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Taiwan Loses Second Ally This Week to China

Taiwan Loses Second Ally This Week to China(Bloomberg) — For Taiwan, the Pacific Islands had been relatively stable as China siphoned off diplomatic partners elsewhere after independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen took power in 2016. That all changed this week.On Monday, the Solomon Islands — one of the biggest economies in the region — recognized China and ended formal relations with Taiwan that began in 1983. Kiribati followed suit in news that broke on Friday. Before the defections, Taiwan hadn’t lost a friend in the region since 2004.Taiwan now has just 15 diplomatic partners worldwide, including four in the Pacific. At least two of those relationships are also looking shaky, as China’s spending spree of $ 1.6 billion in aid and loans to the region since 2011 — more than four times the amount Taiwan has been able to contribute — has outmatched the democratically-run island.“The defections show that Taiwan has hit the ceiling on how much it’s willing to pay to keep its allies in the Pacific,” said Jonathan Pryke, who researches the Pacific Islands at Sydney-based think tank the Lowy Institute. “Ultimately for these countries, it’s an economic decision, not a foreign policy one. But for China the main game here is the marginalization of Taiwan, and it also solidifies its presence in the region.”China Claims Diplomatic Coup Over Taiwan With Solomon SwitchThat footprint is a growing concern for the U.S. and its close ally Australia. Diplomats in Washington and Canberra fear that China’s end-game in the Pacific Islands may be to establish a naval base that would greatly enhance its military reach toward the Americas.China said it “highly” appreciated and supported Kiribati’s decision, and that the move would bring “unprecedented opportunities” to the country. “In the past few days the Solomon Islands and Kiribati, both Pacific island countries, have decided to recognize the ‘one-China’ principle, sever ties with Taiwan and resume or establish relations with China. It is further testament that the ‘one-China’ principle is the overriding trend recognized by all,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters in Beijing. “Relations between China and Pacific island countries are enjoying rapid development,” he said. Luring AlliesWhile Beijing and U.S.-backed Taipei have competed for diplomatic recognition since 1949, the battle has intensified in recent years. Since Tsai was elected in January 2016, China has lured away a third of her 22 allies.“China’s main goal is to squeeze Taiwan’s space in the international arena,” Taiwan Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu told a briefing on Friday. “The ultimate goal is to wipe out Taiwan’s sovereignty all together.”El Salvador cut ties with Taipei last August, months after Burkina Faso and the Dominican Republic switched recognition to Beijing. This week’s defection of the Solomon Islands is perhaps the most important flip, as it means China has reduced Taiwan’s formal diplomatic footprint by almost half in terms of population and economic output since Tsai came to power.China has gained an advantage in the region by funding and building much-desired transport and utility infrastructure, compared with the focus by U.S. and Australia on bolstering governance, health and education services. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to discuss Beijing’s growing sway in the South Pacific during face-to-face talks with President Donald Trump in Washington on Friday.China’s Pacific Ambitions Loom Over Trump Talks With Aussie PMThe U.S. recently established a Directorate of Pacific Affairs within the White House National Security Council, which provides a hub for coordinating U.S. policy in the region with other like-minded countries, including Australia. Australia unveiled a A$ 2 billion ($ 1.4 billion) infrastructure fund for the region last last year, while the U.S. joined a group that includes Japan, the European Union and the Asian Development Bank to fund projects.“These changes are designed to focus inter-agency and international policy on the challenges posed by China’s growing strategic footprint and influence in the South Pacific,” said Ashley Townshend, director of the foreign policy and defense program at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre. “Australia and the U.S. have, until recently, been asleep at the wheel when it comes to what’s been happening in the region.”Too Late?Whether such tactics come too little, too late to halt China’s rising power in the region remains to be seen. Of the four remaining Pacific Islands nations that recognize Taipei, two remain particularly vulnerable to Beijing’s overtures, according to Pryke from the Lowy Institute.“Nauru and Tuvalu are very small and have had recent leadership changes, so China could sense they are vulnerable to pressure and could be the next to flip from Taiwan,” he said. “Palau and Marshall Islands have deep, significant relationships with the U.S., and it’s hard to see them swapping even if they wanted to.”Australia Boosts Pacific Spending as China Widens FootholdThe leaders of Palau and Marshall Islands held security talks with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo last month when he visited Micronesia, a display designed to show that the U.S. hasn’t taken its eye off the region that it forged ties with in the heat of World War II.Taiwan said Friday it had no problem with the four other Pacific allies. But it routinely has said the same thing about other nations just before they end up recognizing China, like Solomon Islands and Kiribati this week.“Losing two diplomatic relationships in one week is a major blow for Taiwan,” said Bates Gill, professor of Asia-Pacific security studies at Australia’s Macquarie University. “And it’s a bit of coup for Beijing, which has been working pretty hard in the last five years to cultivate the remaining countries that continue to have relationships with Taiwan. It’s a big win for Beijing and a tough loss for Taipei.”(Adds China foreign ministry comment from sixth paragraph.)\–With assistance from Iain Marlow, Samson Ellis and April Ma.To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Canberra at jscott14@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Daniel Ten Kate, Karen LeighFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Russia's ruling party loses a third of seats in Moscow election after protests

Russia's ruling party loses a third of seats in Moscow election after protestsRussia’s ruling United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, has lost one third of its seats in the Moscow city assembly, final polling data cited by Russian news agencies showed on Monday, in an awkward setback for the Kremlin. The outcome of the local elections was closely watched in Moscow after the exclusion of many opposition candidates triggered the biggest protests there in nearly a decade.



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Jeffrey Epstein Pal Maxwell Loses Last-Ditch Attempt to Seal Papers

Jeffrey Epstein Pal Maxwell Loses Last-Ditch Attempt to Seal Papers(Bloomberg) — A federal appeals court unsealed hundreds of pages of long-awaited documents from a defamation lawsuit against one of Jeffrey Epstein’s closest friends, revealing details about claims that the money manager and his associates sexually abused underage girls.The appeals court in Manhattan on Friday denied a last-ditch request by British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who was close to Epstein for years, to reconsider an order to make documents public from the suit filed against her in 2015 by an alleged victim, Virginia Giuffre.Not all the documents were unsealed. The appeals panel made public more than a dozen filings related to Maxwell’s failed motion for summary judgment in the case, but the panel ordered a lower court judge to analyze subsets of other documents before making them public.Giuffre has claimed Epstein sexually abused her for two years starting in 2000, when she was 16. Giuffre alleges that Maxwell recruited her while she was working at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and that the socialite participated in the abuse.In her suit, Giuffre claimed that Maxwell, daughter of the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, defamed her by publicly calling her a liar.Numerous documents stemming from the case are already public, including documents with allegations against well-known people.Maxwell had argued the documents should be kept under seal because of the shocking nature of the allegations, including Giuffre’s previously reported claim that Epstein and Maxwell forced her to have sex with the U.K.’s Prince Andrew while she was a minor. The allegations were first reported in a British tabloid several years before the lawsuit was filed.The case attracted public attention last month when a federal appeals court ordered U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska to unseal 2,000 pages of documents that may identify other people described in court filings as “prominent individuals” connected to the case.Epstein, a convicted sex offender who served 13 months in jail a decade ago after pleading guilty to soliciting a minor, was arrested in early July and charged with sexually assaulting teenage girls from 2002 to 2005. He has pleaded not guilty.Maxwell has long denied she was involved with Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse of underage girls. Last month, her lawyers told the appeals court that the media’s “furious feeding frenzy” justified keeping the documents sealed and she asked for a rehearing by a full panel of the appeals court.Read More: Epstein’s Socialite Pal Maxwell Seeks to Keep Files SealedGiuffre also sued Epstein’s lawyer, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, accusing him of defaming her by calling her a liar and denying her claims that he also sexually abused her. Dershowitz denies that he defamed her and says he was defending himself against her allegations.The documents were filed in connection with a summary judgment motion in Giuffre’s case, which was eventually settled. They could provide new information about Epstein’s alleged trafficking ring. Prosecutors say it involved dozens of girls, some as young as 14.Giuffre first accused Epstein in December 2014 when she attempted to join a civil suit filed by two of the money manager’s alleged victims who sought to nullify a federal non-prosecution agreement he struck as part of a guilty plea to lesser state charges.In her request to join the suit, Giuffre included descriptions of abuse by Epstein and other individuals, “including numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister, and other world leaders,” the appeals court said in its July 3 ruling.(Updates with details about nature of unsealed documents.)To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Jeffrey D Grocott, Peter BlumbergFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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With Collusion Collapse, Public Loses Interest in Mueller Theatrics

With Collusion Collapse, Public Loses Interest in Mueller TheatricsDear Sir, The public does not care.If the Trump Justice Department were to write a letter in response to House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff’s Tuesday night tirade, that’s what it would say.Well, okay, not exactly. I’m sure there’d be the obligatory “with due respect” throat clearing and whatever else decorum demands when camouflaging a flip of the middle finger. Make no mistake, though: The bird has been flipped.The night before former special counsel Robert Mueller’s much anticipated (and certain to be disappointing) appearance before two congressional committees, Chairman Schiff fired off a letter to protest limitations the Justice Department, at Mueller’s request, has imposed on his testimony.In essence, DOJ has ordered Mueller not to provide testimony outside the four corners of his report. This suits Mueller just fine since he does not want to testify at all. He made that clear in his May 29 press statement, attempting to foreclose a possible subpoena by insisting that he would have nothing to add to the two-volume, 448-page tome.Further, he gave Democrats what, from their perspective, is the best spin that could be put on the obstruction aspect of his probe: He had not “exonerated” the president, even though he neither found crimes, nor even considered whether crimes had occurred — the prosecutor’s peculiar interpretation of Justice Department guidance that forbids indictment of a sitting president.He was trying to tell them: This is as good as it gets. I am not going to say I would have indicted him if not for the guidance.But Democrats cannot leave well enough alone. They hope against hope that Mueller will break down — that Schiff, a former prosecutor, will have a Perry Mason moment, in which Mueller throws up his hands and confesses that, yes, if he could, he would throw the book at Trump.But it’s not going to happen. Mueller cannot give Democrats what they want because doing so would contradict his report. He’s not going to do that. He wanted a Justice Department directive that he not address matters outside the report so he could try to persuade Democrats not to bother asking him to explain his reasoning. Of course, they are going to ask him anyway, but he’s not going to tell them what they want to hear.In ordering Mueller to stick to the report, Justice relied on its usual rationales for denying information to Congress. This is a stew of privileges claimed to shield investigations, the deliberative process over investigative judgments, communications within the executive branch, communications with lawyers, and so on.Of course, Congress does not need to accept the executive’s privilege claims. The Justice Department is a creature of statute. It depends on Congress for its existence, funding, and lawful authority. Congress has the power to conduct oversight. If the administration does not cooperate, the Constitution gives lawmakers an array of weapons to attempt to induce compliance — control over the executive’s budget, public hearings to embarrass executive officials, contempt, censure, even impeachment.That is what Schiff’s letter to Mueller is meant to threaten. The chairman is making it clear that Congress is not bound by the executive’s claims of privilege.He has a problem, though. Disputes between the political branches are, well, political. Congress’s arsenal of powers to check executive departments is political. And to be a meaningful weapon, political power needs public support.The public was very interested in Mueller’s investigation because, for over two years, Democrats and their media collaborators assured the country that the president was complicit in a corrupt conspiracy with the Kremlin to undermine the 2016 campaign, hack Democratic email accounts, and steal the election.Once Mueller concluded that there was no “collusion” scheme, however, public interest ebbed. After finally being told that the narrative of a traitorous president in a corrupt pact with a hostile foreign power was just a political narrative, Americans were not inclined to hop aboard the Democrats’ new and improved obstruction narrative.This is not to say the conduct outlined in the obstruction volume of Mueller’s report is admirable. Some of it is disturbing. It is understandable that Democrats would want the public to focus on it. But it does not rise to the level of a prosecutable obstruction case and it did not, in any event, present to the slightest impediment to Mueller’s completion of the investigation — with which the president cooperated extensively, for all his ranting and raving about a “witch hunt.”Equivocal proof of obstruction in an investigation that was not actually impeded, into a crime that did not actually happen, is not going to grab the public’s interest – not after the collusion let down, not after Democrats and the media have convinced the country that their rabid opposition to Trump is transparently political, and not when the country is dealing with other more pressing matters and the 2020 election is looming.America has moved on. Democrats are at the point where continuing to press the Mueller probe hurts them more than it hurts the president.So Chairman Schiff and Democrats on his Intelligence Committee, and on chairman Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, which will get the first shot at Mueller today, can rattle their sabers and threaten all sorts of sanctions. But they are not going to hold Mueller in contempt, much less impeach the president. They don’t have the public support to follow through, and they know it.Robert Mueller will stick to his report today. Democrats — and Republicans, who have lots of questions about alleged investigative abuses — will not like being stonewalled. But stonewalled they will be.We’re going through the motions. Loudly, sure, but still just going through the motions.



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Compton boy loses arm after neighbor hands him firework on 10th birthday

Compton boy loses arm after neighbor hands him firework on 10th birthdayA man is in custody after handing his young neighbor a firework that blew up, causing the boy to lose his arm on his 10th birthday.



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Climate change forum loses sponsor after dispute over story

Climate change forum loses sponsor after dispute over storyA planned forum on climate change for Democratic presidential candidates lost several major sponsors on Saturday in the wake of the left-leaning magazine The New Republic publishing — and later retracting — a vulgar and homophobic story related to gay presidential contender Pete Buttigieg. The New Republic was slated as a chief sponsor of a September event designed to spark climate change discussion among candidates during a U.N. climate summit. The magazine pulled down what it called “an opinion piece” about Buttigieg soon after its publication on Friday, citing “criticism of the piece’s inappropriate and invasive content.” But The New Republic as well as three top sponsors bowed out of the climate change event.



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Trump administration loses bid to lift bar on funds for border wall

Trump administration loses bid to lift bar on funds for border wallThe ruling was another setback in President Donald Trump’s effort to construct a border wall, one of his top promises in the 2016 presidential campaign. “Congress did not appropriate money to build the border barriers defendants seek to build here,” a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling. “Congress presumably decided such construction at this time was not in the public interest.



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Trump administration loses bid to lift bar on funds for border wall

Trump administration loses bid to lift bar on funds for border wallA federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to lift an injunction barring the Trump administration from using $ 2.5 billion intended for the fight against illegal narcotics to build a wall along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. The ruling was another setback in President Donald Trump’s effort to construct a border wall, one of his top promises in the 2016 presidential campaign. “Congress did not appropriate money to build the border barriers defendants seek to build here,” a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2-1 ruling.



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Erdogan's ruling party loses Istanbul election in major blow to Turkish president

Erdogan's ruling party loses Istanbul election in major blow to Turkish presidentThe winner of the re-rerun of Istanbul's mayoral elections declared a "new beginning for Turkey" on Sunday after the ruling party's candidate lost the city for the first time in 25 years, in a major blow to president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "It was not a single group or party, but the whole of Istanbul and Turkey that won this election," said Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate of the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), who received 54 per cent of the vote.  President Erdogan had claimed that "whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey" – and had taken a gamble by forcing a re-run that backfired after Mr Imamoglu not only won but increased his share of the vote by six per cent.  Binali Yildirim, the Erdogan loyalist standing for the ruling AKP gave a de facto concession speech shortly after the first results were announced. "I congratulate him and wish him all the luck. My wish is for Imamoglu to serve Istanbul well," he said.   Mr Imamoglu had won the original mayoral election on March 31 by a narrow margin that prompted the AKP to demand a re-run, citing alleged voting irregularities. The High Election Board's decision to grant that request drew criticism from Turkey's Western allies and from Mr Erdogan's opponents at home, stirring concerns about the rule of law and raising the stakes in a re-run that many Turks saw as a test of their country's democracy. Mr Erdogan was Istanbul's mayor in the 1990s before he embarked on a national political career, dominating Turkish politics first as prime minister, then as president. Supporters of Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu celebrate after the Istanbul mayoral elections re-run, in Istanbul, Turkey,  He presided over years of strong economic growth but critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian and intolerant of dissent. If confirmed, this second defeat in Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city and commercial hub, will be a major embarrassment for the president and could also weaken what until recently seemed to be his iron grip on power. Analysts say the loss could set off a cabinet reshuffle in Ankara and adjustments to foreign policy. Turkey is balancing diplomatic relations with Russia and the United States, which has threatened sanctions against its NATO ally over its purchase of Russian missile defences. The setback for Erdogan, who campaigned hard in Istanbul, could also trigger a national election earlier than 2023 as scheduled. Turkey's economy is now in recession and the United States, its Nato ally, has threatened sanctions if Mr Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defences. The uncertainty over the fate of Istanbul, Turkey's business hub, and potential delays in broader economic reforms, have kept financial markets on edge. Turkey's lira currency tumbled after the decision to annul the March vote and is down nearly 10 per cent this year in part on election jitters. Polling stations across Istanbul opened at 8am, with 10.56 million people registered to vote in a city which makes up nearly a fifth of Turkey's 82 million population. One voter, Estate agent Bayram, 60, said he voted for Mr Yildirim, as he believed foreign powers the United States, Europe and Israel supported the opposition. "All of these will want a piece from Istanbul and then there will be chaos. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. All these foreign powers don't like Erdogan, so he is my friend," he said after voting in Kagithane district, an AKP stronghold.



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Parkland school shooting survivor loses admission to Harvard after racist comments surface

Parkland school shooting survivor loses admission to Harvard after racist comments surfaceGun rights supporter Kyle Kashuv said that he's grown since making the comments and that Harvard, which has its own racist history, should understand that.



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