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British Columbians fight US billionaire for ‘right to roam’ in wild


MERRITT — When most Canadians come across “No Trespassing” signs, they stop in their tracks and turn around, often in disappointment.

But not everyone gives up.

A few enter into decades-long battles, like the one against B.C.’s giant Douglas Lake Cattle Company, owned by one of America’s richest people, Stan Kroenke. And the lesson these diehards have been able to pass on is that “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs in Canada, despite being posted almost everywhere, are often not worth the plastic, wood or metal they’re printed on.


Stan Kroenke.

“Most of the no-trespassing signs you see in B.C. are illegal,” says Rick McGowan, as we travel over a gnarled, grassy track on the magnificent Douglas Lake ranch. This is not just any path, however. McGowan and his allies in the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club have shown in court it is a public right-of-way, even though it crosses the billionaire’s property.

The track leads to peaceful Stoney Lake, one of dozens of public bodies of water in the Cariboo-Chilcotin that locals, including Indigenous people, were able to fish on not long ago, but which have since been blockaded off by landowners.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves has ruled, however, that the American billionaire and his hired hands can no longer keep Stoney or nearby Minnie Lake, which are Crown property, behind locks, gates and no-trespassing signs.

The Nicola Valley club’s case against the Douglas Lake Cattle Company is a boon to Canadians who love the outdoors and seek rightful access to wild places.

McGowan, an easygoing but tough-talking man, is making a point of taking me over some of the long-obstructed public rights of way that lead to Stoney Lake on Kroenke’s ranch. The property is bigger than Metro Vancouver. It’s not only Canada’s largest ranch, it’s the biggest privately owned chunk of property anywhere in B.C.

“Pretty well all the no-trespassing signs around here are shot to s — t,” says McGowan, 67, who spent much of his career with the B.C. Highways Ministry mapping every metre of every road and right-of-way running through the stunning rolling hills southeast of Merritt.

“I’ve surveyed every road in the district. And I knew they were being locked illegally,” says McGowan, whose unique expertise is part of the reason Justice Grove called him an “impressive witness” and took him so seriously as an impartial “public-interest” litigant.

To put it another way, McGowan and his comrades are not in this for the money. Yet McGowan has been arrested three times by the local RCMP though never convicted. The judge criticized the police for their insidious collaboration with Kroenke’s ranch staff. B.C. government bureaucrats and politicians were also bitten by the judge’s rebukes.

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Even though the Douglas Lake ranch conflict has huge implications in its own right for access to wilderness, the Nicola Valley club’s concerted response to the reclusive billionaire’s efforts to lock out the people of B.C. is part of a much bigger movement.

That movement has been called “the freedom to roam” or “the right of public access to the wilderness.” It’s a centuries-old campaign by walkers, fishers, recreational users and other ordinary people to gain justified access to lakes, streams, mountains and wilderness, while showing respect for private property.

Sometimes campaigners try to gain access to government-owned lakes and rivers that end up surrounded by private land, which is the situation in the Nicola Valley case. Other times they battle to forge designated trails through “uncultivated” private property itself.

The freedom to roam is well advanced in Scotland, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Switzerland and other nations, where it’s possible to walk pastoral routes that wend their way through a blend of public and private land for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres.

Will Canadians follow the European path?

‘Everything you can see … is owned by Stan Kroenke’

“Everything you can see for 30 miles is owned by Stan Kroenke,” McGowan says, standing at the top of a hill that surveys vast grasslands dotted with horses, cattle, rocks, birds and lakes.

The Douglas Lake Cattle Company is one of many B.C. ranches bought since 2003 by Kroenke, a Colorado-based real-estate baron who owns the Los Angeles Rams, the Denver Nuggets basketball team, the Colorado Avalanche hockey team, London’s Arsenal soccer club and other major-league sports franchises. He is married to Ann Walton, a scion of the family that owns Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue.


Rick McGowan, with his truck, next to Stoney Lake on the Douglas Lake ranch.

The Douglas Lake ranch — together with Kroenke’s recent acquisitions of nearby Alkali Lake, Riske Creek, Dog Creek and Quilchena ranches — encompasses roughly 5,000 square kilometres of deeded and Crown grazing land. Metro Vancouver, by comparison, covers 2,700 square kilometres.

The Douglas ranch has its own airstrip and fishing lodges. It also surrounds Stoney Lake and Minnie Lake, which McGowan and friends used to fish in before they were blocked by Kroenke, the man often known as “Silent Sam” since he never talks to the media. Forbes Magazine estimates Kroenke is worth $8.5 billion.

Since he owns more gigantic ranches in the U.S., Kroenke put a Canadian, Joe Gardner, in charge of the Douglas ranch and the extremely costly court case against the Nicola Valley club, which has had to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the non-resident magnate.

But Gardner, after 40 years at the ranch, stepped down as general manager in July, just six months after Justice Groves decided against the Douglas Lake Cattle Company, saying two of the Crown-owned lakes on the ranch must be reopened for catch-and-release fishing to the public, even if the lakes are stocked by the ranch. Gardner, who still works for Kroenke, was not available for comment.

The judge’s hard-hitting decision — which criticized Gardner for acting above the law and RCMP members for colluding with him — is a huge affirmation that the Canadian public has a right to cherished water bodies, at a time when many believe governments are failing to stand up to private interests.

Groves accused the B.C. government of failing to respond to Douglas Lake ranch’s unlawfulness. “Over 20 years, a privately held corporation, owning a large swath of land, prohibited the public from driving on the public road, and the province did nothing,” he said.

The judge also rebuked Victoria in a scorching epilogue: “It makes no sense to me that the Crown would retain ownership of the lakes, only for there to be no access.” He urged B.C. politicians to re-examine trespassing laws and “guarantee access to this precious public resource.”

The Douglas Lake ranch is appealing the judge’s decision.

McGowan, who acknowledges he’s “a bit of a pot stirrer,” has long found it both provoking and laughable that RCMP officers have arrested him and many others for fighting for the freedom to fish on public lakes. He’s supported by countless people in the Nicola Valley, Kamloops, Metro Vancouver, Victoria and farther afield.

Their donations arrive by many routes, including at Nicola Valley club picnics, where hunting rifles are raffled. “I’ve been fighting this for over 30 years,” including with Douglas ranch’s previous owners, says McGowan, adding how rewarding it is that he’s been joined in the past decade by the Nicola Valley club and people like his lifelong neighbour, retired school teacher Harry Little. 

Little, a soft-spoken 73-year-old, has come along with us for the ride onto the Douglas ranch, where he describes how McGowan and he have frequently cut off illicit gate locks and explains that the overgrown road to Stoney Lake — which bizarrely remains under a highways maintenance contract — now dives under the surface of the lake, since Kroenke’s people have flooded it.

McGowan, leaning his big frame against his white Dodge Ram three-quarter-ton pickup truck, says people often ask him how he can keep going, since they worry the long conflict must be stressful.

But he laughs at the idea, saying: “This is therapy.”

Surveying the near endless hills of the Douglas Lake ranch, he says, “This was all locked for 30 years.” And now some routes are slowly being reopened.

Not that it is mission accomplished. McGowan says there are at least 30 more lakes in the Nicola Valley that landowners are illegally blockading behind gates, boulders and logs.

That includes the former access route to nearby Quilchena Falls, a spectacular waterfall south of the Kelowna Connector highway, which locals decades ago used to love to visit for swimming and picnics. But Quilchena Falls is now also blocked by Kroenke’s vast land holdings.

What, McGowan muses, does one of the world’s richest land barons want? “At the end of the day, I guess the true capitalist wants to own everything.”

The right to public jewels

I have had the pleasure of walking for days on end on trails through Scotland, Denmark, Italy and Wales, which at certain points traverse private land.

The remarkable European hiking and pilgrimage routes, many of which were in use for a millennium, have been reopened in many cases only because citizens fought complex battles for the right to enjoy them. Now they are considered public jewels.


Chris Harvey at Quilchena Falls, a public body of water now surrounded by the Douglas Lake ranch, which is restricting access.

One of the first crusades for the right to cross private land occurred in Manchester, England, in the 1930s. That’s when a rebellious group of young factory workers who called themselves “ramblers” showed just how determined they were to walk in a beautiful, privately owned area known as the Peak District.

The ramblers did so en masse and many, like in the Nicola Valley, were arrested. But over the long run they prevailed. And Britain is not alone in offering the public access to rights of way, including around the edges of farms. Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and many other countries make a point of offering ordinary people the freedom to roam.

Taking into account local context, each country has carefully worked out viable ways to protect landowners from irresponsible users, who owners fear might venture off designated trails, leave behind garbage, camp without permission, start a fire, damage the environment or sue for an injury.

In Canada, by contrast, private-property signs blocking access to public land abound, thoroughly intimidating the uninformed populace. The Nicola Valley club lawyer, Chris Harvey, says Canadians appear to expect governments to protect their access to the wild. But most governments are doing the opposite.

When it comes to property rights, Harvey says, Canadians are somewhere in between more open-minded European landowners and hypervigilant Americans, many of whom behave as if the right to protect private property, often with guns, is their nation’s most sacred value.

The right-to-roam movement in Canada is slowly gaining legs, however, including in B.C., where even city dwellers feel defined by wild places.

Two years ago, inspired by the Douglas ranch case, B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver launched private members Bill M223: The Right to Roam Act. Even though it died on the order paper, Green representative Claire Hume says it “remains an issue we think is incredibly important and one we would love to see government take on.”

Recognizing the right-to-roam discussion raises “some delicate decision points around traditional (Indigenous) territory and private property-trespass law,” Hume said Weaver didn’t expect his bill — which was intended to make nature “open to all, not just the privileged few” — to pass the way he had drafted it. But he does hope it will spark more discussion in the legislature.

Right-to-roam advocates have never sought unfettered access

The head of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, Calvin Sandborn, is one of many leaders of a loose-knit coalition determined to make it possible for citizens to experience nature by venturing onto private land.

Sandborn and law students Graham Litman and Matt Hulse have created a seminal report titled Enhancing Public Access to Privately Owned Wild Lands, which looks at some of B.C.’s most lively action fronts.

In addition to covering the Douglas Lake conflict, Sandborn’s team is monitoring an effort to create a 700-kilometre walking network on Vancouver Island, called the Island Spine Trail. They’re also tracking roaming disputes on Lasqueti Island, Galiano Island and in Comox.


Rick McGowan and long-time neighbour Harry Little, on the Douglas Lake ranch.

The B.C. Wildlife Federation, the B.C. Federation of Fly Fishers and B.C. Outdoor Recreation Council have prepared positions on the right to roam. And they’re tracking the many ways recreational users constantly come up against landowners.

To ease landowners’ concerns, Sandborn emphasizes right-to-roam advocates have never sought unfettered access to property. “We don’t want people going through a hundred different trails on someone’s property. Access can be provided in a variety of ways.”

And not only to remote wilderness. The Gorge region of the City of Victoria is also in play. Sandborn’s students have surveyed how property owners have built carports and sheds over public rights of way to the Gorge waterway, which are legally supposed to occur every 200 metres.

Sandborn says when one Gorge neighbour who lived across the street from waterfront properties that were illicitly blocking beach access found out what the law students were doing, he remarked, “’I’ve lived here 20 years. And I didn’t realize until now I had the right to take my canoe down to the water.’”

Metro Vancouver has its own access-to-waterfront issues, says Sandborn — in White Rock and West Vancouver.

Washington state can be a model for B.C.

The University of Victoria report suggests which global jurisdictions could be models for B.C. Surprisingly, given Americans’ legendary emphasis on absolute private property rights, one of them is in B.C.’s own Cascadian backyard: Washington state.

The counties that contain Seattle and Bellingham both offer major tax breaks to owners who make portions of their land available to hikers, birdwatchers, sightseers, horseback riders and other nature lovers, all of whom are expected to follow rules for respecting private property.

Creative things have also been happening at the other end of Canada, in Nova Scotia. That province has long provided citizens the right to cross private, uncultivated land and to go on foot along the banks of rivers and lakes to fish, including with a boat.

Which is precisely the kind of freedom the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club seeks on the Douglas ranch and beyond.

McGowan is playing the long game, but he doesn’t, to put it mildly, trust politicians. He knows his comrades will need help, particularly from younger generations. He realizes his encyclopedic knowledge of roads and property bylaws in the Nicola Valley has been an incredible asset for the local cause, but he also knows most people don’t have the same background.

So, at his age, he’s worried.

As geese fly overhead, he says the access-to-land cause in the Nicola Valley needs “somebody else to pick up the cudgel.” The long-term strategy of billionaire landowners and their ilk, he believes, is to use their immense wealth to hire lawyers and others to wear people down.

“This is their dream: That guys like me will die off. And nobody will remember.”

The Douglas Lake ranch’s appeal will be heard March 30  and 31 in Vancouver.

[email protected]

Twitter.com/@douglastodd





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Resounding win by Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in U.K. election brings end to Brexit deadlock


LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a resounding election victory on Friday that will allow him to take Britain out of the European Union in matter of weeks.

For Johnson, whose 20-week tenure in power has been marked by chaotic scenes in parliament and stark division on the streets over Britain’s tortuous departure from the European Union, victory in Thursday’s contest was vindication.

Educated at the country’s most elite school and recognizable by his bombastic style, the 55-year-old must not only deliver Brexit but also convince Britons that the contentious divorce, which would lead to lengthy trade talks, is worth it.

A landslide Conservative win marks the ultimate failure of opponents of Britain’s departure from the European Union who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.


Conservative party leader Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks after winning his seat in Britain’s general election, Dec. 13, 2019.

Toby Melville/Reuters

Johnson won an outright majority in the 650-seat parliament after an exit poll showed the Conservatives on course to win a landslide 368 seats, the biggest Conservative national election win since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 triumph.

“I think this will turn out to be a historic election that gives us now, in this new government, the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people,” Johnson said after winning his seat of Uxbridge.

He said the Conservatives appeared to have won “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done.”

U.S President Donald Trump said it was “looking like a big win for Boris.”

Labour were forecast to win 203 seats, the worst result for the party since 1935, after offering voters a second referendum and the most radical socialist government in generations. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would step down.

With results from across Britain indicating the exit poll was accurate, Johnson’s bet on a snap election has paid off, meaning he will swiftly ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the EU so that the United Kingdom can leave on Jan. 31 – 10 months later than initially planned.


Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves the party’s headquarters following the general election on Dec. 13, 2019.

Henry Nicholls/Reuters

But nearly half a century after joining what has become the world’s largest trading bloc, Johnson faces the daunting challenge of striking new international trade deals, preserving London’s position as a top global financial capital and keeping the United Kingdom together.

Sterling soared and was on course for one of its biggest one-day gains in the past two decades. The pound hit a 19-month high of $1.3516 versus the dollar and its strongest levels against the euro since shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

As of 0510 GMT, Johnson’s Conservatives had made a net gain of 41 seats.

After nearly four years of Brexit debate that has riven the United Kingdom, deadlocked parliament and shocked allies, a majority will allow Johnson to lead the United Kingdom out of the club it first joined in 1973.

But Brexit is far from over.

He faces the daunting task of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU, possibly in just 11 months, while also negotiating another trade deal with U.S. President Donald Trump.

The outcome of the negotiations will shape the future of Britain’s economy. After Jan. 31, Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the remaining 27 EU states.

This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.

A big majority may give him the political security to extend the trade talks beyond 2020 because he could overrule the Brexit hardliner European Research Group (ERG) faction in the party.

“The bigger the Tory majority of course the less influence over this the ERG and Eurosceptics will have,” said Brexit party leader Nigel Farage. “It will be called Brexit but it won’t really be.”

Johnson called the first Christmas election since 1923 to break what he said was the paralysis of Britain’s political system after more than three years of crisis over Brexit.

I think this will turn out to be a historic election

The face of the victorious “Leave” campaign in the 2016 referendum, Johnson fought the election under the slogan of “Get Brexit Done,” promising to end the deadlock and spend more on health, education and the police.

He was helped early in the election by Farage’s Brexit Party which stood down hundreds of candidates to prevent the pro-Brexit vote from being split. Early results showed the Brexit Party had poached a significant number of voters from Labour.

While Brexit framed the election, the slow-motion exit from the EU has variously fatigued, enthused and enraged voters while eroding loyalties to the two major parties.

Results showed Johnson’s strategy had successfully breached Labour’s so-called “Red Wall” of seats across the Brexit-supporting areas of the Midlands and northern England where he cast his political foes as the out-of-touch enemies of Brexit.

The Conservatives took Sedgefield, once held by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful leader.


Conservative leader Boris Johnson stands with Independent candidates Bobby “Elmo” Smith, Independent candidate Count Binface, Green Party candidate Mark Keir and Independent candidate William Tobin after winning his seat for Uxbridge and South Ruislip in Britain’s general election, Dec. 13, 2019.

Toby Melville/Reuters

A defeated Labour now faces a civil war between the socialists who control it and more moderate factions which will demand power.

“This is obviously a very disappointing night for the Labour Party with the result that we’ve got,” Corbyn said after being re-elected in his own north London electoral seat. He said he would not lead the party in any future elections.

Weary Labour candidates said his leadership had played a major role in the defeat.

Ruth Smeeth, who said she also expected to lose her seat in Stoke-on-Trent, laid the blame firmly at Corbyn’s door.

“He should have gone many, many, many months ago,” she said.

The Liberal Democrats were forecast to win 13 seats, the exit poll said. Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat party leader, lost her seat to the Scottish National Party.

The Brexit Party were not predicted to win any.

The Scottish National Party, which strongly opposes Brexit, would win 55 of the 59 seats in Scotland, the poll said, setting the scene for it to demand a second independence vote, after secession was rejected by 55% to 45% in 2014.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said Johnson did not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the EU.

“We don’t want Brexit,” Sturgeon said. “Boris Johnson may have a mandate to take England out of the European Union, he emphatically does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union.”

Here is what to expect from a majority Conservative government:

BREXIT BY JAN. 31

Johnson has promised to bring back to parliament before Christmas the legislation required to ratify his exit deal with Brussels and ensure it is passed by the end of January.

All Conservative candidates have signed up to the deal, so it is expected to have a relatively smooth journey through parliament as opposition parties will not have the numbers to defeat it or make changes to it.

NO EXTENSION OF TRANSITION

After Jan. 31 Britain will enter a transition period during which it will negotiate a new relationship with the EU27.

This can run until the end of December 2022 under the current rules, but the Conservatives made an election promise not to extend the transition period beyond the end of 2020.

If they fail to hammer out a new trade deal by the end of 2020, a deadline trade experts say is unrealistic, Britain could effectively be facing a disorderly no-deal Brexit again.

BUDGET IN FEBRUARY

The party has promised to hold a post-Brexit budget in February, boosting spending on domestic issues such as the health service, education and police.

IMMIGRATION

The Conservatives plan to introduce an “Australian-style” points-based immigration system. They have promised to reduce overall immigration numbers. In particular there will be fewer low-skilled migrants.

Under the new system, which will treat EU and non-EU citizens the same, most immigrants will need a job offer to come to Britain. There will be special visa schemes for migrants who will fill shortages in public services, or who are leaders in fields such as science and technology.

GOVERNMENT BORROWING

Finance minister Sajid Javid has said he will rewrite the country’s fiscal rules so he can spend an extra 20 billion pounds per year over the next five years, raising borrowing for infrastructure to 3% of economic output from its current 1.8%.

TRADE

Johnson’s party has said it wants to have 80 percent of UK trade covered by free trade agreements within three years. It plans to prioritize agreeing deals with the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

— Kylie MacLellan. Reuters





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UK wing of Bangladesh’s ruling party appear to be campaigning for Labour candidate – Channel 4 News


Should a British parliamentary candidate receive campaign support from an organisation linked to an oppressive foreign government?

Questions are being asked about an operation to support  Labour’s candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn in north London. Tulip Siddiq is the niece of the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, whose government is accused of serious human rights violations.

Channel 4 News has seen evidence that the UK wing of Bangladesh’s ruling party has been running a campaign to support Tulip Siddiq’s re-election.

Ms Siddiq claims this is “categorically untrue”. Fatima Manji reports



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Trump says Kim Jong Un risks losing ‘everything’ after North Korea claims major test


WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Dec 8 (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing “everything” if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a “successful test of great significance.”

“Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

“He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November,” he said.

North Korea’s state media KCNA reported earlier on Sunday that it had carried out a “very important” test at its Sohae satellite launch site, a rocket-testing ground that U.S. officials once said North Korea had promised to close.

The reported test comes ahead of a year-end deadline North Korea has imposed for the United States to drop its insistence on unilateral denuclearization. Pyongyang has warned it could take a “new path” amid the stalled talks with the United States.

“North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised,” Trump said on Twitter.

The KCNA report called it a “successful test of great significance” but did not specify what was tested.

This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.

Missile experts said it appeared likely the North Koreans had conducted a static test of a rocket engine, rather than a missile launch.

“If it is indeed a static engine test for a new solid or liquid fuel missile, it is yet another loud signal that the door for diplomacy is quickly slamming, if it isn’t already,” said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

“This could be a very credible signal of what might await the world after the New Year.”

Tensions have risen ahead of a year-end deadline set by North Korea, which has called on the United States to change its policy of insisting on Pyongyang’s unilateral denuclearization and demanded relief from punishing sanctions.

On Saturday North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations said denuclearization was now off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington are not needed.

“The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future,” KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Asked in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview if North Korea might be preparing to resume nuclear tests, U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said that “would be a mistake on the part of North Korea.”

Pyongyang’s last nuclear test, its sixth and most powerful, took place in September 2017.


In this file photo taken on June 12, 2018 US President Donald Trump (R) meets with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) at the start of their US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island in Singapore. – The United States said September 11, 2019 it was encouraged by North Korea’s stated willingness to resume negotiations but criticized its latest firing of projectiles as counterproductive.

SAUL LOEB / AFP)SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

“It doesn’t end well for them if they do.. If North Korea takes a different path than the one it’s promised… we’ve got plenty of tools in the toolkit,” O’Brien said on Sunday.

Recent days have also seen a return to the highly charged rhetoric that raised fears of war two years ago.

In 2017, Trump and Kim famously engaged in a war of words, with Trump calling Kim “Rocket Man” and North Korea calling Trump, now 73, a “dotard.”

On Tuesday, Trump once again called Kim “Rocket Man” and said the United States reserved the right to use military force against North Korea. Pyongyang, in response, said any repeat of such language would represent “the relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”

The test is the latest in a string of statements and actions from North Korea designed to underscore the seriousness of its year-end deadline.

North Korea has announced it would convene a rare gathering of top ruling-party officials later this month, and on Wednesday state media showed photos of Kim taking a second symbolic horse ride on the country’s sacred Mt. Paektu.

Such meetings and propaganda blitzes often come ahead of major announcements from North Korean authorities.

While North Korea has not specified what its “new path” could be, observers have suggested the launch of a space satellite is a possibility, allowing Pyongyang to demonstrate and test its rocket capabilities without resorting to overt military provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.

Kim Dong-yub, a former South Korean Navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said North Korea may have tested a solid fuel rocket engine, which could allow North Korea to field ICBMs that are easier to hide and faster to deploy.

“North Korea has already entered the ‘new path’ that they talked about,” he said.

Trump told reporters in June 2018 after his first summit with Kim that North Korea had pledged to dismantle one of its missile installations, which U.S. officials later identified as Sohae.

Shortly after that summit, analysts said satellite imagery showed some key facilities at Sohae being dismantled.

However, in the wake of the second summit between Trump and Kim earlier this year, which ended with no agreement, new imagery indicated the North Koreans were rebuilding the site.

“Remember this is at the site that was supposedly dismantled as a ‘denuclearization step,’” Narang said. “So this is a first step at ‘renuclearizing.’ Reversible steps are being…reversed.”





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‘That’s no joke’: Taking aim at Trudeau, Trump’s campaign chief compares U.S. job numbers to Canadian losses


For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, it seems the fallout from his Buckingham Palace video slip-up is set to run and run.

In the days since the PM’s unguarded remarks showed him cracking a joke at U.S. President Donald Trump’s expense at a NATO summit in England, he has found the clip being used both by Trump’s allies and foes to further their own needs.

At a reception on Tuesday evening, Trudeau was caught on camera with France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Mark Rutte of the Netherlands laughing at Trump’s long press appearances. “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” said Trudeau. Trump said the clip showed Trudeau was “two-faced.”

In a news conference after the summit, Trudeau said his “jaw drop” comment had been referring to Trump’s unexpected announcement that the next G7 summit will take place at Camp David and he had meant no offence.

However, that doesn’t seem to have appeased the Trump side, and on Friday Trudeau was taken to task by Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale.


Brad Parscale, campaign manager for the Trump 2020 reelection campaign, attends a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump in Bossier City, LA, U.S., November 14, 2019.

REUTERS/Tom Brenner

On Friday Bloomberg reported that Canada’s job market weakened, unexpectedly, for the second month in a row. Citing Statistics Canada figures, Bloomberg reported that Canada shed 71,200 jobs in November — the biggest drop since 2009. In total, Canada has added 285,100 jobs in 2019.

Pouncing on the November drop Parscale, citing Bloomberg reporting run online by the Financial Post, highlighted the fact that American job gains under Trump compare favourably to Canada’s numbers. The most recent U.S. Labor Department figures show the U.S. gained 266,000 jobs in the same month.

“Let’s see,” Parscale wrote in a post on both his Twitter and Facebook accounts, the latter of which was shared by Trump’s own Facebook page.

“President Trump is fighting for America and our economy just ADDED 266,000 jobs. Justin Trudeau was laughing it up in London and the Canadian economy just LOST 71,200 jobs. That’s no joke. Trump wins. Again.”

Parscale’s stinging rebuke came soon after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had chimed in on the Trudeau clip, posting a campaign video to Twitter in which he used the video to take down Trump, suggesting he is a laughingstock to other world leaders.

“The world is laughing,” read the text over that clip and others of Trump’s trips abroad. “We need a leader the world respects.”

As of Thursday evening, Biden’s Twitter video had garnered more than nine million views. The campaign soon posted it to Facebook and told Reuters it was also promoting it to likely caucus-goers in the early presidential nominating state of Iowa on Instagram, YouTube and Hulu.

The Biden campaign also used the video in a fundraising pitch on Thursday, asking supporters to help turn the online ad into a TV spot.

— with files from Reuters and Bloomberg



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Trump calls Trudeau ‘two-faced’ over video that shows world leaders joking about U.S. president


LONDON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other world leaders have been caught on camera apparently talking candidly on Tuesday night about U.S. President Donald Trump,

Hours later, the backlash materialized.

“Well, he’s two-faced,” the president said Wednesday when asked about the video. After a long pause, he added, “He’s a nice guy. I find him to be a very nice guy.”

Trump, who was taking questions from reporters before a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, attributed Trudeau’s frustration to the president’s pressure campaign to increase Canada’s military spending to 2% of its economic output.

“He should be paying more than he’s paying,” Trump said. “I called him out on that and I’m sure he wasn’t happy about it, but that’s the way it is.”

Trump later said on Twitter he would leave the NATO summit early and skip a closing news conference.


Britain’s Princess Royal Anne talks to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a reception on December 3, 2019.

Yui Mok/Pool via REUTERS

At a news conference Wednesday, Trudeau explained he was talking to Macron and Johnson in the video about Trump’s announcement earlier in the day that the next G7 summit in June would be held at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

“Last night, I made a reference to the fact there was an unscheduled press conference before my meeting with president Trump, I was happy to take part in it but it was certainly notable,” Trudeau told reporters.

“We were all surprised and I think pleased to learn that the next G7 will be at Camp David, I think that was an unscheduled announcement and … I think every different leader has teams who every now and then their jaws drop at unscheduled surprises, like that video itself for example,”

Trudeau said he did not believe the video would come back to haunt Canada.

“The relationship with the United States is extremely strong and I have a very good relationship with the president and his team,” he said.


Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, departsafter speaking to reporters at the NATO summit on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The video was shot by the British host’s pool camera during a reception at Buckingham Palace held Tuesday night in London, where leaders from NATO’s 29 countries are marking the 70th anniversary of the military alliance with two days of meetings and discussions.

Snippets of the conversation involving Trudeau, Princess Anne, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands rose above the din and were captured in the short video.

“Is that why you were late?” a smiling Johnson asks Macron in the 25-second clip.

“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau chimes in.

The leaders do not use Trump’s name, but hours before the reception, Trump had turned what were “expected to be brief photo opportunities” with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Macron and Trudeau into what The Washington Post described as “his own personal daytime cable show”.

In his meeting with Trudeau, Trump questioned the Canadian prime minister about how much his country spends on its own defence. Canada does not meet NATO’s target for member countries to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on their militaries.

“What are you at? What is your number?” Trump asked.


President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greet each other at the NATO summit at the Grove Hotel on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Trudeau tried to evade answering directly, saying: “The number we talk about is a 70% increase over these past years. We are increasing significantly our defence spending from previous governments that cut it.”

But Trump followed up. “Okay, where are you now, in terms of your number?”

After some discussion with an aide, Trudeau answered: “1.4.”

Trump said on Wednesday that he had called out Trudeau for failing to meet the 2% target for national output on defence.

By early Wednesday, the Tuesday video had been watched nearly 5 million times.

Others quickly noticed that a member of the royal family was also involved in the exchange, identifying Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II, by her distinctive hair.

Earlier in the evening, Anne was seen in another viral video appearing to shrug off a “scolding” from the Queen for not joining the royal receiving line to greet the president and first lady.

Trump on Tuesday did not publicly address the Trudeau video, only tweeting early Wednesday morning that he “enjoyed” his post-reception meeting with Johnson at 10 Downing Street, where the pair “talked about numerous subjects including @NATO and Trade.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The Canadian Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

By Tuesday afternoon, Johnson claimed at a news conference that he had not been party to any discussion about Trump.

“That’s complete nonsense, and I don’t know where that has come from,” he said. “I really don’t know what is being referred to there.”

When Trudeau arrived at the summit early Wednesday, he walked briskly by reporters and did not answer shouted questions regarding his remarks allegedly about Trump.

Later, as leaders sat down for their meeting, Trudeau could be seen going over to Trump and shaking his hand politely. The two men said something quickly to each other, then Trudeau walked away.

The video had prompted concerns about how the mercurial U.S. president would react.

“By this point in his tenure, the prime minister should realize that events with pool cameras need to be approached and managed as on-the-record events,” Andrew MacDougall, former director of communications for prime minister Stephen Harper, wrote on Twitter.

“Hopefully this gaffe doesn’t wind the president up at a sensitive time for NAFTA and the Meng (Wanzhou)/Huawei file.”

Trump has long bridled at the idea of other world leaders poking fun at the United States.

“The world is laughing at us,” he said frequently during his 2016 presidential campaign, criticizing the leadership of President Barack Obama.

In June 2017, when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Trump said that “we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more. And they won’t be. They won’t be.”

In 2018, after laughter broke out at the United Nations General Assembly when Trump claimed his administration had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the president insisted that he was not the target.

“They weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me,” he said.

While Trudeau has spent much of the past three years trying to establish a good relationship with Trump, the U.S. president has not shied away from lashing out any perceived slight from fellow world leaders.

The U.S. president also previously attacked Trudeau following the G7 summit in Quebec City in June 2018, describing the latter as “so meek and mild” amid a trade row over Canadian dairy and American tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Chris Rands, a producer at the CBC’s Parliamentary news bureau in Ottawa, said he had first unearthed the video while searching for images of Trudeau in footage from Buckingham Palace.

Rands added that based on his listening, Trudeau was discussing Trump’s surprise announcement that a Group of 7 summit meeting next June would be held at CampDavid rather than the Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

Meanwhile, social media was flooded with reactions.

Some viewers were shocked to witness the leaders seeming to act like “mean girls,” as one person put it.

“Oh my God,” a Twitter user wrote. “This is quite something,” another person opined.

With files from The Canadian Press, Washington Post, New York Times and Bloomberg News






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Disgraced Prince Andrew retains Canadian military roles


Prince Andrew, the much-disgraced Duke of York, stepped away from public life late last month in the aftermath of a disastrous interview on the BBC. In the weeks since, organizations around the world, including the prince’s old Canadian private school, have raced to cut ties with the bungling royal. His own mother reportedly cancelled his 60th birthday party.

But the Queen’s middle son hasn’t yet lost all his official appointments. Despite his close ties to a notorious sex criminal and his own ham-fisted PR efforts, Prince Andrew remains the titular head of three Canadian military regiments, the Department of National Defence (DND) confirms.

“As is the custom, the Duke of York holds the honorary title of Colonel-in-Chief of The Princess Louise Fusiliers, The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada and the Queen’s York Rangers,” Jessica Lamirande, a DND spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

It took a full week of questions from the National Post for the DND to confirm even that much about the scandal-plagued prince. The department refused to answer any follow up questions on the record. Todd Lane, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s press secretary, meanwhile, said the minister wouldn’t comment at all beyond the department’s statement.

A government source, however, speaking on background, said Prince Andrew’s announcement that he was stepping away from public duties put the Canadian military into an unprecedented and somewhat baffling situation. No one within the department knew at first what it meant for Prince Andrew’s role within the Canadian Armed Forces. His statement, broad and vague, did not address his military roles, in Great Britain and across the Commonwealth, at all.


Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, presents The Duke Edinburgh’s Gold Award to recipients during a ceremony at the Government House Saturday May 18, 2013 in Victoria.

Chad Hipolito /

THE CANADIAN PRESS

“This has never happened before,” the source said.

A statement Sunday from a royal spokesperson did little to clarify the situation: “The Duke of York has stepped back for the time being and will not be undertaking any public duties on behalf of his Patronages or associations.”

The title of Colonel-in-Chief isn’t merely symbolic. It can’t be wiped off a web page and forgotten. In fact, it’s not clear the Canadian government could rescind Prince Andrew’s appointments at all, even if it wanted to.

“The position of Colonel-in Chief is a symbol of a direct relationship between the Sovereign and the members of that regiment,” said Richard Berthelsen, an expert on the Crown and Canada. “It’s not like a patronage. It has a much deeper meaning. It is something that is official and is recognized in the Canadian Forces as having significant importance to history and heritage of that unit.”

Commonwealth regiments can only be granted a royal colonel-in-chief by the Queen herself. Most appointed serve in that capacity until they die. The Queen Mother was Colonel-in-Chief of the Toronto Scottish Regiment for 64 years, until her death in 2002.

On rare occasions, elderly royals have asked to be relieved of their appointments as part of a larger retirement from public life. Diana, the late Princess of Wales, voluntarily gave up all of her military appointments when she left the Royal Family. But Garry Toffoli, the executive director of the Canadian Royal Heritage Trust, doesn’t think anyone has been forcibly stripped of such an appointment since the outbreak of the First World War when foreign royals, including Kaiser Wilhelm II, had their British military titles revoked.

The Canadian government source said the department does not expect Prince Andrew to carry out any of his ceremonial duties in Canada while he remains in the royal penalty box. (During the past 20 years, he has presided over more than a dozen events linked to his positions as colonel-in-chief.) Should the Canadian military decide at some point that it wants to formally end its relationship with the prince, Toffoli believes the process would likely take place through back channels, from the Prime Minister to the Governor General or directly to the Queen itself. “It’s never happened that I’m aware of,” he said. But “there’s nothing stopping a prime minister from a making a recommendation, a very strong recommendation, I suppose.”

Even then, Toffoli believes it highly unlikely that Prince Andrew would be stripped of his titles. “Somebody would approach Andrew and ask him to voluntarily give up the appointment,” he said. “I don’t know that we’re at that state at this point,” he added. “We never get to that point.”



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Turkey, Libya delimitation deal raises geopolitical tensions



Turkey has signed an agreement with Libya’s internationally recognised government on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea that could affect oil and gas exploration of other countries and heighten geopolitical tensions in the volatile region.

Ankara reportedly announced the accord and a deal on expanded security and military cooperation on 28 November.

Cyprus Natural Hydrocarbons Company CEO Charles Ellinas told New Europe on 29 November that the immediate impact of the Libya-Turkey agreement is on the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Greece and Egypt.

Both Greece and Egypt, but also Cyprus, have already strongly condemned this as not being in agreement with international law, blatantly ignoring the rights of islands. Cairo dismissed the deal between Ankara and Tripoli as “illegal” and Athens said the accord is “completely unacceptable” because it ignored the presence of the Greek island of Crete between the coasts of Turkey and Libya and summoned Turkish Ambassador Burak Ozugergin to the Greek Foreign Ministry, Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper reported.

Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry on 29 November also condemned the deal. “Such a delimitation, if done, would constitute a serious violation of international law,” an announcement said, CyprusMail reported. “It would be contrary to the recognised principle of the convention on the law of the sea and the rights of islands’ EEZ,” it added. “With the distortion of the law of the sea and the counterfeiting of geography – Turkey will gain no footing in the Eastern Mediterranean,” it concluded.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed that with the memorandum of understanding on the “delimitation of maritime jurisdictions Turkey is protecting “rights deriving from international law.” Reuters quoted him as saying that such accords could be agreed with other countries if differences could be overcome and that Ankara was in favour of “fair sharing” of resources, including off Cyprus.

Constantinos Filis, director of research at Institute of International Relations, told New Europe on 29 November Turkey’s illegal acts do not have legal repercussions. “Ankara’s attempt to agree with an unstable regime, which represents only part of Libya and therefore any deal it signs is uncertain, is a result of its isolation particularly from energy developments. Given that Turkey cannot agree with any other regional actor not only in the delimitation of the continental shelve or EEZ but also on how to stabilize the region and make it prosperous, it is left with no option but to approach a semi-rogue regime in order to showcase its regional power,” he said, adding that the message it wants to send is that any agreement or plan, including energy projects, cannot be fulfilled without Ankara’s consent.

Ellinas said the Libya-Turkey agreement indirectly affects Cyprus as well, as Turkey uses the same justification to delineate its ‘EEZ’ in the Mediterranean. “In effect, this ignores the entitlement of islands, including Cyprus and Crete, to an EEZ. Turkey defines its ‘EEZ’ to be coextensive with its continental shelf, based the relative lengths of adjacent coastlines, which completely disadvantages islands. It is a ‘unique’ interpretation not shared by any other country and not in accordance to the United Nations UNCLOS treaty, ratified by 167 countries but not Turkey,” Ellinas said.

He argued that Ankara appears to be picking and choosing, as it has used UNLOS principles to delineate its ‘EEZ’ in the Black Sea but does not accept them in the Mediterranean. “That may be challengeable under customary international law,” the Cyprus Natural Hydrocarbons Company CEO said.

“In all likelihood Turkey is doing this, as well as through its aggressive actions in carrying out exploration and drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ, in order to establish a position of strength from which eventually to enter into negotiations. But also as a reaction to the growing cooperation among almost all the other countries bordering the East Med. Turkey’s claims have no internationally recognised legal basis,” Ellinas said.

According to Filis, it is not clear whether there is an agreement – rather, it seems to be a preliminary step of expressing their intention to sign an agreement in the future. “But the most dangerous repercussion might be Turkey’s attempt to use it as a basis for projecting its supposed sovereign right to proceed with seismic activities in the area between Rhodes and Crete, especially in the southeastern part of the matter, thus confirming its strategic interest for the triangle between Crete, Kastellorizo and Cyprus,” he said.

Asked what could be the US and EU reaction to this agreement and how does it affect geopolitics in the region, Ellinas said both Washington and Brussels, and all other neighbouring countries in the East Med, recognise Cyprus’ and other countries’ rights to their EEZs declared in accordance to UNCLOS. He explained that as UNCLOS is not legally enforceable against a state that declines to sign and ratify it, the way to resolve this may eventually be through negotiations or arbitration on the basis of internationally recognised law and not through aggressive actions as Turkey is now pursuing.



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the scale of the challenge – Channel 4 News


With the world facing natural disasters, rising sea levels and species on the brink of extinction, what will it take for politicians to act on the climate crisis?

Reports show countries will have to cut their carbon emissions five fold to maintain the 1.5 degree rise in global temperatures.

We take a look at the scale of the climate crisis and why those in power after the election will have to take action.



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20 Iraqi protesters shot dead by security forces within 24 hours – National


BAGHDAD — Security forces in Iraq shot dead 20 anti-government protesters in a 24-hour period amid spiraling violence in the capital and the country’s south, as Iran condemned the burning of its consulate.

Security forces Thursday fired live ammunition, killing four protesters and wounding 22 on the strategic Ahrar Bridge in Baghdad, security and medical officials said.

Violence across southern Iraq continued throughout the night, with security forces killing 16 protesters and wounding 90 since Wednesday evening. Protesters closed roads and a large number of police and military forces were deployed across key oil-rich provinces.






Nine dead in Iraq after protesters clash with security forces


Nine dead in Iraq after protesters clash with security forces

In Baghdad, protesters attempted to cross the Ahrar Bridge leading nearby to the heavily fortified Green Zone, the seat of Iraq’s government. Protesters are occupying parts of three bridges – Jumhuriya, Sinak and Ahrar – all leading to the fortified area. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

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Protesters had set fire to the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Najaf late Wednesday, in one of the worst attacks targeting Iranian interests in the country since the anti-government protests erupted two months ago. The Iranian staff were not harmed and escaped out the back door.

Anti-government protests have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of being hopelessly corrupt and has also decried Iran’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.

At least 350 people have been killed by security forces, which routinely used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse crowds, sometimes shooting protesters directly with gas canisters, causing several fatalities.


READ MORE:
1 killed, 21 wounded as violent protests continue in Iraq

Separately, the U.S. Embassy denounced a recent decision by Iraq’s media regulator to suspend nine television channels, calling for the Communications and Media Commission to reverse its decision. Thursday’s statement from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad also condemned attacks and harassment against journalists.



Local channel Dijla TV had its license suspended on Tuesday for its coverage of the protests, and its office was closed and equipment confiscated, according an official from one of the channels under threat. Other channels have been asked by the regulatory commission to sign a pledge “agreeing to adhere to its rules,” said the official, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal.

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The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s coordinated bombings in three Baghdad neighborhoods, which killed five people. That was the first apparent coordinated attack since anti-government protests began. The bombings took place far from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of weeks of anti-government protests that have posed the biggest security challenge to Iraq since the defeat of IS.

Tehran called for a “responsible, strong and effective” response to the incident from Iraq’s government, said Abbas Mousavi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, in statements to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the torching of the consulate, saying it was perpetrated by “people outside of the genuine protesters,” in a statement, adding that the purpose had been to harm bilateral relations between the countries.






Anti-government protests continue to escalate in Iraq


Anti-government protests continue to escalate in Iraq

One demonstrator was killed and 35 wounded when police fired live ammunition to try to prevent them from entering the consulate building. Once inside, the demonstrators removed the Iranian flag and replaced it with an Iraqi one, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with regulations.

A curfew was imposed in Najaf after the consulate was burned. Security forces were heavily deployed around main government buildings and religious institutions Thursday morning. The province is the headquarters of the country’s Shiite religious authority.

The consulate attack comes after days of sit-ins and road closures with protesters cutting access to main thoroughfares and bridges with burning tires. Protesters have also lately targeted the state’s economic interests in the south by blocking key ports and roads to oil fields.

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Anti-government protesters in Iraq burn down Iranian consulate: officials

In the oil-rich province of Nassiriya, 16 protesters were killed overnight and 90 wounded by security forces who fired live ammunition to disperse them from a key bridge, security and medical officials said Thursday. Demonstrators had been blocking Nasr Bridge leading to the city center for several days. Security forces moved in late Wednesday to open the main thoroughfare. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

In Basra, security forces were deployed in the city’s main roads to prevent protesters from staging sit-ins, with instructions to arrest demonstrators if they tried to block roads.

Basra’s streets were open as of Thursday morning, but roads leading to the two main Gulf commodities ports in Umm Qasr and Khor al-Zubair remained closed. Schools and official public institutions were also closed.

Protesters had brought traffic in the oil-rich province to a halt for days by burning tires and barricading roads.




© 2019 The Canadian Press







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