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Iraq PM on a potential weapons tax



Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers a speech during Baghdad Dialogue Conference in Baghdad, Iraq on January 14, 2017.

Haydar Hadi | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi delivers a speech during Baghdad Dialogue Conference in Baghdad, Iraq on January 14, 2017.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that spending on reconstruction — not arms — was necessary for peace.

Discussing the amount of money spent on conflict in the Middle East, “this is not good for us,” Al-Abadi said. “We cannot build our nations with a lot of arms,” he added.

Al-Abadi was speaking to CNBC Sunday on the sidelines of the 2018 Munich Security Conference in Germany, attended by politicians from Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East among others, as well as leaders from NGOs and private companies. Iraq received pledges of $30 billion from allies this week, though this was less than its propositioned $88 billion to recover from years of conflict.

Al-Abadi said that he had not met with any arms manufacturers at the conference, but instead had been in talks with civil manufacturing companies.

This is a “good sign that there is now an understanding that without rebuilding, reconstruction, peace and security cannot be achieved – I think this should be the slogan,” he said.

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Reality TV show Space Hero sending contestant to the Space Station



NASA astronaut Scott Tingle is pictured during a spacewalk in January 2018.


A U.S. television production company called Space Hero announced on Thursday that it plans send the winning contestant of a reality TV show on a 10 day trip to the International Space Station.

The show is being produced by Propagate, a venture run by Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, known for making U.S. adaptations of British shows like “The Office” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”  The mission is scheduled for 2023 and Space Hero is working with Houston-based start-up Axiom Space to train the crew and manage the mission, as the winning candidate of the show will receive full training for the trip to the ISS and back.

“The series will search the entire globe for an everyday citizen with a deep love for space exploration. Space Hero will provide an opportunity for anyone from any background to become the first globally-elected space explorer to take part in a mission to the International Space Station,” the company said in a news release.

Deadline first reported the company’s announcement. While that report said the winner would fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, Axiom told CNBC that the launch provider has yet to be determined. 

“Along with constructing and operating the world’s first privately-funded commercial space station, Axiom is the industry leader today in offering NASA-level astronaut training and full-service crewed missions to the International Space Station to all interested customers,” an Axiom spokesman said in a statement to CNBC.

Space Hero’s show isn’t the first Hollywood project to set its sights on the ISS, nor is it the first private space tourist launch that Axiom has booked. NASA confirmed in May that it is working with actor Tom Cruise to film a movie onboard the orbiting laboratory, and Axiom in March announced a deal with SpaceX to fly three privately paying space tourists on a 10-day ISS mission in the second half of 2021.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members seated in the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during training. From left to right: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Oliver and Mike Hopkins, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.


Neither NASA, Axiom, SpaceX or Space Hero have disclosed how much it will cost per person to launch a private individual to the ISS. But recent contracts mean that it will likely cost more than $50 million per person, as NASA expects to pay SpaceX about $55 million per astronaut for missions to the ISS, and last year SpaceX had an agreement with Bigelow Aerospace to fly individuals to the ISS for $52 million per person.

In addition to the launch costs, a 10-day mission would rack up a $350,000 bill with NASA. Under the agency’s cost structure unveiled last year, NASA would get $35,000 a night per person, as compensation for the agency’s services a tourist would need while on board the ISS.

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Singapore minister on coronavirus pandemic effect on white-collar jobs



SINGAPORE — Competition for white-collar jobs will become more intense after the coronavirus pandemic showed that a lot of work can be done over the internet, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Thursday.

“In the past, people think that the blue-collar workers are the ones at risk and that’s because their jobs can be replaced by robots and automation. To some extent, that is true,” Chan said during a panel discussion moderated by CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford at the virtual Singapore Summit.

“But increasingly, I think the world is realizing that competition is even tougher for the white-collar jobs that can be done over the internet,” he said. “The jobs that can be done over the internet can be done anywhere in the world and because of this, white-collar jobs will no longer have the geographical insulation it used to have.”

Singapore, an open and trade-dependent Southeast Asian economy, has been hit hard by global uncertainties resulting from the pandemic and reduced activity during a partial lockdown to contain Covid-19. That led Singapore’s economy to shrink by a record 13.2% in the second quarter this year compared to a year ago.

To support the economy, the government has dug into its reserves to fund fiscal stimulus worth close to 100 billion Singapore dollars ($73.68 billion), or around 20% of gross domestic product. Much of the government’s focus is on preserving and creating jobs in industries with good growth prospects, said Chan.

The jobs that can be done over the internet can be done anywhere in the world and because of this, white-collar jobs will no longer have the geographical insulation it used to have.

Chan Chun Sing

Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry

But that’s a difficult task for many governments which face political pressure to subsidize companies that may not have good prospects, said Fleur Pellerin, founder and managing partner of venture capital and private equity firm Korelya Capital, who also spoke on the panel.

“I think from a public point of view, it’s a very difficult topic to handle because we see that the new economy creates jobs, but probably not enough jobs to replace all the jobs that would become obsolete because of automation, artificial intelligence et cetera,” she said.

She said one of the biggest challenges facing governments in the coming years is anticipating shifts in the labor market over a five- to 10-year horizon that could come from advancement in technology or changes in the global environment. Then, governments have to prepare their people to transition into those new jobs, she added.

Before founding her company, Pellerin held various positions in the French government, including minister overseeing small- and medium-sized enterprises, innovation and the digital economy.

Not waiting for pandemic to ‘blow over’ 

Singapore — governed by the same political party since its independence in 1965 — is known for its ability to plan for the long term.

Chan said the government is not waiting for the pandemic to be over to ramp up its economic recovery effort. But he noted that a worsening spread of Covid-19 in other parts of the world could hurt the global economy, with knock-on effort on Singapore.  

“We expect to progressively recover for the last two quarters of this year but whether we will be in the clear by next year will very much depends on the global economic performance,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

“We will continue to diversify our markets and pivot into new products and services. So we’re not waiting for the pandemic to blow over.”

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Trump administration slated to impose sanctions tied to Iran



U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Department in Washington, U.S., September 14, 2020.

Erin Scott | Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is set to announce a slew of fresh sanctions and additional measures in support of Washington’s maximum pressure campaign against the Iranian regime.

As early as Monday, the United States could sanction more than two dozen people and entities involved in Iran’s nuclear, ballistic missile and conventional arms programs, a senior U.S. official told Reuters. 

On Saturday, the United States unilaterally re-imposed U.N. sanctions on Tehran through a snapback process, a process that other U.N. Security Council members have previously said Washington does not have the authority to execute.

“If UN member states fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of U.N.-prohibited activity,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Saturday evening statement. 

“Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement with us to rein in its proliferation threats and stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed,” Pompeo said, adding that in the coming days the Trump administration “will announce a range of additional measures to strengthen the implementation of UN sanctions and hold violators accountable.”

The U.S. Special Envoy for Venezuela and Iran, Elliott Abrams, told reporters last week that it “remains to be seen” whether UN member states will enforce the re-imposed sanctions. 

“We will have some announcements over the weekend and more announcements on Monday, and then subsequent days next week as to exactly how we are planning to enforce these returned U.N. sanctions,” Abrams explained.

Last month, Pompeo addressed the 15 member nations of the U.N. Security Council and reiterated that the Trump administration will continue its maximum pressure campaign in order to rein in Tehran’s missile and nuclear programs.

He asserted on August 20 that the U.S. would enforce sweeping sanctions on Iran, even though the United Nations Security Council voted to not extend a crucial arms embargo on the rogue regime.

“I have not had a single world leader or one of my counterparts tell me that they think it makes any sense at all for the Iranians to be able to purchase and sell high-end weapons systems, which is what will happen on Oct. 18 of this year, absent the actions that we took at the United Nations yesterday,” Pompeo told CNBC a day later.

“We’re not going to let them have a nuclear weapon, we’re not going to let them have hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth from selling weapons systems. Every leader around the world knows it’s a bad idea,” he said, calling Iran “the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”

Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, pauses whilst speaking during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Trump administration has previously pushed members of the Security Council to extend a U.N.-imposed arms embargo on Iran. The embargo is currently set to end in October under the 2015 nuclear deal brokered, in part, by the Obama administration. 

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have mounted following Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement in 2018, calling it “the worst deal ever.”

The 2015 agreement lifted sanctions on Iran that crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In exchange for sanctions relief, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program until the terms expire in 2025.

Trump has previously said that the U.S. wants to reach a broader deal with Iran that puts stricter limits on its nuclear and ballistic missile work and suppresses the regime’s role in regional proxy wars. Tehran has refused to negotiate while U.S. sanctions remain in place.

Following Washington’s exit from the nuclear deal, other signatories of the pact ⁠— France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China ⁠— tried to keep the agreement alive. 

Earlier this year, a U.S. strike that killed Iran’s top military commander triggered the regime to further scale back compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January, Iran said it would no longer limit its uranium enrichment capacity or nuclear research.

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