UK Chief Brexit Negotiator Says He Expects Deal by November 21

Britain’s Brexit secretary has told lawmakers that he expects a long-elusive divorce deal with the European Union to be finalized before November 21, though there is still little sign of a breakthrough on the vexed issue of the Irish border.

Dominic Raab told Parliament’s Exiting the EU Committee in a letter that he would give evidence to the panel “when a deal is finalized, and currently expect 21 November to be suitable.”

The committee released the October 24 letter Wednesday. Raab’s Department for Exiting the European Union said later “there is no set date for the negotiations to conclude” and that the secretary mentioned November 21 in response to a suggestion that he appear before the committee on that date.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but London and Brussels have not reached an agreement on their divorce terms and a smooth transition to a new relationship. The stalemate has heightened fears that the U.K. might leave without a deal in place, leading to chaos at ports and economic turmoil.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said a Brexit deal is 95 percent done, but the two sides remain at odds over the issue of the border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

Britain and the EU agree there must be no customs posts or other barriers that could disrupt businesses and residents on either side of the border and undermine Northern Ireland’s hard-won peace process. But the two parties have rejected each other’s proposed solution.

Raab said in his letter that “despite our differences, we are not far from an agreement on this issue.”

He said the U.K. and the EU agree “on the principle of a U.K.-wide customs backstop” – a plan to keep the U.K. in a customs union with the bloc, rendering border checks on goods unnecessary.

Britain has said such a solution must be temporary, while the EU wants a permanent fix. But Raab said agreement should be possible, and “the end is now firmly in sight.”

An October 17-18 EU summit that had been billed as the deadline for a breakthrough ended with the talks still deadlocked. But behind-the-scenes talks have continued.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Wednesday in Paris that a deal in the next month was feasible, but “if they want to conclude the text of a withdrawal treaty in November, then the negotiations need to intensify.”

Any agreement reached by the two sides must be approved by the British and European parliaments. 

 

May’s proposed deal faces strong domestic opposition both from pro-Brexit lawmakers, who say it keeps Britain bound too closely to the bloc, and from pro-EU legislators, who argue it will create barriers between the U.K. and its biggest trading partner.

  

 

Thai Junta’s Rap Headache Beats On

The director of a viral rap video that has racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube with lyrics flaying Thailand’s military junta says the artists behind it have no intention of hiding from police. 

Since the junta, led by Prayut Chan-o-cha, seized power in a coup four years ago and banned political gatherings, it has harshly punished any form of dissent, jailing scores of critics and opponents. 

That’s why it was something of a surprise when director Teerawat Rujintham and the collective Rap Against Dictatorship launched a broadside against the military by releasing a profanity laced video called My Country Has It on Oct. 22. 

Teerawat told VOA the public response to the video, which has been viewed more than 23 million times on YouTube, had vastly surpassed the group’s expectations. 

Waiting for reaction

“The project served its purpose, and for now each of the members of the group and I are just waiting for the reaction from those in power and the government to contact us,” he said in an interview conducted partially through a translator. 

He said he and the group were “not going to hide from the police. We’re going to confront them, because I don’t feel that [we] did anything wrong.” 

Teerawat said the video had tapped into brooding resentment that many Thais felt toward the junta “under the surface” but could not express. 

“The country that points a gun at your throat.  Claims to have freedom but no right to choose.  You can’t say [stuff] even though your mouth is full of it. Whatever you do the leader will see you,” one artist raps in the video. 

Police initially threatened to arrest group members after the song’s release, but as online views of the video quickly shot up, they backed down. 

Local media reported Deputy National Police Chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul had filed a defamation suit against the group and stressed that its members remained under investigation.  Police have not answered VOA requests for comment. 

Prayut reportedly weighed in Tuesday, warning anyone who “shows appreciation for the song must accept responsibility for what happens to the country in future,” according to the Bangkok Post. 

“I do not care if they attack me. But if they do so against the country, I do not think it is appropriate,” he reportedly said. 

Undeterred, anti-junta punk rockers plan to hold a concert Saturday in Bangkok at the site of a notorious 1976 massacre of student protesters opposing military rule. 

The massacre is regarded as a highly sensitive topic for the junta and is graphically depicted in Teerawat’s video when the camera pans to an effigy of a corpse hanging from a tree, representing the lynchings that took place. Teerawat said he chose to use the cover-up of the massacre as a metaphor for the present. 

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an associate professor of international political economy at Chulalongkorn University, said the artists are helping vent pent-up public frustration as long-delayed elections, expected now by mid-2019, draw closer. 

More expected

“It strikes a chord because they feel that they themselves are fed up and frustrated with no way out, no voices to be heard. So these guys are speaking up for them, and I think we will see more of it going forward,” he said. 

Political figures ranging from former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the young billionaire leader of the progressive new Future Forward party, have come out in support of the rappers’ right to speak out. 

Their support and the huge popularity of the artists means silencing them outright has become a precarious proposition, Thitinan said. 

“The military government will be in a dilemma now because on the one hand they want to suppress it, there’s no doubt. But if they do suppress it they have less chance of winning the election, because these groups are popular,” he said. 

“On the other hand, if they allow it to go on, to take place, then they would invite other groups, other movements to come to the fore against the military government,” he said. 

Meanwhile, street graffiti artist Headache Stencil has gained notice for skewering senior regime leaders, including Prayut, in his satirical works.

Paul Chambers, an expert on Thai politics and lecturer at Naresuan University, said Rap Against Dictatorship’s video has gained strong popularity among urban voters, many of whom had originally supported the military coup. 

“Thus the writing is on the wall: More and more former junta supporters want the military to return to the barracks,” he wrote in an email.  “The surprise is that more and more urban Thais, who tended to remain supportive or apathetic to the junta, have now jumped on the bandwagon of demanding a return to democracy now.”  

Prayut repeatedly has delayed promised elections since staging the 2014 coup, Thailand’s 12th since 1932. He also passed a new constitution that grants him extraordinary power and the military virtually total control of parliament. 

Some steps have been taken to loosen the bans on political activities he implemented after seizing power, though many remain. 

Rangsiya Ratanachai contributed to this report. 

FIFA Asks Qatar Emir About Sharing World Cup With Bitter Foes

Adding 16 teams to the 2022 World Cup is about far more than sports. The head of world soccer thinks the proposal can help solve the bitter diplomatic fight between host Qatar and a Saudi Arabian-led coalition trying to isolate the tiny nation.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has visions of the World Cup uniting the region. He says the World Cup should expand from 32 to 48 teams by playing some of the matches in stadiums in the very nations who have cut ties with Qatar and closed land, air and sea passage to and from the oil-rich nation of 2.6 million people, all but about 300,000 of them foreign workers.

Qatar will have eight stadiums to host 64 games in an already-congested 28-day window. The World Cup was moved from June-July to November-December because of the extreme heat in the Persian Gulf, and the tournament schedule was condensed to minimize the disruption to the top leagues around the world.

Adding 16 more nations would mean 80 games, and that would require more stadiums. Infantino asked the emir of Qatar if he would consider allowing matches to be held in other nations, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, all are part of an economic and travel boycott against his country.

“This is something that would probably be a nice message,” Infantino said.

When the joint bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico won the right to host the 2026 World Cup in June, a trade fight was rumbling between the North American nations. Eventually, a new trade pact was negotiated.

At the time of the 2026 vote, “the relations were a little bit tense right between these countries,” Infantino said. “It’s something that’s comparable with the Gulf region. But for me, you know if there is a possibility [of sharing games], if there is a chance at least to even discuss, we should try.”

With travel to Qatar currently blocked by its neighbors, Infantino cautions that “maybe it will never happen.” He says he brought it up with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar, and the emir was open to the idea.

“When we speak it remains between us of course,” Infantino said. “What is, I think, important is that he told us, `Let’s continue the discussions together and see if this can (work).”‘

Qatar’s World Cup organizing committee is wary about changing plans almost a decade in the making, and having already irritated European soccer leagues with the FIFA-imposed switch to start in November.

“We need to know pretty soon,” said Nasser Al Khater, deputy secretary general of the organizing committee. “So we need to understand basically we’re looking to change the format, increase the number of days. Can we do it with eight [stadiums] and increasing the number of days?”

The FIFA membership has already voted on expanding its showpiece even to 48 teams in 2026. Infantino has been saying since March he is considering fast-tracking those plans by four years and acknowledged there has been little progress since then.

“Obviously we cannot even start discussing anything like that in a serious way without Qatar,” Infantino said. “I was discussing with [Qatar] federation officials and also with the Emir of Qatar and they want to look at it together with us and what kind of options … sharing some matches with some other countries or not … and these kind of things. These are topics that first, of course, the Qataris, of course, have to be comfortable with. Could they do it on their own? No.”

Infantino hopes to have resolved the number of finalists by March, with the qualifying draw scheduled for next year. If new conditions are added to the 2022 schedule, a bidding process for the extra games might be necessary.

“This is all will all be part of their studies and the discussions,” Infantino said. “We’ll study it we have to make sure that we have a proper process in place.”

The decision to award the tournament to Qatar in a 2010 vote forced FIFA to deal with concerns about labor conditions for migrant workers, many building the stadiums. The bidding process for the 2026 World Cup was the first where FIFA assessed the human rights records of countries.

If Qatar’s neighbors joined in hosting games in 2022, human rights conditions would come into focus again.

“This will obviously be part of discussions,” Infantino said. “Without the decision to go to Qatar would anything have changed? Who knows?But certainly, the fact that there was a World Cup in the spotlight for everyone has contributed to the fact that we are going, we’re speaking to them and we’re trying to tell them, `Guys try at least to change and so on.”‘

The United Arab Emirates already has close ties to FIFA, hosting the Club World Cup again in Abu Dhabi in December.

Saudi Arabia would be keen on joining the 2022 World Cup but it has angered soccer federations by hosting a television network that has allegedly been pirating Qatar’s beIN Sports since the boycott of Doha began in 2017.

A partnership with the Saudis could also be problematic in the fallout from the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi after he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

“There are other countries in the region as well,” Infantino said, when asked about Saudi Arabia.

Qatar is still waiting for a proper consultation process to begin.

“Right now, as of today, we’re hosting a 32 team World Cup,” Al Khater said. “Our infrastructure, our stadiums are all based on the 32-team World Cup. That’s as much as we know and that’s as much as it’s confirmed by now.”

Rafael Nadal Pulls Out of Paris Masters with Abdominal Pain

Rafael Nadal pulled out of his second-round match at the Paris Masters on Wednesday because of an abdominal problem, meaning Novak Djokovic will reclaim the No. 1 ranking next week.

Nadal was returning from a right knee injury which forced him to retire from the U.S. Open semifinals, but took medical advice not to play against Fernando Verdasco.

 

“The last few days I start to feel a little bit the abdominal, especially when I was serving,” Nadal said. “I was checking with the doctor and the doctor says that is recommended to not play, because if I continue the abdominal maybe can break and can be a major thing, and I really don’t want that.”

 

At last year’s tournament, Nadal reached the quarterfinals but then pulled out against Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic. Nadal has dealt with off-and-on knee problems for years and, given his injury record, the 32-year-old Spaniard prefers to be cautious.

 

At the U.S. Open in early September, he dropped the opening two sets against Juan Martin del Potro before retiring. He then skipped the Asia swing to recover, missing tournaments in Beijing and Shanghai.

 

“It has been a tough year for me in terms of injuries so I want to avoid drastic things,” Nadal said. “Maybe I can play today, but the doctor says if I want to play the tournament, I want to try to win the tournament, the abdominal with break for sure.”

 

Nadal did not say whether he will play at the season-ending ATP Finals in London, beginning Nov. 11.

 

“I cannot answer. I just go day by day, as I did all my tennis career,” the 17-time Grand Slam champion said. “I would love to be in London of course. But the most important thing for me is to be healthy, be healthy and have the chance to compete weeks in a row. Something that I was not able to do this year, playing only nine events and retiring in two.”

 

Nadal is optimistic his latest injury will pass, providing he does not rush back.

 

“It would not be fair to say it’s a real injury today but what is sure, if I continue it will be a real injury,” he said. “When you come back after injuries, and you push a little bit, the body at the beginning some issues can happen.”

 

Djokovic, who faces Damir Dzumhur in the third round, will reclaim the top ranking for the first time in two years on Monday.

 

Also, Roger Federer advanced to the third round after big-serving Milos Raonic retired with a right elbow injury.

 

Raonic injured himself during a three-set win against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Tuesday.

 

“In the middle of second set, I overextended my elbow and it did some kind of pain,” he said. “I went and I did an ultrasound and MRI, and they found some kind of a lesion in the tricep.”

 

Federer, who won his 99th career title at the Swiss Indoors last Sunday, will face 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

 

Defending champion Jack Sock of the United States and fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev reached the third round in straight sets.

 

The 16th-seeded Sock saved all four break points he faced in a 6-3, 6-3 win against Frenchman Richard Gasquet, while Zverev advanced 6-4, 6-4 over American Francis Tiafoe.

 

Seventh-seeded Kevin Anderson, the Wimbledon runner-up, got past Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3).

 

No. 8 John Isner, No. 9 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 10 Kei Nishikori also won.

 

Dimitrov had 13 aces in a 7-6 (10), 6-4 win against Roberto Bautista Agut and Nishikori beat Adrian Mannarino of France 7-5, 6-4. Isner had 33 aces in a 6-3, 6-7(2), 7-6 (1) against Mikhail Kukushkin, with the big-serving American saving a break point in the 11th game of the third set.

 

Isner and Nishikori are competing with No. 5 Marin Cilic and No. 6 Dominic Thiem for the last two spots for the ATP finals. Thiem was facing Frenchman Gilles Simon later Wednesday, while No. 11 Borna Coric was playing Daniil Medvedev.

 

 

 

 

З 2 листопада між Україною і Катаром починає працювати безвізовий режим – Аваков

З 2 листопада українці зможуть подорожувати до Катару по безвізовому режиму. Про це повідомив міністр внутрішніх справ України Арсен Аваков після зустрічі з прем’єр-міністром Катару Абдулою Аль Тані.

Угоду про безвізовий режим Київ і Доха уклали в березні цього року.

Згідно глобального рейтингу паспортів, де український займає 27 місце, громадяни країни можуть відвідувати 130 країн без візи, або ж отримати її після прибуття.  

Hidden Secrets of America’s Ghost Towns

Clues to America’s past can be found in its ghost towns, once bustling communities that have been abandoned.

The deserted communities show us how the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars shaped the history of the United States, according to Geotab, a telematics company (think global positioning and vehicle tracking), which developed an interactive map showcasing more than 3,000 abandoned towns across America.

Ghost towns are often associated with the Wild West and Texas does have the most ghost towns with 511 abandoned communities. California follows with 346, and Kansas with 308.

Most of the Texas towns were established during the frontier era, from the early to mid-1800s. Mining towns sprang up around rich mineral deposits while the Mexican government’s favorable terms — a promised 4,000 acres per family for a small fee — attracted settlers.

“In the end, some Texas towns were destroyed by natural disasters and droughts, while others failed once the railroad and highway system reshaped transportation routes,” Geotab’s Kelly Hall told us via email.

Towns founded around particular mineral resources were abandoned when demand dried up.

“Once the need declined or resources were scarce, it caused the population or entire town to vanish,” said Hall. “Others were economically overpowered by neighboring towns, the Great Depression or frontier settlements that simply died down.”

Sixty structures still survive in Bannack, Montana, which was founded in 1862. The town flourished when thousands descended on the area with hopes of making their fortune in gold. By 1860, the gold was harder to reach and, despite a brief resurgence in the 1890s, the town was abandoned by the 1940s.

Natural disasters could also wipe out a town. That’s what happened to Fort Jefferson in Monroe County, Florida.

Built starting in 1846, the fort once helped defend the state against pirates, became a prison during the Civil War, was once used as a quarantine station, and then a refueling station for the U.S. Navy. But Fort Jefferson was abandoned in 1906 after it was damaged by a hurricane.

“With limited access to technology and without today’s emergency management advancements, a hurricane, a tornado or an earthquake could mean the total devastation of an entire community,” Hall said.

But some of these ghost towns, such as Fort Jefferson, have gotten a second life as tourist attractions. The residents are long gone, but the buildings, and the unique history of each town, remain.

Помер художній керівник київського Театру драми і комедії на лівому березі Дніпра

Художній керівник київського Театру драми і комедії на лівому березі Дніпра Едуард Митницький.

«З глибоким сумом повідомляємо, що сьогодні пішов із життя засновник та незмінний художній керівник Театру драми і комедії на лівому березі Дніпра, видатний режисер та педагог, народний артист України, професор Едуард Маркович Митницький», – повідомили у театрі.

Дату і час прощання з Митницьким повідомлять пізніше.

Народився Митницький у серпні 1931 року.  Він поставив десятки вистав у театрах Києва, Севастополя, Сімферополя, Одеси, Риги, Вільнюса і інших міст.

Підземних страйкарів на шахті Капустіна змінили колеги з другої зміни

Шахтарів, що впродовж 12 діб страйкували під землею на шахті ім. Капустіна, змінили інші гірники. Про це проекту Радіо Свобода Радіо Донбас.Реалії заявив виконувач обов’язків генерального директора держпідприємства «Лисичанськвугілля» Валентин Кисельов.

За його словами, 30 жовтня з шахти піднялися 15 гірників. Всі вони роз’їхалися по домівках. На зміну їм спустилися 14 шахтарів з другої зміни.

Читайте також: «Самопочуття середньої паршивості»: як шахтарі 11 днів знаходяться під землею (рос.)

«Ми ведемо з ними діалог, щоб вони піднялися. Тому що акція по всіх підприємствах на поверхні проводиться, і сенсу там сидіти немає ніякого», – говорить Валентин Кисельов.

Підземний страйк на шахті імені Капустіна державного підприємства «Лисичанськвугілля» триває з 19 жовтня. Гірники вимагають погасити заборгованість із зарплати та звільнити керівництво «Лисичанськвугілля». Вони відмовлялись підніматися на поверхню. Загальний борг вугільного об’єднання перед гірниками становить 102 мільйони гривень.

НАСА повідомила про завершення роботи космічного телескопа «Кеплер»

Космічна обсерваторія «Кеплер», яка стартувала з Землі в 2009 році для пошуку планет за межами Сонячної системи, припинила свою роботу. Про це 30 жовтня повідомила Національна аерокосмічна адміністрація США (НАСА).

Через дев’ять років роботи в космосі у телескопа закінчилося паливо.

Телескоп «Кеплер» мав завдання шукати екзопланети – планети, розташовані за межами Сонячної системи. Телескоп виявив і підтвердив існування 2681 екзопланети, ще більша кількість об’єктів, виявлених з його допомогою, можуть бути планетами, але вимагають додаткового вивчення.

На заміну «Кеплеру» в квітні 2018 року НАСА запустила телескоп ТЕСС.