English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For October 16/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 14/22-33: “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on October 15-16/2020

MoPH: 1550 new coronavirus cases, 2 deaths
US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850, selling price at LBP 3900
Schenker Meets Lebanese Officials after Israel-Lebanon Talks
Berri meets Schenker, UN's Kubis, British ambassador
Jumblatt tackles developments with Schenker
Report: Schenker to Meet Aoun Friday
Report: Aoun Did not Veto Hariri’s Re-designation
Lebanon: Aoun Delays Parliamentary Consultations to Resolve Christian Obstacle
Lebanon: New Withdrawal Limits on Local Currency Stir Confusion
Ferzli: I Expect Hariri to Maintain Majority Thursday
Geagea Again Calls for Early Parliamentary Elections
Lebanon's Annus Horribilis
In Rudderless Lebanon, Revolutionaries Drift Apart
Setbacks and Subtle Victories: One Year of Lebanon Protests
Lebanon-Israel maritime talks do not have to stop at the border/Hanin Ghaddar/Al Arabiya/October 15/2020
October 17, Lebanon’s Path to Salvation/Hanna Saleh/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 15/2020
A Chance For Reform in Lebanon/Hussein Ibish/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 15/2020
Lebanon is being forced to relive its traumas/Kareem Shaheen/The National/October 15/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on October 15-16/2020

Video from the Washington Institute/A Conversation with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud
Humanitarian crisis looms over Nagorno-Karabakh
Harris suspends travel after staffer tests COVID-19 positive
Greece lodges protest against Turkey for delaying foreign minister’s plane
France warns Turkey of EU sanctions over ‘provocations’ in Mediterranean
Yemen Warring Sides Begin Hard-won Prisoner Swap
Kyrgyzstan President Jeenbekov Announces Resignation
Hassan Inspects Pharmacies, Drug Depots that were Smuggling Medicine
Watchdog Urges Sanctions over Civilian Deaths in Syria's Idlib
US VP nominee Harris suspends travels after staffer tests positive for COVID-19
Hackers launch large-scale attack on key Iranian institutions: Official
US blacklisting harms Sudan’s path to democracy: Sudanese PM


Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 15-16/2020

Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Kadhimi should put the killers of protesters on trial/Zana Gulmohamad/Al Arabiya/October 15/2020
Artificial intelligence has been key to fighting coronavirus – it can do more too/Munib Mesinovic/Al Arabiya/October 15/2020
An Election Not Like the Others in America/Robert Ford/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 15 October, 2020
The Real 21st Century Property Baron Doesn't Live in Mar-a-Lago/Shuli Ren/Bloomberg/October, 15/2020
Too Many Ships Could Swamp America's Military/James Stavridis/Bloomberg/October, 15/2020
Capitalism Caused Climate Change; It Must Also Be the Solution/David Fickling/Bloomberg/October, 15/2020


The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on October 15-16/2020

MoPH: 1550 new coronavirus cases, 2 deaths
NNA/October 15/2020
1550 new coronavirus cases and 2 more deaths have been recorded across the last 24 hours in Lebanon, according to the Ministry of Public Health's daily report on Thursday.

US dollar exchange rate: Buying price at LBP 3850, selling price at LBP 3900
NNA/October 15/2020
The Money Changers Syndicate announced in a statement addressed to money changing companies and institutions Thursday’s USD exchange rate against the Lebanese pound as follows:
Buying price at a minimum of LBP 3850
Selling price at a maximum of LBP 3900


Schenker Meets Lebanese Officials after Israel-Lebanon Talks
Associated Press/October 15/2020
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met Thursday with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, a day after Lebanon began indirect negotiations with Israel over their disputed maritime border.
Schenker, the top American diplomat for the Middle East, did not speak to reporters after his meeting with Berri. Berri has been the main Lebanese official dealing with U.S. mediators regarding the dispute with Israel over the past decade. Schenker later met with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat in Clemenceau. On Wednesday, Schenker attended the opening session of U.S.-mediated talks between Lebanon and Israel in a U.N. compound in the border area known as Ras Naqoura. A joint statement released Wednesday by the U.S. State Department and Jan Kubis, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, said the Israeli and Lebanese teams "held productive talks and reaffirmed their commitment to continue negotiations later this month." Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometers of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their own exclusive economic zones. Israel has already developed a natural gas industry elsewhere in its economic waters, and Lebanon hopes oil and gas discoveries in its territorial waters will help it overcome the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.
Lebanon's economic crisis is the result of decades of corruption and mismanagement, but has been dramatically worsened by the coronavirus pandemic as well as a massive blast in Beirut on Aug. 4, which killed and wounded many and caused damage worth billions of dollars.
Schenker visited Beirut after the blast and met members of Lebanon's civil society. He did not hold talks with politicians at that time. The international community has said it will not help Lebanon get out of its economic crisis before it implements major reforms, on top of fighting corruption. President Michel Aoun was scheduled to hold binding consultations with members of parliament on Thursday to name a new prime minister, but postponed it for a week at the last minute.A top candidate for the post was former Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He resigned in October last year, days after nationwide protests broke out demanding an end to the rule of the political class that's brought the country to the verge of bankruptcy. On Wednesday, Hariri failed to win the backing of the two largest Christian blocs in parliament.


Berri meets Schenker, UN's Kubis, British ambassador
NNA/October 15/2020
House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Thursday received at his Ain El Tineh residence U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, and Diplomat John Desrocher. On emerging, Schenker left Ain El-Tineh without making any statement. Speaker Berri also met with UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis. This afternoon, Berri received British Ambassador to Lebanon, Chris Rampling.

Jumblatt tackles developments with Schenker
/October 15/2020
Progressive Socialist Party leader, Walid Jumblatt, on Thursday received at his Clemenceau residence U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker, accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, in the presence of Democratic Gathering MP Wael Abu Faour.
Discussions reportedly touched on the general situation and the current developments.

Report: Schenker to Meet Aoun Friday
Naharnet/October 15/2020
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker is expected to meet with President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace during his four-day visit to Beirut as part of Lebanon’s historic sea border talks with Israel, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. Schenker had met ًWednesday with Maronite Patriarch Beshara el-Rahi in Bkirki. He declined to make any statement to reporters afterwards. Also on Wednesday, Schenker, and American Ambassador John Desrocher who serve as the U.S. mediators for these negotiations, attended indirect talks between Lebanon and Israel to demarcate their disputed maritime borders at the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura. The American officials mediated the talks that both sides insist are purely technical and not a sign of any normalization of ties.

Report: Aoun Did not Veto Hariri’s Re-designation
Naharnet/October 15/2020
After President Michel Aoun’s decision to postpone the binding parliamentary consultations, the President reportedly reiterated “support” for the designation of ex-PM Saad Hariri, noting that the consultations to name a PM were postponed to ensure a swift formation of a government, MTV station reported Thursday. “Aoun received phone calls from several heads of parliamentary blocs (Wednesday evening) asking him to postpone the consultations. Aoun sought, together with the upcoming PM-designate, to give a better opportunity for the French initiative to succeed,” the station said, quoting sources close to Aoun. The sources reportedly assured that Hariri enjoys Aoun’s support. “Aoun does not have a veto on Hariri. Everything being said in that regard is not realistic. Aoun is working on securing a better cover for Hariri,” according to the sources. They went on saying that the President is “keen on preparing the right atmosphere for a swift formation of a government facing a reform program which must be agreed upon.” Late on Wednesday, the Presidency issued a statement saying that President Michel Aoun postponed the consultations to name a new premier to October 22.

Lebanon: Aoun Delays Parliamentary Consultations to Resolve Christian Obstacle
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 15 October, 2020
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has decided to postpone the binding parliamentary consultations, which were scheduled to be held this Thursday, until Oct. 22, upon the request of some parliamentary blocs, a statement by the presidential office said. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun contacted Speaker Nabih Berri and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri before announcing the decision, stressing the need to resolve a new obstacle, represented by the rejection of the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement to designate Hariri to head the new government. In response, both Berri and Hariri said they were against delaying the consultations. Contacts over the past days have reflected a positive atmosphere surrounding the government formation process, with a Sunni consensus over Hariri’s nomination and the support of independent Christian figures, the Marada Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), as well as Amal Movement. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, sources in Hariri’s Al-Mustaqbal party said that the former premier did not set any conditions for his appointment, adding that he was a natural candidate for the post. The sources added that Hariri has called for cooperation among all parties “to help the country overcome the crisis.” “All efforts should be combined to benefit from the last opportunity to save the country by adopting the French initiative,” they emphasized. Ongoing political talks are focusing on the need to form a transitional government that would implement reform steps to save the country from collapse within a period of six months, while postponing thorny issues, such as the national defense strategy and Hezbollah’s weapons. “Thus, Hariri requests mutual facilitation from all sides to implement these steps,” Al-Mustaqbal sources said.

Lebanon: New Withdrawal Limits on Local Currency Stir Confusion
Beirut - Ali Zeineddine/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 15 October, 2020
News circulated on Wednesday about limits set by banks for cash withdrawals on Lebanese pounds of up to LBP2 million per month, which is equivalent to around USD250 in the parallel market.
For extra spending, depositors will be allowed to use their electronic cards, which also have limits that vary according to the nature of the bank account. More than 300,000 public sector employees have their full salaries transferred from the Central Bank to their bank accounts at the end of each month.
The same applies to the private sector, where workers have been suffering from reduced pay of up to 50 percent. In both sectors, employees have a tendency to withdraw all their salaries to meet their basic needs on one hand, and ahead of possible decline in the currency’s exchange rate and its purchasing power on the other. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that in response to the new regulations imposed by Banque du Liban (BDL), some bank administrations have given verbal instructions to their branches to set new limits on withdrawals in lira not exceeding LBP2 million per month, regardless of the amount available in the depositor’s current account. However, BDL Governor Riad Salameh was swift to deny fixing a limit. He stressed that the mechanism adopted by the central bank was aimed at setting limits for banks to withdraw from their current accounts at the BDL.
When these limits are exceeded, the required amounts are deducted from the banks’ frozen accounts, he added. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, a banker noticed an explicit discrepancy in the new regulation. He said that while the governor has denied setting limits on depositor accounts, the withdrawal limits imposed on the banks would force them to apply the same regulations on their customers. “Current LBP accounts belonging to banks are insufficient to meet the daily demands for LBP,” he explained. “Any technical measure to control liquidity will be ineffective and have limited and temporary effects,” the banker stated, adding: “Putting new pressure on the already deteriorating monetary system will generate bad and unwanted repercussions on people's livelihoods.”

Ferzli: I Expect Hariri to Maintain Majority Thursday
Naharnet/October 15/2020
Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Elie Ferzli voiced “surprise” on Thursday at the President’s decision to postpone the binding parliamentary consultations to name a new PM for crisis-hit Lebanon. “The atmospheres were positive on the eve of consultations,” Ferzli told VDL (93.3) radio station, adding that the “postponement was a surprise.” “I have no clue what happened in the final minutes before they were postponed,” added Ferzli. Late on Wednesday, the Presidency issued a statement saying that President Michel Aoun postponed the consultations to name a new premier to October 22. Aoun took the decision “at the request of some parliamentary blocs, after difficulties emerged.” it said. Ferzli said despite the delay in talks, he “expects ex-PM Saad Hariri to maintain the support of the majority to retain the post as Premier designate.” Hariri emerged again as a candidate for the post last week during a show on MTV station. Earlier this week, he tasked a delegation of his Mustaqbal Movement with holding talks with political blocs to ensure they are still fully committed to the French initiative of President Emmanuel Macron. The Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement expressed reservation on designating Hariri.

Geagea Again Calls for Early Parliamentary Elections
Naharnet/October 15/2020
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Thursday renewed his call for organizing early parliamentary elections as a way out of the political crisis. “Day after day, it becomes evident, through tangible and categorical evidence, that with this parliamentary majority and this ruling group, there is no hope to resolve anything,” Geagea tweeted. “The only solution is early parliamentary elections,” he added. His remarks come a day after President Michel Aoun postponed binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier.


Lebanon's Annus Horribilis
Naharnet/October 15/2020
Even for crisis-torn Lebanon, this has been a horrible 12 months. A deep economic crisis sparked huge street protests and then a massive explosion in August devastated the capital Beirut. Now without a fully functioning government after its interim premier resigned, here is a recap of key developments since mass demonstrations erupted in October 2019:
Hariri out
October 17: Mass protests follow a government announcement of a planned tax on messaging services such as WhatsApp. With the economy already in crisis, many see the tax as the last straw, with some demanding "the fall of the regime".
The government of Saad Hariri scraps the tax. But the unrest turns into a nationwide revolt against the perceived ineptitude and corruption of the ruling class, cutting across sectarian lines. October 29: Hariri's government resigns, prompting celebrations in the streets.
Foreign aid appeal rebuffed
December 11: France, the US and other countries rebuff an urgent aid appeal from Lebanon at a Paris conference, making assistance conditional on a new reform-minded government. The economic crisis worsens with mass layoffs, drastic banking restrictions and the Lebanese pound plummeting against the dollar.
New premier
December 19: President Michel Aoun names little-known academic Hassan Diab, backed by powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah, as premier.
Protesters condemn the appointment and demonstrators and security forces clash violently in January, leaving hundreds wounded. January 21: The Diab government is unveiled, made up of a single political camp, the pro-Iranian Hezbollah and its allies, the Free Patriotic Movement and Amal, which together have a parliamentary majority. Demonstrators respond by blocking roads in mainly Sunni districts across the country. February 11: Parliament votes in the new line-up. Hundreds of protesters try to block the session. Clashes leave more than 370 injured.
Country defaults
March 7: Lebanon, whose debt burden was equivalent to nearly 170 percent of GDP, says it will for the first time default on a $1.2-billion Eurobond.
Later that month, it says it will discontinue payments on all dollar-denominated Eurobonds. April 30: After three nights of violent clashes in second city Tripoli, Diab says Lebanon will seek help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Currency plunges
June 11: New protests erupt after the Lebanese pound hits a new low on the black market. The currency plunge comes amid shop closures and massive layoffs due to the coronavirus.
June 29: Talks with the IMF falter.
August 3: The government begins to unravel with foreign minister Nassif Hitti resigning.
Catastrophic explosion
August 4: A massive explosion at Beirut's port devastates the entire city, killing more than 200 people, injuring at least 6,500 others and leaving hundreds of thousands temporarily homeless. The government says the blast appears to have been caused by a fire igniting 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left unsecured in a warehouse for six years.
Fresh protests
The blast inflames popular anger, with more calls to oust the political elite, accused of gross negligence that led to the explosion. New protests are held under the slogan, "Hang them by the noose."A group of protesters led by retired army officers briefly take over the foreign ministry, declaring it the "headquarters of the revolution" before being ousted.
Government resigns
August 6: French President Emmanuel Macron visits Beirut and calls for "deep changes" to the way the country is run. Three days later, the international community pledges $300 million in emergency aid. August 10: Diab announces resignation of his government after just over seven months in power.
New premier goes
August 31: Diplomat Mustapha Adib is named as Lebanon's new premier and vows to carry out reforms demanded by the international community and agree a deal with IMF. September 1: Macron lands in Beirut, extracting a promise from all political sides to help Adib form an independent crisis government within two weeks. September 26: Adib bows out after less than a month as the two main Shiite parties, Hezbollah and Amal, insist on keeping the finance ministry.
Hariri comeback? -
Macron says he is "ashamed" of Lebanese leaders, who have "betrayed" their people. October 8: Hariri says he would be willing to come back and head a new government. Talks to name a new premier are scheduled for October 15.

In Rudderless Lebanon, Revolutionaries Drift Apart
Agence France Presse/October 15/2020
When Lebanon's protest movement erupted in October 2019, Jennyfer, Teymour and Dayna marched in the same euphoric crowd, united in their determination to bring down their corrupt leaders. A nightmarish year -- which saw Lebanon's economy go into tailspin and a cataclysmic explosion destroy swathes of Beirut -- has left the three young people with different outlooks on life and country. Lebanon is now suffering though one of the darkest periods in its chaotic history, and soaring poverty combined with a seemingly inexorable brain drain make for a bleaker future yet. Faced with this reality, advertising executive Jennyfer Harb gave up on change, entrepreneur Teymour Jreissati went looking for it abroad, while writer and activist Dayna Ayyash stayed to fight the good fight. Their diverging trajectories illustrate the challenges facing an activist movement that was born with a bang but fizzled out as a series of crises drained it of much of its revolutionary energy.
'Why keep fighting?'
When protests broke out in Beirut on the evening of October 17 over a new tax on WhatsApp calls, Jennyfer was leaving a movie theatre, wearing a dress shirt she had picked for a work presentation. "We looked around us and saw fires," the 26-year-old told AFP from her Beirut home, which was damaged by the deadly August explosion.She ran home to change and rushed back out to joint the protests. "I didn't understand anything at the time but it felt so good to be in rage," she said. Jennyfer stopped going to work for two months to stay on the streets all day. "It was a beautiful dream -- the dream of a new beginning, of something better," she said. Then Lebanon's worst economic crisis in decades started to bite and the fatigue set in. "I became so consumed," she said. "I could not keep up with all this activism." After the August 4 port blast -- Lebanon's worst peacetime disaster, widely blamed on state negligence -- Jennyfer hoped for a second wind to the street activism. But only a few days after surviving the explosion, Jennyfer said she was badly beaten by army troops while protecting a child from their batons. "At that moment it hit me," she said.
"They are so powerful that they could shut you up," she said of a ruling elite that is seemingly oblivious to domestic and foreign pressure for change.
"Why keep fighting?"
Leaving Lebanon
For exactly 292 days, by his own count, Teymour Jreissati put everything in his life on hold to help organise a protest group. The 33-year-old handed over the management of the furniture company he had spent 10 years building to his business partner. "I barely saw my children," he said. He converted his Beirut office into a daily meeting spot for protest leaders to plan the next move. Teymour was on the streets almost every day, even when the crackdown turned heavy-handed. He started receiving warnings from the security services and threats from political party loyalists. "We will stab you in the back and you won't know where the knife came from," Teymour said, quoting one of the phoned-in threats. Then came a more chilling warning, which broke his resolve, he said: "We know were your son goes to school." With the economic collapse also killing his business, by June Teymour was planning his move to France.
He and his family moved to Nice just one week before the port blast disfigured Beirut and killed five of his friends. "Not a single human being should be living what the Lebanese people are living," he said.
'We're still going'
When the streets erupted on October 17 last year, Dayna was out in a flash. "It was righteous, unadulterated rage," said the 31-year-old founder of the activist group Haven for Artists. "Finally that tight knot in my throat wasn't just in my throat, it was around everybody's throats, eliciting this reaction."
Within two days she would shift from just participating in rallies to helping blockade a main Beirut flyover -- a moment she said challenged the "illusion" that the system in Lebanon was untouchable. "It was so much power given back to us," she said. In the months that followed, Dayna became a known figure in protest circles. She worked relentlessly to champion all the causes that found new impetus in the Lebanese "revolution" -- including the rights of women, domestic migrant workers and the LGBTQ community. "What marked me is realising that I'm not the only one who thinks we have a lot to fight for" she said. Reflecting on the lost momentum of the anti-government protest movement, Dayna argued that many activists had shifted their energies into emergency relief efforts after the blast. She rejected the suggestion that the protest movement as a whole had been snuffed out. Dayna insisted that her determination was unwavering and that every new crisis hitting the country was a new reason to keep on fighting. "We cant say what it's going to take for us to give up because they have done a lot to us and we are still going."

Setbacks and Subtle Victories: One Year of Lebanon Protests
Agence France Presse/October 15/2020
Lebanon's protest movement has made some important gains since it burst out onto the streets a year ago, even if its revolutionary fever has died down.
Demonstrations that erupted last October 17 over a planned tax on calls made via messaging apps quickly evolved into an unprecedented nationwide uprising against political leaders viewed as inept and corrupt. Politics in multi-confessional Lebanon is dominated by former warlords from the 1975-1990 civil war who have exchanged their military fatigues for suits, or were replaced by relatives. The cross-sectarian protest movement initially generated hope of sweeping changes, and less than two weeks later the government resigned under street pressure. But a grinding economic crisis and measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus combined to take the wind out of the "revolution" camp's sails, before a cataclysmic explosion at Beirut's port on August 4 sparked a brief street revival. The cabinet, in power for just over seven months, resigned over the port catastrophe, and a new government has yet to be appointed. But activists insist change is underway, even though the traditional ruling class is still firmly entrenched. Political leaders have been heckled and shamed inside shops and restaurants over the past year, and are aware of the growing tide against them. "They are afraid of being targeted by demonstrators and have disappeared" from public places, said political scientist Ziad Majed. He hailed the protest movement for sparking "a change in mentalities" towards a more secular approach to politics, even as Lebanon's confessional system remains in place.
'Accelerating effect'
Since the protests erupted, citizen-powered media initiatives have gained a boost as an alternative to mainstream Lebanese outlets that are mostly funded by or aligned with one of the country's political leaders. Megaphone, a largely volunteer-run online platform founded in 2017, is among the most prominent.
It was created to counter "the hegemonic media discourse that is controlled by political money or political interest," said Jonathan Dagher, an activist and journalist who volunteers at the organisation. Some structures that formally operate outside the state's ambit have also started to undergo changes.
The Beirut Bar Association, long controlled by representatives of ruling parties, elected independent candidate and protest sympathiser Melhem Khalaf as its president last November. The protest movement has also had an impact on policy decisions. Parliament passed two major anti-corruption laws this year -- a significant move for a body usually mired in political deadlock. "The protest movement as well as international pressure had an accelerating effect," former MP Ghassan Moukheiber said. And in a major victory, the World Bank announced last month that it was cancelling a loan to fund a dam in Lebanon that environmentalists and activists said could destroy a valley rich in biodiversity. Meanwhile, some politicians' rhetoric has clumsily tried to align with the street, largely due to mounting international pressure as they seek a financial bailout for Lebanon to stem its economic crisis. Threats of Western sanctions against individual players have caused some alarm among the hereditary political class that now ostensibly supports calls for a secular civil state. Demonstrators have long demanded such a move, railing against a confessional system of politics that distributes posts according to sectarian affiliation.
Revolutions 'take time'
Lebanon's political barons are widely accused of decades of nepotism and corruption, and many blame what they see as incompetence for the August 4 explosion. Authorities say the blast was caused by a vast stock of ammonium nitrate that caught fire after it languished at the port for years.
After the explosion, protesters hanged cardboard cut-outs of the political elite from mock gallows in a display of rage. They included an image of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah -- a gesture almost unthinkable even 12 months ago.
"Revenge, revenge, until this regime reaches an end," protesters chanted. Politicians largely stayed out of public view in the wake of the blast, avoiding visits to the disaster site or hard-hit neighbourhoods. International donors who pledged millions in blast aid to Lebanon have said that funds would bypass the government and go directly to the population and to NGOs. Historian Carla Edde said the movement that began last October marked a "historic turning point". Revolutionary movements "generally take time" to succeed, but "it is not only a question of time," she warned. Without a solid leadership that becomes institutionalised in politics, lasting change will remain a pipe dream, she said. Dagher, the activist and journalist, said the defenders of the cause were aware of the challenge. "We know the size of the regime we are facing, the size of the monster, we know what we're up against," he said. "It will take time."

Lebanon-Israel maritime talks do not have to stop at the border
Hanin Ghaddar/Al Arabiya/October 15/2020
The Lebanon-Israel border talks show that Hezbollah is under pressure. They could lead to more concessions.
According to the Lebanese presidency, the first round of negotiations between Lebanon and Israel on maritime border demarcation are "technical" and specific to maritime border demarcation. A statement was released on Tuesday to assure the Lebanese that these negotiations are merely about a technical demarcation of the borders, and would not be translated in any concessions to the international community, or in any type of normalization with Israel.
However, the mere fact that Lebanon has finally accepted to sit at the table with Israeli officials – after years of stalling – means that pressure is seriously mounting on the Hezbollah-led government and these negotiations could be the beginning of a series of concessions. The trick is to continue the pressure, and use the leverage created by Hezbollah’s current weakness.
The maritime border negotiations may be technical, but they are eventually political – in the sense that Lebanon has for the first time acknowledged Israel’s existence, as a country with borders. And this wouldn’t have happened without Hezbollah and Iran’s blessings. Acknowledgement might be the first step on the road to more compromises. These talks won’t reach a normalization agreement, such as the Abraham Accord, but might push Hezbollah’s weapons and missiles on the table, that is if pressure parallels border negotiations.
Hezbollah cannot afford to go to war with Israel today, due to financial and logistical challenges that are growing by the day. Israel is capitalizing on Hezbollah’s vulnerability to push for more pressure on the organization, recently exposing its missile production factories in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the US Treasury continues to slap Hezbollah and its allies with sanctions, causing mayhem among its political coalition, which has been weakened by the Lebanon protests.
Hezbollah knows that it can only ease the pressure by giving something in return, especially if it wants to avoid an Israeli strike on its missile factories in Lebanon – which could require an unfavorable retaliation that Hezbollah is trying to dodge, at least until the US elections are over. So they agreed to hold discussions with the Israelis, hoping they can continue to buy time until the elections.
Hezbollah is allowing Lebanon and its military institutions to negotiate with Israel, so when the UNIFIL moved some of its troops – for the first time - to the Beirut port, in coordination with the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah said nothing, and Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah did not even mention these negotiations in his most recent speech.
Hezbollah’s plan is to give in a little so it can survive until elections results in the US are out, hoping that a Biden administration would ease sanctions and stop the maximum pressure campaign that weakened Iran and its proxies in the region. This might be wishful thinking. First, even if Biden wins the elections, he has other priorities, such as COVID-19, China, and Russia. Second, a deal with Iran does not necessarily mean bailing out Lebanon’s corrupt political class. These two things are separate.
When it comes to Lebanon, any financial assistance, from the CEDRE to the IMF aid packages, will not be released without the implementation of certain clear reforms, and no deal with Iran will reconsider these conditions. In any case, it was clear that Hezbollah and Iran do submit under pressure, and if it wasn’t for fear of more sanctions and isolation, they wouldn’t have agreed to the border demarcation talks.
Therefore, whoever wins the next US presidential elections needs to keep in mind that, when it comes to Iran and its militias, diplomacy only works with persistent and accumulative pressure. In addition, these negotiations – if pressure continues on Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanon – do not have to stop at the border demarcation, but could be used to push for more concessions: on Hezbollah’s arsenal, power within the Lebanese political system, and its wider regional military presence.
*Hanin Ghaddar is the inaugural Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute's Geduld Program on Arab Politics, where she focuses on Shia politics throughout the Levant. She tweets @haningdr.


October 17, Lebanon’s Path to Salvation
Hanna Saleh/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 15/2020
Lebanon's October revolution is in two days. The country has not witnessed anything like it in its history. It surprised those who took part in creating it before surprising anyone else. It revealed citizens' refined awareness, especially that of the youths whose awareness and vision were crystallized on the vertical sectarian divisions that have been entrenched since 2005. This hastened the crystallization of the demands - rights of the overwhelming majority, which united around its interests in the face of a political cabal that included all the sectarian leaders whose violations of the people's rights and dignity became so cruel as to become humiliating. From the first hour of October 17, until a million Lebanese took to the streets, followed by the revolt of the Lebanese diaspora around the world, the regional and sectarian divisions were broken. Lebanon, where an extremely broad youth movement was surging, seemed to be a monolith for the first time in its history as it was undergoing its deepest national reconciliation. The public squares that brought people together proved that the October Revolution is the project for forgoing the civil war and a culture of factionalism that pushes for disassociation from the other. It repudiated all positions - constants, which are, in their depths, hatred amplified to facilitate the people's subjugation and exploitation!
What Lebanon has been undergoing since October 17 is remarkable, and it is still going on in various forms. It differs from all other Lebanese events, from civil conflicts, some of which were referred to as revolutions, to the 2005 independence uprising that had managed to shake two security regimes and played a major role in the expulsion of the Syrian regime's occupation forces...All of these events were top-down, led by parties from the political class, whose interests had been undermined, gains receded, sectarian representation had been unfairly undercut or were seeking a bigger share of the pie of domination and profit, driving them to mobilize followers and beneficiaries.
These mobilizations would sometimes go as far as stirring civil conflicts, all of which left fatal imprints on the country's demography and end with a consensus on renewing the settlement between parties of the sectarian political system who have been governing Lebanon since its independence. They have perhaps been ruling the country since the declaration of Greater Lebanon. Their composition has never been adjusted, except during the epoch in which the regime, which forged a coalition that brought together the war's militias and money, thereby enabling the political clique to make internal decisions while ensuring the clique's subordination to the regime and its furthering of the regime's goals. This state of affairs persisted, with Tehran declaring Beirut to be among the four capitals it dominates!
For many decades, civil conflict, especially the civil war, entrenched sectarian leaders' hegemony, who came to shape events. Abiding by the political custom of "no victor and no vanquished", they emerged victorious, though to divergent extents, after every phase, while deep wounds afflicted the people who paid the price with their lives, livelihoods and ways of life. But after October 17, the situation switched. The people had been pushed too far, and the people who had discovered that fraternity untied them took the streets, filling public spaces with peaceful protests. The rhetoric significantly changed; youth and women forcefully and equivocally expressed themselves. With that, prevalent norms were broken, thus de-sanctifying all the sectarian leaders: "all of them means all of them" are responsible for Lebanese' humiliating oppression and the assault on their rights. The whole ruling clique disappeared, and politicians moved around in secrecy. The convoys and manifestations of strongman thuggishness were absent. The political speeches' rhetoric transformed; though it was disingenuous, it affirmed a new imperative: after October 17, this is no longer acceptable, and this and that are not allowed...!
The political class cracked, and it was no fleeting event, Hariri's announced the government's resignation under pressure from the protests despite the red line which Hassan Nassrallah drew to prevent it and despite the protection provided by the president and parliament which lost its legitimacy by the movement that prevented it from convening several times.
This development pushed the armed faction clinging to decision-making in the country, Hezbollah, to the forefront of defending the ruling clique's defense of the sectarian-quota-based spoil-sharing regime that safeguards corruption. Its unmasked face was exposed as an armed force that threatens civil peace, security, prosperity, and stability, sending a stern message that change is not allowed to the Lebanese people and their revolution! In the end, Hezbollah failed to achieve its goal by diverting the revolution away from its goals. Despite the organized attacks and the push for violence to distort the revolution's image, especially with the attacks on public and private property, Tyre's Alam Square maintained its symbolism, as did the Nabatiyeh Square and the Mitran Square in Baalbek, preserving the revolution's national character and its inclusivity!
The revolution triggered a general shift. It is as though the time has come for a new nation that repudiates sectarianism and despises factionalism. The revolution cultivated joy and brought smiles back to our faces despite the gloomy climate and the spread of poverty and invasion. Citizens regained hope and the revolution transformed into a school that illustrated the path to breaking the chain of tyranny and retrieving the hijacked state. Everyone became aware that retrieving rights necessarily entails real political change and arriving at the reconfiguration of authority. Because the corruption clique that desertified the country and chained it with debt and impoverished it after embezzling public money and the deposits and transferring stolen money abroad, it cannot implement any rescue plan, as such as plan would undermine its interests and puts an end to its impunity.
The Lebanese October revolution has yet to achieve its desired change. As a matter of prudence, it is worth noting the negative effects of the lack of organizational structures, as well as the absence of competent leadership in the movement. Nonetheless, the October revolution presented the country with the only recourse to stop the collapse and catch a breath, namely the imperative to establish an independent government of a prime minister and members. This demand became a patriotic one and now garners the approval of the Arab and international community. This would not have been possible if the revolution had not succeeded in exposing the system's corruption, its weaknesses, and its incompetence in managing the crisis. But the corrupt system did not blink after the crime of the 4th of August that overthrew the facade government as it rushed to secure its permanence through the delineation of borders with Israel, a move that was backed by Iran and accepted by Hezbollah, amid continues efforts to persist spoil-sharing and wrestle to secure seats in the government
It is clear today that the political class has expired. As it fell domestically, it fell internationally, as evidenced by what the French president said to describe it. Yet, it persists due to its reliance on illegal arms and the absence of an alternative that, in turn, necessitates establishing a wide opposition front and a safety network that expands across the country; gathering the young generation and competencies; developing the means to defend an atmosphere of peaceful protests; and contributing to the development of a well-led political alternative that is capable of improving peaceful struggles under the rules of the constitution to continue the march of liberating Lebanon from a blatant political occupation imposed by a network of plunderers backed by foreign powers!

A Chance For Reform in Lebanon
Hussein Ibish/Asharq Al-Awsat/October, 15/2020
After a tumultuous year, Lebanese politics seems firmly rooted in the proverbial square one . Last October, Prime Minister Saad Hariri was brought down by a series of widespread street protests against the entire ruling elite. Now Hariri looks likely to return, possibly as soon as this week.
At first glance, this might bode ill for the prospects of real reforms in Lebanon. But much has changed in the year since Hariri’s resignation. The worsening economy and the catastrophic August 4 explosion in Beirut have helped to soften political resistance to change. If Hariri plays his cards right, it is just conceivable that he could oversee a meaningful shift — however modest — in the Lebanese power structure. That would require him to persuade Hezbollah, along with its local partners and Syrian and Iranian patrons, to accept changes in the way the Lebanese state is governed and its resources managed. Some reports suggest the two sides have reached an informal understanding. Harder still, Hariri will have to win over the people who forced him from office a year ago.
Their desire for change is undiminished. Lebanese have made their disgust with the political system, with its sectarian quotas and networks of patronage, abundantly clear. They hold their leaders responsible for destroying their economy and currency, ruining their lives and livelihoods—and for the explosion that shattered their capital. All political factions are under enormous pressure to respond to the growing anger.
Pressure for change is also coming from abroad. Lebanon’s economy needs a multi-billion-dollar bailout from the International Monetary Fund; international investors would be loath to sink money into the country until it has a new IMF-approved framework. But a bailout would come with significant economic and political conditions. For Lebanese with power and privilege, that means the terrifying prospect of opening the Pandora’s Box of reform. Any IMF-imposed moves toward transparency and accountability in economic management will inevitably impinge on the political elite’s ability to appropriate national resources.
But there are signs that the political class is beginning to accept that without reforms Lebanon would face total social collapse. Even Hezbollah has dropped its formerly adamant opposition to any deal with the IMF. It now seems willing to go along with French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan, which requires the formation of a government of technocrats, and committing to an agreement with the IMF. Other, less powerful leaders like Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt recognize they can’t block or veto such a deal and are maneuvering to join the new government.
Most of the political factions regard Hariri as a useful interlocutor with the IMF. This, taken together with regional and international support, will lend credibility to his claim to speak for the Lebanese power structure in making real concessions.
Even Hezbollah, long his opponents, will welcome Hariri’s return. His departure, and the political paralysis that it precipitated, left the pro-Iranian militia responsible for the Lebanese government, a very uncomfortable position, particularly in such hard times.
Hezbollah much prefers the old arrangement that allowed it to assert its primacy on the issues it considers vital, such as maintaining the independence of its fighters and military infrastructure, while leaving the messy work of governing to others. Hariri’s return will allow it to once again wield power without responsibility. In exchange, he might be able to extract concessions on debt restructuring and public sector reforms that he can take to the IMF.
Hariri says he will follow Macron’s plan. An early signal of his seriousness would be the independence and credibility of key members of his cabinet—and especially the minister of finance, a position Hezbollah would be loath to fully relinquish. Announcing a truly independent, credible cabinet might win Hariri some leeway from ordinary Lebanese, who would otherwise regard his return with suspicion.
There is much that could go wrong. Hezbollah might yet balk at serious reform, and the protesters who brought Hariri down last October might not be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
But these are desperate times, and what was once unthinkable is now possible. Consider the maritime border negotiations with Israel, which under almost any other circumstances would have provoked outrage among Lebanese. Now, not even Hezbollah can summon any serious opposition to haggling with the old enemy. Lebanese desperation might — just might — help Saad Hariri to finally move his country beyond square one.

Lebanon is being forced to relive its traumas
Kareem Shaheen/The National/October 15/2020
Late last week, Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister and the scion of the Hariri political and business clan, decided to nominate himself as a candidate to form the next Lebanese government.
Mr Hariri put his name forward unilaterally after Mustapha Adib, a former diplomat, failed in his bid to form a government of technocrats that could push through a raft of reform measures. The measures were sorely needed in order to save the country from economic collapse and unlock a financial aid package from the international community.
These measures were championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Lebanon in the aftermath of a cataclysmic explosion in Beirut in August, which levelled much of the city and rendered more than 250,000 people homeless. Mr Adib’s bid failed due to the intransigence of Hezbollah and Amal, the main Shia parties, who insisted on naming the new finance minister.
Mr Adib’s failure and Mr Hariri’s self-proclamation coincide with the one-year anniversary of a popular protest movement that began on October 17, 2019. The protesters have called for the removal of a craven and corrupt political class that has brought Lebanon to ruin.
The movement has won admiration around the world for its creativity and – most notably – the absence of sectarianism. Mr Hariri was in power at the time it began, and its popularity was responsible for his resignation.
His return does not bode well for any real departure from the political class that has proved so problematic for Lebanon. A lack of substantive change would be seen as a betrayal of the uprising.
The nominal spark that lit the protest movement in Lebanon was a proposed tax on WhatsApp calls, but it was only the latest stick to break the proverbial camel’s back. The Lebanese had weathered decades of poverty and nepotism under a system that distributed power based on sectarian affiliation.
Late last week, Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister and the scion of the Hariri political and business clan, decided to nominate himself as a candidate to form the next Lebanese government.
Mr Hariri put his name forward unilaterally after Mustapha Adib, a former diplomat, failed in his bid to form a government of technocrats that could push through a raft of reform measures. The measures were sorely needed in order to save the country from economic collapse and unlock a financial aid package from the international community.
These measures were championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Lebanon in the aftermath of a cataclysmic explosion in Beirut in August, which levelled much of the city and rendered more than 250,000 people homeless. Mr Adib’s bid failed due to the intransigence of Hezbollah and Amal, the main Shia parties, who insisted on naming the new finance minister.
Mr Adib’s failure and Mr Hariri’s self-proclamation coincide with the one-year anniversary of a popular protest movement that began on October 17, 2019. The protesters have called for the removal of a craven and corrupt political class that has brought Lebanon to ruin.
The movement has won admiration around the world for its creativity and – most notably – the absence of sectarianism. Mr Hariri was in power at the time it began, and its popularity was responsible for his resignation.
His return does not bode well for any real departure from the political class that has proved so problematic for Lebanon. A lack of substantive change would be seen as a betrayal of the uprising.
The nominal spark that lit the protest movement in Lebanon was a proposed tax on WhatsApp calls, but it was only the latest stick to break the proverbial camel’s back. The Lebanese had weathered decades of poverty and nepotism under a system that distributed power based on sectarian affiliation.
An anti-government protester uses a tennis racket to return a tear gas canister towards riot police near Parliament Square in Beirut on September 1. AP
Hezbollah, beholden to Iran, maintained military supremacy, a gun that it wielded to cow its opponents, and sometimes assassinate them. It created a state within a state.
The war in Syria worsened the destitution in Lebanon. One million refugees sought shelter across the border, adding to an existing population of 4 million. Hezbollah’s intervention to secure the regime of Bashar Al Assad in Damascus led to a spillover of violence, including suicide attacks by terrorist groups and sectarian clashes in major cities like Sidon and Tripoli. As citizens suffered, many of the country’s political elites continued to enrich themselves and wield influence to expand their patronage networks and protect their ill-gotten gains, leaving ordinary people without even basic services, like 24-hour access to electricity or water or garbage disposal.
The preeminent slogan of the uprising was “kellon yaani kellon”, or “all of them means all of them”, a brave proclamation that demanded nothing less than the ousting of the entire political class. The movement captured global attention last October with its good humour, musical prowess and sheer joy.
It did not last, largely because the depth of the depravity of most of the ruling class had not yet become apparent. A monumental economic collapse shortly began unravelling Lebanon's entire financial system, the very structure of which was morally corrupt.
Banks were reliant on fictionally high interest rates meant to attract US dollar deposits, which were then loaned to the government. As the state and banks ran out of foreign currency late last year, tens of billions of dollars were transferred abroad, and ordinary citizens paid the price, locked out of their bank accounts to preserve bankrupt institutions.
More people were plunged into poverty as the currency eventually lost 80 per cent of its value, and Lebanon became the first Arab nation to experience hyperinflation.
Then came the explosion in August of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate that had simply been left unattended in the Beirut Port. The destruction is such that there is no word that quite captures the catastrophic levels of criminal negligence, and yet the same political elites who held power before remained in control after. Finally, the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the country, with thousands of cases reported daily. The country now has over 55,000 officially recorded cases as of this writing.
The jubilation of the protest movement has been replaced by a hopelessness that things could ever change and an overwhelming desire among young people to leave.
Mr Macron’s initiative is laudable but ultimately unlikely to succeed. It may succeed in pushing some limited reforms that would head off further poverty, destitution and food insecurity. But in their essence, his proposals are meant to urge a shift in power away from a political elite that has long profited and cemented its power through the misery of ordinary citizens. Asking them to give it away voluntarily is a fool’s errand.
Mr Hariri himself may not be personally responsible for the calamity the country finds itself in, but he is still considered a member of the elite political class. So, it is difficult to see his return as a signal that meaningful change will materialise.
*Kareem Shaheen is a veteran Middle East correspondent in Canada and a columnist for The National

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فيديو من معهد واشنطن: مقابلة مع وزير خارجية السعودية/https://youtu.be/UtX2qnWbrws
October 15, 2020/The Washington Institute

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Humanitarian crisis looms over Nagorno-Karabakh
The National/October 15/2020
For nearly three weeks, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been embroiled in clashes in Nagorno-Karabakh, a region disputed by the two nations. It is the latest flare-up in a decades-long conflict that recently had seemed to be in a period of remission. Now events are threatening to destabilise the South Caucasus. The clashes have claimed hundreds of lives and exacerbated tensions during a period already scarred by a global health crisis and economic recession.
Officially known as Nagorno-Karabakh but referred to as Artsakh in Armenia, the region is recognised by most nations as Azerbaijani territory, but it is mostly inhabited and governed by ethnic Armenians. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the region declared its independence in 1991, a move recognised by neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia, though the latter supports the separatists financially and militarily. In the following three years, when the worst of the fighting took place, 30,000 people perished.
Last Saturday, both sides implemented a Russian-brokered ceasefire, but they each has since accused the other of violating it. Now, a humanitarian crisis looms. Hundreds of Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers have died on the frontlines, and scores of civilians have been killed. The number of casualties has not been independently verified and in reality may be much higher. Photographs of elderly people sweeping the rubble of their destroyed homes in the disputed region have been circulated widely. They have come to symbolise the suffering of thousands of innocent civilians caught in a seemingly endless conflict.
Azerbaijanis and Armenians alike were already suffering from the coronavirus pandemic and its economic consequences. Now, they must also worry about the potential of full-blown war if the ceasefire falls through.
Charities on the ground are already preparing for the worst. This week, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a $10 million emergency appeal to bolster its humanitarian efforts in the region. The violence has also caused a spike in coronavirus cases on both sides of the border. In Armenia, the total number of active Covid-19 cases has more than doubled since fighting began, and Azerbaijan has also recorded a surge in cases.
Turkey has taken an active role in the conflict. Ankara has openly sided with Azerbaijan, encouraging Baku to continue fighting and drawing both sides further away from the negotiating table. Having already sent Syrian mercenaries to fight in Libya, Turkey has now flown Syrians to fight as proxies in Azerbaijan. At least 50 of them have died in the conflict. Turkey has embroiled itself in conflicts throughout the region. It has provided support to Libya’s Government of National Accord. Ankara has also increased its influence in Lebanon and encroached on the maritime boundaries claimed by Greece and Cyprus. This expansionist pattern is hindering peace efforts in multiple zones of conflict. As diplomatic talks in Nagorno-Karabakh have so far failed to provide a satisfactory solution, war is now being touted as the only option. But armed conflict seldom ends political problems. On the contrary, it deepens the existing predicament at the expense of civilians. Armenia and Azerbaijan would do well to respect the ceasefire they both agreed to last week and work towards ending hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh diplomatically. The cost, in humanitarian terms, of pursuing any other course of action is simply too great.

Harris suspends travel after staffer tests COVID-19 positive
NNA/October 15/2020
Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, will suspend in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for coronavirus.
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign said Thursday that Biden had no exposure, though he and Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on Oct. 8. Both have tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times since then.--The Associated Press


Greece lodges protest against Turkey for delaying foreign minister’s plane
AFP, Athens/15 October 2020
Greece on Thursday lodged a formal protest with longtime regional rival Turkey, saying a state plane carrying its foreign minister was delayed on a flight home from an official visit to Iraq. The incident came ahead of EU talks over a dispute between the two neighbors over energy resources in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean. State TV ERT said the plane carrying Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was forced to circle for 20 minutes late on Wednesday near the Iraqi city of Mosul before being allowed passage by Turkish aviation authorities. The Turkish foreign ministry said the plane carrying Dendias -- a backup after the first plane malfunctioned -- “took off from Iraq without submitting the necessary flight plan.”“The plan was urgently requested from the Iraqi authorities, and after the plan was received, the flight was carried out safely,” Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a statement.
“Naturally, it is not possible for an aircraft to fly without providing a flight plan. In this case, it is first and foremost a necessity for (Dendias’s) safety,” Aksoy said. “Our Greek counterparts were also informed about the issue,” he said. In Athens, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the Greek foreign ministry had “taken the necessary actions with a (diplomatic) protest.”European leaders are meeting in Brussels on Thursday, with grievances over Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean back on the agenda at the behest of Greece and Cyprus. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades “will submit the latest Turkish provocations” to fellow EU leaders, Petsas said, adding: “Sanctions are still on the table.”Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday vowed to give Greece the “answer it deserves” over their energy dispute. After a similar row in August, Ankara has redeployed the research ship Oruc Reis to strategic waters between Cyprus and the Greek islands of Crete and Kastellorizo. The United States and Germany, both NATO allies of Greece and Turkey, have labelled the gas exploration mission a “provocation” and urged Ankara to recall the ship.

France warns Turkey of EU sanctions over ‘provocations’ in Mediterranean
The Associated Press, Ankara/Thursday 15 October 2020
France warned Turkey on Thursday that it could face European Union sanctions for its “provocations,” after Ankara redeployed its search vessel on a new energy exploration mission in the eastern Mediterranean. Speaking in Paris after a meeting of the French-German-Polish ‘Weimar Triangle,’ French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated the EU stance that unless Turkey shows “respect for the integrity of Greece and Cyprus” then the December European Council will consider initiating sanctions. “We are forced to note that there are permanent acts of provocation on the part of Turkey which are not bearable, and therefore we really wish that Turkey clarifies its positions and returns to a spirit of dialogue,” he said. Turkey redeployed its search vessel, Oruc Reis, near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, reigniting tensions between Greece and Turkey over sea boundaries and energy drilling rights, and putting the future of the planned resumption of talks between Athens and Ankara to resolve disputes into doubt. Those talks were last held in 2016. Those tensions had flared up over the summer, triggering fears of a confrontation between the two historic rivals and NATO allies.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he understood Greece’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue due to Turkey’s decision to again dispatch its ship. Given Berlin’s efforts to mediate between the parties “the behavior by Turkey to conduct another provocation, resulting in the already agreed process of dialogue not taking place, is more than annoying, including for us in our role as intermediary,” Maas said.
Maas said he continues to believe the conflict can be solved through dialogue and not with naval ships, and stressed Germany’s hope that there might be progress next week. “And if there isn’t, then the European Union will have to face the question of how to deal with this and what consequences this will have,” Maas said. Both Turkey and Greece have this week accused each other of engaging in “provocations," including plans to hold military drills in the Aegean Sea later this month to coincide with the other country's national public holiday. Earlier on Thursday, Turkey denied accusations by Greece that Ankara refused an overflight permit to a plane carrying Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, forcing the aircraft to remain in the air for 20 minutes. Greek state broadcaster ERT reported that the plane carrying Dendias back from a visit to Baghdad the previous day was kept circling over Mosul for 20 minutes because Turkish authorities weren't granting it permission to fly through Turkish airspace back to Greece. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry denied any deliberate move to hold up the plane before entering the Turkish airspace, insisting the plane hadn't provided the required flight plan. According to the Turkish ministry, the plane that took Dendias to Iraq broke down there, and the Greek government then allocated a second plane, which took off without the required flight plan. “When the aforementioned aircraft arrived at our airspace, the plan was urgently requested from the Iraqi authorities, and after the plan was received, the flight was carried out safely,” the ministry said. Asked about the incident during a regular briefing, the Greek government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, said Athens had lodged a complaint over the incident. “It is one more provocation, in the continued provocations by the Turkish side,” Petsas said. “But I would like to remain on the fact that various explanations were given, also from the Turkish side, and we hope that this phenomenon and this incident is never repeated in the future.”

Yemen Warring Sides Begin Hard-won Prisoner Swap
Agence France Presse/October 15/2020
A hard-won prisoner exchange between the Yemeni government and Huthi rebels got under way on Thursday with the departure of the first planeloads of released combatants. The warring sides in Yemen's long conflict are to exchange 1,081 prisoners over two days under a deal struck in Switzerland last month, the largest number since the conflict erupted in 2014. An AFP correspondent watched the first planes depart from the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa. One of them was headed for the city of Abha in neighbouring Saudi Arabia with released prisoners of war from a Saudi-led military coalition that supports the Yemeni government, rebel officials said. Those on board included 15 Saudis and four Sudanese. Planes are also due to depart from Abha and from the Yemeni government-held city of Seiyun in a complex operation overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross, rebel officials said. UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who attended last month's talks in Switzerland, hailed the successful start of the operation. "Today's release operation, led by the ICRC, is another sign that peaceful dialogue can deliver," the envoy said. "I hope the parties will soon reconvene under UN auspices to discuss the release of all conflict-related prisoners and detainees." The Yemeni government and the Iran-backed rebels resolved to swap some 15,000 detainees as part of a peace deal brokered by the UN in Sweden back in 2018. The two sides have since undertaken sporadic prisoner exchanges, but this week's planned swap would mark the first large-scale handover since the war erupted in 2014. "The transaction will be executed, with God's help, on the scheduled dates today and tomorrow," Abdel Kader Mortaza, the rebel official in charge of prisoner affairs, said in a tweet. "The preparations have been completed by all parties," he added. A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is handling the logistics of the operation, said their teams were present at the various airports involved in the transfer. Huthi-controlled Al-Masirah television said the first group of rebel prisoners was expected to arrive at Sanaa airport later Thursday. The planned exchange comes after the release Wednesday of two Americans held captive in Yemen, in an apparent swap for some 240 Huthi supporters who were allowed to return home after being stranded in neighbouring Oman. The rebels also sent back the remains of a third American who died in captivity. The fate of the 240 Yemenis, who had travelled to Oman for medical treatment in what was supposed to be a confidence-building move during the 2018 talks in Sweden, had become a major grievance for the rebels and a symbol of the deep distrust between the two sides.

Kyrgyzstan President Jeenbekov Announces Resignation
Agence France Presse/October 15/2020
Kyrgyzstan's President Sooronbay Jeenbekov resigned on Thursday, saying he wanted to bring an end to the crisis sparked by disputed parliamentary elections earlier this month. "I am not clinging to power. I do not want to go down in the history of Kyrgyzstan as a president who allowed bloodshed and shooting on its people. I have taken the decision to resign," Jeenbekov said in a statement released by his office.

Hassan Inspects Pharmacies, Drug Depots that were Smuggling Medicine
Agence France Presse/October 15/2020
Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan on Thursday inspected pharmacies and medication warehouses in the Zahle district after some of them were found to be smuggling medicine to outside Lebanon. The National News Agency said some of the pharmacies and depots had been ordered sealed with red wax by Bekaa Attorney General Munif Barakat. “The medicine mafia in Lebanon has started collapsing,” Hassan announced during the tour.

Watchdog Urges Sanctions over Civilian Deaths in Syria's Idlib
Agence France Presse/October 15/2020
Attacks on civilian targets during a Syrian-Russian campaign in northeast Syria's rebel-held Idlib may amount to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said Thursday, calling for sanctions against top commanders. The rights watchdog published a 167-page report entitled "Targeting Life in Idlib" that documents 46 air and ground attacks on civilian facilities hit in the province. The attacks "were apparent war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity", HRW said. The Syrian military and its Russian ally carried out the attacks between April 2019 and March 2020, killing at least 224 civilians, according to HRW. The New York-based rights group stressed that the incidents it researched were only a fraction of the total number of attacks on civilians in that period. "The Syrian-Russian alliance strikes on Idlib's hospitals, schools, and markets showed callous disregard for civilian life," said HRW executive Kenneth Roth. "The repeated unlawful attacks appear part of a deliberate military strategy to destroy civilian infrastructure and force out the population, making it easier for the Syrian government to retake control," he said. The military campaign against the last rebel bastion in the country, home to about three million people -- many of whom fled opposition-held towns recaptured by the government -- has displaced around a million residents. A truce reached in early March has largely stemmed the fighting. HRW based its report on interviews with more than 100 victims and witnesses, analysis of hundreds of photographs and videos taken on the site of attacks and on satellite imagery. The group called for a UN resolution urging member states to impose targeted sanctions on officials responsible for the civilian deaths. It named 10 Syrian and Russian civilian and military officials at the top of the chain of command behind the abuses against hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure. "Concerted international efforts are needed to demonstrate that there are consequences for unlawful attacks, to deter future atrocities, and to show that no one can elude accountability for grave crimes because of their rank or position," Roth said.

US VP nominee Harris suspends travels after staffer tests positive for COVID-19
The Associated Press/Thursday 15 October 2020
Joe Biden's presidential campaign said Thursday that vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will suspend in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for coronavirus. The campaign said Biden had no exposure, though he and Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on October 8. Harris was scheduled to travel Thursday to North Carolina for events encouraging voters to cast early ballots. The campaign told reporters Thursday morning that Harris' communications director and a traveling staff member for her travel to Arizona tested positive after that October 8 trip. Harris and Biden spent several hours together that day through multiple campaign stops, private meetings and a joint appearance in front of reporters at an airport. They were masked at all times in public, and aides said they were masked in private, as well. Biden and Harris have each had multiple negative tests since then.Biden is scheduled to attend an ABC News town hall airing live at 8 p.m. EDT.

Hackers launch large-scale attack on key Iranian institutions: Official
Reuters, Dubai/Thursday 15 October 2020
Hackers launched large-scale attacks on two Iranian government institutions this week, a senior official said on Thursday, without giving details on the targets or the suspected perpetrators. Some government bodies had since temporarily shut down internet services as a precaution, Abolghasem Sadeghi, from the government's Information Technology Organization, told state TV. “The cyber attacks which happened on Monday and Tuesday are under investigation,” Sadeghi said. They were “important and on a large scale,” he added. Iran says it is on high alert for online assaults, which it has blamed in the past on the United States and other foreign states. US officials said in October 2019 that the United States had carried out a cyber-attack on Iran after drone strikes on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blamed on Tehran. Iran denied involvement in the attacks, which were claimed by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia. The United States and other Western powers have also accused Iran of trying to disrupt and break into their networks. Sources told Reuters this April that hackers working in Iran's interests had targeted the personal email accounts of staff at the World Health Organization during the coronavirus outbreak. Tehran denied any involvement. Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since 2018 when US President Donald Trump withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

US blacklisting harms Sudan’s path to democracy: Sudanese PM
AFP, Khartoum/Sunday 11 October 2020
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has said that keeping his country on a US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism is endangering its path towards democracy, the Financial Times reported. The designation dates back to 1993, when the country under longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir become an outcast for having hosted Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In an interview published Sunday, Hamdok said sanctions linked to the designation were “crippling our economy,” adding that Sudan’s removal from the list would be a “game changer.” “We are isolated from the world,” Hamdok said, noting that Sudan had expelled bin Laden over two decades ago, and that Bashir’s regime was overthrown last year. “Sudanese people have never been terrorists. This was the deeds of the former regime,” he told the Financial Times. Concerning speculation that Sudan could normalize ties with Israel if its terror listing were removed, Hamdok said: “We would like to see these two tracks addressed separately.” Last month, Israel signed US-brokered deals to normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and the administration of US President Donald Trump wants Sudan to follow suit.
Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in Darfur, was convicted of corruption and is currently on trial in the capital Khartoum for the 1989 coup that brought him to power. Hamdok said he had spoken with the ICC about the option of trying Bashir in Sudan, potentially in a “hybrid court,” the paper reported, but that Hamdok considered reforming Sudan’s judiciary in order to try Bashir itself would be the best option. Hamdok also said there were no guarantees that Sudan’s democratic transition would hold until elections planned for 2022.
“Transitions are always messy. They are non-linear and they don’t travel in one direction.” Concerning the country’s tanking economy, the prime minister said a landmark peace deal signed this month with a coalition of rebel groups would result in savings for the government.
Sudan’s economy is in crisis, laid low by long years of civil war under Bashir’s rule, US sanctions and the 2011 secession of the oil-rich south. The government declared a state of emergency last month to avert a further downturn. With Sudan no longer a “war economy,” the proportion of revenue spent on the military would drop from up to 80 percent down to 10-15 percent, the Financial Times reported him as saying.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on October 15-16/2020

Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Kadhimi should put the killers of protesters on trial
Zana Gulmohamad/Al Arabiya/October 15/2020
Iraqi protesters have given Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi an ultimatum: he has until October 25 to prosecute those who have killed around 600 and wounded 30,000 protesters over the last year. Al-Kadhimi should start to put the killers on trial before the situation deteriorates and restore confidence that Iraq is on the right track. News is leaking that pro-Iran militias in Iraq are gearing up again to target either the protesters, Baghdad’s Green Zone – home to the US embassy and other diplomatic missions as well as key governmental and legislative bodies that represent the heart of the Iraqi state – or both amid the preparations for the next wave of protests. If this happens, more disorder is expected and al-Kadhimi could lose control of the situation on the ground. This is despite the fact that over the last few days pro-Iran militias announced they would suspend their attacks against the Green Zone and the US in Iraq if the US withdraws its troops. The protests known as the October Revolution began on October 1, 2019 have witnessed Iraqis rallying for a range of causes, from calls to end corruption to a change in the political system and an end to foreign interference in the country. Without addressing these issues, protests will persist and the country will descend further into chaos. Since the rise of tensions between the US and Iran, the protesters have been further suppressed by pro-Iran militias, reflecting Iran and its militias’ fear that their foothold is slipping.
While Iraq’s top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani supported the protesters last year, Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and pro-Iran militias leaders have denounced them. Pro-Iran militias have been targeting, killing, and kidnapping protesters. This puts the protesters against pro-Iran factions and Iran’s attempt to control Iraq.
Unsuccessfully, pro-Iran militias tried to co-opt the protesters for their own ends. The protests have been littered with sentiments against foreign interference including anti-Iranian slogans and they are filled with Iraqi nationalist mottos, songs, and the rise of women’s voices. This demonstrates that Iran and pro-Iran militias have limitations in Iraq and a new generation is emerging that deprecates traditional sectarian parties. But if the fragmented and disorganized protest movement is to succeed, it needs to organize, set a clear plan, form a list of demands and decry those who attack public buildings. This is not only to achieve its goals, but also to counter accusations from political parties and pro-Iran militias that the movement will produce chaos. A recent incident in the Shia shrine city of Karbala, where protesters were beaten by guards that protect the shrines because they chanted anti-establishment slogans and commemorated protesters who had been killed, has given an opportunity to pro-Iran militias and the Shia politician and cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to accuse the protesters of being pro-Ba’athist and extremists. The protesters should continue to express their demands, but they should also take into account that demonstrations around the Shrines could be viewed as inappropriate by some Shia entities.
Al-Kadhimi’s position
In an interview al-Kadhimi said that October (referring to the October protests) is a turning point in Iraq’s history because the people feel that Iraq is in danger. On one hand, al-Kadhimi’s position is a blessing because he is not affiliated to a political party— he had been heading the Iraqi National Intelligence Service – which gives him the agility to pursue the protesters’ demands. On the other hand, al-Kadhimi cannot deliver on many of the protesters’ promises, as he does not have control over the pro-Iran militias or other political parties that may obstruct the prosecution of the killers and block tangible reform.
Al-Kadhimi’s attempt to appease both protesters and political factions, including those who are associated with the killings, could undermine his position. Over the last week, the federal government began a drill and mobilized some of the heavy weaponry in the Green Zone to protect it in case the situation slips out of control. Al-Kadhimi needs the international community and organizations such as the United Nations that can provide him with an edge to charge the killers as it will show that the Iraqi state is able to protect the Green Zone, including the international organizations, as well as deliver justice for the killings.
Although al-Kadhimi met with some of the protesters on the streets, some criticism of him is emerging among protesters, accusing him of being slow to fulfil his promises. To prevent a further loss of faith, Al-Kadhimi should move to put the killers on trial as the first step for reform, and to show the protesters that there is hope in Iraq. Time is ticking.
*Dr. Zana Gulmohamad completed a Ph.D. in international politics from the University of Sheffield, UK, where he was a teaching associate for six years. He has written extensively on Iraq and the wider Middle East, including a book chapter “The evolution of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’bi (Popular Mobilization Forces)” with Palgrave Macmillan and a book “The making of foreign policy in Iraq: Political factions and ruling elites” with I.B. Tauris. Gulmohamad has worked as a consultant with various organizations, including National Security Innovations, which is based in Boston.

Artificial intelligence has been key to fighting coronavirus – it can do more too
Munib Mesinovic/Al Arabiya/October 15/2020
Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to revolutionize all aspects of human society as part of a “fourth industrial revolution.” COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of AI and forced governments and the public alike to adapt to a new world in which effectively deploying these technologies in key areas cannot just improve lives, but also save them. Great strides can be made to transform economies and communities by focusing on the integration of AI in two key sectors: education and healthcare.
AI has played a key role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Before the WHO notified the public of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, an AI health monitoring company using the “BlueDot” algorithim had already detected the outbreak and predicted its spread to its customers. Since then, AI has been applied to repurposing drugs, enabling safer air travel, sharing critical information to Arabic-speakers, and in facilitating test and trace in several countries. While these efforts might have helped in managing the crisis, AI has encountered limitations that do not allow us to use it to its full potential.
The obvious reason for this hindrance is the lack of large, clean, and processed datasets. AI works by recognizing patterns: the more data it has available to learn from, the more accurate it will be when encountering new situations like modelling a new COVID-19 spread or detecting an infection from CT scans. The solution is as equally obvious: create more datasets. To do so, we, like AI, need to learn from our mistakes and build more flexible systems that can be quickly deployed in collecting data and managing it ethically and responsibly.
The creation of these new systems necessitates a skilled workforce familiar with the fundamental principles of AI and at least somewhat experienced in its applications. As with any skill or knowledge, education is instrumental in building a knowledge-based sustainable system capable of responding not just to COVID-19, but future challenges with creativity, consistency, and coherence. While there are plenty of open access platforms for teaching AI, having a standardized and systemic approach to nurturing next generations of leaders and thinkers makes it possible for everyone to have an opportunity to learn while also enabling a smoother transition into the work environment.
Of course, this strategy might be pursued gradually, by first encouraging teaching AI principles (with applications) interfaced with coursework in economics, natural sciences, public policy, and engineering, then integrating it in high school curricula and so on. The benefits of introducing AI to high school students and children include stimulating critical thinking and problem solving, helping diversify the STEM landscape, and enabling them to understand the technology that increasingly surrounds them in everyday life. Several countries are already pursuing and leading on this path. The UAE, for example, just opened the first university solely dedicated to AI, and innovative technology is a centrepiece in multiple national agendas like Agenda 2071 and the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031. To move forward in this direction, we should encourage young people to explore AI by including it in our educational curricula gradually and thus enable them to help us respond effectively to global challenges to come.
As already mentioned, AI has helped healthcare services to track the spread of the virus and help find treatment for the disease, but AI has the potential to do much more. COVID-19 has forced our healthcare system to prioritize clinical staff and serious afflictions, thereby speeding up the process of moving other patients or care receivers to remote care. In combination with telehealth or telemedicine, AI can make it possible to effectively relegate routine check-ups and diagnoses with remote monitoring. There are both academic research groups and companies actively focusing on monitoring, predicting, and diagnosing diseases with AI ranging from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to cancer. It is important to note that the social implications of AI are also an area of research and should be considered by taking into account occurrence of bias and data ethics. This can be addressed by increasing the diversity of the data so that, for example, the algorithm does not privilege white patients over people of colour. Choosing what attributes of the data matter for the algorithm is also a subjective decision that needs to be made carefully and ethically.
In certain cases, AI helped identify diagnoses doctors missed or assisted in the delivery of better care. Other research is looking at at-a-distance surgeries made possible in partnership with advances in robotics that can bring the operating room to people who might not usually have access to one. Mayo Clinic and other hospitals in the United States and Europe are already deploying a version of this technology in traditional surgical procedures.
AI is not here to replace doctors but to enable a more effective healthcare system and the allocation of resources. We need to comprehensively integrate the technology into our healthcare system by both revamping existing modes of care and inventing new ones. This cannot be done without consultation with clinicians, specialists, and healthcare professionals as they would still be “leading in the operating room.” Our first steps should therefore include training for doctors to teach them to operate the software which needs to be deployed through collaboration between the healthcare, insurance industries, and the public sector. Doing so will guarantee better healthcare and a more resilient and healthy population amid enduring global health challenges like COVID-19.
We also must face the possibility that the pandemic might be here to stay longer than initially expected, or that other similar challenges might appear soon after. The strategies for developing stronger systems in healthcare should be boldly pursued, taking full advantage of the technological progress we have made and can still make. In the end, while the pandemic might have forced our hand in implementing these changes, they were always a step in the right direction – improving quality of life and advancing our society.
*Munib Mesinovic is a recent graduate of NYU Abu Dhabi and a current Masters student in Computer Science at the University of Oxford. He is a UAE Rhodes Scholar and the first Bosnian Rhodes Scholar. He tweets @munibmesinovic

An Election Not Like the Others in America
Robert Ford/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 15 October, 2020
Robert Ford is a former US ambassador to Syria and Algeria and a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute for Near East Policy in Washington
Many people are worried about the November 2 election result and its repercussions. Joseph Biden has a comfortable advantage in the opinion polls, including in key big states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that supported Trump in 2016. Some analysts believe there could be a Democratic Party tsunami that allows the party to capture the White House and both chambers of Congress. In addition to the White House, the Senate is extremely important for the Democratic Party because the Senate controls approval for all the senior officials in a President’s administration such as ministers and undersecretaries and ambassadors and new judges. And its approval is necessary for the annual government budget. The Senate under Republican Party control in 2014 impeded every initiative of President Obama. For the Democratic Party to recapture the Senate in the Congress in 2020, it must win the election for the senator where I live in the state of Maine, at the extreme northeast of the country.
In the debates between the candidates for Congress here and in other states, the issues are the same: health care and the virus, conservative judges or liberal judges, and questions about taxes and the economy. In the several debates between candidates, Russia and China are absent, and the Middle East is far from the minds of party leaders and supporters.
Now that I am retired from the diplomatic service I work as a volunteer for one of the parties. In the past, party supporters would visit each house and apartment to encourage voters to vote for their party candidates. With the virus, now we try to speak to voters on the telephone, and I have called hundreds of people in the districts and cities near my home. Most of the voters where I live support the other party. I have written in this newspaper before about the deep political divisions in America and Maine has the same problem. When I call a house that supports the other party, the person hangs up immediately without a word. The only ones who do not hang up immediately curse me and my party first and then hang up. In the hundreds of telephone calls, I have not had one political discussion with a supporter from the other party. And when you meet people in our small city at a store, at the church, in the library you rarely discuss politics because it is a painful subject. This is not how Americans thought about politics 20 years ago.
My party colleagues and I erected signs in front of our houses and on the streets to encourage voters to choose our candidates, and sometimes supporters of the other party steal them so we put out more signs. I became friends with some neighbors because of politics. After they saw my party’s signs in front of our house, some people I didn’t know came to me and requested signs for their homes. In America’s suburbs, you usually don’t know your neighbors so the party signs enabled us to become acquainted after we discovered that we have similar political views. This also shows the polarization in America: you only know and speak about politics with people whose political views resemble your political views. This cannot be healthy for a democratic system.
In addition to the virus, there is also a new fear of violence before and after the election from armed militias. There are no militias where I live. However, the federal police arrested six members of a conservative militia last week who planned to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan. It’s the first time I have ever heard of a conspiracy like this in the United States. Unless there is a Democratic Party tsunami victory on November 2, before we can know the final election result we will have to wait for weeks after November 2 for every vote in every state to be counted. There will be many cases in the courts about the voting procedures and the counting of ballots. Will militias from the right or the left deploy in front of court buildings and election centers to intimidate local officials? Will there be violence between conservative armed groups and leftists like happened in Denver city last Saturday? This was shocking because Denver is a rich, prosperous city. If there is no final election result by January 20 when the new president must take the oath of office, what will happen? And most important, how can American citizens reduce the sharpness of political divisions? Do they want to reconcile? It is clear that this election won’t heal those deep divisions in American society regardless of who wins.

The Real 21st Century Property Baron Doesn't Live in Mar-a-Lago

Shuli Ren/Bloomberg/October, 15/2020
In a bond world that doesn’t pay interest, China’s real-estate developers are a real standout. They have survived the European debt crisis, Beijing’s draconian deleveraging campaigns and the Covid-19 lockdown. Each time the market pulls back, bankers tell their wealthy clients to buy, for fear of missing out.
At the core of this lucrative sector sits a property mogul who has demonstrated uncanny, gravity-defying survival skills. Over the years, short sellers have set him in their crosshairs, regulators have rebuked his shareholding structure, and his company’s debt pile has crossed Beijing’s red line. But Hui Ka Yan, the billionaire chairman of China Evergrande Group, is still around.
Just this week, Hui was able to rope in Norway’s sovereign wealth fund for its share sale. While the placement was downsized and offered at a 15% discount, you’ve got to marvel at the A-listers Hui attracted given recent news reports that Evergrande had warned of an impending credit crunch. Who would want to own the stock of a company that struggles to repay its debt? Hui is the new 21st-century property baron.
Or consider that in a matter of days, Hui managed to convince his investors to roll over about two-thirds of the 130 billion yuan ($19.4 billion) of hybrid securities due in January, at a time when the world was losing faith in his empire. Suning Appliance Group Co., one of the largest investors with 20 billion yuan at stake, made clear it would demand repayment to cover its own mounting debt pile. Suning ended up signing the new deal.
In the next few months, Hui will look to raise capital by listing his property-management and electric vehicle subsidiaries. Evergrande said it is hoping to raise at least 34 billion yuan in the mainland by selling a stake in its EV unit at no less than HK$25 ($3.23) per share, or about 10% above the current market price. As it is, the Hong Kong-listed shares of China Evergrande New Energy Vehicle Group Ltd. are richly valued thanks to their Tesla-like hype. Eighteen shareholders, including the parent, own 94.8% of the stock, the Securities and Futures Commission complained in August.
A warning from the regulator isn’t good for public relations, but Hui can weather this storm. He can dissolve a debt crisis with the help of powerful friends. He can reach out to wide social circles, from reluctant suppliers to Hong Kong tycoons, who will put out public filings showcasing their support at the darkest hours. When he has to peel off assets, he makes sure they are sold at a steep premium.
But Hui makes you pay for that scintillating coupon — at least psychologically. As the developer walked toward the brink in recent weeks, investors laid awake at night, crunching Evergrande’s cash flow math in their heads.
As of June, the company sat on 141 billion yuan in cash but had 396 billion yuan, or 47% of its borrowings, due within a year. With $27 billion in offshore bonds, the company is Asia’s largest dollar junk-debt issuer. Its dollar bonds due 2025 are yielding around 16%.
During the October Golden Week holiday, investors watched nervously as Evergrande offered its deepest discount in history to boost apartment sales. The developer could generate 380 billion yuan in cash from contracted sales in the second half of the year, estimates Standard Chartered Plc. The good news is that, as of Oct. 8, Evergrande had already achieved 91.1% of its full-year target. The bad news? Hui has many bills to pay.
Of Evergrande’s short-term borrowings, 127 billion yuan, or about one-third of the total, come from capital markets and trust companies. The rest originate from construction loans, which could be rolled over under normal conditions. If Hui can convince his bankers that building activity is proceeding as usual, you just might get your money back.
With a concentrated shareholding structure and frequent backroom sales to family and friends, it’s worth asking if Evergrande can find genuine outside investors at all. But if Hui can pull off these acrobatics, those thirsty for yield will come. After all, many have placed their faith in blank-check companies this year, believing those who run them can bring undervalued businesses to public markets. So why not Hui, who has a long track record of persuasive salesmanship and survival? Unlike Donald Trump, whose companies declared bankruptcy many times, Evergrande’s guru seems to get the real art of the deal.

Too Many Ships Could Swamp America's Military
James Stavridis/Bloomberg/October, 15/2020
As a young lieutenant commander back in the 1980s, I worked on an analysis for a strategy referred to as “The 600-Ship Navy.” This was at the height of the Cold War and the pinnacle of President Ronald Reagan’s defense buildup. I was on the staff of the chief of naval operations, the service’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, and we worked long hours in the Pentagon justifying such a large number of ships.
All that work came to naught when the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Navy has been largely shrinking since. It is now down to around 297 ships, despite promises from the Donald Trump administration to increase that to at least 355, a number many analysts agree is the minimum needed for a battle force suited to America’s 21st century challenges.
Basically, the Navy does four things: Power projection (moving missiles, aircraft and Marines into position); sea control (ensuring the free movement of commercial shipping, which is responsible for 90% of global trade); strategic deterrence (submarines carrying nuclear ballistic missiles are the ultimate deterrent force); and strategic sealift (moving ammunition, supplies, medical care and other logistics to the Army and Air Force when they are forward-deployed.)
Navies do some other things, such as “showing the flag” globally and freedom-of-navigation patrols. These demonstrate the inviolability of the high seas when nations try to appropriate chunks of the ocean’s surface (as China does in the South China Sea).
Navies also function specifically as a deterrent to the fleets of the other military great powers, in this case Russia and China. It is a complex mission, and how the US fleet goes about accomplishing it involves the combination of raw war-fighting capability; the tactics and techniques to use all that firepower, both offensively and defensively; and the positioning of hundreds of ships around the world.
All of those factors combine to determine the optimal fleet size. So it was notable last week when Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gave details of a fleet he saw growing to more than 500 ships, a considerable and sudden jump. How did things escalate from a “need” for 355 warships to a request for 500? And, above all, is this a sensible and achievable goal?
The secretary’s new number is the result of a long-delayed study called Battle Force 2045. Most of what the outline calls for makes sense, given the rise of China’s navy and the emergence of new technologies that will revolutionize combat at sea.
First, the Pentagon strategy recognizes the importance of nuclear-powered attack submarines as the most “survivable” part of the Navy. The new plan calls for up to 80 of them.
The most visible arm of the Navy’s strike capability, of course, are the huge nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Here the plan envisions perhaps decreasing that number to as low as eight (but maybe staying as high as the current 11), and enhancing the role of at least six so-called light carriers. The latter are large-deck amphibious assault ships (like the Bonhomme Richard, which unfortunately burned at the pier in San Diego a few weeks ago) that can carry the new F-35B Lightning stealth fighter-attack jets.
The biggest new addition will be an investment in up to 240 unmanned ships. These drones could be programmed to do high-risk, in-close surveillance, provide “on-call” magazines of missiles, conduct minesweeping or minelaying, and undertake freedom of navigation patrols.
My beloved surface combatant force would include about 90 large ships (cruisers and destroyers) and would increase the number of smaller surface combatants such as frigates, corvettes and littoral combat ships to perhaps 70 total. This would include the new Constellation Class frigates for which contracts are just being awarded.
The new plan also calls for more combat logistics ships, up to 90, capable of refueling and rearming warships in forward combat. For the Marines, there would be around 60 ships with better ability to conduct quick strikes well behind enemy lines at sea and ashore.
Clearly, buying so many ships will stress the defense budget. Resources will have to be diverted from the Army, Air Force and the defense agencies. Some critics are rightfully concerned about the long-term sustainment costs, such as maintenance and manning.
One very senior former Department of Defense official said to me that “the Navy has sacrificed itself on the altar of forward presence,” meaning that if it didn’t insist on having so many ships forward-deployed, it could operate fewer, surge in times of trouble, and have the resources for all the unavoidable operations, training and maintenance costs. There is a certain logic to that.
The right overall number of ships is probably at the lower end of the estimates in the defense secretary’s presentation, some 350-400. More warships would rack up big bills in support costs over time, and may not be necessary if we take advantage of new technology and tactics.
There are savings to be had in unmanned systems, certainly, perhaps more in small underwater drones than in the air and on the sea’s surface. The Navy can do more to compensate for lower ship numbers than requested through offensive cyber-capability, and it will need more robust cyberdefenses.
The idea of returning the Marines to their roots as sea warriors (after a couple of decades fighting ashore in Iraq and Afghanistan) makes sense, especially if integrated with Navy SEAL and Army Special Forces capabilities. And the idea of reducing the number of nuclear carriers while focusing on the “light” carriers (which are still about two-thirds the size of a supercarrier) is a good one.
In terms of positioning, using more overseas homeports — say in Greece or Israel in the Mediterranean, or in Guam in the Pacific — to cut down transit times could allow stationing fewer ships.
It is tempting, as a retired admiral, for me to say, “Oh yes, 500 ships is terrific.” But more careful analysis needs to be done, not only on the most effective fleet size but also the impact a growing Navy will have on the budgets of the other services; on potential new operational patterns and the positioning of the fleet; and on how technology can reduce costs.
All that will have to wait until after next month’s presidential election, of course. But there are some things the Pentagon approach has correct already: The 355-ship Navy is indeed a floor; new ideas and technology are needed; and no matter how exquisite an individual ship’s war-fighting capability, quantity has a quality all its own.

Capitalism Caused Climate Change; It Must Also Be the Solution
David Fickling/Bloomberg/October, 15/2020
Can the world shrink its emissions footprint without immiserating its population?
We’re seeing a brutal real-world experiment on that front right now. The coronavirus pandemic has caused the biggest drop in emissions in history. It has also resulted in more than a million deaths and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
That’s just a foretaste of what’s to come, though. To remain within the carbon budgets needed to give a 50-50 chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world would need to repeat the 7% annual decline in emissions seen in 2020 every year until 2050. Think this has been a bad year for human welfare? The coming decades risk being even worse unless we can rapidly sever the centuries-long link between economic growth and carbon pollution. One argument that’s gained ground in recent years is that growth itself is the problem. The issue is one of “capitalism versus the climate,” to quote the subtitle of a 2014 book by Canadian journalist Naomi Klein. “All you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” Swedish activist Greta Thunberg told a 2019 UN summit: “How dare you!”
Perhaps instead of trying to make the climate subservient to the needs of expanding gross domestic product, we need to cut our economic coat according to our atmospheric cloth?
The International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook provides one reason why that’s unlikely to work.
The outlook, released Tuesday, is structured around scenarios reflecting different policy settings and how they’ll affect energy consumption and emissions over the coming decades. This year, two are new: one illustrating the path to net-zero emissions by 2050, and one showing how a delayed recovery from the pandemic might alter the picture.
Such a recession would indeed reduce emissions in the near term. Until 2023, the Delayed Recovery Scenario sends less carbon into the atmosphere than the Sustainable Development Scenario, which is meant to model the path to keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.
After that, though, things fall apart. Thanks to ongoing economic weakness, governments and businesses lose the capacity to carry out the spending needed to remake the world’s energy system. Investment in fossil fuels falls by 10% relative to expectations under current policies, but spending on renewables and nuclear drops by 5% as well, so that $2.2 trillion less is spent by 2030.
Rather than investing to replace our power plants and appliances with lower-carbon alternatives, we eke out their polluting lives a little bit longer. By 2030, annual emissions are about 29% higher than they would be under Sustainable Development.
This desktop model of how the world could develop reflects a profound truth. The atmosphere can accommodate about 500 billion metric tons more carbon dioxide to give an even chance of keeping warming below 1.5 degrees — but the world’s current industrial base is currently pumping out roughly 33 billion tons a year, and will continue to do so unless we can replace it.
Retrofitting the world’s energy systems is going to require vast sums of money. Renewable power alone will need an average $569 billion of investment every year over the coming decade under the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario. That’s almost twice the rate seen over the past five years, and not far behind what the entire oil and gas sector would spend under the same settings. If anything, the world needs a target that’s more ambitious still.
If we can get up to speed, that volume of spending will create its own momentum. One justified complaint of anti-capitalist climate activists is that our political systems frequently put their thumbs on the scale to favor powerful incumbent businesses, which at present are mostly the polluting ones. But a system where investment dollars are flowing away from fossil fuels and toward decarbonization is one where power, too, is shifting away from the carbon economy.
Even under the IEA’s less ambitious Stated Policies Scenario, the $15.14 trillion that gets spent globally on fossil fuel generation and production by 2040 is smaller than the $15.97 trillion spent on renewables and nuclear — and doesn’t include the amounts that go to energy efficiency and grid networks.
Under the Sustainable Development Scenario, which has historically often been a better guide to the path of the energy transition, low-carbon power ends up with $2.70 of spending for every $1 going to fossil fuel extraction and generation. That’s a world in which renewables will increasingly set the rules of the game, encouraging governments to remove the remaining subsidies that support oil, gas and coal.
Since the industrial revolution, the fossil-fueled engine of capitalist growth has conspired to put the world in its current climate crisis. Harnessing that power to drive the carbon transition is now our best hope of turning that disaster around.