UK officially leaves EU after 47 years of European membership – World – TASS

LONDON, February 1. /TASS/. After 47 years of European membership, the United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union at 23:00 GMT (2:00 Moscow time on Saturday).

The withdrawal, known as Brexit, was initiated after Britons voted to quit the European Union during the 2016 referendum. The margin was 1.3 million votes (52% versus 48%).

Thousands of Brexit supporters celebrated the withdrawal by gathering in downtown London. Brexiteers have gathered in Parliament Square to celebrate the historic moment, chanting and waving flags. Governmental buildings were illuminated with national flag colors – blue, red and white.

An hour before this turning point in the UK’s political history, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ardent Brexit supporter, delivered his address to the nation.

Flag removed

Earlier in the day, the flag of the United Kingdom has been removed from the building of the EU Council. The video of the flag being removed was released via the Council’s official Twitter shortly before midnight.

“The UK flag is removed from the EU Council building in Brussels as the country leaves the EU at midnight,” the EU Council said in a Twitter post.

Premier’s speech

After quitting the European Union, the United Kingdom will finally “rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation shortly before Brexit.

“For all its strengths and for all its admirable qualities, the EU has evolved over 50 years in a direction that no longer suits this country. And that is a judgment that you, the people, have now confirmed at the polls,” Johnson said.

“I believe that with every month that goes by we will grow in confidence not just at home but abroad,” he continued. “And in our diplomacy, in our fight against climate change, in our campaigns for human rights or female education or free trade we will rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades.”

According to the premier, in order to achieve those ambitious tasks, the country needs to overcome the differences, generated by the Brexit issue.

“Tonight we are leaving the European Union. For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss. And then of course there is a third group – perhaps the biggest – who had started to worry that the whole political wrangle would never come to an end,” he said.

The premier went on to say that finding a common ground for all political and social groups was his cabinet’s task.

“I understand all those feelings, and our job as the government – my job – is to bring this country together now and take us forward,” he said. “And the most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama.”

Johnson expressed hope that constructive dialogue with the European Union would continue.

“We want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain,” he said.

After January 31, the UK and the EU enter a transition period meant to maintain the existing state of affairs, particularly on trade and tariffs, while the two sides are negotiating a deal on future trading relations. The transition period is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020. London is also obliged to continue paying membership fees to the EU budget until the end of 2020.

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In the wake of Brexit, turns out racism is a very British thing

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On Brexit day, CBBC shared a video clip from its Horrible Histories programme on Twitter. Comedian Nish Kumar introduced the clip, which was intended to be a lighthearted history of “British things” aimed at children.

Unfortunately, some flag-waving Brexit fans didn’t respond too well to being told that tea, sugar, and cotton aren’t really British. Kumar received a racist backlash from people who clearly aren’t big on history:

Ooh Nish Kumar is trending. Let’s take a l-

*a tsunami of gammon washes through the screen

English supremacists are literally losing their shit at Nish for telling them where tea, sugar & cotton actually come from.

😂✊🏾❤pic.twitter.com/qqcUK93Zyf

— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) January 31, 2020

Even the likes of BBC presenter Andrew Neil joined in the pile-on. Meanwhile, blame for the video’s “anti-British” message fell squarely on Kumar, despite the fact that Kumar only introduced the clip. In fact, the clip itself has been around for a while and wasn’t even made for Brexit:

Interesting that nobody had an issue with this song when it was first shown in 2009… It’s almost as if they have a problem with Nish Kumar, not the message? 🧐 https://t.co/TZ2tieyXlX

— oh look another fool (@ElenaBjxrn) January 31, 2020

Your racism is showing

Much as many people at Brexit Day celebrations might argue that they aren’t racist, just proud of being British, their true colours keep showing. And they are, quite frankly, disgusting:

Nish Kumar was born in Wandsworth.

— rufa ratae (@rufaratae) January 31, 2020

it only ended slavery by spending a king’s ransome by buying off slave owners, learn some history before opening yer cake ‘ole https://t.co/10fp91wnRT #bloodyknowalls

— John Boocock (@JohnBoocock) January 31, 2020

Clearly, Brexit has emboldened those with racist views, which is obvious from the spike in racially-motivated hate crime in recent years. So the far-right leanings of some celebrating Brexit Day come as no surprise:

this is moment we left the EU last night from within parliament square. amongst 1000s of ppl there were sizeable pockets of far-right. lads with swastika neck tattoos, ppl singing “oh tommy tommy”+deification of nigel farage. a big moment that felt a little like a tipping point. pic.twitter.com/eX8jGyqiYm

— Ben Smoke (@bencsmoke) February 1, 2020

“Make Britain Great Again”

The nationalist lines of ‘getting our country back’ and ‘making Britain great again’ has an eerie echo of the Trump-supporting MAGA crowd in the US:

Peak Leavers’ interview. Watch and weep. 😖🇪🇺 pic.twitter.com/gQsGLeZQME

🕷Mrs Miggins Esq (@MrsMigginsHere) January 31, 2020

Sadly, Kumar’s experience of racism in the wake of Brexit isn’t the only one. It’s just more visible because of its public nature. Meanwhile, everyday experiences of racism for People of Colour carry on in Brexit Britain:

A friend posted this on another social media platform, left overnight in her neighbourhood. pic.twitter.com/CuFHgr7uTn

— Dorothy Lepkowska (@DotLepkowska) January 31, 2020

Those celebrating Brexit are doing so because they got what they wanted. But if they want me or Kumar to go back to where we came from, there’s bad news. Britain may have left the EU, but people like us aren’t going anywhere.

Featured image via YouTube/CBBC

By Afroze Fatima Zaidi

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CPAC chair: Mitt Romney ‘NOT invited’ to upcoming event after Senator votes for witnesses

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Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s decision to side with Democrats and vote for witnesses in the impeachment trial earned him much criticism and now a dis-invitation.

The Utah lawmaker was “formally not invited” to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, referred to as CPAC, after his stunt in a Senate vote Friday when he voted in favor of hearing from witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial.

“The ‘extreme conservative’ and Junior Senator from the great state of Utah, @SenatorRomney is formally NOT invited to #CPAC2020,” American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a mocking tweet on Friday.

The conservative conference scheduled for the end of the month will feature Trump as the keynote speaker.

BREAKING: The “extreme conservative” and Junior Senator from the great state of Utah, @SenatorRomney is formally NOT invited to #CPAC2020. pic.twitter.com/f35tYy73V1

— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) January 31, 2020

Romney and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republicans who voted with Democrats on Friday in the failed attempt to allow additional witnesses to be heard in the trial. The final vote of 51-49 shot down a weeks-long Democratic effort to hear witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton and others, and set the stage for a final vote to acquit the president next week.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were ultimately the swing GOP votes, sticking with the party and voting against the effort while Democrats began to discredit the process as a “sham.” Romney, who is not up for reelection until 2024, was roundly condemned for bucking the party though some, like Utah’s Republican senior Senator Mike Lee did come to his defense.

Mitt Romney is a good friend and an excellent Senator. We have disagreed about a lot in this trial. But he has my respect for the thoughtfulness, integrity, and guts he has shown throughout this process. Utah and the Senate are lucky to have him.

— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) January 31, 2020

Lee is a frequent CPAC attendee as is Romney who has spoken at the annual conservative gathering in the past, including in 2013, following his 2012 failed presidential bid. It was not clear if the former Massachusetts governor was even planning to attend this year’s event which will include Diamond and Silk, Candace Owens and California Rep. Devin Nunes as speakers as well as conservative commentator Mark Levin, and Brexit leader Nigel Farage.

CPAC and Schlapp were slammed by some Twitter users for the rebuke of Romney and display of “cancel culture” politics.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 31, 2020

oh what a calamity how will Mitt ever be able to carry on https://t.co/7vsYOPzEuh

— George Conway (@gtconway3d) January 31, 2020

— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) January 31, 2020

CPAC has turned into an alt right clown show. I’m sure Mitt could care less.

— Marylou Culkar (@MarylouCulkar6) February 1, 2020

But many others on Twitter were happy to see the Utah senator get called out.

I am so disappointed in Romney. What a traitor and I don’t use that loosely. Trump supported him completely in his bid for the senate. Romney has done everything to betray Trump. I never would have believed it but there it is.

— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) January 26, 2020

— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) February 1, 2020

Epic Burn. 🔥🤣

I am going to CPAC because my dreams became memes.

And I didn’t betray the president 40 times.

— Carpe Donktum🔹 (@CarpeDonktum) January 31, 2020

Good riddance… It’s about time Mitt Romney be held accountable for his actions.

Not sure why he’d want to be at #CPAC anyway, he’s no longer a conservative. https://t.co/KtXVM1tWZY

— Jason Lewis (@LewisForMN) February 1, 2020

Good! He’s NOT a Republican!

Senior Staff Writer

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.

Latest posts by Frieda Powers (see all)

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Sir Nigel Farage? Prospect of knighthood for Brexit Party leader provokes joy & horror on Twitter

car person

The prospect of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage receiving a knighthood in the UK’s New Year Honours list has been met with a mixture of delight and dismay in equal measure on social media.

According to the UK government’s website, the annual list “recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people” across the country. One lucky recipient of such an honor could be Farage, who is rumored to be in line for a knighthood, primarily for his long-running campaign to see Britain leave the European Union.

Also on rt.com

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage campaigns in Hartlepool, December 11, 2019.
Victory for Brexit, but not Brexit Party: Farage says he’s ‘comfortable’ with winning no seats in UK election

The thought of such a prestigious accolade for the 55-year-old politician has, perhaps quite predictably, caused ructions on social media. An avalanche of comical memes and gifs have been tweeted by his allies and detractors.

Many of Farage’s supporters have come out to praise his contribution to the Brexit debate with some suggesting that the UK would “still be waiting for a [EU] referendum” without him.

Yes Yes Yes, Marvelous.
Arise Sir Nigel.😉🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧👍 pic.twitter.com/ADp3K1BUam

— dave (@NorthBankDave1) December 23, 2019

Stand Up Sir Nigel Farage #NigelFarage . He has selflessly fought for British Democracy for over 25 years. #SirNigelFarage pic.twitter.com/pqeLuIwOLh

— Ken Shakesby (@ken_shakesby) December 23, 2019

A number of his critics appeared dumbfounded that such a title for the arch Brexiteer could even be contemplated. One person tweeted that if he is knighted then she’ll be having her “own Brexit and leaving the UK!!!”

pic.twitter.com/bHbqHhJpFp

— Tracy O’Shea (@TracymOshea) December 23, 2019

How is that even a question? He has achieved nothing! pic.twitter.com/cSVm54LDj9

— Lauren Rose 🌹 (@RedLeftie) December 23, 2019

The New Year Honours list consists of knights and dames, appointments to the Order of the British Empire, and gallantry awards to servicemen and women, and civilians. Individuals are nominated by UK government departments and members of the public with the Queen informally approving the list.

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Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History | Art Practical

Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History

The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1

Arthur Jafa

Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are  “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.

Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.

astronaut

Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.

Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?

Christine Wertheim

Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.

The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:

“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”

The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.

Greek Islands

Sun & Sea (Marina), Lithuanian Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram

The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.

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Interest rates: Powell tells Congress federal debt is ‘unsustainable’

Powell: U.S. debt is ‘on unsustainable path,’ crimping ability to respond to recession

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers Wednesday that the ballooning federal debt could hamper Congress’ ability to support the economy in a downturn, urging them to put the budget “on a sustainable path.”

Powell suggested such fiscal aid could be vital after the Fed has cut its benchmark interest rate three times this year, leaving the central bank less room to lower rates further in case of a recession.

“The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt,” Powell told the Joint Economic Committee. “Over time, this outlook could restrain fiscal policymakers’ willingness or ability to support economic activity during a downturn.”

Powell also reiterated that the Fed is likely done cutting rates unless the economy heads south.

“The outlook is still a positive one,” he said. “There’s no reason this expansion can’t continue.”

The testimony marks a more aggressive tone for Powell, who generally has steered clear of lecturing lawmakers on the hazards of the federal deficit. But after raising its key rate nine times since late 2015, the Fed has lowered it three times this year to head off the risk of recession posed by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a sluggish global economy.

Those developments have hurt manufacturing and business investment while consumer spending remains on solid footing.

The Fed’s benchmark rate is now at a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, above the near-zero level that persisted for years after the Great Recession of 2007-09 but below the 2.25% to 2.5% range early this year.

“Nonetheless, the current low-interest-rate environment may limit the ability of monetary policy to support the economy,” Powell said.

Noting the Fed has lowered its federal funds rate an average 5 percentage points in prior downturns, Powell said, “We don’t have that kind of room.” He added, “Fed policy will also be important, though,” if the nation enters a recession. Fed officials have said they still have ammunition to fight a slump, including lowering rates and resuming bond purchases.

Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit hit $984 billion in fiscal 2019, the highest in seven years, and it’s expected to top $1 trillion in fiscal 2020. The federal tax cuts and spending increases spearheaded by Trump have added to the red ink and are set to add at least $2 trillion to the federal debt over a decade. The national debt recently surpassed $23 trillion.

“The debt is growing faster than the economy and that is unsustainable,” Powell said.

He added that a high and rising federal debt also can “restrain private investment and, thereby, reduce productivity and overall economic growth.” That’s because swollen debt can push interest rates higher.

“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path would aid in the long-term vigor of the U.S. economy and help ensure that policymakers have the space to use fiscal policy to assist in stabilizing the economy if it weakens,” Powell said.

He added, “How you do that and when you do that is up to you.”

Many economists are forecasting a recession next year, though the risks have eased now that the U.S. and China appear close to a partial settlement of their trade fight and the odds of a Brexit that doesn’t include a trade agreement between Britain and Europe have fallen.

Powell also said the Fed is unlikely to reduce interest rates further unless the economy weakens significantly – a message he delivered after the central bank trimmed its key rate for a third time late last month.

“We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate” as long as the economy, labor market and inflation remain consistent with the Fed’s outlook, Powell said.

Since last month’s Fed meeting, the government has reported that employers added 128,000 jobs in October – a surprisingly strong showing in light of a General Motors strike and the layoffs of temporary 2020 census workers.

“There’s a lot to like about today’s labor market,” Powell said. He noted the 3.6% unemployment rate, near a 50-year low, is drawing Americans on the sidelines back into the workforce. And while average yearly wage growth has picked up to 3%, it’s lower than anticipated in light of the low jobless rate. Inflation, he said, remains below the Fed’s 2% target.

“Of course, if developments emerge that cause a material reassessment of our outlook, we would respond accordingly,” Powell said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tried to coax the Fed chief into weighing in on the potential economic impact of “a massive tax increase,” which some analysts say could be required by several Democratic presidential candidates’ proposals for universal health care or free college tuition.

“I’m particularly reluctant to be pulled into the 2020 election,” said Powell, a Republican and Trump appointee who has been repeatedly attacked by the president for not cutting interest rates more sharply.

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Scottish Labour leader calls for clarity on Brexit

BBC
Image caption Richard Leonard was speaking to the Sunday Politics Scotland programme

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said his party should have a clear policy to remain in the EU.

Speaking on the Sunday Politics Scotland programme, he said “clarity” was need before Labour put its case to voters.

The Scottish government has, meanwhile, asked for further funding to cope with a possible no-deal Brexit.

The UK government said money would be available where Scotland faces disproportionate costs.

In his television interview, Mr Leonard called for Labour to say its preference was to remain in the European Union.

“We recognise there are parts of the UK – and the overall result was to leave,” he said.

“But I do think that we need clarity in our position.

“So you would expect me to be arguing, as I am, that means we need to be clearer in our position going into any public vote.”

Mr Leonard added: “The Scottish Labour party took a decision frankly in the wake of the European party election results that we needed to be much clearer, that we needed much greater clarity about the position that we were taking.

“For that reason the Scottish executive of the Labour party backed my proposal that we call for an affirmative vote that any deal should go back to the public; secondly, that on that vote there should be a remain option; and thirdly, that we would campaign unambiguously for remain.”

Contingency fund

His comments came as the Scottish government said more money would be needed if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.

It has requested £52m from a contingency fund to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Money from the EU Exit Operational Contingency Fund has been made available ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union on 31 October.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay reiterated the Scottish government’s opposition to any form of Brexit.

He also asked that additional costs associated with it are met including those beyond the end of next month.

Mr Mackay said: “The UK government now seems to be actively pursuing a ‘no-deal’ outcome which is utterly unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs.

“We have requested £52m from the UK government’s fund to help us prepare for a ‘no-deal’ outcome.

“This is the minimum requirement for operational activity but the real costs of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will massively outweigh these and further funding will be required.”

‘Disproportionate costs’

He also said leaving the EU was not Scotland’s choice and called for any related costs to be covered by the UK government.

Mr Mackay added: “The Scottish government should not have to cut spending on public services to fund Brexit preparations.

“As a responsible government, we are already taking steps to protect jobs and our economy from a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and we will set out those plans to parliament shortly but we are facing additional and disproportionate costs to mitigate the impact of such an outcome.

“We will continue make the case for staying in the EU and will stand firm against efforts to take us out against our will.”

The request includes funding to support the effect of no-deal on rural communities, increased demand on Marine Scotland and Police Scotland activities, additional communication to EU citizens in the country, and poverty mitigation measures.

‘Supporting a deal’

A Scottish Conservatives spokesman said: “In 2016, the UK electorate voted to leave the EU.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives have worked to prevent no-deal by supporting a deal.

“The SNP were given £92m for our councils to prepare for Brexit.

“Yet there is no evidence Scottish local authorities have received anything at all.”

It comes after Scotland’s chief economist on Friday predicted a potential £2bn loss of investment because of Brexit.

Forecasts up to April 2020 in the Scottish government’s quarterly State of the Economy Report show £500m of investment could be wiped out if uncertainty continues with the figure rising by the end of the year.

A spokeswoman for the UK government said: “We have allocated the Scottish government nearly £140m in funding for EU exit preparation.

“We will consider the Scottish government’s further bid under the £1bn Operational Contingency Fund in the usual way.”

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John Humphrys to host his final Today programme

Image caption John Humphrys in the Today programme studio

Broadcaster John Humphrys is to present his final edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

The presenter’s departure will bring to a close his 32 years on the flagship show, during which time he built a reputation as a tenacious interrogator of politicians.

His last show will feature interviews with former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair.

There will also be tributes from presenters past and present.

“Losing John in the mornings is a bit like Big Ben being silenced,” said Today editor Sarah Sands.

“I will miss his restlessness, his capacity for delight, his profound curiosity and his humanity.”

Humphrys has interviewed every prime minister on the programme from Margaret Thatcher to Theresa May, but has not grilled Boris Johnson since he came to power.

Sands joked that Mr Cameron, who is likely to be grilled about his decision to call the 2016 Brexit referendum, said he was coming on Thursday’s programme “to make sure he got the old bugger out of the building”.

“He doesn’t let go,” Sands said of Humphrys on Radio 4’s The Media Show. “He’s a terrier, so I think you should expect something exciting.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHumphrys announced his departure earlier this year

Yet Humphrys does more than just give politicians a tough time, she added. “John is rather caricatured in that way,” she said. “He’s capable of that style of interviewing [but] he’s supple as well.”

Mr Blair will take part in a discussion about political interviewing.

Today will continue with four main presenters – Justin Webb, Mishal Husain, Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson – and will not directly replace Humphrys.

The 76-year-old will continue to present Mastermind on BBC Two.

Before joining Today in 1987, Humphrys worked as a BBC foreign correspondent in both the US and Africa, as a diplomatic correspondent and as a presenter of the Nine O’Clock News.

On the daily Radio 4 morning news programme, he became known for pinning down political leaders and public figures. On occasion, his interviewing style incurred the ire of both politicians and listeners.

Image caption Humphrys will stay behind the Mastermind host’s desk

When he announced his departure in February, Humphrys said: “I love doing the programme. I have always enjoyed it. That’s the problem. I should have gone years ago. Obviously I should have gone years ago.”

He is Today’s longest-serving presenter and has been one of the corporation’s highest earners.

His salary in 2016-17 was between £600,000-649,999, but he took a pay cut and went down to £290,000-£294,999 in 2018-19.

In a tribute in the Radio Times, Justin Webb said: “There are plenty who don’t like him, who think he’s gone on too long, who want him ‘pensioned off’ or ‘put out of his misery’ or whatever the phrase is they use to suggest that being a man in his 70s on air is somehow an affront.

“Most of these folks would see themselves as impeccable anti-sexists and anti-racists, but ageism is alive and well and apparently deeply acceptable in the anti-John movement.”

Image caption Humphrys after interviewing Tony Blair in 2005

Webb also told the magazine: “John doesn’t give a stuff what you think of him. He is bemused when Jon Snow of Channel 4 News talks of his followers online. Why would John want followers?

“John wants enemies, or at least for respect, when it is paid, to be paid only grudgingly.”

Speaking on Desert Island Discs in 2008, Humphrys said he did not think most politicians deliberately told lies on the programme.

But he said: “I do start with the assumption that they are there for their benefit, rather than necessarily for the benefit of the audience. And it’s my job often to try to get them to be a bit more candid than perhaps they intended to be.”

Image caption Humphrys with co-host Sue MacGregor in the Today production office in 1993

Six of Humphrys’ most memorable (and controversial) interviews

  • He said his first interview with a prime minister – with Margaret Thatcher in 1987 – was “a truly scary prospect”. But he showed his knack for getting insights into politicians’ characters when he asked about the link between her Christian faith and her politics. “How can you express unselfish love if you have no choice?” she said. “The fundamental choice is the right to choose between good and evil.”
  • Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken accused Humphrys of “poisoning the well of democratic debate” in 1995 after saying he had interrupted Chancellor Kenneth Clarke 32 times. But Humphrys got support from other ministers and the Daily Mail, which called him “one of the most brilliant journalists in the country”. The next time Clarke appeared on Today, Humphrys gave him a calculator to count how many times he was interrupted.
  • Labour director of communications Dave Hill spoke publicly of “the John Humphrys problem” after the presenter’s robust confrontation with social security secretary Harriet Harman about plans to reduce payments to single mothers in 1997.
  • An early-morning three-minute interview with correspondent Andrew Gilligan in 2003 led to a confrontation between the BBC and the government. Gilligan said he had been told by a reliable source that a government dossier about the threat from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been deliberately “sexed up”. This ultimately led to the suicide of the source, Dr David Kelly, and the resignations of Gilligan, the BBC director general and the BBC chairman.
  • Humphrys hastened the downfall of another director general, George Entwistle, in 2012 with a interview about how Newsnight wrongly implicated a former Conservative deputy chairman in a child abuse scandal. Entwistle, who struggled badly and appeared out of his depth, resigned soon afterwards.
  • Humphrys got into hot water for a leaked off-air exchange about the BBC’s gender pay gap with North America editor Jon Sopel in 2018. It followed the resignation of Carrie Gracie as BBC China editor over pay inequality. In what Humphrys described as a “jokey” exchange, he asked Sopel about “how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her”.

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Boris Johnson

africa

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Boris Johnson has emerged as the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after a leadership contest and could prove to be as divisive a figure in Britain as President Trump is in the United States.

Around the world, Johnson, Britain’s gaffe-prone former foreign secretary,has in the past caused raised eyebrows and outrage with his outspoken comments.
But it is in Africa, in particular, that he has shocked many with language considered to be racist and offensive.
Johnson, who was a member of the British Parliament at the time he made some of these comments in 2002, apologized while on the campaign trail for the London mayoral elections in 2008.
Johnson said at the time that he “loathed and despised,” racism as he stood for elections in one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
“I do feel very sad that people have been so offended by these words and I’m sorry that I’ve caused this offence,” he was quoted as saying in a local media report at the time.
Below are some of Johnson’s comments about Africa.

‘The big white chief’

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Johnson made the remarks in an outlandish 2002 Daily Telegraph article, where few people were spared.

‘Not in charge anymore’

What Boris Johnson has to say about Africa - CNN
In a Spectator 2002 column titled, ‘Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism,’ he wrote: “It is just not convincing, 40 years on, to blame Africa’s problems on the ‘lines on the map’, the arbitrary boundary-making of the men in sola topis.”

‘Aids-ridden choristers’

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Writing in the same 2002 Spectator article, he also described meeting some young children with AIDS who performed a welcome song for Johnson and his group. He has come under fire for his insensitive description of the children.

‘Flag waving piccaninnies’

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Writing in his column in the Daily Telegraph on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visits around the world, he used the term “piccaninnies,” which is a racist term used to describe black children.

‘Ancestral dislike’

What Boris Johnson has to say about Africa - CNN
Johnson wrote a column in the British Sun newspaper in 2016 questioning why former President Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and attributed it to his “ancestral dislike.” The Obama administration was forced to write a blog post to address several rumors circulating about the bust’s removal.

‘The bicycle guy’

With his unruly mop of white-blond hair and bumbling personality, Boris Johnson is not exactly a forgettable figure.
But Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta struggled to recall his name during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Nairobi last year.
His mind went blank as he struggled to recall the former UK foreign secretary’s name. He then referred to Johnson as “the bicycle guy.”
Because of their combative history, May could be forgiven for indulging in a moment of schadenfreude: Johnson had been one of her fiercest political rivals and he resigned from her Cabinet over disagreements over her Brexit strategy.
As he embarks on a post-Brexit world where shoring up trade interests with Commonwealth countries will be paramount, Britain’s next Prime Minister appears to have his work cut out for him in impressing African leaders.

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Russia and 2020 Elections

One week after Robert Mueller’s testimony shined a spotlight, once again, on election interference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat. The leader turned heads on the Senate floor Monday as he rose to decry critics who have dubbed him “a Russian asset” and “Moscow Mitch” for stonewalling congressional measures to improve election security. And with momentum building in the House to formally start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the pressure is unlikely to let up anytime soon.

Focusing on election interference from 2016 is backwards thinking, though, at least according to Virginia Senator Mark Warner. With 2020 just around the corner, he tells WIRED—in an exclusive interview—that the upcoming election is where both parties need to direct their attention right now.

As the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has long been a vocal proponent of new legislation to strengthen election protections, such as the Honest Ad Act, which would compel Silicon Valley firms to disclose when political ads are paid for by a foreign nation. He’s also behind a bill that would require campaigns to alert federal officials if they’re approached by a foreign operative offering information or other assistance. Both bills have bipartisan support—Senator Susan Collins became the first Republican to cosponsor the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act earlier this week.

Even as GOP leaders try to position election security as a partisan issue, Warner—a former governor of Virginia and a cofounder of the firm that eventually became Nextel—has maintained the respect of his colleagues across the aisle. But his frustration seems to be growing, especially now that Trump has tapped Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be his next director of national intelligence. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has already come out opposed to Ratcliffe, Warner tells WIRED he’s still got some patience left. Even if it’s wearing thin.

This transcript is slightly edited for length and clarity.

WIRED: After Mueller testified, the president and Republicans say case closed. What do you make of that?

Mark Warner: I’m not here to relitigate 2016, or the Mueller testimony, specifically. I would point out, out of the Mueller investigation: 37 indictments, the president’s national security adviser pled guilty. The president’s campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s deputy campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s chief political adviser is coming to trial in the fall, Roger Stone. The attorney general had to resign. There were literally hundreds of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

That’s not normal. And I think the biggest takeaway from the Mueller testimony was that the Russians who attacked us in 2016 are still attacking us and, in Bob Mueller’s words, on a daily basis. You combine that with the warnings from Trump’s own FBI director [Christopher Wray] and Trump’s own director of national intelligence [Dan Coats]. And one of the things that concerns me the greatest is that we’ve not done more to protect the integrity of our election system in 2020.

I was just talking to your [Intelligence Committee] cochair, Senator [Richard] Burr, and he was saying the states in 2018 weathered these attacks, the national infrastructure is good on election security. Basically, case closed, again, not much more is needed.

I think everyone picked up their game in 2018, including the Department of Homeland Security, and our intelligence community was more active as well. But the intelligence community’s own reporting was that Russia didn’t throw its full force of efforts in 2018. Chances are they’ll reserve those for the presidential election. So I think there is some low-hanging fruit that would get 75 votes on the floor of the Senate—if we could get these bills to the floor of the Senate.

I think there ought to be an affirmative obligation that if a foreign government, the Kremlin, offers you campaign help, your obligation ought to be not to say thank you, but to report to the FBI. I think we ought to make sure that every polling station in America has a paper ballot backup, so that if a machine was hacked, you’ve still got ability to protect the integrity of the voting system. And I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t think we need some basic guard rails around the manipulation of Facebook, Twitter, and Google by foreign entities and others. So at least there ought to be the requirement that if somebody advertises on a political basis on Facebook, but in truth it’s a foreign government, they ought to have the same disclosure requirements as somebody who advertises on radio or television.

Isn’t it a little bit ironic that in this highly digital era, we’re going back to paper ballots?

I think we need to make sure that we use the best technology, but if technology, as we see from banks this week, can continue to be hacked into, if voting machines are not as protected as needed, if the private companies who control the voter files could have their information moved around … You don’t need to change votes to cause chaos. I think people’s overall confidence in the system goes up if there is that back check of having a paper ballot backup. Again, this is not saying we wouldn’t still use voting machines, but across the election community everyone believes it’s safer if you have that paper ballot backup that goes along with the voting counting machines.

And now we know we’re getting attacked, cybersecurity is on the top of many minds. And then the president this week announced he’s nominating Representative John Ratcliffe to be DNI, who seems like more of a politician and a Trump supporter than someone from the intel community. Does that worry you?

It worries me greatly. The irony is that Donald Trump’s appointees in the intel world—his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; his director of the FBI, Chris Wray, his director of the CIA, Gina Haspel—have been pretty good about speaking truth to power, even when Trump did not want to hear the truth. They’ve been very good at not allowing America’s intelligence to get politicized—while I’m going to give Mr. Ratcliffe the courtesy of a meeting, I fear that he is being appointed in the mold of a Bill Barr, the attorney general, who basically is simply a loyalist first to Donald Trump and doesn’t maintain that kind of independence.

If there’s ever been a time when everyone says that Russians and others will be back, when we’ve got as many potential conflict spots around the world, we need to make sure that the head of our national intelligence is not going to politicize the intelligence. That intelligence product goes to our military, it goes to the executive, it goes to us in the Congress. It cannot be a political product. And we’ve got to make sure that the intelligence community is going to be willing to speak truth to power, and that means telling Donald Trump the truth, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. And so far it appears to me that Mr. Ratcliffe, who doesn’t have much experience and who seems—based upon press reports—that his audition was based on questioning Mueller and questioning the legitimacy of the Russian’s intervention in our electoral system, is pretty chilling.

What do you see as the biggest threats—or are there any new threats—facing America in 2020?

So I think there are a couple of new threats. One, Russia in 2016 was surprised at how vulnerable our systems were, our electoral systems. And how easy Facebook and Twitter and YouTube were to be manipulated. So I think that playbook is now out there, they’ve used the same tactics in the Brexit vote [and] the French presidential elections. So my fear is we may not only see Russia, we can see Iran, we could potentially see China, who has a great deal of control over a number of their Chinese tech companies, start to use these tools because they’re cheap and effective. I like to point out that if you add up all Russia spent in the Brexit vote, the French presidential elections, and the 2016 American elections, it’s less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane. So Russia and our adversaries, I think, have decided the way to engage with us in conflict is not through straight up old-school military but through cyber activities, misinformation and disinformation, increasingly trying to weaken and interfere, for example with our space communications, and I think Russia will up their game … and others … [It] means there will be more adversaries in 2020.

Second is, I think in 2016 we saw Russia try to misrepresent—the Russian agents misrepresent themselves as Americans on Facebook and Twitter by simply posting fake messages. The next iteration, the next generation of that will be the so-called “deepfake” technology, where an American may not be able to view what his eyes are telling him, because you’ll see an image of you or me or a political figure that may sound like that person but isn’t that person at all.

Now, if McConnell doesn’t allow some of these bills, like the Honest Ads Act or just broader election security bills, to come up, what do you think the Silicon Valley tech firms can do on their own?

Look, we’ve seen progress made by Facebook, Twitter, some progress made by Google. But I don’t think self-regulation, particularly when a regulation may mean they may not be collecting as much information as they like, or self-regulation may mean they have to go against or limit some of the fake content. It goes against their very business model. So I think Facebook has made progress in particular, but some of the tools they have—for example, the ability to access on an easy basis the campaign ads that they promised, that tool is not effective at all.

So at the end of the day, when we’re talking about something as critical as protecting the integrity of our democracy, when Americans lack faith in so many of our institutions to start with, if we don’t go the extra mile and put in place a set of rules and regulations—and god forbid should Russia or Iran or another foreign enterprise massively interfere again—and we didn’t do our duty, then shame on all of us.

This week, two fairly senior Senate Democrats called for impeachment proceedings to begin. Where are you on that? We started this conversation with you saying you don’t want to relitigate 2016, but it seems like there’s this growing chorus amongst Democrats to impeach.

I actually think Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has navigated that challenge very well. I understand the frustrations with President Trump—his activities and tweets and antics. I think, though, the best way we can show that that’s not who we are as Americans is to defeat him at the ballot box in a free and fair election. And what I worry about is if we don’t guarantee that free and fair election, then we haven’t done our job.


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