/2019 Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassment

Lebanese women march in Beirut against sexual harassmentScores of women marched through the streets of Beirut on Saturday to protest sexual harassment and bullying and demanding rights including the passing of citizenship to children of Lebanese women married to foreigners. The march started outside the American University of Beirut, west of the capital, and ended in a downtown square that has been witnessing daily protests for more than seven weeks. Nationwide demonstrations in Lebanon broke out Oct. 17 against proposed taxes on WhatsApp calls turned into a condemnation of the country's political elite, who have run the country since the 1975-90 civil war.


12/07/2019 Russia Linked to Leaked Document Behind Corbyn’s NHS Risk Claim

Russia Linked to Leaked Document Behind Corbyn’s NHS Risk Claim(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Russia has been linked to the leak of U.K. government documents behind Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s election-campaign claim that the Conservative Party would put the National Health Service on the table in trade talks with the U.S.Social news and aggregation firm Reddit Inc. on Friday banned 61 accounts under its policies against “vote manipulation” ahead of Britain’s general election on Dec. 12. The accounts, which were used to draw attention to the trade documents, were “part of a campaign that has been reported as originating from Russia,” according to Reddit.The documents have become a staple of Labour’s election campaign. Corbyn has repeatedly waved them at campaign events to publicly accuse Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservatives of putting the NHS at risk in talks on a future free-trade deal with the U.S. Johnson has consistently denied he would open the healthcare system to U.S. interests, calling the charge “pure Bermuda-triangle stuff” during the most recent debate.Public InterestWhen asked about the Russia link on Saturday, Corbyn dismissed it as “nonsense,” and pointed out that Johnson has never denied the documents’ authenticity.“The issues are that those documents show exactly what the British government was doing in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration in the U.S., and also why the prime minister has refused to release the report on Russian interference in British politics, which he’s been sitting on for a very long time,” Corbyn said on Sky News.Corbyn was referring to Johnson’s refusal to release a report by a U.K. intelligence watchdog that raises concern about Russian interference in the campaign. The Labour Party released the trade documents because they are “clearly in the public interest,” a spokesman said on Saturday. Corbyn has refused to identify the source of the leak.Johnson has managed to brush back Corbyn’s attacks over the NHS and kept the Conservative campaign focused on his pledge to complete the U.K.’s exit from the European Union, a strategy that appears to be working. With less than a week to the vote, the last five major polls gave the Conservatives an average lead of around 10 percentage points. Johnson is heading for a clear victory, senior officials in both main parties told Bloomberg.‘Secondary Infektion’Reddit said its investigation occurred after Facebook Inc. discovered a Russian campaign on its network earlier this year dubbed “Secondary Infektion.” More recent accounts on Reddit bear similarities to that campaign, “causing us to believe that this was indeed tied to the original group,” the firm said.“Suspect accounts on Reddit were recently reported to us, along with indicators from law enforcement, and we were able to confirm that they did indeed show a pattern of coordination,” Reddit said. The banned accounts will be preserved for a time so that they can be scrutinized by researchers and the public.Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said there are no grounds for the accusations against Russia.The Reddit accounts were removed after social media research firm Graphika Inc. published a blog on Dec. 2 saying that hundred of pages of leaked documents on trade between the U.S. and U.K. were amplified online in a manner “closely” resembling tactics used in the Secondary Infektion campaign.The U.K. operation appeared to start in October when “a German-language persona” that called itself Max Ostermann posted information about the leaked trade documents to three websites including German subreddit r/de, as well as an Austrian local-news blog and a Berlin-based platform, according to Graphika.The documents were then amplified using tactics previously seen in Secondary Infektion. These tactics included the use of “burner accounts” -- which post once before apparently being abandoned -- as well use of a “conspiracy site” called beforeitsnews.com, the Graphika report said.“Even before the Reddit post, the big question was how the unredacted U.K. documents ended up online,” said Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika. “That question just got bigger.”\--With assistance from Tim Ross.To contact the reporters on this story: Nathan Crooks in Miami at ncrooks@bloomberg.net;Alyza Sebenius in Washington at asebenius@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Davis at abdavis@bloomberg.net, Patrick HenryFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


12/07/2019 Minnesota National Guard identifies 3 killed in copter crash

Minnesota National Guard identifies 3 killed in copter crashThe Minnesota National Guard says the three soldiers who were killed when their helicopter crashed near St. Cloud this week were part of a unit that returned last May from a nine-month deployment to the Middle East. The Guard identified the men who were killed in Thursday's crash as Chief Warrant Officers 2nd Class James A. Rogers Jr., 28, and Charles P. Nord, 30, and Sgt. Kort M. Plantenberg, 28. The Guard tweeted that during their unit's recent Middle East deployment, it conducted medical evacuations in support of operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve.


12/07/2019 Voters Like Trump's Trade Goals, Not His Tone

Voters Like Trump's Trade Goals, Not His ToneA big part of Donald Trump's political identity has centered on his promises to shake up the United States' role in the world and reject the free-trade agreements that he has called "a disaster" for American workers.Trump made those ideals a major part of his presidential campaign in 2016, and he has remained committed to them since -- as the events of the past week have shown. He publicly clashed with European leaders during a visit to London, going so far as to threaten a 100% tariff on some imports from France. He continues to push Congress to approve a deal that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.And on Tuesday he announced that he may wait until after the 2020 election to negotiate a grand deal with China, signaling that debates over trade could loom over the presidential race.Trade is not a primary concern for most American voters: Of the seven topics CNN asked about in a recent poll, voters were least likely to cite trade as important for their decision in 2020.But Trump's heterodox approach to diplomacy has become a constant source of headlines, and Americans' views of his trade policy have become entwined with their anxiety about how he conducts himself abroad.Nearly three years into the president's first term, the country now disapproves of his handling of both trade and foreign affairs by a sizable margin: On each topic, Americans are more likely to disapprove of his politics than to approve by a gap of 10 to 20 points, depending on which recent poll you're reading.When Trump took office, polls showed that Americans were broadly sympathetic to his calls for a rethinking of trade policy. In January 2017, a Gallup poll found that 71% of respondents nationwide said that "promoting favorable trade policies for the U.S. in foreign markets" should be a very important policy goal for the new administration. (Fewer put a high priority on working to defend U.S. allies or linking arms with the United Nations.)Still, at the same time, Americans have become much more likely to see trade as a good thing since Trump took office. A Gallup poll earlier this year found that by a huge margin (74% to 21%), Americans now tend to see trade as an "opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports" rather than a "threat to the economy from foreign imports."Americans' views on this ideological question often follow economic trends, with respondents more likely to say trade is good whenever unemployment is low, as it is today. But in over 25 years of polling data from Gallup, Americans have never been as pro-trade as they became after Trump entered the White House.For the first time, in a remarkable show of bipartisan consensus, 7 in 10 respondents in each party this year said trade was more of an opportunity for the United States than a threat. But Lydia Saad, a senior editor at Gallup, resisted equating support for trade with opposition to Trump's positions."Republicans and Democrats are expressing more positivity about trade, but for different reasons," Saad said. "Democrats, I think, hear what Trump says and interpret that as anti-trade, and so reflexively are saying: 'No, trade is great.' Republicans hear what Trump says, and they say, 'Trump says he's going to be a better advocate for trade deals and make trade better, so trade is great.'"Indeed, white Americans without a college degree -- who tend to be among Trump's most solid supporters -- flipped from generally opposing trade to generally supporting it as soon as Trump was elected. In 2016, just 46% of those Americans told Gallup they saw trade as an opportunity for growth; in 2017, that number leapt to 66%.Democrats have become far more likely than Republicans to see NAFTA positively. In 2017, Gallup found that 67% of Democrats viewed the agreement favorably, versus just 22% of Republicans. In the 1990s and early 2000s, immediately after the agreement was passed, there was no notable partisan difference on this question.Trump is trying to replace NAFTA with a deal of his own, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, that includes many provisions that Democrats have long pushed for, including a demand that Mexico raise its minimum wage and a stipulation that cars include a higher percentage of parts made in North America. Trump's hard-knuckle approach to negotiations with China has also been premised on the argument that U.S. workers and businesses deserve greater protections from foreign competition.As a result, the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 may have a hard time opposing Trump on policy grounds. But the fact that most Americans remain dissatisfied with Trump's conduct abroad still leaves room for an opponent to confront him on trade, experts say.Indeed, a majority of Americans (52%) said in a Quinnipiac poll in October that Trump had weakened the United States' standing as the so-called "leader of the free world," while just 33% said he had strengthened it."Trump took most of their talking points," Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, said in an interview, referring to the president's protectionist policies. "So what you're hearing is the Democrats trying to find some way to take back that trade-skeptic position."He added: "If you listen to the Democrats, they're basically saying, 'We agree it was time to get tough on China, but the tariffs are the wrong tactic, and we shouldn't be alienating our allies.' So it's much more of a tactical debate than a substantive debate."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


12/07/2019 The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment Inquiry

The Accidental Celebrities of the Impeachment InquiryNo matter the job title, the gig of most every aide to a member of Congress is essentially the same: to help make it appear that the elected representative -- "the name on the door," as some aides put it -- is shouldering the work alone.This is especially true, and especially tricky, amid the scrutinized pageantry of news conferences and high-stakes public hearings like those convened last month by the House Intelligence Committee and this week by the House Judiciary Committee as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry.In hearings, congressional aides often sit behind their bosses, close enough to discreetly provide on-the-spot guidance and information. But, for some, the tougher gig might be operating in front of a scrum of cameras while trying to remain invisible to the public."There is whirlwind of activity behind the scenes and it is your job to keep that off-camera and to fade into the wallpaper," said Jeremy Bash, who attended or staffed about 100 hearings while serving in various roles, including chief of staff to the former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.This is the balance aimed for by Russell Dye, an aide to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has taken a visible and audible role as a staunch defender of President Donald Trump in the recent impeachment inquiry hearings.Dye says he wants to avoid the camera's glare when possible, to be invisible in plain sight when necessary and to keep the public's focus on the work of his boss."I tend to like to stay in the background," said Dye, 27. "I hate it when I become the center of attention."But someone needs to tell that to Dye's bright mint-green blazer. Paired with a green bow tie, the jacket has twice attracted national media coverage: first in 2014, when he and his jacket sat in the front row of an IRS hearing and were featured on Twitter, "Morning Joe" and in a political cartoon.Last month, just before a day of impeachment inquiry testimony would begin, Dye was setting up posters on easels with messages like, "0 days since Adam Schiff followed House rules."As he did so, Andrew Harnik, a staff photographer for The Associated Press, snapped Dye in his spearmint-gum-colored jacket."Hearings and hearing rooms can be on the more staid side so we're always looking for images that are striking and unexpected," said Harnik, 38. "I didn't have an idea of what the hearings were going to look like, but I wasn't expecting the posters." As for Dye's outfit, it was (green) icing on the cake.The photograph was published in The Washington Post, atop an opinion piece called, "A definitive guide to 64 Republican impeachment excuses." The picture and story were then plucked and billboarded by Apple News."That's not a good article for us, and I disagree with the author's assertion," Dye said, "but it still goes to everyone thanks to your mom and Facebook."He even got recognized in the aisles of his hometown Walmart in Forsyth, Georgia, when he was there for Thanksgiving. "We're just trying to do the best we can for the members we work for, but then you end up on Twitter," he said. "This is the age we live in."The more your boss is in the spotlight, the harder it can be to stay out of it. Charli Huddleston also works for Jordan, as press secretary for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. She too found herself inadvertently upstaging him, and a gaggle of congressmen, when she was photographed in late October standing on a staircase above them as they staged a protest against the process of the impeachment proceedings. In the photo, a light shines upon Huddleston, 25, as if from an alien spaceship that is going to beam her up. Once posted to Twitter, the photo went viral."It was like, 'Oh my God, I'm a meme,'" Huddleston said in an interview.At first, the moment felt like a fun diversion from a tense time. After BuzzFeed published an article about how the photograph of a Republican congressman's aide had been adopted as favorite among anti-Trump tweeters, the attention rattled her."It's not supposed to be about me, it's about the name on the door," Huddleston said, recalling her worry about how her boss would react. "I hope he's going to be OK with it."In fact, Jordan called her to make sure she wasn't feeling trolled by nasty comments. "He was concerned," she said.More than simply fade into the background at that same protest, it was the job of Janae Frazier, the press secretary to Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., to gather video footage and photographs of her boss and his colleagues that could be used on social media to promote their impeachment resistance.That's not how it turned out.As the protest dragged on, pizza was ordered for the members of Congress, their aides and reporters in attendance.Frazier approached the cart of stacked boxes and was about to take a slice when she noticed her picture was being snapped. She made a face (Frazier describes it as "goofy") and backed away from the pizza."I don't want my picture taken while I'm eating," said Frazier, 28. "I can go in on pizza."At a media event that offered all the visual excitement possible of a bunch of middle-aged men in suits standing outside a conference room, the image of a woman contemplating pizza tickled Twitter."Y'all I have become a meme. I'm DEAD," Frazier tweeted.Then she went on with her life. But not everyone was ready to. Her picture was featured on CNN. And then it was included in a Weekend Update segment on "Saturday Night Live."She heard from long-lost friends and distant relatives who congratulated her on her career achievements. "I was like, 'WHAT? All this for being hungry?'" Frazier said.Among staffers and committee aides who have been sitting behind their congressional bosses in the current impeachment hearings, cameras have not seized on many goofy faces (nor did committee staffers seize the opportunity to comment for this article)."The staffer has to be a sphinx," said Bash, the former defense department and congressional aide who is now a national security consultant and news commentator."There is no formal training for this role," he continued. "You have to have been raised on the Iran-Contra hearings, the Clarence Thomas hearings, you have to be the kind of person who enjoys flipping to C-SPAN 3 during hours you're supposed to be sleeping."Even before the age of Twitter and iPhones, the inscrutability of congressional aides was the Washington way. Christopher Putala, 58, worked in the 1990s for then-Sen. Joe Biden and staffed dozens of hearings that Biden took part in as a member of the Judiciary Committee. At Putala's first one -- "not a controversial hearing," is all he remembers of it -- there was a moment of levity among the senators and the hearing witnesses. Putala chuckled too."There I was, yukking it up, and Evelyn Lieberman, a communications staffer, came up and whispered in my ear. She lit into me and said in no uncertain terms, 'You are to have no expression. You are to fade into the background.'"Lesson learned. Sort of. Recently Putala came across a Now This video that featured a 1993 assault weapons ban hearing which Biden presided over. Putala spied himself in the background."What am I doing but chewing gum, chomping away," he said.The valor of discretion can be lost on today's youth. When Jessica Sanderson, a lawyer for Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, was preparing to head to Washington to sit behind her client during his impeachment inquiry hearing testimony last month, Sanderson's daughter had one request."She said, 'Mom, you need to do something to become a meme,'" said Sanderson, 51.After Sanderson asked her daughter, a high school senior who was on her school's constitutional law team last year, to explain what exactly that means, she demonstrated a few silly faces that she thought her mother could make during the testimony.Sanderson rejected the suggestions.Still, after Vindman's testimony concluded, Sanderson's phone started to blow up. A photograph of a reporter guzzling coffee during the proceedings was going viral, and guess who was also visible in what became one of the most recognizable photos of the day? Yup."It was the best of possible worlds," Sanderson said. "I was in a meme and I had a straight face."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company


12/07/2019 Naval base shooter investigated for possible terrorism links

Naval base shooter investigated for possible terrorism linksU.S. officials investigating the deadly attack by a Saudi aviation student at a naval air station in Florida were working Saturday to determine whether it was motivated by terrorism. An aviation student from Saudi Arabia opened fire in a classroom at the Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, killing three people. Eight people were hurt in the attack, including the two deputies, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said.


12/07/2019 Iran releases US hostage held for three years as suspected spy in prisoner swap

Iran releases US hostage held for three years as suspected spy in prisoner swapIran has released an American student who has spent the past three years in jail on spying charges in a prisoner swap.Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University graduate student, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted on charges of "spying under the cover of research".


12/07/2019 US citizen Xiyue Wang released from Iranian jail in prisoner swap

US citizen Xiyue Wang released from Iranian jail in prisoner swapChinese-born Princeton student, sentenced to 10 years in prison, exchanged for Iranian scientist Masoud SoleimaniA Chinese-born US citizen sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran on spying charges has been released as part of a prisoner swap.Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang, imprisoned since 2016, was exchanged for Masoud Soleimani, an Iranian scientist arrested at Chicago airport last year and convicted on charges of violating US trade sanctions.Wang was due to fly to the US via Oman and a US military base in Frankfurt, Germany. There had been no prior indication he was due to be released, and he was apparently shocked when he was told the news. He initially travelled to Iran to study Farsi and Iranian history.In a statement, Donald Trump said: “Mr Wang had been held under the pretence of espionage since August 2016. We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr Wang’s release with Iran.”The Swiss embassy in Tehran looks out for America’s interests in the country as the US embassy there has been closed since the 1979 student takeover and 444-day hostage crisis.Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, accompanied Soleimani to Switzerland to make the exchange and will return with Wang, according to a US official who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.The swap took place in Zurich and Hook and Wang were en route to Landstuhl in Germany where Wang was to be examined by doctors, the official said. Hook was expected to return to the US from Germany alone, as Wang was expected to be evaluated for several days.> Senior Administration official says Xiyue Wang is “doing really well” in Germany after State Iran envoy Brian Hook swapped for him in Zurich. Hook and Wang pictured. pic.twitter.com/qS1oz7sE3n> > — Rich Edson (@RichEdsonDC) December 7, 2019Although Hook was present for the swap, the US official said the national security adviser Robert O’Brien played the lead role in negotiations dating from his time as special representative for hostage affairs at the state department.Soleimani – who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine – was arrested by US authorities on charges he violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran. He and his lawyers maintain his innocence, saying he seized on a former student’s plans to travel from the US to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he would pay at home.On Saturday Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported that Soleimani was with Iranian officials in Switzerland. Soleimani was expected to return to Iran in the coming hours. Zarif later posted pictures of himself on Twitter with Soleimani in front of an Iranian government jet and later with the two talking on board.The US regards the swap as a low price for the release of Wang, who has always insisted he is innocent and whose family has described the charges as absurd. He was researching the Qajar dynasty at the time of his arrest in August 2016. Hua Qu, his wife, released a statement saying “our family is complete once again”.“Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” she said. “We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”The Princeton spokesman Ben Chang said the school was aware of Wang’s release.Relations between the US and Iran reached a new low this week with further sanctions slapped on Tehran. A meeting with the remaining signatories of the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) on Friday in Vienna ended with Europeans warning that further breaches of the nuclear deal by Iran would endanger their support.Ironically Britain, with better relations with Iran at least over the JCPOA, is making no progress, at least on the surface, in securing the release of its dual nationals held in Evin prison including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and a retired businessman, Anousheh Ashoori.Both consider themselves hostages captured in a bid to force diplomatic or economic concessions.Other Americans held in Iran include an 81-year-old businessman, Baquer Namazi, who has been held for more than two years and diagnosed with epilepsy.Namazi and his son Siamak Namazi, also a dual national who has been held for more than three years, are serving 10-year sentences after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power.An Iranian-American art dealer, Karan Vafadari, and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Also held is US navy veteran Michael White.The former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing. Iran says Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Wang would soon be able to go home to his family but acknowledged other Americans remain held by Iran.“The United States will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones,” Pompeo said in a statement.


12/07/2019 Belarus crowds rally against closer Russia ties

Belarus crowds rally against closer Russia tiesRoughly 1,000 Belarusians joined an unauthorised demonstration on Saturday against the prospect of a closer union with Russia. Long-time ruler Alexander Lukashenko was meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Russia on Saturday to discuss "key issues in our bilateral relations, including the prospects for deepening integration", according to the Kremlin. Police quickly intervened to oversee the demonstration but made no arrests.