US FLIP-FLOPS ON QATAR, SIGNS F 15 DEAL
In a latest twist to the series of diplomatic contradictions in the Trump administration, U.S. just signed a $12bn deal to supply dozens of F-15 jets to Qatar. This comes after Trump called Qatar a funder of terrorism” adding “the time has come to call on Qatar to end its funding.”
The Saudi-led economic and diplomatic embargo against Qatar is in its second week. A Qatari official said the deal is “proof that US institutions are with us but we have never doubted that”.
Qatar is home to the largest US airbase in the Middle East. The Pentagon said the sale of jets would increase security cooperation between the US and Qatar. Both the U.S. defence secretary and the secretary of state, want a more neutral and nuanced position toward Qatar.
PUTIN’S PHONE-IN PROGRAM
Vladimir Putin made a sarcastic offer of asylum to the fired FBI director James Comey.
“It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend … How, in that case, does he differ from [Edward] Snowden?” Putin asked. “That means he is not the leader of the security services, but a human rights defender. And if he faces pressure, then we are happy to offer him political asylum, too.”
The annual televised question-and-answer session was marred by a production error. Unedited texts from viewers popped up on the screen revealing people’s anger.
One said: “Putin, do you really think people believe in all this circus with staged questions?”
“All Russia believes you have sat on the throne too long,” read another.
TRUMP EXPECTED TO ROLL BACK ON CUBA
Donald Trump is likely to halt the historic rapprochement between the U.S. and Cuba set in motion by Barack Obama, because he thinks it was a failed policy of appeasement. His officials said he is likely to clamp down on travel and commercial ties to force Raúl Castro’s government to change its repressive ways.
If he does this, he will deliver on a promise he made to the Cuban-American exile community based in Miami, which voted for him. The changes are likely to affect both countries, making it more difficult and costly for Americans to travel to and do business with Cuba.
The island’s population may pay the steeper price, because many Cubans derive their livelihoods from tourism. But even members of Trump’s own administration have privately argued that normalizing relations had yielded national security, diplomatic and economic benefits.
PARKING SPOT LUXURY IN HONG KONG
In many places, $664,000 can buy you a nice house. For that price in Hong Kong, you can buy a slab of concrete, roughly 17 feet long and 11 feet wide, to leave your luxury car.
Hong Kong is now home to a very expensive parking spot, the latest sign of a property market run amok. Even in a city well accustomed to costly real estate, the price spiral has confounded the most experienced observers. By some measures, Hong Kong is already the world’s most expensive housing market per square foot. It has enriched property owners and developers, but has led to risk of overheating and widespread worries that a generation of young residents will be unable to afford a home. The unaffordability of housing played a role in protests three years ago.
280 MILE OPPOSITION MARCH IN TURKEY
Turkey’s main opposition party has begun a long march to protest against the imprisonment of an MP who was sentenced to 25 years in jail for allegedly leaking information to the press.
“We are facing dictatorial rule,” said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the opposition party. “We don’t want to live in a country where there is no justice. We are saying enough is enough.”
A court sentenced the MP, to 25 years in prison for leaking a story to a newspaper about Turkish trucks carrying arms instead of humanitarian aid to the Syrian border. Last year, the immunity of MPs was lifted. Two journalists are also facing trial. Opposition members and rights activists have said that what began as crackdown following a failed coup is now targeting all dissenters.