‘God, help us’: British Army on standby in case of no-deal Brexit supply issues

Ministers planning Brexit told media the Army is on standby to deliver key supplies like food, fuel and medicines in the eventuality of a no-deal scenario. Remainers have likened the revelation to “self-immolation.”

The possibility of a no-deal Brexit made the Ministry of Defence “dust off” blueprints to use of army trucks and helicopters to deliver key supplies to far flung parts of the UK – something usually reserved for civil emergencies, like severe weather.

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FILE PHOTO © Francois Lenoir / Reuters

However a source inside the department said they have not yet received “a formal request” to assist the civilian authorities, according to the Sunday Times.

An unnamed minister downplayed the alarmist nature of the news to the paper, saying that the government was “just being realistic” about the potential pitfalls of a no-deal, adding that the army would only be called in if blockages at ports were preventing the supply of food, fuel, and medicines from entering the country.

“There is a lot of civil contingency planning around the prospect of no deal. That’s not frightening the horses, that’s just being utterly realistic,” they told the Times report.

Without securing a new Free Trade Agreement with the EU, a no-deal, the UK would revert to World Trade Organization rules resulting in the imposing of tariffs on goods that the UK sends to the EU, and on goods the EU sends to the UK.

This lack of “frictionless trade” could see a 10-mile-long motorway in south-east England turned into a “holding area” for goods vehicles, as up to 10,000 trucks a day would suddenly require customs checks to enter the EU, according to the Financial Times.

READ MORE: From ‘taking back control’ to stockpiling food, Brexit bravado has become a whimper

The pro-EU Labour MP David Lammy took aim at the news on Twitter saying: “God, help us. This is not coming from Remainers. This is not project fear. Pro-Brexit Ministers are drawing up blueprints for the army to deliver food, fuel and medicine if we leave the EU with no deal.”

“We have a duty to prevent this self-immolation,” he added.

However, the former Brexit secretary David Davis, who resigned from the position earlier this month over his dissatisfaction with a possible soft Brexit deal, dismissed the story as an attempt to scare people in order to secure a Free Trade Agreement “which will tank the economy.”

Talk of shortages of food and medicines in the wake of a possible no-deal has come to the fore recently, with NHS bosses planning to stockpile key drugs and blood supplies in the event the service has to go on a permanent winter-crisis footing.

Supermarkets, meanwhile have told suppliers to make plans for a no-deal which could see them stockpile goods such a tea and coffee for periods much longer than normal.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders are Trying to Prove Their Case in Kansas

After defying the odds in the Bronx and Queens, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is hitting the road. In her first campaign trip to another congressional district since her June 26 primary victory, Ocasio-Cortez will join Bernie Sanders for rallies this Friday in …

Kansas?

Despite expectations that the Sunflower State is rigidly conservative, growing diversity and revulsion at the disastrous tenure of Gov. Sam Brownback has made Kansas a battleground in the fight for Democrats to win back the House. James Thompson, from the Koch brothers’ home district in Wichita, almost won a surprisingly close special election there last year. He’s running again, and Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders will promote him at one event on Friday.

The nearby 3rd Congressional District, which includes the Kansas side of Kansas City and its suburbs, sits atop Democratic target lists. The district was in Democratic hands as recently as 2010, and Hillary Clinton won it in 2016. Vice President Mike Pence was there last week, amid protests from LGBT activists, hosting a $ 1,000-a-plate fundraiser for endangered incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder. A picture with Pence would set you back $ 5,400.

But Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders have more expansive aims than turning the 3rd blue. They want to prove their theory of the progressive case.

On Friday, they will rally for Brent Welder, a former labor lawyer running on a platform of “Medicare for All,” a $ 15 an hour minimum wage, tuition-free public college, and reducing big money’s influence in politics. “Brent can win, he can win,” Ocasio-Cortez said on The Dig, a podcast from Jacobin magazine. “And he can not only win his primary, but he can win in a red-to-blue district on a progressive vision. And I think that’s so exciting.”

Indeed, a February poll of the district gave Welder a 7-point lead against Yoder, with broad support for many of Welder’s ideas. “People say, ‘How can you win in Kansas on progressive policies?’” Welder told The Intercept in an interview. “I’ve learned that the only way to win in Kansas is on progressive policies.”

Through June, Welder has raised just shy of $ 700,000. A little more than a third comes from contributions under $ 200.

“People say, ‘How can you win in Kansas on progressive policies?’ I’ve learned that the only way to win in Kansas is on progressive policies.”

Kansas holds a special place in the hearts of progressives, and running and winning there on an unapologetic platform has long been a goal. The love affair goes back to “bleeding Kansas,” when abolitionists such as John Brown moved west to Kansas to do battle with slave owners in an effort to turn Kansas into a free state. The bloodshed there was a forerunner to the Civil War. Later, Democrats running as prairie populists dominated the state. Modern progressivism could be said to date to a speech delivered by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910 in Osawatomie, Kansas. Just over a century later, Barack Obama returned there at the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests to deliver his own version.

The 2005 book “What’s the Matter With Kansas? cemented the state’s proxy status.

Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee put Welder’s race among the small group of seats they’ve focused on this year, like Kara Eastman in Nebraska and Katie Porter in California, where a progressive challenger defeated a moderate rival in the primary. PCCC members nationwide have given over $ 15,000 to Welder. “We want to prove this proposition, from Nebraska to Kansas to Orange County, that the way to attract votes is with a bold populist economic message,” Green said. “It’s not a liability, it’s an asset.”

That sentiment stands in contrast to Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s recent rebuffing of the appeal of democratic socialism outside of the coasts. “I don’t think that you can go too far to the left and still win the Midwest,” she told CNN. By boosting Welder, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez hope to offer a rebuttal.

To make their case, however, they’ll have to get past EMILY’s List first. Last week, the group’s Super PAC Women Vote! dropped $ 400,000 on an ad to support Sharice Davids, a lesbian, Native American, amateur mixed martial arts fighter who was a fellow in the Obama administration. The ad plays on Davids’s MMA background: “She never backs down; not in the ring, not to the NRA, or Trump and the Republicans in Washington. … She’s fierce, she’s progressive, and she’s a fighter.”

“That’s a huge ad buy for this district,” said Chris Reeves, a Democratic National Committee member from Kansas City, who is staying neutral in the race. As of the end of June, Davids had only raised $ 299,000; the Women Vote! ad more than doubles her resources.

Both Welder and Davids are competing for a similar slice of the electorate, with the Super PAC narrowing the fundraising gap. A more moderate candidate could benefit from the split, like Tom Niermann, a teacher at the wealthiest private school in the area.

It sets up a dynamic similar to a recent congressional race in Pennsylvania, when a last-minute barrage of ads from Women Vote! carried Susan Wild, whose fundraising had been anemic, to victory over Sanders-backed Greg Edwards and Trump-supporting conservative district attorney John Morganelli. (Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez have company. “I unequivocally endorse Brent for Congress,” Edwards told The Intercept.)

Will outside money or outside energy play a deciding role in Kansas’s 3rd, or will the center exploit an opportunity?

Asked if he considers himself a democratic socialist like his supporters Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, Welder said, “I call myself a Democrat, as I have my entire life.” Indeed, Welder, 37, has a familiar profile for a congressional hopeful. He was an organizer on the Kerry and Obama campaigns; his campaign graphics resemble the Obama logo and his slogan is “Yes We Kansas,” as seen in his first campaign ad.

Welder also worked in the House office of Pennsylvania Rep. Patrick Murphy, an Iraq War veteran who was instrumental in the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

But Welder’s worldview was honed through a hardscrabble Iowa upbringing (his room as a child was in a basement closet) and his years as a lawyer and national field director for the Teamsters union, organizing on workplace safety and better wages. “Our government is completely corrupted by greedy billionaires and executives at giant corporations that do not care about the rest of us,” Welder said. “I’m not saying they hate us, but they don’t care as long as their profit margin ticks up one-tenth of 1 percent.”

He ties a rigged economic system to a rigged political system, where corporations break off a piece of their excess profits to bankroll politicians who grant them favorable rules to continue earning their fortunes.

It’s a vicious cycle that Welder was specifically tasked to stop. After Welder worked for Sanders during the 2016 presidential election campaign, Sanders nominated him to the Democratic National Platform Committee. He successfully passed an amendment encouraging a ban on corporate money in elections. Welder has followed that belief by rejecting corporate PAC dollars in his campaign, a stance taken up by presumed presidential candidates like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and over 140 other Democrats.

This lack of corporate cash hasn’t stopped Welder from earning the support of over 13,000 donors nationwide and an average online contribution of $ 30. Endorsements from Sanders and groups like Brand New Congress, Our Revolution, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Justice Democrats have helped him build up a strong grassroots field team over the past year. The shoutout from Ocasio-Cortez brought a flood of volunteers and $ 50,000 in small-dollar donations in a week. By the end of June, he had more small-dollar donations and more cash on hand than any Democrat in the race.

Welder said his agenda, freed from the shackles of corporate money, seeks to tangibly improve people’s lives. “I want to make sure that every person has health care in America,” he said, expressing support for a single-payer “Medicare for All” system. His endorsement of a $ 15 an hour minimum wage would almost double the current level of $ 7.25 in Kansas, and he believes increased wages would cycle through the local economy, rather than “sending it to a Wall Street bank or offshore account.” And his pitch for debt-free college winks at his own experience: “My wife and I went to law school, and it wasn’t cheap. And we still haven’t paid the loans off.”

The populist pitch has brought in more than just Bernie acolytes. Jason Kander, former Missouri secretary of state, voting rights champion, resistance hero, and dark horse presidential prospect, endorsed Welder last December. He’s now running for mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, just on the other side of the district.

Though the district was almost evenly split between Clinton and Trump in 2016, Welder believes that the voters who will swing the election are yearning for a populist message. Though Clinton won the general election there, Sanders won the primary — one of only five Republican-held seats with that profile. “The swing voters are the people who voted for Obama twice and then Trump,” Welder said. “When you talk to them about raising wages and benefits and protecting pensions, they will vote for the Democratic Party.”

Brent-Welder-at-a-rally-in-2018-1531855636

Brent Welder, left, speaks with voters at a rally in Missouri in 2018.

Photo: Courtesy of Brent Welder campaign

When EMILY’s List first started looking at Kansas’s 3rd District, they found a candidate, a business executive named Andrea Ramsey. EMILY’s List endorsed her, and Ramsey was on the verge of coalescing national support, when she was forced out of the race over allegations of sexually harassing a junior staffer while in the corporate world and then firing him when he rejected her. (Ramsey, who denies the allegations, ended up endorsing Welder.)

Mike McCamon, a Ramsey adviser, jumped into the race with the this-is-not-a-joke campaign slogan “Leading from the Center – the Courage to Compromise.” But EMILY’s List supports pro-choice women, so they looked elsewhere for their candidate.

The organization turned to Davids, a 37-year-old woman with a compelling life story. A member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, Davids would join New Mexico’s Deb Haaland as the only Native American women ever to be elected to Congress. She would also be the first openly gay member of the Kansas delegation. Raised by a single mother and Army veteran, Davids graduated from Johnson County Community College (one of the nation’s best) and then law school at Cornell. She worked as an attorney on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and then as a White House fellow under Obama and during the transition to the Trump administration. EMILY’s List endorsed Davids in May.

In an interview, Davids noted that “at the time I got in, there was no woman in the race.” (Former bank executive Sylvia Williams announced in March.) “I was born into circumstances that until recently would not have been an indicator of running for Congress.”

While the district is less than 2 percent Native American, it is much more diverse than folks would think for Kansas. Wyandotte County, Kansas, where Kansas City is located, is the most urban county in the state, with a large African-American population and a growing Hispanic contingent that has moved there to work in nearby meatpacking plants. There’s a Mexican consulate in Kansas City. It also has a large Hmong and Croatian community.

Two-thirds of the Democratic primary vote comes from Johnson County, home to several affluent suburbs like Overland Park and Olathe. Public education is a point of pride there, and the decimation of Kansas’s education budget in favor of Sam Brownback’s tax cuts has triggered a significant backlash. The state Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly, including just a month ago, that Kansas’s low education spending violates the state Constitution. Republicans rebelled and reversed some of Brownback’s tax cuts to fund education before he left for the Trump administration.

“In Johnson County, they regret Brownback,” said Reeves, the DNC member. “It worked out bad for that area.” The district doesn’t have to be told about the effects of the Trump tax cuts; they lived through a state-level version of them.

Davids leads with the Trump tax cuts on her issues page, assailing it as a “corporate giveaway and a handout to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.” When asked if she would reverse them, Davids said, “That’s an interesting word, reverse. … I definitely feel like if we’re doing tax cuts, there’s a way to make sure the very wealthy are not the only people benefiting,” citing possible tax breaks for small businesses that provide health care to their employees.

The response was typical for a candidate with ideas that resonate on the left — including support for clean energy, voting rights, LGBT protections, and comprehensive immigration reform — while still keeping a toe in the technocratic center.

Davids told me that she would vote for a single-payer health care bill if it were presented to her, but added that it would take a while to get there and that increasing access and affordability were also important. She expressed support for a “K-14” concept of free community college (which Obama endorsed late in his presidency), citing her own experience, but not full debt-free or tuition-free college. She rightly called out how money in politics restricts “folks like myself who don’t come from a family with money,” with the perspective of a first-generation college student who had to work their way through school. And yet, she’s benefiting from a giant Super PAC buy. (The spending is done independently of her campaign.)

“Sharice has firsthand experience of the challenges that Kansas’s working families face every day,” said Julie McClain Downey of EMILY’s List about their endorsement. “EMILY’s List is proud to stand with Sharice and knows that with her diverse experience, unique perspective, and deep ties to her community that she can and will win.”

That last statement was a gentle prod at Welder, who only last year moved to the district, where his wife is from.

Davids downplayed the ad, citing EMILY’s List’s support as more important for granting legitimacy to a first-time candidate. “Lots of people know that EMILY’s List only endorses people who are working hard and can win their races,” she said. She added that they’ve given the campaign technical assistance.

Sharice Davids, a Democrat running for Congress in Kansas, talks to supporters at a July 4 event in Prairie Village. (Photo by David Weigel/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Sharice Davids, right, a Democrat running for Congress in Kansas, talks to supporters at a July 4 event in Prairie Village.

Photo: David Weigel/The Washington Post/Getty Images

There’s been no primary polling, but based on fundraising and in-district engagement, insiders believe Davids, Welder, and Tom Niermann have the best chance, with McCamon and Williams (who got in the race late) and 2016 nominee Jay Sidie (who’s raised almost no money) further back.

Niermann teaches at the prestigious Pembroke Hills School, located in the “Country Club” section of Kansas City, on the Missouri side. Access to a network of movers and shakers with children at that school staked Niermann to a fundraising lead among Democrats through June. (Though 34.7 percent of Welder’s money comes from small donors; only 11.2 percent of Niermann’s money does. Factoring in the Super PAC spending, 11 percent of the money backing Davids comes from small donors.)

Niermann just released a powerful ad about having to teach his students about safety procedures during a mass shooting. It’s an example of how all candidates in the 3rd District race have shifted well to the left of Dennis Moore, the Blue Dog who once held this seat for six terms. But relative to Welder and Davids, Niermann is carving out a more moderate space. “He says I’m more moderate, that’s his thing,” said Chris Reeves, “making the argument that the progressives are too far to the left.” Niermann’s campaign didn’t respond to multiple requests to comment for this story.

“I don’t buy the idea that a certain kind of politics won’t work in the district. Voters don’t like people who are phony. They’ll disagree with you, but if they think you’re genuine, they will give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Welder balks at the idea that the district cannot support a progressive message. “I reject any notion that the way to win is with a center-right slant,” he said. “Other candidates against Yoder tried that; it doesn’t work.”

All involved have said that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, after considering Andrea Ramsey’s candidacy before she dropped out, has largely steered clear of the race. Green credits the poll his organization conducted, showing Welder in front of Yoder, with keeping the DCCC on the sidelines.

Ocasio-Cortez’s entry into the race makes the fight more nakedly ideological. “I don’t buy the idea that a certain kind of politics won’t work in the district,” Reeves said. “Voters don’t like people who are phony. They’ll disagree with you, but if they think you’re genuine, they will give you the benefit of the doubt.”

The big money in the race is all with Yoder, the top recipient of payday lender money in all of Congress. He has in the past pretended to be a moderate but has voted with Trump 91.7 percent of the time. Yoder has far outraised his Democratic challengers; of the $ 2.7 million he’s raised, only $ 13,631 of it has come from individual donations under $ 200, and over half comes from corporate PACs.

But the Super PAC ad for Davids does add a big-money element to the primary, and big money has been one of the major flash points in the ongoing debate over the future of the Democratic Party. Welder is trying to combat the Super PAC with a small-dollar and volunteer army, but a skirmish among two candidates presenting as progressive could create the opening the more moderate Niermann needs. That outcome, say backers of Welder, would set Democrats back, as the volunteer network he has built needs to be galvanized to juice the turnout needed to turn the seat blue. If money and moderation were enough to do it, the seat would have been taken back by now, they argue.

It would also deprive the insurgent movement the opportunity to prove the case being made by progressive leaders and writers that a bold agenda can play in a swing seat. And the stakes are high. “We’re gonna prove to everyone in the country that bold progressive stances are not just good policy, will not just help people, but it is the way to win, even in Kansas,” Welder said during an interview with the Young Turks, which has been promoting his campaign. “We’ll be able to point to my race and say, ‘This is how we can win in any district in the entire country.’”

Top photos: Sen. Bernie Sanders, left, is interviewed during the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas, in 2018; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, right, campaigning in the Bronx, New York, in 2018.

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China lodges tariff case at WTO against the US

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Why the Individual Mandate Part of the New Obamacare Case Matters

Most of the commentary on the new anti-Obamacare lawsuit filed by twenty “red” states focuses on the severability issue, and the Trump administration’s refusal to defend the the Affordable Care Act against the lawsuit. But the part of the suit challenging the constitutionality of the newly revised individual health insurance mandate is also significant. It could set an important precedent, even if its elimination would have little impact on health care policy.

The states argue that the individual mandate requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance can no longer qualify as a “tax” – as Chief Justice John Roberts ruled in the first Obamacare case in 2012, because, in the December 2017 tax reform act, Congress zeroed out the monetary fine imposed on violators. But their main goal is to use the mandate as a lever to eliminate the entire ACA, which they argue is so closely connected to the mandate that the two cannot be “severed.” Like the vast majority of legal academics, I believe the states’ severability argument (now, in large part, backed by the Trump administration), is weak, and might well have dangerous implications for future cases. For that reason, I joined an amicus brief signed by a cross-ideological group of law professors, including Volokh Conspiracy co-blogger Jonathan Adler, which urges the court to reject the states’ position on that issue. I authored an amicus brief against the Obamacare individual mandate, and also wrote a coauthored book and various articles arguing that it and some other parts of the law are unconstitutional. But that is no reason for the courts to botch the severability issue in the present case.

But unlike most other commentators, I believe the individual mandate part of the states’ lawsuit is significant entirely apart from its potential impact on the rest of the ACA. If they prevail on this issue, they would set a valuable precedent. I explained why in my initial post about the case, back in February. While the post was cited by a number of scholars and media commentators, all of them focused on my critique of the severability argument, while ignoring the points about the mandate itself. So I am reprinting the latter here, in hopes of generating more interest in this aspect of the litigation:

[T]he state plaintiffs in the newly filed case argue that the mandate can no longer be considered a tax. In the absence of a financial penalty, it no longer “produces” any “revenue for the Government.” Indeed, it no longer even tries to do so. And if the mandate is not a tax and is not authorized by the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause (as the Court ruled in NFIB), then it is no longer within the proper scope of federal power authorized by the Constitution.

The plaintiffs are absolutely right on this point. A tax that does not require anyone to pay anything is like a unicorn without a horn. It is pretty obviously not a tax at all. In fairness, the requirement of a monetary payment was not the only circumstance that Chief Justice Roberts considered in determining that the mandate qualifies as a tax. He also claimed that several other factors were relevant, such as that the mandate did not include a scienter requirement, that the penalty was not so high as to be “prohibitory,” and that those who violate the mandate were not considered to be lawbreakers if they paid the fine. But, while the requirement of a monetary payment may not have been sufficient to prove that the mandate was a tax, it surely was necessary. You don’t have to be a constitutional law scholar to understand that there can be no taxation without some kind of payment.

In my view (see here and here), Roberts was wrong to conclude that mandate qualifies as a tax, even when it did impose a fine on violators. It was more akin to a penalty imposed for violation of a law, similar to fines imposed for violating any number of other laws, such as those banning speeding or jaywalking. But it is even more clear that the mandate cannot be considered a tax once the fine is removed and violators no longer have to pay anything….

If all this lawsuit is likely to achieve is the removal of the already essentially neutered individual mandate, one might ask whether there is any point to it. It is indeed true that such an outcome would have little or no impact on health care policy. But it would help establish an important constitutional principle: the federal government cannot use its tax power to impose mandates unless that mandate includes a monetary fine that raises some revenue for the government. Otherwise, the mandate is unconstitutional, unless it is authorized by one of Congress’ other powers. Congress cannot enforce otherwise unconstitutional mandates by means other than financial penalties. Making that clear would limit the damage caused by Roberts’ ill-advised ruling in NFIB, concluding that the ACA individual mandate (in its original form) qualifies as a tax. If courts conclude that the mandate qualifies as a tax even if there is no monetary fine, that might open the door to the imposition of mandates backed by other kinds of penalties.

If the mandate can qualify as a tax without requiring any payment or raising any revenue for the government, it could open the door to future mandates backed by nonmonetary sanctions, such as probation, community service, and various regulatory restrictions. Prison sentences are likely precluded by parts of John Roberts’ NFIB opinion indicating that violation of a “tax” mandate cannot be backed by penalties so severe that they preclude a meaningful choice. But other types of sanctions might not be, so long as they are not considered criminal penalties (also clearly precluded by Roberts’ opinion, which rules out “criminal sanctions”). In my view, Roberts’ opinion should be interpreted as precluding nonmonetary “tax” penalties of any kind because it ruled that the mandate can be considered a tax at least in part because “neither the [ACA] nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS.” But the significance of this language would be gutted if the courts now rule that the mandate can be a tax, despite no longer requiring any kind of payment.

I hope – and very tentatively expect – that the twenty state-lawsuit will result in a decision invalidating the residual individual mandate, while also rejecting the plaintiffs’ severability argument. That would be a victory for both proper severability analysis and constitutional limits on federal power.

Taxes

Still multiple leads in Skripal poisoning case, says Scotland Yard

Detectives are following multiple leads as they investigate the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, Scotland Yard has said.

Updating the press on the case, Dean Haydon, Deputy Assistant Commissioner and counter terrorism coordinator, said: “With such a sensitive and complex investigation, I am sure the public will appreciate that there are still a number of lines of inquiry being progressed that we cannot discuss at this stage.

“What I am able to say is that the team working on the investigation remain completely committed to finding out what happened and continue to follow every possible lead.

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The operation has so far cost Wiltshire Police £7.5 million  ©  Toby Melville/Reuters

“Our enquiries are focused around the people and vehicles that were in the vicinity of the Skripal’s address and leading up to where they fell ill in The Maltings. We would ask anyone who may have information, or who may have seen or heard something – however small – to contact police.”

Britain has alleged that Russia is responsible for the attack as they were solely responsible for Novichok’s production and storage. Since London’s allegations German journalists have uncovered that their country’s BND spy agency secured a sample of the Novichok, before sending it off for analyses in Sweden. The sample was then allegedly sent to other Western countries so they could develop countermeasures.

It comes as the full extent of the investigation was laid bare on Tuesday, with Haydon stating detectives have identified 2,500 people and 14,000 cars present in Salisbury on the day the attack was perpetuated.

The spokesperson added around 100 officers remain in the city as they look through evidence and investigate different theories on the poisoning. Up to 176 searches have been carried out and 900 witnesses spoken to.

It comes just after it emerged on Monday that the Skripal investigation has so far cost £7.5 million, according to the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia have both now been released from hospital following the attack on March 4.

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RT UK News

The case against the AT&T-Time Warner deal has gone badly

So last season

NEAR the end of the antitrust trial over AT&T’s $ 109bn acquisition of Time Warner, Richard Leon, the presiding judge, asked Randall Stephenson, chief executive of AT&T, what the pay-television market would look like in seven years’ time. Mr Stephenson mused in his folksy Oklahoma drawl that seven years ago his predictions for today would have missed “so hard” when it came to the decline of pay-TV and the rise of competition from Silicon Valley.

The exchange sounds self-deprecating but it highlighted what AT&T argued was a crucial weakness in the government’s case. The Department of Justice, which is seeking to block the deal, has chiefly looked back to the past, not forward to a video and advertising market increasingly shaped by Netflix, Google and Facebook. Many analysts agree, and are cautiously optimistic about AT&T’s chances of a favourable settlement or ruling in time for the deal’s closing deadline of June…Continue reading

Business and finance

Cosby attorneys to lay out comedian's sex-assault defense case

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers on Tuesday were set to make their opening statements in his retrial on sex assault charges, a case that is expected to include testimony from a woman who claims his accuser had mused about profiting from allegations against a famous man.

The 80-year-old entertainer, once best known as the wise and witty father in the TV hit “The Cosby Show,” is facing the same charges of sexually assaulting a friend in 2004 that he faced in a trial last year that ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.

His defense will include new elements this time, after Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said he would allow testimony from a friend of accuser Andrea Constand, a 44-year-old former administrator at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University. The friend claims Constand once spoke of extracting money from celebrities by making such accusations.

About 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, sometimes after drugging them, in a string of alleged attacks dating back decades. All the accusations, apart from Constand’s, were too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution.

Cosby has denied wrongdoing, saying that any sexual contact he has had was consensual. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

The new jury on Monday heard in prosecutors’ opening statements that Cosby had paid $ 3.38 million to a woman who accused him of sexual assault as part of a 2006 settlement of a civil lawsuit. That fact had not been revealed at Cosby’s first trial almost a year ago.

Both sides had wanted to divulge the settlement at trial, with prosecutors possibly seeking to portray it as an admission of guilt, while defense lawyers could argue that it bolstered their cases that Constand was seeking a big payout.

Cosby has changed lawyers for this trial, with his defense headed by Tom Mesereau, a Los Angeles attorney best known for successfully defending singer Michael Jackson at his 2005 child molestation trial.

Prosecutors will have a chance to call witnesses that were blocked from the first trial, including five more women who accuse Cosby of sex assault. Their testimony could bolster an argument that Cosby, who built a long career on a family-friendly style of comedy, was a serial predator who preyed on vulnerable women.

In Cosby’s last trial, prosecutors were allowed to call just one such witness.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs after the first day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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Reuters: Entertainment News

Cosby attorneys to lay out comedian's sex-assault defense case

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (Reuters) – Bill Cosby’s defense lawyers on Tuesday were set to make their opening statements in his retrial on sex assault charges, a case that is expected to include testimony from a woman who claims his accuser had mused about profiting from allegations against a famous man.

The 80-year-old entertainer, once best known as the wise and witty father in the TV hit “The Cosby Show,” is facing the same charges of sexually assaulting a friend in 2004 that he faced in a trial last year that ended with the jury unable to reach a verdict.

His defense will include new elements this time, after Montgomery County Judge Steven O’Neill said he would allow testimony from a friend of accuser Andrea Constand, a 44-year-old former administrator at Cosby’s alma mater, Temple University. The friend claims Constand once spoke of extracting money from celebrities by making such accusations.

About 50 women have accused Cosby of sexual assault, sometimes after drugging them, in a string of alleged attacks dating back decades. All the accusations, apart from Constand’s, were too old to be the subject of criminal prosecution.

Cosby has denied wrongdoing, saying that any sexual contact he has had was consensual. If convicted of aggravated indecent assault, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

The new jury on Monday heard in prosecutors’ opening statements that Cosby had paid $ 3.38 million to a woman who accused him of sexual assault as part of a 2006 settlement of a civil lawsuit. That fact had not been revealed at Cosby’s first trial almost a year ago.

Both sides had wanted to divulge the settlement at trial, with prosecutors possibly seeking to portray it as an admission of guilt, while defense lawyers could argue that it bolstered their cases that Constand was seeking a big payout.

Cosby has changed lawyers for this trial, with his defense headed by Tom Mesereau, a Los Angeles attorney best known for successfully defending singer Michael Jackson at his 2005 child molestation trial.

Prosecutors will have a chance to call witnesses that were blocked from the first trial, including five more women who accuse Cosby of sex assault. Their testimony could bolster an argument that Cosby, who built a long career on a family-friendly style of comedy, was a serial predator who preyed on vulnerable women.

In Cosby’s last trial, prosecutors were allowed to call just one such witness.

Actor and comedian Bill Cosby departs after the first day of his sexual assault retrial at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, U.S., April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jessica Kourkounis

Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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Reuters: Entertainment News

Aseman Airways first states sixty-six at your murdered in Iran plane crash, in that case says undecided but still

TEHRAN: An aircraft of Iran’s Aseman Airlines with 66 people onboard crashed on Sunday. At the onset, the Airlines claimed that all aboard the flight were killed. However, soon after, it retracted its statement saying they cannot determine how many have been killed. It said that rescue teams were struggling to find the wreckage of the ATR-72 twin-engine plane.

“Given the special circumstances of the region, we still have no access to the spot of the crash and therefore we cannot accurately and definitely confirm the death of all passengers of this plane,” Mohammad Tabatabaie, Aseman’s public relations chief told the ISNA news agency.

The plane crashed amid severe weather in the Zagros mountains after taking off on a domestic flight from Tehran’s Mehrabad airport at around 8 am for the city of Yasuj in Isfahan province.

“After searches in the area, unfortunately, we were informed that the plane crashed. Unfortunately, all our dear ones lost their lives in this incident,” Tabatabai had earlier said adding that the plane was carrying 60 passengers, including one child, as well as six crew members.

Due to severe weather conditions, a helicopter sent by Iran’s national emergency services was unable to land at the accident site.

The Relief and Rescue Organisation of Iran’s Red Crescent had been dispatched 12 teams to the region. “Given the fact that the area is mountainous, it is not possible to send ambulances,” Mojtaba Khaledi, spokesman for the national emergency services said.

Decades of international sanctions have left Iran with an ageing fleet of passenger planes which it has struggled to maintain and modernise. It has suffered multiple aviation disasters, most recently in 2014 when a Sepahan plane crashed killing 39 people.

Aseman currently has a fleet of 36 planes — half of them 105-seat Dutch Fokker 100s. Its three Boeing 727-200s are almost as old as the Islamic revolution, having made their first flights in 1980.

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Zee News :World

Pleased Valentine’s Week! And here’s why You can not Get wed to In case you Acquire About as Much as The someone you really love!

In honor of the one day every year when even the most wonkish tax policy nerds can set aside the calculators and spreadsheets for a bottle of wine and some red roses, here’s some cold, hard, unemotional data about the financial consequences of government-recognized matrimony.

The upshot: If you earn about the same income as your would-be spouse, your bank account will be better off if you don’t get married.

According to a new analysis from the Tax Foundation, couples who earn roughly the same amount of money are most likely to face a tax penalty for getting hitched, and couples at both ends of the income spectrum are more likely to be penalized for tying the knot than middle-income earners.

For example, two people who each earn $ 15,000 and are jointly raising one child would end up paying more than $ 600 in extra federal taxes if they get married.

At the higher end of the scale, a couple that earns more than $ 250,000 jointly would have to pay an additional Medicaid surtax if they get married, but the same surtax only kicks in at $ 200,000 for individuals. Under the tax reform bill passed in December, tax rates for married couples are exactly double the tax rates for unmarried individuals (a significant change from the old tax code)—until you hit the top marginal bracket of 37 percent, which kicks in at $ 500,000 for singles but $ 600,000 for couples. That means most people won’t see any significant marriage penalty at lower income levels, but couples earning well into the six figures could end up paying thousands in additional taxes after their wedding.

Besides draining away any romantic inclinations you might have been feeling today, marriage bonuses and penalties have real consequences for public policy and the economy. “These penalties and bonuses potentially affect people’s behavior, especially whether to work,” says the Tax Foundation’s Amir El-Sibaie, who wrote the report.

Tax status isn’t a deal-breaker for most couples deciding whether to get married, but financial incentives do matter in the search for love. Aside from wishy-washy greeting card nonsense about “meeting the right person,” the most common reason never-married adults give for not being married is that they are “not financially stable,” according to the Pew Research Center. Not surprisingly, low-income individuals are much more likely to avoid marriage for financial reasons, Pew found.

Low-incomes couple can get whacked by a secondary marriage penalty because some government welfare programs are means-tested differently for individuals than for married pairs.

And if your marriage falls apart? Well, the tax bill may have made your divorce more expensive too, by eliminating a deduction for alimony payments. Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says that change “removed a powerful negotiating tool and turned it into a difficult stumbling block for spouses trying to settle a divorce.”

But that’s exactly the type of reform that Congress should have done more of when it rewrote the federal tax code late last year. Specialized deductions and exemptions—whether for having children, for paying alimony, or for putting solar panels on your roof—only distort incentives. The tax code should not be used for social engineering.

And the tax code should not treat married individuals differently from single people. Eliminating married couples’ ability to file taxes jointly would be one way to solve the problem, says El-Sibaie. But, like other possible solutions, that’s politically difficult.

Not everyone ends up paying more for the privilege of being married. Under current tax law, a couple earning $ 60,000 jointly would be on the hook for $ 8,560 in federal income and payroll taxes this year, according to the Tax Foundation’s analysis. Getting hitched wouldn’t reduce the payroll taxes, but it would allow this theoretical couple to pay $ 31 less in federal income taxes.

Of course, that’s less than the cost of a marriage license in most states.

If even after all that, you’re still determined to find a long-term romantic partner—well, the blockchain can help.

Taxes