France-Italy diplomatic spat deepens

A diplomatic row between France and Italy has deepened, with France complaining of “unfounded attacks and outlandish claims” by Italian leaders.

France recalled its ambassador to Italy for talks on Thursday, saying the situation was “unprecedented” since the end of World War Two.

It comes after Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio met French “yellow-vest” protesters near Paris on Tuesday.

France warned him not to interfere in the country’s politics.

Relations between the two countries have been tense since Italy’s populist Five Star Movement and right-wing League party formed a coalition government in June 2018.

The two governments have clashed over a range of issues, including immigration.

What happened with Mr Di Maio?

The latest spat began after Mr Di Maio, the leader of Five Star Movement, met leaders of the anti-government “gilets jaunes” protests on Tuesday.

He posted a picture of himself on Twitter with yellow-vest leader Christophe Chalençon and members of a yellow-vest list who are standing in elections to the European Parliament in May.

Oggi con @ale_dibattista abbiamo fatto un salto in Francia e abbiamo incontrato il leader dei gilet gialli Cristophe Chalençon e i candidati alle elezioni europee della lista RIC di Ingrid Levavasseur.
Il vento del cambiamento ha valicato le Alpi. pic.twitter.com/G8E0ypLalX

End of Twitter post by @luigidimaio

What has France said?

“For several months France has been the subject of repeated accusations, unfounded attacks and outlandish claims,” the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

“The most recent interferences constitute an additional and unacceptable provocation. They violate the respect that is owed to democratic choices made by a nation which is a friend and an ally. To disagree is one thing, to exploit a relationship for electoral aims is another.”

Italy’s fellow Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini later sought to ease tensions, saying he would be happy to hold talks with President Emmanuel Macron.

But to “reset” relations he said France had to address “fundamental” issues. He called on Paris to hand over left-wing militants wanted by Italy and to stop returning migrants. He also complained of lengthy French border checks causing traffic jams at the frontier.

Mr Salvini launched a direct personal attack on Mr Macron last month, saying he hoped the French people would soon be able to “free themselves of a terrible president”.

Writing on Facebook he said: “The opportunity will come on May 26 (European elections) when finally the French people will be able to take back control of their future, destiny, (and) pride, which are poorly represented by a character like Macron.”

On Wednesday, the French foreign ministry called Mr Di Maio’s visit a “new provocation” that was “unacceptable between neighbouring countries and partners at the heart of the EU”.

The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says the row represents a new low in the fast deteriorating relationship between Paris and Rome.

What is the background?

Much of the tension between the two countries has been about migration.

When France criticised Italy for not allowing rescue boats carrying migrants in the Mediterranean to dock, Italy responded by accusing France itself of refusing to accept migrants.

Italy says France has sent migrants back across Italy’s northern border.

In January, France summoned Italy’s ambassador after Mr Di Maio said Paris had “never stopped colonising tens of African states”.

Also last month, Mr Salvini accused France of harbouring 14 “terrorists” wanted by Italy, after a fugitive ex-militant was extradited from Bolivia.

France has also grown impatient with Italy over the building of a Lyon to Turin high-speed rail link which the Italian coalition partners cannot agree on.

Who are the ‘gilets jaunes’?

The gilets jaunes protesters first took to the streets in November, angered by fuel tax increases. They said the measure hurt those who lived in remote areas of France and who depended on cars.

The movement derives its name from the high-visibility yellow vests protesters wear – and which French motorists are required by law to carry in their vehicles.

But since their first marches – and the government’s subsequent U-turn on fuel taxes – their demands have expanded to boosting people’s purchasing power and allowing popular referendums.

Mr Di Maio has found common cause with the protesters, urging them not to give up and offering them “the support you need”.

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Life sentence for Washington DC murderer

A man who murdered four people in their home in an upscale neighbourhood of Washington DC has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Daron Wint’s “conduct was heinous, atrocious and cruel,” said Judge Juliet McKenna during his sentencing hearing.

The victims – three members of the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper – were held hostage, beaten with bats, stabbed, and then set on fire.

Prosecutors say the 2015 murders were motivated by greed and vengeance.

Judge McKenna on Friday called it “the most heinous crime anyone has ever committed in this city”.

The bodies of Sav­­vas Savopoulos, 46, Amy Savopoulos, 47; their son, Philip, 10; and Vera Figueroa, 57, were all discovered by firefighters responding a blaze at the home nearly four years ago.

Wint, 37, blamed his brother for the crime during his trial. He is the only person who has been charged and was found guilty last October.

Investigators discovered his DNA on a pizza crust that was ordered to the home on the night that he held the family hostage demanding a cash ransom.

His DNA was also found on a knife and in a bed inside the home.

According to prosecutors, Wint worked for Mr Savopoulos’ business, American Iron Works, but lost his job nearly a decade ago.

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The US state looking to take down Trump

The propulsion of senator and lawyer Kamala Harris to frontrunner status among the Democrats hoping to take on President Donald Trump in 2020 has underlined the resurgent political power of her home state.

A California senator is one of the front-runners for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

A California congresswoman is speaker of the House of Representatives.

California’s new governor is a young, progressive champion promising to offer an alternative to the “corruption and incompetence” of Donald Trump’s White House.

The Golden state has become solidly Democrat blue, and its politicians are flexing their muscles on the national stage. But this golden opportunity doesn’t come without risk for the progressive cause.

Big predictions for Harris

A campaign kick-off is a political show of force. It’s a chance to demonstrate that a candidate’s appeal exists beyond op-ed think-pieces, lines on a fund-raising report or clicks on a social media post. Nothing drives home the potential of ballot-box success quite like a throng of faces in a cheering crowd.

On a warm Sunday afternoon at a public square in Oakland, California, Kamala Harris made just such a statement, packing in an estimated 20,000 people as she officially launched her presidential bid.

“These are not ordinary times, and this is not an ordinary election, but this is our America,” the California senator said. “At stake is not the leadership of our party and our country. It is the right to moral leadership of this planet.”

Her speech, carried live on US cable news networks, was geared toward a national audience, including promises of universal healthcare and pre-kindergarten childcare, debt-free college, a working- and middle-class tax cut, and an immigration system that welcomes refugees and provides some undocumented migrants a pathway to citizenship.

The choice of this northern California city across the bay from San Francisco to launch her campaign, however, was no accident for the woman just two years into her first term in Washington.

It’s where Ms Harris, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, was born. It’s also where she first held public office, as a deputy district attorney.

Oakland, she notes, is where she stood before a judge as a prosecutor for the first time and said “five words that would guide my life” – “Kamala Harris, for the people”.

It’s a line she has now adopted as her campaign slogan.

Ms Harris would go on to rise through the ranks, first as San Francisco district attorney and then California attorney general, before making the leap to the Senate.

“It’s exciting to see someone from California, from the Bay area, run for president,” says Danny Marquis, a dentist from San Francisco who brought her 11-year-old son, Gabe, to the event.

“She represents some of my values, somebody who’s hardy, who has been out there and who has walked the walk that I’m on right now, who will fight for and represent people like me.”

Ajay Bhutoria, a Fremont, California, business consultant who served on the national finance committee for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, says the turnout on Sunday shows just how desperate people are for change.

“California is the leader in innovation, and they’re sending a message today,” he says. Bhutoria adds that while he’s still keeping an open mind over whom he will support, Ms Harris is a “great candidate”.

The senator’s potential was being heralded on the national level even before Sunday’s choreographed launch in front of her hometown fans.

Liberal cable news host Rachel Maddow recently said Ms Harris had a “good chance” of being the 2020 Democratic nominee. An analysis on the election forecasting site fivethirtyeight.com said she “comes out looking stronger than any other potential candidate”.

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote a piece titled, simply, “Kamela Harris, a front-runner”.

Given the size of the field – and the fact that the first nominating contest is more than a year away – these kinds of predictions are risky. At this point in 2015, many Republicans were busy fitting Jeb Bush with their party’s crown, after all.

The conventional consensus, however, is that Ms Harris is at the head of the pack – and California is a big reason why.

The state is a fund-raising power base with little parallel. In the 24 hours after Ms Harris announced, she reported $1.5m (£1.1m) in donations, breaking a record set by Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016.

Last year her campaign committee and related fund-raising organisations brought in more than $23m, with six-figure contributions from individuals associated with entertainment giant WarnerMedia, the University of California, Los Angeles based Creative Artists Agency and the parent company of Bay area tech giant Google.

California’s primary also has an influential spot in the 2020 calendar, having moved from June in 2016 to early March.

If Ms Harris can stay in the race that long – and it certainly seems she will have the money to do it – the senator could be poised to reap the mother lode of Democratic convention delegates in her home state.

A golden month

Ms Harris may be seeking the top prize, but her presidential announcement was only the capstone on a month that thrust the state of California firmly onto the national stage. It began with San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi returning as Speaker of the House of Representatives after eight years in the political wilderness.

January began with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi returning as Speaker of the House of Representatives after eight years in the political wilderness. It wouldn’t take long to demonstrate just how much power the San Franciscan now wields, as she faced down the president in the 35-day battle over border-wall funding and the resulting government shutdown.

In November Democrats picked up 40 seats in the chamber – seven from California alone, primarily in what was long thought to be the solidly conservative Los Angeles suburbs of Orange County. Mr Trump’s unpopularity in California essentially eviscerated the state’s pro-business, socially moderate Republican Party in the land that once helped vault Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to presidential success.

“There was an old Reagan quote that ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help’ were the scariest words,” says Bill Whalen, a fellow at Stanford University’s conservative-leaning Hoover Institution. “Those words don’t scare people in California anymore.”

For the first time the largest state in the US both in terms of people and economic muscle speaks almost entirely with one political voice. And the message it’s sending stands in stark contrast to the Trump-style conservatism that has dominated the national conversation for the past two years.

A few days after Ms Pelosi used her gavel to usher in a Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives, she flew back west to have a front-row seat at the inauguration of California’s newly elected governor, Gavin Newsom.

Under tents erected to ward off the rain at the state capitol in Sacramento – just over an hour’s drive north of the Oakland square where Ms Harris formally started her presidential bid three weeks later – the 51-year-old former California lieutenant governor and mayor of San Francisco had his moment in the spotlight.

He used his inaugural address to lash out at the “corruption and incompetence” of the White House and position his state as the liberal counterweight to Donald Trump’s America.

“The country is watching us,” he said. “The world is waiting on us. The future depends on us. And we will seize this moment.”

Outside the tents, Mr Newsom’s spirit was contagious.

“California is the resistance to the Trump administration,” says San Jose schoolteacher Andrea Reyna. “We’re the fifth-largest economy in the world by having strong leaders who are voices for equality, who are voices for freedom. It gives us a privilege and thus a responsibility to take a lead.”

The California boom

This idea of California’s special obligation as a progressive beacon permeated the inaugural proceedings in the state capitol.

“As everybody has been saying, California has been the place where policy experimentation has created amazing results,” says Jennifer Granholm, the former Michigan governor who now teaches at the University of California – Berkeley and served as master of ceremonies for the inauguration of the state’s lieutenant governor. “This is California’s moment to shine.”

It’s hard to dispute those claims right now, as California – and the Democrats in power – are riding high.

Democrats in 2020

The state has been the engine fuelling the record-breaking US economic expansion, accounting for a fifth of the nation’s economic growth since 2010. In 2017 its gross domestic product expanded by 4.7% – more than twice the rate of the US as a whole.

Per-capita income is rising faster than any other state, and its government budget is running a multi-billion dollar surplus, giving Mr Newsom flexibility to enact sweeping new social programmes.

“Think of everything Democrats want to do in Washington but can’t – universal healthcare, more entitlements, more rules, more regulations – without backlash from an opposition party or the public,” says Whalen. “California is really the Democratic dream in that regard, and the Newsom administration is putting that dream to the test.”

In his inaugural address, the newly sworn-in governor did, in fact, talk about dreams, although he styled his progressive priorities as the “California dream” – of good jobs, quality education and a comfortable retirement.

“Not to get rich quick or star on the big screen, but to work hard and share in the rewards,” Mr Newsom said. “To leave a better future for our kids.”

After the speech, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – who is contemplating his own presidential campaign – expanded on the governor’s thoughts.

“Certainly people dream in other states, but nobody talks about the Missouri dream or the Alabama dream,” he says. “This is a unique place that almost the whole world knows, even if they’ve never been here. They feel California as at once an idea and a place.”

As if to drive home the point that California politics and the Trump administration are headed on an ideological collision course, just a few days after Mr Newsom’s inaugural salvo, the president lashed out at the state via Twitter, threatening to withhold disaster relief funds for victims of the state’s recent spate of fatal forest fires “unless they get their act together”.

A golden age for Democrats

California Democrats dreaming big – and holding their state up as an example to the rest of the US and even the rest of the world – could seem in some ways inevitable. The most formidable state in the US, run by progressives under progressive policies, would appear destined to produce ambitious politicians intent on translating the success of their state into national prominence.

This sense of inevitability, however, is a relatively recent development.

“California is a funny place,” says UCLA lecturer and former Los Angeles Times reporter Jim Newton. “You don’t have to look back very far for it to be fairly reliably Republican. This notion of it being an absolutely rock solid Democratic bastion is a relatively new phenomenon.”

Mr Newsom’s inauguration, in fact, marked the first time since the 1870s that two Democrats in a row have occupied the California governor’s mansion. Ms Harris is the first California politician to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in a quarter century.

Part of the reason for this is generational. Jerry Brown, California’s governor for the last eight years, was in his 70s during his second stint in office, after serving two terms in the 1970s and early ’80s. He had already run for president three times, in 1976, 1980 and 1992, and his national ambitions were long since dimmed.

Dianne Feinstein, the state’s senior senator, is in her 80s, and Ms Harris predecessor, Barbara Boxer, never showed interest in a White House bid.

With a new cadre of Democrats taking the reins comes new ambitions.

It’s more than that, however. For long stretches over the past three decades, California has been an economic basket case. The state was devastated by the recession of the early 1990s, the tech bubble collapse of 2002 and the Great Recession in 2008.

“In 2010, the conventional wisdom was that California was headed the way of Greece; that it was ungovernable” says Newton. “People were openly debating the question of what would happen if a state the size of California declared bankruptcy. It was called, quite literally, a failed state.”

Part of the reason California suffers so grievously in times of economic downturn is because the state is heavily dependent on income and corporate taxes as a revenue stream. When people and corporations make less money, once bursting government coffers quickly go empty.

And so while California Democrats are touting the opportunities that California can present as a model of progressive success, the flip side of this opportunity is danger. If California fails – if it slips back into an economic morass – it will quickly become a conservative cautionary tale instead of a liberal beacon.

The Gray ghost

In a front row at Mr Newsom’s inauguration, like a ghost of presidential ambitions past, was a man who provides a telling example of just how quickly California fortunes can change.

Democrat Gray Davis was elected governor of California in 1998, breaking a Republican hold on the job that stretched back to the end of Mr Brown’s first stint in 1982. The Golden State was booming, and government spending shot up. The milquetoast Davis was even being bandied about as a future presidential contender.

Shortly after Mr Davis’s 2002 re-election, however, the dotcom collapse eviscerated California’s economy. Revenues plummeted, and Mr Davis’ attempts to raise state fees to compensate led to a voter rebellion that ended in his 2003 recall election and replacement by actor-turned-Republican-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After Mr Newsom gave his speech, Mr Davis reflected on his experience.

“Recessions can take a $15 or $20bn surplus and make it a $15 or $20bn deficit,” he says. “I think [Mr Newsom] appreciates all the hard work and tough decisions that led to this phenomenal surplus, and I don’t think he wants to be the person who squanders that.”

Already there are some dark linings to the silver clouds of Californian prosperity. Profits – and stock valuations – for high-profile Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Facebook and Tesla are down.

Property values, which have been skyrocketing, are starting to soften. And in major metropolitan areas where they aren’t, working-class families have long since been priced out of desirable homes and neighbourhoods.

While the state leads the way in economic growth, it is also tied with Louisiana and Florida for the highest poverty rate in the US, at 19%. More than 130,000 Californians are homeless, with Los Angeles second only to New York City among US cities.

“It’s a complicated story,” says Whalen. “I can take you to parts of California, and you will fall in love with it. But there are problems with the blue paradise, as well.”

If the economy falters, the problems that Whalen suggests – homelessness, a lack of adequate healthcare, overcrowding and traffic in the cities, and an uneven quality of public education – will get worse as the money dries up.

Risk and reward

The progressive challenge over the coming months will be to find a way to enact their priorities on healthcare, the environment, education and immigration while insulating the state from the business cycle’s inevitable downturn.

Their success or failure will clearly impact upon the national ambitions of men like Mr Newsom and Mr Garcetti, but even Ms Harris – whose presidential campaign will try to cast a broader net – could be tarnished.

Already the senator is taking heat for her time as the state’s attorney general and a San Francisco city prosecutor, during which critics say was she was not sufficiently supportive of criminal justice reform. If the Democratic regime in California, of which she was recently a part, oversees a budgetary train wreck in the coming year, it will be difficult for her campaign to emerge unscathed.

Whalen doesn’t think Democrats are up to the task. UCLA’s Newton, on the other hand, sees this as the party’s biggest challenge – and opportunity.

“There’s going to be a downturn, and how Newsom handles that really will help send the message of whether this state is something different or just better than most at riding an upward business cycle,” he says.

And even if the things stay stable, the cadres of ambitious California Democrats – including Ms Harris, Mr Garcetti, Mr Newsom, and others – will have to prove that their state really is a model that can be applied to the nation as a whole.

“For this state to be meaningful beyond electing liberal leaders,” Newton says, “it has to show that there is something qualitatively different about what it’s like to live under this government than it is under a Trump government.

“If this is a state that can manage wealth, that can handle downturns, it can balance economic growth and environmental protection, that can be welcoming to immigrants at a time when the rest of the country is unsure of that, that’s a genuine counterproposal.”

In the days and months ahead, this progressive counterproposal will be put to the test – in California and among Democratic primary voters across the US.

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U.S. has offered to hold arms control talks with Russia -official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has offered to hold talks on arm control issues with Russia on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting in Beijing next week, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

Under Secretary of State Andrea Thompson told reporters the talks almost certainly would include a dispute over a Cold War-era treaty limiting intermediate-range missiles.

Washington has pledged to withdraw from the pact because of what it charges is the deployment by Moscow of a new cruise missile that violates the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).

Moscow has denied that the missile in question, the Novator 9M729 (called the SSC-8 by NATO), violates the agreement, which bars either side from stationing short- and intermediate-range, land-based missiles in Europe.

Moscow says the missile’s range keeps it outside of the treaty and has accused the United States of inventing a false pretext to leave an accord it wants to exit anyway to develop its own new missiles.

Thompson said the United States has presented Russia with a proposal for a “verifiable” test of the missile’s range but Moscow has not embraced the plan.

Unless the Russians come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, the United States will make good on its decision to suspend its compliance with the pact at the end of a 60-day period on Feb. 2, Thompson said.

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Andela Secures $100m Series D To Build Distributed Engineering Teams And Power The Future Of Work

Andela, the company building distributed engineering teams with Africa’s top software developers, today announced the completion of a $100M Series D funding. The round was led by Generation Investment Management with participation from existing investors including Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, GV, Spark Capital, and CRE Venture Capital. The most recent financing brings Andela’s total venture funding to $180M.

Andela was founded in 2014 to connect Africa’s engineering talent with the demand for software developers worldwide. In four years, Andela has assessed more than one hundred thousand applicants, hired one thousand software developers, and integrated them into hundreds of companies, such as Safaricom, Percolate, and InVision.

With the Series D funding, Andela will accelerate the development of its technology platform to identify, develop and match talent at scale. By doing so, Andela will provide its customers with the data they need to understand developer performance and better manage distributed teams. The company will also expand its presence across Africa to meet the global demand for high-quality engineering talent.

“It’s increasingly clear that the future of work will be distributed, in part due to the severe shortage of engineering talent,” says Jeremy Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Andela. “Given our access to incredible talent across Africa, as well as what we’ve learned from scaling hundreds of engineering teams around the world, Andela is able to provide the talent and the technology to power high-performing teams and help companies adopt the distributed model faster.”

“Andela has played a major role in catalyzing the growth of technology ecosystems across Africa over the past four years, though the journey has only just begun,” says Seni Sulyman, Vice President of Global Operations at Andela. “To date, we have developed more than one thousand of Africa’s current and future technology leaders. This round of funding will help Andela accelerate our mission to advance human potential by powering today’s teams and investing in tomorrow’s leaders.”

“Generation’s investment in Andela resulted from our deep research into the future of work. We believe Andela is a transformational model to develop software engineers and deploy them at scale into the future enterprise,” says Lilly Wollman, Co-Head of Growth Equity at Generation Investment Management. “The global demand for software engineers far exceeds supply, and that gap is projected to widen. Andela’s leading technology enables firms to effectively build and manage distributed engineering teams. We are great admirers of the outstanding team, mission and culture Andela has built across two continents and five countries.”

With tech campuses in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, Andela has been recognized as “The Best Place to Work in Africa.” In 2018, The Wall Street Journal named Andela as one of the twenty-five technology company to watch, and the year prior, Fast Company ranked Andela as the most innovative company in Africa. In 2019, Andela is projected to double in size, hiring another one thousand software developers and investing heavily in data, engineering, and product development.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Andela.

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China will continue to expand at sustainable rate, despite posting worst growth in decades: Wang Qishan

Despite having just posted its worst economic growth figure in nearly three decades, China has not reached the end of its miraculous expansion, but will continue to grow at a sustainable rate.

Calling it an “indisputable fact”, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan said Wednesday (Jan 23) the world would benefit from China’s continued economic progress given how closely tied it is to the global economy.

Just last week, the world’s second largest economy reported 6.6 per cent growth for 2018, its slowest in 28 years, and a result of weaker domestic demand and punishing US tariffs.

Beijing has promised greater support for its economy this year, including bigger tax cuts for businesses and spending on infrastructural projects.

“Speed does matter. But what really matters is the quality and efficiency of our economic development,” said Mr Wang, widely regarded as President Xi Jinping’s right-hand man and a key figure in shaping China’s foreign policy.

In his special address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the 70-year-old vice president also urged countries to press on with structural reforms to deal with widening income inequality and global developmental imbalances.

In a pointed reference to the United States ahead of crucial trade talks next week between the two countries, Mr Wang said there was a need to accommodate the interests of all countries, especially those of emerging markets and developing countries.

“It is imperative to respect national sovereignty and refrain from seeking technological hegemony, interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs, and conducting, shielding or protecting technology-enabled activities that undermine other countries’ national security,” he said. “We need to respect independent choices of the model of technology management and of public policies made by countries, and their right to participate in the global technological governance system as equals.”

One of the key sticking points of the trade negotiations has been over the US’ accusations of China’s forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft.

Describing himself as an optimist, Mr Wang, who has held a number of financial posts and was responsible for driving Mr Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, called for greater cooperation among developed and developing countries.

“What we need to do is make the pie bigger while looking for ways to share it in a more equitable way. The last thing we should do is to stop making the pie and just engage in a futile debate on how to divide it,” he said.

“Shifting blame for one’s own problems onto others will not resolve the problems.”

His speech bore similarities to a keynote address he made in Singapore last November, where he denounced unilateralism and urged the US to work with China to resolve their trade dispute.

Mr Wang was also asked by host Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, about how US-Sino ties could be improved.

Perhaps not wanting to give too much away ahead of the trade negotiations, the usually forthcoming vice president would only reiterate the two economies are “intertwined and mutually indispensable”, and confrontation would harm both their interests.

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Opinion | Kamala Harris, a front-runner

This article is part of David Leonhardt’s newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it each weekday.

By formally entering the presidential race, Kamala Harris immediately becomes one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination. As Nate Silver recently explained, Harris has the potential to fare well among several of the five big Democratic constituencies: party loyalists; hard-core progressives; young voters; African-Americans; and Hispanic and Asian-American voters.

So take her candidacy seriously. But once you’ve done so, I would encourage you to mostly ignore whether she is likely to win and focus your attention instead on whether she deserves to win. Make your own decisions about the candidates, rather than trying to guess what other voters will do.

Harris has signaled that she is likely to run a more thematically broad-based, less focused campaign than some others. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (if he runs) will focus on inequality and economic justice, for example. Joe Biden would probably emphasize his experience and electability. Kirsten Gillibrand has centered her pitch partly on #MeToo. The Harris campaign, for now, is looking less specific — which has both downsides and benefits.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

“Nobody is living their life through the lens of one issue,” she said yesterday. “And I think what people want is leadership that sees them through the complexity of their lives and pays equal attention to their needs. Let’s not put people in a box.”

Her policy agenda looks fairly typical for a Democrat today. One of her main proposals is a large package of tax cuts and credits for middle-class and poor families. The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey has reviewed the proposal positively and Slate’s Jordan Weissmann has reviewed it negatively.

The core of Harris’s record is her six years as California’s attorney general. In a recent Times Op-Ed, the writer and legal advocate Lara Bazelon criticized Harris for supporting unjust imprisonment. Another California-based advocate, Lateefah Simon, responded to that piece with a defense of Harris.

Briahna Gray of The Intercept argued that Harris’s specific performance was not the most relevant issue: “The problem isn’t that Harris was an especially bad prosecutor. She made positive contributions as well — encouraging education and re-entry programs for ex-offenders, for instance. The problem, more precisely, is that she was ever a prosecutor at all. To become a prosecutor is to make a choice to align oneself with a powerful and fundamentally biased system.”

My view is that Harris deserves to be treated as a front-runner. She has a fascinating personal story, and she has handled the national spotlight well in her first two years in the Senate.

I’ll be interested now to see whether she can offer a compelling story about what ails the country — how we’ve come to suffer from fraying democracy, stagnant mass living standards and a violently warming planet — and what she will do to change our course.

For more on her, see:

Jim Geraghty in National Review, on “Twenty things you probably didn’t know about Kamala Harris,” which includes her handling of the mortgage crisis in California.

Perry Bacon Jr. in FiveThirtyEight: “There may be no other candidate who better embodies how the modern Democratic Party has changed over the last few decades in identity and ideology … Post-Obama, the Democratic Party is increasingly the party of women and the ‘woke,’ and Harris’s biography and politics align well with where the party has moved.”

Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post: “Harris’s policy positions — Medicare for all, progressive tax reform, raise in the federal minimum wage, green energy, etc. — are not unique in a field with many progressive candidates. She is unique because of her biography — a daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, and spent years as a prosecutor and then state attorney general — and her personal appeal. Of those candidates already declared, she might be the most engaging and dynamic.”

Reader responses

Several readers responded to my column yesterday about the shutdown by pointing out the connection to organized labor.

Paul Wortman, from Providence: “The shutdown is not [about] ‘the weakness of the resistance,’ but the weakness of the American labor movement. Labor has been under constant attack since the Reagan era with the firing of [air traffic controller] union members. Despite the strong labor market, government pay and benefits are much better than the private sector and workers are unwilling to risk an illegal strike and the fear of being fired.”

A reader from Atlanta: “Unions, unions, and more unions. Over the decades unions have been decimated by right-to-work laws. And until they’re resurrected nothing will occur. Those European countries that would demonstrate are all heavily unionized, including government employees. They don’t demonstrate, they go on strike, and their employers suffer.”

If you are not a subscriber to this newsletter, you can subscribe here. You can also join me on Twitter (@DLeonhardt) and Facebook.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

David Leonhardt is a former Washington bureau chief for the Times, and was the founding editor of The Upshot and head of The 2020 Project, on the future of the Times newsroom. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for columns on the financial crisis. @DLeonhardt Facebook

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Two patients contract pigeon droppings infection at Glasgow hospital

Officials immediately put in place control measures at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital after two cases of cryptococcus were detected.

The infection is caused by inhaling the fungus cryptococcus, primarily found in soil and pigeon droppings.

A likely source was found in an area not open to the public away from wards and the droppings were removed, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGCC) said.

It added that the small number of child and adult patients who are vulnerable to this infection are being given medication to prevent them falling ill.

Teresa Inkster, NHSGCC lead consultant for infection control, said: “Cryptococcus lives in the environment throughout the world. It rarely causes infection in humans.

“People can become infected with it after breathing in the microscopic fungi, although most people who are exposed to it never get sick from it.

“There have been no further cases since the control measures were put in place. In the meantime we are continuing to monitor the air quality and these results are being analysed.

“It remains our priority to ensure a safe environment for patients and staff.”

The two patients with the infection are said to be responding to treatment.

NHSGCC said that investigations had also discovered a separate issue with the sealant in some of the shower rooms.

Work has begun to fix the problem as quickly as possible, the board said.

As a further precaution, a group of patients are being moved within the hospital due to their clinical diagnosis and ongoing treatment.

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Iran satellite launch fails after U.S. warning

GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran’s bid to launch a satellite has failed, Telecoms Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said on Tuesday, after it ignored U.S. warnings to avoid such activity.

Washington warned Tehran this month against undertaking three planned rocket launches that it said would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution because they use ballistic missile technology.

The United States is concerned that the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used to launch warheads.

In a tweet on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran had carried out the launch “in defiance of the international community” and added: “The launch yet again shows that Iran is pursuing enhanced missile capabilities that threaten Europe and the Middle East.”

In a subsequent statement, Pompeo said the launch furthered Iran’s ability to eventually build an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“We have been clear that we will not stand for Iran’s flagrant disregard for international norms,” he said. “The United States is working with our allies and partners to counter the entire range of the Islamic Republic’s threats.”

Iran, which considers its space program a matter of national pride, has said its space vehicle launches and missile tests were not violations and would continue.

Under the United Nations Security Council resolution that enshrined Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers – which Washington pulled out of last spring – the country is “called upon” to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.

Azari-Jahromi said the satellite, named Payam, failed in the third stage of the launch because it “did not reach adequate speed,” according to a report on the ministry’s website.

The satellite was intended to be used for imaging and communications purposes and was mounted with four cameras, according to the report.

The satellite was intended to stay at an altitude of 500 km for about three years.

Another satellite named Doosti is waiting to be launched, Azari-Jahromi tweeted.

“We should not come up short or stop,” Azari-Jahromi wrote on Twitter after announcing the failed launch. “It’s exactly in these circumstances that we Iranians are different than other people in spirit and bravery.”

Iran launched its first domestically built satellite, the OMID (Hope) research and telecoms satellite in 2009 on the 30th anniversary of the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution in 2009.

The 40th anniversary falls in February.

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Polish mayor Pawel Adamowicz dies after stabbing at charity event in Gdansk

Mr Adamowicz, the mayor of Gdansk, was attacked in front of hundreds of people in the city on Sunday during an event in aid of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity.

He underwent five hours of surgery for wounds to his heart and abdomen, as locals queued to donate blood, but health minister Lukasz Szumowski told reporters on Monday: “We couldn’t win.”

Police arrested a 27-year-old with a criminal record on suspicion of attempted murder and he remains in custody.

Investigators said he appeared to have mental health problems and gained access to the stage with a media badge.

According to Polish broadcaster TVN, he shouted from the stage and claimed that he had been wrongly imprisoned by the previous government.

He will be subjected to a psychiatric examination.

Interior minister Joachim Brudzinski said the attack on the 53-year-old mayor was an act of “inexcusable barbarity”.

And the prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, tweeted: “The attack on life and health of Pawel Adamowicz is worthy of the highest condemnation.”

Moments before the incident, Mr Adamowicz posted a photo of the view from the stage to his Instagram account.

The picture showed audience members holding up bright white lights during the Lights To Heaven event, which raised money for medical equipment for the Polish healthcare system.

The politician had been mayor of Gdansk for more than 20 years and was part of the democratic opposition which started in the city under Lech Walsea in the 1980s.

He had been seen as a progressive voice in the country, supporting LGBT rights and tolerance for minority groups.

Anti-violence rallies are being planned nationwide in response to the attack.

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