Adventures await

While the KTM 390 Adventure has the capability to go almost anywhere, it also looks to be a fantastic long-distance road bike

The KTM 390 Adventure has just made its India début. It promises to be just the sort of fast, premium and (relatively) affordable go-anywhere motorcycle the Indian market has been sorely missing. The 390 certainly looks the part and has quite some presence. In person, you will realise that the 390 ADV is a considerably large machine — it is bigger than the BMW G 310 GS in every dimension, and is taller and wider than the Royal Enfield Himalayan as well. Thankfully, it isn’t as hefty as the 199kg Himalayan, but at 177kg kerb weight, it is about 8kg heavier than the BMW.

Substantial it may be, but the 390 Adventure certainly isn’t pretty. Just like KTM’s big ADV family, its trademark insect-like styling is instantly recognisable — but it is not for everyone. There are a few interesting details, though. The fuel tank plastic, for example, is infused with colour, instead of being painted, and this should help keep a cleaner look after a period of time and wear-and-tear.

As far as comfort and practicality go, this bike is miles ahead of anything else KTM offers in India. The 14.5-litre fuel tank is the largest on any India-made KTM to date, and you should easily get well over 300 kilometres on a full tank. A new subframe has liberated vast seating space for the rider, and there’s a decently-sized pillion seat as well.

Technology-wise, there is the now-familiar, full-LED headlamp that comes right off the 390 and 790 Duke. The TFT display is also nearly the same, but this one can display turn-by-turn navigation assists if you purchase the optional KTM MyRide Navigation App for ₹600. And then, of course, there are the headline-grabbing electronic assists. The bike gets a bi-directional quickshifter that works decently well, even if it’s not as smooth and crisp as the system in the 790 Duke. There is also a three-axis IMU that enables a cornering ABS feature, and a corner-sensitive traction control system.

Our first taste of the 390 ADV was on some rocky, gravelly trails, with a few steep climbs strewn with large boulders. First things first, the ergonomics are quite decent, in terms of the feet positioning and shape of the fuel tank, but most of us agreed that we would have liked a taller handlebar for when standing up and riding.

Switching to the faster, more open trails, the 390’s trademark raucous power delivery was great fun, especially when you cross the magic 6,000rpm mark. But just as the 390’s excellent top-end thrills in the fast stretches, its grumpy bottom end makes it a pain when climbing steep and technical trails at low speeds. There is no significant pull below 3,000rpm, and you have to slip the clutch quite a bit to get things going if you lose momentum. Shorter gearing (or at least a change in the final drive ratio) would have been nice here, but the set-up is identical to that of the 390 Duke.

In the dirt, the off-road ABS mode which deactivates the rear wheel intervention worked beautifully, but the same cannot be said for the traction control. A number of us encountered an unusual issue where the TC would randomly cut in briefly, robbing you of all power, and this was with the system fully turned off and while the engine was running.

It is on the road where the Adventure’s 1.5-degree increase in steering rake and 77mm increase in wheelbase over the 390 Duke reveal their biggest change. While we didn’t get to evaluate high-speed stability, it is clear that this bike feels nothing close to as fidgety or on-edge as the Duke. Instead, there is an enjoyable sense of stability, which comes without a major sacrifice in agility and front-end feel, despite the 19-inch front wheel.

As far as comfort goes, the riding position is commanding and simply excellent. What you should know is this is a bike that will be easier for taller riders. On the road, the 855mm seat height will be just about manageable if you’re over 5ft 6in, but things can get quite tricky off-road if you don’t have long legs to mask a lack of talent.

Performance-wise, the BS-VI engine makes the same 43hp/37Nm as the BS-IV motor in the 390 Duke, although the exhaust note sounds a bit more muffled. What is new, however, is a redesigned curved radiator with a dual-fan set-up. The intention is to improve cooling efficiency and redirect the hot air away from the rider.

The KTM 390 Adventurealso looks to be a fantastic long-distance road bike. The ₹2.99 lakh ex-showroom price is stunning when you consider how much this bike has to offer. If KTM can offer a reliable and niggle-free experience from the start, the 390 Adventure could be quite a special machine.

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Reality Winner, NSA Whistleblower Who Leaked Russia Report, Petitions Trump For Clemency

Reality Winner, the National Security Agency whistleblower who was imprisoned for leaking classified information on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to the press, is seeking clemency from President Donald Trump.

The former U.S. Air Force intelligence specialist and her supporters filed a petition on Monday to the Office of the Pardon Attorney, an arm of the Justice Department, requesting her early release from jail.

Winner, now 28, was sentenced in 2018 to five years and three months behind bars. She has since served about 30 months of her sentence.

She pleaded guilty to breaching the Espionage Act by smuggling a top-secret report about Russian hacking attacks out of an NSA office in her pantyhose, The New York Times reported. She then shared the report with a news outlet, widely reported to be The Intercept.

Winner said in court in August 2018 that she took “full responsibility” for the “undeniable mistake I made.”

“I would like to apologize profusely for my actions,” she told U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall. ”My actions were a cruel betrayal of my nation’s trust in me.”

In her clemency petition, Winner’s incarceration was described as “costly, unnecessary to protect the public, burdensome to her health and wellbeing, and not commensurate with the severity of her offense.”

“Our country was attacked by a hostile foreign power,” Alison Grinter, Winner’s attorney, said at a Monday press conference in Dallas. “Our national healing process cannot begin until we forgive our truth tellers and begin the job of rebuilding what was taken from us ― election security, accountability for those who endeavor to undermine our democracy, and safeguarding the American right to government by and for the people.”

“None of this can begin in earnest while we are still punishing those who tell us the truth,” Grinter added, noting that she’d submitted 4,500 letters of support for Winner as part of the clemency application. 

As The Intercept noted this week, Winner’s prison sentence is the longest sentence ever imposed in federal court on a journalistic source under the Espionage Act.

Though the Trump administration has yet to respond publicly to Winner’s petition, the president has spoken of the whistleblower’s case in the past.

He said in a 2018 tweet that Winner’s sentence had been “unfair” for someone who was “small potatoes” compared to his earlier political rival Hillary Clinton. Winner’s petition refers to Trump’s tweet. 

“This president has been willing to use his pardon power without regard to many of the conventions that have been put together to guide and advise a president on pardons and commutations,” Grinter told the Times this week of Trump.

“We know the president pays attention to Twitter and media, and we are hoping that the president sees this for what it is and that is an opportunity to put right a great injustice,” she continued.

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Martin Lewis reveals top paying Lifetime ISA – how to boost savings on top of 25% bonus

A Lifetime ISA (LISA) offers a 25 percent bonus from the government on savings – up to a maximum of £1,000 per year. It may be that a person opts to save in a LISA in order to save for a mortgage deposit, or perhaps for their retirement savings, as Martin Lewis explained last night.

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In addition to the 25 percent bonus, some people may look for an account with a bank or building society which also offers annual interest rates on the savings.

During the Martin Lewis Money Show, Mr Lewis was asked “where’s the best place to get a LISA”.

“The top paying cash Lifetime ISA is Moneybox at 1.4 percent,” he replied.

The financial journalist went on to explain that there is another option when it comes to these types of accounts – and these are investment Lifetime ISAs, in which a person can hold stocks and shares.

“There are also investment LISAs, but I wouldn’t tend to use those as a first-time buyer,” he said.

“They’re usually more for people who are saving for their retirement in a LISA, but I’m not the biggest fan of that.

“For most people, I’d stick with a pension.”

It’s possible to save up to £4,000 each year into a Lifetime ISA – until a person reaches the age of 50.

This £4,000 limit counts towards the annual ISA limit.

In the 2019 to 2020 tax year, this is £20,000.

The tax year is set to end in a matter of months – on April 5, 2020.

Once the saver reaches their 50th birthday, they will not be able to pay into their Lifetime ISA or earn the 25 percent bonus.

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That said, the account will stay open and the savings will still earn interest or investment returns.

It’s possible to withdraw money from a Lifetime ISA without charge should it be for a number of reasons.

These are if it’s because the saver is buying their first home, aged 60 or over, or terminally ill, with less than 12 months to live.

Otherwise, the saver would pay a 25 percent charge if they withdraw cash or assets for any other reason.

If the money is being saved to help to buy the saver’s first home, a Lifetime ISA can be used if all of the following conditions apply.

These are:

  • The property costs £450,000 or less
  • The purchaser buys the property at least 12 months after opening the Lifetime ISA
  • They use a conveyancer or solicitor to act for them in the purchase – the ISA provider will pay the funds directly to them
  • They’re buying with a mortgage.

The Martin Lewis Money Show continues on Monday at 8pm on ITV.

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Additional state pension: What is it and could you receive over £700 extra a month?

Additional State Pension is an extra amount of money that could be received on top of basic state pension. However, it’s only available of men born before 6 April 1951 or women born before 6 April 1953. So long as the person qualifies for it they will received the additional state pension automatically, with it being paid with the basic state pension. The rules around date of birth are strict but it is possible to inherit additional state pension from a partner, even if the person inheriting it does not qualify for it themselves.

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So long as a person reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 and they started claiming the basic state pension, they will automatically get any additional state pension they’re eligible for.

This is the case so long as the person did not contract out. This could only be done if an employer ran a contracted-out pension scheme, so in order to check on this employers may need to be contacted.

It may also be possible for individuals to check themselves by calling pension providers directly or checking old payslips.

If it is proving difficult to track this information down, the government has a pinion tracing service which provides the latest contact details for pension providers.

The amount that can be received from additional state pension, just like other state pension schemes, is dependant on the individual.

There is no fixed amount that can be received. The amount received will depend on a number of factors.

It will depend on the persons earnings, how many years of National Insurance they’ve paid, if basic state pension was topped up between 12 October 2015 and 5 April 2017 and if they contracted out.

If someone wants to check on all of this and see how much they could need up receiving, they can request a state pension statement directly from the government.

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For those that do qualify for additional state pension it is worth noting that it is made up of three schemes. It is possible that all three of the schemes could have been paid into depending on how long a person worked and if they choose to top up their state pension.

The schemes are split by timings. From 2002 to 2016 the schemes was the “state second pension” and this would have been contributed to if the person was employed or claiming certain benefits at the time.

From 1978 to 2002 the scheme was the “state earnings-related pension scheme (SERPS), this could only be contributed to if the person was employed at the time. From 12 October 2015 to 5 April 2017 the scheme was the “state pension top up”.

This one could only be contributed to by people who reaches state pension age before 6 April 2016 and opted into the scheme.

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So long as a person qualifies, they will not need to do anything to receive the additional state pension. It will start being paid once the state pension is claimed, once this is done the Pension Service will write to the individual and tell them exactly how much they’ll be getting.

As is evident, there are a lot of stringent rules on who can receive this extra income and it will likely not be available to many.

However, in certain circumstances it may be possible to inherit part of a spouses or civil partners additional state pension. How this is inherited will depend on the type of scheme the partner was receiving it under.

If someone was receiving state pension under the “state second pension” scheme then their partner can inherit up to 50 percent of what they were receiving. The “SERPS” and “state pension top up” schemes have more elements to their inheritance rules. If the person died before 6 October 2002 it is possible to inherit all of their SERPS pension. For anyone who died after this date, the amount that can be inherited is dependent on date of birth and gender. The maximum amount inherited decreases on a tapered scale:

Man’s date of birth                                 Woman’s date of birth                          Maximum that can be inherited
5 October 1937 or before                        5 October 1942 or before                     100 percent
6 October 1937 to 5 October 1939           6 October 1942 to 5 October 1944        90 percent
6 October 1939 to 5 October 1941           6 October 1944 to 5 October 1946        80 percent
6 October 1941 to 5 October 1943           6 October 1946 to 5 October 1948        70 percent
6 October 1943 to 5 October 1945           6 October 1948 to 5 July 1950              60 percent
6 October 1945 and after                        6 July 1950 and after                           50 percent

The amount paid out will vary drastically due to all of these rules on dates and circumstances. However the government does give a clear figure for a maximum amount that will be paid out. The maximum amount of Additional State Pension a person could get is £176.41 per week. This equates to just over £700 a month.

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Christian Lawmakers Group Blames Satan After Twitter Poll Goes Badly Awry

Never ask a question when you might not like the answer. 

A group ostensibly representing Christian lawmakers launched a poll on Twitter over the weekend asking if America would be better off with more Christians in elected office. 

It didn’t go well:

After more than 16,000 replies, the answer was an overwhelming “no,” which received 95.8 percent of the vote. In response, the group accused “atheists and Satanists” of “religious persecution” for voting in the poll.

Congress is overwhelmingly Christian, far out of proportion with the people they represent. According to a Pew survey last year, the Senate and House are nearly 90 percent Christian versus 65 percent of America as a whole. 

One in four Americans now considers themselves atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” a position publicly held by just one member of the current Congress, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who lists her religion as “none.” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) describes himself as a humanist while a handful of others haven’t acknowledged a faith or lack thereof.

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers was started last year by Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert (R), who warned about the rise of witches in a recruitment email.  It’s not clear how many members the group has, but its board of advisors includes a number of current and former elected officials, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. 

An attempt to raise $500,000 via GoFundMe stalled at less than $20,000, more than half of which came from a single anonymous donor.

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Elizabeth Warren Has A Plan For Foreign Policy. You Just Probably Haven’t Heard About It.

On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. For the next week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren repeatedly appeared on television to argue that Trump was failing at his job as commander in chief.

“This is not a moment when a president should be escalating tensions and moving us to war,” the Democratic presidential candidate said on CNN, a day after saying she would not have ordered the strike. 

“Soleimani was a bad guy, but the question is: What’s the right response?… having killed Soleimani does not make America safer,” Warren said on ABC’s “The View.” On “Meet the Press,” she warned that Trump’s decision could expand costly U.S. military interventions and cause further suffering for millions of people in the Middle East.

As most other presidential aspirants responded with prewritten remarks, Warren’s team hoped live media appearances would prove she could handle both international upheaval and scrutiny of her foreign policy expertise.

But some on the left reacted by saying the Massachusetts senator was shoring up a problematic status quo. Warren “echoed Trump’s talking points,” wrote Jacobin, a socialist magazine, when she acknowledged Soleimani’s responsibility for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. 

Vice President Joe Biden, one of her rivals in the primary race, said the Soleimani strike showed the need for a Democratic presidential nominee with experience — a clear argument against candidates like Warren who haven’t worked on foreign policy as long. From the right, ABC host Meghan McCain forced Warren into a lengthy and tendentious exchange about whether Soleimani should be called a “terrorist.”

Warren’s vision of global affairs can be hard to pin down. To some extent, that’s by design. Conversations with more than a dozen Warren staffers and informal advisers reveal a strategy that doesn’t seek to make national security a point of major contention in the Democratic primary. She’s not competing with Biden in romanticizing the Barack Obama administration, nor trying to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders’s image as a prescient critic of American power and international dominance.

It’s not that Warren lacks plans. She would approach the world like she would the U.S.: using the power of government to reshape the relationship between powerful wealthy interests and significantly less powerful communities. She wants to reduce America’s foreign military presence but increase Washington’s power to tackle problems such as the way global financial corruption and authoritarianism enable each other.

With Warren nearing a make-or-break point for her campaign, the story of how she built her profile on foreign policy reflects the way she’s approached her decade-old political career. She has demonstrated both liberal instincts and comfort with existing power structures, seeking to earn people’s trust that she is the right person to enact vital change. That means she’s still not seen as left enough in some quarters, nor viewed as a trusted executor of the establishment’s priorities. But Warren is convinced she’s done the work to succeed.

Entering The Foreign Policy Debate

By the time Warren first seriously engaged with foreign policy as she ran for the Senate in 2012, she was already seen as a liberal hero willing to push boundaries. She didn’t seek that kind of reputation on global affairs.

Challenging Army National Guard Col. Scott Brown for the Massachusetts seat, Warren primarily talked about domestic policy. But she was vocal in supporting the era’s hawkish line on Iran. Then-President Barack Obama was boasting about subjecting the Islamic Republic to expansive sanctions that would, he predicted, push it into a deal limiting its nuclear program. On her campaign website, Warren endorsed “strong sanctions” and went even further by saying Tehran was already pursuing nuclear weapons. Progressives pushed back, noting that Obama officials and U.S. allies rejected that claim. 

At the time, there was no shortage of Democrats saying it was correct to get tough on Iran. But some voices warned against overly aggressive rhetoric that risked a rush to war. Warren’s fellow Senate candidate that cycle, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, produced a television ad decrying a potential conflict, and experts were already warning that the bipartisan drive for ever-broadening sanctions was taking a humanitarian toll and could backfire. Warren wasn’t saber-rattling, but she wasn’t in the liberal vanguard.

Once in Congress, Warren faced an early vote pitting skeptics of the national security establishment against the Obama administration: whether John Brennan should lead the CIA. Watchdogs like the ACLU, libertarian firebrand Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senate progressives said Brennan’s confirmation should depend on Obama revealing more about his controversial and secretive targeted-killing program. Some worried Brennan’s past in the intelligence community meant he wouldn’t support reining in the power of its agencies. The coalition won a degree of new transparency from Obama, but members remained wary: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against Brennan. 

Warren held the White House line.

The new senator also maintained ties to the defense industry by protecting jobs related to it in her state. She had explained during her campaign that, although she opposed greater intervention abroad and wanted less defense spending, she would be thoughtful in reshaping the military, not oppositional.

But it was increasingly clear the mismatch between Warren’s assertive push for a more just domestic policy and her caution on foreign policy risked trouble with more liberal elements of the Democratic base who hoped she would be their champion.

The summer of 2014 brought a stark example: Asked about Israel’s conduct in its campaign in Gaza and her vote to send it $225 million in additional U.S. aid even as it engaged in alleged war crimes, Warren defended the funding and Israeli military behavior, saying Palestinian civilian deaths were because of Palestinian militants’ tactics ― a controversial assertion common among Israel hawks. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party,” commentator Glenn Greenwald wrote in a critique.

Three months later, Warren visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her first official trip abroad. 

Warren was willing to venture from tradition on sensitive Mideast issues ― when she had some degree of cover, especially from Obama. Five months after her Israel trip, Warren became one of eight Democratic senators to skip Netanyahu’s GOP-sponsored address to Congress criticizing the president’s negotiations with Iran, and when Obama unveiled his final nuclear deal, she was one of its early supporters in the Senate.

Her path reflected the larger Warren political playbook: maintaining institutional credibility and power while pressuring the establishment ― and the Democratic Party consensus ― in carefully chosen ways.

In the spring of 2014, she used her first major national security speech to describe how U.S. military actions harm foreign civilians, fueling anger abroad. Warren didn’t outright condemn Obama’s counterterrorism programs, which killed hundreds of non-militants despite the administration’s claims that they were “surgical,” but she used her platform as one of the best-known members of his party to argue that reforming the U.S. approach to global affairs was about more than just keeping Democrats in office.

“When we debate the costs and benefits of intervention ― when we discuss potential military action around the world ― the talk about collateral damage and civilian casualties too often seems quiet,” she said. “The failure to make civilian casualties a full and robust part of our national conversation over the use of force is dangerous.”

Warren was one of a minority of Democrats who rejected two military requests Obama made of Congress: She voted against funding for U.S.-aligned rebels in Syria in 2014 and against more weapons to Saudi Arabia for a bloody intervention in Yemen in 2016. And she joined a challenge to Obama’s top generals by supporting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to change how the armed forces handle sexual assault. 

Warren picked her biggest fight with Obama and with decades-old foreign policy orthodoxy on behalf of the chief aim of her political career: keeping capitalism in check.

In 2015, she led congressional resistance to the president’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

Obama sold the accord as good for the U.S. economy and vital for rallying American partners against the rise of China, rallying influential supporters from both parties accustomed to bipartisan support for trade deals. Warren argued that the agreement would overwhelmingly benefit corporations. Her credentials shifted the dynamics of the fight, turning it from a traditional dispute between ideological leftists and technocratic neoliberals into a serious battle over the Democratic agenda in which both sides could claim credibility and policy chops, and attracting progressives eager for a leader.

Obama used Republican support to win the authority he wanted to secure the deal. Warren and her allies, however, won the war. They made the TPP politically toxic. Hillary Clinton disavowed it as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, and Obama chose not to push it through before Trump took office. 

Auditioning For Commander In Chief 

Warren entered the Trump era as one of his most likely Democratic challengers. Early on, she moved to ensure national security experience wouldn’t be a weakness in any potential match-up. She secured a spot on the Senate Armed Services Committee weeks after Trump’s victory and soon hired a new top adviser: Sasha Baker, a high-ranking aide to Obama’s last secretary of defense who peers say had a reputation as a savvy institutionalist with a sense of how to get things done in Washington. 

Baker’s role was to be an operator in service of Warren’s goals — not to fill a blank slate. 

“She ran for the Senate and talked about Pentagon reform as a candidate and then chose to get on Armed Services. It’s her interest in bringing a progressive perspective to the sources of American power that makes Sasha Baker possible rather than the other way around,” said Heather Hurlburt, an analyst at the think tank New America who has tracked how Democrats talk about foreign policy for years.  

As a new fixture at national security hearings, Warren mixed skepticism ― asking why she should believe an incoming commander would “turn around” U.S. fortunes in Afghanistan and pressuring private military housing companies and Trump appointees with defense industry ties ― with cooperation, getting uniformed officers to affirm the importance of diplomacy and working with Republicans on pay raises and sexual harassment protections for troops. 

Meanwhile, the senator pushed to inform herself, Baker said, pressing her new adviser with tasks like always providing the best argument against the position she’d recommend to the senator. Traveling to hotspots ― Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, the demilitarized zone in the Koreas, China ― she sought out junior diplomats and military officials “because she wants to get the real story,” Baker told HuffPost. 

Warren advanced her past concerns with civilian casualties by getting the Republican-led Senate to approve an amendment requiring the Pentagon to provide an annual report on the civilian toll of U.S. military operations. The Defense Department published the first of those in the summer of 2018, and lawmakers built on her work to increase the requirements even further the next year. 

And Warren became one of the few lawmakers actively addressing the question of managing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, securing a spot on the subcommittee overseeing it, rallying opposition to Trump’s bid to arm submarines with low-yield warheads and pushing to extend the New START treaty, an agreement with Russia to reduce how many weapons Moscow and Washington hold. “She has been the most outspoken and supportive of what I would call the progressive arms control agenda,” said Tom Collina, the director of policy at the peace group Ploughshares Fund, noting that Warren led well-received proposals such as legislation committing the U.S. to not using nuclear weapons first in a war. 

Though she was a junior member on a GOP-led committee whose members traditionally skew conservative, Warren took the panel seriously, said a former Senate aide who observed her work. 

“I can’t say she was particularly helpful for the things we were pushing for” ― from the Republican leadership’s standpoint ― “but I at least appreciated that she was there,” the one-time staffer said. The specific aspect of cooperation they remembered was on limiting U.S. engagement with the repressive government of Myanmar: “That was a rare exception, and that’s because we were trying to cut something.” 

But while Warren was demonstrating that she could forge national security policy, she wasn’t using the issue to grab headlines or rally left-leaning supporters. 

As others opposed to the president highlighted his foreign policy ― think of former Obama administration officials flooding the airwaves to talk about Trump weakening U.S. alliances and his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other autocrats, or Sanders leading the push against Trump’s support for the Saudi war in Yemen (with help from Warren and others) ― Warren focused most of her energy elsewhere, on domestic issues. 

Warren did make one significant public shift to assuage more liberal activists by offering a more balanced position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

She was one of the first Democrats to criticize Israel’s crackdown on protesters from Gaza in 2018 (seen as relatively controversial because of Hamas’s control of the strip) and she signed letters urging humanitarian improvement there and protection for vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank. She distanced herself from the increasingly conservative pro-Israel group AIPAC and endorsed blocking aid to Israel to stop its settlements in territory key to a future Palestinian state. 

“As she’s learned more about this issue, she has applied more of that civil rights, human rights, value-based approach,” said Hady Amr, an informal adviser to Warren’s campaign who served as the U.S. deputy special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under Obama. 

Warren’s move chiefly, however, aligned her with her ideological allies ― it didn’t represent her moving the needle. And it came as Trump was changing the conversation on the issue; talking about the importance of outreach to the Palestinians and Netanyahu’s excesses was no longer a left position as much it was a centrist response to the administration’s extreme pro-Israel turn. 

Without much fanfare, Warren took her time to establish herself as ready to be commander in chief. Her delay may have cost her. 

The Warren Doctrine

Warren is not the first presidential candidate to say the U.S. must be more restrained abroad after its post-9/11 wars. Obama and Trump both articulated that idea, albeit in very different ways, but neither managed a full break from the paradigm they had slammed on the campaign trail. 

What’s different about Warren is that she ties skepticism about militaristic U.S. choices to a detailed vision of what the U.S. can achieve in the world if it uses its power in different ways. 

Aligning her foreign policy approach with her better-known themes on domestic issues, she envisions assigning diplomats to focus specifically on battling corruption in foreign countries and more frequently punishing financial institutions used to launder the world’s dirty money. She would boost labor rights and policies to fight climate change at home and then make other nations’ access to the huge U.S. market contingent on their following suit. 

“We need to end the fiction that our domestic and foreign policies are somehow separate,” Warren said in a major national security speech on Nov. 29, 2018. She wants to restrict defense spending to essentials, she noted, but she also believes the U.S. must be an international leader in the face of rivals like China and Russia by strengthening its nonmilitary influence. 

“Authoritarianism is on the move around the world,” she said. “There is no time to waste.” 

In power, Warren would likely readjust America’s international relationships in line with American values ― moving away from partners who violate U.S. ideals, like Saudi Arabia, and reducing economic links to nations where autocracy has a big role in the market, like China, according to an essay that her longtime adviser Ganesh Sitaraman published last spring. And she would reject the old Washington idea that domestic costs ― like job losses or a strain on the families of service members ― are worth incurring for perceived foreign policy wins such as strategic trade deals or military demonstrations of U.S. credibility, he wrote. (Sitaraman has no formal role in her 2020 campaign.) 

Warren is establishing a new, higher threshold for U.S. involvement abroad ― on purpose. Her advisers note that it would extend to war and peace. Should a terrorist attack or human rights crisis prompt lawmakers and the media to ask about the prospect of the U.S. getting involved, for instance, Warren would only consider military intervention if it was narrowly focused and approved by Congress, creating public buy-in and oversight. 

“A president needs to be willing to say I’ll take an [authorization for the use of military force] that’s highly limited and also call Congress’s bluff and say, ‘If you don’t give it to me, I won’t do this,’” said Ilan Goldenberg, an informal Warren adviser. 

Obama sought a specific authorization from Congress to fight the Islamic State. He failed to secure one, but he continued his war effort anyway on the basis of a 2001 authorization passed to approved fighting al Qaeda. Keeping that authorization alive meant leaving presidents with a vaguely worded approval that they have interpreted to justify a broad range of controversial military actions. 

“Obama’s instincts were right, but there’s still the instinct inside the executive branch to hold on to as much power as possible,” said Goldenberg, who worked in the Pentagon and State Department in Obama’s administration. “You need a president who’s willing to say, ‘I’m willing to accept this limitation.’ I think she’ll be willing to do that.” 

Warren’s narrative fits a moment when criticizing overly imperial U.S. policy has become a bipartisan sport. 

But just because her diagnosis appeals to people doesn’t mean her solution will. Believing in it means having faith in U.S. institutions, particularly those most implicated in the country’s national security catastrophes. 

Academics on the left are arguing a true progressive approach would reduce America’s sway, exploiting the current dominance of tools such as the U.S. financial system for goals like preventing tax evasion while shifting power to multilateral institutions in which other countries have more of a say ― ultimately creating a power structure that doesn’t have the U.S. on top and leave the world at the mercy of its shifts in policy. 

Warren’s not talking about that degree of change. The thinking she’s associated with isn’t shy about its convictions or U.S. assertiveness. “When progressives use hawkish language, they are doing so with respect to economic challenges, not with an eye toward military buildups and war,” her adviser Sitaraman wrote. 

And it’s coming from a candidate who still mostly considers foreign policy through the lens of her historic focus on what she sees as a rigged economy.

In her 2018 speech, Warren described the U.S. getting global affairs wrong starting in the 1980s because of deregulation and the increased power of corporations and the superrich. Before then, she said, “it wasn’t perfect ― we weren’t perfect ― but our foreign policy benefited a lot of people around the world.”

Though likely pleasing to some voters, that assessment oddly sidesteps the Vietnam War, which killed millions and forced a definitive reckoning for the national security establishment. It also doesn’t account for the dangerous nuclear arms race that Warren is now pledging to address. For all her domestic policy acumen and deep thinking about structural problems affecting Americans, it’s possible Warren still hasn’t thought as thoroughly about the awesome power she would wield over foreign policy as U.S. president. 

“It Takes Guts” 

Observing Warren’s formal foreign policy staff and her network of informal advisers offers clues about the kind of commander in chief she would be — one projecting responsibility, not revolution. 

Consider Baker, the respected Pentagon hand, or Jarrett Blanc, who worked in international development before serving as a top State Department official under Obama and is now, he told HuffPost, the “traffic cop” for the advice coming in from Warren’s national security brain trust. 

It’s a group of people who firmly believe the U.S. has made wrong turns but are also certain its institutions can be redeemed and its effect can be positive. Many have government experience themselves, though the team skews young, and nearly all are familiar faces in the Washington circuit ― and would have been, according to Hurlburt at New America, “highly welcome on the Biden campaign.” They chose Warren for her judgment and for explaining not just what she opposes but what she supports. Some cite her expertise on specific concerns: arms control for former State Department official Alexandra Bell, the exhaustion of the armed forces for Bishop Garrison, a veteran and advocate for the community, and reforming the State Department for Robert Ford, a retired diplomat. There’s even faith her common sense could lead her to reconsider some positions: Bonnie Glaser, a China expert, hopes Warren may change her mind on the TPP trade deal. 

But in a Democratic primary often fought on the terrain of the left, Warren’s cautious reform isn’t always welcome. In particular, activists point to Warren’s 2017 vote for Trump’s first defense budget as a worrying sign she won’t sufficiently challenge the status quo. 

“That money just ends up going to war,” said Moumita Ahmed, a political activist based in Queens, New York. Ahmed sought to draft Warren against Clinton in 2016 and hoped she’d make up for her lack of national security experience. Ahmed believes Warren has failed to do so ― not because she’s personally hawkish but because she hasn’t learned enough to challenge national security establishment logic. (Warren said she backed the budget bill because of its provisions to support troops and for Massachusetts; she noted, “I do not support everything in this defense bill.” At a recent debate, Sanders boasted of never supporting a Trump military budget, though he did back defense spending bills under President George W. Bush.)

“If you’re going to stand up to the military-industrial complex, you can’t go in there with lukewarm policies or milquetoast stances,” Ahmed said. “It takes guts, and she hasn’t exhibited guts to me the way Bernie has.” 

Warren also is vulnerable to attacks from the candidates perceived as more experienced, like Biden. He might warn that her proposed reforms and reduction of the U.S. role abroad risk security, a perennial concern for voters, or simply that it’s too ambitious at a point when the focus should just be undoing Trump’s damage to U.S. global leadership. 

And Warren’s historic potential to be the first woman in the job might create additional exposure to those arguments. “There’s no question that there’s an extra commander in chief test that women face,” Hurlburt said. “One of the areas where that really comes up is, ‘Who do you trust to keep us safe?’” 

Warren’s bet is that she can make voters comfortable with her approach to global affairs and in a general election chiefly present herself as more reasonable and less bellicose than Trump. National security doesn’t have to be a central issue when she has so many other plans to talk about.

But if Warren does win the White House, can she claim a popular mandate on how to conduct foreign policy, a role that’s mostly left to the president? She would need one to overhaul the national security establishment in the terms she suggests — or to respond to a crisis. And given the world she would inherit from Donald Trump, pandemonium could be just around the corner.  

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Rare Neanderthal skeleton dug up from 'ancient cemetery' may prove species was actually 'sophisticated'

THEY'VE long been seen as our brutish ancient cousins, sporting furrowed brows and hands that dragged behind them as they walked.

But it appears Neanderthals, a human ancestor who died out 40,000 years ago, were a lot smarter than we thought.

Archaeologists have unearthed a 70,000-year-old Neanderthal skeleton in Iraq that they hope will prove once and for all that the archaic were sophisticated enough to perform death rituals.

The remains, consisting of a crushed but complete skull, rib cage and both hands, were found at the Shanidar Cave site 500 miles north of Baghdad.

Although its gender is yet to be determined, early analysis suggests the skeleton, named Shanidar Z, has the teeth of a "middle- to older-aged adult".

The cave has also been home to remains of 10 other Neanderthal people excavated around 60 years ago, with clumps of ancient pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The presence of pollen was seen by some archaeologists as evidence that these hominid species not only buried their dead but did so with flowers, challenging the widely-held belief that Neanderthals were dumb and animalistic.

The discovery of pollen captured the public imagination and the Shanidar Cave became famous as the "flower burial" site.

Chris Hunt, a professor of cultural paleoecology at Liverpool John Moores University, described Shanidar Z as "a truly spectacular find".

He said: "The upper remains are staggeringly complete, although the skull was flattened by compression under many tons of cave sediment.

 

Who were the Neanderthals? Our mysterious extinct cousins explained

Here's what you need to know…

  • The Neanderthals were a mysterious human ancestor who died out around 40,000 years ago.
  • Thousands of their tools, weapons and other artefacts have been found, as well as several nearly complete skeletons.
  • Neanderthals were the original 'cave men', thought for decades to be dumb and animalistic compared to humans.
  • However, a growing body of evidence suggests we've been selling Neanderthals short.
  • Their brains were bigger than ours and they indulged in cultural activities like cave painting and body art.
  • Our heavy-browed cousins even had funerary rituals, meaning they buried their dead with an afterlife in mind.
  • Having lived in Africa for many millennia, Neanderthals began to move across to Europe around 400,000 years ago.
  • Early humans followed suit far later, arriving just 60,000 years ago.
  • Neanderthals mysteriously died out shortly afterwards, possibly due to a disease pandemic or hunting by humans.
  • It's also thought our ancestors outcompeted their newfound rivals for food and shelter, eventually wiping them from the planet.

"The body was placed in a depression on the cave floor in a semi-reclining position, with a big stone lying behind the head."

Four of the 10 Neanderthals at the site were positioned in what the researchers described as a "unique assemblage", raising a question as to whether they were returning to the same spot to lay their dead.

Prof Hunt said: "We have four bodies within an area the size of a small dinner table and chairs.

"If we were dealing with modern people, this might merit the use of the word 'graveyard', but this is a step too far for our understanding of Neanderthal behaviour."

Professor Graeme Barker, from Cambridge University, said: "The new excavation suggests that some of these bodies were laid in a channel in the cave floor created by water, which had then been intentionally dug to make it deeper.

"There is strong early evidence that Shanidar Z was deliberately buried."

The team is also analysing sediment samples from Shanidar Z, along with traces of pollen and charcoal from the site, to find out more about the life of the Neanderthals.

Dr Emma Pomeroy, from Cambridge University and lead author on the study, said: "In recent years we have seen increasing evidence that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than previously thought, from cave markings to use of decorative shells and raptor talons.

"If Neanderthals were using Shanidar cave as a site of memory for the repeated ritual interment of their dead, it would suggest cultural complexity of a high order."

The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

In other news, Neanderthals weren't killed off by early humans but instead went extinct due to inbreeding, according to a recent report.

In fact, our ancient ancestors are thought to have had frequent, rampant sex with Neanderthals.

The brains of our brutish ancestors were apparently just as big as early humans'.

What do you think of the incredible cave find? Let us know in the comments!

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Secret Apple event for cheap £399 iPhone taking place on March 31, insiders claim

APPLE is reportedly planning a secret event for the end of March where a new iPhone could be announced.

The tech giant often debuts new gadgets in spring – and this year looks set to be no different.

Apple Spring Event 2020 – when is it?

In 2019, Apple held an event on Tuesday, March 25 where we saw Apple Arcade and the Apple Card unveiled.

And the year before that – on Tuesday, March 27 – Apple held an event to unveil a new iPad.

Now Apple is once again rumoured to be hosting a spring event in 2020.

According to German gadget blog iPhone Ticker, the event will be held on March 31.

That's a Tuesday, which fits in with Apple's launches in previous years.

Apple March 31 event news and rumours – what to expect

As always, Apple is keeping its announcements under tight wraps – but there are leaks aplenty.

The headline announcement is expected to be the iPhone 9.

According to insiders and experts, it will be a cheap phone retailing at just $399/£399.

To keep the cost down, Apple is said to be using the old iPhone 8-style design – rather than the newer iPhone 11 look.

And fancy features like Face ID facial recognition are unlikely to be included.

According to experts, the handset could go on sale as soon as April 3.

Apple is also tipped to be working on a new iPad Pro.

The last iPad Pro update took place nearly two years ago, so fans are keen for an upgrade.

Another rumoured launch is of the Apple AirTags.

These Tile-style trackers are supposed to strap onto your belongings, letting you locate them via a smartphone app.

A very recent rumour suggests Apple is also working on some cheap new wireless earbuds.

These so-called AirPods Lite may not even exist – and even if they do, they could launch much later in the year.

Still, there's hope for cash-strapped music fans.

Another audio gadget reportedly in the pipeline is a pair of premium wireless Apple over-ear headphones.

Apple already flogs fancy over-ears through its Beats brand, but a proper headphone version of the AirPods could be a winner.

Finally, we're expecting updates to Apple's MacBook line.

One of the main new MacBook upgrades is likely to be the introduction of the improved keyboard featured on Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Will there be anything else? It's hard to say at this point, but Apple does have a habit of making surprise announcements during launch events.

We won't know the truth until the day, so take all rumours and leaks with a pinch of salt for now.

In other news, Apple may preparing to launch four new iPhone 12 models later this year.

The iPhone 12 could be the thinnest ever thanks to new screen technology.

And the new phone could also see through mist and fog thanks to rumoured 'Spectral Edge' camera integration.

What new gadgets would you like to see Apple announce next month? Let us know in the comments!

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BHP boss weighs thermal coal exit – if the price is right

BHP's new chief executive Mike Henry has signalled the mining giant could exit thermal coal and boost exposure to minerals used in green technologies as it looks to reposition itself for a lower carbon world.

In his first detailed comments about the implications of a "decarbonised" future for BHP, Mr Henry said he would consider a sale of the company's thermal coal assets "if someone presented us with an opportunity to exit for value". It would also pursue growth in nickel and copper, which will be increasingly needed to power green technologies, he said.

BHP chief executive Mike Henry.Credit:Trevor Collens

Mr Henry, who took the reins of the world's biggest miner in January, said BHP was continuously reviewing the make-up of its portfolio and determined thermal coal – coal used to generate electricity – posed "downside" risks when it mapped out future scenarios such as the global transition to cleaner energy.

Thermal coal is the heaviest-polluting fuel and the focus of rising investor pressure in response to concerns surrounding its contribution to global warming. BHP rival Rio Tinto, the world's second largest miner, has already removed all exposure to thermal coal while Anglo-American this month said it intended to offload its thermal coal assets in coming years.

New York-based global money manager BlackRock, one of BHP's biggest shareholders, announced a partial retreat from its thermal coal investments, as part of what it described as a climate-driven "reshaping of finance".

Mr Henry on Tuesday said thermal coal was a "small part of our portfolio", owning one mine at Mt Arthur in New South Wales and part-owning another, the Cerrejon project in Colombia, which together account for about 3 per cent of revenue. He would not comment when asked if BHP was already in talks with prospective buyers.

Morgans analyst Adrian Prendergast said Mr Henry's remarks were reflective of a trend of businesses – even resources companies – recognising and responding to the power of the decarbonisation push globally.

"Businesses are starting to rapidly implement at a higher, overarching level, strategic decisions to decarbonise rapidly … divesting assets that are carbon-intensive," Mr Prendergast said.

Finding a buyer of BHP's thermal coal mines, however, could prove challenging owing to the weak coal prices and a lack of interest in picking up emissions-intensive assets in a market under pressure, Mr Prendergast said.

"The third factor is they would likely want to find a responsible bidder, and put the assets into the hands of a company that would look after them and wouldn't disadvantage stakeholders," he said.

Discussing the future of BHP's portfolio, which is dominated by the steelmaking ingredients of iron ore and metallurgical coal, Mr Henry said he wanted to develop more growth options in its "future facing" commodities such as copper – used in wind turbines – and nickel – which is needed to make lithium-ion batteries.

"We already produce some of the products that will be essential as the world transitions to a decarbonised economy," he said.

"We need more copper and we need more nickel. We do have some growth ahead of us in both of those commodities but I think to the far future and we'd like to have more options."

Although a producer of fossil fuels, BHP has adopted a strong focus on sustainability and mitigating the long-term risks to its business posed by climate change. Under previous chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, the miner last year embarked on an ambitious $500 million emissions-reductions drive to cut the greenhouse gas emissions from BHP's own operations and the operations of its customers – known as "scope 3" emissions.

But along with a string of other resources companies, BHP has come under pressure over its links to lobby groups accused of expressing views "inconsistent" with the Paris climate agreement goals of holding the increase in global average temperatures to below two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

At its latest annual investor meeting, almost one-third of BHP shareholders defied the board and voted for the miner to sever links with groups such as the Minerals Council of Australia and the Business Council of Australia owing to various policy positions surrounding the future of coal and gas.

BHP on Tuesday announced a 39 per cent increase in its half-year underlying profit, largely on the back of a boom in the price of iron ore, its biggest cash generator.

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Caydon lights up city’s skyline with Nylex Plastics sign

Eagle-eyed motorists driving on the Monash Freeway on Monday might have noticed the return of a much-loved feature of the city’s grey skyline: the Nylex Plastics sign, gloriously lit.

Melbourne’s famed Nylex Plastics sign.Credit:Matthew Bouwmeester

Sadly for Melbourne’s icon spotters, the 60-year-old Cremorne landmark was switched on only temporarily for testing by Caydon Property Group, the developer of the mixed-use Malt District that encompasses the equally historic malt silos on which the clock stands.

The good news is that after a careful renovation, the heritage-listed sign will be restored on top of the Nylex Studios, a 15,000 square metre extension of the silo structure.

“The sign will be 15 metres higher so it will take an even more prominent position,” Caydon development manager Peter Smith said. “It will tell the time and the weather for another generation of Melburnians.”

While the time and weather modules failed to spark, Mr Smith said the sign was in “remarkable condition” having sat idle since 2009, although in 2015 an urban rebel group briefly illuminated it with the help of an extension cord.

As the Nylex sign turned back time for delighted motorists, Caydon yesterday revealed the Malt District’s future would include a 206-room hotel as part of tweaked plans for the $500 million-plus development.

The hotel is expected to be operated by the Accor Group’s 25hours and mark the first Australian site for the boutique German brand.

Mr Smith said the hotel – increased in size from the originally planned 43 rooms – would reflect the vibe of Cremorne, which has transformed from a grungy industrial enclave into a tech hub dubbed Silicon Yarra.

“It won’t be your grand marble type of venue,” Mr Smith said. “It will be much funkier.”

While the hotel has been supersized, the project’s Coppins Corner residential component has reduced from the slated 1000 apartments to 200. Caydon says 70 per cent of the units have been sold to date, with construction due to be completed by December this year.

The first component of the multi-stage project, an 8800 square metre office building leased to accounting group MYOB, is due for completion in October.

Despite the earlier objections of Heritage Victoria and Yarra Council, Mr Smith said the revised master plan did not change the “heritage fabric” of the site.

The precinct housed the Cremorne Brewery in the 1850s and it was then adapted for malting in the 1880s. The 16 distinctive silos – nine of which will be retained – were added in the 1950s and 1960s.

The site’s dilapidated Victoria Bitter sign – another heritage listed feature – will also be restored and retained.

Aptly, the Malt District will include a yet-unnamed microbrewery, which will incorporate the old vats and a rare pneumatic malting machine.

The Nylex sign was due to remain lit up until 10am Tuesday.

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