The United Nations emblem is seen in the U.N. General Assembly hall during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
April 23, 2019
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – A U.S. threat to veto U.N. Security Council action on sexual violence in conflict was averted on Tuesday after a long-agreed phrase was removed because President Donald Trump’s administration sees it as code for abortion, diplomats said.
A German-drafted resolution was adopted after a reference to the need for U.N. bodies and donors to give timely “sexual and reproductive health” assistance to survivors of sexual violence was cut to appease the United States.
“It is intolerable and incomprehensible that the Security Council is incapable of acknowledging that women and girls who suffered from sexual violence in conflict – and who obviously didn’t choose to become pregnant – should have the right to terminate their pregnancy,” French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told the 15-member body after the vote.
The language promoting sexual and reproductive health is long-agreed internationally, including in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2009 and 2013 and several resolutions adopted annually by the 193-member General Assembly.
The text adopted on Tuesday simply reaffirms the council’s commitment to the 2009 and 2013 resolutions. A reference to the work of the International Criminal Court in fighting the most serious crimes against women and girls was also watered-down to win over Washington, which is not a member of the institution.
Before the vote, acting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen told the Security Council: “None of us can turn our backs on this issue.”
“It requires the engagement of all member states and of the United Nations to support the efforts of those fighting to protect women, provide accountability, and support survivors,” he said.
RUSSIA, CHINA ABSTAIN
Thirteen council members voted in favor of the resolution, while Russia and China abstained over a number of concerns – including a German push for expanded U.N. monitoring of sexual violence in conflict – and even circulated their own rival draft text, which they did not put to a vote.
“Please do not even try to paint us as opponents of the fight against sexual violence in conflict. Our stance on this issue remains firm and unyielding, this scourge has to be eliminated,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.
The council voted after hearing briefings from Nobel Peace Prize winners Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman who was held as a sex slave by Islamic State militants, and Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, who treats rape victims; Libyan rights activist Inas Miloud and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
“Dark clouds are hanging over the chamber of the Security Council,” South African U.N. Ambassador Jerry Matjila told reporters ahead of the vote, describing it as “a sad day.”
The U.S. threat to veto the Security Council resolution was the latest in a string of moves made by Washington at the United Nations that some U.N. diplomats say has been driven by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who staunchly opposes abortion rights.
Pence’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Cohen did not speak after the council vote.
Washington cut its funding in 2017 for the U.N. Population Fund because it “supports, or participates in the management of, a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.” The United Nations said that was an inaccurate perception.
In 2018 Washington unsuccessfully tried to remove language on sexual and reproductive health from several General Assembly resolutions, then failed in a similar campaign last month during the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Susan Thomas)
U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton is the latest Democrat to jump in the race for the White House.
The Massachusetts lawmaker and Iraq War veteran made the announcement on his website Monday.
Moulton first came to prominence in 2014 when he unseated long-term incumbent Rep. John Tierney in a Democrat primary and went on to represent the state’s 6th Congressional District, a swath of communities north of Boston including Salem, home of the infamous colonial-era witch trials.
Speculation about a possible Moulton run has been simmering as far back as 2017 when he spoke at a Democrat political rally in Iowa, home of the first-the-the-nation presidential caucuses. At the time he brushed aside talk of a presidential run.
Talk of possible run ramped up during last year’s election when the former U.S. Marine helped lead an effort to get other Democrat military veterans to run for Congress — a cause he continues to push.
“16 years ago today, leaders in Washington sent me and my friends to fight in a war based on lies. It’s still going on today,” Moulton said in a recent tweet. “It’s time for the generation that fought in Iraq to take over for the generation that sent us there.”
The 40-year-old Moulton also gained national attention for helping lead an effort within the party to reject Nancy Pelosi as House speaker after Democrats regained control of the chamber. Moulton said it was time for new leadership.
Moulton has also been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump — from foreign policy, including Trump’s recent veto of a resolution to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, to his push for a wall at the southern border.
And when Trump claimed to be the target of the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history,” Moulton responded that “as the Representative of Salem, MA, I can confirm that this is false.”
Despite occasionally differing with some on the most liberal wing of the party, Moulton has staked out familiar policy positions for those seeking the Democrat presidential nomination.
He’s called health care “a right every American must be guaranteed,” pushed to toughen gun laws, was a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, has championed a federal “Green Corps” modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, and has called for an end to the Electoral College.
Money could prove a challenge to Moulton, who has raised $255,000 so far this year and had about $723,000 in his campaign account as of the end of March.
Moulton is now the third political figure from Massachusetts to take a stab at a White House run. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren — a Democrat — and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld — a Republican — are also running.
Source: NewsMax Politics
President Donald Trump on Tuesday vetoed a bill passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
In a break with the president, Congress voted for the first time earlier this month to invoke the War Powers Resolution to try to stop U.S. involvement in a foreign conflict.
The veto — the second in Trump’s presidency — was expected. Congress lacks the votes to override him.
“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump wrote in explaining his veto.
Congress has grown uneasy with Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival.
Many lawmakers also criticized the president for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States and had written critically about the kingdom. Khashoggi went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October and never came out. Intelligence agencies said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was complicit in the killing.
The U.S. provides billions of dollars of arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. Members of Congress have expressed concern about the thousands of civilians killed in coalition airstrikes since the conflict began in 2014. The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country also has left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
House approval of the resolution came earlier this month on a 247-175 vote. The Senate vote last month was 54-46.
Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voted to end U.S. military assistance to the war, saying the humanitarian crisis in Yemen triggered “demands moral leadership.”
The top Republican on the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, acknowledged the dire situation in Yemen for civilians, but spoke out in opposition to the bill. McCaul said it was an abuse of the War Powers Resolution and predicted it could disrupt U.S. security cooperation agreements with more than 100 countries.
Trump issued his first veto last month on legislation related to immigration. Trump had declared a national emergency so he could use more money to construct a border wall. Congress voted to block the emergency declaration and Trump vetoed that measure.
Source: NewsMax Politics
President Donald Trump might initiate a budget sequester and allow $125 billion in cuts for both defense and non-defense spending if Congress does not agree to his 2020 budget, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Thursday, according to The Hill.
“The president has indicated, if the spending caps going all the way back to the 2011 deal are not met, then we will sequester across-the-board, both defense and non-defense, excluding entitlements, but we will run by those rules,” Kudlow told The Hill’s Newsmaker Series event Thursday. “That’s tough stuff. I think that’s appropriate.”
The spending caps must be raised by Congress at the risk of a 10 percent spending cut in 2020, dropping defense spending $71 billion and non-defense spending $54 billion, according to The Hill.
Trump’s 2020 budget sticks to the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA), but $96 billion of defense spending would come from an off-budget account that would have to be approved by Congress, according to the report.
Thus far, Democrats have proposed to increase spending caps by $17 billion for defense and $34 billion for non-defense, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is going to meet with congressional leaders to discuss spending, perhaps outside of Trump’s budget request, per The Hill.
If Trump does not agree to the bipartisan congressional deal that works around his budget, and not with it, he can veto raising the caps, shut down the government, and force the government into sequestration by mid-December, according to the report.
Source: NewsMax Politics
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to hold a news conference after an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Susana Vera
April 11, 2019
By Alastair Macdonald
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Theresa May told fellow European Union leaders that she was taking emergency political measures not seen in Britain since World War Two as she urged them to give her more time to clinch a deal for an orderly Brexit.
People present at Wednesday night’s crisis summit in Brussels said the prime minister appealed to her continental peers to appreciate the significance of her move to launch talks with her Labour opponents, saying the last united front between the two big parties in the fiercely tribal Westminster parliamentary system was when Britain faced a German “blitzkrieg” bombing campaign and invasion threat.
“She explained about the cross-party talks and made the point that, while such cross-party talks are a normal part of democratic life in most member states, it was not the case in the United Kingdom,” said one participant at the meeting.
“And that the last time there was some real cross-party cooperation was during the Second World War.”
Most of the other 27 members of the European Council either lead coalition governments or must deal with other power-sharing arrangements, while cooperation of any sort between Labour and May’s Conservatives in peacetime is vanishingly rare – although May was part of a Conservative coalition with the smaller Liberal party in 2010-15.
“WE’LL MEET AGAIN”
British sources said May had been aware in advance of a need to convince the EU that she had a new strategy for securing the parliamentary majority she needs to ratify an exit treaty she negotiated with Brussels, which British lawmakers have rejected.
In particular, she wanted to explain to veterans of Europe’s compromise-and-coalition politics that her move to open talks last week with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was a “significant undertaking” that held out a promise of finally securing a deal, if the EU extended the Brexit deadline beyond Friday.
Other leaders, who gave May an extension of up to six months to Oct. 31, said they had got the point.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who leads a three-party minority coalition that is propped up by a fourth, came out of the meeting telling reporters that the delay to October was “to give a chance to the new thing that has happened in Britain — where for the first time since World War Two they are having consultations across the political divide”.
Adding to the historical atmospherics, he underlined his belief that the EU leaders have not yet seen the end of the Brexit story by serenading journalists with a whistled version of the 1939 British song “We’ll Meet Again”, a tune that for Britons recalls wartime solidarity and the “spirit of the Blitz”.
“A SERIOUS COUNTRY”
EU officials and diplomats said the new October deadline was a compromise between French President Emmanuel Macron and most others, including Germany, which wanted a longer extension.
But the leaders were also not in fact greatly convinced May’s new plan would work.
For that reason, they were ready to give Britain longer to avoid a disorderly Brexit, aware that May could step down or be forced out, and that new elections or a second referendum on EU membership are all possibilities in the coming months.
One reason Macron gave for preferring to give May only until June 30, as she herself had asked, was his view that Britain under a hardline pro-Brexit successor could disrupt the Union if it stayed in. For that reason, the extension contained clauses obliging Britain to maintain “sincere cooperation” as a member.
May assured her peers that she accepted that, people present said, insisting that Britain did not want to leave in a way that would make it harder to maintain good relations in future.
She took a pointed dig at Conservative rivals, such as anti-EU campaigner Jacob Rees-Mogg, who say Britain could block and veto legislation to hobble the EU if it were not able to leave immediately, according to one participant in the summit.
“She also … made the point that the United Kingdom was a serious country,” the source said, “and we should not get distracted by some non-members of the government who seem to be trying to create the opposite impression.”
(Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London and Teis Jensen in Copenhagen; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after an extraordinary European Union leaders summit to discuss Brexit, in Brussels, Belgium April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
April 11, 2019
By Michel Rose, Andreas Rinke and Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The ‘De Gaulle moment’ that many had speculated about before Wednesday night’s Brexit summit did not come, but President Emmanuel Macron still lived up to the spirit of the post-war French leader by throwing his weight around the EU table.
Macron may not have used his veto, but his dogged determination to block a one-year extension to Britain’s divorce talks with the EU, favored by a majority of European leaders, irritated many in Brussels – and chiefly Germany.
That could signal a new willingness to challenge Angela Merkel’s moral leadership in Europe as the German chancellor nears the end of her reign and France grows impatient with what it sees as her tendency to procrastinate.
Unusually, the EU’s two most powerful leaders failed to reach a Franco-German compromise at their bilateral meeting in Brussels before the summit with the other EU leaders started, diplomats said.
Macron was therefore left to fight a largely solo battle to convince his counterparts that giving Britain an extra year to make up its mind was too risky for EU institutions, and would send the wrong message about respecting popular votes.
French officials said Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain and Malta were sympathetic to Macron’s view – but others privately expressed irritation with what they saw as Gallic grandstanding.
“It probably has more to do with internal French politics,” a German diplomatic source said. “Maybe it is seen as important to contradict the Germans and be nasty to the Brits. In the end, it does not help Macron.”
At the end of the day, a typically European compromise to extend the Brexit talks to Oct. 31 – neither long nor short – was hatched. But on Thursday morning, Germany’s irritation burst into the open.
“A longer Brexit extension would have been better!” tweeted Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a member of Merkel’s party. “But Macron prioritized his own election campaign and interests over European unity.”
NO ‘SPLENDID ISOLATION’
Macron said after the summit that he was ready to stand alone if that meant preserving the EU’s ‘common good’:
“I make no apology for being clear. I think it’s also France’s role in these moments to try and stick to principles.”
In what could be seen as bid to reclaim the mantle of EU leadership, he alluded to France’s role in launching the European integration project after World War Two – without mentioning President Charles De Gaulle’s veto of Britain’s accession in 1961.
A French diplomatic source said Macron was not content with face-saving compromises with Germany, but wanted to work with others such as the Dutch, Danes and Swedes to get his way.
“We’re not after a leadership of isolation – splendid isolation if you will – but after a leadership that can rally others around us,” the source said.
Macron feels Merkel’s tendency to avoid making decisions until the last minute – which France thinks had disastrous effects during the euro zone crisis – is counter-productive in the Brexit process.
He argued that EU leaders should not try to keep Britain in and so undo the result of its 2016 referendum, saying it would send the wrong message to voters in next month’s European Parliament elections who are tempted by populists vowing to oust unelected technocrats ignoring the will of the people.
One senior EU official said it had been a bad night for French diplomacy and that Macron, having pushed hard for a short extension, had been forced to compromise.
“He wants to show that the French president has a strong say. Maybe he fears that the European Parliament elections will show that France is more eurosceptic than Britain. In any case, it was ill-prepared,” the official said.
France and Germany, former enemies who lost millions of lives in wars in the last century, form the backbone of the historic, integrationist core of the European Union and their relationship remains vital to bloc’s future.
The French president needs Berlin’s support if he is to succeed in deepening cooperation on matters ranging from border control and immigration to European defense and fiscal policy.
Yet with Merkel’s power diminished as she heads toward the exit, Macron himself preoccupied by months of “yellow vest” protests against his economic policies, and Europe distracted by Brexit, the momentum for reform that he had sought is largely lost.
Moreover, Paris and Berlin are at odds on a wide range of subjects.
“Franco-German relations are in a troubled period,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. He cited differences on euro zone reform, relations with the United States, EU defense policy and tax rules for the digital economy.
“More broadly, France wants Europe to be a power and therefore believes it needs radical reform,” Grant said. Germany is quite happy with the way the EU works at the moment.”
Yet differences between Paris and Berlin are nothing new, and the summit’s Brexit compromise showed that the classic fudge still had its place in EU diplomacy.
“Everything goes more smoothly when France and Germany are aligned,” an EU source said. “But in the end, this was very much a Franco-German compromise, in the best tradition of Franco-German cooperation.”
(Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Brussels and Luke Baker and Richard Lough in Paris; writing by Michel Rose; Editing by Richard Lough and Kevin Liffey)
FILE PHOTO: Net neutrality advocates rally in front of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ahead of Thursday’s expected FCC vote repealing so-called net neutrality rules in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo
April 10, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a bill on a 232 to 190 vote to reinstate landmark net neutrality protections adopted in 2015, but the effort faces an uphill battle to become law.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday the bill that would reverse the Federal Communications Commission December 2017 repeal will be “dead on arrival,” and the White House said aides would recommend President Donald Trump veto the bill that would reinstate rules barring providers from blocking or slowing internet content or offering paid “fast lanes.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May leave after a meeting to discuss Brexit, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
April 10, 2019
By Elizabeth Piper and Gabriela Baczynska
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will grant Prime Minister Theresa May a second delay to Brexit at an emergency summit on Wednesday but the bloc’s leaders are likely to demand she accepts a longer extension with conditions.
In a sign of just how far the Brexit crisis has sapped British power, May dashed to Berlin and Paris on the eve of the summit to ask Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron to allow her to put off the departure date to June 30 from April 12
But in Brussels, a “flextension” until the end of the year or until March 2020 was shaping up to be the most likely option, EU diplomats said. Such an option would allow Britain to leave earlier if the Brexit deadlock in London could be broken.
While it was not immediately clear what Merkel and Macron, Europe’s two most powerful leaders, agreed with May, an advance draft of conclusions for Wednesday’s emergency EU summit said Britain would be granted another delay on certain conditions.
“The United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardize the attainment of the Union’s objectives,” read the draft seen by Reuters.
As a full member state of the EU, Britain could in theory exercise a veto on any major policy decision.
The draft left the end-date blank pending a decision by the other 27 national leaders on Wednesday evening in Brussels.
“In my view, a short extension would not bring much,” said Detlef Seif, deputy EU spokesman for Merkel’s parliamentary group. “There is no appetite to return to a new European Council every six weeks to decide whether to renew the extension.”
In European capitals there was weariness and exasperation with Britain’s tortuous Brexit divorce after 46 years of membership.
“People are tired and fed up (with Britain’s indecision) – but what to do?” one EU diplomat said. “We won’t be the ones pushing the UK off the cliff edge.”
Another EU official involved with Brexit said no European power wanted the chaos that they fear a “no-deal” exit would sow through financial markets and the EU 27’s $16 trillion economy.
Nearly two weeks after Britain was originally supposed to leave the EU, May, the weakest British prime minister in a generation, has said she fears Brexit might never happen as she battles to get a divorce deal ratified by a divided parliament.
After her pledge to resign failed to get her deal over the line, she launched crisis talks with the opposition Labour Party in the hope of breaking the domestic deadlock.
But when she arrives in Brussels, May will is unlikely to be able to trumpet any breakthrough with Labour. After Tuesday’s round of talks, Labour said it had not yet seen a clear shift in May’s stance.
The Northern Irish party which props up her government said May was embarrassing the United Kingdom.
“Nearly three years after the referendum the UK is today effectively holding out a begging bowl to European leaders,” Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds said.
An official in Macron’s office said that “in the scenario of an extended delay, one year would seem too long for us”.
He added that if Britain did delay its exit, it should not take part in EU budget talks or in choosing the next president of the EU’s executive commission – and that the other 27 member states should be able to review its “sincere cooperation”.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
As House Democrats prepare to vote on legislation this week to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules, the White House is indicating that President Donald Trump would veto the bill if it reached his desk.
The bill would restore regulations that prohibit internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or from selling “fast lanes” to give certain sites preferential treatment. The Republican-led FCC repealed many of the net neutrality rules in 2017, setting off a battle in the courts, Congress and a number of state houses over what the rules of the road should be for internet providers.
The Office of Management and Budget issued a statement on Monday opposing the Democratic bill, the Save the Internet Act. The OMB said the legislation “would instead return to the heavy-handed regulatory approach of the previous administration and undo the FCC’s action that restored the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to investigate and take enforcement action against unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive acts or practices committed by broadband providers.”
If the bill clears the House, it faces uncertain prospects in the GOP-controlled Senate. A Trump veto wouldn’t be much of a surprise, as he has promoted his administration’s regulatory rollbacks and tapped Ajit Pai to serve as FCC chairman. He opposed the Obama-era FCC’s adoption of the net neutrality rules in 2015, and championed the repeal of most of the regulations.
Source: NewsMax Politics