Trump condemned for tweets pointing to name of Ukraine whistleblower

President posted link to article that identifies official then sent a further tweet containing the name

Donald Trump has retweeted material that publicly names the purported whistleblower whose complaint about the US presidents dealings with Ukraine led to his impeachment.

The president on Friday night sent a retweet from one of his supporters containing the alleged name of the individual. Trump drew the attention of his 68 million Twitter followers to the post which, along with publicising the name, inaccurately claimed that the whistleblower committed perjury by making false statements and is being protected by Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee. There is no evidence to support these assertions.

Earlier, on Thursday, Trump had also retweeted a post by his re-election campaigns war room that linked to an article by the conservative Washington Examiner news website. The article, published on 3 December, has the name of the alleged whistleblower in its headline.

Trumps retweet quickly drew sharp criticism. Amy Siskind, president of the New Agenda, a nonpartisan advocacy organisation, posted on Friday: This is not acceptable behavior from the so-called leader of our country, and he must be called to task for it!

The whistleblower is reportedly a CIA analyst . They filed an anonymous complaint in August alleging Trump pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into a political rival a violation of laws against seeking foreign help in US elections.

The nine-page memo was based on secondary sources, but the whistleblowers colleagues in the intelligence and diplomatic communities corroborated and fleshed out the account in closed-door and public hearings. This culminated in last weeks House of Representatives vote to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, setting the stage for a Senate trial in the coming weeks.

With so much evidence on the record, Democrats have largely moved on from the whistleblower, who has become something of a rightwing obsession. Their alleged name and photograph have been circulating in conservative media for months. Despite whistleblower protection laws, they have to be driven to work by security detail to protect their safety.

The president was following in the footsteps of his own son, Donald Trump Jr, who last month tweeted an article that contained the name and was then grilled about it on the TV talk show The View. Trump Jr claimed he was a private citizen sharing information on social media. The shows hosts argued this was disingenuous considering that he is the presidents son.

Yet for all his sense of raw grievance and righteous indignation over impeachment, Trump himself had been showing uncharacteristic restraint. Last month the Guardian asked him if he was thinking about tweeting out the name of the whistleblower.

The president replied: Well, Ill tell you what. There have been stories written about a certain individual a male and they say hes the whistleblower.

Trump went on to claim, without evidence, that the whistleblower is linked to John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, and Susan Rice, the ex-national security adviser. If hes the whistleblower, he has no credibility because hes a Brennan guy, hes a Susan Rice guy, hes an Obama guy, and he hates Trump, and hes a radical. Now, maybe its not him. But if its him, you guys ought to release the information.

Trump has made several more appeals for the media to out the whistleblower, amplified by Republican allies in in Congress, who allege the person is a Democrat pursuing a vendetta. At a Trump rally in Kentucky, the US senator Rand Paul urged reporters: Do your job and print his name! Trump applauded.

Trump himself has never come closer to doing it himself than Thursdays retweet. The Daily Beast reported: Several people close to the president, such as Ivanka Trump and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, had privately cautioned him against saying or posting the name in public, arguing it would be counterproductive and unnecessary.

Legal experts disagree on whether identifying a whistleblower is a crime. Some argue the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 forbids retaliation against an employee for blowing the whistle on perceived wrongdoing but does not prevent a president or member of Congress from identifying a whistleblower.

But Robert Litt, former general counsel for the office of the director of national intelligence, told National Public Radio last month: Anybody who is thinking about outing the whistleblower has to take into account the possibility that if something happens to the whistleblower, there would be some civil liability for causing that to happen. And while disclosing the identity of the whistleblower isnt necessarily unlawful, creating a hostile work environment might be viewed as retaliation.

With few public engagements, Trump, based at his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, has spent the Christmas period furiously tweeting and retweeting false claims and conspiracy theories related to Ukraine and impeachment.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Protests grow as Peter Handke receives Nobel medal in Sweden

The literature laureateship, due to be presented in Stockholm on Tuesday, faces boycotts and widespread protest

As Turkey joins Albania and Kosovo in boycotting Tuesdays Nobel prize ceremony for Peter Handke over his support for Slobodan Milosevics genocidal regime, war correspondents from Christiane Amanpour to Jeremy Bowen are protesting his win by sharing their harrowing stories from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.

The Austrian writer, whose stance on the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s and attendance at Milosevics funeral have been widely criticised, is due to receive his Nobel medal in Stockholm, where a large protest demonstration is expected.

Bosnian Swedish writer Adnan Mahmutovic, who is organising the protests, said there had been a huge negative response to Handkes win in Sweden.

We hope that our voices tonight will help us start a dialogue about the consequences of continuous genocide denial that has been going on for decades. Genocide is not an event but a process whose last phase is denial. We cannot let our Nobel legacy legitimise it, he said.

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A digital mural on the side of a Sarajevo shopping mall protests against the awarding of the laureateship to Handke on Tuesday. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week Peter Englund, a member of the Swedish Academy, which selects the winner, announced he would boycott the ceremony, saying: To celebrate Peter Handkes Nobel prize would be gross hypocrisy on my part. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed Handke on television, saying the Nobel has no value granting the Nobel literature prize on Human Rights Day to a figure who denies the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina is nothing less than rewarding human rights violations. Turkeys ambassador to Sweden, Hakki Emre Yunt, also announced he would not attend the ceremony.

Albanias acting foreign minister Gent Cakaj has instructed the countrys ambassador to Sweden to boycott the ceremony, as is Kosovo, with its ambassador to the US, Vlora itaku calling Handkes win a preposterous and shameful decision.

Journalists who covered the war in Bosnia, meanwhile, are protesting Handkes win by describing what they saw during the conflict using the hashtag #BosniaWarJournalists.

I was there. We all know whos guilty, wrote Amanpour, the chief international anchor for CNN who covered the war as a young reporter.

My colleagues #BosniaWarJournalists are outraged so we are posting our work to remind the world of what happened there. Never forget, wrote foreign correspondent Janine di Giovanni. In Sarajevo, Id go to the morgue to count dead: Children, women, soldiers, horrors of that unjust war laid out on a slab. What BosniaWarReporters like me saw was relentless attacks on civilians. Genocide. Please speak out against Handke getting Nobel.

The BBCs Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen wrote: I reported all the Yugo wars. Saw monstrous crimes. Later testified at war crimes trials, inc those of Bosnian Serb leaders Karadzic & Mladic.

Former foreign correspondent Emma Daly said that she will never forget walking around the mass graves holding hundreds of men & boys who were blindfolded, shot & buried on farmland near Srebrenica. We know Milosevic was responsible.

The New York Timess Roger Cohen, sharing a link to his 1994 story about a Serbian concentration camp, wrote: shame on Nobel Committee and Swedish King for handing Nobel literature prize to Peter Handke, who calls the Bosnian genocide myth.

Journalist Peter Maass, who was told on Friday by Handke that his questions about the Srebrenica massacre were empty and ignorant, wrote on Twitter that the legacy of the Swedish royal family, who will award the Austrian author his medal, will be that they authenticated a genocide denier.

Handke has claimed that the Muslims staged their own massacres in Sarajevo and then blamed this on the Serbs, also casting doubt on the massacre of thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. In an essay for the French newspaper Libration in 2006, he wrote: Lets stop comparing Slobodan Milosevic to Hitler and lets never again use the expression for the camps installed during the Yugoslav war concentration camps.

True, there were intolerable camps between 1992 and 1995 in Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia. But let us stop mechanically linking, in our heads, these camps to Bosnian Serbs there were also Croatian camps and Muslim camps, and the crimes committed there, and there, are and will be tried in The Hague, he wrote. And finally, lets stop linking the massacres (amongst which, in the plural, those in Srebrenica in July 1995 were by far the most abominable) to Serbian forces or paramilitaries. Let us also listen to the survivors of Muslim massacres in the many Serbian villages around Srebrenica.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Barcelona tourist industry counts cost of ‘lost week’ of rioting

Trade reportedly falls 60% in some areas, with concern about disturbances long-term effect

Still reeling from the collapse of Thomas Cook, Spains tourist industry is now counting the cost of prolonged rioting in Barcelona, the nations most popular urban destination.

A week of violent and destructive disturbances over the jailing of Catalan political leaders left the city with a clean-up bill estimated at 3m but it is feared that the images of airport chaos, running battles with police and flaming barricades will cost the city a great deal more.

The tourism association Barcelona Oberta estimates that economic activity in the city centre principally the retail and hospitality sectors fell by between 30-50% during the week after the sentences were announced on 14 October, either because clients stayed away to avoid being caught up in the violence or because establishments closed for fear of damage or looting.

Roger Pallarols, president of the Barcelona restaurateurs association, said that in the areas directly affected by the disturbances trade fell by about 60%. Some 70 restaurants also had their outdoor terraces destroyed as rioters burned chairs and parasols on the barricades, causing around 2m in damage to property.

Last week was a lost week from the point of view of restaurateurs, Pallarols said. Things are quiet now but if this continues restaurants will have to lay off staff because the profit margins are very small.

Some of the worst rioting was in Passeig de Grcia, the citys upmarket shopping street, where around 60% of sales are to tourists.

Sales were down around 30% over the week, said Luis Sans, president of the Passeig de Grcia association. Were seeing a return to normality now but the short term is one thing, another is the effect these images will have had on peoples desire to come to Barcelona.

There was a lot of damage but at least, unlike the gilets jaunes in Paris, the demonstrators didnt set out to destroy shops and restaurants.

Manel Casals, head of the Barcelona hoteliers association, said there have been cancellations but relatively few, although he has no figures as yet. What we are seeing is fewer people are making reservations than is normal at this time of year.

The same is happening with Airbnb and other holiday apartment platforms. According AirDNA, which analyses the short-term rental market, reservations for the week from 14 October, when the protests began, were down by nearly 1,000 on the same week last year, from 12,515 to 11,537.

Tourism accounts for 15% of Barcelonas GDP and the hotel business alone has a turnover of some 1.6bn. The tourism industry employs around 100,000 people, 40,000 of them directly.

As well as tourism, Barcelona is one of the worlds favourite conference venues. There are conferences every day of the week but the real money-spinner is the Mobile World Conference. Last year the 100,000 visitors to the congress spent 473m while creating 14,000 temporary jobs. The current contract with the city expires in 2023.

Conferences are organised a long way in advance and aside from an American convention I dont know of any cancellations, said Christoph Tessmar, director of the Barcelona Tourism Convention Bureau. In recent years Barcelona has had to confront major crises but has maintained its position as a world leader for conferences, although the images weve seen in recent days could have a negative impact in the short term.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Belgium gets first female PM as Sophie Wilms takes office

Caretaker leader replaces Charles Michel, who will be European council president

Belgiums first female prime minister in its 189-year history has taken office, after Sophie Wilms was named as the head of the countrys next caretaker government.

Wilms succeeds the liberal leader Charles Michel, who will become president of the European council on 1 December. Her role has been described as a poisoned chalice, as linguistically divided parties struggle to form a government.

Belgium has had a caretaker government since December last year when Michels four-party coalition collapsed as the Flemish nationalists quit in protest at a UN migration pact.

Elections in late May have so far failed to yield a fresh government and reinforced the countrys political divide, with the wealthier Dutch-speaking Flemish north voting in large numbers for the nationalist right, while the francophone south handed victory to traditional socialists.

Describing her appointment as a great honour and a great responsibility, Wilms acknowledged leading a caretaker government does not leave us with much opportunity to act and urged the formation of a fully fledged government as soon as possible.

Belgium went 541 days without a government in 2010-11, a world record for a country in peacetime. Northern Irelands Stormont assembly and executive, which has not sat for more than 1,000 days, overtook the Belgian total in August 2018, but is not considered eligible for the record since laws can still be passed at Westminster.

Wilms, 44, has had a rapid rise in politics since joining Belgiums federal government in 2015 as budget minister. Born in Brussels to a political family, she began her political career as a local councillor in the Belgian capital. Wilms was later elected to local government in Rhode Saint-Gense (Sint-Genesius-Rode), one of six Flemish communes encircling Brussels that have large French-speaking minorities, leading to frequent disputes over language rights.

Her task as prime minister is complicated by being a member of the francophone liberal party, which lost ground in the May elections and is only the fourth-largest party.

Wilms is seen as an ally of the outgoing prime minister and has been criticised in the fiscally conservative northern Flanders region for not doing more to deliver a balanced budget.

The Dutch-language daily De Standaardpointed out Wilms was little known in Flanders, but said she spoke good Dutch and had a good dose of charisma.

In a front-page editorial, Le Soir said her nomination was an elevator to the scaffold, calling Wilms a prime minister that hid a political vacuum. While describing her appointment as a big step forward for women in Belgium, the leader writer Batrice Delvaux accused the countrys politicians of great hypocrisy. She pointed out Michels government had failed to reach gender parity during its five years in office.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Trump says he’ll release second ‘very important’ Ukraine call memo

President plans to release details of second call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy while Mick Mulvaney challenges inquirys power to summon advisers

As the impeachment inquiry continued to cast dark clouds over the White House, Donald Trump said he was preparing to release details of a second call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

We have another transcript coming out which is very important, Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews before leaving for Alabama and a college football game. I will give you a second transcript, because I had two calls with the president of Ukraine.

The impeachment inquiry centres on a 25 July call between Trump and Zelenskiy in which, according to an incomplete memo released by the White House and repeatedly and incorrectly referred to by Trump as a perfect transcript, the US president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to do us a favour.

Testimony released this week has painted a damning picture of attempts to persuade Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, potentially in return for an unfreezing of nearly $400m in military aid and a White House meeting with Trump.

The 25 July call and concerns over its content became known when an intelligence official filed an anonymous report. Trump and allies such as the Kentucky senator Rand Paul have led Republican pressure for the media to name the whistleblower, contrary to federal law.

On Saturday, House Republicans said Hunter Biden and the whistleblower should be called to testify in public hearings set to begin next week.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee, reportedly said he was evaluating the list but added that the inquiry will not serve as a vehicle [for] the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the president pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit.

Trump said his new transcript would probably be released on Tuesday. He also characterised the impeachment inquiry as a lot of witch-hunt but said Republicans defending him have never been so united.

On Friday night, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney asked to join a lawsuit that seeks a ruling on whether senior advisers to Trump must testify in the impeachment inquiry.

The move came on the same day Mulvaney became the latest senior White House aide not to comply with a subpoena to appear before Democrat-led House committees receiving testimony in private. The suit he wants to join was filed in October by Charles Kupperman, former deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton.

House Democrats have not served a subpoena to Bolton, whose lawyer said on Friday he had information about many relevant meetings and conversations. Bolton has warned he will seek legal recourse if a subpoena is sent. In a game of legal chess, Kuppermans subpoena has been withdrawn.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone has claimed senior aides do not have to comply with impeachment inquiry subpoenas, a claim that is fiercely contested. But career officials from the National Security Council and state department have testified in private.

Mulvaney found himself in the crosshairs after admitting last month that aid to Ukraine was held up and telling reporters to get over it, an admission he sought to retract.

This week, transcripts of testimony by White House aides linked Mulvaney to offers of a Trump meeting for Zelenskiy, if he agreed to investigate the Bidens and a conspiracy theory which says Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the 2016 US election.

In a filing quoted by the Washington Post, Mulvaneys lawyers said the issue of whether senior aides should testify go[es] to the heart of our representative government and its promise to secure individual liberty by dividing the awesome power of government amongst itself.

Mr Mulvaney, like Mr Kupperman, finds himself caught in that division, trapped between the commands of two of its co-equal branches with one of those branches threatening him with contempt. He turns to this court for aid.

When Kuppermans suit was filed, many observers said it was merely a delaying tactic. Critics of Cipollones position say it disregards the oversight role of Congress as set out in the constitution.

Mick
Mick Mulvaney arrives in Columbia, South Carolina, in October. Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking to the Guardian on Friday, Frank O Bowman III, author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History of Impeachment for the Age of Trump and a professor at the University of Missouri school of law, said the White House gag rule on senior advisers testifying was completely abnormal.

Bowman said: Inasmuch as the no-shows are in response to presidential orders or strong admonitions, they amount to obstruction of the Houses constitutional impeachment function and are therefore a free-standing ground for impeachment.

On Saturday, in a letter to Schiff, ranking Republican intelligence committee member Devin Nunes called for the whistleblower to testify and claimed: Americans see through this sham impeachment process.

Other individuals Nunes said should testify included Devon Archer, an associate of Hunter Biden; former Democratic National Committee staffer Alexandra Chalupa; and Nellie Ohr, a former contractor for opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the famous Steele dossier on links between Trump and Russia.

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, reported that two Ukrainian Americans entangled in the impeachment inquiry pushed previous Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to investigate the Bidens and the conspiracy theory regarding 2016.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman worked with Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor commonly described as Trumps personal attorney, on approaches to Ukraine. Parnas and Fruman have been charged with campaign finance offences. Giuliani has defied congressional demands for relevant documentation.

According to released testimony, Giulianis role in apparent extra-governmental foreign policy caused alarm among national security staffers.

Fiona Hill, a British-born Russia expert, told the committees Bolton characterised Giuliani as a hand grenade whos going to blow everybody up.

According to Hill, Bolton also said he was not part of whatever drug deal [EU ambassador Gordon] Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Ancient scrolls charred by Vesuvius could be read once again

US scientists say it may be possible to decipher words using new x-ray technique

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79 it destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, their inhabitants and their prized possessions among them a fine library of scrolls that were carbonised by the searing heat of ash and gas.

But scientists say there may still be hope that the fragile documents can once more be read thanks to an innovative approach involving high-energy x-rays and artificial intelligence.

Although you can see on every flake of papyrus that there is writing, to open it up would require that papyrus to be really limber and flexible and it is not any more, said Prof Brent Seales, chair of computer science at the University of Kentucky, who is leading the research.

The two unopened scrolls that will be probed belong to the Institut de France in Paris and are part of an astonishing collection of about 1,800 scrolls that was first discovered in 1752 during excavations of Herculaneum. Together they make up the only known intact library from antiquity, with the majority of the collection now preserved in a museum in Naples.

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A fragment of a Herculaneum scroll carbonised during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Photograph: Andrew Brookes/Diamond Light Source Ltd

The villa in which they were found is thought to have been owned by the father-in-law of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator who was assassinated in 44BC.

Experts have attempted to unroll about half of the scrolls through various methods over the years, although some have been destroyed in the process and experts say unrolling and exposing the writing to the air results in the ink fading.

Seales and his team have previously used high-energy x-rays to virtually unravel a 1,700 year old Hebrew parchment found in the holy ark of a synagogue in En-Gedi in Israel, revealing it to contain text from the biblical book of Leviticus.

However, while the En-Gedi scroll contained a metal-based ink which shows up in x-ray data, the inks used on the Herculaneum scrolls are thought to be carbon-based, made using charcoal or soot, meaning there is no obvious contrast between the writing and the papyrus in x-ray scans.

While ink in some Herculaneum fragments has been found to contain lead, Seales says it is only trace amounts and does not allow the inside of the scrolls to be read using x-ray data alone. Seales says it has also proved impossible to replicate findings that letters within Herculaneum scrolls can be deciphered by the naked eye from scans captured by a slightly different x-ray technique.

As a result the team have come up with a new approach that uses high-energy x-rays together with a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning.

The method uses photographs of scroll fragments with writing visible to the naked eye. These are used to teach machine learning algorithms where ink is expected to be in x-ray scans of the same fragments, collected using a number of techniques.

The idea is that the system will pick out and learn subtle differences between inked and blank areas in the x-ray scans, such as differences in the structure of papyrus fibres. Once trained on the fragments, it is hoped the system can be used with data from the intact scrolls to reveal the text within.

Seales said the team have just finished collecting the x-ray data and are training their algorithms, adding that they will apply the system on the scrolls in the coming months.

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The team taking on the task of reading the scrolls. Left to right: Front row Jens Dopke, Brent Seales, Francoise Berard, and Christy Chapman; Back Row Robert Atwood and Thomas Connolley. Photograph: Diamond Light Source Ltd

The first thing we are hoping to do is perfect the technology so that we can simply repeat it on all 900 scrolls that remain [unwrapped], said Seales.

As for what the scrolls contain, the researchers say they are excited.

For the most part the writings [in opened scrolls] are Greek philosophy around Epicureanism, which was a prevailing philosophy of the day, said Seales.

Another possibility is that the scrolls might contain Latin text. While classical libraries are believed to have had a Greek section and a Latin section, only a small proportion of scrolls from Herculaneum have so far been found to be in Latin, with the possibility there is a Latin section within the villa yet to be excavated.

Dr Dirk Obbink, a papyrologist and classicist at the University of Oxford who has been involved in training the teams algorithms, said the project was immensely exciting and agreed it is possible the text might turn out to be Latin. A new historical work by Seneca the Elder was discovered among the unidentified Herculaneum papyri only last year, thus showing what uncontemplated rarities remain to be discovered there, he said,

But Obbink is hoping the scrolls might even contain lost works, such as poems by Sappho or the treatise Mark Antony wrote on his own drunkenness. I would very much like to be able to read that one, he said.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Brexit: Johnson says Britain will leave EU on 31 October ‘do or die’

Tory leadership frontrunner hardens position as Eurosceptics extend influence on faltering campaign

Boris Johnson has hardened his position on leaving the EU do or die by the end of October, as hardline Eurosceptics extended their influence on his faltering campaign to be prime minister.

The frontrunner toughened his Brexit stance as criticism continued over his refusal to answer questions about a police visit to his flat following a loud late-night altercation with his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds.

In a round of interviews designed to put the focus back on his EU policy and away from his personal life, Johnson appeared to signal there was an increasing prospect of a no-deal Brexit three months after he would take office.

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A late-night altercation between Tory leadership favourite, Boris Johnson, and his partner, Carrie Symonds have changed the dynamics of Johnson’s campaign. He had been either invisible or deliberately sober to the point of dullness, when his usual primary draw to Tory members is a self-created sense of optimism and fun. Much is also made of his supposed broad appeal to the electorate, evidenced by two terms as London mayor.

In most political contests, Johnsons character he has lost more than one job for lying, and has a complex and opaque personal life would be a big issue, but among the Tory faithful he seemingly receives a free pass. It remains to be seen what impact that late-night police visit will have on his chances.

Brexit

He has promised to push for a new deal while insisting the UK will leave the EU come what may on 31 October, even if it involves no deal. While his hard Brexit supporters are adamant this is a cast-iron guarantee of leaving on that date, elsewhere Johnson has been somewhat less definitive. Asked about the date in a BBC TV debate, Johnson said only that it was ’eminently feasible’.

Taxation

His main pledge has been to raise the threshold for the 40% higher tax rate from 50,000 to 80,000, at a cost of almost 10bn a year, which would help about 3 million higher earners, a demographic with a fairly sizeable crossover into Tory members. Johnsons camp insist it would be part of a wider and so far unknown package of tax changes.

Public spending

He has said relatively little, beyond promising a fairly small increase in schools funding, as well as talking about the need to roll out fast broadband across the country. Johnson has generally hinted he would loosen the purse strings, but given his prior fondness for big-ticket projects Londons cancelled garden bridge, the mooted ‘Boris island’ airport perhaps expect more of a focus on infrastructure projects than services.

Climate and environment

This is unlikely to be a big issue for Conservative party members, and Johnson has not said much on this beyond confirming his general support for the new government target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to a net zero by 2050.

Foreign policy

Also unlikely to be a big issue among Tory members, beyond vague platitudes on ‘global Britain’, it could be a weak spot for Johnson given his poor performance as foreign secretary. He was seen as something of a joke by diplomats both UK and foreign and is likely to face more questioning over his gaffe about the jailed British-Iranian womanNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Peter WalkerPolitical correspondent

Photograph: Isabel Infantes/AFP

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Johnson first doubled down on his commitment to leaving on 31 October in an interview with Talkradio, saying he was in no way reneging on his firm pledge.

We are getting ready to come out on 31 October. Come what may, he said. Asked to confirm this, he added: Do or die. Come what may.

He then said he would scrap Theresa Mays withdrawal agreement and seek a completely new deal before then, as minor changes would not satisfy him.

I mean more than a change, he said. Its got to be, we need a new withdrawal agreement if were going to go out on the basis of a withdrawal agreement.

Not only has the EU said it will not reopen the withdrawal agreement, but the timetable would be extremely tight as parliament is in recess over the summer and then sitting for about 10 days before party conference season begins. MPs return midway through October, just a few weeks before the deadline.

Johnson then emphasised his position on leaving by 31 October yet again by writing a letter to Jeremy Hunt, his Tory leadership opponent, challenging him to commit to that date come what may.

Hunt replied with a dig that Johnson could find out his policy if he turned up to a Sky News head-to-head debate on Tuesday night that Johnson has refused to attend. Hi Boris, its good to talk. But no need for snail-mail, why not turn up to Sky tonight and Ill give you full and frank answers?#BoJoNoShow, he tweeted.

Hunt also tried to claim his Brexit policy was similar to Johnsons but that he would be a more trusted negotiator to deliver changes that could get through the UK parliament. Who is the person that we trust to send to Brussels on behalf of the British people and come back with a deal, and that has to be someone that they trust, that theyre prepared to talk to, because in the end you dont do a deal with someone you dont trust, Hunt told the BBC in an interview.

In fact, Hunts stance is more moderate than that of his rival as he has not committed to leaving on 31 October if he needs more time to do a deal. Johnson also wants to throw out the withdrawal agreement for a new one, while Hunt would be seeking more modest tweaks.

In another sign that Johnsons campaign was taking a more hardline turn, he appointed Iain Duncan Smith, a veteran Eurosceptic and former Tory leader, as his campaign chief. Johnson also revealed Mark Fullbrook, a business partner of the Australia election guru Lynton Crosby, would be formally joining the team.

Sources close to the campaign said Eurosceptics in the party were increasingly turning the screws on Johnson by warning they would withdraw support for his government if he fails to take the UK out of the EU by 31 October.

One of the 28 Spartan MPs who voted against Mays withdrawal deal said they would not tolerate minor changes to the agreement repackaged and sold as a great new deal. He said they were working on the assumption that Johnson was heading for a no-deal Brexit and parliament could either be not consulted or simply ignored.

Johnson appeared to bear out that strategy in his Talkradio interview in which he said he could categorically rule out an extension to article 50, meaning he believes he has a way to stop parliament blocking a no-deal Brexit.

It would be up to the prime minister of the day. I have myself to decide under the current terms of the extension that we have, to apply for such an extension. And it is up to the EU to decide whether to grant it. At the moment, the law says that the UK is leaving the EU, international treaty law says the UK is leaving the EU on 31 October.

At the same time, up to a dozen MPs on the centrist wing of the party, such as Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond, have been warning they could bring down the government in a confidence vote together with opposition parties if Johnson tried to exit without a deal.

In an earlier interview on LBC radio, Johnson dismissed the idea his Brexit plans could be hampered by Tory rebels, saying the party was staring down the barrel of defeat if it did not deliver a departure plan, which would focus minds.

Johnson has been criticised for hiding during the campaign but he attempted to neutralise that criticism with a series of choreographed campaign visits on Tuesday including a speech to a horticultural society and a walk down a high street in Surrey.

He conducted the round of media interviews and was filmed on the campaign trail, after keeping a low profile for the first part of the campaign and dodging questions over the weekend about the screaming row with his partner that prompted a neighbour to call the police.

He was asked 26 times on LBC about the provenance of a photograph showing him with his partner smiling in a Sussex garden, which appeared on news websites on Monday. However, Johnson refused every time to say whether it was staged, who released it and whether it was recent. Newspapers will print whatever they are going to print, he said. The longer we spend on things extraneous to what I want to do, the bigger the waste of time.

His mood was subdued at a hustings in Birmingham on Saturday, the day after the story of the row broke in the Guardian, where he told the events moderator, Iain Dale, that people did not want to know about that sort of thing.

But a film has emerged of him giving a rabble-rousing speech to a private garden party later that day, telling Conservative members that the NHS absolutely needs reform and firing them up for a general election by asking them to be ready to wallop Jeremy Corbyn.

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Boris Johnson tells Tory members NHS ‘needs reform’ video

Asked by one party member what he would do with the NHS, Johnson told the crowd the health service was a crowning glory but was not getting the kind of support and indeed the kind of changes and management that it needs, suggesting he as prime minister would aim to undertake an overhaul of the health service.

He said Simon Stevens, the NHS chief executive, had once helped him get elected president of the Oxford Union as a student, and together they would sort things out.

In remarks that may alarm those opposed to another reorganisation of the NHS, Johnson said: It needs more money but where you are absolutely right is that it needs reform.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the comments were alarming but unsurprising given the hard-right agenda Johnson has been putting forward.

His tax plans will benefit the richest, hes the biggest defender of the bankers who crashed the economy, and hes been buddying up with Trump to sell off our NHS to US corporations, he said. His comments to Tory party members about his plans for the NHS need to be clarified immediately.

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Woman arrested in Poland over posters of Virgin Mary with rainbow halo

Police accuse 51-year-old Pock woman of profanation of revered religious image

A woman has been arrested on suspicion of offending religious sentiment, after posters bearing an image of the Virgin Mary with her halo painted in the colours of the rainbow flag appeared in the city of Pock in central Poland.

The Polish interior minister, Joachim Brudziski, announced on Twitter on Monday that a person had been arrested for carrying out a profanation of the Virgin Mary of Czstochowa.

A Pock police spokeswoman confirmed a 51-year-old woman had been arrested over the alleged offence. The woman had been abroad, but upon her return, the police entered and searched her home, where they found several dozen images of the Virgin Mary with the rainbow-coloured halo.

The Black Madonna of Czstochowa is a revered Byzantine icon that resides in the monastery of Jasna Gra, a UN world heritage site and Polands holiest Catholic shrine.

Offending religious feeling is a crime under the Polish penal code. If convicted, the woman could face a prison sentence of up to two years.

Brudziski, who described the posters as cultural barbarism when they appeared overnight in April, said: Telling stories about freedom and tolerance doesnt give anyone the right to offend the feelings of believers.

Polands ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) has sought to mobilise its core electorate in the run-up to the European elections by raising the spectre of the country being overwhelmed by western liberal social values.

We are dealing with a direct attack on the family and children the sexualization of children, that entire LBGT movement, gender, said the PiS leader, Jarosaw Kaczyski, speaking to supporters last month. This is imported, but they today actually threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state.

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Chinas new diplomacy in Europe has a name: broken porcelain | David Bandurski

Beijing is sending an aggressive new message to Sweden and beyond, says Berlin-based academic David Bandurski

Two days after Swedens election in September, a bizarre statement appeared in English on the website of the Chinese embassy in Stockholm. A small handful of Swedish forces, media and individuals, it said, had made unwarranted claims of Chinese interference in the Swedish vote. These were groundless accusations, and a malicious attack and smear against China. The strangest thing of all: no one in Swedenhad the slightest inkling what the statement referred to.

As an expert on Chinas official discourse who also studies its influence in Europe, I too struggled to make sense of this storm in a teapot until a few days later, when a new tempest whirled into view. This time, Sweden noticed. The source of the fresh controversy was an online video that purported to show the brutal treatment of three Chinese tourists at a hotel in Stockholm. As I read the angry comments from Chinas foreign ministry, it suddenly all made perfect sense. The expressions of outrage were part of a concerted diplomatic strategy of hyperbole and distraction.

In the video, the tourists identified as Mr Zeng and his two elderly parents are carried from the hotel by police officers, and deposited on the pavement outside as the son screams in English: This is killing! This is killing! The mother sits on the pavement and wails: Save me! According to a local newspaper, Aftonbladet, the tourists had arrived at the hotel the night before their scheduled booking and asked to remain in the lobby through the night. They disregarded repeated requests to leave, remaining instead on the lobby sofas. One eyewitness said the police remained calm as the Chinese family grew agitated. The son, this source said, acted particularly oddly, throwing himself flat on the ground. Quoted by local media, a Swedish prosecutor later said: We made the assessment that no crime on the part of the police had been committed.

The Chinese embassy, in a statement on 15 September, insisted that the tourists had been brutally abused by the Swedish police, which had severely endangered the life and violated the basic human rights of Chinese citizens.

Many Chinese people who viewed the video clips on domestic social media platforms were furious about what they saw as mistreatment. But others saw something different: a familiar pattern of using over-dramatisation as a means of recourse for real or imagined injustice. Called porcelain bumping, or pengci, this pattern became a focus of attention as the hubbub over the Stockholm incident continued in China. Pengci refers to the practice of manufacturing drama to obtain a desired outcome. According to one explanation, the term was coined to describe a technique used by fraudsters who would wait with delicate porcelain vessels outside busy markets and demand payment when these shattered, ostensibly due to the carelessness of others. Now, pengci often refers to the act of throwing oneself into oncoming traffic in order to claim compensation a practice so common in China that related compilations of clips online are now nearly as ubiquitous as cat videos.

Still, the Chinese embassy in Sweden continued to depict the incident as a grave case of human rights abuse. The foreign ministrys position was parroted by state-run media. One article shared by a social media account of the Peoples Daily alleged that talk of porcelain bumping, and other attempts to minimise the Stockholm incident, had been cooked up overseas by Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that the Chinese government has labelled an enemy.

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Chinese TV reporter ‘slaps delegate at Tory conference’ video

At this point official Chinese outrage had moved on to a skit aired on 21 September on a satirical show by the Swedish national broadcaster, SVT, that made light of the incident. A statement from the Chinese embassy said the skit had breached the basic moral bottom line of humankind. Moreover, it had seriously infringed on Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity by projecting a map behind the host that did not show Taiwan and Tibet as an integral part of China.

This came at an already tense time in the bilateral relationship. The Dalai Lama had visited Sweden just days before the video of the tourists appeared. Another sore point was Chinas continued imprisonment of a Hong Kong-based bookseller, Gui Minhai, who is a Swedish citizen. Oscar Almn, a researcher at Uppsala University, told Radio Sweden: The Chinese embassy is now actively trying to deliver a message to the Swedish media and the public.

That message is a solemn promise to government and society in Europe and beyond: wherever you seek to criticise our policies or forestall our ambitions, we will topple your agenda. We will shatter the porcelain of diplomatic composure and fan the anger of our population with debased facts until every issue you raise is about just one issue Chinas national dignity.

Earlier this month broken porcelain diplomacy moved on to the British Conservative partys annual conference in Birmingham, as a journalist from state-owned China Central Television shouted down a panellist at an event on Hong Kong organised by the partys human rights committee, which was attended by prominent members of the pro-democracy community in Hong Kong. As the woman was confronted and asked to leave, she apparently slapped a student volunteer. She shouted, How democratic [is the] UK! as she was being escorted out.

The Chinese embassy in London demanded an apology. And while it made a fuss about the reporters rights, it also pointed out, in a statement, that any plot or action conspiring to divide China is contrary to the current of history. Discussion of Hong Kongs future, in other words, was to be avoided.

The pattern is clear. When it comes to foreign criticism of the Chinese government, or to the strategic issues it cares about, were all tiptoeing through a china shop now. The danger is that such histrionics could make European governments, universities, scholars and journalists, to remain silent, retreat from issues likely to prompt an outburst. Europe must send a message that it welcomes free, open and calm discussion of all issues, and that it will not suspend its values or the rights of its citizens to appease Chinas official bouts of anger. If we refuse to indulge such tactics, Chinas government will eventually come to understand what many of its citizens already know that you dont win hearts or minds through intimidation.

David Bandurski is the Berlin-based co-director of the University of Hong Kongs China Media project

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Putin allegedly gave Skripal poisoning suspect hero’s award

Bellingcat claims photo exists of president giving Alexander Mishkin hero of Russia award

Vladimir Putin personally bestowed a hero of Russia award on Alexander Mishkin, one of two military intelligence officers who allegedly poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, it has been claimed.

The investigative website Bellingcat, which identified Mishkin, said on Tuesday that a photograph existed of him shaking hands with the Russian president. It is unclear when or where the ceremony took place.

Bellingcat revealed Mishkins true identity on Monday after tracking down his real passport. He travelled to the UK in March under the false name of Alexander Petrov, together with fellow GRU officer Anatoliy Chepiga, who used the alias Ruslan Boshirov.

Bellingcat said residents of Loyga, the remote village where Mishkin grew up, had seen the photo after his grandmother proudly showed it off. She disappeared from the village three days ago, after Bellingcat announced it was about to reveal her grandsons real identity.

A reporter working for Russias The Insider spoke to residents on Monday. Eight people, including three of the grandmothers close female friends, said they had seen the photo of Mishkin shaking hands with Putin, Bellingcat said.

According to one source, Mishkins grandmother, who is in her 90s, does not show the photo to everyone and never lets anyone hold it.

The revelation is a further embarrassment for the Kremlin, which in recent weeks has had the identities of several of its top GRU operatives revealed. Putin has denied Moscow had anything to do with the novichok attack on the Skripals, and has referred to the two suspects as civilians.

The Bellingcat researcher Christo Grozev said the website has used a mixture of open source information and human reporting to conclusively identify Mishkin. It established that he was a trained military doctor and, like Chepiga, a hero of the Russian Federation.

Grozev said Mishkin appeared to have got his state honour in autumn 2014, according to villagers. They believed it may have been for his activities in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory seized that spring by Moscow. The GRU and its special forces units played a leading role in the operation.

Alternatively, Mishkin may have helped move the ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to Russia, they said.

Last month the two GRU officers told state TV they were forced to turn back on the first of two day trips to Salisbury because of heavy slush. Mishkin grew up in the northern permafrost region of Archangelsk, where his village of 700 residents is covered in snow for 11 months of the year and can usually only be reached via narrow-gauge railroad.

Grozev said: Theres a lot of mud and slush. Its extraordinary that Mishkin said he cant tolerate snow.

According to Bellingcat, Mishkin was born in Loyga on 13 July 1979. He lived in the village until at least 1995, spending much of the time with his grandmother, Loygas only medical practitioner.

At some point between 1995 and 1999 he enrolled at the S Kirov military medical academy in St Petersburg. The institute trains doctors for Russias naval armed forces. Mishkin specialised in undersea and hypobaric medicine and graduated in 2003 or 2004 with a medical degree and the rank of senior lieutenant.

The GRU recruited him during or soon after his studies and by 2010 he had moved to Moscow and adopted the fake Petrov identity.

Bellingcat said it had unsuccessfully tried to match the photos of Petrov from CCTV and his TV interview with online records. It then considered that some of the details in his GRU-supplied passport could be correct.

One possible match was Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin, who had lived at an address in St Petersburg directly opposite the military academy. A Moscow online phone directory provided further clues and led to the identification of Mishkins Volvo. The car was registered to Khoroshevskoe Shosse 76B the GRUs headquarters.

Next, Bellingcat contacted hundreds of academy graduates, asking if they knew Mishkin. Two said they did, and confirmed he was Petrov. They also said Russias security services had been in touch three weeks earlier, warning them not to divulge Mishkins identity.

Bellingcat then managed to obtain Mishkins genuine passport from a source.

The investigation shows how hard it is for spies to keep their identities secret in an age of social media and bulk databases. It is unclear why Mishkin was chosen for the Salisbury mission. Bellingcat suggested he might have been picked to ensure the poison was applied to Skripals front door handle in a way that prevented self-poisoning.

Traditionally, officers working in Russian intelligences secret poisons factory in Moscow have been doctors. The factory has been linked to the murder of several critics of the Russian regime, including Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in London in 2006 with radioactive tea.

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