U.K. to Trigger Brexit March 29, Starting Two Years of Talks(Source Bloomberg)Prime Minister Theresa May will file divorce papers to leave the European Union on March 29, launching two years of complex negotiations that will pit the U.K.’s desire for a trade deal against the bloc’s view that Britain must not benefit from Brexit. At stake in the looming talks is whether Britain — the world’s sixth biggest economy — can regain powers over immigration and lawmaking without derailing trade with its largest market or threatening London’s status as the region’s leading financial center. England’s 310-year-old union with HYPERLINK “https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-20/a-toxic-legacy-hangs-over-scotland-s-brexit-war” \o “A Toxic Legacy Hangs Over Scotland’s Brexit War With Theresa May” \t “_blank” Scotland is also in jeopardy, while the border separating Northern Ireland — a U.K. province — from the Republic of Ireland could become a hard one. “I want to ensure we get the best possible deal for the United Kingdom,” May said during a visit to Swansea, Wales. The premier said her goals included getting “a good free-trade deal” with the EU and an agreement to collaborate on security after Brexit. “We are going to be out there, negotiating hard, delivering on what the British people voted for,” she said.
EU Finance Chiefs Distance Themselves From Trump, G-20 on Trade (Source Bloomberg) European Union finance chiefs expressed fear that some governments are trending toward protectionism as they distanced themselves from President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy stance and the Group of 20 nation’s watered-down declaration on free trade. “The G-20 was unfortunately a disappointing meeting because the promise we have given each other in the past is now being taken away by the new U.S. administration,” Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen told reporters on Tuesday on the way into talks in Brussels. “I’m quite concerned that we need to fight harder for Europe to keep up free trade.” After two days of meetings in the German town of Baden-Baden, finance chiefs and central bankers from the G-20 set aside a pledge to avoid protectionism.
Republicans Admit Defeat On Health Care Bill: ‘Obamacare Is The Law Of The Land’ (npr.org) House Republicans scrapped a vote on their health care replacement plan on Friday after defections from both the right and center that made it clear the bill would not pass. “Obamacare is the law of the land. It is going to remain the law of the land,” House Speaker Paul Ryan admitted shortly after he pulled the bill. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future. I don’t know how long it’s going to take us to replace this law.”Ryan may have admitted defeat, but President Trump chalked it up to a “learning experience.” Trump also tried to spin the setback as an opportunity for a potential “bipartisan” bill in the future. “Both parties can get together … and have a better bill,” he said, adding, “Having bipartisan would be a big, big improvement.” But Trump and Ryan both said health care is being put on the shelf for the time being. They’re moving on to tax reform.
FBI has uncovered ‘evidence of treason’ among alt-right websites, says George W Bush’s ethics lawyer (Source independent.co.uk)
The man who served as former president George W Bush’s most senior ethics lawyer has suggested that the FBI is “uncovering evidence of treason” by far right US news websites over their links with Russia. Richard Painter tweeted a link to an article suggesting that the Bureau was looking into news outlets like Breitbart News, InfoWars and the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News, to see whether they HYPERLINK “http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/fbi-breitbart-investigate-alt-right-wing-websites-fake-news-bots-donald-trump-a7641826.html” worked with HYPERLINK “http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/fbi-breitbart-investigate-alt-right-wing-websites-fake-news-bots-donald-trump-a7641826.html” Russian-backed operatives to disseminate HYPERLINK “http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/fbi-breitbart-investigate-alt-right-wing-websites-fake-news-bots-donald-trump-a7641826.html” storie HYPERLINK “http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/fbi-breitbart-investigate-alt-right-wing-websites-fake-news-bots-donald-trump-a7641826.html” s favouring Donald Trump during the presidential election. at times when his campaign appeared to be struggling. Sources told US publisher, McClatchy that online “bots” had created created millions of social media posts linking to articles on the sites, some of which were completely false, while other contained a mixture of fact and fiction. Investigators are now trying to establish whether the websites were complicit with the people managing the “bots” or the operatives were controlling them without their knowledge – which is entirely possible.
Chinese military warns US bomber flying over East China Sea (Source International Business Times)
Beijing issued a warning to a US Air Force bomber when it was flying above the East China Sea on Wednesday (22 March), US officials told multiple media outlets. The bomber was thought to be on a routine mission in international airspace when it was warned by the Chinese forces. The US pilots were told by the Chinese military that they were illegally operating in the airspace when the military aircraft was flying near South Korea. However, the pilots did not deviate from the actual path despite the warning, it was reported. It is still unclear whether it was the US’s Air Force’s same B-1B Lancer bomber, which carried out the sortie above the Korean peninsula as part of the ongoing training exercises with South Korea. China had earlier unilaterally claimed the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea above a hotly contested region, which is claimed by both Japan and South Korea. Beijing’s previous move had sparked sharp responses from both the countries when the step was announced. Though China demands prior notification from aircraft flying in the ADIZ, US and other powers do not recognise the requirement and consider the airspace international. “Pacific Air Forces … did not recognise the Chinese Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) when it was announced in November of 2013, and does not recognise it today. The ADIZ has not changed our operations,” US Pacific Air Forces spokesperson Major Phil Ventura was quoted as saying.
Attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London (Source Yahoo)
A policeman was stabbed, an assailant shot and several people injured on Wednesday close to Britain’s Houses of Parliament in what police said they were treating as a terrorist incident.
Reuters reporters inside the building heard loud bangs and shortly afterwards a Reuters photographer said he saw at least a dozen people injured on Westminster Bridge, next to parliament.
His photographs showed people lying on the ground, some of them bleeding heavily and one apparently under a bus. The number of casualties was unclear. “Officers – including firearms officers – remain on the scene and we are treating this as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
The House of Commons, which was in session at the time, was immediately suspended and lawmakers were asked to stay inside. Prime Minister Theresa May was safe after the incident, a spokesman for her office said. He declined to say where May was when the attack took place. The leader of the House, David Lidington, said in the chamber that an assailant who stabbed a policeman had been shot by police. An ambulance helicopter landed on Parliament Square, just outside the building. The BBC said police believed there was a suspect vehicle outside parliament but police did not immediately confirm that report.
Russians Paid Ex-Trump Security Aide Flynn $68,000 (Source voanews.com) Michael Flynn, the retired Army lieutenant general whom U.S. President Donald Trump ousted as his national security adviser in February, was paid nearly $68,000 by Russian interests in 2015, according to newly released documents. The amount that Flynn received, higher than previously known, largely came from a $45,386 fee he was paid by the Kremlin-funded RT television network. Flynn traveled to Moscow to help promote RT’s 10th anniversary — a trip that included a gala dinner at he was seated at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition, Flynn received two $11,250 payments, one from the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian cybersecurity firm and another from Volga-Dnepr Airlines, a Russian carrier that runs charter flights. The extent of the payments to Flynn added a new chapter into a string of contacts Trump aides had with Moscow in the months before Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election in November, as well as during the transition period before he took office in January. Since then, federal investigators and lawmakers have been poring over documents compiled by the U.S. intelligence community, which concluded that Russia meddled in the election to help Trump defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent. Flynn had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the post-election transition period without advising the administration of former President Barack Obama, who was still in office at the time. Flynn also gave other White House officials a false version of his contacts with the Russian envoy. Flynn’s meetings with Kislyak were discovered through routine surveillance of the ambassador, sources familiar with U.S. intelligence operations have said.
Paul Manafort’s plan to ‘greatly benefit Putin government (Source usatoday.com) President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, The Associated Press has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests. Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work. “We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.” Manafort’s plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear.
The disclosure comes as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI probe and two congressional investigations. Investigators are reviewing whether the Trump campaign and its associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided, and said he never worked for Russian interests. The documents obtained by AP show Manafort’s ties to Russia were closer than previously revealed.
The Russian Navy’s Submarines Are Getting New Torpedoes (And America Should Worry) (Source nationalinterest.org)
The Kremlin’s submarine fleet is starting to receive upgraded torpedoes according to Russian naval officials. The new weapons will equip both nuclear and diesel-electric submarines. However, it is not clear if the Russians are building both 533mm and 650mm versions of the new torpedoes. Russian submarines are often equipped with torpedo tubes of both diameters. “Along with the development of new types of seaborne underwater weaponry, new diesel-electric submarines and nuclear-powered underwater cruisers have been armed with torpedoes featuring improved combat characteristics since 2016.” Rear Admiral Viktor Kochemazov, Russian Navy combat training chief told the Russian media outlet HYPERLINK “http://tass.com/defense/936103” \t “_blank” Red Star according to TASS. “In this sphere, we are not behind NATO countries and are outperforming them by some characteristics.” U.S. Navy sources told The National Interest that the Russian assessment might not be inaccurate. Russian and the Soviet Union before it made excellent torpedoes. Indeed, HYPERLINK “https://news.usni.org/2013/06/20/navy-develops-torpedo-killing-torpedo” \t “_self” Russian-made wake-homing torpedoes—cannot be decoyed by standard countermeasures—are among the threat U.S. Navy planners fear the most. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States Navy has severely neglected anti-submarine warfare and has not paid as much attention to developing modern torpedoes. Essentially, the U.S. Navy took sea-control for granted during the past 25 years. As a result, Russia and other great powers have caught up and may have even exceeded the capabilities of the U.S. Navy’s latest.
Moscow and Beijing join forces to bypass US dollar in world money market (Source South China Morning Post)
Russia’s central bank opened its first overseas office in Beijing on Thursday, marking a small step forward in forging a Beijing-Moscow alliance to bypass the US dollar in the global monetary system.
It was part of agreements made between the two neighbours to seek stronger economic ties since the West brought in sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis and the oil-price slump hit the Russian economy. The opening of a Beijing representative office by the Central Bank of Russia was a “very timely” move to aid specific cooperation, including bond issuance, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism measures between China and Russia, said Dmitry Skobelkin, deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia. Russia is preparing to issue its first federal loan bonds denominated in Chinese yuan. Officials from China’s central bank and financial regulatory commissions attended the ceremony at the Russian embassy in Beijing, which was set up in October 1959 in the heyday of Sino-Soviet relations. Financial regulators from the two countries agreed last May to issue home currency-denominated bonds in each other’s markets, a move that was widely viewed as intended to “dethrone” the US dollar.
The People’s Bank of China, appointed the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China as the yuan clearing bank in Moscow in September, laying the foundations for the issue of yuan bonds in the Russian market. Yi Gang, a deputy governor at the People’s Bank of China, said financial cooperation between the two countries had reached a new high, following an increase in trade deals. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday that Sino-Russian trade ties were affected by falling oil prices but that he saw great potential in cooperation.
Vladimir Shapovalov, a senior official at the Russian central bank, said the two central banks were drafting a memorandum of understanding to solve technical issues around China’s gold imports from Russia, and that details would be released soon.