President Trump to pull US from Russia missile treaty

A Russian missile is fired during military exercises Image copyright EPA
Image caption Russia denies building missiles that violate the accord

The US will withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, President Donald Trump has confirmed.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Trump said Russia had “violated” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

The deal banned ground-launched medium-range missiles, with a range of between 500 and 5,500km (310-3,400 miles).

The US would not let Russia “go out and do weapons [while] we’re not allowed to”, Mr Trump said.

“I don’t know why President [Barack] Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out,” the president said after a campaign rally in Nevada. “They’ve been violating it for many years.”

In 2014, President Obama accused Russia of breaching the INF after it allegedly tested a ground-launched cruise missile. He reportedly chose not to withdraw from the treaty under pressure from European leaders, who said such a move could restart an arms race.

A Russian foreign ministry source said the US move was motivated by a “dream of a unipolar world” where it is the only global superpower, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

‘A significant setback’

Analysis by BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Concern about Russia’s development and deployment of a missile system that breaches the INF treaty predates the Trump administration. But the president’s decision to walk away from the agreement marks a significant setback for arms control.

Many experts believe that negotiations should have continued to try to bring the Russians back into compliance. It is, they fear, part of the wider unravelling of the whole system of arms control treaties that helped to curb strategic competition during the Cold War.

Other factors too may have played into President Trump’s decision. This was a bilateral treaty between Washington and Moscow. China was free to develop and deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles. Some in the Trump administration feel that the INF treaty places them at a growing disadvantage in their developing strategic rivalry with Beijing .

The US insists the Russians have, in breach of the deal, developed a new medium-range missile called the Novator 9M729 – known to Nato as the SSC-8.

It would enable Russia to launch a nuclear strike at Nato countries at very short notice.

Russia has said little about its new missile other than to deny that it is in breach of the agreement.

Analysts say Russia sees such weapons as a cheaper alternative to conventional forces.

The New York Times reported on Friday the US was considering withdrawing from the treaty in a bid to counter China’s expanding military presence in the western Pacific.

The country was not a signatory of the deal, allowing it to develop medium-range missiles without restraint.

National Security Adviser John Bolton is expected to tell the Russians of the withdrawal during talks in Moscow later this week.

What is the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty?

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the INF treaty in 1987
  • Signed by the US and the USSR in 1987, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons
  • The US had been concerned by the Soviet deployment of the SS-20 missile system and responded by placing Pershing and Cruise missiles in Europe – sparking widespread protests
  • By 1991, nearly 2,700 missiles had been destroyed. Both countries were allowed to inspect the others installations
  • In 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared the treaty no longer served Russia’s interests. The move came after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002

The last time the US withdrew from a major arms treaty was in 2002, when President George W Bush pulled the US out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned weapons designed to counter ballistic nuclear missiles.

His administration’s move to set up a missile shield in Europe alarmed the Kremlin, and was scrapped by the Obama administration in 2009. It was replaced by a modified defence system in 2016.

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Jamal Khashoggi case: Saudi Arabia says journalist killed in fight

Jamal Khashoggi Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption This is the first time Saudi Arabia has admitted the death of Jamal Khashoggi

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a fight in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the country’s state TV reported quoting an initial probe.

It said deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, senior aide to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, were dismissed over the affair.

US President Donald Trump said what had happened was “unacceptable” but that Saudi Arabia was a “great ally”.

This is the first time the kingdom has admitted Mr Khashoggi has died.

The acknowledgement follows two weeks of denials that Saudi Arabia had any involvement in the disappearance of the prominent Saudi critic when he entered the consulate in Istanbul on 2 October to seek paperwork for his upcoming marriage.

The Saudi kingdom had come under increased pressure to explain Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance after Turkish officials said he was deliberately killed inside the consulate, and his body dismembered.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Turkish forensic investigators have already searched the Saudi consulate and consul’s residence

On Friday, Turkish police widened their search from the consulate grounds to a nearby forest where unnamed officials believe his body may have been disposed of.

Observers are questioning whether Riyadh’s Western allies will find the Saudis’ account of a “botched rendition” convincing – and whether it will persuade them not to take punitive action against Saudi Arabia.

‘This is only a first step to the truth’

Analysis by BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner

The Saudi leadership will now be hoping that its belated admission that Khashoggi did die after all inside its consulate – coupled with a handful of sackings and arrests – will be enough to draw a line under this affair. It won’t.

This is only a first step towards publicising the truth of what really happened. Given the days of indignant denials by the Saudi leadership it’s doubtful we would have even got this far without sustained international pressure.

There can only be one of two possible alternatives here. Either – as many suspect – the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was to blame, or he had lost control of his inner circle, something most observers find hard to believe.

MBS, as he’s known, has a huge following amongst young patriotic Saudis who see him as a visionary reformer. If that support were now to ebb away then the crown prince could find himself dangerously isolated at court.

What is Saudi Arabia’s version of events?

A statement from Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said a fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi, who had fallen out of favour with the Saudi government, and people who met him in the consulate – ending with his death.

The investigations are still under way, it said, and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested. The Saudi authorities have yet to give evidence to support this version of events.

State media said Saudi King Salman had ordered the sacking of two senior officials.

Saud al-Qahtani is a prominent member of the Saudi Royal Court and adviser to Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Image copyright Twiiter/@suadq1978
Image caption Saud al-Qahtani has over a million followers on Twitter

Major-General Ahmed al-Assiri has acted as the top spokesman for the kingdom about the war in Yemen.

Gen Assiri spoke to the BBC in 2017 about the conflict, defending Saudi Arabia’s actions.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionNawal Al-Maghafi speaks to Major-General Ahmed al-Assiri

King Salman has also reportedly ordered the formation of a ministerial committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed, to restructure the intelligence services.

Saudi Arabia said it had acted on information provided by Turkish authorities as part of its inquiry, investigating a number of suspects.

How did Trump react?

President Trump said the arrests were an important “first step”. He praised the kingdom for acting quickly, and while he said sanctions were an option against the country, he spoke of the possible effect such moves would have on the US economy.

Asked if he found Saudi Arabia’s version of events credible, he replied, “I do.”

He stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East, and pushed back against the need for sanctions against the country in light of the new information, talking about the effect of such a move on the US economy.

He spoke of his visit to Saudi Arabia – his first trip abroad as president – and the $110bn (£84bn) arms deal he signed with the kingdom.

“I’d rather keep the million jobs [in the US] and find another solution,” he said.

Earlier this week Mr Trump said there would be “very severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia was proved to have killed the journalist.

The White House said in a separate statement the US was “deeply saddened” to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death.

US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican highly critical of the Saudis, said he was “sceptical” of the report on the journalist’s death.

Why does Turkey say he was murdered?

Turkish officials believe Mr Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate, and his body then removed – and they say they have video and audio evidence to back this up.

Saudi Arabia has denied this, and initially insisted Mr Khashoggi had freely left the embassy.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionCCTV footage shows missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul

Turkish newspapers with close links to the government have published gruesome details of the alleged audio, including what they describe as the sounds of screams and Mr Khashoggi being interrogated and tortured.

Meanwhile, Turkish media say they have identified a 15-member team of suspected Saudi agents who flew into and out of Istanbul on the day of the disappearance.

Jamal Khashoggi disappearance: The key events

2 October

  • 03:28: A private jet carrying suspected Saudi agents arrives at Istanbul airport. A second joins it late afternoon
  • 12:13: Several diplomatic vehicles are filmed arriving at the consulate, allegedly carrying some of the Saudi agents
  • 13:14: Mr Khashoggi enters the building, where he is due to pick up paperwork ahead of his marriage
  • 15:08: Vehicles leave the consulate and are filmed arriving at the nearby Saudi consul’s residence
  • 21:00: Both jets leave Turkey by 21:00

3 October

  • Turkish government announces Mr Khashoggi is missing, thought to be in the consulate

4 October

  • Saudi Arabia says he left the embassy

7 October

  • Turkish officials tell the BBC they believed Mr Khashoggi was killed at the consulate. This is later strongly denied by Saudi Arabia

13 October

15 and 17-18 October

  • Forensic teams carry out searches of consulate

20 October

  • Saudi state TV reports an initial investigation shows Jamal Khashoggi died in the consulate
  • Two Saudi senior officials are dismissed and King Salman announces the formation of a ministerial committee to restructure the intelligence services

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Scientists prepare for expedition to the world’s deepest depths

(Reuters) – For the first time, humans will visit the deepest part of each of the five oceans, plunging to the sea floor using a two-person craft designed to withstand the intense pressures more than 5.5 miles (9 km) below the surface.

The project, known as Five Deeps Expedition, will use a special submersible vehicle that took more than three years to build. It is made of titanium and other special materials that can dive to the bottom of the ocean, said Victor Vescovo, an explorer who will pilot the vehicle after it leaves its supporting boat and descends toward the deepest parts of the ocean.

“I’m very much looking forward to pushing not only the limits of the technology and myself and my crew, but also hopefully push humanity forward a little bit in terms of our understanding of our world and showing what we can do as a species,” said Vescovo, who has climbed the world’s seven highest mountain peaks and trekked to both the North and South Poles.

The maker of the submersible vehicle, Triton Submarines LLC of Vero Beach, Florida, said on the company website that it is the only submersible certified to carry humans on dives of 36,000 feet (11,000 meters). Discovery and Science Channel will capture the entire mission for a project known as “Deep Planet” that will air in 2019.

Reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

Todd Gurley Is In The Right System At The Right Time

Todd Gurley is off to one of the hottest starts in NFL history. After rushing for a league-leading 623 yards and nine touchdowns — plus 247 receiving yards and two more TDs through the air — Gurley has accumulated the fifth-most adjusted yards1 from scrimmage through six games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, joining former Rams greats Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson near the top of the list. The Rams are 6-0 on the young season, and Gurley’s breakneck performance is often cited as a catalyst for the team’s success. He has even been in the early discussion for league MVP.

But is that really warranted? Does the Rams offense truly run through Gurley, or should we be giving head coach Sean McVay more of the credit?

One approach to answering that question is to look at how McVay’s scheme affects Gurley’s performance. So far this year, the Rams have run nearly every offensive play from what is called the “11” personnel: one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers. According to charting from Sports Info Solutions, the Rams have run 95 percent of their offensive plays from this package — 32 percentage points more than the league average of 63 percent. And while heavy utilization of three wide receiver looks isn’t new to McVay — the Rams ran 81 percent of their plays out of “11” in 2017 — 2018 is a massive outlier. McVay appears to have concluded that the deception afforded the offense by lining up with the same personnel package each play is greater than the constraints it places on his play calling.

The Rams rarely stray from their favorite formation

NFL teams by the share of their plays run in each of the three most popular offensive formations, 2018

Offensive formation
Team 11: ONE RB, ONE TE, three WRs 12: ONE RB, TWO TEs, TWO WRs 21: Two RBs, one TE, two WRs
L.A. Rams 95% 2% 0%
Green Bay 77 14 1
Miami 77 8 1
Seattle 77 9 5
Indianapolis 72 18 3
Cleveland 70 16 1
Jacksonville 70 10 6
Cincinnati 69 20 2
Washington 69 17 0
Oakland 68 13 7
N.Y. Giants 67 23 4
Tampa Bay 67 14 7
Arizona 66 19 4
Denver 66 13 11
Buffalo 64 20 10
Chicago 64 20 10
Houston 62 34 0
Minnesota 62 23 9
Detroit 61 10 5
Pittsburgh 61 15 7
New Orleans 60 13 12
Carolina 59 14 8
Kansas City 59 22 9
Dallas 57 18 6
Atlanta 56 14 13
L.A. Chargers 56 17 10
Philadelphia 54 36 0
Tennessee 53 35 2
N.Y. Jets 52 24 0
New England 49 9 28
Baltimore 48 26 1
San Francisco 40 8 41
Average 63 17 7

Source: Sports Info Solutions

There are other benefits from repeatedly giving the opponent the same look, however, and they affect Gurley’s performance in important ways. When a team can spread a defense out laterally across the field, it opens up the middle and makes running the ball easier. Running backs with at least 20 carries averaged 4.75 yards per carry against six men in the box from 2016 to 2018.2 That’s well over half a yard higher than the average of 4.09 yards per carry when that same group of runners faced seven defenders near the line of scrimmage. Against eight-man fronts, the average gain falls to 3.59. Facing a loaded box makes running much more difficult.

McVay is no rube. He likely realizes that if you are going to run in the NFL, you should do so against a light box. Even better, this is something he can control. An offense exerts quite a bit of influence over how many box defenders it faces by how many wide receivers it chooses to deploy. When offenses play three wideouts, NFL defensive coordinators will typically match body type with body type and send a nickel defensive back in to cover the third receiver, leaving six defenders in the box.

As a consequence, Gurley has faced more six-man fronts on his carries than any other running back in football since McVay took over as head coach of the Rams. It has paid serious dividends. So far this season, Gurley is crushing it against those fronts, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. But against a neutral seven-man front, he’s been below league average at just 3.7 yards per attempt.

Gurley thrives when there are fewer defenders

Number of carries and yards per carry against a standard defense of six men in the box, 2017-18

Player No. of carries yards per carry
Todd Gurley 202 5.12
Kareem Hunt 113 4.91
Lamar Miller 112 4.42
LeVeon Bell 103 4.45
Melvin Gordon 101 4.73

Source: Sports Info Solutions

Gurley is basically the same back he has always been since he came into the league. If you use broken and missed tackles as a proxy for talent,3 you can see that Gurley makes defenders miss when running against six-man fronts far less than expected. He thrives, like most running backs, when he’s allowed to hit open holes and get to the second level relatively unscathed.

So Gurley is the beneficiary, not the proximate cause, of the Rams’ offensive resurgence under McVay. Gurley has been put in a position to succeed and has taken full advantage. Crucially, while the Rams have benefited from being smart in their offensive schemes and decision-making, it’s likely that many teams could emulate them and achieve similar success on the ground. Spreading a defense out and running against a light front is not a particularly novel idea. The commitment shown by running 95 percent of your plays out of a formation that encourages that result, however, is quite innovative. McVay pushes winning edges better than any coach in the NFL — and he, not his running back, is the principal reason that the Rams are currently the toast of the league.

Check out our latest NFL predictions.

ZF takes 35 percent stake in autonomous driving specialist ASAP

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Car parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen said on Friday it acquired a 35 percent stake in ASAP, a Germany-based maker of software and testing systems for autonomous driving applications and electric vehicles.

ASAP specializes in car-to-x communication, human-machine interfaces and electronic architecture and last year generated sales of 84 million euros. It employs 1,100 staff.

ZF’s Chief Executive Officer Wolf-Henning Scheider recently said ZF will invest about 12 billion euros in electromobility and autonomous driving over the next five years.

A purchase price for the ASAP stake was not disclosed.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze, editing by Riham Alkousaa

Jamal Khashoggi case: Turkish police ‘search forest’

A Turkish forensic officer waits outside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul 17 October 2018 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Turkish forensic investigators have already searched the Saudi consulate and consul’s residence

Police in Turkey investigating the alleged killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have expanded their search, reports say.

Unnamed Turkish officials say his body may have been disposed of in a nearby forest or on farmland.

Mr Khashoggi disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, where Turkish officials allege he was murdered.

Saudi Arabia denies any knowledge of what happened to him.

Samples taken from the Saudi consulate and the consul’s residence during searches this week are being tested for a match with Mr Khashoggi’s DNA.

Separately, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly denied having listened to an audio recording Turkey says is evidence of Mr Khashoggi’s murder.

“I’ve heard no tape, I’ve seen no transcript,” he said.

Mr Pompeo also strongly criticised ABC News, which had earlier quoted a senior Turkish official as saying that he had been given access to the recording.

“This is wrong to do to the fiancé of Khashoggi,” he added. “This is a very serious matter that we’re working diligently on, and so to put out headlines that are factually false does no one any good.”

Turkey has previously said it has audio and video evidence of Mr Khashoggi’s murder, but these have not been made public.

The incident has caused considerable strain between Riyadh and its Western allies, with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox becoming the latest senior figures to pull out of a major investment conference in Riyadh next week.

The summit is being hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to promote his reform agenda.

However, a number of major businesses – including Pepsi and EDF – are still intending to go despite growing pressure for a boycott.

What happened to Jamal Khashoggi?

It is not clear. Mr Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, to pick up paperwork that would allow him to marry his fiancée Hatice Cengiz.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionJamal Khashoggi: What we know about the journalist’s disappearance

Turkish officials believe Mr Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate, and his body then removed.

Saudi Arabia has denied the claims, and initially insisted Mr Khashoggi had freely left the embassy.

Is there any evidence?

Turkish media with close links to the government have published gruesome details on the alleged audio recording, saying screams, and the voice of the consul, Mohammed al-Otaibi, could be heard in the recording.

The Yeni Safak newspaper, which is close to the government, quotes him as telling alleged Saudi agents sent to Istanbul: “Do this outside. You’re going to get me in trouble.”

Meanwhile, Turkish media say they have identified a 15-member team of suspected Saudi agents who flew into and out of Istanbul on the day of the disappearance.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Saudis will respond in a “timely fashion”

However, Saudi Arabia says reports on Mr Khashoggi’s death are “completely false and baseless” and that it is “open to co-operation” to find out what happened.

Several high-profile human rights groups have demanded that Turkey ask the UN to investigate the possible killing of Mr Khashoggi.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Turkish investigators spent almost nine hours searching the Saudi consul’s residence, before moving on to the consulate itself about 200m (650ft) away, according to Reuters news agency.

Several vehicles with Saudi diplomatic number plates were filmed by CCTV cameras moving from the consulate to the residence just under two hours after Mr Khashoggi entered the consulate.

How have other countries reacted?

Saudi Arabia is a key ally to many Western countries, especially the US. As one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, it has significant influence on the world stage.

The Dutch and French finance ministers, and the head of the International Monetary Fund, are amongst those now boycotting the summit.

On Thursday Donald Trump told reporters it “certainly looks” like Mr Khashoggi is dead, adding “it’s very sad”.

He said there would be “very severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia was proved to have killed the journalist.

However, Mr Trump has also been accused of providing cover to the Saudi government.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said it is a pity that Mr Khashoggi has gone missing, but that Russia cannot damage relations with Saudi Arabia without hard facts.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Hatice Cengiz said she waited outside the consulate for 11 hours, but did not see her fiancé

Who is Jamal Khashoggi?

Mr Khashoggi is a prominent journalist who has covered major stories for various Saudi news organisations.

He served as an adviser to top Saudi officials, but later fell out of favour with the government.

He went into self-imposed exile in the US last year, and wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post.

On Thursday, the Washington Post published Mr Khashoggi’s latest column – a call for press freedom across the Arab world.

Jamal Khashoggi disappearance: The key events

2 October

  • 03:28: A private jet carrying suspected Saudi agents arrives at Istanbul airport. A second joins it late afternoon
  • 12:13: Several diplomatic vehicles are filmed arriving at the consulate, allegedly carrying some of the Saudi agents
  • 13:14: Mr Khashoggi enters the building, where he is due to pick up paperwork ahead of his marriage
  • 15:08: Vehicles leave the consulate and are filmed arriving at the nearby Saudi consul’s residence
  • 21:00: Both jets leave Turkey by 21:00

3 October

  • Turkish government announces Mr Khashoggi is missing, thought to be in the consulate

4 October

  • Saudi Arabia says he left the embassy

7 October

  • Turkish officials tell the BBC they believed Mr Khashoggi was killed at the consulate. This is later strongly denied by Saudi Arabia

13 October

15 and 17-18 October

  • Forensic teams carry out searches of consulate

Read more: What we know about Saudi journalist’s disappearance

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New Academic Journal Seeks Marketing and Tech Writers – SEOJournal.co

SEOJournal.co seeks to add a new voice in SEO discussions by providing a peer-reviewed research periodical.  While there are a lot of journals providing SEO top ten lists this journal will serve as an academic source.  The new journal is already registered with the Library of Congress as a periodical and its first publication is planned in the next several months.

Students and practitioners are welcome to submit various skill levels for beginner audiences to expert data scientist. The journal has two volunteer editors both with Masters of Education and Technology backgrounds.  The journal is a non-profit endeavor and will not include advertisements or charge subscriptions.

This is an excellent way to get published and acknowledged outside of the buzzword gallery of blogs.  Visit https://seojournal.co to subscribe for upcoming editions or to submit works for inclusion.

Robot market growth slows as trade war hits industrial spending: robot industry chief

TOKYO (Reuters) – An escalating trade war between the United States and China has dampened manufacturers’ appetite for investment in equipment, causing growth in the industrial robot market to slow, the chief of the global robot industry group said.

Many global manufacturers “are now in a wait-and-see mode, wondering whether to shift production (away from China) to, let’s say, Vietnam or the United States,” said Junji Tsuda, chief of the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in an interview on Thursday.

IFR, which brings together nearly 60 global robot suppliers and integrators, predicts worldwide industrial robot sales this year to grow 10 percent compared to last year’s 30 percent jump.

China is the world’s largest robots market with a 36 percent global share, with its sales volume exceeding the total of Europe and the Americas combined.

Tsuda, also the chairman of Japan’s Yaskawa Electric Corp, said the manufacturers would move out of the wait-and-see mode by the end of this year.

It will take a while for the direction of the trade war to be clear, Tsuda said. “But global demand for smartphones, semiconductors and autos have been solid, and the time will eventually come that they can wait no longer and will resume investment to meet the demand.”

Yaskawa, one of the world’s top robot manufacturers, last week cut its annual operating profit forecast to 59 billion yen ($524.40 million) from 65.5 billion yen, citing a slowdown in smartphone-related demand in China and growing caution over the trade dispute.

From next year onwards, however, IFR expects the robot market growth to pick up again, forecasting an average 14 percent increase per year through 2021.

($1 = 112.5100 yen)

Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Odds Are, Your Next Governor Will Be A Democrat

In the midterm elections for the House and Senate, Democrats are very likely to win the majority of votes, but they face structural barriers to winning the majority of seats. In the House, for instance, we project that Democrats would need to win the popular vote by somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 to 7 percentage points1 to be favored to actually take control of the chamber, a result of partisan gerrymandering after the 2010 election and Democratic voters’ tendency to cluster in dense, urban districts. And, of course, Congress isn’t the Democrats’ only problem: In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes but lost the Electoral College.

In gubernatorial races, however, there’s no gerrymandering or Electoral College to worry about. So in some ways, they’ll make for the purest test of whether there really is going to be a “blue wave” this year.

And in FiveThirtyEight’s gubernatorial forecasts, which we (finally!) launched on Wednesday, the gubernatorial news is good for Democrats. They are projected to wind up with governorships in states representing about 60 percent of the U.S. population, compared with 40 percent for Republicans.

True, Democrats will have a hard time winning the majority of states, because the GOP is projected to do well in small states such as Wyoming. But the number of states is a stupid metric: Being the governor of Texas is a hell of a lot more important than being the governor of Vermont. Higher-population states, because they have more seats in the House, will also be more important in the redistricting process that will take place after the 2020 elections, when governors elected this year will still be in office.2

So as our measure of gubernatorial success, we’ll simply be counting up the number of people projected to be under each party’s control. Texas will count 44 times as much as Vermont, because there are 44 times more people there.

Democrats begin with an edge in the population count. Although each party controls seven states from among the 14 governorships that are not up for election this year, the states the Democrats hold are more populous. Specifically, Democrats have about 42 million people under their control — based on the states’ projected populations as of Election Day3 — while the seven Republican states have 26 million people.

In states not on the ballot, Democrats start with a lead

Population in states where governors are not up for re-election

Democratic governor republican governor
State Population* State Population*
North Carolina 10,365,000 Indiana 6,780,000
New Jersey 9,193,000 Missouri 6,217,000
Virginia 8,590,000 Kentucky 4,532,000
Washington 7,423,000 Utah 3,100,000
Louisiana 4,753,000 Mississippi 3,043,000
Montana 1,059,000 West Virginia 1,859,000
Delaware 971,000 North Dakota 754,000
Total 42,354,000 Total 26,285,000

* Projected as of Nov. 6, 2018.

BASED ON DATA FROM THE U.S. CENSUS BUREAU

Democrats are poised to add to that advantage on Nov. 6, however. Among the nine states with populations of 10 million or more that will elect new governors next month, Democrats are clear favorites in five (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Michigan) and modest favorites in a sixth state (Florida). Republicans are clear favorites only in Texas, where incumbent Greg Abbott is likely to be re-elected. The Ohio and Georgia races are toss-ups.

Democrats are well-positioned in high-population gubernatorial races

Race rating according to FiveThirtyEight’s “Classic” forecast as of Oct. 17

State Population* Solid D Likely D Lean D Toss-Up Lean R Likely R Solid R
California 39,982,000
Texas 28,320,000
Florida 20,992,000
New York 20,266,000
Illinois 13,106,000
Pennsylvania 13,074,000
Ohio 11,887,000
Georgia 10,516,000
Michigan 10,159,000
Arizona 7,023,000
Massachusetts 6,965,000
Tennessee 6,794,000
Maryland 6,148,000
Wisconsin 5,900,000
Minnesota 5,657,000
Colorado 5,598,000
South Carolina 5,046,000
Alabama 4,960,000
Oregon 4,151,000
Oklahoma 3,976,000
Connecticut 3,677,000
Iowa 3,191,000
Arkansas 3,056,000
Nevada 2,995,000
Kansas 2,968,000
New Mexico 2,136,000
Nebraska 1,943,000
Idaho 1,725,000
Hawaii 1,445,000
N.H. 1,367,000
Maine 1,363,000
Rhode Island 1,080,000
South Dakota 878,000
Alaska 751,000
Vermont 637,000
Wyoming 587,000

* Projected as of Nov. 6, 2018.

BASED ON DATA FROM THE U.S. CENSUS BUREAU

Republicans will make up ground in small and medium-sized states. Indeed, they’re the favorites (specifically, about 2 in 3 favorites, according to our Classic forecast4) to win a majority of states. But Democrats are highly likely — although by no means certain5 — to govern a majority of the population after the election. Even if Republicans win all the toss-up races and all the races our model currently rates as leaning Democratic, they’d come up a little short of a population majority given the states that Democrats have in hand already. Accounting for each state’s population on a probabilistic basis,6 Democrats currently project to have 194 million people under their control after the election, or about 60 percent of the population, compared with 135 million for Republicans.

Methodology-wise, our gubernatorial forecasts are largely the same as our House and Senate forecasts. There are three versions of our model — Lite, Classic and Deluxe — that blend together different forecasting techniques in different ratios. Specifically, these techniques include

  1. A polling average, after polls are adjusted in various ways.
  2. CANTOR, a system that makes projections based on analysis of polling in similar states.
  3. “Fundamentals,” a regression-based method that evaluates non-polling factors such as fundraising that predict election outcomes.
  4. Expert ratings, such as those put together by the Cook Political Report.

In all versions of our forecast, however, polling is by far the largest ingredient in states where there’s a lot of polling. For more detail on our gubernatorial forecasts, including how they differ from our congressional forecasts, see here.

Perhaps the most important difference between gubernatorial races and congressional ones is that partisanship is much less of a factor in governorships. Specifically, it’s only about one-third as important — so, for example, a state that’s typically 15 percentage points more Republican than the country overall in congressional races would only be about 5 points GOP-leaning in gubernatorial races. As a consequence of this, incumbents tend to be favored even when they come from “opposite-colored” states. Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts are heavy favorites to win re-election despite being in deeply blue states, for example — not just according to the polls, which have them well ahead, but also according to the fundamentals component of our forecast.

On the flip side, few things are truly inevitable in gubernatorial races, especially in states without incumbents. Democrats are competitive in Oklahoma, for example, while Republicans have a fighting chance in Connecticut, despite it being a blue state in a blue year.

How different versions of our governors forecast compare

As of Oct. 17

Inputs Forecasts
State
Polls
CANTOR
FundAM.
Experts
Lite
Classic
Deluxe
Hawaii D+23.2 D+25.8 D+38.7 D+32.3 D+24.3 D+31.4 D+31.7
New York D+20.0 D+20.7 D+26.2 D+24.6 D+20.0 D+22.1 D+22.9
Rhode Island D+11.2 D+22.2 D+33.5 D+7.5 D+11.2 D+19.5 D+15.5
California D+15.2 D+10.0 D+32.0 D+23.2 D+15.2 D+18.4 D+20.0
Pennsylvania D+14.6 D+14.4 D+18.4 D+16.4 D+14.6 D+15.4 D+15.8
Illinois D+17.9 R+4.6 R+9.3 D+12.9 D+17.9 D+12.7 D+12.7
Michigan D+11.0 D+4.1 D+14.7 D+9.3 D+11.0 D+11.6 D+10.8
Maine D+7.4 D+5.3 D+18.0 D+2.3 D+7.4 D+11.3 D+8.3
Colorado D+7.7 D+3.5 D+15.4 D+7.5 D+7.6 D+10.4 D+9.4
Minnesota D+7.9 D+5.1 D+17.4 D+11.1 D+7.9 D+10.2 D+10.5
Iowa D+4.9 D+2.0 D+14.7 D+0.8 D+4.9 D+8.0 D+5.6
Oregon D+4.4 D+18.0 D+14.0 D+5.3 D+4.4 D+7.9 D+7.0
New Mexico D+6.2 D+5.0 D+10.5 D+7.5 D+6.2 D+7.4 D+7.4
Connecticut D+5.3 D+5.7 D+8.5 D+5.3 D+5.3 D+6.2 D+5.9
Florida D+3.7 0.0 D+0.8 D+2.3 D+3.7 D+3.2 D+2.9
Wisconsin D+5.1 R+8.1 R+7.6 D+0.8 D+5.1 D+2.2 D+1.8
Georgia R+0.8 R+2.3 D+0.1 R+0.6 R+0.8 R+0.7 R+0.7
Nevada R+1.0 D+2.3 R+1.4 D+2.3 R+1.0 R+1.1 D+0.1
Ohio R+0.6 D+1.3 R+4.6 R+0.6 R+0.6 R+1.3 R+1.1
Kansas D+0.3 R+5.0 R+9.1 R+2.9 D+0.3 R+2.4 R+2.5
Oklahoma R+3.4 R+10.5 R+12.1 R+5.9 R+3.4 R+6.4 R+6.2
South Dakota R+0.6 R+7.7 R+16.4 R+3.7 R+4.6 R+10.9 R+8.5
Arizona R+10.5 R+12.1 R+18.4 R+11.3 R+10.5 R+11.5 R+11.4
Alaska R+19.6 R+2.3 R+0.6 R+6.9 R+19.6 R+12.3 R+10.5
Vermont R+12.2 D+0.3 R+15.7 R+22.5 R+5.5 R+13.4 R+16.4
Tennessee R+16.6 R+7.7 R+6.0 R+14.9 R+16.6 R+14.3 R+14.5
Idaho R+11.8 R+10.0 R+18.0 R+21.9 R+11.0 R+15.0 R+17.3
N.H. R+14.0 R+8.0 R+20.8 R+7.7 R+14.0 R+16.1 R+13.3
South Carolina R+18.9 R+4.0 R+13.0 R+18.2 R+18.9 R+16.1 R+16.8
Alabama R+19.1 R+7.9 R+16.3 R+21.5 R+15.1 R+17.1 R+18.6
Maryland R+18.8 R+0.6 R+15.5 R+11.3 R+18.8 R+17.6 R+15.5
Texas R+19.2 R+14.8 R+17.1 R+21.6 R+19.2 R+18.9 R+19.8
Nebraska R+26.7 R+22.2 R+23.3 R+26.7 R+22.7 R+22.9
Wyoming R+23.6 R+25.2 R+25.0 R+23.6 R+25.1 R+25.0
Massachusetts R+36.5 D+1.5 R+19.8 R+28.7 R+36.5 R+29.3 R+29.1
Arkansas R+36.5 R+17.7 R+22.7 R+29.7 R+35.6 R+30.4 R+30.1

We’ll cover the most interesting gubernatorial races on an individual basis in subsequent updates, but here are a few comments about races that I know people will have questions about. Democrats Andrew Gillum of Florida and Stacey Abrams of Georgia are striving to become the first African-American governors of their respective states and the first elected anywhere in the South since Douglas Wilder of Virginia in 1989. Gillum has had a small but fairly consistent lead in the polls, and our model gives him a 70 percent chance (about 7 in 10) of winning. Abrams is in a toss-up race that tilts ever-so-slightly toward her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp. The race is close enough that voter registration protocols in Georgia, which Kemp oversees as secretary of state, could make the difference. (Check out my colleague Perry Bacon Jr.’s article on these races for more detail.)

Although there generally isn’t a big conflict between polls and fundamentals in our gubernatorial forecasts, there are a couple of high-profile races where fundamentals nudge the forecast toward the GOP. In Wisconsin, incumbent Republican Scott Walker trails Democrat Tony Evers by 5 points in our polling average, but the fundamentals think he “should” narrowly win re-election. The Classic version of our model evaluates this race as leaning Democratic, but with Walker having a better chance than polls alone would suggest. And in Kansas, where the controversial Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, is running, polls show a true dead heat against Democrat Laura Kelly, but the model classifies the race as leaning Republican on the basis of the fundamentals.

Crimea attack: College assault kills 17

Scene of Crimea school shooting, 17 October 2018 Image copyright PA

At least 17 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in an attack at a college in Russian-annexed Crimea.

Officials initially said an “unidentified explosive device” detonated, but now say all the victims died of gunshot wounds at the technical college in Kerch.

Russian investigators said an 18-year-old student blamed for the attack had killed himself.

Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a widely criticised move.

The annexation followed a disputed vote that was condemned by many Western powers.

The alleged perpetrator of the college attack has been identified as Vladislav Roslyakov, who is said to have opened fire on those in the building. Forty people were injured.

Russia’s RBC TV interviewed a friend who said he “hated the technical school very much”.

Image copyright PA

The incident had initially been described as a “terrorist act”, but Russia’s investigative committee has now reclassified it as “mass murder”.

President Vladimir Putin described it as a “tragic event” and expressed condolences to the victims’ relatives.

Image copyright PA
Image caption National guard soldiers were deployed

A local official said most of the victims were students of the technical college, which is a vocational school for 850 teenagers.

A major emergency response operation launched as the victims were taken to hospitals.

Four military planes were ready to evacuate the wounded and military hospital facilities were ready to accept victims if necessary, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Investigators had at first released a statement saying an explosive device filled with “metal objects” had detonated in the dining area.

In earlier reaction, the director of the college, who was not at the scene at the time of the attack, told Russian media that unknown armed men had broken into the building. She compared it to the school siege of Beslan in 2004, during which about 330 people died.

Reuters news agency said that schools and pre-schools were being evacuated in the city.

Kerch is situated at the point where Russia built a bridge between the Crimean peninsula and Russia.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine remain strained by the Crimea annexation and a continuing conflict involving Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The speaker of the Russia-backed Crimean parliament, Vladimir Konstantinov, suggested Kiev may have been behind the attack, saying “the entire evil inflicted on the land of Crimea is coming from the official Ukrainian authorities”.

source