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Mike Pompeo is an evangelical Christian, reared on the idea of good fighting evil in an enduring titanic struggle until the Rapture, when Christ returns to Earth and saves Christians and the Jews – but only if they convert.

Without conversion they join the rest of unsaved humanity, who die and face an eternity in hell.

He mentions the Rapture often in public, though for obvious reasons left it out of the speech he just made in Cairo on the Middle East.

But he did harp on about good vs evil.

That binary vision dominated his world view and that of his boss, Donald Trump.

It has been a common failing of American foreign policy to simplify the world into black and white and not be overly bothered with the grey, and this presidency is no exception.

In the Trumpian view, evil in the Middle East is represented by Iran, responsible for all that is wrong with the region. Good is anyone joining the fight against it.

Donald Trump was at the border to boost the case for his wall
In the Trumpian view, evil in the Middle East is represented by Iran

Events have superficially, at least, conspired to help that outlook.

There is a deepening divide in the region between Iran and Syria on the one side, and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Egypt and Israel on the other.

The latter group has conspired to deepen that chasm, horrified by the olive branch offered to Iran under the nuclear deal negotiated by Russia, Europe and America.

Led by Riyadh they have succeeded in enlisting Donald Trump as an enthusiastic sponsor in undermining the agreement and leading the charge against Tehran.

In truth, there is plenty that is evil about Egypt, whose leader Abdel Fattah el Sisi butchered his way to power on the back of a series of massacres on the streets of Cairo and where an estimated 60,000 people are lost in a gulag of military prisons.

Saudi Arabia remains an absolute monarchy. Modest social reforms have been undermined by the detention and reported torture of those who campaigned for them.

And the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the orders, it is believed, of the country’s controversial princeling ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has done huge damage to its international standing.

Mr Pompeo laid the blame for most of the region’s problems on former US president Barack Obama.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has complained about his country's obesity rate
Abdel Fattah el Sisi butchered his way to power on the back of a series of massacres on the streets of Cairo

Mr Obama’s speech in the same city in 2009 led to a shameful American retreat and timidity, he said.

Mr Obama undoubtedly has his fair share of blame for the Syrian civil war but he faced an even more complicated region and to his credit he at least tried to grapple with the complexities of the Arab Spring.

His successor has arguably, simply chosen one side against the other.

Mr Trump’s critics say that has emboldened Saudi Arabia in particular to act recklessly in Yemen and against Qatar and led directly to the disastrous Khashoggi affair.

In true Trumpian fashion, Mr Pompeo also claimed credit for all the progress in the Middle East on the behalf of his boss. In particular, a fledgling rapprochement under way between Israel and Arab nations.

The Israeli prime minister recently visited Oman and an Israeli minister and sports team went to the UAE last year, as he pointed out.

There is even talk of a meeting perhaps sometime this year between Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But this will only lead to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians if the Palestinians believe their interests are being taken seriously by Riyadh and Washington. At the moment they believe the polar opposite.

Mr Pompeo claimed progress and stability is returning to the region.

In reality the tightening grip of dictatorships and absolute rule has not laid to rest the forces that unleashed the Arab Spring.

The economic and demographic pressures that drove its uprisings have, if anything, got worse and they are likely to manifest themselves in unpredictable ways in months and years to come.

President Erdogan is one of the few to have backed Donald Trump's Syria decision
Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan feels misled by Mr Trump

Mr Pompeo’s biggest problem though is the shambolic lack of coherence in his administration’s Middle East policy-making.

His president said this in December: “We have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And now it is time for our troops to come back home.”

We now learn from Mr Pompeo and US national security adviser John Bolton that US forces are not leaving Syria and will remain there until Islamic State is defeated.

The distinction is abundantly clear even if Mr Pompeo claimed any talk of the administration contradicting itself is a ‘fake media story’.

Turkey in particular is furious. Its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan feels misled by Mr Trump, who agreed on the withdrawal in a phone call between the two leaders.

It is not the last we will hear from Turkey on the matter.

And others leaders will be wondering who really is running US policy in the region.

They might like what they heard from Mr Pompeo in Cairo but will also ask if it means much if the administration can so quickly go back on its word.

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Lufthansa profit warning brings turbulence for airline shares | Business News



Shares in European airlines have plunged after Lufthansa blamed intense short haul competition for a profit warning.

The German carrier said falling sales at its Eurowings budget arm accounted for much of the woes it was experiencing in Europe, as operators engage in a fare price war.

Rival airlines including easyJet and Ryanair have also come under pressure, as higher fuel costs place margins at risk.

Cabin crew on German budget airline Eurowings
Eurowings operates mainly between Germany and Europe’s top holiday destinations

There have been a string of recent casualties with Monarch, Flybmi, Germania, Air Berlin and Wow collapsing.

Tour operators including TUI and Thomas Cook have also issued profit warnings this year – with the latter company confirming a takeover approach a week ago as the pair also battle falling demand partly linked to Brexit uncertainty.

Shares in Lufthansa were as much as 11% down after it downgraded profit expectations for 2019 by up to €1bn (£891m).

The carrier said that its fuel bill could come in €550m (£490m) above last year’s total, despite the recent dips in world oil costs.

The news proved toxic for its listed competitors.

In the UK, shares in easyJet were 4% lower while British Airways’ parent IAG saw its market value dip by more than 3%.

Ireland-listed Ryanair was also 4% down.

:: Ryanair profits slump 29% as cost pressures mount

Lufthansa said: “Yields in the European short-haul market, in particular in the group’s home markets, Germany and Austria, are affected by sustained overcapacities caused by carriers willing to accept significant losses to expand their market share.

“The group expects the European market to remain challenging at least for the remainder of 2019.”

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Backpacker who was kidnapped and raped on Australian farm used Facebook to raise alarm | World News



A backpacker has told how she sent desperate pleas for help over Facebook after being chained up and sexually abused by a farmer in Australia.

Davine Arckens, from Belgium, waved her right to anonymity to describe her two-day ordeal in February 2017 after Gene Charles Bristow was convicted of her kidnap and rape.

The 24-year-old told 60 Minutes Australia she was lured to a pig shed in Meningie, South Australia, after she placed an advert on the Gumtree website in a bid to find work.

After Bristow demanded to check her body for needle marks to ensure she was not a drug user, Ms Arckens said he lunged on her, pulled her arms behind her back and threatened to shoot her if she did not do what he said.

She said Bristow, 54, used cable ties then chains to bind her wrists and shackle both her legs, then stripped her naked and sexually abused her.

“I was just stuck there and I thought it would take a while for people to notice I was gone or even to find me,” she told 60 Minutes.

“I was like: ‘I’m not getting out of here. This is it. This is where I’m going to die.'”

Ms Arckens spotted small metal hooks for binding wool bales in the shed and used them to loosen the shackles and set herself free.

She used a laptop and WiFi stick hidden in her bag to log onto Facebook and sent desperate messages for help.

Her friend, fellow backpacker Echo Wang, who was in Far North Queensland, picked up Ms Arckens’ Facebook messages and immediately raised the alarm.

Gene Charles Bristow was jailed for at least 12 and a half years. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia
Gene Charles Bristow may be deported to the UK, where he grew up. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia

Describing Ms Wang, Ms Arckens told 60 Minutes: “She’s like a hero for me. She helped me, she was there for me. She took action.”

Ms Arckens said she put her shackles back on and waited for help as detectives used signals from her phone to track her location.

After police appealed to the public for information, she said Bristow dropped her off at a nearby motel before officers raided his farm and arrested him.

He was jailed last month for at least 12-and-a-half years after being found guilty of kidnap and rape, Sky News Australia reported.

Bristow’s son David told 60 Minutes Australia that he was “disgusted” by his father’s actions, adding: “Rot in hell. You get what you deserve.”

Bristow's son David told his father to 'rot in hell'. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia
Bristow’s son David told his father to ‘rot in hell’. Pic: 60 Minutes Australia

Bristow is likely to be deported to the UK, where he grew up, following his sentence, according to reports.

It came as several young backpackers said they had been subjected to rape threats and abuse in Australia amid fears the country’s working holiday visa programme could be exploited.

An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) uncovered widespread mistreatment of those on the scheme, in which travellers aged 18 to 30 agree to work in rural industries in exchange for an extended stay in the country.

British backpacker Frances Fairs told ABC that a hostel owner in a remote part of Victoria, southeastern Australia, threatened to rape her if she refused his advances.

“He called me into his office and was like ‘right here is the deal, you either sleep with me and my girlfriend or I rape you. Pick one’,” she said.

There are fears that more travellers will face abuse and exploitation if they work in isolated parts of Australia for longer periods under plans by the country’s government to lengthen the working visa programme.

Under new rules, the scheme will be extended to allow young backpackers to remain in Australia for a third year if they carry out specified work for six months.

Australia’s department of home affairs told ABC it had established a migrant workers’ task force in an effort to reduce exploitation by unscrupulous employers.

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Chanchal Lahiri: Stuntman feared dead after magic trick in River Ganges goes wrong | World News



A stuntman has been declared missing after he lowered himself into the River Ganges while tied up with rope and steel chains for a magic trick.

Chanchal Lahiri, also known as Wizard Mandrake, was lowered into the river by a crane while his friends, family and police watched from the river bank on Sunday.

Before entering the cage, the 40-year-old reportedly said: “If I can free myself it will be magic, if I cannot it will be tragic.”

Mr Lahiri has not emerged from the river since – sparking a frantic search – and is feared dead.

“We are still searching,” a family member told the AFP news agency.

Caged Indian escape artist Chanchal Lahiri waves to the crowd before being lowered into the Hooghly river in 2002
Caged Indian escape artist Chanchal Lahiri waves to the crowd before being lowered into the Hooghly river in 2002

The Indian escape artist pulled off a similar stunt 21 years ago in the same river by locking himself inside a bulletproof glass box while he was tied with chains.

He was dropped from a bridge and managed to escape within 29 seconds, according to reports.

After he performed the same stunt in 2013, he was assaulted by witnesses who claimed it was fake – accusing Mr Lahiri of exiting the locked cage through a visible door.

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