* Foreign

Prime Minister says U.K. will leave the grouping by October 31; promises that there won’t be checks at the Irish border

Give-and-take deal: U.K. PM Boris Johnson delivering a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. APFrank Augstein

The U.K. offered the European Union a proposed Brexit deal on Wednesday that it said represents a compromise for both sides, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the bloc to hold “rapid negotiations towards a solution” after years of wrangling.

In a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mr. Johnson said that not reaching a deal by the U.K.’s scheduled October 31 departure date would be “a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible.” Mr. Johnson has vowed to leave on October 31 with or without a Brexit deal.

The proposals focus is on maintaining an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — the key sticking point to a Brexit deal. The U.K. proposes to do that by keeping Northern Ireland closely aligned to EU rules for trade in goods, possibly for an extended period.

The proposal involves “an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland, covering all goods including agrifood.” That would keep Northern Ireland in a regulatory zone with the EU for food, agricultural and industrial products, removing the need for checks, but the EU will carefully study the details. The status has no time limit though it would have to be renewed every four years by the Northern Ireland government, Mr. Johnson said.

Under the plan there would still need to be customs checks, but Mr. Johnson suggested in his letter that they could be done away from the border at “other points on the supply chain.”

Mr. Juncker gave the proposals a guarded welcome and said the two sides would negotiate over the coming days.

‘Final offer’

The submission of formal proposals followed a speech by Mr. Johnson to Conservative Party members at their annual conference. It was billed by his office as a take-it-or-leave-it “final offer” to the EU. Yet as delivered, it was more like a plea to the bloc, and to Britons, to end more than three years of wrangling over the terms of the U.K.’s exit from the EU.

“Let’s get Brexit done,” was the repeated refrain to delegates.

British voters in 2016 narrowly chose to leave the EU but the country remains deeply divided over how to do it. In his speech, Mr. Johnson said people who voted for Brexit “are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools”.

With Britain’s delayed departure from the bloc due on October 31, Mr. Johnson said the government was sending “constructive and reasonable proposals” to the EU. But the plan is likely to face skepticism from EU leaders, who doubt the U.K. has a workable solution to avoid checks on goods or people crossing the Irish border.

A Brexit agreement between the EU and Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, was rejected three times by the U.K. Parliament, largely because of opposition to the “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to ensure there is no return to customs posts or other infrastructure on the Irish border.

Mr. Johnson insisted that “we will under no circumstances have checks at or near the border in Northern Ireland.”

Ireland, however, voiced doubts about Britain’s new plans. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the proposals “do not fully meet the agreed objectives of the backstop”.


Pompeo slams it as an intimidation bid


U.S. President Donald Trump has denounced the impeachment inquiry threatening his presidency as a “coup,” as his administration pushed back against the investigation.

Mr. Trump’s comments came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to prevent or delay five State Department officials from testifying in the investigation probing accusations that Mr. Trump abused his office by seeking dirt from Ukraine on a 2020 election rival.

“As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP,” Mr. Trump tweeted.

It is “intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights.”

Mr. Pompeo, meanwhile, accused three Democratic House committee heads conducting the impeachment inquiry of “an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.”

Bid to obstruct probe

But Democrats accused the top U.S. diplomat of “stonewalling” the investigation and, according to media reports, scheduled interviews with at least two of the diplomats who both had direct involvement in the Ukraine matter.

It was the first major clash of the impeachment probe, pointing to a mounting political and legal siege as Mr. Trump battles to save his presidency.

Mr. Trump faces the possibility of becoming only the third President ever impeached by Congress, which could lead to his going on trial in the Senate.

Democrats decided last week to seek impeachment after a whistleblower complaint, supported by a White House call transcript, showed Mr. Trump pressuring Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to supply him with politically useful information on Democratic former Vice-President Joe Biden, who is the most likely Democrat to challenge Mr. Trump’s reelection bid next year.

The first move of the three powerful House Democrats — Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot Engel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee — was to subpoena Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani for documents and to summon the five diplomats to testify.

News reports said the State Department’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, would testify on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump got support from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who said he saw “nothing compromising” in the conversation.

Office workers and high-school students took to the streets in protest against the police action

Rising tensions: Protesters near the site where the police shot a protester in Hong Kong on Tuesday.REUTERSJORGE SILVA

Hong Kong office workers and high-school students turned out in their hundreds under a sweltering midday sun on Wednesday to denounce a policeman for shooting and wounding a teenager during the most violent clashes in nearly four months of unrest.

The office workers gathered in Chater Garden in the Central business district as the students, some in the same class as the wounded 18-year-old, demonstrated outside his New Territories school.

More than 100 people were wounded during Tuesday’s turmoil, the Hospital Authority said, as anti-China demonstrators took to the streets across the Chinese-ruled territory, throwing petrol bombs and attacking police who responded with tear gas and water cannon. Police made more than 180 arrests.

One officer responded by shooting the 18-year-old school student in the chest with a live round after he came under attack with a metal bar, video footage shows. The teen was in stable condition on Wednesday.

Protesters outside the wounded student’s school, the Tsuen Wan Public Ho Chuen Yiu Memorial College, chanted “Free Hong Kong”, condemned the police and urged a thorough investigation.

“It really disappointed me and let me down about the policeman. I don’t know why they took this action to deal with a Form Five student. Why do you need to shoot? It’s a real gun,” said one 17-year-old student, who goes to the same school.

Protesters have previously been hit with anti-riot bean-bags rounds and rubber bullets, but this was the first time a demonstrator had been shot with a live round.

‘Acted in self-defence’

Police said the officer involved was under serious threat and acted in self-defence.

Tuesday’s protests, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, were aimed at propelling the activists’ fight for greater democracy onto the international stage and embarrassing the city’s political leaders in Beijing.

Meet aimed to discredit claims of Trump-Russia link: report

Italy’s Prime Minister gave permission for a top U.S. official to meet ’s intelligence services as part of Trump-lead efforts to discredit claims he has ties with Russia, media reported on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte approved two meetings U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr held with spy chief Gennaro Vecchione, according to the Corriere della Sera, the country’s leading newspaper.

Mr. Barr has reportedly had multiple contacts with officials and spies in Australia, Britain and Italy in a bid to investigate a probe, which concluded that Russia tried to swing the 2016 election in U.S. President Donald Trump’s favour.

He first travelled to Rome in August to gather information the White House hopes will undermine the probe, Italian media said.

He returned on Friday again to meet Mr. Vecchione just ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Italy’s capital.

Robert Mueller’s probe led to the conviction of several of Mr. Trump’s top aides for obstruction and lying to investigators.

But ahead of the 2020 election, Mr. Trump has painted the investigation and its findings as a “deep state” conspiracy.

Mr. Barr reportedly asked the Italian secret services to hand over any information they have on Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor at a Rome university suspected by the Americans of being an Italian or British-run spy.

Mr. Mifsud is alleged to have promised Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager George Papadopoulos some dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Zalmay Khalilzad’s visit is not to resume Afghan peace plan’

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA

The Taliban announced on Wednesday they are sending a high-level delegation to Pakistan’s capital as part of a tour that has included Russia, China and Iran in a push to resurrect an Afghanistan peace deal with Washington that seemed imminent just a month ago.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and head of their political office in Qatar, will lead the 11-member delegation during talks with Pakistani officials in Islamabad.

Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s special peace envoy, is also in the Pakistani capital for “consultations” with the Pakistani leadership, a U.S. official said. He spent the last year negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, which seemed imminent until Sept. 7 when U.S. President Donald Trump declared the deal “dead.”

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Khalilzad is not in Islamabad to resume the peace process.

Rather the U.S. peace envoy will follow up on discussions he held with Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, during the U.N. General Assembly session in New York.

It wasn’t immediately known if Mr. Khalilzad will meet with Taliban leader Baradar.

Mr. Trump ended peace talks after a series of Taliban attacks on the capital Kabul.

All faiths and sastras in one voice hail ahimsa as the sole pride of humanitarian society and hence advice people to uphold it in their individual and social contexts, pointed out Swami Omkarananda in a discourse. It fosters all good virtues in people and inspires them towards righteous living. The essence of ahimsa is absence of hatred which is the cause of all evil.

Ahimsa makes one see all objects in creation including ourselves as God’s possession. The motto is to be compassionate towards one and all. The Lord exemplifies this compassion towards all aspects of His creation and especially when He incarnates time and again to establish dharma, destroy evil and protect the good. For instance, in the long drawn fight Soorapadman wages against Muruga, the asura is deluded by the alternating visions of the Lord as a young boy and of His Viswarupa darshan.

Finally the Lord establishes the value of enduring love when Soorapadman is not killed but is merely transformed into a cock which adorns the Lord’s flag and a peacock that becomes His mount. Spreading the message of love is the antidote for hatred. All calamities are caused by hatred as it spurs disunity leading to inflicting pain and destruction. Hatred colours one judgment and causes wrong notions and can ruin one’s character very easily. One has to be cautious of the tendency to misunderstand ideas and concepts, for, when once ingrained, it becomes very hard to unlearn them. The Gita shows that true Sanyasa embodies ahimsa. When one renounces worldly possessions and opts to live the life of a recluse, it indicates that none need fear such a person. Ahimsa is a penance that does not kill even as it does not encourage one to speak ill of others at any cost.

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