Shutdown Continues to Cast Shadow Over US Politics 

High-stakes political negotiations began Wednesday in Washington that could determine whether the U.S. government will be plunged into another partial shutdown come the middle of February.

A bipartisan group of Senate and House members will try to craft a compromise on funding border security, the issue at the heart of the 35 day government shutdown that ended last week — the longest in U.S. history.

Negotiators have until Feb. 15 to find a solution or risk the prospect of the government being shut down again.

The government reopened after President Donald Trump and opposition Democrats agreed to work toward a compromise on border security. But as the congressional conference committee began its work Wednesday, Trump sent out a tweet warning the group they were “wasting their time” unless there was discussion of a “wall or physical barrier.”

​Another shutdown?

In announcing the end to the shutdown Friday, Trump warned of more trouble ahead unless he got funding for a border wall.

“We really have no choice but to build a powerful wall or steel barrier,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “The government will either shut down on February 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency.”

But is another government shutdown really politically viable? It seems a lot of Republicans don’t think so, including Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.

“I don’t like shutdowns. I don’t think they work for anybody, and I think they ought to be avoided,” he said.

​Political fallout

Opinion polls found that the public largely blamed Trump and Republicans for the shutdown, and a new survey from Morning Consult and POLITICO found that they would be held responsible for a second shutdown as well.

According to the poll, 54 percent of voters would blame Trump and congressional Republicans for another shutdown, compared to 33 percent who would point the finger at Democrats.

“I hope this serves as a lesson to President Trump and all of my Republican colleagues — no more shutdowns,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said to a gaggle of reporters Tuesday. “President Trump touched a hot, hot stove, and hopefully he won’t do it again.”

Several recent public opinion polls also showed the president’s approval rating dipping below 40 percent in the wake of the shutdown. One survey by the Associated Press found Trump’s approval number had fallen to 34 percent, a big drop from the 42 percent approval it was just the month before.

Turning point?

Several analysts have noted the poll numbers and the fact that Republicans appear to be backing away from the idea of yet another shutdown.

“It looks like we have hit a turning point of sorts. The president severely misjudged the effects of the shutdown on ordinary people,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Nobody in that White House really and truly understood how important federal government functioning was to the whole American economy.”

Some Trump supporters hope the president learned a lesson from the shutdown impasse and they expect him to rebound, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

“I mean, he is fearless in a way that I have seen few people in politics be fearless, and so those are all good points,” Christie said in an interview with ABC’s This Week. “But when you act on impulse and you do not have a plan sometimes, as I think what happened with the shutdown, it does not end well.”

Given the unpopularity of the shutdown reflected in the polls, many Trump supporters now expect the president to declare a border emergency to build the wall if Congress fails to find a compromise by next month. That could lead to court challenges that might tie up the funding issue indefinitely.

“To build the wall was core to his worries about immigration. It was a slogan on the campaign trail,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “This is something that he does not want to be seen as completely capitulating on and that makes it very tough to compromise.”

Positioning for 2020

On the other hand, Kamarck predicted that Trump could weaken his own re-election hopes by continuing his singular focus on pleasing his core supporters.

“This president only speaks to his base. He has not tried in his two years in office to expand his base. That is a disaster for a president because inevitably some of your base is going to peel away,” she said.

The president’s next best opportunity to make his case on a border wall is Tuesday’s State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress and a national television audience.

Republicans and Democrats alike will be listening to see if the president once again invokes the prospect of a government shutdown if he is denied money for his border wall, or whether he indicates that declaring a national emergency would be his preferred course of action.

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ЄСПЛ зобов’язав Росію виплатити громадянам Грузії 10 мільйонів євро

Європейський суд із прав людини (ЄСПЛ) зобов’язав Росію виплатити Грузії 10 мільйонів євро. Влада Грузії має розподілити ці гроші як компенсацію серед громадян країни, депортованих із Росії в 2006 році.

Гроші повинні отримати не менше ніж півтори тисячі людей. Вони отримають від двох до 15 тисяч євро.

ЄСПЛ визнав порушення трьох статей Європейської конвенції – «колективна депортація», «незаконне позбавлення волі» і «нелюдські й такі, що принижують гідність, умови утримання під вартою».

Сума компенсації в 10 мільйонів євро перевищує щорічний обсяг коштів, що виділяються з бюджету Росії на виплати за рішеннями Європейського суду з прав людини.

У 2006 році в Грузії за звинуваченням у шпигунстві заарештували чотирьох співробітників розвідки Росії. Після цього з Росії під приводом порушення візового режиму почали висилати громадян Грузії. Всього, за даними Мін’юсту Грузії, були депортовані майже п’ять тисяч людей. У 2007 році Тбілісі звернувся в ЄСПЛ зі скаргою на ці дії Москви.

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В ООН не комунікували з ОБСЄ щодо «мирного плану Сайдіка» для Донбасу – речник

Речник Генерального секретаря ООН Стефан Дюжаррік не має даних про можливу комунікацію між ОБСЄ та ООН щодо впровадження нового плану для врегулювання конфлікту на Донбасі, відмінний від Мінських домовленостей.

Про це він заявив на прес-конференції 30 січня.

«Звісно, ми бачили інформацію про новий план у пресі. Але мені нічого сказати. Я тільки скажу, в принципі, що ми рішуче підтримуємо керівництво Нормандської четвірки, Тристоронньої контактної групи і, звичайно, ОБСЄ у вирішенні українського питання», – сказав Дюжаррік.

24 січня посередник на переговорах від ОБСЄ Мартін Сайдік озвучив пропозицію замінити Мінські угоди новим мирним планом. В інтерв’ю австрійській газеті Kleine Zeitung він заявив, що мова йде про залучення ООН до проведення місцевих виборів і гарантування безпеки.

Читайте більше: Переговори у Мінську: «мирний план Сайдіка» щодо Донбасу офіційно не обговорювали

Сайдік серед іншого сказав, що потрібен інший документ, який буде мати «справжню політичну і правову вагу», оскільки Мінські угоди так і не були ратифіковані російським і українським парламентами. 

Новий план передбачає серед іншого поліцейську місію ООН і діяльність в Донецькій і Луганській областях агентства із відновленню під егідою Євросоюзу. 

Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської анексії Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці сепаратистів. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці». За даними ООН іще станом на листопад 2017 року, за час конфлікту загинули понад 10 300 людей.

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Venezuela’s Guaido Calls for International Community Support

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is calling on the international community to back his efforts to force embattled President Nicolas Maduro from power and restore democracy to the South American nation.

Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, declared himself interim president last week after the Assembly declared that Maduro’s re-election last May was illegitimate, as most either boycotted the race or were prevented from running. The United States has recognized Guaido as the country’s interim leader.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times Thursday, Guaido said over 50 countries have either recognized him as interim president or the National Assembly as the legitimate authority in Venezuela, and has appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for humanitarian assistance. He says he has begun the process of appointing ambassadors and “locating and recovering national assets tied up abroad.”

Guaido claims he has held “clandestine meetings” with members of the military to convince them to withdraw their support for Maduro, which he says is “crucial to enabling a change in government.”

Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas Wednesday in response to Guaido’s call for a peaceful, two-hour, midday protest “to demand that the armed forces side with the people.” He is offering amnesty to soldiers who back his movement and reject Maduro’s socialist government.

“Mr. Maduro no longer has the support of the people,” Guaido writes.

During an interview with Russia’s RIA news agency Wednesday, President Maduro says he is ready to hold talks with the country’s opposition forces and hold early legislative elections. But he rejected Guaido’s demands to also hold a new presidential election before 2025.

The White House says President Donald Trump expressed his “strong support” for efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela during a conversation Wednesday with Guaido.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump and Guaido also committed to maintaining “regular communication to support Venezuela’s path back to stability, and to rebuild the bilateral relationship” between the two countries.

Trump issued a tweet earlier Wednesday acknowledging Maduro’s offer to negotiate with Guaido, but warned Americans not to travel to Venezuela “until further notice.”

Five foreign journalists have been detained by Venezuelan authorities covering the deteriorating political situation.

A Spanish reporter and a Colombian television producer working for the Spanish news agency EFE were detained Wednesday, a day after the arrest of two French television journalists were arrested in Caracas. Two Chilean television journalists were detained for several hours Tuesday before they were expelled from the country.

The collapse of world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have created an economic and humanitarian crisis in oil-rich Venezuela.

Food, fuel and medicine are in extremely short supply. Inflation is out of control. Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country, and Maduro has shown little tolerance for opposition-led protests.

Maduro has blamed his country’s woes on the United States, which he accuses of working with the opposition to topple the government. He has called world leaders who want him gone “Trump sycophants.”

The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on PDVSA, Venezuela’s government-owned oil company. The sanctions announced Monday will freeze any assets the state-owned PDVSA has in the United States, and bars U.S. firms and citizens from doing business with it.

PDVSA’s U.S.-based subsidiary, Citgo, which refines Venezuelan oil and sells Citgo brand gasoline in the U.S., will continue to operate as usual. But any money Citgo earns will be placed in a blocked account.

Maduro said the United States is trying to “steal” Citgo from Venezuela.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Venezuela can get relief from the sanctions when control of the oil company is turned over to Guaido.

 

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Report: Germany, France, Britain to Create Way to Trade with Iran

Germany, France and Britain have officially set up a European mechanism to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran and circumvent U.S. sanctions, two diplomats said Thursday.

The EU has been preparing the system, in effect a clearinghouse that avoids monetary transfers in dollars between the EU and Iran for months although it is unlikely to become operational for several months because of technical details.

German broadcaster NDR reported that the European Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) would be named INSTEX-Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges.

The idea is for the SPV to help preserve the economic nuclear program under a 2015 deal with world powers.

Small transactions

Europe has been keen to show good faith toward Iran since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal last year. 

The entity is not likely to revive trade with Iran because its focus will primarily be food, medicine and humanitarian, with small transactions. It will not be used for oil-related transactions that have been hit hard by U.S. sanctions.

“It won’t change things dramatically, but it’s an important political message to Iran to show that we are determined to save the JCPOA,and also the United States to show we defend our interests despite their extraterritorial sanctions,” one European diplomat said.

Worsening relations

However, relations between Tehran and the EU have worsened, and the EU this month imposed its first sanctions on Iran since the 2015 deal in reaction to Iran’s ballistic missile tests and assassination plots on European soil.

In a symbolic move, the EU added two Iranian individuals and an Iranian intelligence unit to the bloc’s terrorist list.

EU member states are also finalizing a joint statement on Iran to outline concerns about Tehran’s regional policies and ballistic missile program, but also to show their desire to maintain the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

France and Germany had taken joint responsibility for the SPV. A German banker would head up the vehicle, which would be based in France. France, Britain and Germany will be shareholders and they hope other states will join.

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Запуск російської ракети з британськими супутниками перенесли через «аномалію» в розгінному блоці

Запуск ракети-носія «Союз» з британськими супутниками зв’язку OneWeb перенесуть через дефект у розгінному блоці «Фрегат». Про це повідомив засновник і виконавчий директор британської компанії Грег Вайлер.

«Це правда, є аномалія в ракеті, яка змусила нас перенести запуск. Наші супутники в порядку і готові до запуску», – підкреслив Вайлер.

Він не уточнив дату, на яку перенесено запуск. Раніше він був запланований на 20 лютого.

 

Як повідомило 29 січня російське агентство ТАСС з посиланням на власні джерела, російські спеціалісти працюють над усуненням проблеми. Йшлося про мікроотвір в одному з трубопроводів розгінного блоку. Співрозмовник ТАСС вважає, що дефект міг виникнути внаслідок тривалого транспортування блоку на космодром у французькій Гвінеї.

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US, Russia Nuclear Treaty Talks Fail

Russia and the United States failed to bridge their differences over a landmark Cold War-era arms treaty at last-ditch talks in Beijing, Russia’s deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies Thursday.

The impasse sets the stage for the United States to begin pulling out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) as early as Saturday unless Moscow moves to destroy a missile Washington says is violating the accord.

Moscow has refused to destroy the Novator 9M729 missile, insisting it is fully compliant with the treaty.

“Unfortunately, there is no progress,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency. 

“As far as we understand, the next step is coming, the next phase begins, namely the phase of the United States stopping its obligations under the INF, which will evidently happen this coming weekend,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

Ryabkov met U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson in Beijing on the sidelines of a meeting of the P5 nuclear powers.

Thompson confirmed to Reuters that the U.S. government will likely announce the suspension of its obligations under the INF with Russia soon.

“The Russians still aren’t in acknowledgment that they are in violation of the treaty,” she said in an interview.

Thompson added, however, that “diplomacy is never done” and she anticipated more discussions.

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Attorneys Seek Time, Reject Dismissal of Puerto Rico Debt

Attorneys representing bondholders hit by a recent request to dismiss more than $6 billion of Puerto Rico’s debt have demanded more time to fight the proposal during a federal debt restructuring hearing.

The attorneys said Wednesday that all bondholders need to be alerted and had worries that some would be treated more favorably than others. They stressed the need to reach a consensus on how to proceed.

The hearing comes more than two weeks after a federal control board that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances asked Judge Laura Taylor-Swain to invalidate part of the more than $70 billion public debt, including all general obligation bonds issued in 2012 and 2014. The board alleges the issuance violated debt limits established by the island’s constitution.

Swain has not ruled on the issue.

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